I’m continuing a series on one of the early Christian Creeds: The Nicene Creed. The first five posts on this topic are here:
We are looking at each line of the creed and determining what would be the necessary propositional claims we would need to defend as Apologists who want to stay faithful to a Historical Christianity, a Christianity grounded in the Scriptures, the Apostolic proclamation of Jesus Christ, and the theological reflections of the early Church Fathers.
Keeping in mind that the first four ecumenical creeds of the early church (through Chalcedon in 451) were accepted by all of the magisterial Reformers (e.g. Luther, Melanchton, Calvin, Arminius, et al.)
Through him all things were made.
** for us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.
Let’s break each down into a clear proposition:
I believe that all things (the universe and everything we know exists or will ever discover does exist that can be considered physical, and also an non-physical realities like angels, souls, or perhaps even abstract objects) came into existence through Jesus Christ.
I believe that God became incarnate for the sake of saving us.
I believe that God came to us from heaven*
- This proposition can have several different interpretations, depending on how we construe heaven. Is heaven an actual location, a physical reality? If so, does God enter into our time-space continuum upon creating the universe? Or, is heaven a metaphor for an a-temporal (or omni-temporal), immaterial mode of existence that is not within the current created time-space? In other words, God upon creating the universe, remains “outside” the universe in some sense, at least until the time of the incarnation.
- I believe that God in Jesus became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit and was born naturally, yet virginally (apart from any conjugal activity or natural insemination of an ovary with a spermatozoon), by Mary.*
- In other words God miraculously provided the necessary genetic stuff for Jesus to be conceived and carried to term by Mary until his birth in Bethlehem in or around 6-4 B.C.
I believe that Jesus was fully human, possessing all of the essential properties of a human person (a physical body, a human mind or intellect, human emotions, desires, and will).
I believe that Jesus was killed on a cross during the reign and under the authority of a Roman governor by the name of Pontius Pilate in or around 30-33 CE.
I believe that Jesus’ own body (not that of another), a body that was by every measure medically deceased, was put into a real tomb in the vicinity of Jerusalem by a group of his followers.
I believe that on the third day after his physical death, Jesus’ physical body was raised to life again by the power of God*; this resurrection of Jesus’ physical body was foreshadowed by earlier writings that were contained in the textual corpus of the Hebrew scriptures and that were known to the Jews of the time.
- this implies that there is a persistence in identity between the body that hung dead on the cross outside of Jerusalem, and the body that was seen by the women, Paul, etc., even though the body of Jesus that was seen after the resurrection was also somehow different than the body that had died. It is the same body, but it is also transformed or altered physically through the power of God.
- I believe that this resurrected Jesus, to include His body, was raised into the heavenly realm*, i.e. Jesus’ person is no longer on earth or dwelling amongst us in a physical way.
- Again, how we construe the “heavenly realm” may be something that can vary depending on philosophical and theological reflection.
I believe that Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the incarnate Son of God, the Divine Logos, is seated at the right hand of the Father, the first member of the Trinity, and that this claim reveals to all humankind that Jesus has the same authority as the Father, i.e. Jesus’ authority is identical to YHWH’s authority.
I believe that because Jesus has this authority, He also has the authority to judge all human persons who will be alive when He returns to this time-space reality in some new way. Also, He will judge, according to the amount of revelation He has given all human persons*, those human moral agents who at this time are physically deceased (i.e. all human persons who have ever existed qua human person, will be judged by Him according to the moral law that has been revealed).*
- There is much theological fodder in this statement; we could discuss many things here and have a fairly wide range of interpretation, and do so without being outside the bounds of Orthodoxy. The key takeaway: Jesus will return, and He will judge.
- I believe that the Kingdom of God* is eternal in the future (i.e. it is a potential infinite).
- I would take the Kingdom of God to consist of all human persons throughout all of human history who have come into a saving knowledge of God, all obedient angels, and, of course, the Triune God. Not included in this kingdom would be all human persons throughout history who have consciously rejected the revelation and love of God, all fallen angels, and Satan.
So, there is a lot in these few short lines, and, as we said in early posts, once we start trying to define a little more closely, understandings about how some of these things might be true can vary; and that is okay. So long as one can, in good conscience, affirm that these statements, whether understood simply, or in a more detailed way, are true, then one can, I think, claim that they are following closely to the core commitments pressed upon us by the Scriptures and professed by the earliest generations of the Church of Jesus Christ.