Friday, September 6, 2013

The Nicene Creed Part 8 - The Son of God

John 20:31
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Col 2:9
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

In the Creed we confess that Jesus Christ is "the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father". This addresses the reason for calling the council in Nicea in 325. There were men teaching that the Son of God was a created being and not divine by nature. This is contradictory to the Christian faith, so a number bishops were gathered together to make a statement of faith and settle the doctrinal dispute concerning the divinity of the Son.

This foundational truth of the Christian faith can be found witnessed to throughout the New Testament. In the first chapter of the New Testament, we find a reference to Christ as "Emmanuel", or "God with us", and at the annunciation Mary was told "that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God". Christ's ministry began with His baptism where a voice came from heaven saying "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased", which was also heard at the Transfiguration. Peter proclaimed Jesus to be "the Son of the Living God" when asked who a Christian disciple is to believe Jesus to be. When Jesus came into contact with those possessed with demons, they would recognize and greet Him as the Son of God. He taught that He "proceeded forth from God" and prayed "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" before He was to be crucified. We find references throughout the epistles like "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God", "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.", He is referred to as "the image of the invisible God", and that the knowledge of the glory of God is "in the face of Jesus Christ".

We find this teaching echoed in the writings of Christian teachers as they preserved and proclaimed the truth throughout time. These words are attributed to Ignatius of Antioch...
And there is also one Son, God the Word. For “the only-begotten Son,” saith [the Scripture], “who is in the bosom of the Father.” And again, “One Lord Jesus Christ.” And in another place, “What is His name, or what His Son’s name, that we may know?”
Justin Martyr says in his Dialogue with Trypho...
“I shall give you another testimony, my friends,” said I, “from the Scriptures, that God begat before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave (Nun). For He can be called by all those names, since He ministers to the Father’s will, and since He was begotten of the Father by an act of will; just as we see happening among ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word; yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word [which remains] in us, when we give it out: and just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled [another], but remains the same; and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing that from which it was kindled.
Augustine writes in his On the Holy Trinity
They who have said that our Lord Jesus Christ is not God, or not very God, or not with the Father the One and only God, or not truly immortal because changeable, are proved wrong by the most plain and unanimous voice of divine testimonies; as, for instance, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” For it is plain that we are to take the Word of God to be the only Son of God, of whom it is afterwards said, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” on account of that birth of His incarnation, which was wrought in time of the Virgin. But herein is declared, not only that He is God, but also that He is of the same substance with the Father...
Cyril of Jerusalem writes in his Catechetical Lectures...
But we know Christ to have been begotten not as a word pronounced, but as a Word substantially existing and living; not spoken by the lips, and dispersed, but begotten of the Father eternally and ineffably, in substance.  For, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... He who hath seen the Son, hath seen the Father:  for in all things the Son is like to Him who begat Him; begotten Life of Life and Light of Light, Power of Power, God of God; and the characteristics of the Godhead are unchangeable in the Son; and he who is counted worthy to behold Godhead in the Son, attains to the fruition of the Father.
And Patrick writes in his Confession "...and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things...".

We can also find this teaching faithfully echoed in Orthodox catechisms. ‌We find this in the Orthodox Confession of Peter Mohila...
...first, that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is eternal God, begotten by the Father of his very essence, and is of the same honor and glory with the Father, as he speaks of himself: "Father, glorify me now with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was."... And he is called only-begotten for this reason, that he is the one Son of God according to the divine nature; but certain others are called sons of God by virtue of his freely given grace as all the faithful and the elect of God; this grace of adoption is given to them through Christ, as Sacred Scripture says: "As many as received him, he gave them power to become sons of God."... But he is called "light of light" because he has his total essence from the Father, just as when a light is lit from another light, it receives therefrom the entire substance of light.
And we find this taught in the Catechism of St Philaret...
139.  Why is Jesus Christ called the Son of God, Only-begotten? 
By this is signified that he only is the Son of God begotten of the substance of God the Father; and so is of one substance with the Father; and consequently excels, beyond comparison, all holy angels and holy men, who are called sons of God by grace. 
139.  Why is Jesus Christ called the Son of God, Only-begotten? 
By this is signified that he only is the Son of God begotten of the substance of God the Father; and so is of one substance with the Father; and consequently excels, beyond comparison, all holy angels and holy men, who are called sons of God by grace. John i. 12.

