Truly God, Truly Man

By Tiago Hirayama

Is Jesus Christ the God incarnate or a merely human, inhabited by the Holy Spirit? The council of Chalcedon was the most weighty since it dealt with the fundamentals of faith; every right doctrine concerning the Holy Trinity was established and had no considerable change in the succeeding summits until today. The central subject of the meeting was the relationship between the two natures of Christ. Subsequently, it was important because of the affirmation of the previous councils as authoritative, the doctrinal establishments, and the rejection of all heresies up to this time.

Chalcedon was fundamental to the recognition of the authority of previous synods. The years between the Nicene gathering and the Chalcedonian synod (325-451) were the most trafficked regarding the development of the church. There were many meeting, but only a few are recognized as authoritative. Some suggested that the ambiguous nature of the language used by the bishops makes it challenging to come to this conclusion, but as it is read on the original document, it is definite that three councils are ecumenical and recognizable: Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), and Ephesus (451).[1]

The dogmas established on the council of Chalcedon were another reason for the importance of this gathering. Besides the affirmation of the other doctrine disputes from the past assemblies, they decreed the absolute belief of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. “The Son of God has two distinct natures in one person that are hypostatically united “without confusion, change, division or separation.”[2]

The refusal of many views also made Chalcedon crucial to the development of the church. The beliefs rejected in Chalcedon were Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, and Eutychianism. Apollinarianism asserts that the divine replaced the human soul, so diminishing the human nature in Christ. Nestorianism, on the other hand, was the belief that Christ was merely a man inhabited by the divine, making it a perfect man, who was connected to the deity, but not fully God. Eutyches tried to salve the problem by relating the human nature with the divine nature, but when the two natures got together in Christ, the divine took over him, making Christ only divine. However, the balanced view came after much discussion in the response given in the creed proposed and accepted in the Chalcedon synod, which is express here:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [coessential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.[3]

Conclusion

The council of Chalcedon was the most critical councils in the development of the church. First, it recognized the authority of the right councils. Second, it developed and affirmed the definitive doctrines in Christianity. Third, it rejected the rise of strange views that contradicted Scriptures.


[1]Philip Schaff, Henry Wace, eds. The Church Fathers—Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series: The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2012), 262-263.

[2]Theopedia, Ecumenical Councils, accessed August 25, 2018,  https://www.theopedia.com/ecumenical-councils

[3]Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom Volume 2 (New York and London: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1889), 62-63.

Bibliography

Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.

Ferguson, Everett. Church History: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation. The Rise and Growth of the Church in its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Schaff, Philip, Henry Wace, eds. The Church Fathers—Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series: The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2012.

_______. Creeds of Christendom Volume 2. New York and London: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1889.

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