Christians around the world and across history have summarised their central beliefs in three famous statements, or Creeds (from the Latin word Credo, ‘I believe’)
1.The Apostles' Creed
No-one knows the origin of this summary statement, but although it is from the early years of Christianity, it’s unlikely the apostles themselves wrote it. It is punchy and clear:
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,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic (i.e., worldwide) Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,and the life everlasting.
2. The Nicene Creed
This Creed arose out of fierce debate about who Jesus was, and how he could be both a human being and fully God. Senior church leaders met in a Council in 325, in Nicaea (modern day Iznik, in Turkey), and hammered out this statement which still holds true:
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,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and 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,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic (i.e., worldwide) 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.
3.The Athanasian Creed
The third creed is the longest and most complex of the three, which is why most churches rarely use it Sundays, at least in its entirety. Its name comes from one of the greatest Christian thinkers, Athanasius, although it wasn’t actually written by him. Its primary focus is explaining and defending the Doctrine of the Trinity - that we believe in One God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit at the same time. It is a complicated idea but careful and precise, which is why this creed focusses on the dangers of being too simplistic. It is increasingly important as we have discussions with our Muslim friends.
Those who wish to be saved, before all things it is necessary that they hold the catholic faith, which faith, if anyone does not keep it whole and unharmed, without doubt will perish everlastingly.
Now, the catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the Persons nor dividing the divine Being.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit, but the Godhead of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is all one, their glory equal, their majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit:
the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated and the Holy Spirit uncreated;the Father infinite, the Son infinite and the Holy Spirit infinite;the Father eternal, the Son eternal and the Holy Spirit eternal;
and yet they are not three Eternals but one Eternal, just as they are not three Uncreateds, nor three Infinites, but one Uncreated and one Infinite.
In the same way, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty and the Holy Spirit almighty; and yet they are not three Almighties but one Almighty.
Thus the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods but one God.
Thus the Father is the Lord, the Son is the Lord, and the Holy Spirit is the Lord; and yet there are not three Lords but one Lord.
Because, just as we are compelled by Christian truth to confess each Person singly to be both God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is from none, not made nor created nor begotten; the Son is from the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten: the Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son,not made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
And in this Trinity there is no before or after, no greater or less, but all three Persons are co-eternal with each other and co-equal.
So that in all things, as has already been said, the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity, is to be worshipped.
Anyone therefore who wishes to be saved should think thus of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that we should faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, the right faith is that we should believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man equally. He is God from the Being of the Father, begotten before the worlds, and he is man from the being of his mother, born in the world;perfect God and perfect man, having both man’s rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as regards his divinity and inferior to the Father as regards his humanity; who, although he is God and man, yet he is not two, but one Christ; one, however, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by the taking up of humanity into God;utterly one, not by confusion of human and divine being but by unity of Christ’s one Person.
For just as the rational soul and flesh are one man, so God and man are one Christ;
who suffered for our salvation,
descended to the realm of the dead,
rose again the third day from the dead,
ascended to heaven, sat down at the right hand of the Father,
from where he will come to judge the living and the dead;
at whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies
and will give an account for their own actions,
and those who have done good will go into life everlasting
and those who have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the catholic faith which, if anyone does not believe it faithfully and firmly,
they cannot be saved.
St James Muswell Hill
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