By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.
Obviously, if you have not read Part 1, stop now. Okay, so we saw in Part 1 one of the main texts used for demonstrating what we will now cover: the Chalcedon Creed. In Philippians, we have “father, “God”, “human nature”, “son” “man”. How do you square this? How can Jesus be affirmed as a man, and as God in the same breath? Two things: 1. The statements that are used to describe this cannot contradict themselves. 2. The statements from which the description is derived, the Bible, cannot be contradicted. “Jesus is Lord” – that is a statement from the Bible. “If Jesus is Lord, then that must mean he was risen from the grave and is alive, for he must be alive in order to be the present Lord” – that is a statement derived from the Bible. It is just as true, even though it is not “found” in the Bible. The second statement, my own, is a man-made deduction, a man-made proposition. If, then, a statement is derived, deduced from the Bible, it is just as true as the Bible. My statement, my man-made statement, does not contradict the Bible. We all want to proclaim, “what the Bible says.”
Well, the intention was the same in Chalcedon. Great, devotional care was taken over each word and their order. Does it contradict the Scriptures? Does it contradict itself? Can we square, in logical, ordered derived statements what the Bible gives to us in answering, Who is Jesus? And, once this has been done, with great pains, will those who believe in this Jesus accept it? Is this a statement that can be presented to the Church so that it may bring unity where there is great division, even among our own? That’s Chalcedon, 451 AD. The Church did accept it. And from then on it has become the bulwark of the Faith in defending the matter. There is no contradiction in the Bible, nor is there any contradiction in a defense of the presentation that Jesus is man, and Jesus is God at the same time, forever.
The Statement reads as follows: “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 soul and body; 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 taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.”
That’s a lot, I know. And, I will not go down the whole explanation. “Following the holy fathers” means that Chalcedon grew out of the prior centuries of the Faith. It was not “created” in 451. It came from another Statement, the Nicene (325 AD) and the Apostles’ (possibly coming into its own form as early as 180 AD). Chalcedon is a development. Many were saying this about Jesus, and that. The problem these views had was that, although they sounded plausible, they contradicted a text in the Bible. That’s a strike. Can’t be true. For example, a guy who was a Christian named Apollinaris (361 AD), an important figure, a Bishop even, had a hard time understanding the whole Jesus and God thing. He argued that the Logos himself, the Second Person of the Godhead, the Son, Eternal, was the actual “soul” of the man, Jesus. This meant, of course, that Jesus was not a real, human being, soul and body. It also had great implications for the Logos Himself, where “he emptied himself” was taken to mean that the Second Person Himself ceased, for a time, being God Almighty. The absurdities the caused, not to mention the contradictions, abounded. It was roundly condemned in 381 AD (Second Council at Constantinople). Never really heard from since. The Jesus in the Bible is not God in the flesh. He is a man in union (one) with God – in the flesh (incarnation).
“All with one consent” is the idea of unity on this matter. And, this Statement has unified all the churches that profess their faith in the Scriptures – Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Churches with its myriad of denominations are in unity over this matter. We can’t agree on baptism…but we can and do agree on this! We fight over what might seem to be the most trifling of things, but on this we agree. That’s something to keep in mind. When such a Statement like this actually produces the unity it sought for and now has been judged to have stood the test of time as it has – and it has been and is still subjected to great scrutiny, then one pays attention to the collective voice of the Body of Christ, the Church (as Paul called it, metaphorically speaking). The Spirit resides in the Church, in all her “members” wherever they are found, and with the Spirit, the Father and the Son. In spite of continued divisions between West and East, and between Protestants and Catholics, this Statement still unifies to this day. When a view, or a teaching comes along and attempts to charge it with being wrong, that is not something to “throw off” lightly. This is more than a mere “statement” from a scholar that can be quoted from a commentary or some systematic theology. Even the great Luther, who championed the individual reading of the Bible, did not dare begin to question this Statement. He did question other statements here and there, and brought about the Reformation. Other councils, other statements, even those held by a great deal of theologians, were questioned and rejected, but not this one. If this one was knocked down, the Faith ceases to exist, rendering any questions of any matters pointless because there is no reason to discuss pointless articles of the Faith when the very core has been demolished, and that is what this Statement has come to be known as. It does not give us a matter of how to be saved. It does not even tell us why we must be saved. But it does tell us WHO does the saving: Jesus Christ, “Very God, Very Man.” It states in the end, “as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.” This Statement claims that it is the direct teaching of the Lord who presides over the Church, His People in the Scriptures, and handed down til then (451 AD). This is no mere “creed” or “statement of faith” by some corner church of the Billy Bob Evangelist Heart of the Bleeding Miracle.
I have written a bit on this first matter to establish this point. It may appear to those who have a renegade spirit to simply ignore it as a piece of paper. Big deal. Bunch of old men in the 5th Century got together and rattled off some words and a lot people accepted them because they were smarter than they were and had more power and wealth to use this creed as an effective fear-mongering tool to corral in the idiots. Be my guest. Feel free to believe that. But don’t call yourself a Christian in the historical sense of the word. You may call yourself a follower of Jesus that has no creed, and that’s fine. But, when I ask you, “Who is this Jesus you follow?” and your answer is, “well, my Bible says he is a spirit, like, you know, everywhere. He doesn’t have a body anymore, you know, or maybe he does, but who cares? See, this Jesus is not in heaven any more. He is not a man anymore, either, or like, I don’t know, maybe he is in some sense or something, I don’t know, don’t care. I just love me some Jesus cause he makes me feel good, you know? I don’t really speculate on this stuff you know, cause Jesus, see, Jesus lives in my heart, man, you know?” No. I don’t. You have not said anything. “Well, you know, just pray about it, man. He will come into your heart, you know? He’s all apart of us, you know, so we have to love each other, man, you know, and not argue over this stuff, man. Jesus is real, brother, and you just want to talk about theology and doctrines and man made words, man.” So, what you are saying is that you have no real definition or clue – any words that have any sort of precision to them – at all? “I don’t need words, man. I got Jesus!” Have a nice day.
Well, I wish the above exchange were not true. But, it has happened. The “I don’t need no creeds, just my Bible” routine is one of the more silly notions that cults all around the world have used to “keep one” from seeing what “others” have said on this matter. And here we find a great cloud of witnesses from the most opposite of people in agreement on what the “Bible says”. Don’t they count, too? Are they not brothers and sisters in the Lord? Does he not know them as well? Is your faith more impassioned for Christ than them? Such a great unity of the Faith, where in the world unity is damn hard to come by, should be rigorously studied first before throwing off such a great force. That would be the responsible thing to do.
This, then, is my second part of this series. Part three is coming in a couple of days, and should complete it.