Nicene Creed – Questions?

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. 

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.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit; he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. 

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. 

(Nicene Creed – 325 AD)

Beliefs I’d Question:

(a) The first paragraph opens with a phrase that there is ‘one God’. However, when the 2nd paragraph begins it is abundantly clear we have co-sharing agreement in the god-hood (ie: Jesus as ‘God from God, not created).

(b) I think there is confusion about what Christ actually means. This version of messianic belief does compare with the original beliefs about the messiah (which is the original term – but no one likes calling him Jesus Messiah); however it is also quite different. They call him ‘Lord’ – and I am not sure how they are using that term (if they mean Adonai – then it’s clearly a step away from the original beliefs in Judaism). They also call him ‘the only (literal) son of God’. Now it’s clear they are not using this term about Jesus being a king of a kingdom – but in a literal sense (as God’s son)…another clear step away from original messianic beliefs.  

(c) The virgin birth is beyond questionable. It’s based on a passages from Isaiah 7:14 that is mistranslated in the Greek Septuagint for ‘young woman’. 2 of 4 gospels carry the story and Paul, Acts, James, and John make no mention. It is eerily similar to many god tales of other religions of the day.

(d) How is Jesus both fully God – and a man? In those days they may have not considered the impossibility of that statement – but it’s fairly obvious. Jesus cannot be tempted, for example, since God cannot be tempted…which means he lived a life nothing like ours in some regards.

(e) The Holy Spirit is called the ‘Lord’ (again if this means Adonai then we have a problem). This would mean there was a tri-party sharing of the god-head, 2 spirit entities and one man, who can all be worshipped. There is no proof of this in the NT nor the Tanakh concerning such a claim…nor do we find ‘Lord’ beside Holy Spirit ever. It’s almost as if this group of Christians never stopped to think the Holy Spirit is the emanation of God to humanity – the way God does His business with us (since we cannot see Him). It’s an extension of God – but not a seperate piece of the god-head.

(f) Baptism for the forgiveness of sins isn’t exactly clear. They seem to imply that one’s baptism results in the forgiveness of their sins (and is not a symbolic act concerning that idea). I think it is rather ‘superstitious’ to think a ritual forgives your sins – I see no mention of repentance anywhere?

If one takes a close look at these things (creeds and statements of faith) it becomes crystal clear the whole of the NT texts is not being discussed, just one viewpoint of how the scriptures can be read.


13 thoughts on “Nicene Creed – Questions?

  1. Yikes, yeah I have read this many times before but not since my days in Catholic school, thanks for bringing back those dreary memories. I would have to say that anything approaching ‘truth’ coming out of 325 AD/CE and the ‘Holy Roman Catholic Church’ is probably up for serious debate in 2010.

    AD/CE that could be a serious kick-ass rock n roll band name.

  2. “Perhaps creeds serve some other purpose other than to be taken literally” (Yael)

    I can see the upside to creeds (in all honesty)…they help to promote an unified stance for the whole community to get behind and move their thought processes (or even worship). I can also see that they may verbalize in a concise statement what the community believes.

    However I do see limitations that also exist. For example, in the case of this creed I do not believe certain aspects of it and it does not represent the totality of the various 27 books and letters of the NT (although it also represents some of the views). I guess I am okay woth people believing the creed as long as they can admit I don’t have to (based on pretty good evidence IMO).

  3. Lots of the language in the creeds doesn’t make any sense without the history of the battles that lead to them. Fully god and fully human, for example, was language adopted at the end of a long battle between political factions in the early church who wanted to deny his humanity (and say that God was sitting there whistling to himself waiting for the crucifixion to be over) and those who wanted to deny his divinity. So ‘fully God and fully man’ was to say ‘we’re with those bishops over there’.

    Of course after that there was the one-nature, two-natures debate that I blogged about here: which finally gave rise to the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Then you’ve got the catholic / orthodox schism over whether the spirit proceeds from just the father, or the father and the son (I notice you’re creed above is catholic 😉 )

    So I think you have to think of the creed as a potted history of Christian squabbles rather than anything that could be considered coherent on its own terms.

  4. i’m with Yael and Ian here.. looking at the context that the creed was written in, you see what’s up. the Arians and the proto-Orthodox were fighting and for the longest time the Arians were the majority (Constantine was Arian). upon reading this creed, it would send the Arians running for the hills.

