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Ecumenical Creeds Wrap-Up Lesson

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					                              Ecumenical Creeds Wrap-Up Lesson

I.     Apostles’ Creed

       A.      Dating

The Apostles’ Creed is most likely dated back to the mid third century AD. It was originally
used as a baptismal confession.

       B.      Heresies Refuted

               1.       Marcionism

Marcion taught that Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament was a different being than the God
who was the father of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. In fact, he held that the God of the
Old Testament was evil, or at least, less good than the other, and had created matter, including
the world, in rebellion to the will of the greater God. Thus, the ultimate goal of life was to
escape from the confines of the material world.

Refuting Language: God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus
             Christ, his only Son (contra the Marcionist teaching of 2 separate gods.)
             Maker of heaven and earth (contra Marcionist teaching of matter as evil
             and not part of God’s original plan.)

               2.       Docetism

Docetism was another second and third century heresy that claimed that Jesus only seemed to be
human and only seemed to die on the cross.

Refuting Language: born of the virgin, Mary (contra Docetic teaching that Jesus seemed human.)
             dead and buried (contra Docetic teaching that Jesus only seemed to die.)

       C.      Theological Issues Summary

               1.       Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy
               2.       Yahweh as the creator of all things, including matter
               3.       Reality of the actual life and death of Christ

       D.      Practical Uses of the Apostles’ Creed Today

               1.       As an outline for teaching the basics of biblical Christianity

This can be seen from the variety of books that use the Apostles’ Creed as a statement of
essential truths (J. I. Packer’s Growing in Christ; Justo Gonzalez’ The Apostles’ Creed for Today
and Alister McGrath’s I Believe: Exploring the Apostles’ Creed)
               2.       Refuting the notion that material things are evil

The Apostles’ Creed helps us to remember that the material world was created by God and will
one day be totally redeemed by Him. The notion that our bodies are evil, that bodily pleasure is
wicked, that enjoying “non-spiritual” things too much is evidence of immaturity.

II.    Nicene Creed

       A.      Dating

The Nicene Creed was a product of the Council of Nicea, 325 AD, though some parts were
added later.

       B.      Heresies Refuted

               1.       Arianism

Arius taught that the Son was not equal to God the Father. Arians taught that Christ was not of
the same substance as the Father.

Refuting Language: true God from true God
             of one Being with the Father

               2.       Macedonianism

Macedonius taught that the Holy Spirit was not an individual person of the Trinity, not equal to
the Father.

Refuting Language: the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life
             who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified

       C.      Theological Issues Summary

               1.       Deity of Christ
               2.       Deity of the Holy Spirit

       D.      Practical Uses of the Nicene Creed Today

               1.       Refuting the Unitarian church’s neo-Arian theology
               2.       As a reminder that the Holy Spirit is a person himself, not just a force

This idea can creep into otherwise orthodox discussions. It manifests itself in references to the
Holy Spirit as “it” or in a default elevation of the Father and Son while ignoring the person of the
Spirit.
III.   Definition of Chalcedon

       A.      Dating

The Definition of Chalcedon came out of the council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. It dealt primarily
with the nature of Christ’s humanity.

       B.      Heresies Refuted

               1.       Nestorianism

Yet another doctrine taught that the two natures of Christ, human and divine, were so distinct as
to be almost dual personalities. Summary: Two natures, two personalities, two wills in Christ.

Refuting Language: one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten... without division,
without separation

               2.       Apollinarianism

Apollinarianism taught that the Son of God, the Divine Word took over the immaterial part of
the man, Jesus Christ. This was how they explained the divinity of Jesus. Summary: “half-
human”, “half-divine”.

Refuting Language: complete in Godhead and complete in manhood

               3.       Monophysitism

Other teachings included the idea that Jesus’ human personality somehow blended with the
divine personality to create a separate being. Summary: One nature in Christ, the human
absorbed into the divine.

Refuting Language: one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten... without confusion,
without change

       C.      Theological Issues Summary

               1.       Hypostatic Union of Christ (1 person, 2 natures)

       D.      Practical Uses of the Definition of Chalcedon Today

               1.       As a helpful boundary for theological speculation

This is true of all the creeds, but it is perhaps most helpful in the case of thinking about the
incarnation of Christ. It is very easy to slip into errors about the natures and person of Christ.
IV.    Athanasian Creed

       A.     Dating

The Athanasian Creed was most likely composed by a Western theologian sometime in the early
6th century.

       B.     Heresies Refuted

              1.       Modalism

Modalism teaches the persons of the Trinity are actually just different “modes” in which God
manifests Himself.

Refuting Language: For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the
Holy Spirit.

              2.       Apollinarianism

Apollinarianism taught that the Son of God, the Divine Word took over the immaterial part of
the man, Jesus Christ. This was how they explained the divinity of Jesus. Summary: “half-
human”, “half-divine”.

Refuting Language: One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person

       C.     Theological Issues Summary

              1.       The Trinity
              2.       Hypostatic Union of Christ

       D.     Practical Uses of the Athanasian Creed Today

              1.       Affirming the reality of the persons of the Trinity

Although this doctrine is not being questioned amongst evangelicals, it is dismissed in the
popular spiritualism that is rampant today. Almost everyone acknowledges the existence of God
in some form or another, but the Athanasian Creed insists upon a specifically Trinitarian faith.

              2.       Refuting the Unitarian church’s anti-Trinitarian theology
              3.       Refuting Modalism (United Pentecostals, United Apostolic Churches)

All of the creeds are valuable for guiding us into biblical avenues of theological
contemplation. By spending time considering these things, our hearts can be lifted in
worship to God.

				
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