The main teachings of the Bible have been summarized in documents called creeds and confessions.
From among the many written throughout the history of the Christian church, we have chosen to adopt three creeds as our own. These creeds come from the early church, namely the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed.
We consider these creeds to be faithful summaries of the Word of God. As human documents, however, they possess human authority. Only the Word of God possesses divine authority. The contents of our creeds are always subject to and tested by the standard of the Word of God.
To read more about our confessions, click here.
THE APOSTLES’ CREED
This creed is called the Apostles’ Creed, not because it was written by the apostles themselves, but because it contains a brief summary of their teachings. It sets forth their doctrine, as has been said, “In sublime simplicity, in unsurpassable brevity, in beautiful order, and with liturgical solemnity.”
The Apostles’ Creed is based on the creed used in Rome around 400 A.D., which in turn goes back another 200 years. It is typical of the creeds used in the western part of the Roman empire.
THE NICENE CREED
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 concerned the doctrine of the Trinity and the person of Christ and were refuted at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.). Yet it was not this Council but the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) which adopted the Nicene Creed. This Council incorporated into its creed various formulations from the decisions of Nicea and expanded the confession concerning the Holy Spirit.
The Nicene Creed is typical of the creeds used in the eastern part of the Roman empire. Both the Eastern and Western church held it in honor, although with one important difference. The Western church included the phrase “and the Son” (known as the Filioque) in the article on the procession of the Holy Spirit, a phrase which to this day is repudiated by the Eastern church.
THE ATHANASIAN CREED
This creed is named after Athanasius (293-373 A.D.), the champion of orthodoxy over 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 it was commonly ascribed to him until the 17th century. It is also called the Quicunque, this being its opening word in the Latin original.
Apart from the opening and closing sentences, it consists of two sections, the first setting forth the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity (3-28), and the second dealing with the doctrine of Christ, especially concerning the two natures (29-43). The teachings of Augustine (354-430 A.D.) in particular form the background to the Christological section.
The creed itself appears for the first time in the first half of the sixth century, but the author is unknown. It is of Western origin, and is not recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
These are our creeds, which we hold as faithful summaries of the Word of God. Similarly, we’ve adopted three confessions. These also come from the early Christian church.