    Creeds serve a purpose but we need to reinterpret them for our modern context. i’ll attempt to do that on my blog soon after i do some research. i like this creed because it’s trinitarian, which i am, and you’re not. i’ll then have to explain the Trinity and my reasons for supporting it, although you, like a good Protestant should, are right to claim that it’s not in the scriptures directly. an argument can be made that it is alluded to in the Gospel of John specifically Chapter 14 where Jesus states “if you have seen me then you have seen the father..” and then later speaks of the “advocate” that is coming. but no, no word for “TRINITY” appears in the original greek.

    so i’ll write my thoughts down, hopefully explain my position and we’ll have a great conversation over our differences! although i gotta agree with you on the Virgin birth thing… good call.

    enjoyed the post! RAWK!

  5. Trinity: its pretty hard to find the spirit=the father in the NT. All the spirit language is clearly subordinal or differential.

    Constantine wasn’t Arian. Its not clear he considered himself Christian (if he did he was very political about declaring it). I think you’re thinking of his son Constantius II who was Arian and presided over the .

    All great stuff!


    • “Trinity: its pretty hard to find the spirit=the father in the NT”

      right! it sure is… even the “church fathers” thought so. so they pointed at the “spiritual meaning” of the text. now we more literal minded Protestants want chapter and verse.. i dunno if sola scriptura stands. i’m too Catholic to go all that way.. yet too protestant to accept all the dogma’s of the Catholic church.

      “Constantine wasn’t Arian.”
      i’ll have to disagree with that statement.. i just can’t find my source where i learned that.. i’ll find it and get back with ya. i’ll put that in my upcoming post in response to Jay and a guy on my site. thanks Ian!

      • I’m looking forward to the post.

        You might want to look for your source in the later life of Constantine. His sister was an Arian, and Arius eventually came up with a formula that could ‘reconcile’ his earlier views (those we call Arian) with the homoousious of Nicea. Constantine’s sister cajouled him into supporting Arius’ reconciliation with the church, but that never happened (and so his son tried to force through Arianism). There’s no indiciation that Constantine was an Arian worshipper, however, and the pro-homoousious rhetoric isn’t really what we’d call now Arianism (more like semi-Arian, but that normally refers to various later movements). If you’re sure you mean Constantine, that’s probably what you’re thinking of.

        The question of whether Constantine ever converted is a fascinating one over which many buckets of ink have been spilled. Any text that tells you that he clearly had is glossing over a whole lot of controversial issues, it is both unknown and largely unknowable. Among scholars of Constantine, the question of his religious allegiance is a very live one. The consensus seems to be that he was a wily manipulator of religious loyalties, Christian and pagan. More than that, who knows.

  6. … over the farce of endless councils, condemnations and forced Arianism of the 340-360s.

    I forget who said it, but I there’s a famous quote about the sheer number of synods, councils and exiles of Constantius’ reign: “The roads were full of galloping bishops”.

  7. Ian,

    that’s it! it was about Constantine’s “baptism” and conversion that we were talking about, i just found it in my class notes. He was baptized on his death bed by an Arian priest. he never really wrote anything down, just kept consensus and scandals down to a low boil. our textbook was written by Justo Gonzales and he goes into a lot of detail as to what type of Christian Constantine was… if any at all. so, no, i can’t say Constantine was Arian just as I can’t say he was Christian.. all i can say is that he was baptized by an Arian Priest and most of his family was, esp. his son who ended up in his place.

    i’ll get that post up prolly by early Feb. thanks Ian!

  8. Great thing about church history (circa 300 ad +) – it’s all subject to the texts regardless of the decision they render in the creeds or the councils. In another sense, they usurped a history from which they grew – Judaism – and cast off the historical remnants of that influence as well by 300 AD. So much so we are talking about Arminiaism and not rabbinical interpretations of the Tanakh in relation to the NT passages they quote.

    So when I look at history I bypass that period to get even further back to where I see splits in Christian interpretation and Christian connection to Judaism (which is where I think most of the problems with the church start – in their leaving Judaism fully and completely off the map in their shaping of ideas after about 70 AD and on).

  9. In the “new testament,” the apostle clearly announces that God has made Jesus “Lord” by quoting a verse that originally rendered YAHWEH LORD–YAHWEH HAS MADE JESUS LORD. These are not 3 SEPARATE PERSONS as we usually use the term nor PRECISELY DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS as we usually use the term, BUT CONSIDER: Jesus IS THE VERY WORD–and THE WORD of one IS ONESELF, and GOD DOES NOT HAVE TO LEAVE HEAVEN TO SEND HIS WORD TO DO HIS WILL! HE IN FACT SENDS HIMSELF! WITHOUT LEAVING! Holler if questions:<3+W

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