Reformed Anglican Fellowship

Reformed Doctrine | Common Prayer

Reformed Doctrine | Common Prayer 

An Evangelical Catholic Creed

To Reformed Anglicans, it's important to understand the Swiss and German theologians of the later half of the 16th century, for example Heinrich Bullinger, Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr Vermigli because they all consulted with Thomas Cranmer as he was writing the 42 Articles (1552), which later became the 39 Articles (1563).  

At the time, Cranmer's plan was to make an "evangelical catholic creed" that would be accepted by all the Reformed Churches.  The plan didn't quite work out that way (thanks to Queen Mary), but the effort did succeed in producing multiple Reformed confessions from the various national Reformed churches, all of which addressed the same issues in the same ways and even with much the same wording. These confessions owe their existence to Cranmer and his 42 Articles.  This historical fact is important because it shows the central role of Cranmer and the English Reformers in churches beyond the borders of England.  Again, Cranmer's vision in 1552 was to establish common consent, a catholic creed such that all Christians should subscribe to the same standards.  

Here we look at Bullinger's understanding "Of Interpreting The Holy Scripture; and of Fathers, Councils, and Traditions" which, even though it is not from England, gives us a broader understanding of our own heritage. It was published in 1566, fourteen years after Cranmer's 42 Articles were published (1556), and it's plain to see how much Bullinger borrows from the 42 Articles, which in fact is partly Bullinger's own work.

Chapter 2 of the "Second Helvetic Confession"

THE TRUE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE. The apostle peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations. Nor consequently do we acknowledge as the true or genuine interpretation of the Scriptures what is called the conception of the Roman Church, that is, what the defenders of the Roman Church plainly maintain should be thrust upon all for acceptance. But we hold that the interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man's salvation.

INTERPRETATIONS OF THE HOLY FATHERS. Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures; but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures. Neither do we think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not have their writings equated with the canonical Scriptures, but command us to prove how far they agree or disagree with them, and to accept what is in agreement and to reject what is in disagreement.

COUNCILS. And in the same order also we place the decrees and canons of councils.

Wherefore we do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received customs, or by the large number of those who share the same opinion, or by the prescription of a long time. Who Is The Judge? Therefore, we do not admit any other judge than God himself, who proclaims by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what to be avoided. So we do assent to the judgments of spiritual men which are drawn from the Word of God. Certainly Jeremiah and other prophets vehemently condemned the assemblies of priests which were set up against the law of God; and diligently admonished us that we should not listen to the fathers, or tread in their path who, walking in their own inventions, swerved from the law of God.

TRADITIONS OF MEN. Likewise we reject human traditions, even if they be adorned with high-sounding titles, as though they were divine and apostolical, delivered to the Church by the living voice of the apostles, and, as it were, through the hands of apostolical men to succeeding bishops which, when compared with the Scriptures, disagree with them; and by their disagreement show that they are not Apostolic at all. For as the apostles did not contradict themselves in doctrine, so the apostolic men did not set forth things contrary to the apostles. On the contrary, it would be wicked to assert that the apostles by a living voice delivered anything contrary to their writings. Paul affirms expressly that he taught the same things in all churches (I Cor. 4:17). And, again, "For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand." (II Cor. 1:13). Also, in another place, he testifies that he and his disciples - that is, apostolic men - walked in the same way, and jointly by the same Spirit did all things (II Cor. 12:18). Moreover, the Jews in former times had the traditions of their elders; but these traditions were severely rejected by the Lord, indicating that the keeping of them hinders God's law, and that God is worshipped in vain by such traditions (Matt. 15:1 ff.; Mark 7:1 ff).

Reformed Doctrine | Common Prayer