Creed Books of the
Reformation Movement
By Dick Ward

The word “creed”  means   a formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith; a system of belief.   We might well say that a Creed Book is a book containing the belief of a particular religious group that shows wherein they are different from other religious bodies.   The Bible is the only reliable “creed book” and when it is handled aright it will guide us to heaven.  Creed books of denominations arise when men incorporate their opinions, speculations and views into a written form.  Most creed books are a mixture of some truth and much error!

After the Catholic church came to its mature state as a denomination in about 606 A. D. there were many, many “reform” efforts through the years advanced toward Catholicism - some successfully changing the Catholic church  in certain areas but most of them  were completely rejected.  

The Shaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Kowledge, Volume III, page 2004 says the Reformation “is the historical name for the religious movement of the sixteenth century, - the greatest since the introduction of Christianity.  It divided the Western Catholic Church into two opposing sections, and gave rise to the various evangelical or Protestant organizations of Christendom.”  During the 1500s we see at least three powerful movements born.  The English developed  the Anglican point of view while Lutheranism swept over all of Germany and Calvinism was planted in Switzerland, France, Holland and Scotland.  History shows other protesting denominations developed from these three major sources initially set on  reforming the Catholic church.

Any student of religious history realizes that volumes have been written discussing the strong opposition that came from within the Catholic church.  Catholics like Martin Luther and  others had no desire to start another church but their goals were to remove the malpractice’s and defects of the Catholic church of their day.  They were against  false doctrines that had been forced upon the people.  Several   collections of articles of faith differing with what is found in a Catholic catechism soon were spread among the religious community of that day.  Through a process of time hard and fast creeds developed, were printed, and were widely circulated.

Martin Luther was born at Eisleben, November 10th, 1483 and died at the same place, February 18th, 1546.  He is affectionately called by denominational scholars “the hero of the Reformation”.   Luther, the Catholic teacher,   found fault with Pope Leo X  and eventually nailed his grievances to “the oaken doors of Whittenberg Cathedral” on October 31st, 1517.  These famous ninety-five statements attacked the authority of the pope  and the Catholic priesthood.  Most all of these statements attacked the sale of indulgences.   Luther’s views were  put in pamphlets and circulated throughout Germany. Soon, Germany was divided religiously - the southern areas were supportive of the pope and the northern states mainly followed Luther. 

In Joseph Stump’s Luther’s Catechism we find these words from Martin Luther’s pen, “The deplorable condition in which I  fond  religious affairs during a recent visitation of the congregations has impelled me to publish this Catechism, or statement of the Christian doctrine, after having prepared it in very brief and simple form.” (Luther’s Preface page ix).

Turning away from Germany and Luther we see this same spirit of opposition to the Catholic church breaking out in other parts in Europe.  The early leadership in Switzerland was in the hands of Ulric Zwingli who attacked the Catholic position of remission of sins through “pilgrimages to a shrine of the Virgin”  at Einsieldn.  After Zwingli’s death the leadership fell to a man named John Calvin, called by denominational scholars “the greatest theologian of the church after Augustine”.  

The first edition of Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion was a brief manual containing six chapters.  Calvin’s second edition was longer with seventeen chapters and his third edition was twenty-one chapters long.   In 1559, Calvin’s last edition had grown to four or five times its original length.  Here again is the development of another Creed which has been summarized in the letters - T. U. L. I P.   -  (Total depravity; Unconditional election;  Limited atonement; Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints).   Today, Presbyterianism is the purest form of Calvinism.  The creed book of the Presbyterian church is called “The Confession of Faith”.

The Anglican church had its beginning when king Henry VIII  desired to divorce his wife and marry another.  The pope refused to give Henry, a Catholic, his requested divorce and so the king removed the pope as the head of the church in England and placed himself as head of the new church - the church of England.   The acts of Parliament between 1529 and 1536 mark the beginning of the Anglican church as a national church.  It was  independent of papal control.   In 1549 the first Anglican Book of Common Prayer was published and its use required of the English clergy by an Act of Uniformity.   Shortly after the second prayer book was issued in 1552 it was followed by the Forty-two Articles.

[Editor's Note: Thanks to Dick Ward for the article! He can be reached at: 18 El Dorado East, Tuscaloosa, AL (205) 556-2407]

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