Learning the New Nicene Creed By Heart - Catechist's Journey
Even the most casual reader will be wrenched up short by title of Giuseppe Luigi is given over to a fine critical edition of the texts of N (=Nicene Creed) and of C . can ascertain with some certainty what the relationship of C to N is? 2) Is the ancestry of N a surprisingly broad range of variations in wording and content. The Nicene Creed is the declaration of the Christian faith for all Catholics and The eighth annual blood drive was sponsored by Holy Cross Parish Care. . Jesus is in a unique relationship with God the Father. .. In the short term, however, the council did not stamp out the heresy it was convened to. Filioque is a Latin term added to the original Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed and which has .. the mysterious nature of the Son's relationship to the Spirit, Latin theologians, even during Cyril's lifetime, .. First signs of the problems were starting to show by the end of the reign of Frankish king Pepin the Short ( ).
Thus, it is of immense significance to the church, and on that basis should be taught in my view to all Christians, and repeated as a confession of faith in Christian worship. However, a word of caution is in order here: The Creed is not the truth!
Rather, the truth is God himself. And so we worship the triune God, not words about him, though words about him are very helpful even essential to our worship.
Even with prayerful, Biblically informed consideration, the councils that framed the Creed were "forced to stretch the feeble capacity of That being said, the words of the Creed have stood up remarkably well over years of study, debate, and worship. It uses words of great meaning that we would do well to seek to understand. Indeed, this humble article is given to that purpose.
Some Christians object to the Creed, because it uses words not found in Scripture. I appreciate this concern; it was one I once held.
But I came to realize that the Holy Spirit, through Holy Scripture, leads us to seek a deep understanding of God, and then to convey that understanding to others, using words not found in Scripture if need be.
Sometimes we may even need to coin a new word, such as "trinity". Athanasius, who was a careful and faithful student of Scripture, pointed out that it does not matter whether a person uses a non-scriptural word or not, so long as he has a "godly mind. May we do so as well! Let's now look at the larger first phrase of the Creed: We believe in one God The Creed proclaims belief in "one God" and then goes on to describe this one God as existing in three persons.
This approach was carefully conceived in order to combat heresies infecting the fourth century church.
Of particular concern was the dualistic idea that God being spirit and thus transcendentis necessarily separate from the material world, including humanity.
This non-biblical worldview, which emerged out of pagan Greek philosophy, was embraced by some influential church leaders. As a result, some denied Jesus' humanity, while others notably Arius of Alexandria denied Jesus' divinity. Arius and others also denied that the Holy Spirit was a divine person.
The Council went on the offensive against these heresies, seeking to understand and uphold what Scripture declares to be true of the triune God revealed in and through the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, who In Jesus, all dualistic views of God and of the world including humanity are obliterated. Jesus said it very simply: Jesus reveals God because Jesus is God. The Nicaean Council wrestled to understand, accurately communicate, and thus defend this trinitarian revelation.
Its profound assertions state that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, though not the same person, share the one being of the one God. Said another way, God who is one in being, is three in person. Though we barely have begun the Creed, already we are confessing that there is "one God," and that this one God is tri-personal.
Thus, the Creed immediately asserts the identity of the first person of the Trinity, "the Father. The very center of saving faith is belief not merely in God, but in God as Father; not merely in Christ but in Christ as the Son of God It is understanding of the Fatherhood of God, mediated in and through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, his beloved Son, that governs all that is truly thought and said of God p And that includes what is thought and said of God in his work, including his work of creation.
This is the issue that the Creed next addresses as it addresses belief in God the Father: Yet now the Creed begins to speak of the three persons of the one God, beginning with the Father, who as Almighty, is associated with his act of creating.
And, of course, we receive this knowledge of the Father through the Son, by the Spirit. The point being made is that the Father Almighty is the Source or Fount of all being - both the being of God which is ultimate beingand the being of the creation, which is granted its being by God, who creates all that is out of nothing. In associating the Fatherhood of God with the act of creating, the Creed is not asserting that God became Father by creating.
The Father has always been Father and thus it follows that the Son has always been Son of the Father. However, there was a time when the Father was not Creator. God is, and always is, Father, but to create something out of nothing utterly different from himself is an act of his will and freely follows from what he eternally and intrinsically is" p87a. Following Athanasius, TFT draws a parallel between this original act of creation and God's subsequent act of incarnation.
In both, God acts to create something entirely new p There was a time when there was no creation, but God, as Father, became Creator and created the cosmos out of nothing. Similarly, there was a time when the eternal Son of God was not human, but became human through the incarnation, which is a stunning act of re-creation.
God, who is complete in himself three-in-one; one-in-threelacks nothing and thus has no need for a creation. Rather, because God in his own triune nature is love, he wills to create in order to love his creation: He does not will to exist for himself alone, but has freely and spontaneously brought a world into existence out of non-existence God created all things out of nothing and wishes them to exist as objects of his loving-kindness which he has now manifested to the world in Jesus Christ" pp We were created for communion with the triune God of love, and in Christ we were re-created to make that communion possible, despite our sin.
And so the Creed leads us to worship God the Father, who in his Almighty love both creates and re-creates, providing for all humanity the object of his love a means to share forever in his divine, triune communion. The Father-Son relationship precedes any Creator-creature relationship. This, of course, was a key issue when the creed was written. All sorts of heretical ideas conceived of Jesus as some sort of creation of God rather than as true God.
The creed shows such ideas to be false by asserting the biblical truth that Christ is the One through whom all things were made. Thus when we are confronted in the Gospels with Jesus Christ as a man, we understand that he is God become man, while remaining God.
And thus we are taken to the doctrine of the incarnation. The New Testament did not present Jesus Christ in contrast to God or alongside God, or argue from one to the other, as in ebionite or docetic Christologies [heretical doctrines that denied either the full divinity or the full humanity of Jesus Christ], but presented him in the undivided wholeness of his divine-human reality as God become man p If Jesus Christ were not fully God, we would not have in him the full revelation of God.
But Jesus insisted that to see him is, indeed, to "see the Father" John The church refused to weaken or compromise faith in Jesus Christ as God and man in one Person, for if he was not really God then there was no divine reality in anything he said or did, and if he was not really man then what God did in him had no saving relevance for human beings p One being with the Father This part of the creed spells out in detail how it is Christ is related to the Father. It does so with an essential phrase that declares Christ to be of one being with the Father homoousius to Patri in Greek.
To this phrase is added, through whom all things were made, so as to emphasize the identification of the Son with the Creator and thus that the Son preexists creation. Jesus Christ is fully God in his very being and nature. What is the very being of the Father is entirely the being of the Son. Said another way, Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father from his very being, that is, from his essential reality and nature. There is perfect and eternal mutuality between the Father and the Son, without any 'interval' in being, time or knowledge between them p This idea is expressed in the creed using the biblical image of light: Moreover, just as light and radiance are one and are not alien to one another, so the Father and the Son are one and are not alien to one another but are of one and the same being.
And just as God is eternal light, so the Son of God as eternal radiance of God is himself eternally light without beginning and without end p Athanasius emphasized the essential oneness the homoousion in Greek of the Father and the Son by stating that "the Son is everything that the Father is, except Father" p TFT puts it this way: TFT goes on the discuss at length the great significance of the homoousial relationship between the Father and his Son.
An important point is that it is this concept that served as the measuring rod canon by which many of the individuals who authored the creed, also determined which books were to be accepted into the New Testament canon. Only those books that upheld the essential oneness of the Father and the Son were accepted. Other books and there were many that were evaluated were rejected. If follows that the same principle should serve as the hermeneutical principle by which the meaning of these books is ascertained today.
This principle, of course, points to the ultimate canon of Scripture and, indeed of all truth - a who, not a what: Here are some of TFT's comments on this vital point: As the only begotten Son of the Father he is the embodiment of the whole being of God and his exclusive self-revelation as the Word made flesh p To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is to believe in God himself God is completely identical with his self-revelation in Jesus Christ.
The Son of God in his incarnate Person is the place where we may know the Father as he is in himself The utterly astonishing thing proclaimed in the Gospel is that God himself came among us precisely as man This is good news, because it means that there is "no division between the acts of the Son and the acts of God" p In Jesus we see and taste and feel!
God himself is the content of his saving grace in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ the Giver of grace and the Gift of grace are one and the same, for in him and through him it is none other than God himself who is savingly and creatively at work for us and our salvation p And now, with this concept in mind, let us fast forward to the final judgment. There we find that our Judge is none other than this incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.
It is he who will judge all humans at the Last Day. Or as Michael Card sings, we will "look into our Judge's eyes and see our Savior there. And that is VERY good news - based not on hopeful speculation, but on the eternal homoousial relation between the Father and his incarnate Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father.
And he shall come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead; his kingdom shall have no end. A key point here is that our salvation is the act of God himself, who through the Incarnation As St Paul had expressed it: For there is one God, and there is on Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all" [1Tim 2.
For Athanasius [a primary author of the Creed] this meant that the mediation of Christ involved a twofold movement, from God to man and from man to God, and that both divine and human activity in Christ must be regarded as issuing from one Person. Here we see again the soteriological [saving] significance of the Nicene homoousion: If Jesus Christ the incarnate Son is not true God from true God, then we are not saved, for it is only God who can save; but if Jesus Christ is not truly man, then salvation does not touch our human existence and condition.
