Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith. Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.~ Excerpt from the Athanasian Creed
Dear People of God,
I’m not going to go into the history of the Athanasian Creed and how it came to be. We’ll save that for a future topic in Christian Education. For now, I will simply address some of its theology. Remember that the creeds are gleaned from the scriptures. In a way that act as a summary. But between the three ecumenical creeds, the Athanasian is the most detailed.
We only recite it one Sunday a year, on the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. The above phrase is from the first line of the creed. As you can see, the line is two-pronged. The first sentence contains a promise—that those who cling to the catholic faith will be saved. Here the lowercase “c” catholic is an indication of the “universal Christian faith.” It means that Christian faith can’t be peculiar, it is something we hold together with other Christians. Nor is it something we can construct according to our own preferences like what we at in a cafeteria.
The universal Christian faith is something we hold in common with believers in Christ of every age and place. Its content is in common. Any deviation is a move away from the truth.
The second sentence contains a judgment—anyone who do not hold this faith whole and undamaged will perish eternally. It is a stark statement. And I am bound never to contradict it. So what do we do with such a judgment? One piece of wisdom I’ve learned is when I do come across a judgment like this in this creed, in the scriptures, or in the mouth of Jesus himself (which it is), I must consider what the warning is directing us to.
What is its purpose? Remember, that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:17). God is directing us to the means of being saved, faith in Jesus the Christ.
Other means besides what God has revealed are not worthy of our trust and loyalty and will harm us. This is an assertion. And in our day no one likes assertions because they make us uncomfortable. But we cannot be Christians unless we do make the assertion.
It is not our own devised assertion, after all. What is at stake here is the proclamation of the gospel—that God restores human beings to himself in whomever he chooses to show his favor. And that is received apart from any worthiness of our own, through the faith that God creates within us, for the sake of Christ.
God gives us warnings not to be a jerk but because like a loving parent he wants us to have good gifts the Word and sacraments, which give us eternal life. The Athanasian Creed defines this common faith necessary for salvation by teaching us about the Trinity and about who this Jesus Christ is. God has made a promise that through faith in Christ we shall be saved. Cling to Christ. He will not forsake you.
Peace and joy,
Pastor Levi Powers