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The Rule of Faith: A Guide

, 2015
ISBN: 9781625647597

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The rule of faith was a summary of apostolic preaching and teaching made by writers of the early Christian centuries. As such it carries great importance for what the early church considered basic to its being and identity. The rule was not a fixed creed, but varied in wording and content according to circumstances. Yet, despite this flexibility and diversity, there is a clear Christ-centered, Trinitarian core at the heart of the rule shared by the early apostolic churches.

In this short guide, Everett Ferguson introduces readers to the primary sources of our knowledge of the rule. He highlights the variety of ways in which ancient Christian authors spoke of the rule and examines scholarly attempts at interpreting this ancient evidence. Ferguson argues that statements of the rule of faith were used to instruct new or potential converts, to combat false teachings, and to provide a framework for interpreting the Scriptures. He maintains that the rule retains considerable importance for churches of the twenty-first century.

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Key Features

  • Introduces readers to the primary sources of our knowledge of the rule
  • Examines the rule’s importance for churches of the twenty-first century.
  • Highlights how ancient Christian authors spoke of the rule


  • Statements of the Rule of Faith/Canon of Truth
  • Notes on Terminology and Other Pertinent Statements
  • Interpretation of the Rule of Faith
  • Studies of the Rule of Faith
  • Functions of the Rule of Faith
  • Relevance for Today of the Rule of Faith

Top Highlights

“But from very early on there was a widely shared consensus—at least within those Jesus communities that saw themselves as directly linked to the ministry of the apostles—as to the basic shape of the church’s proclamation. There was still plenty of scope for disagreement and development, but the sense of the core of ‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3) was shared in common. And this core, this heart, was summed up in the rule of faith.” (Page 2)

“We begin by considering the classic presentations of the rule of faith. The terminology used was fluid, and different early Christian authors spoke variously of the ‘rule of faith,’ ‘the faith,’ the ‘canon of truth,’ ‘truth,’ or similar expressions. By these terms they referred to summaries of the faith preached and taught by the churches.” (Page 2)

“The heart of this apostolic preaching was the career of Jesus, particularly focused on his death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor 15:3–5). The rule of faith was the continuation of these summaries of main elements in the gospel, set in the larger context of faith in God and the church’s experience of the Holy Spirit.” (Page 35)

“The rule of faith, therefore, represents the preaching of the church. It summarizes and outlines the (objective) faith, the truth of God’s plan and the gospel of Christ.” (Page 69)

“The perspective adopted in this volume is that the rule of faith belongs in continuity with early summaries of the apostolic preaching and teaching. As such it could be used as a standard against which to judge later teaching, and it was indeed effective for this purpose. The essential content of the rule of faith existed before its anti-heretical use, however much specific wordings of the rule may have been adapted to later circumstances.” (Page 76)

Praise for the Print Edition

When paging through this book, my immediate reaction was: why was it not written earlier?. . . There is no better candidate to produce this book than Ferguson. . . [who] is well known for his precision of textual references and mature judgment for pointing out the doctrinal and pastoral relevance of the topics he treats. This book must be possessed by all students studying. . . questions concerning the early history of the New Testament canon and biblical hermeneutics.

—Father Denis Farkasfalvy, O. Cist., University of Dallas

Can the story of Scripture, the preaching and teaching of the apostles, be summed up in a way that can be passed from one generation to another? And how are Christians to distinguish between varying truth-claims? With the ease and depth of a master craftsman, Ferguson guides us through the regula fidei of the early Church to find an answer. Placing The Rule of Faith as a necessary companion to the well-known creeds, Ferguson brings to life again the vital truth-claims of early Christianity.

—George Kalantzis, Professor of Theology, The Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies

The Rule of Faith is an essential guide to the central beliefs of the ancient church, and Ferguson is a most trustworthy guide to its early history and development. This volume provides a collection of the most relevant primary texts and expert analysis by one of our most distinguished scholars of Christian origins. . . A splendid achievement!

—David G. Hunter, Cottrill-Rolfes Chair of Catholic Studies, University of Kentucky

  • Title: The Rule of Faith (A Guide)
  • Author: Everett Ferguson
  • Series: Cascade Companions
  • Volume: 20
  • Publisher: Cascade
  • Print Publication Date: 2015
  • Logos Release Date: 2016
  • Pages: 104
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Theology, doctrinal › History--Early church, ca. 30-600; Church history › Primitive and early church, ca. 30-600; Fathers of the church; Creeds
  • ISBNs: 9781625647597, 9781498236591, 162564759X, 1498236596
  • Resource Type: text.monograph.study-guide
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2022-09-29T22:30:24Z

Everett Ferguson (1933–) received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and served on the faculty of Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, beginning in 1962, where he taught church history and Greek. He is now professor emeritus in its College of Biblical Studies and distinguished scholar-in-residence. Although he retired from full-time teaching in 1990 to devote himself to research, he occasionally teaches a few classes at ACU. He is the author of many books, including Backgrounds of Early Christianity.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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Digital list price: $11.99
Save $3.00 (25%)