142.  Why is it said that he is begotten before all worlds?

That none should think there was ever a time when he was not. In other words, by this is expressed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God from everlasting, even as God the Father is from everlasting.

143.  What mean in the Creed the words Light of light?

Under the figure of the visible light they in some manner explain the incomprehensible generation of the Son of God from the Father. When we look at the sun, we see light: from this light is generated the light visible every where beneath; but both the one and the other is one light, indivisible, and of one nature. In like manner, God the Father is the everlasting Light. 1 John i. 5. Of him is begotten the Son of God, who also is the everlasting Light; but God the Father and God the Son are one and the same everlasting Light, indivisible, and of one divine nature.
146.  Why is it further added of the Son of God in the Creed that he is begotten, not made? 
This was added against Arius, who impiously taught that the Son of God was made. 
147.  What mean the words, Of one substance with the Father? 
They mean that the Son of God is of one and the same divine substance with God the Father.
Christ our God, the True Light Who enlightens and sanctifies every person who comes into the world: Seal us with the light of Your Countenance that we may perceive Your Unapproachable Radiance.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Nicene Creed Part 7 - One Lord Jesus Christ

Acts 4:12
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Phil 2:9-11
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In the Creed we also profess that we believe "in one Lord Jesus Christ". In previous posts, I have posted thoughts and comments on the meaning of the name "Jesus" and what it means to call Him Lord and Christ. I will put links to those at the bottom of this post. When we say that we "believe in" Jesus Christ, we mean much more than to simply acknowledge His existence, but that we place our faith in Him as our Savior, King, and Great High Priest. We are told in Matthew's gospel that He is called "Jesus" "for he shall save his people from their sins". Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ when asked Who a disciple believes Jesus to be, and proclaimed "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." in his preaching in the Temple.

St Patrick wrote that the Father "gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe" and C.N. Calinicos wrote in The Greek Orthodox Catechism that "He is the one and only Lord, before Whom every knee is bent; He is Jesus, that is to say, the Saviour, Who saved His people from their sins; He is Christ, anointed not simply with oil, but the Holy Ghost, to be the Highest Prophet, Priest and King". We find in the Confession of Dositheus that "We believe our Lord Jesus Christ to be the only mediator, and that in giving Himself a ransom for all He hath through His own Blood made a reconciliation between God and man, and that Himself having a care for His own is advocate and propitiation for our sins.". St John Chrysostom said in his Commenary on Acts...
Neither is there salvation in any other, (v. 12.) Peter says. What wounds, think you, must these words inflict on them! “For there is none other name,” he continues, “under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Here he utters also lofty words. For when the object is, not to carry some point successfully, but only to show boldness he does not spare; for he was not afraid of striking too deep. Nor does he say simply, “By another;” but, “Neither is there salvation in any other:” that is, He is able to save us. In this way he subdued their threatening.
St Jerome wrote in his Commentary on the Apostles Creed...
“Christ” is so called from “Chrism,” i.e. unction. For we read in the Books of Moses, that Auses, the son of Nave, when he was chosen to lead the people, had his name changed from “Auses” to “Jesus,” to shew that this was a name proper for princes and generals, for those, namely, who should “save” the people who followed them. Therefore, both were called “Jesus,” both the one who conducted the people, who had been brought forth out of the land of Egypt, and freed from the wanderings of the wilderness, into the land of promise, and the other, who conducted the people, who had been brought forth from the darkness of ignorance, and recalled from the errors of the world, into the kingdom of heaven.
“Christ” is a name proper either to High Priests or Kings. For formerly both high priests and kings were consecrated with the ointment of chrism: but these, as mortal and corruptible, with material and corruptible ointment. Jesus is made Christ, being anointed with the Holy Spirit, as the Scripture saith of Him “Whom the Father hath anointed with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven.” And Isaiah had prefigured the same, saying in the person of the Son, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me, He hath sent Me to preach good tidings to the poor.”
We find this in The Catechism of St Philaret...
130.  What means the name Jesus?
131.  By whom was the name Jesus first given? 
By the Angel Gabriel. 
132.  Why was this name given to the Son of God at his conception and birth on earth? 
Because he was conceived and born to save men. 
133.  What means the name Christ? 
134.  Whence came the name Anointed? 
From the anointing with holy ointment, through which are bestowed the gifts of the Holy Ghost. 
135.  Is it only Jesus, the Son of God, who is called Anointed? 
No. Anointed was in old time a title of kings, high-priests, and prophets. 
136.  Why, then, is Jesus, the Son of God, called The Anointed? 
Because to his manhood were imparted without measure all the gifts of the Holy Ghost; and so he possesses in the highest degree the knowledge of a prophet, the holiness of a high-priest, and the power of a king. 
137.  In what sense is Jesus Christ called Lord? 
In this sense: that he is very God; for the name Lord is one of the names of God.
And we find this in Peter Mohila's Orthodox Confession of Faith...
Q. 34. What do these two names "Jesus Christ" signify, as found in this article?
R. "Jesus" signifies Savior, just as the Archangel was explaining to Joseph: "She will bring forth a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." Yet, this name can be given to no one in the world, and rightly so, except to the Lord our Savior, who freed the entire human race from the eternal captivity of the devils. And "Christ" signifies anointed, because in the Old Law anointed people are referred to as "Christi", namely, the priests, kings and prophets. Christ is anointed into these three offices in a special way, above all other anointed people, as the Psalmist says of him: "You have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore God, your God, anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows." But, this anointing should be understood as coming from the Holy Spirit, as the Prophet says: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to preach to the meek." Christ applies these words to himself when he says: "This day this scripture is fulfilled in your ears." Christ, however, surpasses his companions according to three very great distinctions. His first distinction is the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek, about which the Apostle says: "Called by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek." The same author elsewhere calls Christ a priest, because he sacrificed himself to God the Father, as he says: "Christ, who by the eternal Spirit offered himself unspotted to God." And later: "Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many." The second distinction is his kingdom, which the Archangel Gabriel, while he was fulfilling his mission to the most pure Virgin, demonstrated by saying: "The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever; of his kingdom there shall be no end." The Magi also gave witness to him by offering gifts at the time of his birth, as they said: "Where is he that is born king of the Jews?" The title of his crime at the time of his very death proves the same thing? "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Moses prophesized from God, however, concerning the third distinction, when he said: "The Lord your God will raise up to you a prophet from your brothers similar to me." This distinction was shown through his holy teaching where he adequately taught about his divinity and other things pertaining to eternal salvation, as he says of himself: "I have made known your name to them." And earlier: "The words which you gave me I gave to them; and they have received them, and have known in very deed that I came from you, and they have believed that you had sent me." This prophecy, the third distinction, should be understood as the foretelling of future events not by a certain revelation, but from his knowledge as true God and true man.
I believe O Lord and I confess that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God Who came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Nicene Creed Part 6 - The Creator

Gen 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Is 44:24
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

In the Creed, God is referred to as the "Maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible". The first thing we read about God in the scriptures is this, that "God created the heaven and the earth". The Psalms tell all of creation to "praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created" and praise God with the words "O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all". God is elsewhere referred to as "he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it".

St Basil wrote in his Hexaemeron...
It is right that any one beginning to narrate the formation of the world should begin with the good order which reigns in visible things. I am about to speak of the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined, but drew its origin from God.... He first establishes a beginning, so that it might not be supposed that the world never had a beginning.  Then he adds “Created” to show that which was made was a very small part of the power of the Creator.... The Creator and Demiurge of the universe perfected His works in it, spiritual light for the happiness of all who love the Lord, intellectual and invisible natures, all the orderly arrangement of pure intelligences who are beyond the reach of our mind and of whom we cannot even discover the names. They fill the essence of this invisible world, as Paul teaches us. “For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” or virtues or hosts of angels or the dignities of archangels.
St Irenaeus wrote in the second century...
It is proper, then, that I should begin with the first and most important head, that is, God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein (whom these men blasphemously style the fruit of a defect), and to demonstrate that there is nothing either above Him or after Him; nor that, influenced by any one, but of His own free will, He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord, the only Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence.
And we find "First of all, believe that there is one God who created and finished all things, and made all things out of nothing. He alone is able to contain the whole, but Himself cannot be contained." written in the Pastor of Hermas.

We find written in The Greek Orthodox Catechism by C.N. Calinicos...
19. With what other subject, besides the subject of the Trinity, does the first article deal?

The first Article, further down, deals with the world as created by the Almighty God. "For in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible... all things have been created through Him and unto Him." (col. i. 16.) The blessed and Self-sufficient God, Who existed before time began without having need of anything, wished, moved only by goodness, to make other beings participators of existence. Therefore, He produced the universe during different periods, which Genesis called days, because a thousand years in the sight of God are as one day (Ps. xc. 4; 2Pet. iii. 8), using for this purpose, instead of any other instrument, His word, i.e., His omnipotent will; "for He commanded, and they were created; He hath established them for ever and ever." (Ps. cxlviii. 5-6.) God created the world from nothing and without pre-existing matter, thus differing from us, who, whatever we create, create it from pre-existing material. And for this reason, it is right to say that we are simply moulders and transformers, while God alone is the Creator in he full sense of the word.

20. Is the world created by God confined only to what appeals to the senses?

No: All that appeals to our senses constitutes only the visible world, or earth. but, besides this world and before it, God created another world also, much nobler than the earth. That is Heaven, the world of immaterial spirits, invisible, making no appeal to our senses. For, when we say "Heaven," we do not mean the starry firmament, which commonly is thought of as the earth's roof; but the world of the Angels, who are beings much more perfect and superior than man, although, in comparison with God, they are immeasurably inferior.
And in Peter Mohila's Orthodox Confession of Faith we find...
Q. 18. Is God the Creator of all things, since the same article calls him "Creator"?

R. Without any doubt, God is the Creator of all things, that is, of both visible and invisible creatures. But first he created from nothing all the powers of heaven by his own will, as they are the main extollers of his glory. Then he created that intelligible world, which recognized God through his bestowed grace and conforms completely to his will. Then he created from nothing this visible and material world; finally, God created man, composed of a rational and immaterial soul and a material body, so that God might be recognized as the creator of both the visible and invisible world through this composition of man. Man is called, therefore, a microcosm, since he contains in himself an examplar of the great world.
Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Nicene Creed Part 5 - The Almighty

Ps 103:19
The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

Ps 47:7-8
For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

In the Creed, God is referred to as "the Almighty". According to Strong's concordance, this word is defined as "the all-ruling, i.e. God (as absolute and universal sovereign):--Almighty, Omnipotent. Used only when referring to God.". The nature of God as being sovereign and ruling over all things can be found witnessed to in the scriptures, the writings of the fathers, and catechisms.

We find verses in the Psalms saying that "He ruleth by his power for ever", "All thy works shall praise thee", and "The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.". God even rules "the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them". God's sovereignty over all things is closely tied to the fact that He created all things in verses like "Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." and "Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.", but my next post will discuss God as being the one who created all things.

St Jerome wrote "God is called Almighty because He possesses rule and dominion over all things." in his Commentary on the Apostles Creed, and St John of Damascus wrote "By nature, therefore, all things are servants of the Creator and obey Him." in his Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. St Theophilus of Antioch wrote to Autolycus in the second century...
But he is... Almighty, because He Himself rules and embraces all. For the heights of heaven, and the depths of the abysses, and the ends of the earth, are in His hand, and there is no place of His rest.
And St Cyril of Jerusalem wrote in his Catechetical Lectures...
For He is Almighty who rules all things, who has power over all things... Nothing then is withdrawn from the power of God; for the Scripture says of Him, for all things are Thy servants.  All things alike are His servants, but from all these One, His only Son, and One, His Holy Spirit, are excepted; and all the things which are His servants serve the Lord through the One Son and in the Holy Spirit.  God then rules all, and of His long-suffering endures even murderers and robbers and fornicators, having appointed a set time for recompensing every one, that if they who have had long warning are still impenitent in heart, they may receive the greater condemnation.  They are kings of men, who reign upon earth, but not without the power from above:  and this Nebuchadnezzar once learned by experience, when he said; For His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His power from generation to generation.
We also find this in Peter Mohila's Orthodox Confession of Faith...
Q. 14. Why does the first article of faith mention "almighty" or "all-governing" and omit all other attributes?

