See:Hebrew Names of God for your edification on the character of God.
The controversy over the Triune God, as well as other matters, were 'resolved' in the early Church by Creeds and Statements of Faith.
Creeds and Statements of Faith
Harold O.J. Brown wrote a book called HERESIES in which he explains, in an easy to read fashion, that "orthodox" (standard-holding to central truths) Christianity was defined by three important documents The controversy over the Triune God, as well as other matters, were 'resolved' in the early Church by Creeds and Statements of Faith:
I have decided to post those creeds here. While these creeds may not be deemed by all people to be perfect, or even acceptable, they are here at the very least for historical purposes. I post the The Anathemas of the Second Council of Constantinople (553 AD) as a point of interest because here is where certain people were named and rejected as "anathema". The Apostles Creed at the bottom of the page is reproduced because it is a classic confession of faith that many of us have probably heard or said before.
-Teri Lee Earl
Note: When the term "catholic" is used in the creeds below, it refers to the true Christian church of all times and all places. It is not a reference to the Roman Catholic Church.
Recommended overview book re: little known Church History:
The Pilgrim Church by E. H. Broadbent. See: Excepts from Forward by Dave Hunt
If interested, see also our Personal Statement of Faith
The Nicene Creed, also called the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed, is a statement of the orthodox faith of the early Christian church in opposition to certain heresies, especially Arianism. These heresies, which disturbed the church during the fourth century, concerned the doctrine of the trinity and of the person of Christ. Both the Greek (Eastern) and the Latin (Western) church held this creed in honor, though with one important difference: the Western church insisted on the inclusion of the phrase and the Son (known as the filioque) in the article on the procession of the Holy Spirit; this phrase still is repudiated by the Eastern Orthodox church. In its present form this creed goes back partially to the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) with additions by the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381). It was accepted in its present form at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, but the filioque phrase was not added until 589. However, the creed is in substance an accurate and majestic formulation of the Nicene faith.
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. 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.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and to life in the world to come. Amen
Footnote: Again, the words, "holy catholic and apostolic Church" is a reference to the world-wide and universal Church of all believers recognized by the Father and Jesus, united in Spirit although not necessarily physically in one place, one fellowship, or in one denomination or under any man's recognition.
Arianism (submitted by Mike Kovach) What exactly happened at the famous Council of Nicea, when the Roman emperor convened some 250 quarreling Christian bishops? -By Robert Payne
This creed is named after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373), the champion of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the trinity. Although Athanasius did not write this creed and it is improperly named after him, the name persists because until the seventeenth century it was commonly ascribed to him. It is not from Greek (Eastern), but from Latin (Western) origin, and is not recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church today. Apart from the opening and closing sentences, this creed consists of two parts, the first setting forth the orthodox doctrine of the trinity, and the second dealing chiefly with the incarnation and the two-natures doctrine.
Again: "catholic" is not defined in this document as the denominational "Catholic", but rather by the old definition.
Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith. Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith: That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is immeasurable, the Son is immeasurable, the Holy Spirit is immeasurable. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being. So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings; there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being. Similarly, the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty. Yet there are not three almighty beings; there is but one almighty being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three gods; there is but one God. Thus the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord. Yet there are not three lords; there is but one Lord.
Just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually as both God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords. The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone. The Son was neither made nor created; he was begotten from the Father alone. The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten; he proceeds from the Father and the Son. Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers; there is one Son, not three sons; there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. Nothing in this trinity is before or after, nothing is greater or smaller; in their entirety the three persons are coeternal and coequal with each other
So in everything, as was said earlier, we must worship their trinity in their unity and their unity in their trinity. Anyone then who desires to be saved should think thus about the trinity. But it is necessary for eternal salvation that one also believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.
Now this is the true faith: That we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, is both God and human, equally. He is God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time; and he is human from the essence of his mother, born in time; completely God, completely human, with a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as regards divinity, less than the Father as regards humanity. Although he is God and human, yet Christ is not two, but one. He is one, however, not by his divinity being turned into flesh, but by God's taking humanity to himself. He is one, certainly not by the blending of his essence, but by the unity of his person.
