29 May 2010

"And this is the catholic faith..."

says the Athanasian Creed, "that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance."

The Athanasian Creed does not say that the catholic faith is that we submit to the Pope as Christ's vicar on earth; that we recognize the infallibility of the Bishop of Rome when he speaks ex cathedra, or any such thing.  It says the catholic faith is that we WORSHIP the Blessed Trinity without dividing the Divine Unity.

"That's too catholic" can only be greeted with "I sure hope so!"  You can't be "too" worshipping of the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity, can you???

12 comments:

Father Hollywood said...

According to our Creed, there are no non-Catholics in heaven!

Christopher Esget said...

I remember you pointing out the significance of "worship" in the Athanasian Creed when I was a newly-minted pastor in the SID. It revolutionized my thinking then, and I will always be grateful to you for this insight.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Beane, this is most certainly true!

Fr. Esget, thanks. I am sure someone taught me that along the way (Bronxville?) but I sure don't remember anymore. But it does light up the Creed enormously! Pax!

philiphoppe said...

What about the end?
"At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
and shall give 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."
I know how to exlain this as a catholic Lutheran. But I can guarentee that there is no way such a statement would ever be agreed upon by Lutherans today. and I must admit it still makes me uncomfortable to speak in in the midst of eople at various levels of catechesis.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Philip:

You write:

"But I can guarentee that there is no way such a statement would ever be agreed upon by Lutherans today."

I have never heard of any Lutherans anywhere who have disavowed this creed. In the LCMS, it has been in every English language hymnal at least since 1941 (and I suspect the older English and German ones as well). It is liturgically confessed in many of our congregations (as it was this morning in my own, will be again on Wednesday, and will be once more on the last week before Advent - a parochial custom I inherited).

It sometimes raises eyebrows if one reads into it a cause-and-effect relationship (this is known as the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy). But if read it carefully, shows no cause-and-effect. Heaven or hell is rather the consequence of our Lord's assertion that good trees bear good fruits and vice versa. Justification makes the tree good, and the good tree bears fruit.

Jesus says the same thing in Matt 25:31-46 as does St. Paul in Rom 2:6-10.

We evangelical Lutherans (as we rightfully stress justification and the Gospel) need to be reminded that good works are not optional, even if they are not the cause of salvation. As the first-generation Lutheran hymnist Paul Speratus wrote: "Works serve our neighbor and supply / The proof that faith is living" ("Salvation Unto Us Has Come," LSB 555:9).

The LCMS website has a very good explanation here.

-C said...

Though the ELCA has not officially disavowed it, it does not appear in their new-ish "primary worship resource" (hymnal, ELW) with the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.

philiphoppe said...

FH,
I am a Lutheran Pastor also. I know how to understand this passage and do preach and teach as you have stated. My point was that if this statement was written today, it would not be approved by most Lutherans. It is precisely because of its usage in the history of the church that we are comfortable with it. And when you or I hear it, we hear it in the way that you have stated, but I wonder what our people hear?

This creed was used daily in morning devotions in medieval times (from what I can tell, its practical use was most frequent in this period) which probably accounts for its ready acceptance by the Reformers as noted in the confessions. However, I can't help but miss the connection that at the time most flooded by a doctrine of works righteousness, this creed also enjoyed its greatest popularity.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think the Athanasian creed could be agreed upon by Lutherans today.

LINO's... "not so much"
When a synod has disposed of Genesis (and other books) as "myth" the underpinnings of the Creeds get a little shaky.

With no original sin, there is no rational for claiming a Savior.

Some people have at least "two separate sides to their heads" when it comes to their "faith"!

--helen

Anonymous said...

The end of this creed would never, ever, be approved it were written today. There is too much room for confusion there.

Anonymous said...

When did the practice of substituting the Athanasian Creed for the Nicene Creed become in vogue in LCMS parishes? I know way back in 1941 it was acceptable to use it in Matins, but when did it become part of the Divine Liturgy (in the 80's/90's with LW)?

William Weedon said...

The conclusion, of course, merely quotes our Lord from John 5. Hopefully we've not reached the point of disagreeing with HIM! :)

As far as the use of the Creed, ever since I became a Lutheran I remember using it on Trinity Sunday, regardless of what liturgy was being used on that day. I know Piepkorn insists it may be used but that it may not replace the Nicene Creed - I expect that rubric was written in protest of what was the de facto practice.

Dennis said...

It shows once again that Dr. Luther did not want to break from the church catholic. This should be great consolation for those of us who remain to defend the faith that was once delivered, to preach the fullness of the faith despite others wanting to water it down. For it is in the fullness and richness of the Christian tradition that we walk with the great Saints who trod the way before us and aided by their teachings come to a greater appreciation of what our Lord did for us men and for our salvation.