My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Review: The Nicene Creed: A Scriptural, Historical, and Theological Commentary

The Nicene Creed: A Scriptural, Historical, and Theological Commentary The Nicene Creed: A Scriptural, Historical, and Theological Commentary by Jared Ortiz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Most of Christianity is considered to be a creedal religion, that is, governed by a specific statement of faith that members of a particular church must assent to (from the Latin credo meaning ‘I believe’). While not emphasized much, the Protestant tradition in which I grew up held to the 7th century Apostle’s Creed. Once I was confirmed into the Catholic faith, I became more aware of the Nicene Creed as well (Catholics pretty much recent one creed or another at the drop of a hat) … and I learned a lot about how these creeds came to be (predominately in response to various heresies that the early Church was struggling with), so I was extremely interest in this book to see if it confirmed what I already knew and if it presented anything new [to learn]. I am happy to report it delivered in spades.

The book is organized into six (6) chapters, each taking part of the Nicene Creed to examine (in broad strokes or themes). Each chapter begins with a general introduction of the over all theme or topic before it is further divided into sections that go into details on a phrase or statement within the chapter theme (such as what it means to say ‘I believe’ or say ‘one God’ et al). Included with the section header are references to the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Catholic Catechism (so obviously this is a very Catholic centric book). In addition, we get this section of the creed in three (3) languages (English, Latin and Greek). Each section generally has four (4) parts: A Theological Exposition to talk about the theology behind this part of the creed, A Witness to the Tradition that references early Church thinking about an element of this theology with source citations (this can repeated for different elements and/or viewpoints), Contemporary Issues that talk about current thinking and/or struggles with this element of the creed, and finally a part called Living the Mystery which talks about how the faithful should live out this part of the creed. There are a generally number of callouts/sidebars under the headed of Lex Orandi that review how a particular element is reflected within the liturgy as well. Finally at the end we get a straight up side buy side comparison of the different creeds, including the latin and greek versions plus a glossary of terms that is simply fantastic on its own … making this book incredibly well researched and organized; I highly recommended it.

The chapters and sections in this work are


1. Belief
2. God the Father
3. God the Son Divine
4. God the Son Incarnate
5. God the Holy Spirit
6. Life in the Trinity

Appendix 1: Three Creeds Compared
Appendix 2: The Nicene Creed in Latin and Greek

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

Faced with these considerable deviations in teaching, the Church needed to find a way to communicate and confess effectively the true faith received from the apostles. One response was the development of what we call “the †rule of faith” (or “the rule of truth”)

In the early Church, the primary form of the creed used in catechesis and especially in baptism was interrogatory—that is, it was delivered through question and answer: Do you believe in God, the Father almighty?

Creeds used in preaching, teaching, and worship were typically declaratory in form—that is, they confessed the faith through a declaration of the truth: I believe in God, the Father almighty, and so on.

The Creed serves as a fixed rule of faith, a measuring stick of what we as Christians believe. It helps us to interpret the Scriptures we just heard, to confirm the orthodoxy of the sermon just preached, and to unite our minds and hearts in confession of what we believe.

The important thing was “orthopraxy.” It did not matter that Polycarp was not truly devoted to the pagan gods; it did not matter that his heart was not really in his action; what mattered was the action. Roman religion was civic religion, and participating was required for everyone.

In the first category were groups such as pagan polytheists, †Marcionite dualists, and Gnostic emanationists. In the second category were modalists, like Noetus and Sabellius, and subordinationists, like the Arians who inspired the Council of Nicaea.

Paternal imagery was common when treating the ruler of the city and the divine ruler of the cosmos. In the ancient world, fatherly rule was the primary model for rightly ordered monarchy, so it was natural to think of the chief god as father over the world. Zeus was considered the father of the gods and humans.

In Christian theological terminology, to be “father” means “to pass on a nature” (this definition fits human as well as divine begetting). The Father is God; therefore, the Son is God (“God from God”). The Son is the same nature as the Father, which he receives not in time (that would make him a creation) but eternally.

This opening line, “for us men and for our salvation,” communicates three things: (1) the recipients of the Son’s work (those for whom he came); (2) the purpose of the Son’s work (why he came); and (3) the opening act of that work (how he came).

More generally, the Spirit leads the early Christians in mission (8:29; 11:28; 13:2; 16:6–7) and guides them as they seek to resolve difficult issues in the Christian community (15:28).

The Spirit not only distributes a multitude of gifts to the members of the Christian community (1 Cor. 12:3–13), but even reveals to us the mind of God (2:10–14). The Spirit is the one who dwells within us and sanctifies us in both body and soul (3:16).

Now it is a property of love to move and impel the will of the lover towards the object loved.”164 Because the Scriptures identify the Spirit particularly with the love of God (see Rom. 5:5), Aquinas concludes that it is fitting that we call this †procession of love by the name “Spirit.”

But in addition to this, if the Spirit is truly Lord, then we have an obligation to follow the Spirit and be utterly docile to him. Just as we follow and obey Jesus as Lord and follow him wherever he leads (Rev. 14:4), so too we should follow the Spirit, who is also our Lord.

The unique quality of the Spirit’s “speaking” is that the Spirit always makes use of a human being (and a human voice or pen) to speak. We never hear the Spirit’s words coming down the wind or out of the blue—the “Spirit speaks,” but he always speaks through the words of a human being.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheNiceneCreed #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.