Last week we looked at the first article of the creed and we explored the term Almighty and we said that it not only refers to power but also to a God full of possibility. We began to examine the Trinitarian personality, saying that they are one and yet distinct. I went into a long explanation of the word homooousias which we translate as of the same substance. I said that in the ancient world they looked at things much differently than we do now. And I asked you to imagine a divine substance and suggested that that was quite impossible for us. I chose to define homoousias as the identity of character between the one named Father, Son and Spirit. Saying that of one being with the Father means thinking and reacting in the same way.
The creed carefully guards against dualism. The view that there is a good god and a bad god and that that only way to see the Father is through the Son and that any other way would lead to the confused view of god offered to us by the Old Testament that Jesus freely and radically reinterpreted during his ministry.
Today we are going to consider the difference between the Two Testaments and we will discuss the term orthodox as it relates to believing and living life with the god described in the creed.
So what does it mean to be orthodox? Many of my friends don’t care if they are orthodox or not. They just “feel free to believe what they think” But as I have said before that leads to a god that we make up instead of the one revealed in history by Jesus. Some say: why “do you care what other people think about you? Isn’t it just important to have a relationship with Jesus and be a decent person?” I usually reply that of course these things are important but, for me, it is also important to be able to explain why the theological moves I am making are not outside the bounds of the faith of the church. I am seeking to show these friends that one can love Jesus and still engage theology as a joyful as well as useful discipline.
At one level it really doesn’t make any difference what you believe, but I think that one of the chief reasons for there to be a church and a trained clergy is so that here from the pulpit you can hear the word about Jesus that goes back to the first followers who were witnesses to the ministry and his crucifixion and his resurrection. I think it is important that our report about what Jesus said and did is grounded in history and not a warm feeling that I might have in my heart.
At its heart the creed presents a god who became human just like you and me. A god who: struggled against temptation to do it the selfish and easy way. A god: whose behavior and ethics caused others to accuse him of blasphemy? A god who: carried a cross and forgave his enemies. A god who: forgave and recalled his friends after they abandoned him. A god who: called us to follow him and to live a life as his disciples. A life that: seeks to live as he did each according to our own way. And for the church to be useful it must also make certain that it looks exactly like Jesus so that when people from the outside look at it that they can see it as Jesus living presence in the world.
The creed at its heart bears witness to the character of the one god, father son and spirit who have revealed themselves as an intercommunion of love, a love which has been shown in human history and which is poured into our hearts as love. Genuine theology is talk about God that resists flights of imagination and at all times remains focused on the god seen in Jesus.
I believe in theology, but I do not believe in my theology. I believe in the discipline of theology but my faith rests, not in my capacity to think or consider all things divine, but in God’s thoughts about space, time, history, creation, humanity, you and me. Theology is not that in which we put our faith, it is simply our best articulation of how we frame our experience. Theology is not about who has it right, but who is living faithfully and thinking faithfully after God.x I believe theology is important because we are also called on to love god with our minds as well as our souls and bodies.
All theology beings with god and we are blessed to
have a revealed as three expressions or hypostases, Father Son and spirit. This is why I love the Nicene Creed. This is
why I delight in its phrases. This little statement has always been the basis
for the Christian faith. To begin otherwise is to place oneself outside the
realm of Christian thought. To begin here brings assurance that we have
understood something deep and profound: God is one, and that Oneness has made
all things very, very good. That oneness has been revealed in the exquisite
extraordinary teacher from
If we take the structure of the Nicene Creed seriously one of the things we will have to do is to say is that Jesus is identical to the Father, and if, from the gospels, we can make a case that Jesus was loving, forgiving, healing, nurturing and caring, then we must also say that the father is also loving, forgiving, healing, nurturing and caring. Unlike the capricious mind changing god misunderstood in the old testament, it means our God concept will be reframed. It means that we simply place the name of Jesus and say, if we have known the Son, we have also known the Father. This is the starting place for understanding the doctrine of the God as Trinity.