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Theological Term of the Week

Athanasian Creed
An early statement of Christian doctrine affirming the triune nature of God and the dual nature of Christ, originally attributed to Athanasius but almost certainly not written by him. 

  • Text of the Athanasian Creed: 

    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,
            the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

            The Father is immeasurable,
            the Son is immeasurable,
            the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

            The Father is eternal,
            the Son is eternal,
            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,
            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,
            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,
            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. 1

  • From The Athanasian Creed by R. C. Sproul:
  • The Athanasian Creed reaffirms the distinctions found at Chalcedon, where in the Athanasian statement Christ is called, “perfect God and perfect man.” All three members of the Trinity are deemed to be uncreated and therefore co-eternal. Also following earlier affirmations, the Holy Spirit is declared to have proceeded both from the Father “and the Son,” affirming the so-called filioque concept that was so controversial with Eastern Orthodoxy. Eastern Orthodoxy to this day has not embraced the filioque idea. 

    Finally, the Athanasian standards examined the incarnation of Jesus and affirmed that in the mystery of the incarnation the divine nature did not mutate or change into a human nature, but rather the immutable divine nature took upon itself a human nature. That is, in the incarnation there was an assumption by the divine nature of a human nature and not the mutation of the divine nature into a human nature. 

Learn more:
  1. Theopedia: Athanasian Creed
  2. GotQuestions.org: What is the Athanasian Creed?
  3. Justin Holcomb: The Athanasian Creed
  4. R. C. Sproul: The Athanasian Creed
Related terms:

Filed under Creeds and Confessions.

1© 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. www.crcna.org.  

Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.


The Purity Laws Are Fulfilled in Him

From 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law by Tom Schreiner, as part of the answer to the question, What is the Role of the Law in the Gospel of Mark? 

The law no longer occupies the same status now that Christ has come. In the Old Testament anyone who touched a leper became unclean. Lepers were to reside outside the camp so that they would not infect others with their uncleanness (Lev. 13:46). Jesus’ healing of the leper, then, in Mark 1:40-45 is quite striking. Indeed, Jesus cleansed him by touching him (v. 41). Jesus could have cleansed him with a pronouncement, as he did on many other occasions. In fact, Jesus could have taken precautions to avoid touching the leper in order to avoid contact with the unclean, so that he himself would not be ritually defiled, for in the Old Testament one who touches what is unclean becomes unclean. But the new order inaugurated by Jesus is evident here, for when Jesus touched the unclean leper, Jesus was not defiled by uncleanness. Instead the leper became clean. In Jesus the power of the holy was such that his holiness consumed and destroyed the uncleanness of the leper. The story suggests that Jesus is greater than the Old Testament law, that the law points to him and is fulfilled in him.

We see something similar in Mark 5:24-43, where Jesus healed the woman who had a hemorrhage of blood for twelve years and raised a twelve-year-old girl from the dead. Mark emphasized that the woman touched Jesus, calling attention to it four times. (vv. 27, 28, 30, 31). The Old Testament clearly teaches that a woman who has a discharge of blood is unclean so that anything or anyone who touches her becomes unclean (Lev. 15:25-27). So it is quite striking that she touched Jesus. But again the power of the holy overwhelms and conquers and irradiates her uncleanness. Instead of Jesus becoming unclean, his touch made her clean. The old rules do not apply in the same way in the case of Jesus. The Old Testament also teaches that one who touches the dead is rendered unclean (cf. Lev. 21:1, 11; 22:4; Num. 5:2). But again, when Jesus approached Jairus’s dead daughter, he took her by the hand (Mark 5:41). Instead of contracting the uncleanness from a corpse, Jesus cleansed her and granted her new life by raising her from the dead. These accounts suggest that the law is no longer central with the coming of the Christ. Jesus’ healings and his raising of the dead show that the new age has arrived in his ministry.

To sum up in one sentence the point made in these two paragraphs, 

Now that Christ has come, the purity laws are fulfilled in him, signified by his healing of the leper, his touching of the woman with the flow of blood, and his healing touch of Jairus’s daughter. 

I almost finished this book while I was travelling, so I may be posting a review of it soon. If I can ever get on top of things in real life, that is. 


A Catechism for Girls and Boys

Part II: Questions about The Ten Commandments

47. Q. What does the third commandment teach us?
        A. To reverence God’s name, word, and works.

(Click through to read scriptural proof.)

Click to read more ...


Back Again. Sort Of, Maybe

I got back from my unexpected trip to Minnesota yesterday afternoon. I picked up a nasty cold while I was travelling, the garden really needs to come in, and I’m scheduled for a bit of gum surgery this weekend. Not to mention that the house could use a thorough cleaning.

I’ll get back to regular blogging as soon as I can.


Blog Break

My dad passed away early yesterday morning. I’ll be travelling to Minnesota later this week and don’t plan to post here until I return home.