Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The oft forgotten Creed, the Creed of Saint Athanasius

The Athanasian Creed is one of the three ancient Creeds of the western tradition, dating back to the fourth or fifth century. While it was not written by St. Athanasius, it is thought to capture his expressions and ideas. It is listed in the English Prayer Books as a Creed to be accepted and believed as being in accord with Holy Scripture. However, it was left out of the American Prayer Books (perhaps due to its explicit Trinitarianism?), not to return until the 2003 edition of the Reformed Episcopal Church.

From the 1662 Book of Commmon Prayer:

WHOSOEVER will be saved : before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholick Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled : without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholick Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons : nor dividing the Substance. 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 co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son : and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate : and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible : and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. 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 incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated : but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible. 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 both God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the Catholick Religion : to say, There be 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 afore, or after other : none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together : and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid : the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved : must think thus of the Trinity. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation : that he also believe rightly 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 substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds : and Man of the substance 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 be God and Man : yet he is not two, but one Christ; One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh : but by taking of the Manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance : 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 at the right hand of the Father, God 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 Catholick Faith : which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.


Mark said...

I happen to be a critical admirer of the Quincunque Vult. I say critical because this magnificent formulary is spoilt by a pneumatology that asserts the double procession ( unless you interpret "...of the Father and of the Son" as "from the Father through the Son" ). Whatever one might say-either in favor of, or against-the doctrine of the double procession, it cannot be regarded as part of the "catholic faith", which must be held "whole and undefiled" upon pain of everlasting damnation.


The Lemonts said...

Why doesn't the Eastern Church have the Athanasian Creed?

Anonymous said...

A common misperception is that the Eastern Churches do not accept the Appostles' Creed or the so-called Athanasian Creed.

We have to remember that, initially these formalized creeds were used primarily if not excusively in examination of baptismal candidates.

The Apostle's Creed, was a local, western baptism Creed by historical accident--but fully acceptable to the East. Indeed, it apprently formed the structual spine of the Nicnene-Constanitnopalitan Creed: the Great Creed.

Once the so-called Monophysites began useing the Great Creed in their liturgy to emphasis their Orthodoxy, then the Byzantine/Imperial Creed countered. Evenutally, Rome followed suit. A matter of keeping up with the Jones' and asserting orthodoxy.

For obscure historical reasons, the Athanasian Creed never got much litrugical play and still doesn't. Perhaps because it is akwardly long.

Anonymous said...

What I love about the Anthanasian Creed is the direct use of contradiction to show paradox or mystery in the Faith. Indeed, our Faith is Revelead and Supranatural and therefore transcend created logic! A point that could have used emphasis before the scholastic movement!!!

Fr. Brad+ said...

In reading NT Wright's response to the RC Cardinal concerning the ordination of women, Bp. Wright asserts that the idea of "catholic as wholeness" is a recent "Augustinian" idea. He states that the Early Church concieved of "catholicity" in terms of "inclusiveness." Perhaps this Creed recieved so little support because by being so exactingly precise, it is also exclusive of many theories of Trinitarian theology and therefore not "catholic" enough in the "inclusive" way of which Bp. Wright speaks. In other words, the first sentence of the Creed is nullified but its subsequent narrrow content.

(I, personally, am not convinced by Bp. Wright but if he is correct about the concept of the catholic, we must rethink a few things.)

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

This begs the question "Where does the inclusiveness end?" The mainline churches have become so inclusive as to destroy any sense of doctrinal unity. Catholicity is inclusive of all peoples and nations, but it is not "inclusive" of the pluriform truths now spoken of by the ECUSA bishops.

I think Wright, on this, is wrong. The bitter disputes of the first four councils do not really give much support for an inclusiveness that embraces heretical notions. On the issue of women's ordination, Wright steps out of the area where he has some authority (as a New Testament scholar) and into the area of what constitutes Catholic Faith and Order. For an Anglican who takes the Creeds, the Councils, and the Articles seriously, this is not an open matter. By supporting the ordination of women Wright supports "what the church has never done" over "what the church has ever done" and enlarges "inclusiveness" over the unity of the order of the Church.

Mark said...

"Inclusiveness" has become such a politicised term in the Church. If the true spirit of Catholicity is inclusiveness, what is there to prevent unrepentant homosexuals from being ordained? I rather believe that wholeness plus a reasonable "broadness" ( e.g. reckoning as sufficiently orthodox the Christology of the Armenian Apostolic Church ) rather than "inclusivity" best describe what catholicity is about.

As for the perdition clauses in the Quincunque Vult, Bp. Haverland is on record as saying that they pertain "primarily to traitors who have abandoned the Catholic faith ( 'except a man keep' ), not to those who have never held it." One is compelled to say something like this, I believe; otherwise you unchurch all those Christians who do not accept the double procession.

- Mark

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I think the "double procession" can be understood in a Scriptural way (I'll get to this in the next post dealing with the next Article in the 39), but the affirmation in the Nicene Creed is indeed a unilateral addition from the west without the consensus of the Eastern Church.

Fr. Brad+ said...

Upon reflection, I think Wright may be building his "inclusiveness" idea on the eastern concept of "fullness" as often expressed by Schmemann (the "fullness of the faith" rather than the "irriducible minimum" of the faith.). But Wright's decision to recast the fullness concept of catholicity as the postmodern idea of inclusivity - or even to confound the terminology - is disturbing and reveals the very trends in Christian thinking which necessitates the recovery of the Athanasian Creed. For this creed, in addition to restricting our minds to the truth, also expands our imaginations with a full and well developed understanding of the truth.

Or so I ramble again.

PS The translation on your blog differs slightly from that of the REC BCP. From whence does this version hail and what the difference?

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I grabbed it off the net, thinking it to be the same as the BCP text. I'm going to repost with the 1662 version.

Anonymous said...

N.T. is just dead wrong here.