Rule of Faith

The rule of faith (Latin: regula fidei) is the name given to the ultimate authority or standard in religious belief. It was used by Early Christian writers as Tertullian. The phrase is sometimes used for early creeds.


As a standard for adherence to orthodoxy, rule of faith originally referred to the Old Roman Symbol, which was an earlier and shorter version of the Apostles' Creed and other later statements of faith. As a historical standard for adherence to orthodoxy, rule of faith may also refer to other statements of faith including the Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Augsburg Confession, Articles of Dort, Westminster Confession and others, the inner light of the spirit, as among mystics.[1]

The rule of faith is the name given to the ultimate authority or standard in religious belief, such as the Word of God (Dei verbum) as contained in Scripture and Apostolic Tradition,[2] as among Catholics; theoria, as among the Eastern Orthodox; the Sola scriptura (Bible alone doctrine), as among some Protestants; the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of faith, which held that Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, as among other Protestants; and reason alone, as among Rationalist philosophers.[citation needed]

Second century usage[edit]

The original rule of faith in the Early Christian Church as Irenaeus knew it, included: [a]

…this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation, and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of the whole human race…

— Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses
On The Apostolic Preaching by St. Irenaeus (St Vladimir's Seminary Press Edition) pg.41 [3] "Therefore, lest we suffer any such thing, we must keep the rule of faith unswervingly ..." [the footnote: A common expression in Irenaeus, designating the model of faith which is received in baptism (cf.Against Heresies 1:9:4), and which epitomizes the "order and connection of the Scriptures." Cf. Note to Dem. 1; AH 1:8 1-10:3. ((In the 1st footnote: ""the rule of faith," "order and connection" of Scripture, and "body of truth" are used to speak of the same thing.)) 

Third century usage[edit]

Tertullian uses the phrases "rule of faith" and "rule of truth" in On Prescription Against Heretics:

Let our "seeking," therefore be in that which is our own, and from those who are our own, and concerning that which is our own, – that, and only that, which can become an object of inquiry without impairing the rule of faith.[3][4]

Catholic usage[edit]

Pope Pius XII in Humani generis uses the term analogy of faith to say that Holy Scripture should be interpreted according to the mind of the Church, not that the teaching of the Church and Fathers should be interpreted by some theorised norm of the Scriptures.[5]

In the Catholic Church, the Bible and sacred tradition (that is, things believed to have been taught by Jesus and the apostles that were not recorded in the Bible but were transmitted through the church) are considered a rule for all believers for judging faith and practice.[6] The current Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God[7]

The Baltimore Catechism used the phrase "rule of faith":[8]

Q. 561. Must we ourselves seek in the Scriptures and traditions for what we are to believe?

A. We ourselves need not seek in the Scriptures and traditions for what we are to believe. God has appointed the Church to be our guide to salvation and we must accept its teaching us our infallible rule of faith.

In Verbum Domini (2010), Pope Benedict XVI wrote:[9]

...while in the Church we greatly venerate the sacred Scriptures, the Christian faith is not a 'religion of the book': Christianity is the 'religion of the word of God,' not of 'a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word' (qtd. from St. Bernard of Clairvaux). Consequently the Scripture is to be proclaimed, heard, read, received and experienced as the word of God, in the stream of the apostolic Tradition from which it is inseparable

Protestant usage[edit]

In some Protestant theology, it is a hermeneutical rule of interpreting the Bible that scripture is to interpret scripture (Sacra Scriptura sui interpres: sacred Scripture is its own interpreter). It is an understanding that enforces the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and it is therefore consistent and coherent since God cannot contradict himself.[10][b]

Orthodox usage[edit]

The Troparion for Saint Nicholas extols him as a rule of faith, a pastoral[c] living standard. [17]

