The Old Creeds

Does anybody read the old creeds any longer? Here is the Athanasian Creed (late 5th or early 6th Century) in its entirety:

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.

Yep, that’s right. You have to believe all this mumbo jumbo to be saved. Should you entertain the slightest suspicion that in the Trinity the Essence is divided, or harbor the least doubt that Christ was begotten before all worlds, then you are doomed to an eternity in hellfire. Really, it is pretty amazing that in Christianity anybody at all is saved.

About Keith Parsons
  • Sheldon

    Nope, didn't read it! :)

  • CyberKitten

    Make something difficult – people try harder.

    Strange but true!

  • Bradley Bowen

    If this creed is correct, then millions of American Christians will be roasting in the lake of fire. Consider the scarcity of orthodoxy revealed by the 2007 Barna Survey:

    Most Americans still embrace a traditional view of God, but they are less likely than ever to do so. Currently two-thirds of Americans believe that God is best described as the all-powerful, all-knowing perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today (66%).

    Few adults possess orthodox views about Jesus and the Devil. Currently, just one-third of Americans strongly disagree that Jesus sinned (37%) and just one-quarter strongly reject the idea that Satan is not a real spiritual being (24%).

    The study also examined people’s spiritual identity. For instance, 83% of Americans identified as Christians, yet only 49% of these individuals described themselves as absolutely committed to Christianity.

    Above data is from a 2007 Barna Survey:

  • Ross

    You and the respondents here appear to overlook the fact that there's more to being a Christian than agreeing with a set of statements in a creed. I'm not saying that correct belief isn't important, but it's equally important that your actions match up with your beliefs.

  • Keith Parsons

    Ross is right that there is, or should be, more to being a Christian than believing a set of creedal statements. However, as the creed specifies, certain beliefs are necessary for salvation, that is, if you lack certain beliefs, you cannot be saved. In short, failure to believe certain specified propositions is sufficient for damnation. Even if your life is otherwise blameless, unbelief is sufficient to send you to hell. It is this requirement, what I call the "doxastic requirement," that I find to be the most offensive aspect of the Christian doctrine of salvation.

    But when is it culpable to lack a belief–so culpable that it merits eternal damnation? The only possible answer is that the belief is so obviously and undeniably true that to deny it takes a monstrously irrational and willful act of self-assertion. Yet it is hard to see that the bizarre metaphysical maunderings of the Athanasian Creed are even intelligible, much less obviously true.

  • Ross

    Put another way, it's possible to know about God, yet not really know Him.

  • Bradley Bowen

    There are some basic dogmas of the Catholic Church about God that Richard Swinburne, a leading defender of theism, rejects.

    Swinburne was not a Catholic, so he has no particular interest in supporting Catholic teachings, but these are basic Catholic beliefs and they are general beliefs about God.

    In other words, we are not talking about the traditional Catholic vs. Protestant arguments over the sacraments, or the authority of church leaders, or about the idea of salvation by faith alone.

    1. The existence of God can be proven with certainty.

    2. God exists outside of time.

    These are both dogmas of Catholic Christianity, yet Swinburne (and other Protestant theologians and philosophers) question or reject these claims.

    Swinburne concludes that there are no good deductive arguments for the existence of God, although he argues that the existence of God can be shown to be probable.

    Swinburne concludes that there is no good reason to believe that God exists outside of time, and he argues that this concept of God is incoherent and contradicts many claims that theists generally wish to make about God.

    If I were a believer, I would hesitate before buying into a religion that taught dogmas that have been rejected by one of the leading modern defenders of theism.

  • Bradley Bowen

    There are a couple of other ideas about God that are widely held and that Swinburne rejects:

    1. God's existence is logically necessary.

    2. All moral truths are grounded in (dependent upon) God's nature and existence.

    Swinburne argues that God's existence is logically contingent, that God's non-existence is a logical possibility, although he believes that empirical evidence makes the existence of God probable.

    Swinburne argues that basic moral principles are necessary truths, and that since God's existence is not a necessary truth, those principles are not grounded in or dependent upon the existence of God. True moral principles are true in all possible worlds, including possible worlds in which there is no such being as God.

    I don't know if either of these two beliefs has been elevated to a dogma or creed of some religion or Christian sect, but many theists have adopted these beliefs as a basic element in their conception of God.