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The Christian Creed affirms and emphasizes the core beliefs of Christians. They provide a guide for old and new believers toward the truth of God.
It is easier to believe than to explain why we believe in something or someone; for us to share the love of God with others effectively, we also have to know how to explain the core beliefs of Christianity.
Turning to the Bible alone would not be enough; you would need to read and learn the creeds of Christianity. Fortunately, some doctrines help Christians understand and affirm their core beliefs. Of the many principles, four dogmas are essential for us to know as Christians. But before we jump into that, let’s first learn what a creed is and how it came about.
What is a Christian Creed?
What is a Creed?
According to Merriam-Webster, a creed is a set of fundamental beliefs or a guiding principle. The Latin definition of the word creed means “I believe”; therefore, a creed can be interpreted as a summary of beliefs.
History of Christian Creeds
As the influence of churches spread, creeds helped believers to focus on the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. The Apostles Creed was one of the earliest known creeds and one of the most crucial ones in learning about Christianity. Though the apostles were not the original writers, as the name may suggest, their teachings accurately reflect that of the apostles.
The Nicene Creed was written by Christian bishops across the Eastern Roman Empire to help the church clarify the boundaries of faith. Its need rose due to the spread of heresies and the growth of the Christian faith. In 451, a group of church leaders met in the city of Chalcedon, and The Chalcedonian Creed was written. This creed was born due to the various theories about the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ.
Top Christian Creeds
The Apostles Creed is a variant of the Old Roman Creed. The Old Roman Creed is an ancient baptismal confession and existed way before the Apostles Creed came into writing. The apostles did not contribute to writing The Apostles Creed despite its name. No documented evidence supports the claim that the apostles wrote or contributed anything to writing the creed.
The Apostles Creed is the oldest and is described as the core tenets of Christianity. It attests and serves as a universal summary of the Christian faith. The Apostles Creed guides believers into understanding the question, “what do I have to do to be saved?” The Apostles Creed binds Christians from different churches and timelines by summarizing what the church and the Bible teach.
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there, he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
When heresies rose along with the spread of the Christian faith, the Nicene Creed was developed to emphasize the elements of the trinity and Jesus’ part of the Godhead. The Nicene Creed is very distinct from the heresies during that time because it insisted on the status of each member of the Holy Trinity as part of the Godhead.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all eternal, unchanging, and equal. It helped people distinguish the difference between the many interpretations at that time.
“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 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.”
Due to the rise of the heresy of Arianism, the Athanasian Creed was born. The Athanasian Creed is one of the four authoritative Creeds of the Roman Catholic church, and it reaffirms everything in the Chalcedon Creed.
According to the Athanasian Creed, the three-member of the Trinity are not created and are all eternal beings. Jesus Christ is called both a “perfect” God and man. Though the Athanasian Creed isn’t as publicly known as the other three creeds, Orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation are attested in every historic Protestant Church.
“Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the Catholic faith. Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally. Now, this is the Catholic faith:
That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is immeasurable, the Son is immeasurable, and the Holy Spirit is immeasurable. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal.
And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being. So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings; there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being. Similarly, the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty. Yet there are not three almighty beings; there is but one almighty being.
Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three gods; there is but one God. Thus the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. Yet there are not three lords; there is but one Lord.
Just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually as both God and Lord, so Catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords. The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone. The Son was neither made nor created; he was begotten from the Father alone. The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten; he proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Accordingly, there is one Father, not three fathers; there is one Son, not three sons; there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. Nothing in this trinity is before or after, nothing is greater or smaller; in their entirety, the three persons are coeternal and coequal with each other.
So in everything, as was said earlier, we must worship their trinity in their unity and their unity in their trinity. Anyone then who desires to be saved should think thus about the Trinity. But it is necessary for eternal salvation that one also believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.
Now, this is the true faith: That we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and human, equally. He is God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time; and he is human from the essence of his mother, born in time; completely God, completely human, with a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as regards divinity, less than the Father as regards humanity.
Although he is God and human, yet Christ is not two, but one. He is one, however, not by his divinity being turned into flesh, but by God’s taking humanity to himself. He is one, certainly not by the blending of his essence, but by the unity of his person. For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh, so too the one Christ is both God and human.
He suffered for our salvation; he descended to hell; he arose from the dead; he ascended to heaven; he is seated at the Father’s right hand; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming, all people will arise bodily and give an accounting of their own deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.
This is the Catholic faith: one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.”
The Arians, who started Arianism, believed that Christ and the Holy Spirit are divine but not in the same sense as God the Father. And since Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He only existed when the Father brought Him about within a time frame. Therefore, the Son of God is not eternal and is not self-existent as God the Father.
It was this part of the heresy of Arianism that the Chalcedonian Creed wished to confront. The primary goal of the Chalcedonian Creed is to claim that Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man. According to the creed, Jesus’ two natures cannot be separated and remain intact, yet at the same time distinct.
“We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God
and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin;
begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union,
but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten,
God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.”
Purpose of a Creed in Christianity
The creeds confess the truth of God’s nature and His teachings. That the one true God has revealed Himself to His people so that we might love Him fully with our whole being. Learning and understanding the creeds and Scripture helps us discern and cherish the truth over hearsay and misguided information.
When we are confident with the truth that comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we proudly proclaim it for others to hear and experience. Reading about the creeds enlightens us about that fact. It also shapes our understanding so we might disclose the love and salvation that only comes from Jesus Christ.
The creeds affirm what we Christians believe; that Jesus Christ is fully God and a complete man. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all equal and eternal parts of the Godhead. The affirmation offered by the creeds helps Christians discern doctrinal error and misguided information from the biblical truth.
The creeds act as mirrors of the fundamental doctrine found in the Bible. They guide Christians towards the truth of God and are products of years of rigorous Scripture study. It’s why reading the creeds with the Bible is helpful, reliable, and often considered the authoritative truth when it comes to the core beliefs of Christians. Yet despite this, the creeds offer the reader freedom to choose whether to believe the information given to them or not.
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