R. Because by this one expression the property of God is best described, since no creature can be called omnipotent. This is so for two reasons: first, it does not have its essence from itself, but from a creator; secondly, it cannot produce any creature from nothing. Both these traits always pertain to the divine omnipotence, as he speaks about himself in the Apocalypse: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end, says the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Similarly, the Archangel in Luke: "No word shall be impossible with God." Nevertheless, this omnipotence is limited only by his own will and good pleasure, so that certainly whatever he himself wishes, only this can he and does he effect, and not that of which he is simply able, as the Psalmist says: "Our God is in heaven; he has done all that he has desired." He could create a million worlds of this type, but this he does not wish. And then this omnipotence must be understood in terms of perfection, removed from all imperfection and weakness, as is evident in this example: God cannot be evil and commit sin, for this denotes imperfection, even as St. Paul gives witness: "It is impossible for God to lie." For if God were evil and had committed sin, then he would not be omnipotent, for these things are evidence in themselves of imperfection. And so, God is omnipotent by virtue of his will and his perfect goodness, as the Psalmist recollects: "Who is the great God like our God? You are the God who does wonders; you made your power known among the nations." Finally, he is called omnipotent, because all things are in his power and he created the world with no difficulty, with no labor, by his will alone.
Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Nicene Creed Part 4 - The Father

John 1:18
No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

Rom 8:15
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

In the Creed we call God "Father", but what does it mean for God to be called "Father"? God is Father primarily because He has a Son, eternally begotten from Him and being of the same divine nature. We also refer to God as "our Father" because, in Christ, we are adopted as sons of God and made joint heirs with Christ.

God is rarely referred to as a Father in the Old Testament. This is because God is revealed as Father in relation to His Son, Jesus Christ, in the New Testament. This is witnessed to by the Apostle John when he writes the words of Jesus "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." and the Apostle Matthew when he writes the words of Jesus "neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him". This is echoed in the epsitles where God is often referred to as "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". And just as we are taught by Christ to pray to God as "our Father", we find in scripture that this is not by nature, but by "the Spirit of adoption", "that we might receive the adoption of sons", and that God has "begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead".

We can also find this same teaching passed down in our catechisms and writings. We can find this in Greek Orthodox Catechism by C. N. Callinicos where he writes...
Why is God in the Creed called Father?
Not in an ethical sense, as at the beginning of the Lord's Prayer, but in a dogmatical sense, He being eternally by His own ever productive nature the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, His only Son.
St Augustine writes in On The Holy Trinity...
The Father is called so, therefore, relatively, and He is also relatively said to be the Beginning, and whatever else there may be of the kind; but He is called the Father in relation to the Son, the Beginning in relation to all things, which are from Him. 
St Jerome writes in his commentary on the Apostle's Creed...
When you hear the word “Father,” you must understand by this the Father of a Son, which Son is the image of the aforesaid substance. 
And St Cyril of Jerusalem taught in his Catechetical Lectures...
...let us come back to ourselves, and receive the saving doctrines of the true Faith, connecting the dignity of Fatherhood with that of the Unity, and believing In One God the Father:  for we must not only believe in one God; but this also let us devoutly receive, that He is the Father of the Only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ.
 God then is in an improper sense the Father of many, but by nature and in truth of One only, the Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; not having attained in course of time to being a Father, but being ever the Father of the Only-begotten.
And Christ Himself knowing this has spoken unerringly, I go to My Father, and your Father:  not saying ‘to our Father,’ but distinguishing, and saying first what was proper to Himself, to My Father, which was by nature; then adding, and your Father, which was by adoption. For however high the privilege we have received of saying in our prayers, Our Father, which art in heaven, yet the gift is of loving-kindness.  For we call Him Father, not as having been by nature begotten of Our Father which is in heaven; but having been transferred from servitude to sonship by the grace of the Father, through the Son and Holy Spirit, we are permitted so to speak by ineffable loving-kindness. 
Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Nicene Creed Part 3 - In One God

 Deut 5:7
Thou shalt have none other gods before me.

