Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Whoever will be saved..."

I continue to read Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb and find it both an easy read and very informative. I've reached Chapter 5 in the book about the "Athanasian Creed," composed some time in the 5th or 6th centuries. The creed begins:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. .... [the creed]
Holcomb explains why this creed is important including, toward the end of the chapter, this:
.... Why should we have to believe these particular things to be saved? For centuries, scholars and Christian leaders have expressed their discontent with the confident proclamation that to believe these things is to be saved, but to deny them is to "assuredly perish eternally." .... We have a hard time accepting that eternal damnation is the potential result for any human being. This creed serves to remind us of that fact. Even its damnatory clauses are helpful "in the reminder they give of the awful responsibility of making the right decision in matters of fundamental belief."

The Christian faith is not only a matter of the heart, an exercise in sentimentality, for "Christian faith is a matter of the, mind as well as the heart and the will, and as thinking persons we must give intellectual expression to our faith." Still it does not demand blind acceptance to empty propositions. It is concerned with the direction of our souls. To paraphrase Philip Schaff, the point of the creed is not that we are saved by memorizing a set of statements, but that we are saved by trusting in the one who has revealed himself. Trusting in him, as far as he has told us about himself, is what saves, while straying from him is what condemns. The Athanasian Creed points us to the identity of the one who saves. [emphasis added]
Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin S. Holcomb