The Rule of Faith

Part I

“The teaching is a kind of building: if we do not bind the house together by regular bonds in the building, lest some gap be found, and the building become unsound, even our former labor is of no use. But stone must follow stone by course, and corner match with corner, and by our smoothing off inequalities the building must thus rise evenly. In like manner we are bringing to you stones, as it were of knowledge. You must hear concerning the living God, you must hear of Judgment, must hear of Christ, and of the Resurrection. And many things there are to be discussed in succession, which though now dropped one by one are afterwards to be presented in harmonious connection. But unless you fit them together in the one whole, and remember what is first, and what is second, the builder may build but you will find the building unsound”
--Cyril of Jerusalem, Prologue to Catechetical Lectures

Themes to Track

  • Tradition as an opposition tool to heresy
  • Tradition as a guarantee of biblical interpretation
  • Apostolicity as the right to interpret Scripture
  • Apostolicity as a mark of catholicity
  • The Preaching of the apostles (kergyma); key elements in summaries of the faith
  • Liturgy and the content of the faith
  • Proto-creedal statements
  • Materials for instruction of new believers (catechism)
  • Incorporation of the New Testament into instructions in the faith

General Overview Questions

  1. What is the relationship of Christian tradition to the Christian scriptures?
  2. How do we guarantee a biblical interpretation is true?
  3. Can we summarize the preaching of the gospel? Why or why not?
  4. Are statements of faith necessary? What legitimate role should they play?
  5. Are such statements binding on a church, its members, or its organizations (e.g. a Christian university)?
  6. What purpose do such statements play in instruction for the faith?
  7. What place does public worship play in passing along the faith, esp. doctrine?

Part II

“The history of New Testament interpretation strongly suggests that the New Testament under-determines its own interpretation; it seems foolish even for a Christian believer to claim that an honest, reasonable interpreter of the New Testament would necessarily arrive at readings consistent with Christian orthodoxy, if the interpretative process proceeded independently of the Church and the Holy Spirit.
--Stephen Davis, “Tradition, Scripture, and Religious Authority”

Themes to Track

  • The order of the elements in the Rule

  • The Trinitarian structure

  • What is basic to the tradition and what is left open

  • How the Rule/Symbol impacts the believer

  • The relationship of scripture and tradition

  • The definitions for universality, antiquity, and consent

  • Use of the Rule in catechism and baptism

  • Creeds as a way of explaining the Faith

Three General Questions (C. Stephen Evans)

  1. Is there such a thing as the Rule of Faith?

  2. Is interpreting by the Rule of Faith consistent with sola scriptura?

  3. Is interpretation by the Rule of Faith viciously circular?

Observations on Patristic Relationship Between Scripture and Tradition

  1. The Rule of Faith is the interpretive schema by which scripture is rightly understood.

  2. Scripture and the Rule work together in tandem.

  3. Tradition is not seen as an extra authority equal to scripture, nor is it revelation functioning separately from scripture.

  4. The scriptures are the sources for the creedal language.

  5. The scriptures are infallible because of God’s divine intentions.

  6. The Rule functions as a ratio (scope) of what may be believed.

  7. The Bible serves within the life of teaching and worship as a collective treasure held by all.

  8. For most patristic Christians, Scripture was heard and taught in public settings.

  9. The Holy Spirit works within the Church’s tradition and within scripture to guide souls to a greater love for God.

  10. Scripture can only be understood within a godly community led by those of high character and orthodox faith.

  11. Scripture has a mystical nature—a literal sense, an ethical sense, and a mysterious (allegorical) one—because it is Holy Spirit-inspired.

  12. The Bible brings the Christian into the deep life, and in turn, the spiritually mature can discern the deeper truths of scripture.

quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est 
("to that which is believed everywhere, always, and by all")


"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding