Friday, December 04, 2009

The Nicene Creed

The Church's great affirmation of the deity of Christ.

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.


Gregory said...

The "filoque" clause (i.e. "and the Son") was a later interpolation of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Deity of the Son is assured, simply, by the presence of the Father. A Father, by definition, is the father of someone. For example, I am the son of my father.....just as my father was the son of his father, and so on. But, this chain of finite being applies only the mankind. It does not apply to God, since He is eternal. Furthermore, in the case of Christianity, the "Father" and "Son" concept is not predicated upon creation but on relation, since the Godhead is without beginning or end. So, in what sense could an eternal, immutable God be called "Father" if He didn't, from eternity, always have a "Son"? And if His Paternity is contingent upon the things made (i.e. "all things visible and invisible"), then there was a time when God was not "Father". Besides, why would the Creed distinguish God's role as Father from that of "Maker". Why not say this:

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, (Father) of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible..."

I think the reason is obvious. Being a Creator of something is much different than being a Father to someone. What's more, I think it's blasphemous to suggest that God, by creating the temporal world, had to learn--by Creation--how to be a "Father". In other words, that God is, somehow, in a state of Becoming something that He wasn't before. Either God is eternally Paternal or He becomes Paternal. The Christian Church has always accepted the former, while emphatically rejecting the latter.

So, the Nicene Creed establishes, from the very first line, the Deity of the Son:

"I believe in God the Father..."

This idea of co-relatedness is even stressed by the Apostle John:

"Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also" --1 John 2:23

But the Creed also says this:

"And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-Begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence of the Father, by Whom all things were made."

This says everything that can be said, concerning the Deity of Christ....that He is eternal, that He is very God, of one essence with the Father and that Christ was the creator of all things (i.e. "by Whom all things were made"). How much more explicit could the Nicene Council be?

The "filioque" is trivial, at best. It is heretical, at worst....since it attributes the sole prerogative of the Father in the procession of the Holy Spirit, to the Father and the Son. This is tantamount to eliminating the Paternity of God!! Trivializing God's Paternity carries deeply disastrous implications for the nature of the Trinity (i.e. interpretations favoring Modalism).

What's more, the filioque raises the more problematic issue of the Deity of the Holy Spirit. How are we, now, to understand the nature of the Holy Spirit. I mean...why not, then, insert this line into the Creed:

"Begotten of the Father (and the Holy Spirit) before all worlds.."

The reason why it isn't asserted is because the Nicene formula, in it's original statement, brilliantly explicates the Trinity by maintaining the Fatherhood of God qua Source. That is why the Byzantine Churches have never tampered with it. I'm of the opinion that "if it ain't broke, then don't fix it." And the Creed, as originally stated, was not broke.

The Nicene Creed adequately expounds, succinctly and simply, the nature of the Christian God; without the need of adding the Roman "filioque" clause. The hypostatic relationships among the Person's of the Godhead are established on the basis of the Paternity of God.

If the Paternity of God cannot establish the Deity of Christ, then nothing can....not even a "filioque".

And I want to wish everyone a seasonal blessing with the Advent celebration of the birth of our Lord....and blessings into the New Year.

Gregory said...

I apologize for some of the typos.

Let me make one last point about the Creed's Christology, to hammer the point home. The Creed says this:

"Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man."

In other words, the Creed explicitly distinguishes the Son of God from mankind here, in several obvious ways:

1) By affirming that the Son is not of this world.

2) By distinguishing the Son of God from the class of sinful mankind.

3) By emphasizing that He became man.

4) By stressing that salvation is from God, not man.

This part of the Creed is stressing the Incarnation of the Son; yet, it never compromises His Deity. In fact, the Deity and Incarnation of the Person of Christ is the cornerstone upon which salvation is built. Christ, the Son of God, has united, in his Person, Divinity with Humanity, so that there is no longer a wall of separation between God and man. Through Christ we are all united with God!!

That is why St. Paul can say this:

"What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died; and furthermore is also risen, Who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

--Romans 8:31-39