In Scripture, the sin of idolatry is not limited to the complete displacement of the true God by false gods. It also includes the worship of false gods alongside the true God. The Jezebels who wanted Baal and Asherah instead of Yahweh were certainly idolaters, but so were the average Israelites who thought of themselves primarily as Yahweh worshipers who happened to dabble in Baalism, Asherism, and any number of other “-isms” in order to cover their bases. In other words, your heart doesn’t have to be exclusively devoted to a false god in order for the act to qualify as idolatry. In fact, rarely would it be the case that pagan worship would entail the full devotion of the heart. Pagan worship, in contrast to biblically defined worship of the one true God, could best be characterized as a kind of business transaction in which the worshiper jumps through all of the right hoops in order to placate the gods and secure favors from them. It would be very easy to be an idolater while also maintaining one’s basic identity as a worshiper of Yahweh. Continue reading
For an introduction to the series, read this.
Today I will begin working through the Nicene Creed, offering suggestions for how to teach its contents to children. This creed, in its final form, is a revision of the Creed of the Council of Nicea (AD 325) that was updated by the Council of Constantinople (AD 381), the council that settled the boundaries of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. From the latter part of the fourth century to this day, the Nicene Creed has been the primary theological statement of all branches of the Christian church: Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant. Those who deny its teachings cannot rightly be deemed orthodox Christians, at least in any historical sense. Like the Apostles’ Creed, it has a follows a Trinitarian structure.
Memorization for the Week
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…
Thoughts for Discussion with Children
How many gods are there? That’s right: there is only one true God. He alone is the Creator of all things who was never created by anyone else, because he just always was. So that means everything else that was made depends on him, but he doesn’t depend on anyone or anything else at all. That’s what makes him the only true God.
But notice how the Nicene Creed refers to him: “the Father Almighty.” Was there ever a time when he was not “the Father,” or has he always been Father? That’s an interesting question, because when we follow the Bible’s teaching and say that he was indeed always God the Father, that means there must have always been God the Son with him. He wouldn’t be Father without having a Son. So, the Creed is telling us that there is only one God, and yet this one God always had someone with him. The Father always had the Son with him. There was never a time when the Father was without the Son (and, as we know as well, there was never a time when the Father and the Son did not have the Holy Spirit with them).
So, if the Son was always there, it means that he was never created, just like the Father was never created. Does that mean we really have two (or three) gods instead of one? No! There is only one God, but this one God has always been Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one thing but three persons: one “what” but three “who’s”. That’s something we can’t fully understand, but we shouldn’t expect to be able to understand God completely anyway, or else he wouldn’t really be God.
The wonderful thing about the Bible’s teaching that God has always been Father is that it means he has always loved the Son. He never had to learn how to love. When he created us, he loved us already because love is his very nature. If he had been all alone before creation, we couldn’t really say that about him. But the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity shows us that he was not all alone. The Father has always loved the Son, and the Son has always loved the Father, in the Holy Spirit.