Dec 7, 2008


Athanasian Creed

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith. Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally. Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another. But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit. The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite. Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited. Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty. Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God. Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord: And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as 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; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son. Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.

And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons. Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.

It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh. For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, is both God and man. He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother--existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity. Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ. He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity. He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures. For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.

He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire. This is the catholic faith. One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.


treeinforest said...

So what does it mean by "those who have done good" and "those who have done evil"?

The Blossers said...

The creed affirms eschatological judgment. The righteous inherit eternal life; the wicked eternal fire. John tells us that we know who these groups are by their deeds, "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:10)

treeinforest said...

Thanks; I just wanted to clarify. It seems to me that there is a difference between the plain reading of the creed and what is intended in John.

John talks about "doing what is right" as being a recognizable characteristic of those who are the children of God; the creed's use of "those who have done good" (in a plain reading) may be more likely to be interpreted as a qualifying attribute -- i.e., that doing good is what makes someone a child of God.

The Blossers said...

Good clarification. It is THE Protestant clarification. This is why these documents should be read in community with clarifying conversations (not simply mindless recitation).

Of course, this creed predates the controversies of the Protestant Reformation by 800 years. And is precisely why the "plain reading" turns out to be not so "plain" after all. And, finally, why this creed survives in both Protestant and Roman Catholic liturgies. We (Protestants) read it through the same lens we read 1 John, James, and Matthew 25. Roman Catholics read it through a different lens, of which your comment is sensitive. (This, of course, is not to validate every reading through any particular lens. I believe the Protestant clarification to be right and true.)

I love this creed because it so beautifully summarizes Trinitarian doctrine. No attempts are made at explaining the mystery--no crude analogies--just a statement affirming what we believe the Bible teaches about God.