Explanation of the Creed, that is, of the Twelve Articles
Student. Now let us come to the first part of Christian Doctrine, for I want to learn more about the Apostles’ Creed.
Teacher. The Apostles’ Creed contains twelve parts, which we call articles, and they are twelve for the number of Apostles who composed it. These are:
- I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth.
- And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son our Lord.
- Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.
- Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.
- He descended into hell, on the third day He rose from the dead.
- He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
- From thence He will return to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- The Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints,
- The remission of sins.
- The resurrection of the body,
- And life everlasting. Amen.
Explanation of the First Article
S. Explain to me the first article in more detail, starting with “I believe”.
T. It is just as much as if one were to say, I believe firmly and without question all the things which are contained in these twelve articles. Therefore, what God Himself taught His Apostles, which the Apostles handed on to the Church, and at length the Church has passed the same thing on to us. Therefore I believe the articles more firmly than what I see with my eye or touch with my hands.
S. What does it mean when it says “in God”?
T. It is the same thing as if one were to say that one must firmly believe that there is one God, even if we do not use our bodily eyes. That God is one, for which reason it says, “I believe in God,” and not “I believe in a god”. Nor should one think that God is like some corporeal thing, however big and beautiful you may like, but rather, one should imagine that God is a spiritual thing, which always was and is always going to be; He created all of those things which exist, and in like manner, fills all things, governs all things, and knows and sees all things. Lastly, anything represented either to the eyes, or in your imagination, if you were compelled to speak about it then what is represented to me is not God because He is infinitely better.
S. Why is God called “the Father”?
T. Because He really is the Father of His only begotten Son, on which the second article treats; thereupon, because He is the Father of all goods, not by nature but by adoption; next, because He is the Father of all creatures, not by nature or adoption but by creation, just as we will say in the second article.
S. Why do you say “Almighty”?
T. Because there is only one from the Divine Names proper to God, and although there are many of this kind, such as Eternal, Immense, Infinite, etc., just the same, in this place, He is most suitably called Almighty, that way we do not run into difficulty in the creed that He made the heavens and the earth from nothing; in the same way it appears from the following words. Certainly nothing can be difficult to the One who makes whatever He wants, and therefore He is Almighty. But if someone would say that God cannot die or sin, so He can’t really do everything; then I answer that to die and sin are not in potency, but impotency, and if one were to speak about any aggressive soldier you like, that he cannot conquer all things nor indeed can be conquered by any one, then one has not really detracted from his strength by saying that he cannot be conquered, because to be conquered is not strength by weakness.
S. What does the name “Creator” mean?
T. It means God created all things from nothing, and only He can return all things into nothing. Now truly angels and men can make and destroy something, and even demons can: but they cannot do that except with pre-existing material, nor can they reduce something into nothing, but only change one thing into another, just as a stone cutter cannot build a house from nothing, but needs stones, limestone, wood and like things for that work. Moreover, he cannot so destroy what he has built that it is returned to nothing, but returned to stones, dust, wood and like things. On the other hand, God alone is called Creator because He alone does not need to create and build something from pre-existing matter.
S. Why is it said that He is “Creator of heaven and earth?” Didn’t God also create the air, water, stones, animals, men, and all other things?
T. By the phrase “of heaven and earth,” all those things must be received which heaven and earth contain. Moreover, even if anyone would say that man consists of body and soul, he certainly means also all the things that are discovered in man; obviously veins, blood, bones, nerves etc. Likewise, all the things which are discovered in the soul; clearly the intellect, will, memory, interior and exterior senses, etc. So by the name of “heaven” the air, birds of the sky, clouds and stars of the heavens are embraced and at length, angels. But by the name of the earth all of those things are embraced that deal with the earth, such as the waters of the sea and rivers, which are constituted in the lowest parts of the earth, and above all, animals, grass, stones, metals, and all things embraced by the earth of the lap of the sea. Therefore, God is the Creator of Heaven and earth because these are the two principal parts of the world. Indeed the higher one is where the Angels dwell, while the lower is the one in which men live. Now, since these are the principal creatures, whom all the rest serve, just the same both (to the extent that they were created ex nihilo and were exalted to such a dignity) are obliged to serve God.
– Lucas G. Westman