I understand that many have been surprised (if not alarmed) by the fact that the Apostles’ Creed (which we confess) makes reference to the “Holy Catholic Church.” Rest assured – there is absolutely no reason to be alarmed. Contrary to popular belief, this is simply not a reference to the Roman Catholic Church.
The Creed’s use of this word “Catholic” should be understood and confessed according to the meaning of the original Greek word which was used: katholike
This Greek word can be translated as “according to the whole” or even more simply as “universal.” Therefore, what we are professing to believe through the Creed is that the Church of Jesus Christ is much bigger than any one particular local congregation.
We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ consists of all those who either have been, are being, or shall be gathered into one body under the Head and Saviour of Church (cf. Ephesians 1:10, 22-23; 5:23, 27, 32; Colossians 1:18).
We also use the Nicene Creed in our church which says even more than the Apostles’ Creed by confessing “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Again, do not be alarmed. This statement was written long before the Roman Church claimed the title “Catholic” for itself.
Granted, the Roman Church does claim to be the true and universal church of Christ (which is what the word “Catholic” literally means). But their claim is to be rejected because it is based on the false assumption that there exists some direct connection between the Apostle Peter and all Roman Bishops. This claim is neither biblical nor historical.
By adding the word “Apostolic” to the word “Catholic,” the Nicene Creed is actually helping us to identify the True Universal Church of Jesus Christ.
The Creed was written in an age in which there were many heretics who had departed from the doctrine of the Apostles and who were attacking the earthly Bride of Christ by teaching erroneous and pernicious doctrines of devils.
So the Nicene Creed was written and officially adopted by the whole Church in order to expose these heretics as being un-holy and un-apostolic dogs who were, in no way, to be regarded as part of the One True Catholic/Universal Church.
But if “Universal” is a fine synonym for “Catholic,” then why don’t you just change the Creed in order to avoid confusion? Two reasons:
1st The Creed doesn’t belong to us – it belongs to the whole Church. Therefore we believe that it would be highly inappropriate to tamper with one of few truly ecumenical documents of the Universal Church.
2nd It is our opinion that if anyone should stop using the word “Catholic” it is Rome. It is they who have departed from the Apostolic teachings and not us. Let them find a new name.
Answered by Pastor McShaffrey