Last week, our Staff Seminary featured Don Fairbairn, the Academic Dean and Professor Of Early Christian Thought at nearby Gordon-Conwell Seminary.
In addition to all that, he is a member of the Princeton University Class of 1985, which means that we overlapped on that campus for three years.
Don and I were in the same ministry group, the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship (PEF) — since re-named the Princeton Christian Fellowship — and so had many of the same circles of friends. Everybody at PEF knew Don was smart and we all figured he was headed for a career teaching theology. Done and done.
By a grace-filled confluence of events, we have ended up working and ministering less than one mile apart — from one end of Moss Road to another — and so as I seek to empower our staff to be the best thinkers and leaders they can be, it was natural that invited Don to share with us. I was overjoyed when he said yes.
He held a spellbinding conversation on The Nicene Creed, The Trinity, And Us. And guess what? Since it’s Tuesday, I have five takeaways from a morning full of wisdom and history. Here they are:
- The Nicene Creed, which was crafted between about 330 and 381 AD, has the most widespread acceptance of any post-biblical church related writing. Most of us United Methodists are more familiar with the Apostles’ Creed, which has wide support to be sure, but the Nicene Creed is more ancient, more comprehensive, and more revered in global Christianity. It is also much harder to recite, which explains why the Apostles’ Creed has more use, at least in the USA.
- Neither Creed addresses WHAT we believe. Instead, they both codify IN WHOM we believe. There is an enormous difference between those two understandings.
- The Trinity is less conceptual and mathmatical and more relational and intimate. Even the ever popular H20 comparison (the Trinity is like water, ice, and steam, all H20 yet in distinct forms) treats the Godhead more as functions than as persons.
- We are not saved by the doctrine of justification by faith. We are saved by the One to whom that doctrine points. Whew, that’s big!
- Because all the redemptive arrows point down, all the proclamation arrows ought to point up. The beauty of the Nicene Creed is that it doesn’t point to US. It points to HIM. May it be so with preaching and teaching.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the Nicene Creed, here it is:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.