The Nicene Creed Essay

The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325. At that time, the text ended after the words “We believe in the Holy Spirit”, after which an anathema was added. The doctrine of the Trinity is commonly expressed as: “One God, three Persons”, but this word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. So the doctrine is formally defined in the Nicene Creed, which declares Jesus to be: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. in 325, the Council of Nicea set out to officially define the relationship of the Son to the Father, in response to the controversial teachings of Arius. Led by Bishop Athanasius, the council established the doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy and condemned Arius’ teaching that Christ was the first creation of God. The creed adopted by the council described Christ as “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. ” Nicea did not end the controversy, however. Debate over how the creed (especially the phrase “one substance”) ought to be interpreted continued to rage for decades.

One group advocated the doctrine that Christ was a “similar substance” as the Father. But for the most part, the issue of the Trinity was settled at Nicea and, by the fifth century, never again became a focus of serious controversy. The First Council of Constantinople is the first Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople, it was called by Theodosius I in 381 which confirmed the Nicene Creed and dealt with other matters such as Arian controversy. The council took place in the church of Hagia Irene from May to July 381. The Council of Nicaea did not end the Arian controversy which it had been called to clarify.

By 327, Emperor Constantine I had begun to regret the decisions that had been made at the Nicene Council. He granted amnesty to the Arian leaders and exiled Athanasius because of Eusebius of Nicomedia. Even during numerous exiles, Athanasius continued to be a vigorous defender of Nicene Christianity against Arianism. Athanasius then famously said “Athanasius against the world”. The Cappadocian Fathers also took up the torch; their Trinitarian discourse was influential in the council at Constantinople. Up until about 360, theological debates mainly dealt with the Divinity of Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity.

However, because the Council of Nicaea had not clarified the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Trinity, it became a topic of debate. The council affirmed the original Nicene Creed of faith as true and an accurate explanation of Scripture. This council also developed a statement of faith which included the language of Nicaea, but expanded the discussion on the Holy Spirit to combat the heresy of the Pneumatomachi. It is called the Nicene Creed of 381 and was a commentary on the original Nicene formula. It expanded the third article of the creed dealing with the Holy Spirit, as well as some other changes.

About the Holy Spirit the article of faith said he is “the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified”. The statement of proceeding from the Father is seen as significant because it established that the Holy Spirit must be of the same being as God the Father. ESSAY 3 The second- and third-century African theologian Tertullian took exception to this widespread doctrine. Tertullian argued that though God is one substance, He exists in three distinct persons. He was also the first author to use the term “trinity”.

In Tertullian’s book, he wrote, for example, that: The simple, indeed, (I will not call them unwise and unlearned,) who always constitute the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One), on the ground that their very rule of faith withdraws them from the world’s plurality of gods to the one only true God; not understanding that, although He is the one only God, He must yet be believed in with His own dispensation. The numerical order and distribution of the Trinity they assume to be a division of the Unity.

Tertullian was also the first Christian to deal specifically with the relation of the two natures in Christ. How, he asked, could the divine Word “become” flesh? Not, he asserted, by transforming himself into flesh, because then he would no longer be divine. Rather, he put on flesh; thus, the divine “substance” and the human “substance” both constitute the one “person” of Christ. Like the Apologists, Tertullian posited a two-stage existence in the Word: First as immanent within the Father, then as expressed at the Son’s generation: There are some who allege that even Genesis opens thus in Hebrew: “In the eginning God made for Himself a Son. ” As there is no ground for this, I am led to other arguments derived from God’s own dispensation, in which He existed before the creation of the world, up to the generation of the Son. For before all things God was alone – being in Himself and for Himself universe, and space, and all things. Moreover, He was alone, because there was nothing external to Him but Himself. Yet even not then was H e alone; for He had with Him that which He possessed in Himself, that is to say, His own Reason. For God is rational, and Reason was first in Him; and so all things were from Himself.

This Reason is His own Thought (or Consciousness) which the Greeks call logos, by which term we also designate Word or Discourse and therefore it is now usual with our people, owing to the mere simple interpretation of the term, to say that the Word was in the beginning with God; although it would be more suitable to regard Reason as the more ancient; because God had not Word from the beginning, but He had Reason even before the beginning; because also Word itself consists of Reason, which it thus proves to have been the prior existence as being its own substance….

He became also the Son of God, and was begotten when He proceeded forth from Him. For Tertullian, the Word became the Son of God when it was begotten of the Father prior to creation. The Son, though God by nature, thus occupies a subordinate role within the divine economy. Similarly, the Holy Spirit occupies a status of third rank: Everything which proceeds from something else must needs be second to that from which it proceeds, without being on that account separated. Where, however, there is a second, there must be two; and where there is a third, there must be three.

Now the Spirit indeed is third from God and the Son; just as the fruit of the tree is third from the root, or as the stream out of the river is third from the fountain, or as the apex of the ray is third from the sun. Nothing, however, is alien from that original source whence it derives its own properties. In like manner the Trinity, flowing down from the Father through intertwined and connected steps, does not at all disturb the Monarchy; whilst at the same time guards the state of the Economy (ch. 9).

As can be seen in this description of the divine economy, the Son and the Spirit are not divine in a static way but in a dynamic way; they proceed from the one substance as they have separate tasks to fulfill. They are three in order and distinction, but one in substance. The Father is not the same as the Son, since they differ one from another in the mode of their being. For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as himself acknowledges: “My Father is greater than I” [John 14:28].

In the Psalm His inferiority is described as being “a little lower than the angels” [Psa. 8:5]. Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son, inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another;… the Son is also distinct from the Father; so that He showed a third degree in the Paraclete, as we believe the second degree is in the Son, by reason of the order observed in the Economy. Considering this language it is easy to see why this is frequently called “the economic Trinity. Irenaeus of Lyons and Hippolytus of Rome, other second- and third-century theologians, also thought about the Trinity in this way. This changed significantly with the third-century Origen. Although Origen’s Trinity was also hierarchical, the Son and the Spirit being subordinate to the Father, Origen conceived of the Trinity as God’s eternal mode of being, not as an economy. In sharp contrast to the Apologists and Tertullian, Origen refused to postulate two stages in the existence of the Word. Rather, he held that the Word is eternally being generated by the Father.

The idea of subordination within the Trinity has cropped up occasionally in the history of the Church. It surfaced again, for example, among early Arminians in Europe. However, most Christians are not satisfied with assigning the Son and the Spirit subordinate positions, and many evangelical scholars today prefer to talk about economic modes within the Trinity as only one aspect of the Trinity. The Son is described, for example, as voluntarily subordinating himself to the Father in the incarnation.