For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh, so too the one Christ is both God and human. He suffered for our salvation; he descended to hell; he arose from the dead; he ascended to heaven; he is seated at the Father's right hand; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all people will arise bodily and give an accounting of their own deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire
This is the catholic faith: one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.
Footnote: Although the Eastern Orthodox Church does not choose to recognize this creed, and is known for refusing fellowship with anyone who is not part of their church, and indeed it is rumored that most look upon anyone outside their Church as going to hell, we refuse such sectarianism if it be true. Regardless, we would indeed choose to accept them in good-standing regardless of any perceived differences defined by the Athanasian Creed.
Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul <meaning human soul and a body>. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these "last days," for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness
We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten -- in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the "properties" of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one "person" and in one reality <hypostasis>. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word <Logos> of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers <the Nicene Creed> has handed down to us.
On the Definition of Calcedon:
The Second Council of Constantinople was called to resolve certain questions that were raised by the Definition of Chalcedon, the most important of which had to do with the unity of the two natures, God and man, is Jesus Christ. The Second Council of Constantinople confirmed the Definition of Chalcedon, while emphasizing that Jesus Christ does not just embody God the Son, He is God the Son.
The end result of this Second Council of Constantinople is reproduced below:
The Anathemas of the Second Council of Constantinople (553 AD)
I. If anyone does not confess that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one nature or essence, one power or authority, worshipped as a trinity of the same essence, one deity in three hypostases or persons, let him be anathema. For there is one God and Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and one Holy Spirit, in whom are all things.
II. If anyone does not confess that God the Word was twice begotten, the first before all time from the Father, non-temporal and bodiless, the other in the last days when he came down from the heavens and was incarnate by the holy, glorious, God-bearer, ever-virgin Mary, and born of her, let him be anathema.
III. If anyone says that God the Word who performed miracles is one and Christ who suffered is another, or says that God the Word was together with Christ who came from woman, or that the Word was in him as one person is in another, but is not one and the same, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, incarnate and become human, and that the wonders and the suffering which he voluntarily endured in flesh were not of the same person, let him be anathema.
IV. If anyone says that the union of the Word of God with man was only according to grace or function or dignity or equality of honor or authority or relation or effect or power or according to his good pleasure, as though God the Word was pleased with man, or approved of him, as the raving Theodosius says; or that the union exists according to similarity of name, by which the Nestorians call God the Word Jesus and Christ, designating the man separately as Christ and as Son, speaking thus clearly of two persons, but when it comes to his honor, dignity, and worship, pretend to say that there is one person, one Son and one Christ, by a single designation; and if he does not acknowledge, as the holy Fathers have taught, that the union of God is made with the flesh animated by a reasonable and intelligent soul, and that such union is according to synthesis or hypostasis, and that therefore there is only one person, the Lord Jesus Christ one of the holy Trinity -- let him be anathema. As the word "union" has many meanings, the followers of the impiety of Apollinaris and Eutyches, assuming the disappearance of the natures, affirm a union by confusion. On the other hand the followers of Theodore and of Nestorius rejoicing in the division of the natures, introduce only a union of relation. But the holy Church of God, rejecting equally the impiety of both heresies, recognizes the union of God the Word with the flesh according to synthesis, that is according to hypostasis. For in the mystery of Christ the union according to synthesis preserves the two natures which have combined without confusion and without separation.
V. If anyone understands the expression -- one hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ -- so that it means the union of many hypostases, and if he attempts thus to introduce into the mystery of Christ two hypostases, or two persons, and, after having introduced two persons, speaks of one person according to dignity, honor or worship, as Theodore and Nestorius insanely have written; and if anyone slanders the holy synod of Chalcedon, as though it had used this expression <one hypostasis> in this impious sense, and does not confess that the Word of God is united with the flesh hypostatically, and that therefore there is but one hypostasis or one person, and that the holy synod of Chalcedon has professed in this sense the one hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ; let him be anathema. For the Holy Trinity, when God the Word was incarnate, was not increased by the addition of a person or hypostasis.
