The Nicene Creed: Introduction

The Nicene Creed, more precisely called the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, is a statement of the orthodox faith of the early Christian church in opposition to certain heresies, especially Arianism. These heresies, which disturbed the church during the fourth century, concerned the doctrine of the Trinity and the person of Christ. Both the Greek (Eastern) and the Latin (Western) church held this creed in honor, though with one important difference. The Western church insisted on the inclusion of the phrase “and the Son” (known as the filioque clause) in the article on the procession of the Holy Spirit, though this phrase has always been repudiated by the Eastern church. In its present form, this creed goes back originally to the Council of Nicaea (325), with additions by the Council of Constantinople (381). It was accepted in its present form at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, but the filioque clause was not added until 589. Nonetheless, the creed is in substance an accurate and majestic formulation of the Nicene faith. It consists of three sections—one for each person of the Trinity—and concludes with four statements affirming the universal tenets of the Christian gospel. In combatting the Arian error, the creed makes it clear that the Son is equal in status with the Father, since the Son is of the same substance as the Father. Indeed, the Nicene Creed remains a standard of Trinitarian orthodoxy.