Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!

The Apostles' Creed
circa 300 A.D.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
Creator of Heaven and Earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into Heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Why does The Apostle's Creed Refer
to the Holy 'Catholic' Church?

-by Tony Warren

    The question is often asked, why did the early Church fathers refer to the Church as Catholic. Particularly, the Apostle's Creed which is truly an ecumenical symbol of faith and is dated to about a century after the New Testament was completed. It is important to understand that the term 'Catholic Church' simply refers to the universal Church of believers. It is in no way referring to Roman Catholicism.

To fully understand this, we need to look at the original languages. For example the word Creed is from the Latin [credo] meaning I believe, thus the apostles creed was a statement of Christian beliefs. Some people have the mistaken idea that the word 'catholic' belongs to the Roman Church. But simply because Rome claims to be the catholic church, doesn't make it so. In truth the word catholic is simply a form of the Greek word [katholikos] which means, "of the whole." Taken from two root words [kata], meaning pertaining to, or about, and the word [holos], meaning the whole. i.e., the it means the whole or Universal Church.

Before those grounded in sound Biblical Theology broke away from the dominant Roman Church in protest (thus they were called, protestants) of that Churches slipping into idolatry and unscriptural practices, they were of the one whole (universal) Church. They still are. Rome can claim ownership of the word, but that is mere semantics. For they are not holy, nor catholic, nor in the real sense, the Church. In the false sense, they are a church, but they have long ago left being under authority of God.

The name catholic in our day has come to denote a denomination rather than it's true meaning. But in the early Church it was the title denoting it's universal nature, and had nothing to do with a denomination in Rome. Denominations are an invention of man. There is only the universal Church, not a Roman Church and a Protestant Church, but one holy universal Church.

In the big picture, this hasn't really changed today. The true Church of God is the Universal (catholic, in Greek) Church, no matter what label man puts upon it by denominational edict. There is one Holy Universal Church fulfilling it's commission to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel. And it exists all over the world and has gone by many denominational names. It has nothing to do with what is the Roman Catholic Church today.

the truth is, since we don't speak Greek, we could just as easily translate it:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Holy Universal Church,
The communion of saints..

Every educated scholar of course knows this. But because Reformed Churches are steeped in tradition, and have a high regard for their creeds (nothing inherently wrong with that) it is still rendered (usually) the Holy Catholic Church. And really, there is no good reason to change it. Why should we? No denomination can usurp a word as exclusively their own. Just so long as we all understand that the word simply means universal.

We should also be aware that it is not called "The Apostles' Creed," because it was written or authored by any of the Apostles, it is called this because it is actually an excellent brief synopsis of what they taught. Moreover, it sets forth the Christian gospel in a concise, though pertinent fashion, with proper reverential and liturgical high regard.


Copyright 2000 Tony Warren
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Created 8/15/00 / Last Modified 8/15/00
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