Orthodox Christians Confess Athanasian Creed
Christian News, June 18, 2012
On Sunday, June 7, Christians celebrated The Feast of The Holy Trinity.
A number of Lutheran congregations have adopted the commendable ancient custom of confessing the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday. We are reproducing on this page the ecumenical Creed from page 53 of The Lutheran Hymnal. Every true Christian should be willing to confess this creed. The Constitution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod declares that "every member of Synod, accepts without reservation" the Athanasian Creed.
The origin of the Athanasian Creed is somewhat obscure, although it owes its name to Athanasius, "the Father of Orthodoxy." Luther called this creed the grandest production of the Church since the times of the Apostles.
Athanasius was born around 296 and died in 373. The Arian heresy (a denial of the real deity of Christ) was condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325 chiefly through the fearless testimony of Athanasius. He was banished five times and forced to spend twenty years in exile. The great mission of his life was to safeguard the Christian faith against pagan dissolution. The Concordia Cyclopedia comments: " 'Athanasius contra mundum et mundus contra Athanasium' (A. against the world, and the world against A.) well illustrates the commanding position which he held in the controversies of his time. Says the skeptic Gibbon: 'The immortal name of Athanasius will never be separated from the doctrine of the Trinity, to whose defense he consecrated every faculty of his being.' "
The Athanasian Creed is based upon the clear, simple passages of Holy Scripture. There is only one true God. "Hear. O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord, "(Deuteronomy 6:4). "There is none other God but one," (1 Corinthians 8:4). This one true God is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, three distinct persons, but of one and the same divine essence, equal in power, equal in eternity, equal in majesty, because each (person possesses the one divine essence entire. The Apostle Paul writes that in Christ "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," (Colossians 2:9). Jesus Christ is God, (John 1:1; John 5:18; John 5:23; John 20:28; Romans 9:5). The Holy Ghost is also God. Peter told Ananias that when he was lying to the Holy Ghost he was lying to God, (Acts. 5:3,4). All three persons of the Holy Trinity appeared at the Baptism of Jesus, (Matthew 3:16,17). Christ commanded his disciples to baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," (Matthew 28:l9). The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is beyond human understanding, if Christianity were a faith fabricated by men, its God could be comprehended with our finite minds. However, the Christian God is the God who has revealed Himself in the pages of Holy Scripture and the true Christian accepts this revelation exactly as it reads.
When Christians confess that there are three Persons in the one Divine Essence, "The word 'Person' is to be understood as the Fathers employed the term in this connection, not as a part or a property of another but as that which exists of itself." (The Augsburg Confession, I).
Today many "Protestants" reject the doctrine of the Trinity even though they still retain the terminology of the orthodox faith. They teach that God simply reveals himself successively in three different modes, or forms: In the Father as Creator, in the Son as Redeemer, and in the Holy Ghost as Sanctifier. The ancient church referred to this heresy as modal monarchianism. The Unitarians of our day reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Unfortunately, there are far more Unitarians within the major Protestant bodies than within the relatively small Unitarian-Universalist Association. A Statement of Faith adopted by the United Church of Christ in 1959 (reprinted in the June 1963 Lutheran News) does not affirm the Trinity. The November, 1959 Unitarian Register said that the UC statement “might in fact have been adopted by any Unitarian church of a century ago; “The Trinity is not mentioned. Since the United Church of Christ is a member of the National Council of Churches, it must be recognized by all those Lutherans who are members of the NCC or of any of its divisions as being "one in Christ" with them. This is what the constitution of the NCC demands. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is in fellowship with the UCC.