In him God has really become man, become what we are, and so lives and acts, God though he is, "as man for us. This points to the related doctrine of the vicarious representative-substitutionary humanity of Jesus.
Here are TFT's related comments: The whole life of Christ is understood as a continuous vicarious sacrifice and oblation which, as such, is indivisible, for everything he assumed from us is organically united in his one Person and work as Savior and Mediator" p TFT emphasizes that the human nature, which the Son of God assumed in the Incarnation, was the same nature we have, "the defiled nature of man" p This is vital to understand, because it is only by being united with the person of God that our defiled human nature is healed.
As the Head of creation, in whom all things consist, he is the only one who really can act on behalf of all and save them. Thus the redemptive work of Christ was fully representative and truly universal in its range. Its vicarious efficacy has its force through the union of his divine Person as Creator and Lord with us in our creaturely being, whereby he lays hold of us in himself and acts for us from out of the inner depths of his coexistence with us and our existence in him, delivering us from the sentence of death upon us, and from the corruption and perdition that have overtaken us pp Through his incarnation the Son of God has made himself one with us as we are, and indeed made himself what we are, thereby not only making our nature his own but taking on himself our lost condition subject to condemnation and death, all in order that he might substitute himself in our place, discharge our debt, and offer himself in atoning sacrifice to God on our behalf.
Since sin and its judgment have affected the actual nature of death as we experience it, Christ has made our death and fate his own, thereby taking on himself the penalty due to all in death, destroying the power of sin and its stronghold in death, and thus redeeming or rescuing us from its dominion p Thus the Creed emphasizes that the Incarnation was essentially redemptive and conversely, that redemption is inherently incarnational.
Said another way, Jesus in his own Person is the atonement. Our reconciliation with God is not merely something Jesus did external to himselfbut something that he is in himself. This is why forensic legal theories of the Atonement are flawed.
If you take away the Incarnation, you remove the very ground of salvation. God accomplished this atoning exchange for us, by transferring, in Christ However, far from sinning himself or being contaminated by what he appropriated from us, Christ triumphed over the forces of evil entrenched in our human existence, bringing his own holiness, his own perfect obedience, to bear upon it in such a way as to condemn sin in the flesh and to deliver us from its power p The whole incarnational assumption of our human nature was at the same time a reconciling, healing, sanctifying and recreating activity.
In making himself one with us he both took what is ours and imparted to us what is his p We come now to the clause in the Creed that addresses God the Holy Spirit: The Spirit is not just something divine or something akin to God emanating from him, not some sort of action at a distance or some kind of gift detachable from himself, for in the Holy Spirit God acts directly upon us himself, and in giving us his Holy Spirit God gives us nothing less than himself" p The Spirit of God is not the emission of some divine force detachable from God but the confrontation of human beings and their affairs with his own Self in which he brings the impact of his divine power and holiness to bear directly and personally upon their lives in judgment and salvation alike pp The deity of the Spirit and the doctrine of the Trinity The Creed thus presents the biblical teaching that the Holy Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is fully God and thus is both the subject and object of our worship.
Indeed, the trinitarian baptismal formula in Matthew The framers also looked to several other passages of Scripture, including: A definite doctrine of the Trinity was found to arise out of a faithful exegetical interpretation of the New Testament and out of the evangelical experience and liturgical life of the Church from the very beginning.
It made explicit what was already implicit in the fundamental deposit of faith. Thus the Creed teaches that to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit is to be indwelt by God himself. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is "the Lord God in the full reality of his divine life and being In sending to us his Spirit God has given us, not just something of himself, but his very Self" p And as he comes, he brings God's own revelation, life-giving power and manifold gifts.
This revelation is not of the Spirit himself, but through the Spirit of the "Face of the Father Thus we understand that our understanding of God is "from the Father, shining in the Son and becoming manifest through the Spirit" p Viewed from our perspective, this means that "our mind, enlightened by the Spirit, looks toward the Son, and in him as in an image, sees the Father" p Along with this revelation of God, the Holy Spirit brings to us God's own life-giving power and his many spiritual gifts p, We must think of the Holy Spirit, then, as the creative, energizing, enlightening presence of God who freely interacts with his human creatures in such a way as to sustain their relation to himself as the source of their spiritual, personal and rational life p Moreover by his presence the Holy Spirit is the 'place' We come now to the clause in the Creed that addresses the Church: The Adoration of the Trinity by Albrecht Durer, Note first that this clause flows from the one preceding concerning the Holy Spirit.
The church exists because of the Spirit's work, not independently from the Spirit.
Learning the New Nicene Creed By Heart
We believe in the church because we believe in the Spirit. Note next that the Creed declares the church to have four identifying characteristics: These four are sometimes referred to as the "marks" of the Church. It is vital to see these marks within the overall incarnational Trinitarian context of the Creed.
