This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #193, titled, “The Christological Debates to the Council of Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON], Part 5.”
When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.
Our Scripture for today is 1 Corinthians 8:6 which reads: “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from St. Ambrose of Milan. He said: “Just as in Paradise, God walks in the Holy Scriptures, seeking man.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Christological Debates to the Council of Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON], Part 5” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
This council condemned Dioscorus [DEE-OH-SKOR-US] and Eutyches [YU-TIK-EES], but forgave all others who had participated in the Robber Synod of Ephesus two years earlier. Leo’s letter was finally read, and many declared that this expressed their own faith. It was a restatement of what Tertullian had declared centuries earlier, that in Christ there are “two natures in one person.” Finally, the council produced a statement that was not a creed, but rather a Definition of faith, or a clarification of what the church held to be true. A careful reading of that “Definition” will show that, while rejecting the extremes of both Alexandrines and Antiochenes, and particularly the doctrine of Eutyches [YU-TIK-EES], it reaffirmed what had been done in the three previous great councils (Nicea [NY-SEE-UH] in 325, Constantinople in 381, and Ephesus in 431):
Following, then, the holy Fathers, we all with one voice teach that it is to be confessed that our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same God, perfect in divinity, and perfect in humanity, true God and true human, with a rational soul and a body, of one substance with the Father in his divinity, and of one substance with us in his humanity, in every way like us, with the only exception of sin, begotten of the Father before all time in his divinity, and also begotten in the latter days, in his humanity, of Mary the Virgin bearer of God.
This is one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, manifested in two natures without any confusion, change, division or separation. The union does not destroy the difference of the two natures, but on the contrary the properties of each are kept, and both are joined in one person and hypostasis [HAI-POW-STEI-SUHS]. They are not divided into two persons, but belong to the one Only-begotten Son, the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. All this, as the prophets of old said of him, and as he himself has taught us, and as the Creed of the Fathers has passed on to us.
It will be readily seen that his Definition does not seek to “define” the union in the sense of explaining how it took place, but rather in the sense of setting the limits beyond which error lies. Thus, it rejected the notion that the union destroyed “the difference of the two natures” and also the view that the Savior is “divided into two persons”–thus rejecting the most extreme Alexandrine and Antiochene positions. It is clear that this manner of speaking of the Savior is far distant from that of the Gospels, and has been deeply influenced by extrabiblical patterns of thought. But, given the manner in which the issue was posed, it is difficult to see what else the bishops gathered at Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON] could have done in order to safeguard the reality of the incarnation.
The Definition of faith soon became the standard of christological orthodoxy in the entire Western church, and in most of the East–although there were some in the East who rejected it, and thus gave rise to the first long-lasting schisms in the history of Christianity. Some, mostly in Syria and Persia, insisted on a clear distinction between the divine and the human in Christ, and were eventually called “Nestorians.” Many others took the opposite tack, rejecting the doctrine of “two natures,” and for that reason were dubbed “Monophysites” [MOH-NOH-FEH-SITE]–from the Greek monos [MOH-NOHS] (one) and physis [FIH-SIS] (nature). Very few of these, however, adhered to the teachings of Eutyches [YU-TIK-EES]. Rather, their concern was that the divine and the human in the Savior not be so divided that the incarnation be rendered meaningless. To this were joined political and nationalist considerations which added fire to the theological debates that raged for centuries.
Next time, we will begin looking at “Further Theological Debates.”
Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.