The Nicene Creed — We believe in one God

Posted on October 26, 2011 by

(In response to a suggestion from a commenter, I am going to be publishing a chapter-by-chapter review of a book called The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters.)

We believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.

The phrase “one God” emphasizes that our God is the same God as in the Old Testament. Yahweh was originally thought to be a “king above all gods” (Psalm 95:3), but eventually came to be understand as the “one and only God”. The creed further describes the “one God” as a triune god, which will be discussed more in depth in a later post.

The phrase “the Father” refers to the Biblical references to God as the Father of all of us, whom He adopts through baptism. The author then goes off on a short, anti-patriarchal screed, but saves himself from heresy by admitting that God is definitely our Father, and not our Mother, or our Gender Neutral Parent.

We do not call God Father because of our male parent. Rather, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:14, we come to understand all fathering because of the way God is Father: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its name.

“Almighty” means “all powerful”, and creates a dual conundrum for many Christians.

If we are to retain belief in an all-powerful God, then we must conclude that God colludes in evil, and if we are to retain belief in an all loving God, then we must conclude that God is less than all-powerful.

The first part gave rise to process theology, the latter to liberation theology, but in truth this is a great mystery that must simply be accepted. We cannot understand everything about the Lord because of our limited human capabilities.

The phrase “maker of heaven and earth” was put in to counter the influence of the heretic Marcion, who advocated strict asceticism including celibacy. He taught that the creator God is responsible for everything evil (the material), while Jesus was responsible for everything good (the spiritual), and that we could get closer to Jesus by rejecting the material and embracing the spiritual.

And finally, “and of all things visible and invisible” seems redundant, but isn’t. The early Christians understood that Creation wasn’t limited to the visible “heavens and earth”, but included the spiritual realm of angels, souls, and demons. They wanted to make clear that God also created this world, the invisible world.

Posted in: Book Review