By: John Schlismann
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, 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 worshipped 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 381 AD)
The Nicene Creed was originally written at the first council of Nicaea in 325 AD as a guide to help early Christians understand their faith and as a response to the rising belief in Arianism. Arius was a presbyter in Alexandria in the early fourth century. Arianism taught that the father created the son in the beginning, and than the father and the son continued to create the world together. The result of this line of thinking and where it came into conflict with the church, was that it made Jesus Christ(the Son) a creation of God(the father), and it separated the two when they are in fact a part of the one Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Arius thought of things as a chronological chain of events, instead of as an eternal holy trinity. He believed that since the son was begotten of the Father, than the Son was inferior to the Father. The Creed was updated in 381 AD when the Second Ecumenical Council was gathered to discuss incorporating the Holy Spirit to combat the heretics at the time. Once the creed was expanded upon; the idea of the Holy Trinity was officially recognized by the council and Arianism began to die out. There was a Third Ecumenical Council in which the Creed was reaffirmed and it was forbidden to make any further revisions.
This creed set forth in very clear language exactly what a Christian was to believe and is followed by virtually all Christian faiths today (Although some did alter it slightly to fit their particular beliefs). The only exceptions to this rule are groups like Jehovahs Witnesses, Mormons, and Church of Christ. Most Christians do not consider these groups Christian based on the fact that they do not recognize the Nicene Creed. The creed is included in church services in both Catholic and Protestant churches.
The Nicene creed starts out by affirming that there is one God, who is almighty, one, lord Jesus Christ who was forever of the father. It goes on further to assert that Jesus was begotten, not made from the father, and that the father and the son are in fact one interconnected, in order to directly address Arius’s ideas. Than it states that we are saved through his salvation when he came to us through the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. At this point we have the Holy Trinity, (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). You have to come to the conclusion that God (the Father) and Jesus (the Son), and the Holy Spirit are eternal and although they are separate they are all combined together within the Trinity. The creed than tells how Jesus suffered for us, died, rose again on the third day, and will judge the living and the dead. It tells us that the Holy Spirit is the giver of life along with the Father and the Son. The Creed ends with the affirmation that everyone believe in one holy Catholic (Universal) and apostolic church, that baptism forgives sins, and that we look for the resurrection of the dead in the world to come.
The Nicene Creed has remained the standard statement of Christian faith for over 1500 years; and has remained virtually unchanged ever since its last major revision in 381 AD. As hard of a concept as the Holy Trinity is to understand the second Ecumenical Council attempted to make it an easier concept to grasp for the average person. Through this creed we can understand the core values of Christianity, which is why is has remained as such an integral part of the church service to this day.
The Nicene Creed. (2006). Home page. Retrieved June 27, 2006, from Internet Christian Library: http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/history/creed.nicene.txt
Nicene Creed. (2006). Home page. Retrieved June 27, 2006, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed#The_Nicene_Creed_of_381
First Council of Constantinople. (2006). Home page. Retrieved June 27, 2006, from Wilkipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Constantinople
John Schlismann has an interest in history and religious studies. For more information on the Nicene Creed check out http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/sbrandt/nicea.htm