What is the Chalcedonic Formula? (Draft)
Forged in AD451 during the Council of Chalcedon, the Formula regarding the Person of Christ reads as follows:
"…there is to be confessed one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
…perfect in Godhead and perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, of rational soul and body,
…of the same substance with the Father according to the Godhead, and of the same substance with us according to the manhood, like to us in all respects, without sin,
…begotten of the Father before all time according to the Godhead, 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, in two natures, unconfusedly, immutable, indivisibly, inseparately,
…the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the peculiarity of each nature being preserved and concurring in one person (prosopon) and one substance (hypostasis), not parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten, divine word, the Lord Jesus Christ;
…as from the beginning the prophets declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ has taught us, and the creed of the holy fathers has transmitted to us."
In a nutshell, the Definition affirms that:
The unity of Christ's two natures is at the level of Person i.e. Christ is one Person ('hypostasis') in two natures ('homoousios' or 'physis'). Alan Lewis summarises this well:
"(According to Chalcedon), Christ therefore exists as "one person" but "in two natures". There is just one personality and individual, Jesus Christ, one subject of the human nature as well as the divine, and that subject is the Word, the second person of the Trinity…Christ's humanity is not diminished by, nor absorbed into, his divinity, but maintains its wholeness in the union." (Between Cross & Resurrection, Lewis p.154)
As with all theological views, issues inevitably remain. Not even this great ecumenical milestone is immune to problematic questions.
Chiefly, the Definition was forged at a time when assumptions of divine immutability and impassibility were all but unquestioned. Whether for or against the formula, no one believe that the nature of God could be experience suffering and death, and that it was largely the human nature of Christ which underwent crucifixion. No doubt tensions will remain between such a view and Scripture's affirmation that it was 'the Lord of glory' who was crucified (1Cor 2:8).
Also, it isn't clear how what is real about human nature without a human person, or is personal identity a substance-independent entity?
Finally (for now), it seems to me that if the axioms were forged based on an understanding of the necessary and sufficient conditions for salvation to take effect, then (at least) SOME of them are not necessarily required anymore AFTER the work of salvation is over. For e.g.why CAN'T Christ's two natures be separated (if only for a while) once His work on the Cross is over?
(I anticipate this page will be continually updated as I am nowhere near 'sufficiently read' regarding this topic!).
Back to Main Page