VI. If anyone says that the holy, glorious, and ever-virgin Mary is called God-bearer by misuse of language and not truly, or by analogy, believing that only a mere man was born of her and that God the Word was not incarnate of her, but that the incarnation of God the Word resulted only from the fact that he united himself to that man who was born of her; if anyone slanders the Holy Synod of Chalcedon as though it had asserted the Virgin to be God-bearer according to the impious sense of Theodore; or if anyone shall call her manbearer or Christbearer, as if Christ were not God, and shall not confess that she is truly God-bearer, because God the Word who before all time was begotten of the Father was in these last days incarnate of her, and if anyone shall not confess that in this pious sense the holy Synod of Chalcedon confessed her to be God-bearer: let him be anathema.
VII. If anyone using the expression, "in two natures," does not confess that our one Lord Jesus Christ is made known in the deity and in the manhood, in order to indicate by that expression a difference of the natures of which the ineffable union took place without confusion, a union in which neither the nature of the Word has changed into that of the flesh, nor that of the flesh into that of the Word (for each remained what it was by nature, even when the union by hypostasis had taken place); but shall take the expression with regard to the mystery of Christ in a sense so as to divide the parties, let him be anathema. Or if anyone recognizing the number of natures in the same our one Lord Jesus Christ, God the Word incarnate, does not take in contemplation only the difference of the natures which compose him, which difference is not destroyed by the union between them -- for one is composed of the two and the two are in one -- but shall make use of the number two to divide the natures or to make of them persons properly so called, let him be anathema.
VIII. If anyone confesses that the union took place out of two natures or speaks of the one incarnate nature of God the Word and does not understand those expressions as the holy Fathers have taught, that out of the divine and human natures, when union by hypostasis took place, one Christ was formed; but from these expressions tries to introduce one nature or essence of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; let him be anathema. For in saying that the only-begotten Word was united by hypostasis personally we do not mean that there was a mutual confusion of natures, but rather we understand that the Word was united to the lesh, each nature remaining what it was. Therefore there is one Christ, God and man, of the same essence with the Father as touching his Godhead, and of the same essence with us as touching his manhood. Therefore the Church of God equally rejects and anathematizes those who divide or cut apart or who introduce confusion into the mystery of the divine dispensation of Christ.
IX. If anyone says that Christ ought to be worshipped in his two natures, in the sense that he introduces two adorations, the one peculiar to God the Word and the other peculiar to the man; or if anyone by destroying the flesh, or by confusing the Godhead and the humanity, or by contriving one nature or essence of those which were united and so worships Christ, and does not with one adoration worship God the Word incarnate with his own flesh, as the Church of God has received from the beginning; let him be anathema.
X. If anyone does not confess that our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified in the flesh is true God and the Lord of Glory and one of the Holy Trinity; let him be anathema.
XI. If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, together with their impious, godless writings, and all the other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the holy catholic and apostolic Church, and by the aforementioned four Holy Synods and all those who have held and hold or who in their godlessness persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned; let him be anathema.
Symbolum Apostolorum (Apostle's Creed)
The Apostles' Creed can trace its ancestry, in one form or another, back to the time of the Apostles. The present form first appeared in the 6th century in the writings of Caesarius of Arles (d 542), but prior versions can be traced back to 340 AD in a letter to Pope Julius I and even still further back to a circa 200 document containing the Roman baptismal liturgy. It appears that originally this Creed was a baptismal creed summarizing the teachings of the Apostles and was given to the catechumens when they were baptized.
Instead of the continuous prayer as we have it today, each line was rather in the form of a question to which the catechumen gave assent indicating he both understood and believed. This form is similar to the form found in the Easter Liturgy for the renewal of the Baptismal promises. Eventually this question and answer style was modified into the prayer form as we have it today. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who recite the Symbolum Apostolorum.
Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae. Et in Iesum Christum, Filium eius unicum, Dominum nostrum, qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, descendit ad infernos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis, ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis, inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem et vitam aeternam. Amen.
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 was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He shall come 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.
See also our Unity and Nonsectarianism section.
Other subjects covered in 'Basics'