Quid est veritas? (What is truth?) This is what Pilate said in John 18:38, as a sort of jest to Jesus after Jesus says that He is witness to the truth. Shortly before that, in Jesus’ high priestly prayer, in John 17:17, He prays to the Father for His disciples, “sanctify them in Your truth. Your Word is truth.” You can honestly spend hours poring over verses that talk about truth in Scripture. Verity. Steering away from falsehood and purging out heresy has always been a core tenet of Christian study.
“Lead me in our truth and teach me,
for You are the God of my salvation;
for You I wait all the day long.”
One of the things we want to encourage here at co op is the pursuit of truth (along with goodness and beauty). To find truth, we need to divide words, and especially the Word of God, with valor and verity. Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”
One of the ways that a group of people tend to practice unity throughout Christendom, and continuing now in our time, is the corporate confession of a Creed. Last week I mentioned that the word creed comes from the Latin word credo, which means “I believe.” In a church, denomination, school, or co op, confessing a creed together formally helps us unite on truth. It was Saint Augustine who said, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” — and a formal creed can be a way of isolating what the essentials actually are.
2 Timothy 2:15
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who does not need to be ashamed
and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
In 325Af, a council was held in Nicaea to address heresies from Arius, who failed to affirm the full deity of the Son of God. Arius taught that the Son is a created being, is not eternal, is a lesser god, and does not share the Father’s essence or nature. Back in the early 2nd century, Tertullian had provided the Church with the formula that God is one substance consisting in three persons, but he had not given the world a complete understanding of the Trinity. Perhaps this is because it is a mystery! The concept of the Trinity continues to puzzle even the greatest theologians and faithful Christians. Bruce Shelley says in Church History in Plain Language, “the great merit of the creeds is that they left the mystery intact.”
But the fuss that was made over Arius’s ideas caused great strife and division, even riots. The center of all this was Alexandria, Egypt, where Arius was a pastor. The Roman Emperor at the time was Constantine, and he couldn’t escape the threat of what was going on in the Church because it was overflowing into other areas of life and politics as well. So Constantine called an empirewide council at the city of Nicaea, in Asia Minor, saying that “division in the church was worse than war, because it involved eternal souls.” More than 300 bishops attended, debated, and eventually denounced and condemned Arius’s view. But they realized that wasn’t enough: they needed to compose a creed to have a unified statement of belief on essentials. All but two bishops signed the finished statement of faith. Those two were exiled, along with Arius.
It is a blessing and encouragement that the Nicene Creed, which expands on what was formulated in the Apostles’ Creed in the early 2nd century, is still affirmed today in churches around the world. When questing for truth in theology, Scripture is obviously always the ultimate and complete authority. But things like catechisms and creeds are additional helps in boiling things down to essentials and definitions.
As we go about our pursuit of knowledge and wisdom here at co op, it is our hope to not only seek truth and speak truth, but to do all of this in an atmosphere of unity in essentials, liberty or diversity in non-essentials, and charity in all things. May we ever sharpen one another in godliness and good fruit, spurring one another on toward love and good works, deepening in our discernment of Truth.
1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech
but with actions and in truth.