Lesson 1B Preview: Text of the Athanasian Creed; Selections from Gregory of Nyssa; Prof. Tom Wright of St. Andrew’s University, Scotland; Lecture from Prof. Michael Haykin Knowing and Adoring the Triune God

The Athanasian Creed

“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.”

“The Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult) is a Christian statement of belief, focusing on Trinitarian doctrine and Christology. The Latin name of the creed, Quicumque vult, is taken from the opening words “Whosoever wishes.” The Athanasian Creed has been used by Christian churches since the sixth century AD” (Wikipedia.org).

CAUTION: Please note that Wikipedia, being a wiki, may have information entered through users which introduce errors into the discussion. The reader is encouraged to consult additional scholarly sources and compare authors’ judgments .

Selection from Gregory of Nyssa on the supremacy of Scripture and the Holy Spirit:

From On the Holy Spirit: “They accuse us of profanity for entertaining lofty conceptions about the Holy Spirit. All that we, in following the teachings of the Fathers, confess as to the Spirit, they take in a sense of their own, and make it a handle against us, to denounce us for profanity.  We, for instance, confess that the Holy Spirit is of the same rank as the Father and the Son, so that there is no difference between them in anything, to be thought or named, that devotion can ascribe to a Divine nature. We confess that, save His being contemplated as with peculiar attributes in regard of Person, the Holy Spirit is indeed from God, and of the Christ, according to Scripture… the Holy Spirit is truly, and not in name only, called Divine both by Scripture and by our Fathers, what ground is left for those who oppose the glory of the Spirit? He is Divine, and absolutely good, and Omnipotent, and wise, and glorious, and eternal; He is everything of this kind that can be named to raise our thoughts to the grandeur of His being. The singleness of the subject of these properties testifies that He does not possess them in a measure only, as if we could imagine that He was one thing in His very substance, but became another by the presence of the aforesaid qualities. That condition is peculiar to those beings who have been given a composite nature; whereas the Holy Spirit is single and simple in every respect equally. This is allowed by all; the man who denies it does not exist. If, then, there is but one simple and single definition of His being, the good which He possesses is not an acquired good; but, whatever He may be besides, He is Himself Goodness, and Wisdom, and Power, and Sanctification, and Righteousness, and Everlastingness, and Imperishability, and every name that is lofty, and elevating above other names. What, then, is the state of mind that leads these men, who do not fear the fearful sentence passed upon the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, to maintain that such a Being does not possess glory? For they clearly put that statement forward; that we ought not to believe that He should be glorified: though I know not for what reason they judge it to be expedient not to confess the true nature of that which is essentially glorious.”

Readers may refer to Christian Classics Ethereal Library for more writings by Gregory and many other Christian theologians.

“Do the creeds accurately portray what Jesus said and did?” Rev. N.T. Wright, formerly Bishop of Durham and now Professor of New Testament, St. Andrew’s, answers this question:

Prof. Michael Haykin’s audio lecture to an Irish Baptist congregation, Knowing and Adoring the Triune God, (45 minutes) can be accessed by clicking on this lecture title. After arriving at one of the Michael Haykin pages of this web site sermonaudio.com. you will find the lecture with a box saying Play. Click on this button.

Dr. Michael Anthony George Haykin is currently Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Haykin was born in 1953 of Irish and Kurdish parents and raised in England. He emigrated with his family to Canada in 1965. Raised as a Roman Catholic, he converted to Protestantism in February, 1974.

Bible Verses for Reflection: Rom. 9:5; 1 John 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Matt 28:19

A Quote for Your Consideration: “…Holy Scripture is the only source and norm of Christian faith and life, for the simple reason that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God…(italics emphasis by author, John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 2).

For other church groups, Christian educators, and independent study persons: You may also wish to consider these questions after you have completed the above reading and listening activities.

Questions for discussion:

1. How does the apparent purpose of the Athanasian Creed tie to Olson’s comments in the Introduction?

2. Related to the #1 question, how is the Athanasian Creed like virus detection software?

3. What teachings of heretics can we infer were a threat, as perceived by the Creed’s author, in light of the wording of the Creed? What does he seem to be trying to counter?

4. Did you have a chance to read the Wikipedia article on the Creed? What surprised you in reading its history? [Be sure to apply the who, where, and when questions when considering this article.]

5. Was Gregory of Nyssa’s discussion of the Holy Spirit consistent with your understanding of the third person of the Trinity that you have learned in church?

6. How does Bishop Wright answer the question “Do the Creeds accurately portray what Jesus said and did?” How can his rosebud metaphor help you understand the joint effect of Bible and Creeds?

7. Drawing from Prof. Haykin’s lecture, let’s assume you will be meeting with an old friend who has joined a pseudo-Christian cult which denies the NT evidence supporting the Trinitarian Doctrine; in fact, your friend has told you “Jesus was special, not divine but a son of god – all men can aspire to his level of holiness, and all men can become sons of god. We can all get sonship”. What NT evidence can you derive from Haykin’s presentation that would help you formulate a response to this claim?


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