Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 29

The Nicene Creed ~ Part 15


In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Lord

The time between the first iteration of the Creed and its second in 381CE proved to be a tumultuous time in understanding the short phrase of the Creed of 325CE meant when it confessed, We believe in the Ruach. Around the middle of the fourth century, challenges began to emerge from the Arians, the Pneumatomachians (or “Spirit-fighters”), and from Eunomius as to what this confession meant. They spoke of belief in the Ruach as a creature and as less than God. In working out the implications of its confession of belief in the Ruach, the ancient Messianic writers of the mid-fourth century—as well as their opponents -began to understand that whatever happened with the doctrine of the Son also affected the doctrine of the Ruach and vice versa. If the Son is not fully God, the Ruach is not fully God; and if the Ruah is not fully God, then neither is the Son. It was no longer enough to confess belief in the Ruach. If an Arian or a Pneumatomachians could profess belief in the Ruach just as quickly as an orthodox Believer, then the time had come to clarify what the Kehillah believed about the Ruach.

By the time of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381CE, there is every indication that the Council found itself somewhat divided in its articulation of belief about the Ruach. Although we have less information about the discussions that went on at the Second Ecumenical Council than of any other, we know thirty-six Macedonian bishops at the Council would not have affirmed anything more than the Ruach was a creature, albeit a high and holy creature. Their presence and subsequent departure may explain the reaction of Gregory of Nazianzus, who presided at the Council for a time, who asked directly in one of his orations at the time if the Ruach is God. His frustration in getting a clear answer to this question perhaps explains why he offered his resignation in the middle of the Council.

Politically speaking, the bishops had learned their lesson from the previous Council’s discussion of the term of the same essence, which the Arians had charged was an invalid term because it was not found in Scripture. Although the Cappadocians soundly answered this objection, the wording that ultimately won the day in speaking of the Ruach was decidedly and deliberately Scriptural.

This was a delicate political time in the life of Kehillah and state, both of which were looking for a united front against threats from without. The language of the third article of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381CE, in language that some might consider a compromise, nowhere explicitly calls the Ruach God. And yet, the terminology they used can lead to no other conclusion.

Thus, other phrases were added to the Creed to clarify the Kehillah’s understanding of the Ruach. The way had been prepared for these additions earlier in the middle of the century by Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lectures, Athanasius, and his Four Letters to Serapion (371CE) as well as his Synodal letters, Basil of Caesarea, and his treatise On the Ruach (374CE).[1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp. 1–2).

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