Posted by: mattcolvin | January 17, 2010

We Need a Creed About God the Father


The early church hammered out creeds that set the boundaries of Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity. But they did an inadequate job with God the Father.

What do the Creeds state about the Father?

His consubstantiality with the Son; the Spirit’s procession from Him; and his reigning with the Son at His right hand until the judgment. But these points are really about the Son or Spirit.

The only thing the creeds say about the Father in His own right is that he is the “maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”

But even Deists believe that.

Some things that could be affirmed about the Father:

1. That He is good, and made the creation good. This cuts off Gnosticism at the root.
2. That He, with the Son and Spirit, is the YHWH of the Old Testament, and the God of Israel. This eliminates Marcionism, Arianism, and the theologies of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.
3. That He is merciful and loves to forgive sins. This would rule out tendencies to talk about the Son as loving and merciful, and make the Father into a sort of harsh and strict tyrant. I have heard evangelicals talk as though the Son saves us from the Father, so that the Father’s role in salvation is to bring the wrath from which the Son saves us. It’s hard to say “Abba, Father” to a God like that.
4. That He is a person. He is not a principle or a force.
5. That He loves men and enters into covenant with them.
6. That He is manifested in Jesus, so that we can understand His character from the character of Jesus.

Here’s my crack at it:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Father of lights from whom every good and perfect gift proceeds, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; whose mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, for whom He sanctifies the Church to be a bride, so that He might be our Father and that we might live with Him.”


Responses

  1. Excellent proposal. Steve Schlissel correctly asserts that in the Old Testament, God names himself according to what he has done in history, and you’ve acknowledged that to a degree with “who so loved the world that He gave His [one and – my tweaking] only Son.” After which I might insert something like “who has called us, the Church, out of darkness, that we may be His people and His priesthood.”

  2. Not liking “begotten”, Ken?

    • Not particularly. I can’t say I’ve delved much into the history of the formulation of doctrine of the Trinity, but “one and only” seems to eliminate some of the paradox within “eternally begotten.” But perhaps you might attempt to persuade me otherwise?

      • The meaning of monogenes in 1 John 4 is controversial. Some say it comes from ginomai, “to become”; others that it is from gennao, “to beget”. I prefer the latter, as picking up the Messianic psalm 2: “The Lord has said to me, ‘You are my son, this day I have begotten [gegeneka] you.'” Given the importance of this Psalm in the NT (it is the most frequently quoted, and is always understood to be about the Messiah), I believe that it is not only connected, but is actually the source of monogenes in 1 John 4. It is telling that the word is only used in the Bible of sons and daughters, not of other objects.

        Unfortunately, this does mean that the Biblical term has reference to Jesus’ human Messiahship, and not to the “eternal begetting” by the Father of the “Logos asarkos incarnandus.” Yet another example of creeds using Bible words to mean something (even something true!) that the Bible does not use them to mean. The result is difficulty in understanding Scripture.

        Indeed, a case could be made that similar abuse of the terms “law”, “covenant”, “elect”, “faith”, and “grace” in Confessional documents is at the root of the entire FV controversy. It’s not necessarily that the doctrines which the WCF teaches by these words is wrong or unbiblical, but that because the words have been coopted to mean something other than what they do in the NT, faithful ministers are persecuted for using them in their Biblical senses.


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