The Nicene Creed – The Ancient Summary of Our Faith

A set of three talks on the Nicene Creed was given recently by Bishop Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington and it was a great opportunity for many of us (clergy and lay people) to learn more about this important creed. On most Sundays in many churches around the world from a variety of traditions, Christians will say the Nicene Creed together. So what is the Nicene Creed? And why does it matter?
Written in 325AD in the town of Nicaea (in modern-day Turkey) and tweaked many times over the next 100 years, the Nicene Creed is a summary — 135 words or so in most English translations — of what it means to be a Christian.
The opening line, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God” is a punchy, defiant and assertive proclamation of a community standing proudly together in their belief in one God – a belief system that was still radical in 325AD. It is important because it unites Christian churches across the world, and because it succinctly articulates and defines the Christian faith. At the time of its writing, the Council of Nicaea had come to the view that a Creed (from the Latin ‘credo’ – ‘I believe’) was needed to define Christianity’s beliefs, and to act as a corrective against people going off-message.
For example, the so-called Arian controversy centred on the divinity of Christ – can we know God through Jesus? Or is Jesus separate from God? If Jesus was no more than a good son, how can he be perfect and eternal? Is it demeaning to God to identify Jesus as eternal? To many people, Gods who had sons were pagan Gods. Christianity stood for something very different, not least in the concept of a single, one God. The Nicene Creed and its later iterations settled the matter by using a Greek word that translates as “of the same essence” – in English: “of one Being with the Father.” The Nicene Creed was a way for Christians to set out their stall.
Jayne Moore