Reflecting on this, TFT writes this: Far from being a human institution it was founded by the Lord himself and rooted in the Holy Trinity. As Ignatius of Antioch [an early Church leader who may have been a disciple of John] taught that the members of the Church are united with Jesus Christ just as he is united with the Father. Hence whatever the Church does from beginning to end is done 'in the Son and the Father and the Spirit'. However, the Scriptures have all three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — interacting at the same time, as shown at Jesus' baptism.
Athanasius, writing during the Nicene era, said the Father and Son are one as "the sight of two eyes is one. God the Son is fully and utterly God, distinct from the Father, yet not divided from the Father. The Arians said Jesus could be called god but not true God. In other words, they wrongly believed the Logos the "Word," a popular title for Jesus in early Christian literature was the first creation of God.
The creed tells us that just as when a woman gives birth she does not create a child out of nothing, being begotten of God, the Son is not created out of nothing. Since the Son's birth from the Father occurred before time was created, begotten refers to a permanent relationship as opposed to an event within time.
Father and Son share the same substance or essence of divinity. That is, the Father and Son both share the qualities and essential nature that make one in reality God. However, sharing the same substance does not mean they share identity of person. While the creed says "down," it is important to remember that our language is limited by time and spatiality. Heaven is not "up," just as God is not a biologically male father. He was born of a virgin through the Holy Spirit. God truly became human in Jesus Christ.
Catholics believe that Jesus of Nazareth was and is a real human being, not simply a spirit or ghost. The incarnation of God in Christ is the ultimate act of love, because rather than sending an angel or good human to accomplish the redemption and restoration of creation, God Himself became human.
The Nicene Creed's incarnational Trinitarian roots
Despite what some critics will level against it, the Nicene Creed is more than just metaphysical speculation, and includes important historical confessions. Notice that in addition to being "true God from true God," Jesus is fully human as well.
The early Docetists, named from the Greek word "dokeo" "to seem"heretically believed Jesus only seemed to be human, but was not.
Just as Jesus truly died, He truly rose from the dead three days later. The bodily resurrection is the keystone of Christian doctrine and experience. However, Jesus was not just physically resuscitated as was Lazarusbut rather His body was transformed at the Resurrection.
Rejection of the bodily resurrection is a rejection of the foundation of Catholic Christianity. The word "again" is used because Jesus' first "rising" was His birth. To "rise again" is be alive again. So in the Scriptures, Jesus is said to ascend to heaven. Whatever happened that day, Luke had to render the event into his own scientific paradigm, so he said Jesus "went up" to heaven.
His kingdom cannot be destroyed, despite all of humanity's efforts. The creed says Jesus is coming; it does not say when or how, nor does it say to speculate on the date of His return. However, most scholars believe that the text of the full creed dates prior to this council, and that the bishops simply gave their approval to a local creed already in use.
The reason these additions were included in the Nicene Creed is that some heretics of the 4th century denied the full divinity of the Holy Spirit.
Both words convey that the Son and Spirit are in special relationships to the Father, yet also fully divine. The phrase "and the Son" in Latin, "filioque," was not in the original text of the creed, but was added in many Western Churches in the late 6th century.
The addition likely developed over time as a tool against Arianism. There are theological and historical justifications for the addition or exclusion of the filioque. The Eastern Churches oppose the addition of the filioque, while many Western churches accept it. Actually, despite current division on the matter, the issue has been pretty much theologically resolved.
The Catholic Church acknowledges the Father is the sole source within the Trinity, and admits that "proceeds from the Father and the Son" means "proceeds from the Father through the Son. The Church is "holy" on account of Christ's holiness and grace, and not because its members or leaders are perfect.6 Stages in a Long Distance Relationship
In fact, at times throughout history, the Church has remained holy in spite of its members. This belief is universally acknowledged in early Christian writings.
If someone has been validly baptized in the name of the Trinity, re-baptism is unnecessary. Christians always hope for the end of this fractured system, when the universe is fully reconciled to God in Christ Jesus. The Nicene Creed affirms both the existence of a soul-filled heaven and the later resurrection of the dead when soul meets glorified body. Where did the Nicene Creed come from?
The Nicene Creed is the declaration of the Christian faith for all Catholics and Orthodox as well as many Protestants. The Nicene Creed explains the Church's teachings about the Trinity and affirms historical realities of Jesus' life. The creed does not directly quote Scripture, but it is based on biblical truths. The Council of Nicaea was the first general council of the Church since the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem, which set conditions for Gentiles to join the Church.
Roman persecution of Christians had just ended 12 years earlier, but now the Church was divided over the question of Jesus' divinity. Heretics led by a priest named Arius in Alexandria, Egypt, claimed that if Jesus was begotten by God, He must have had a beginning like every other part of God's creation — therefore, Jesus was not fully God.