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CHAPTER IX

ST. AUGUSTINE AND THE ATHANASIAN CREED

St. Augustine's Doctrine of the Trinity.--No Father of the Church has had an influence equal to that of St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430). A convert from paganism to the half-pagan system of Manicheism, he discovered that nothing less than the Catholic faith could sanctify his life and satisfy his heart. He dedicated to the service of Christ all the fruit of a religious imagination, a comprehensive mind, and a magnificent education. He was as familiar with the latest Greek philosophy as he was skilled in every nicety of the Latin language. One of the most independent of thinkers, he was also one of the most devout of mystics; and while his manly vigour has won able admirers even for his few mistakes, his words have carried with them a fragrance too delicate to be caught except by those whose souls are like his own.

St. Augustine's work De Trinitate, presents a more complete doctrine of the Trinity than had hitherto been stated. The author starts out from a firm conception of the unity of God. 'This Trinity is one God, and not therefore simple, because God is a Trinity.' Hence 'the works of the Trinity are inseparable,' all the three persons combine in their work. The Son and the Holy Spirit co-operated with the Father in causing the incarnation. The word 'person' is necessary, although it is not adequate to describe the mystery of divine life. 'We have said three persons, not merely in order to say it, but to avoid keeping silence.'11   Trin. v. 9, 10.

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Father, Son, and Spirit are not three separate beings like three human persons. They may be compared with the three facts of mind, knowledge, and will (or love), in one human being. The mind is the source of knowledge and of will, the mind knows itself in realising knowledge,
and the relation between the mind and the object of its knowledge produces an active will. Nevertheless these three facts are inseparable, and thus although 'the Father is one, and the Son another, and the Holy Spirit another, all together are one Lord.'11   Deut. vi. 4. Augustine, in the plainest way, states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father.22   Trin. xv. 29. No Eastern theologian has stated this so plainly.

The 'Athanasian' Creed.--This creed is in form completely Western and Latin, and it is most strange that it has become popularly associated with St. Athanasius. The origin of the creed is still involved in obscurity, but it is plain that it represents the theology of Augustine, and it may be regarded as fairly certain that it was composed during the fifth century in South Gaul. Possibly its author was Vincent of Lerinum who wrote about 434. Vincent was familiar both with the writings of St. Augustine and with the Nestorian controversy, and the creed shows traces of St. Augustine's influence and of the language used by the Catholics in opposing Nestorianism.

The 'Athanasian' Creed is here subjoined, with a new translation of some of its phrases, and references to the heresies condemned in its various clauses:--

INTRODUCTION


1. Whosoever wisheth to be saved, before all things he ought to hold fast the Catholic Faith.
2. Which Faith except a man have kept whole and unviolated, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY TRINITY


3. Now the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity. 115 4. Neither confusing the persons (against Sabellianism, see p. 68) nor separating the Substance (against Arianism, see p. 87).
5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son: and such is the Holy Ghost.
8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated: and the Holy Ghost uncreated.
9. The Father infinite, the Son infinite: and the Holy Ghost infinite.
10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal: and the Holy Ghost eternal.
11. And yet there are not three eternals: but one eternal (i.e. the Three are not three separate Gods, but possess one eternal nature).
12. As also there are not three uncreated, or three infinites: but one uncreated, and one infinite.
13. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty: and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
14. And yet there are not three Almighties: but one Almighty.
15. So the Father is God, the Son is God: and the Holy Ghost is God.
16. And yet there are not three Gods: but one God.
17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord: and the Holy Ghost Lord.
18. And yet there are not three Lords: but one Lord.
19. For like as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord;
20. So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion: to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords (i.e. Catholicism repudiates the pagan doctrine that there are many gods).
21. The Father was made by no one; neither created nor begotten. 116 22. The Son is from the Father only; not made, nor created (against Arianism, see p. 87), but begotten (see p. 29).
23. The Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but coming forth (i.e. there is only one perfect divine sonship, and the Spirit represents intercourse within the Godhead rather than filial relationship).
24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
25. And in this Trinity nothing is before or after, nothing is greater or less (i.e. the attributes of each distinct person are as eternal and as perfect as the attributes of the other two persons).
26. But all three persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
27. So that in all things, as is aforesaid: both the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
28. He therefore that wisheth to be saved: must thus think of the Trinity.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE INCARNATION


29. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation: that he also believe faithfully in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
30. Therefore the right Faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.
31. He is God, begotten from the Substance of the Father before the worlds; and He is Man, born of the Substance of His Mother in the world.
32. Perfect God: perfect Man, having a real existence with a rational soul and human flesh (against Apollinarianism, see p. 102). 117 33. Equal to the Father, as touching His Godhead: and inferior to the Father, as touching His Manhood.
34. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two but one Christ (against Adoptionism, see p. 69, and Nestorianism, see p. 105).
35. One, not by a change of the Godhead into flesh (against Late Apollinarianism, see p. 100 ff.): but by taking of the Manhood into God.
36. One indeed, not by confusion of Substance (against Eutychianism, see p. 108) but by oneness of person.
37. For as the rational soul and the flesh are one man, so God and Man is one Christ.
38. Who suffered for our salvation; descended into the lower world, on the third day rose again from among the dead.
39. He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
40. At whose coming all men must rise again with their bodies: and shall give account for their own works.
41. And they that have done good will go into life everlasting: but they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

CONCLUSION


42. This is the Catholic Faith: which except a man shall have believed faithfully and firmly, he will not be able to be saved.

The difficulties which are sometimes felt with regard to the so-called 'damnatory clauses' in this creed can be largely removed. For both external and internal evidence show that its condemnations are not directed against ignorant unbelief but against wilful apostasy.

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