I got early access to Scott Hahn’s latest book, The Creed: Professing the Faith Through the Ages, and am pleased to say it’s another Hahn winner.
In it, Hahn shows how the Nicene Creed developed in the early Church, its meaning and effect, and its importance down through the ages even to today.
Before the Creed
Dr. Hahn starts with the Old Testament and then moves into the period of the early Church. He draws from the early Church Fathers and from history to illuminate the early heresies that attacked the Faith and how the Church responded.
These heresies culminated in ones that attacked the divinity of Christ in some way, most notably Arianism. But even before the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, the Church was proclaiming the truth of Christ’s divinity.
Different bishops and Church Fathers would respond to persecutors and heretics in their area, using their owns words but defending orthodoxy against the particular attack being made. But as the heresies grew more serious and widespread, the Church needed to respond in a cohesive, standard way.
Hahn sketches out the first Ecumenical Council, which took place in Nicaea, and how the Council Fathers drew up the first part of what we call today the Nicene Creed.
Many Catholics don’t realize that the composition of the Creed we recite today at Mass did not come exclusively from Nicaea, but instead was compiled over the fourth century at Nicaea and the second Ecumenical Council (in Constantinople, AD 381).
The first part of the Creed proclaimed the truth of God the Father and the full divinity of God the Son. Using several phrases it decreed that the Father and the Son were one in being, consubstantial. The Arians were now formal heretics, but Hahn explains that that didn’t stop them from continuing their heresy for decades to come.
Dr. Hahn reveals the effects of the Council and the Creed as the 300s went on, including the rise of several “semi-Arian” heresies that needed to be dealt with.
Heretics soon turned their attention to the Holy Spirit as well, and some began denying the Spirit’s divinity! A Council was convened at Constantinople in AD 381 and the second part of the Creed was drawn up and added on, proclaiming in clear terms the divinity of the Third Person of the Trinity.
Hahn makes Trinitarian theology fascinating and accessible to lay men. Throughout the book he weaves theological insights and explains the deeper meaning behind basic doctrines that the Church has preserved in the Creed.
Many Protestants today dismiss the Creed as outdated and hidebound. How wrong they are, and Hahn devotes the necessary time to debunking their error.
I was also happy to see he included the last addition to the Creed, the filioque (proceeds from the Father “and from the Son”) which originated from the Church in the West and spread. While certainly not an in-depth treatment of the subject, he outlines the reasons why this addition is defensible historically and theologically in both the West and the East.
The Creed is a wonderfully helpful guide to the importance and development of the Nicene Creed, as well as a great primer on Trinitarian theology. May God be praised!