Picking up from our discussion last week dealing with creeds in our Christian context. The other creed of great importance is known as the Nicene Creed. Its true origins are more codified in a historical time and place. The place was Nicea, which is now modern day Iznik in Turkey. There was a council convened in June of 325 AD by the Roman Emperor Constantine. You’ll remember, Constantine came to Christianity late in life, but he was a huge supporter of the movement turned religion. He believed Christianity was going to become a great force among the populace, so he got behind the religion and supported it becoming the religion of the State.
The real reason for convening the council at Nicea was to settle the matter of the nature of Christ. Arius had promulgated the view that Jesus was a special created being, but that he was not God. This view spread and the Church found it difficult to counteract this incorrect teaching. The followers of Arius were called Arians and the Nicene Creed was indeed written as a polemic against this group.
Athanasius was the man who opposed what Arius and his followers believed. He said that if Jesus was not divine, then he could not redeem humanity. When we look at the wording of the Nicene Creed, we see the footprints of the controversy it was written to countermand. It uses phrases that stress Jesus was fully God and being of the same substance as God. You see a much fuller explanation of who God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are.
“I 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 His 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 sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
and I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
Creeds are important to us in that they teach us historically what the church believes. They give us a guide upon which to build our own faith. They keep us from repeating the mistakes of history, and falling into heretical views.
You might try something here, you might try writing your own creed. Taking the historic creeds and substituting language that speaks more to your experience. Using the outline of the creeds to build your own, but always testing its validity against what has stood the test of time.
One final word about creeds. What we believe should be a growing understanding, our own faith growing and expanding. One of my favorite creeds is the Statement of Faith of the United Church of Canada. It affirms and modernizes so much of who I am, we are. It was adopted in 1968! That’s 53 years ago! The language is still fresh, even today. It states our place in the world, it tells us who God is and what God has done and is doing, and gives us our understanding of who we are called to be. This is good stuff, friends. I don’t know if I could improve on what was written, it clearly says what I feel and ascribe to.
“We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.”
Friends, I encourage each of us to regularly review what it is we believe, why we believe it, and if we believe, assess how we are living out our faith. This is one of the true blessings of creeds, they call us to account for and judge how we’re doing on our walk of faith.
Blessings and Peace,