Skip to comments.The Rev. Samuel Edwards: third in a series on the Nicene Creed
Posted on 10/05/2005 6:53:32 PM PDT by sionnsar
This sermon from the Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter in Alabama is the third in a series on the Nicene Creed:
Blueprint of Belief: The Nicene CreedTwo brief comments here: first, this sermon by Rev. Edwards gives one of the best arguments against any doctrine of "continuing revelation" that I have seen. Indeed, if Christ is the definitive revelation of God, why would we need any further revelation? "He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Second, what a picture we have here of the ultimate Reality, transcending all else, into which we are invited to enter and become part of that Kingdom. In some respects this reminds me of the Narnia series.
Sermon III: The only-begotten Son
(Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2005)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten not made; being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made .
Probably the original Christian creed was two Greek words: Christos kyrios Christ is Lord. Because it stood in stark contrast to another confession Kaisar kyrios Caesar is Lord it was a radical statement, a statement that, to Roman ears unacquainted with Christian teaching regarding the obligations of the Christian to his secular rulers, had the taint of treason about it. It was a dangerous affirmation to make, one that threatened to subvert the settled order of things and to turn the world upside down. It is still such an affirmation, and my fellow subversives we make it every week.
When we say that we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, we are declaring that all our other loyalties in this world are contingent, not absolute. What this means is that every commitment laid upon us or taken up by us must find its proper place under our primary commitment to Jesus Christ. If we cannot find such a place for it, then we must lay it aside. If such a commitment makes a claim to displace our commitment to Christ in any respect, then in order to be faithful we must either convert the terms of that commitment or discard it entirely. Jesus said so himself: If anyone comes to me and does not entirely detach his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, and his own life from the center of his priorities, he cannot be my disciple. [cf. Luke 14:26, also Matthew 10:37, Mark 10:29]
If this is the case, then it is no wonder that every worldly tyrant, every proponent of some all-encompassing ideology or interest, regards orthodox Christians as representatives of a threat to his position. That being so, Christians must be frightened into silence, beaten into submission, persecuted into oblivion, or (as is most common and most preferred in humane secular culture) diluted into harmlessness. Such efforts may succeed partially and temporarily, but they always end in failure. The Lion of Judah will not be tamed by any who owe their very existence to his word, and the field of history is littered with the wreckage of those who have tried to tame him.
The Lordship of Christ that we say we believe in is his Lordship over all creation by right of his being he without whom was not anything made that was made and more specifically it is his Lordship over all humanity by right of his having purchased us to himself with his own blood. His Lordship is a consequence of his being fully God and fully man. This second and longest major division of the Creed sets forth three main themes, with which we will be involved for at least three Sundays. These are (1) that Jesus is truly God, (2) that he is fully man, and (3) that he is Lord, Savior, and Judge of all humanity living and dead, believing and unbelieving.
We say that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God. This is an assertion that only he is by nature the Son of God. (We who have been baptized also are Gods sons by adoption and grace but not by nature.) Our saying that the Son is only-begotten is not to imply that there was a time in which he did not exist. Those whose heresy provoked the composition of this Creed in the first place (the Arians) stated just that, which is why immediately the Creed qualifies the words only-begotten Son of God by adding the phrase, begotten of his Father before all worlds that is before anything whatever existed. The begetting of the Son is an eternal characteristic of the everlasting communion of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It is blatantly obvious that such a sort of begetting is unique and that it could not have been deduced from anything in creation and within the range of human reason and experience: We know of no instance of begetting in which a sons existence does not post-date that of his father. The language here is of analogy, not of exact comparison, and underlines the deepest meaning of the term, Son of God.
In biblical thought, being a son means to entirely reflect the character of ones father. We have a vestige of such a way of thinking in such sayings as, hes his fathers son, hes a chip off the old block, hes just like his old man, and the apple doesnt fall far from the tree. To say that Jesus is the Son of God is another way of saying that he is the perfect image of the Father: He who has seen him has seen the Father. This being so, he is the definitive revelation of God to all mankind, and while deepening understanding of that revelation is possible, there will be no new revelation of God, for none is needed. Thus, any claim that there is substantially new or supplemental revelation, whether it is made by a Gnostic or a Montanist or a Mormon or a Muslim or a radical feminist or a pansexualist, is false on its face.
In this connection, we must all be aware that susceptibility to such false understandings is not a temptation to which we are immune, even though we recite this Creed week by week. Every time we exempt ourselves from Gods known and manifest will for our lives on the grounds that we are somehow a special case to which the rule therefore does not apply, we are doing exactly the same thing as does any heretic, sectary, infidel, or apostate. By our deeds, we are saying that, since Jesus did not foresee our special circumstances, we are free to disregard his teaching and to do so without penalty.
After stating that Jesus is the Son of God, we go on to repeatedly assert that he is God: God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God being of one substance with the Father. While Jesus and his Father are distinct Whos, their Whatness is identical. This being so, it cannot rightly be claimed that the Person of the Son is a creature, because uncreatedness is an essential characteristic of that divine nature he receives from and fully shares with his Father. He is what he ever has been; he also is Who he ever has been.
We say that the Son is he by whom all things were made. This is straight out of the first verses of Saint Johns Gospel, which we hear in this place every Sunday: Without him was not anything made that was made. The Son is every bit as involved in the work of creation as is the Father and as also is the Holy Ghost, as we shall see. Attempts to substitute as equivalents for the Names of the Persons of the Trinity the attributes of Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier are serious errors leading to a doctrine of God that is more Hindu than Christian. The fact is that all three Persons are entirely involved in creation, in redemption, and in sanctification the Father speaks the Word who is made present by the Spirit. The same God who has made the world personally enters into it to redeem it and to transform it.
It is into this vast reality that we are invited this day. As the Spirit of God soon will come down upon simple food and drink to perfect their nature by transforming them into the Body and Blood of him who is the Fathers perfect Image, so by the receiving of the same does he will to strengthen our union with him whom we receive that the Life which was shared in the Divine Communion before all worlds may become the life we live in this world in this very moment.
" being of one substance with the Father.
"omooosios toe Patri" means, as best one can translate it into English, "one in essence", not "substance", with the Father. The distinction may seem a fine one, but trust me, its an important one in Trinitarian theology.
Is it possible there's been a shift in common English usage (I'm carefully avoiding "vulgar" because even that term has changed)? After all, long about the time that was set down "prevent" meant (roughly) "to clear the way before", not "keep it from occurring."
Odd. I had never thought of that...
" Odd. I had never thought of that..."
Its a phronema thing...! Stick with me. I'll have you thinking like a Balkan theological bandit before you know it!
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