You were revealed to your flock
as a measure of faith.
You were the image of humility
and a teacher of self-control.
Because of your humble life,
heaven was opened to you.
Because of your poverty,
spiritual riches were granted to you. O holy Bishop Nicholas
we cry out to you:
Pray to Christ our God
that our souls may be saved.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Η μεν γαρ Εκκλησια, καιπερ καθ' ολης της οικουμενης εως περατων της γης διεσπαρμενη, παρα δε των Αποστολων, και των εκεινων μαθητων παραλαβουσα την εις ενα Θεον Πατερα παντοκρατορα, τον πεποιηκοτα τον ουρανον, και την γην, και τας θαλασσας, και παντα τα εν αυτοις, πιστιν· και εις Χριστον Ιησουν, τον υιον του Θεου, τον σαρκωθεντα υπερ της ημετερας σωτηριας· και εις Πνευμα αγιον, το δια των προφητων κεκηρυχος τας οικονομιας, και τας ελευσεις, και την εκ Παρθενου γεννησιν, και το παθος, και την εγερσιν εκ νεκρων, και την ενσαρκον εις τους ουρανους αναληψιν του ηγαπημενου Χριστου Ιησου του Κυριου ημων, και την εκ των ουρανων εν τη δοξη του Πατρος παρουσιαν αυτου επι το ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι τα παντα, και αναστησαι πασαν σαρκα πασης ανθρωποτητος, ινα Χριστω Ιησου τω Κυριω ημων, και Θεω, Και Σωτηρι, και Βασιλει, κατα την ευδοκιαν του Πατρος του αορατου, παν γονυ καμψη επουρανιων και επιγειων και καταχθονιων, και πασα γλωσσα εξομολογησηται αυτω, και κρισιν δικαιαν εν τοις πασι ποιησηται· τα μεν πνευματικα της πονηριας, και αγγελους τους παραβεβηκοτας, και εν αποστασια γεγονοτας, και τους ασεβεις, και αδικους, και ανομους, και βλασφημους των ανθρωπων εις το αιωνιον πυρ πεμψη· τοις δε δικαιοις, και οσιοις, και τας εντολας αυτου τετηρηκοσι, και εν τη αγαπη αυτου διαμεμενηκοσι τοις μεν απ' αρχης, τοις δε εκ μετανοιας, ζωην χαρισαμενος αφθαρσιαν δωρησηται, και δοξαν αιωνιαν περιποηση.

    The part before "in one God" can be translated "For the Church, spread throughout the whole world to the uttermost parts of the earth, having received from the Apostles, and their disciples, the faith ...". The part after "the whole human race" can be translated, "so that to Christ Jesus our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the pleasure of the invisible Father, every knee may bow of those in the heavenly places and those on earth and those under the earth, and every tongue may confess to him, and he may do righteous judgement among all; and send the spirits of wickedness, and transgressing angels, and those who are in apostasy, and the impious, and unrighteous, and lawless, and blasphemous among men to eternal fire; but to the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept his commandments, and have persevered in his love whether from the beginning or out of repentance, granting life he may graciously give incorruption, and may put them in possession of eternal glory." Book 1, Chapter 2

  2. ^ The rule of faith (Latin: regula fidei) or analogy of faith (analogia fidei) is a phrase rooted in the Apostle Paul's admonition to the Christians in Rome in the Epistle to the Romans 12:6, which says, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith." (NIV, 1984) The last phrase, "in proportion to his faith" is in Greek κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίαν τῆς πίστεως ("analogy of faith"). In Romans 12:6 this refers to one of three possible ideas: the body of Christian teachings, the person's belief and response to the grace of God, or to the type of faith that can move mountains.[11] In conservative Protestantism Romans 12:6 is viewed as the biblical reference for the term "analogy of the faith" (i.e., αναλογἰα τῆς πἰστεως).[12][13]

    The Bible alone is considered the word of God and the only infallible standard for judging faith and practice;[14] hence, for conservative Protestantism, the analogy of the faith is equivalent to the analogy of scripture – that is, opinions are tested for their consistency with scripture, and scripture is interpreted by the Holy Spirit speaking in scripture (compare sola scriptura). The analogy of faith, which was advanced by Augustine of Hippo, is sometimes contrasted with the analogy of being (Latin: analogia entis), which, according to Thomas Aquinas, allows one to know God through analogy with his creation.[15]

