The Nicene Creed begins with the phrase I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty. Three characteristics are attributed to God in this passage: God is one, God is the Father, and God is almighty. In chapter one of his book The Creed, the theologian Berard Marthaler states proclaiming oneness of God alludes to our Jewish roots. The Old Testament frequently reaffirms that Yahweh is the one true God. The powers other nations worshipped were considered false gods (either non-existent or, at best, lesser spiritual beings). In the creed, we therefore proclaim belief in the one, Triune God, to the exclusion to all other gods. In Matthew chapter six, Jesus tells us that we cannot serve/worship both God and something else. We should therefore avoid putting things like money, material success, personal desire, or non-Christian spiritual practices, above the one true God. Do we choose the Triune God or modern false gods like money, technology, or worldly success?
The Creed next proclaims God as Father. This title for God can be somewhat contentious in our time. Some have argued that it has been used to justify marginalizing women within the Church and society. While these claims are not unfounded, when speaking about God, the words we use are analogous, not equivalent. Describing St Thomas Aquinas’s principle of analogy, Marthaler argues that human language is inadequate for of describing God. This means the words used inexactly when describing God. The principle next states that there are some similarities between the human characteristics we use to describe God and God’s actual attributes. However, God embodies these characteristics to an infinitely greater extent than human beings do.
According to the principle of analogy, when we call God Father, we must to realize the limits of our language. We are not saying that God is male. God the Father is a spiritual being and has no gender. This does not, therefore, justify a patriarchal system that places women in a subordinate role. On the other hand, we should understand that qualities we apply to human fathers do apply to God in some ways: God chooses to love all of humanity, human fathers love their children. At the same time, God the Father is the father of Jesus Christ (God the Son). Jesus called God Father and taught his disciples to do so as well. His sacrifice on the cross revealed God’s love for humanity and fully enabled us to refer to God as our Father. Finally, God watches over and protects us, similar to how a human father watches over and protects his children. Ultimately, God embodies these qualities of fatherhood in an infinitely greater way than human fathers do. It could be said that our positive human qualities, such as fatherhood, reflect God’s image within us.
How does this apply to us? Human fathers freely acknowledge their children. Unlike mothers, they can (sometimes do) deny that a child is theirs. Similarly God freely chose to send the Son to redeem all humanity from sin in order to restore us to our proper relationship as God’s children. To call God Father therefore implies that God freely loves us and wants to enter into relationship with us. However, we must first accept this call to relationship. This entails making the effort to build relationship through prayer and worship (both public and private). It also includes consciously choosing to live as God’s children by revealing God’s selfless love to others through our words and actions. As children imitate their fathers, we should imitate God, trying to be holy because God is holy.
Finally, the first line of the creed refers to God as almighty. To call God almighty acknowledges that God’s power is infinite. It is beyond anything we can know or understand. According to Marthaler, this phrase alludes to the title, the Lord of Hosts, which the Old Testament ascribed to God. It referred to God’s dominion over the angels in heaven and over the created universe. As the all-powerful Lord of heaven and Earth, God transcends humanity and all earthly power and authority. This is one reason we worship God and why our worship often includes signs of humility (kneeling, folding our hands, and words of honor and respect, etc.).
When we profess that God is almighty, we acknowledge that nothing is beyond God’s power. Facing a seemingly insurmountable problem or situation can create a sense of hopelessness. But in times like these, we should remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 20:26, For human beings, this is impossible, but for God all things are possible. Nothing we have done or will do, nothing we have faced or will face is too great for us to overcome with the assistance of God’s power.
To conclude, God is one: we should place nothing above our relationship with God; God is the Father: God freely chooses to love us, guide us, and watch over us; and God is almighty: as the Lord of all things, God’s power is infinite and is capable of helping us through even the most hopeless times of our lives.