Click play to listen to the audio version of this sermon.
To download the mp3 file, right click the image below and "save as."
I. Who God Is
“Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except everyone keeps whole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish eternally.” This is how the Athanasian Creed begins.
The “catholic faith” is then spelled out in great detail. “And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God, in three persons and the three persons in one God, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance…” etc. etc. etc.
And then the Athanasian Creed concludes with these words. “This is the catholic faith which, except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.” (Athanasian Creed). In other words, its do or die.
If the Athanasian Creed sounds strange to our ears, it may be because we’re not used to talking about WHO GOD IS. We’re a lot more accustomed to talking about WHAT GOD DOES.
He creates, He redeems, He sanctifies. He comforts, He guides, He hears my prayers, He answers my prayers. “He works all things for good to those who love Him….”
We like talking about God in terms of WHAT HE DOES – especially WHAT HE DOES FOR ME. And I’m not suggesting for one minute that we should not think and talk about God in that way.
But the three, ecumenical Creeds, the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian creeds, talk a lot about WHO GOD IS. Especially the Athanasian Creed, which goes so far as to talk about WHO GOD IS NOT.
I think too, that there’s another reason why the Athanasian Creed sounds strange to our ears. It’s those sentences that bracket the whole thing. “Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except everyone keeps whole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish eternally.” And, “This is the catholic faith which, except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”
In a culture that demands INCLUSIVITY and ACCEPTANCE of every belief and way of life, the EXCUSIVITY so clearly enunciated here makes this Creed a tough pill to swallow, irregardless of what it actually says about God. We’ve become very familiar with a different sounding creed that goes something like this:
“Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the human faith. Which faith, except everyone keeps whole and undefiled, without doubt, he will never reach his full potential. And the human faith is this, that we worship one god, in many persons, and each person is his own god; neither confusing the one god with the many beliefs, nor dividing the many beliefs into true or false, nor right or wrong. For there is only one god and every religion is the same, and every religion leads to the same god. This is the human faith which, except a woman/man believe faithfully and firmly, she/he cannot be taken seriously and must surely be rejected and silenced.” Continue reading