The Nicene creed

The gathering of 381 was eventually esteemed the Second Ecumenical Council, the first being that at Nicsa in 325. It is doubtful whether this rating can be fully justified. There came to be associated with it, mistakenly believed to have been adopted by it, the creed which today is given the name of Nicene and which is held as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and several other communions. That creed seems to have been based, not directly upon the Nicene formula, but indirectly upon a fourth century creed which was in use in Jerusalem and which in turn was influenced by the Nicene formula. The major change from the latter were additions at the end. It read, in the form familiar in the Book of Common Prayer: "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father ['and the Son' was a later Western addition], who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come." The amplification of the clause about the Holy Spirit was put in to make it clear that the Spirit is not subordinate, for while the term homoousion was not applied to the Spirit, the intent is clear: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are uncreated and are to be worshipped together as one God.

This creed came into general use. The Arian cause was irretrievably lost. For several generations Arianism persisted as the faith of most of the Germanic peoples who, beginning with the latter part of the fourth century, were invading the Empire. Its adherents insisted that it was the true Catholic Church. But the overwhelming majority of Roman citizens held to the Nicene Creed, and Arianism eventually disappeared: its adherents died out or became Catholic (Nicene) Christians. By a slow and often stormy process the overwhelming majority of Christians had come to believe that the formula which bore the Nicene name contained the correct statement of the Christian faith on the questions which had been at issue. Today most of those who are called Christians continue to honour it, along with the Apostles' Creed, as the official authoritative formulation of their faith and as such employ it in public worship.

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