The Substance of the Faith


Thomas F. Torrance, "'The Substance of the Faith': A Clarification of the Concept in the Church of Scotland," Scottish Journal of Theology 36 (1983): 327-338; #1983-428


Torrance, Thomas F. "'The Substance of the Faith': A Clarification of the Concept in the Church of Scotland." Scottish Journal of Theology 36, no. 3 (1983): 327-338; #1983-428

Publication life cycle / General notes

Translated into German in #1998-630.


In determining the meaning of the expression ‘the substance of the Faith’, it seems right to go back to the act of the Scottish Parliament in 1690 which ratified the Westminster Confession of Faith ‘as the publick and avowed Confession of this Church, containing the summe and substance of the doctrine of the Reformed Churches.’ There the WCF was regarded as containing the sum and substance of some thirty Reformed Confessions, including the Scots Confession, the First and Second Helvetic Confessions. These confessions expressly acknowledged the ancient Catholic Creeds and Conciliar Statements of the Church, the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Formulations of Ephesus and Chalcedon, and the so-called ‘Athanasian Creed’, and embodied all their main statements as essential articles of belief. This was true of the WCF which, as James Denney once pointed out, ‘contains everything that is in the Nicene Creed’ (Jesus and the Gospel, p. 39If). That is to say, there was no move away from what the Athanasian Creed and the Second Helvetic Confession called ‘the Catholic Faith’, although the basic articles of faith handed down through the Creeds were set within a confessional frame of distinctively Reformed character. It was inevitable, therefore, that a distinction was made between what Samuel Rutherford called (Due Right Presbyteries, p. 13) ‘a confession dejure, what everyman ought to believe, as the Nicene Creed, and the Creed of Athanasius’, and a wider summation of teaching common to ‘true Reformed Protestant religion’.

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