There is an increasing emphasis today on the primacy of Aristotelian (or Thomistic) Metaphysical Philosophy in the formulation of the Christian Creeds. I have seen some statements such as “like, [Greek philosophy is] the grounding for literally all the creeds.” as well as this from a friend “any time you are teaching the Nicene creed, or any reformed confession with language based on the ancient creeds, you are by necessity teaching a ‘Christian Aristotelianism'”. This from my friend was followed with “I agree that they are wholly Biblical”.
Since the Nicene Creed was specifically mentioned as “teaching a ‘Christian Aristotelianism'” and it would be included in “literally all the creeds” for which Greek philosophy is the “grounding”, I would like to take a moment to look at what the grounding for it actually is. I have been wanting to post about this for a while and I have finally put together a table containing the phrases from the Nicene Creed alongside some Scriptural references.
Upon even a cursory review, nearly every phrase of the Nicene Creed is found in Special Revelation. As it stands in contrast to Natural Revelation (or as it is sometimes referred to as Natural Theology – grounded in Aristotelian Metaphysical Philosophy which discusses an existence of a Primary Deity), we see that the Nicene Creed (and the Apostles’ Creed, for that matter) are grounded in Scripture – “wholly Biblical”, if you will.
This leads me to a brief discussion of some terminology as I would understand it, and as reason would have one understand it. I take words such as “the grounding for” to mean that it is “primary”. If something is “primary”, then it would be the main basis for something. As such, and in the statement above, “Greek philosophy” would be the “primary” means for not only understanding but actually formulating “all the creeds”. This would mean that Scripture is relegated to a secondary place behind the primary grounding. Lest I be accused of exaggeration, we have statements such as this: “some of the most important divine attributes (such as simplicity, immutability, and impassibility) are only known through natural theology, and can only be affirmed through the interaction of natural and biblical theology.” (emphasis mine) This is the same sentiment that we see highlighted above with the Creeds. Certainly the secondary is important, but it begs the question of why someone wouldn’t naturally state, at least for summaries of the Christian faith like the Creeds, that Scripture is the primary grounding for the Creeds.
But I digress. I would like to direct you to the table below and would welcome any input. The only phrases that would give us trouble in finding direct citations from Scripture would be “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God” as well as the general concept of “substance”. However, if we have understood Scripture rightly in its statements regarding Christ being One with the Father (and the preceding sections of the Nicene Creed), then such statements would necessarily follow. Then, secondary means, such as philosophical discussions of being or matter, could aid in how we would explain what we already understand from Special Revelation.
|Nicene Creed||Scripture Reference|
|I believe in one God||Deuteronomy 6:4|
|the Father Almighty||Romans 8:15|
|Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.||Genesis 1:1|
|And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,||John 3:16|
1 John 4:9
|begotten of the Father before all worlds;||John 1:14|
|God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God;||Hebrews 1:3|
Psalm 27:1, 1 John 1:5, John 8:12
|begotten, not made,||John 1:14|
|being of one substance with the Father,||John 10:30|
John 17:11, 22
|by whom all things were made||John 1:3|
|Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven,||John 17:22-24|
|and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary,||Luke 2:35|
|and was made man;||Philippians 2:5-10|
|and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;||John 19:1-13|
|He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;||John 19:1, 16, 38-41|
|and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father;||Acts 1:9-11|
|and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;||Revelation 11:18|
|whose kingdom shall have no end.||Luke 1:33|
|And I believe in the Holy Ghost,||John 14:16-17|
|the Lord and Giver of Life;||John 20:22|
1 Corinthians 12:3
|who proceeds from the Father [and the Son];||John 14:16, 26|
|who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;||Romans 15:16|
2 Corinthians 13:14
|who spoke by the prophets.||Ephesians 3:5|
|And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church.||Ephesians 2:20|
|I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;||Ephesians 4:4-6|
|and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.||1 Corinthians 15:21, 42|