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Tuesday
Aug232011

Theological Term of the Week

the Nicene Creed
A statement of the orthodox faith of the early Christian church, first adopted at the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) in response to the Arian heresy, which denied the full deity of Jesus Christ; and later revised at the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople (381 A.D.) as a response to the Macedonian or Pneumatomachian heresy, which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

  • Text of the Nicene Creed as it is recited today: 

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

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
          the only Son of God,
          begotten from the Father before all ages,
               God from God,
               Light from Light,
               true God from true God,
          begotten, not made;
          of the same essence as the Father.
          Through him all things were made.
          For us and for our salvation
               he came down from heaven;
               he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
               and was made human.
               He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
               he suffered and was buried.
               The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
               He ascended to heaven
               and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
               He will come again with glory
               to judge the living and the dead.
               His kingdom will never end.

    And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
          the Lord, the giver of life.
          He proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
          and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
          He spoke through the prophets.
          We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
          We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
          We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
          and to life in the world to come. Amen.

  • From The Undivided Three by Michael Haykin:
  • Among the greatest achievements of the early church is the forging of the doctrine of the Trinity. It received classical expression in the fourth-century creedal statement known to history as the Nicene Creed, in which Jesus Christ is unequivocally declared to be “true God” and “of one being (homoousios) with the Father” and the Holy Spirit is said to be the “Lord and Giver of life,” who “together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.”1 Some historians have argued that this document represents the apex of the Hellenization of the church’s teaching, in which fourth-century Christianity traded the vitality of the New Testament church’s experience of God for a cold philosophical formula. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The Nicene Creed served to sum up a long process of reflection that had its origins in the Christian communities of the first century. As Douglas Ottati, an American professor of theology who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, has recently put it: “Trinitarian theology continues a biblically initiated exploration.”2 Or, in the words of an earlier twentieth-century orthodox theologian Benjamin B. Warfield: the “doctrine of the Trinity lies in Scripture in solution; when it is crystallized from its solvent it does not cease to be scriptural, but only comes into clearer view.”3

    ….

    Not only does the New Testament then provide clear warrant for the direction that theological reflection upon the nature of God took in fourth-century orthodoxy, but it should also be recognized that the men who stood behind the Nicene Creed were not primarily philosophers. They were active pastors in the church of their day, men who sought to be faithful witnesses to the teaching of the Scriptures.

Learn more:
  1. Theopedia: Nicene Creed
  2. GotQuestions.org: What is the Nicene Creed?
  3. James E. Kiefer: Note and Comments on the Nicene Creed
  4. Justin Holcomb: The Nicene Creed
Related terms:

Filed under Creeds and Confessions.

Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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