All modern day organizations or institutions could not survive, thrive, and succeed without writing down what they believed in or at least what they want to accomplish. Human nature dictates that followers will follow leaders who have a clear understanding of where they are headed. In the first few centuries of Christianity there was a great need to write down a creed that will bind together the disparate groups of Chris-followers. But human nature also dictates that there can be no single viewpoint especially when it comes to spiritual matters.
This study will compare and contrast two creeds that arose from the Christian tradition – especially during the formative centuries when the follower of Christianity wanted to be seen as different from Judaism and other major religions of that era. This can be achieved by having an overview of the development of Christian theology and looking at the creation of the the two creeds in the proper context. Background Christianity was founded by a man who was popularly known as Jesus of Nazareth.
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This extraordinary person spoke and taught like no other. But there is more; Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and even claimed to be God in the flesh. This claim was later on reported by his first disciples especially by an elite core of followers also known as the Apostles. The idea of God becoming man is difficult to grasp and for some extremely difficult to accept. But it is clear that an unbiased reading of the Bible will reveal the same conclusion – that indeed Jesus made claims that he is no ordinary prophet, teacher or Rabbi.
Jesus forgave sins, performed never before seen miracles, accepts the worship of people and other acts that can only be made by someone who is God in the flesh. This idea is at the core of Christian tradition but perhaps this was taken for granted in the earlier years of Christianity. Then after Constantine expressed his preference of the Christian religion as opposed to other religions that existed within the mighty Roma Empire, things began to change rapidly for the Jesus movement. All of a sudden a great number of people get converted to the faith and more and more intellectuals, wealthy and influential people are joing the fold.
A casual study of organizational dynamics and human behavior will reveal that a statement of fact can be easily modified, corrupted and miscommunicated over the years. And more so, after centuries of passing on the same teaching from generation to generation. Now, after three hundred years of teaching Christian doctrine movement that was started by Jesus Christ has become a very influential and significant religion in the whole known world. In fact it now be considered as the official religion of perhaps the greatest empire in the history of mankind.
During the same time a man named Arius suddenly came from nowhere and created one of the most important and equally troubling doctrine which was later called “Arianism”. This doctrine states that Jesus is subordinate to the Father, created by the Father, and that he is not God. Arius teachings stem from a systematic theology that values the idea of “resolute monotheism” (Davis, 1983, p. 51). Davis added that Arius will not compromise on his belief that “God is one, sole, prior to and separated by an abyss from matter... ” (p. 51).
On the other hand there are many who could not deny the claims of Christ that he and the Father are one. And that he is the Son of God. A misconception will surely lead to idolatry while on the other hand turning a blind eye on scriptures and the pronouncements of Jesus will result also in disobedience and the inability to receive the full blessings of Christianity which is the full forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God. These blessings can only be made possible if it is really God who came down to earth from heaven and assured the world of such things and the things to come.
Councils & Creeds With Judaism in the background Christianity was always reminded of their strict monotheism roots. While at the same time Greek thought pervades Greco-Roman culture of the time and one of the chief ideas of Hellenistic thought is the disdain for the physical while embracing all that is spiritual. Arius found a way to convince many to follow his unique interpretation of Christian tradition and history. Now, many are alarmed over this new development. Controversies and heated debates abound regarding this contentious topic in Christian theology.
It is through Councils and Creeds that others hoped to find resolution to the conflict. The Nicaean Creed was created while 250-300 bishops were in attendance. The Dated Creed was formulated with only a handful of bishops present and it got its name after the proponents wrote a date of its official promulgation – May 22, 359 AD. The date made leading bishops and theologians like Athanasius to ridicule the Dated Creed and pointed out that it is not for everlasting and has some sort of a shelf-life. It was doomed to fail from the start. Nicaean Creed In response to Arianism the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD produced the Nicaean Creed:
We believe in one God, Father Almighty Maker of all things, seen and unseen; and in one Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, begotten as only begotten of the , that is the of the being of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, through whom all things came into existence, both things in heaven and things on earth; who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate and became man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into the heavens, and is coming to judge the living and the dead (see Ayres, 2004).
There is more to the Nicaean Creed but this is enough to shed light on the “divinity” issue of Jesus Christ. Dated Creed Still, Arianism is strong in some parts of Christendom. There is still much controversy over major doctrines concerning the role of Jesus. Thus other creeds were formulated to find common ground between “orthodoxy” and Arianism. An attempt resulted in the Dated Creed which states:
We believe in one sole and true God, the Father Almighty, creator and maker of all things: And in one only-begotten Son of God who before all ages and before all beginning and before all conceivable time and before all comprehensible substance was begotten impassibly from God, through whom the ages were set up and all things came into existence, begotten as only-begotten, sole from the sole Father, like to the Father who begot him, according to the Scriptures...
(see Hanson, 2005). There is more from where this came from but one can see that there was an attempt to make a more detailed description of the Christian creed, but for the orthodox people it does not matter because one word inserted in the whole statement made it null and void. For the nemesis of Arianism it is the word “like” that can be found in the middle portion of the “Dated Creed” that made the whole creed useless and heretic.
The Dated Creed tried to forged a compromise between Arianism and the majority who favored the Nicaean Creed but it did not work. Arianism became extinct after a few hundred years while Orthodox Christianity continue to thrive even in the 21st century. Conclusion After three hundred years it has become apparently clear that there is a need to establish creeds and doctrines in order to protect the integrity of the gospel message.
But it is not surprising to find out that there are conflicting points of view especially when it came to the divinity of Christ. Two major creeds were produced in the 4th century, the Nicaean Creed and the Dated Creed. The former proved to be more effective and was embraced by all of Orthodox Christianity. Works Cited Anatolios, Khaled. Athanasius. New York: Routledge, 2004. Ayres, Lewis. Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth Century Trinitarian Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Behr, John. The Nicene Faith. New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2004. Bettenson, Henry. Documents of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963. Davis, Leo Donald. The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787). MN: Liturgical Press, 1983. Hanson, Leith. The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God. New York: Routledge, 2005. Leith, John. Creeds of the Churches. 3rd Ed. Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1982. Gregg, Robert. Athanasius. New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1980.
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