The Nicene Creed — And in one Lord Jesus Christ

Posted on November 16, 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 Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.

The author states that this is the portion of the Creed where it’s origins as an “instrument of polemic and definition” are made plain. He notes, for example, that the Creed’s order doesn’t match the order of discovery. The Early Christians knew Jesus as a man only and His divinity did not become clear to anyone until after his death and resurrection. The Gospels were not a current account, but were written decades later, after the resurrection had given everyone a deeper understanding of Jesus’ true nature.

So this section of the Creed:

Is fundamentally a piling up of epithets to characterize Jesus Christ’s relationship to God, precisely in order to safeguard the belief that Jesus Christ is our Savior… The Nicene theologians who argued for what we now have as the Nicene Creed maintained that salvation meant our sharing in God’s life, and that only God can give us such a share in God’s own life. A mere human cannot elevate other humans to the level of God.

This is the section that introduces the triune nature of God + Jesus + Holy Spirit. This is one of the major differences between Christians and the Jews and Muslims, who are monotheistic, both recognizing Jesus but denying the divinity of Christ and the workings of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, this separates us from the polytheistic heresies such as Mormonism, and the monotheistic heresies like “oneness” churches.

Christians believe that we have one God in three parts, and that all three parts have existed forever, outside of time. The author notes that this is something being lost now, with “historical Jesus” taking over an ever-increasing number of churches. He also notes that:

this begetting is not a making by God but a sharing by the Father out of himself.

In this section, we also encounter the first portion of the Creed that doesn’t come directly from the Bible: “of one being”. This is also the most controversial portion, and the dispute over it is the basis of most of the heresies.

Posted in: Book Review, Religion