Deut 6:14
Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;

In a world where many gods have been worshipped throughout human history and in an age where concepts like there is no God or all religions are the same are not uncommon to encounter, we maintain our belief that our God is the true God and that there are no others beside Him. We don't believe that all religions are equally true or entirely compatible with each other. This is an underlying theme in the Old Testament as it records the history of the struggle of Israel between serving the true God and other gods. It was with Israel that God established His covenant where He would be their God and they would be His people as recorded "With whom the LORD had made a covenant, and charged them, saying, Ye shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them, nor sacrifice to them: But the LORD, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and a stretched out arm, him shall ye fear, and him shall ye worship, and to him shall ye do sacrifice." and "Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works". Warfare was styled to keep Israel from worshipping other gods, and it was the worship of the true God that gained victory and brought peace. It was for idolotry that Israel was taken captive, and the return from captivity was centered around returning to the worship of God. We find the worship of one God explained in The Catechism of St Philaret1 explained like this...
82. Why is it not said in the Creed simply, I believe in God, rather than with the addition, in one God?

In order to contradict the error of the heathen, who, taking the creature for God, thought there were many gods.
And explained by C N Callinicos in The Greek Orthodox Catechism...
For, though there be many that are called gods and lords - as is the case with the polytheists - yet to us there is but One God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we unto Him.(1 Cor. viii.5-6.)... The idolotrous idea of dividing the indivisible God up into different limited deities, of which one reigns in Heaven, another on earth, a third over the sea, a fourth over the underworld and so on, is an anthropomorphic fancy, derogatory to the Supreme Being.
Early apologists often had to refute charges of atheism that were made based on the refusal to worship and offer sacrifices to other gods. Justin Martyr gave this defense in his First Apology2 addressed to the Roman Emporer and Senate.
And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son... and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught.
Athenegoras also gave this response to charges of atheism in his Plea For Christians3.
As regards, first of all, the allegation that we are atheists... with reason did the Athenians adjudge Diagoras guilty of atheism, in that he... openly declared that there was no God at all... But, since our doctrine acknowledges one God, the Maker of this universe, who is Himself uncreated... but has made all things by the Logos which is from Him, we are treated unreasonably in both respects, in that we are both defamed and persecuted.
As stated in the above quote, the Christian God is the Holy Trinity of God the Father eternally existing with His Word and Spirit. Just as scripture says "No man hath seen God at any time", we also confess the nature of God to be beyond our own and the nature  of what is uncreated to be entirely different than the nature of what is created. Yet at the same time, we find "that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead", and "The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory". So while, due to our limitations, it is impossible for us to fully know something without limitation, God still reveals Himself to us, interacts with us, and makes Himself known to us. It is in this revelation of God, primarily in Jesus Christ who said "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father", that we speak of the nature of God. Scripture tells us that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" and also speaks of  "the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father". We can find this explained in The Catechism of St Philaret.
84. Can we know the very essence of God?

No. It is above all knowledge, not of men only, but of angels.

85. How does holy Scripture speak on this point?

The Apostle Paul says, that God dwelleth in the light, which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see. 1 Tim. vi. 16....

90. How are we to understand these words of the Creed, I believe in one God the Father?
This is to be understood with reference to the mystery of the Holy Trinity; because God is one in substance but trine in persons--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost--a Trinity consubstantial and undivided....

93. How is one God in three Persons?

We can not comprehend this inner mystery of the Godhead; but we believe it on the infallible testimony of the Word of God. The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 1 Cor. ii. 11.

94. What difference is there between the Persons of the Holy Trinity?

God the Father is neither begotten, nor proceeds from any other Person: the Son of God is from all eternity begotten of the Father: the Holy Ghost from all eternity proceeds from the Father.

