Just one more instalment on Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon at the end of the 100s, a disciple of Polycarp, a disciple of Papias, a disciple of the apostle John.
Sometimes in his flailing away at the gnostics, Irenaeus pauses to cite a common creed, presumably baptismal creeds, at any rate, summaries of belief which he says are used by catholic Christians in the late 100s.
Here are parts of three of them:
The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” [Eph. 1:10] and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess” [Phil 2:10-1] to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all… Against Heresies I. 10.1, p. 330
The rule of truth which we hold, is, that there is one God Almighty, who made all things by His Word, and fashioned and formed, out of that which had no existence, all things which exist. …the Father made all things by Him… For God needs none of these things, but is He who, by his Word and Spirit, makes, and disposes, and governs all things, and commands all things into existence, – He who formed the world… is the God of Abraham… above whom there is no other God… He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… Against Heresies I.22.1, p. 347
…carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who… condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered… and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory… Against Heresies III.4.2, p. 417.
- Is the one true God here a Trinity of equally divine persons? (trinitarian) Or is the one true God the Father? (unitarian)
- Father, Son, and Spirit are confessed in these creeds. Do they in some sense compose the one God? (trinitarian) Or is the one true God the first and preeminent member of this “Trinity”? (unitarian)
- A being here is asserted as the unique, ultimate cause of the cosmos, the only being who is Creator in the absolute sense. Who is it? Is it the Father only? (unitarian) Or is it the three co-equal divine persons together, the Trinity? (trinitarian) Or is this unique, ultimate source both Father and Son, or Father and Son and Spirit? (confused trinitarian)
And looking back at these first four posts in the series, on the whole, is Irenaeus a unitarian, trinitarian, both, or neither?