  3. ^ All who have reached glorification testify to the fact that "it is impossible to express God and even more impossible to conceive Him" because they know by their experience that there is no similarity whatsoever between the created and the uncreated. God is "unmoved mover" and "moved" and "neither one". Nor oneness nor unity, nor divinity... nor sonship, nor fatherhood, etc." In the experience of glorification, the Bible and dogmas are guides to and abolished during glorification. They are not ends in themselves and have nothing to do with metaphysics, either with analogia entis or with analogia fidei. This means that words and concepts which do not contradict the experience of glorification and which lead to purification and illumination of the heart and glorification are Orthodox. Words and concepts which contradict glorification and lead away from cure and perfection in Christ are heretical. This is the key to the decisions of all Seven Roman Ecumenical Councils as well as that of the Eighth of 879 and especially of the Ninth of 1341. Most historians of dogma do not see this because they believe the Fathers were, like Augustine, searching by meditation and contemplation to understand the mystery of God behind words and concepts about Him. They induct even such Fathers as Gregory the Theologian into the army of Latin theology by translating him to say that to philosophise about God is permitted only to "past masters of meditation," instead of "to those who have passed into theoria", which is vision of Christ "in a mirror dimly", by "kinds of tongues" and "face to face" in "glorification".

    The Fathers never understood the formulation of dogma as part of an effort to intellectually understand the mystery of God and the incarnation. St. Gregory the Theologian ridicules such heretics: "Do tell me, he says, what is the unbegottenness of the Father, and I will explain to you the physiology of the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit, and we shall both of us be frenzy-stricken for prying into the mystery of God". Neither did the Fathers ever entertain the Augustinian notion that the Church understands the faith better with the passage of time. Every glorification is a participation in all the Truth of Pentecost, which can neither be added to nor better understood. This also means that Orthodox doctrine is purely pastoral since it does not exist outside the context of the cure of individual and social ills and perfection. Being a theologian is first and foremost to be a specialist in the ways of the Devil. Illumination and especially glorification convey the charisma of the discernment of spirits for outwitting the Devil, especially when he resorts to teaching theology and spirituality to those slipping from his grip.[16]


  1. ^ "Rule of Faith". The Nuttall Encyclopædia (1907).
  2. ^ "The Rule of Faith". Catholic Encyclopedia. New advent. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  3. ^ Tertullian, On Prescription Against Heretics, 12
  4. ^ Roberts; Donaldson, eds. (1976), "13", Ante-Nicene Fathers, 3, p. 249
  5. ^ "Humani generis".
  6. ^ Hodge, Charles, "5. Roman Catholic Doctrine Concerning the Rule of Faith", Systematic Theology, CCEL
  7. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Chapter 2, The Vatican, art. 3 Sacred Scripture, III. The Holy Spirit, interpreter of Scripture, archived from the original on 2001-01-25
  8. ^ "Baltimore Catechism".
  9. ^ The Latin can be found on page 15 here.
  10. ^ Sproul, R. C., et al. Knowing Scripture. vol. Revised edition, IVP Books, 2009.
  11. ^ Fitzmyer, Joseph (1992), Romans, Anchor Bible Commentary, 33, New York: Doubleday, pp. 647–48
  12. ^ "Biblical Theology and the Analogy of Faith". Daniel Fuller. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  13. ^ Calvin, John (1950), "Prefratory Address, 2 and Book IV, ch. 17, 32", in McNeill, John T (ed.), Institutes of the Christian Religion, Library of Christian Classics, 2 vols, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1:12; 2:1404
  14. ^ Hodge, Charles, "6. The Protestant Rule of Faith", Systematic Theology, CCEL
  15. ^ Introduction to Nature and Grace: Selections from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954, p. 28.
  16. ^ John S. Romanides, "Theology and dogma", Church Synods and Civilisation, Romanity
  17. ^ Fr John Wehling, Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Sproul, R. C., et al. Knowing Scripture. vol. Revised edition, IVP Books, 2009. EBSCOhost