Home > Creeds, Eschatology, Lutheranism > Salvation in the Athanasian Creed

Salvation in the Athanasian Creed

I was reading the Athanasian Creed the other day, which happens to be printed in the Green Lutheran Hymnal.  I never noticed the last lines of the creed before, and I was quite surprised to read,

[Jesus] will come again to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds.

Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith.

One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.

I was struck by the fact that salvation is explicitly linked to believing this, but the coming judgment is on the basis of deeds .  From where I sit (especially as a post-Lutheran) this seems contradictory.  Clearly the framers of this creed did not think it was contradictory, so I wonder what exactly they meant by salvation.

  1. February 20, 2008 at 12:25 am

    I think you need to go back to the first two lines of the creed.

    1. Whosoever will be saved: before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith:

    2. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled: without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

    It’s about doing/keeping the faith. One could argue that in the minds of the creators of this creed, the one not ‘believing’ the aforementioned propositions are engaging in active heresy which is a wicked ‘deed’ deserving of eternal fire.

    But do you really see any more contradiction in this than you do in the NT? For example John 5:21-30 cf. John 3:18 or Romans 2:1-10 cf. Ephesians 2:8-9.

    On the one hand Jesus says: “for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation but on the other he says: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    On the one hand Paul says: “[God] will render to every man according to his deeds (ἔργα): To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath and on the other hand “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works (ἔργων), lest any man should boast.”

    I’d just take the old saving faith will result in right deeds/good works route with respect to both the Athanasian Creed and the NT statements.

  2. February 20, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Nick, thanks for your comments. These are good observations. Yes, I’m sure you’re right. But it is a very un-Lutheran way of looking at things (at least as it is understood at the popular level).

  3. February 20, 2008 at 12:41 am

    All I know about Lutheranism is that Luther started it. So I can’t really comment on that aspect of it. 😐

  4. February 20, 2008 at 5:11 am

    “All I know about Lutheranism is that Luther started it. ”


  5. February 20, 2008 at 9:07 am

    The first four lines are what they believed.

    The last line was slipped in by someone at the end of the conference in order to convince others to believe the same thing!

  6. February 20, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    You guys are funny.

  1. April 26, 2011 at 9:47 am

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