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The Nicene Creed

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The Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed was developed by the early Church largely in response to the teachings of Arius. Arianism taught that Jesus was not truly divine and of a different "substance" than God, which challenged the developing doctrine of the Trinity in the early church. The emperor Constantine, newly converted to Christianity, called a Church Council at Nicæa in AD 325 to bring some unity to the church amid developing controversies and false teachings. The Council at Nicæa adopted an early form of the creed, although the basic present form emerged from the Council of Constantinople in AD 381. The Council of Chalcedon officially adopted it in AD 451.

A major controversy in the church has swirled around one phrase of the creed, the so-called filioque clause. In the phrase, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son" the debate concerned whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from only the Father, or from the Father and the Son [filioque in Latin]. The phrase "and the Son" was not in the original Greek version of the Creed accepted at Nicæa and Constantinople. It was added in the Latin versions used in the Western (Roman) church in AD 589 as an attempt to clarify the relationship of the three persons of the Trinity. The concern was that the original wording made Jesus the Christ subordinate to the Father, a view that the Western church felt endangered the doctrine of the Trinity.

However, the Eastern tradition was committed to the earlier Greek version of the Creed and resisted any change. This highlighted the growing rift between the Eastern and Western traditions that would eventually lead to a permanent break in AD 1054. As a result, the Eastern Church has never used the version with the filioque clause, while most churches that derive from the Western tradition use the creed with the filioque clause. However, the Episcopal Church has recently approved omission of the filioque clause in new editions of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Church has widely used the Nicene Creed since the fifth century. In some liturgical churches, for example the Episcopal/Anglican Churches, it is recited every Sunday. In others, the Nicene Creed is alternated with the Apostles’ Creed for Sunday worship, although the Apostles’ Creed is more often used at Baptismal services. The Eastern Orthodox tradition uses only the Nicene Creed. While most non-liturgical Protestant churches prefer the shorter Apostles’ Creed, none would object to the doctrines the Nicene Creed summarizes. It is the only creed accepted by all three major branches of Christendom: Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox.

We believe in one God the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen

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