Full Text for Confessions 1- Volume 8 - What Does "ecumenical" Mean regarding the Creeds? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CONFESSIONS 1 CON1-Q008 JANUARY 2005 CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY: CAPTION FIRST, INC. P.O. BOX 1924 LOMBARD, IL 60148 * * * * * This text is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. * * * * >> NICK: We often call the Apostles�, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds ecumenical creeds. What does ecumenical mean, and how does it apply to these three creeds? >> DR. KLAUS DETLEV SHULTZ: The word �ecumenical� is a very important statement made about the three ecumenical creeds; the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creed. These three creeds have been afforded the title �ecumenical� because they have been accepted by most of the Christian churches all over the world. We can also see that the word �ecumenical� comes from the Greek word �oikoumene� which would mean something like the entire inhabited world. So the inhabited Christian world accepts these three creeds, and therefore, they're given the title ecumenical. From an internal point of view, it means from the statements the creeds make themselves, we can see that they also want to be understood as standing on behalf of the entire Christian world. For example, the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed both confess the faith in the catholic church. Thereby, they stand for catholicity. That means that all those Christians that confess these creeds would agree with that faith confessed therein. And so we also see that the Athanasian Creed also makes a claim to this catholic faith because it says in its first statement that anyone who wishes to be saved needs to be confessing that faith that is then put forward in that Athanasian Creed. The statement of ecumenicity, or being claimed as ecumenical, can be seen also from the outward evidence. That would mean that the Apostles' Creed, for example, is accepted by the Western world, by the churches of the West. The Apostles� Creed was originally written in Greek but had then been translated into Latin and found its place in the Roman Catholic liturgy. So we in the West have accepted the Latin version of the Apostles� Creed. It is accepted by the West and not by the Eastern churches, Eastern Orthodox churches. The Nicene Creed is probably the most ecumenical creed of them all because both the West and the East have accepted it as its own creed. The Nicene Creed was originally confessed at Nicaea in 325 and therefore stands, more or less, for the Eastern faith, but it was endorsed and sanctioned by the bishop of Rome. It was accepted, really, by the entire Christian church at that time. The Nicene Creed has, therefore, been representative or seen as a representative of the faith of all of the catholic church in this world. There are, however, a few things that need to be said in regard to as how far it is accepted as ecumenical because there is one statement made in the Nicene Creed that is problematic. The Eastern church has never really accepted the idea that the West has posited forward in terms of how to understand the status of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity. The West, in 589, in Spain, in Toledo at a regional council has said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. We call that the *filioque which means in Latin, and the Son. And here the East has never really followed the West because it believes in stating that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son, it violates the status of God the Father himself, and so both East and West disagree about this *filioque, and to this day, these disagreements still persists. And we find many theologians trying to change the position of the West on that *filioque. But we believe, as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, that it is important that we maintain that *filioque precisely because we want to go along with that what Augustine and Ambrose have confessed; namely, that we have here the unity of God being expressed in its best way. It means the Holy Spirit comes from both the Father and the Son, and neither Holy Spirit nor Son should be seen as subordinate to God the Father. The Athanasian Creed is the longest creed of them all. It is also called in Latin *quinquinca vult, which means that this is the opening statement made in the Athanasian Creed, whoever wishes to be saved. The Athanasian Creed, unfortunately, is not accepted by the Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is a western creed. It is confessed in Latin, originally, and goes back to the theology of Augustus and Ambrose. In fact, the Athanasian Creed can serve as a kind of summary of everything that has been happening doctrinally and theologically over the fourth and fifth century. And so we consider it as a very important statement that embraces everything that had been said at that time. And it came to its conclusion, perhaps, as a fixed document towards the end of the eighth century somewhere around 780. We now look at a very important point, as well, when it comes to the Lutheran Confessions themselves, those that we call the particular confessions of the 16th century. Are they ecumenical, we may ask. Yes, they are ecumenical. In fact, they do want to speak on behalf of the entire Christian church as well, just as the three ecumenical creeds have done. But the problem is that since 1530, we have a situation where various churches have already emerged from the one Roman Catholic Church. And so the reality is that what ever confessions were then compiled after 1530 were done so or accepted by an individual church body and not by the entire Christian church. But that should not diminish the ecumenical claim of the Lutheran Confessions of the 16th century. All these seven particular documents contained in the Book of Concord clearly want to enunciate the catholic faith, and the reality is that their theology does not stand in any way back to the ecumenical creeds. They do want to speak nothing else than that what has been confessed already in the ecumenical creeds and only make it relevant to the 16th century. There is also another final matter that we need to relate to this question just asked by you. And that is referring to the names creeds, confessions, and symbols. Often these three terms are used synonymously. That means we are saying that when you speak of creeds, you may also speak legitimately of confessions or symbols. However, there is something that the Christian church has done out of reverence to the three ecumenical creeds of the early church. That is, it has afforded them the title �creeds,� whereas, the confessions of the 16th century, those documents then that are contained in the Book of Concord and all those, actually, being stated by other churches throughout the world, these would be considered as confessions, rather than creeds. Are they any different, then, than the creeds of the early church? No, they are not at all. But as I have said just now, we are giving them, these three ecumenical creeds, the title �creeds� because they have a special status, kind of serving as the base delivering us that important faith in the triune God which then we, in the later 16th century and onwards, will explain further. The creeds are also called and Confessions are like symbols. What does that mean, symbol? Well, I'm thinking here, for example, of the confession of Peter in Matthew 16 verse 16. There Peter was asked, �Who do you say that I am?� by Jesus Christ. And he said, "You are Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God." I consider that confession by Peter a symbol. That is, it stands for the entire faith of the Christian church in a most simple form. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And so talking about our confessions as being symbols, it means that we are upholding our confessions kind of like a flag with its colors showing forth what country we stand for. And so, also, these creeds want to express something very close to us; namely, that faith that we want to hold up to all the Christians and to the world outside that this is what we believe in.