Rule of Faith: regula fidei
FF Bruce, in The canon of scripture, p 115-116, claims that the regula fidei was read and memorized by those who were to be baptized.
- "1. Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches? 2. To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent. Those who, in the absence of written documents, have believed this faith, are barbarians, so far as regards our language; but as regards doctrine, manner, and tenor of life, they are, because of faith, very wise indeed; and they do please God, ordering their conversation in all righteousness, chastity, and wisdom. If any one were to preach to these men the inventions of the heretics, speaking to them in their own language, they would at once stop their ears, and flee as far off as possible, not enduring even to listen to the blasphemous address. Thus, by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 3, 4, 1-2)
- "Now, with regard to this rule of faith-that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend-it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen "in diverse manners" by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics." (Tertullian, the Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter XIII)
The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches love to quote (Tertullian, the Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter XIII) as proof that Tertullian had an oral apostolic tradition that was distinct from scripture. We who teach sola Scriptura, actually have no problem agreeing! Tertullian calls this oral tradition, "the rule of faith". We agree that it was a creed, but notice it contains absolutely nothing, except what the scriptures specifically reveal. This would have been a powerful witness for the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches if such a "rule of faith" actually contained doctrinal details not found in scripture like: the perpetual virginity and assumption of Mary; purgatory; infant baptism; triple baptism; the sign of the cross etc. In fact, Tertullian's "rule of faith" is proof of our major premise, namely, that all such "apostolic traditions" that were considered essential were based entirely (100%) upon scripture. Even in the Lord's true church today, any member at random, if asked from the pulpit, could give a similar "one paragraph summary" of the true faith. Even the apostle Paul gives a similar type of "one paragraph summary" of doctrine in 1 Cor 15:3-8. Of course, we must take issue with Tertullian's "rule of faith" on one key point: While he views this extra-biblical, man-made document authoritative in itself, even if it is directly based upon scripture, the correct approach is to give it no more authority than the many different "one paragraph summaries of faith" each member might give. Tertullian's creed, began a very dangerous trend where eventually, as we see in most denominations today, creeds have actually supplanted and replaced scripture as the ultimate authority.
- ""With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?" For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions. (Tertullian, The prescription against the heretics, Ch 19)
It is clear that Tertullian accepts the creed, which he calls "the rule of faith" as an extra-biblical witness to truth. But it is also clear, from what he wrote in (Tertullian, the Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter XIII, see above in blue) that this creed contained nothing distinct from what the scriptures teach.