Advent Series: Nicene Creed – God the Father (2)

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

We start today’s series with the article referencing God the Father. While it is very straight forward, there are a few things that bear commenting.

First, the Creed begins by asserting the Father as the one God. We will see later that the Son and Spirit are also asserted to be the one God, but only the Father here is explicitly called the one God. The construction of the sentence is one of apposition. An apposition is where two (or more) nouns or noun phrases are set in a sentence such that they occupy the same grammatical position. This is done to show that the nouns are conceptually the same thing, and typically to offer further explanation on the first noun in the sentence. In this sentence, we see four appositive nouns.

  1. One God
  2. The Father Almighty
  3. Maker of heaven and earth
  4. [Maker] of all things visible and invisible

While it is very common in western Christianity to think about the one God as some abstract concept who is not any one of the three persons, the Creed does not do this. Rather, the one God is the Father Almighty, who is the Maker of heaven and earth, who is the Maker of all things visible and invisible.

In this way the language of the Creed stays very close to the language of the New Testmaent in which the word theos nearly always refers to the Father unless qualified in some other way. I’ve posted on this before, take a look for a fuller explanation and defense.

Furthermore, the use of the term Almighty indicates God’s radical sovereignty over all things. This sovereignty flows naturally into the next apposition.

Second, we see the use of two merisms. A merism is a phrase in which disparate parts of a conceptual whole are referred to, indicating that the whole is actually being referred to. In English we might say “I searched high and low” or “I’ve been everywhere from here to there” or sing the children’s song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.”

The first merism is an indication that God created the entirety of the material world. Rather than refer to the immaterial place that God and the Angels live, heaven here probably refers to the sky. The Creed here is affirming that the Father is the maker of the entirety of the material world, including the earth we live on and the sky above us. Because this is a merism, this would also include the oceans, space, other material dimensions, etc.

The second merism is an indication that God created both the material world, as well as the immaterial world. The word invisible here is probably best understood as those things which are not apprehended by the senses rather than just those things excluded from the sense of sight. The contrast then is between the material (apprehended by the senses) and immaterial (not apprehended by the senses). While we are not aware of anything that does not fit into those categories, if such a thing existed we would affirm that God created that as well.

Taken together, the first article of the Creed is a statement of the Father’s utter sovereignty over all things, rooted in the fact that it was the Father who created all things.

 

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