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The Athanasian Creed

The Athanasian Creed which does a fine job of teaching the doctrines of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ. Not only does it teach these doctrines, it states that true faith in God holds to these doctrines, that anyone not holding to these doctrines "whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly."

Of interesting note is the strength with which the Athanasian Creed confesses the two natures of Christ. "The Athanasian Creed boldly uses the key Nicene term homoousios ('one substance', 'one in Being') not only with respect to the relation of the Son to the Father according to his divine nature, but that the Son is homoousios with his mother Mary, according to his human nature."

Now, while the creed bears the name Athanasian, it is widely believed that Athanasius is not the author. While he was a key figure in combating the Arian heresy at the First Council of Nicea (from which came the Nicene Creed) in defense of the doctrine of the Trinity (as well as the two natures of Christ), he never mentions having penned this creed in his writings. The Athanasian Creed also includes phrasing that is in line with later councils, councils following Athanasius' death. It seems that first use of this creed was at least 100 years after Athanasius.

Because of the Trinitarian nature of the creed, the Athanasian Creed is one that is used on a particular day as opposed to a particular setting. Naturally, that day would be The Holy Trinity (the Sunday following Pentecost Sunday). However, it is not a hard-and-fast rule that the Athanasian Creed is confessed on that day; it is merely traditional to do so. This does not dimish its place as one of the three ecumenical creeds.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic [i.e., universal, Christian] faith.

Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,

Neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.

But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.

The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.

The Father incomprehenisble, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.

The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.

And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal.

As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty; and the Holy Ghost almighty.

And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.

And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.

And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord,

So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, There be three Gods or three Lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten.

The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another;

But the whole three Persons are coeternal together and coequal, so that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshiped.

He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;

God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world;

Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father as touching his Godhead and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood;

Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ:

One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God;

One altogether; not by confusion of Substance; but by unity of Person.

For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;

Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead;

He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give an account of their own works.

And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.1

This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

1No one can do good in the eyes of God apart from true faith (often called saving faith) in Jesus the Christ, His death and resurrection.