The Four Creeds

The following creeds are included at this web site because they are foundational to Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and historic Protestant bodies of doctrine. They represent the conclusions of thousands of pages of Biblical debate over hundreds of years regarding the meaning of key Biblical themes centered primarily on the Godhead. As summaries of core, essential, Biblical truth, these creeds define historic, Biblical, orthodox Christianity. They do not separate Christians; but rather, they unite true believers by separating us from what is not Christian.

The force of the creeds is cumulative, each serving its own historic purposes. The Apostle's creed is the broadest summary of the core ingredients of our faith. The Nicene Creed is more specifically worded to define the Divinity of Christ and to expose heretical views, in particular, Arianism. The Creed of Chalcedon was formulated to defend the full humanity and divinity of Christ against several additional heresies that denied one or the other natures. The Creed of Athanasius defines the Biblical, historical understanding of the Trinity. These four creeds are the standard by which most historic and contemporary heresies are evaluated and exposed.

While the creeds delineate the core content of our Christian faith, it is important to distinguish between the content - the facts of our faith, and the Object of our faith - the Person of Jesus Christ. The creeds inflame our hearts, but Christ gives life. The creeds point us to the one true Christ so we can abide in Him and He and His words in us (Jn. 15). There are more things than I can list that I like about my wife, but I love her more than the facts about her. As a high school student I learned the boundaries and rules for playing football, but it was the game, not the facts about it, that I loved. The right facts about God free us to worship in Spirit and truth, which, in turn, helps us to love in word and deed.

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed, 325

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father. And He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Creed of Chalcedon, 451

Following the holy fathers, therefore, we all with one accord teach the profession of faith in the one identical Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We declare that He is perfect both in His divinity and in His humanity, truly God and truly man, composed of body and rational soul, that He is consubstantial with the Father in His Divinity, and consubstantial with us in His humanity, like us in every respect except for sin. We declare that in His Divinity, He was begotten of the Father before time, and in His humanity He was begotten in this last age of Mary, the virgin, the mother of God*, for us and our salvation. We declare that the one selfsame Christ, only begotten Son and Lord, must be acknowledged in two natures, without any co-mingling, or change or division or separation, that the distinction between their natures is in no way removed by their union, but rather, that the specific character of each nature is preserved, and they are united in one person and one hypostasis. We declare that He is not split nor divided into two persons, but that there is one, selfsame, only-begotten Son, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. This, the prophets have taught about Him from the beginning; this, Jesus Christ Himself taught us; this, the Creed of the Fathers has handed down to us. *(Note: Theotokos, also translated "God-bearer".)

Creed of Athanasius (Trinitarian Formulation)

Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the catholic faith. For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire he will undoubtedly be lost forever.

This is what the catholic faith teaches.

We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. We distinguish among the persons, but we do not divide the substance. For the Father is a distinct person; the Son is a distinct person; and the Holy Spirit is a distinct person. Still the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal glory, and co-eternal majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is boundless, the Son is boundless, and the Holy Spirit is boundless. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal. Nevertheless, there are not three eternal beings, but one eternal being. Thus there are not three uncreated beings, nor three boundless beings, but one uncreated being and one boundless being. Likewise, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. Yet there are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. But there are not three gods, but one God. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. There are not three lords, but one Lord. For according to Christian truth, we must profess that each of the persons individually is God; and according to Christian religion we are forbidden to say that there are three gods or lords. The Father is not made by anyone, nor created by anyone, nor generated by anyone. The Son is not made nor created, but he is generated by the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is not made nor created nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son. There is, then, one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, but not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. In this Trinity, there is nothing greater, nothing less than anything else. But the entire three persons are co-eternal and coequal with one another. So that, as we have said, we worship complete unity in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity.

This, then, is what he who wishes to be saved must believe about the Trinity.

It is also necessary for eternal salvation that he believes steadfastly in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The true faith is: we believe and profess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man. As God He was begotten of the substance of the Father before time; as man He was born in time of the substance of His Mother. He is perfect God; and He is perfect man, with a rational soul and human flesh. He is equal to the Father in His divinity, but He is inferior to the Father in His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ. And He is one, not because His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was assumed to God. He is one, not at all because of a mingling of substances, but because He is one person. As a rational soul and flesh are one man: so God and man are one Christ. He died for our salvation, descended to hell, arose from the dead on the third day. Ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, and from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. At His coming, all men are to arise with their own bodies; and they are to give an account of their lives. Those who have done good deeds will go into eternal life; those who have done evil will go into everlasting fire.

This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved. Amen.