In the Nicene Creed, we confess that we believe in one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the prior eleven episodes of Passages, we have sought to illuminate the backstory of the Nicene Creed, introducing key figures, texts, church councils, and historical controversies that contributed to the development of the Nicene Creed and the reception of the Nicene faith by its early proponents and defenders.
A bedrock of Christian theology, especially on the doctrines of the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church, baptism, the resurrection and more, the Nicene Creed is especially significant as one of the few articulations of the Christian faith that is nearly universally recognized by Christians of every variety, from widely-differing Protestants to Roman Catholics to Eastern Orthodox Christians and more. One of our foremost goals in creating this podcast was to encourage listeners everywhere to read early Christian literature for yourself, as we listen to the Scriptures together with our brothers and sisters who have gone before us. However, returning “back to the sources” and reading primary material for ourselves can sometimes prove difficult, and skilled guides can direct us around avoidable problems and encourage us when fainthearted.
Today, in our twelfth episode, we have the wonderful privilege of speaking with Fr. Khaled Anatolios. Fr. Anatolios is the John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, and for decades has studied and written about numerous aspects of early Christianity, Christian theology, and the theology of the fourth century in particular. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including two books on Athanasius, but our conversation especially focused on his 2011 book published by Baker Academic titled “Retrieving NicaeaThe Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine,” and a 2020 book published by Eerdmans titled “Deification through the CrossAn Eastern Christian Theology of Salvation.”
In our conversation Fr. Anatolios explains how the theology of the Nicene creed holds explanatory power for reading the Scriptures and carries practical or pastoral significance of the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation of the Word of God for understanding the whole of the Christian life. Listen especially for his discussion of how early Christian theologians read Holy Scripture, his encouragements for those of us trying to learn about early Christianity today, and his concluding summons to take up the cross and follow the crucified and risen Lord, observing all of his teachings and following after him in the way of power made perfect in weakness.
Finally, this episode concludes with an exhortation and postscript for the whole of Passages Season 1. In the opening words of our first episode, we noted that despite whatever it is we say that we believe, we often find that what we actually, functionally believe deep down is something less or even contrary, evident by how we live our lives and relate as scoundrels to God and our neighbor.
Our prayer is that by immersing ourselves in the words of the prophets, poets, and apostles in the Old and New Testaments, and by imbibing the words of those brothers and sisters who have gone before us, we might cultivate habits and dispositions that instill within us a love for orthodoxy, holiness, meekness, continual repentance, and quiet faithfulness. Even so, such a course is not merely a matter of human striving. Only through Christ living in us can we more and more deeply believe in and be rooted in “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), to love our neighbors and to ever-increasingly be filled with renewed wonder and burning zeal for the one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Near the end of the New Testament, in the epistle of 2 Timothy, we hear from the Apostle Paul after he is imprisoned for the gospel and nears the end of his life. By now an older and seasoned leader in the church, we hear Paul exhorting a young pastor named Timothy who is embattled by all kinds of challenges and temptations. Early in the letter Paul charges Timothy: “by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”
Paul goes on to encourage Timothy to entrust to faithful Christians what he had heard from Paul in the presence of many witnesses, so that they in turn can also pass it along to others. But then Paul adds a thunderous exclamation point, writing: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!”
The torch of the Nicene faith is now passed to you. What do you believe?
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Joshua Heavin serves as the lead writer and host of Passages, while Caleb Wait serves as the lead producer and co-host. Original music by Aaron Feeney, who welcomes inquiries.