The Status of the Nicene Creed as Dogma of the Church
Following is a text of the joint statement issued in Baltimore July 7 at the close of the first official theological discussion in the United States between representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the major Lutheran churches.
In praise to God, and in gratitude for those gifts of His Spirit whereby He steadily draws His people to unity in Christ, we rejoice in this first official theological conversation in the United States between Roman Catholic and Lutheran believers.
Those regularly appointed to arrange for and summon this meeting selected the topic for discussion: The Status of the Nicene Creed a Dogma of the Church.
The main points of the conversation are summarized in the following paragraphs:
We confess in common the Nicene Faith and therefore hold that the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who made man, suffered, died, and rose again for our salvation, is true God; that he is from God the Father as Son, and therefore other that the Father; that the God-head is one and undivided; and that the Holy Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, is to be worshipped and glorified.
The Nicene Faith gathers up and articulates the biblical testimony concerning the Son and His relationship to the Father.
The Nicene Faith, formulated by the Council at Nicaea in 325 and developed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, was a response to contemporary errors. The Church was obliged to state her faith in the Son in non-biblical terms to answer the Arian question.
The confession that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son, God of God, continues to assure us that we are in fact redeemed, for only He who is God can redeem us.
The Nicene Faith, grounded in the biblical proclamation about Christ and the Trinitarian baptismal formulas used in the Church, is both doxology to God the Father and dogma about God the Son.
As we reflect upon the role of dogma in our separated communities, we are aware of the following:
The Nicene Faith possesses a unique status in the hierarchy of dogmas by reason of its testimony to and celebration of the mystery of the Trinity as revealed in Christ Our Savior, and by reason of its definitive reply to an ever-recurring question. This does not imply that the Nicene Faith exhausted the richness of Scripture regarding the person of Christ. For example, the Council of Chalcedon in 451 confessed that He was "in every respect like us, except without sin."
We are agreed that authoritative teaching in the Church serves the people of God by protecting and nurturing the Faith. Dogma has a positive and a negative function. It authoritatively repudiates erroneous teaching, and asserts the truth as revealed in the saving deeds of God and in His gifts to His Church and to His world.
The way in which doctrine is certified as dogma is not identical in the two communities, for there is a difference in the way in which mutually acknowledged doctrine receives ecclesiastical sanction.
Different understandings of the movement from kerygma to dogma obtain in the two communities. Full inquiry must therefore be made into two topics: first, the nature and structure of the teaching authority of the Church; and, secondly, the role of Scripture in relation to the teaching office of the Church.
We together acknowledge that the problem of the development of doctrine is crucial today and is in the forefront of our common concern.