The Nicene Creed and Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time podcast – a must for 2008

If you are looking for podcasts worth listening to, one of my favs is Melvyn Bragg – he is a BBC 4 commentator and has for years done a weekly show called “In Our Time” which gathers together a panel of academics around a key issue that has shaped Western Culture. He covers everything – genetic mutation, the Reformation, Wordsworth’s Prelude, etc. When I would drop Clara off at her preschool in Glasgow, I would sit and listen to In Our Time – often not getting home in time because I would just sit in the driveway till the program finished! Thank goodness for podcasting. This week he is looking at the Nicene Creed – a good one to dig into. He also sends a short email previewing the upcoming podcast. Here is the email previewing the Nicene Creed podcast:


Given the season of the year and given the extraordinary importance to
Christianity of the Nicene Creed, I thought you might like to have in front of
you the final (ish) version of the Creed, which was based on the creed of the
First Council of Nicaea in 325 but very much developed at the First Council of
Constantinople in 381:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of
all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the
Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not
made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who
for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by
the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; he was crucified for us
under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose
again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on
the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come again, with glory, to
judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the
Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
who spake by the prophets. In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we
acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection
of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

What is most intriguing about the development of this Creed is the mixture
between high thinking and brutal politics. The words used to try to define and
re-define the relationship between God and Christ and the Holy Spirit was so
particular and abstract, so Greek and philosophical, and yet what was also on
the table was an extremely blunt soldierly attack on this powerful force in
order to put its dynamism at the service of the state.

You could say that Christianity has never recovered from the double blow. One
to put this great faith under the control of the state or to allow the state to
take it over – little choice there. Another to attempt to describe and
rationalise what in terms of faith is beyond rationalisation – which is what
drives some of the scientists crazy of course.

Nevertheless, along the way, with words like consubstantial and co-eternal and
whether the Holy Spirit was feminine and whether the Son of God was ever “not”,
areas of interest which I think apply to physics as much as religion were
raised and disputed for centuries and they were somehow the hinge in the
development and placing of Christianity in the history, often the bloody and
murderous history, of Europe.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

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