There seems to be a huge contradiction in traditional Christianity that claims that there can be no more scripture or divine doctrine and yet the only way to determine whether a denomination is "Christian" (e.g., Jehovah's Witnesses or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is to refer to an extra-Biblical doctrine (i.e., the Nicene Creed) as if it were scripture.

(If you don't think the Nicene Creed is treated as scripture, then how do you define scripture?)

  • easy answer is that a creed is not scripture and therefore subservient to the authority of scripture.
    – Mike
    Jun 12, 2014 at 23:42
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  • Why do we have no more? The Bible is just a basis, and it say that there are many other things. Jun 13, 2014 at 11:04
  • I'm not sure that "traditional Christianity" is an organized group and as such, could not claim anything - especially that there are more (or no more) "divine doctrine". In fact, I would argue that "traditional Christianity" is pre-canon and they definitely were not limited to those few books which make up the Bible. "Traditional Christianity" as I see it are those belonging to an extra-Jewish and mostly verbal tradition which was apocalyptic. Jun 13, 2014 at 13:10
  • Who says the Bible contains the entire word of God? And which Bible?
    – Flimzy
    Jun 15, 2014 at 20:25

4 Answers 4


The old creeds are useful summaries of Christian doctrine. They are useful because the way God decided to shape the Bible was not like a systematic theology textbook, even though we might sometimes wish it was!

The creeds were written in times of division in the church to clarify what the groups that wrote them believe the Bible taught. In general each phrase from one of the creeds will have several passages which back it up, though occasionally that is disputed, such as with the Filioque.

I think the real value of the creeds is that they were written to be completely unambiguous. If you talk to a non-Trinitarian about the passages which a Trinitarian believes support the Trinity, they will probably have alternative ways to interpret them: "it means one in person, the spirit isn't distinct from the father/son here, begotten indicates a created being". For better or worse, the creeds allow you to very quickly establish whether someone is an orthodox Christian or not. But to actually convince someone of orthodox doctrine you'll still need to go through those passages one by one.

  • Except they don't treat the things that we really think of when we think of Christian doctrine (i.e. how to get justified) unless you count the end of the creed saying "We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins" which over half the people reciting the creed don't really believe at all. Jun 14, 2014 at 4:06
  • Yes the creeds talk about what was in dispute at the time, not what was agreed about or what was less clear. The reformation brought a new series of creeds (or confessions) which clarified the nature of salvation just as the early creeds clarified the nature of the trinity.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 14, 2014 at 4:19
  • I disagree with this premise, for the questions of works/faith was always in dispute. It seems the creeds were trying to define orthodoxy without pronouncing on this issue, which ultimately, from a modern perspective would have to get the creed condemned as heretical, if we weren't simply blindly following tradition. It also means the creeds DO NOT and CANNOT serve as a succinct statement of Christian belief, because they ignore the most important issue, how to interpret the faith/works thing. They are failures. Jun 14, 2014 at 4:22
  • I've heard a saying that the creeds are necessary but not sufficient. Everything in them is essential but not everything essential is in them. The faith/works debate is very important but the trinity is arguably far more important and it's no surprise that it was a bigger problem earlier. I don't know how much faith and works were debated in the early church but it is true they were debated a lot in the reformation! If you want to suggest an edit I'd be happy to consider it.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 14, 2014 at 4:25

I define Scripture as those books of the Bible upon which the greatest part of the whole company of Christian believers agree to be divinely inspired word of God.

The Nicene Creed is not an "extra-biblical doctrine", but rather a concise statement of a summary of the essential parts of the Christian faith. The most fundamental reason for the Nicene Creed (and the same applies to the Apostle's Creed, though that's not part of the original question) is that it is impracticable to recite the entire corpus of Scripture as a statement of faith and is a parallel to Jesus response to the Pharisees asking about the greatest law in Matthew 22:37b-40:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. [KJV]

Many Christians believe that to the extent that one or another group of Christians do not subscribe to the Nicene Creed as being an accurate and complete summary of the Faith, they are not Christian. "Subscribe" as I use it here, does not necessarily mean that the Nicene Creed is recited in Worship.


There is no contradiction between saying the Nicene creed seems to be a reasonable summary of many of the things the Bible teaches, and accepting nothing just because it is in the Nicene creed, but justifying every belief based on Bible texts.

There is a danger that a creed will be treated as if it were scripture. It is very important that Christians test every doctrine against the Bible. Doctrines that have been discussed and no evidence found to overturn them after many centuries, and by Christian groups with widely differing beliefs in some areas, cannot lightly be changed. Nevertheless, no creed is scriptural, and no Christian should be accused of doctrinal error if they differ from it, provided they can show Biblical evidence for their belief or at least that the Bible does not conflict with their doctrine.

Some branches of Christianity do have fixed doctrines that they seem to be unwilling to put to the Biblical test. Perhaps in some cases they are treating their creeds as if they were scripture.


Something that the answers above did not cover is the very strong assumption made in the title regarding the scope of the word of God, which is important for the question itself. Established Chalcedonian Churches would not make any claim of the form "all of the word of God is contained in..." or "there can be no more". Indeed, the two most prominent Churches, Catholic and Orthodox explicitly reject that view. For a very recent and clear explication of the Catholic view on the matter, see the Verbum Domini here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini_en.html

Word of God, strictly (and capitalised) refers to Christ, an eternal an inseparable part of the Trinity, as established in John. Naturally, there is no sense in which the Bible can "fully contain" Christ, and a fundamental precept of the Christian fate is that the Word is eternal, not only can "there be more", but there is. The Christian tradition, explicated in human words can be referred to as "word of God", and frequently is referred to in such a way, but the reference, for orthodox traditions, is one by analogy and to signify that particular human words announce, contain or explain the Divine truth. It's worth noting that "theology" is, literally, "word of God", and that was the only meaning of theology in the Christian world up until the time of the scholastics, when it started acquiring the more modern meaning of a rational study of religious concepts — and scholastics certainly would have found the statement "there can be no more theology" very strange! Generally, by orthodox doctrine, the words which explicate the Divine truth are not limited to Scripture, the exhortation linked above is clear on the topic: "the word of God precedes and exceeds sacred Scripture". This, of course, is not to detract from the singular status that Scripture has within the orthodox traditions.

This should help you contextualize the use of the Nicene Creed, which, as correctly answered above, is not a supplement to the Scripture, but a concise and clear re-statement of the truths already contained within the Scripture. Why is there a space for such re-statements? Exactly because the word of God is a living tradition, a tradition which ensures our continuing comprehension of the Holy message expressed in the Scripture. And here 'expressed' is a far better word than 'contained' — orthodox traditions do not claim divine authorship for the Gospels, they are human works comprising human words, for all words are human — it is the divine inspiration behind the words that gives Scripture its singular status.

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