95. Are the three Hypostases or Persons of the Most Holy Trinity all of equal majesty?

Yes; all of absolutely equal divine majesty. The Father is true God, the Son equally true God, and the Holy Ghost true God; but yet so that in the three Persons there is only one Tri-personal God.
The nature of God as the Trinity, personal characteristics of the three Persons, and the manner of the incarnation of "the Word became flesh" are among what will be discussed in the rest of the Creed.

For Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee.




Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Nicene Creed Part 2 - I Believe

Rom 10:9-10
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

James 2:26
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

The Creed is traditionally broken into twelve parts for instructional purposes. For the sake of keeping my posts from getting too long and to better provide a general overview, I'm going to further divide some of those sections. This post will cover what it means to "believe" ("credo" in Latin, where we get the word "creed"). According to The Catechism of St Philaret of Moscow1...
76. What is it to believe in God?

To believe in God is to have a lively belief of his being, his attributes, and works; and to receive with all the heart his revealed Word respecting the salvation of men.

80. For what is the confession of the faith necessary?

The Apostle Paul witnesses that it is necessary for salvation. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Rom. x. 10.  
And also from The Confession of Peter Mohila2...
Q. 2. Should a Christian first believe and then do good works in life?

R. Since "without faith it is impossible to please God", as St. Paul teaches, "he that comes to God must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him."[5] Therefore, so that a Christian may please God and his works may be accepted by him, first it is necessary that he have faith in God and then he must form his life according to this faith.

Q. 4. What is faith?

R. Faith is, according to St. Paul, "the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not. For this the ancients obtained a testimony."[6] Or, as follows: the apostolic orthodox-catholic (faith) is to believe in one's heart and confess by one's mouth one God in the Holy Trinity, according to the teaching of the same St. Paul: "for with the heart we believe unto justice; but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation;"[7] and then also, Faith is to hold intact all the articles of the orthodox- catholic faith, handed down by Christ the Lord through the Apostles and pronounced and approved in the Ecumenical Councils (4) and to believe them without doubt as taught therein, just as the Apostle designates: "Brothers, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle." [8] And in another place: "I praise (you, brothers), that you are mindful of me in all things; and keep my ordinances as I delivered them to you." [9] From these words it is clear that the articles of faith receive their commendation and authority partly from Sacred Scripture and partly from church tradition and the teaching of the Councils and the Holy Fathers. By way of explanation in this matter, St. Dionysius says: "For the substance of our hierarchy is the divinely given oracles; most truly we declare these oracles to be venerated, which were given to us by our holy founders, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in Sacred Scripture and theological books, as also that which comes from these same holy men in a more subtle way, not completely treated from on high, but by the penetration of one mind unto another, indeed by way of the corporeal word, but nevertheless at the same time immaterial, by which our holy founders were taught without writing in this certain sacred tradition." [10] I speak, he says, of certain dogmas given through the Scripture and contained in the theological books (that is, of St. Basil); (5) Truly these are dogmas which were orally given by the Apostles and the Holy Fathers. And on these two things the faith is based, not only to remain in the recesses of the heart, with all doubt and fear really removed, but to be proclaimed and professed orally, even as the Psalmist says: "I have believed, therefore have I spoken."[11] "We also believe, wherefore we also speak."[12]
According to the scriptures, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God", meaning that we recieve our faith by being taught. The manner in which this takes place in us is two fold. First, as Paul writes "God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith", our capacity to believe in God is a gift from Him, and as the parable of the sower and the seed shows, this gift is given freely to all. But having received the gift freely given, we have a responsibility to respond as Christ Himself said "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" and "Take heed therefore how ye hear".

Belief is also closely tied to action in the scriptures. To truly believe is to act on that belief as we are told to "be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only" and that "faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" because even "the devils also believe, and tremble". We find "for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer" in the Psalms. We are also told that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" and that with faith "ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked". We also find that faith must also be accomplanied by love where it is written "though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing". Faith also requires perseverence. Christ told us that "he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" and Paul commanded us to "run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith".

Through the intercession of St Patrick, may God Almighty strengthen one's faith and grant the grace of faith to others.