What We Believe

Chalcedonian Creed

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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 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, unconfusedly, 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.

9 comments so far

  1. What happened between the virgin birth and death? The creeds seem to ignore the most important part of Jesus — his life and teaching.

  2. John,

    Thanks for your comment. I find it very, very interesting. Here are a couple of things I would encourage you think about:

    1- The teachings of Jesus during His earthly life, along with His words (by His Spirit’s inspiration) in the rest of the Scripture, themselves emphasize both His incarnation and His death. Jesus talked mostly about His origin, which grounded His character and nature; and also His ultimate earthly purpose, which was to suffer and die for our sins, and be raised.

    For this reason the creeds (limited for brevity’s sake) try not only to say what is true but also what is central. Catechisms and confessions (elsewhere on the site) give more time to exploring other aspects of Jesus’ life and teaching.

    Take for example the Heidelberg Catechism. Its entire third section is taken up with an exposition of the holiness of Christ as reflected in the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer, and as such is a wonderfully practical tool for growth in learning about being conformed to the image of Christ.

    2- The creeds of course were written to combat particular heresies that were most prominent at the times in which they were written; and for that reason, there will be less in the creeds about matters of consensus.

    Think of it like this. . .rarely will you ever meet someone, if they believe Jesus was an actual historical figure, who denies that He was a great moral teacher, and that His teaching and living about love and sacrifice were extraordinary and powerful. The rub comes when all these people who say they follow Him (as in today, like Roman Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, the Reformed, Jehovah’s Witnesses, many many groups ad infinitum!), all of whom agree on His basic moral stance(s), can radically differ on Who they believe he actually was. For a theological liberal this would be a secondary question, or even an illegitimate one; but for us, it is crucial because without Him as the incarnate and crucified God-man, we have no salvation.

    Again, thanks for the intriguing comment.

    -amk

  3. Why does the chalcedonian creed include “mother of God”? It seems as if the author was putting Mary on the same level of the Godhead, this statement seems to add fuel to the roman catholic exaltation of Mary since, in my opinion, is open to interpretation which is not necessarily a good thing. Explain, if you can. Thank You.

  4. Jose,
    Mary is called the “mother of God” for theological reasons, not for devotional reasons. It is true that in some parts of the Western empire there were pockets of strong devotion to Mary, when the phrase “mother of God” was used in the Chalcedonian creed. The reason for its insertion however was to clarify a crucial theological point about the person of Christ. A group of thinkers often labeled “Monophosytes” were emerging in the church, led by a man named Eutyches, who was teaching that the divinity of Christ was absorbed by his humanity. This led to considering the incarnate Christ’s humanity as almost fully deified and severed any continuity between the humanity of Christ and humans in general, who he came to represent at the cross. As a response to this controversy, the church met in 451 A.D. to clarify the doctrine of the person of Christ, and particularly the relationship of the two natures in the person of Christ. The term “theotokos” (God-bearer) seemed to be an apt way of referring to the unity of the person of Christ. It also had the advantage of about a century of use in theological debate, because it had been used among Christians in the post-Nicean situation as a way of confessing Christ in an orthodox manner over against the Arians.

    As you can see then, the use of “theotokos” was not intended to under-gird Marian devotion. If it is used for that purpose today, it is surely misguided and manifests an ignorance of the history and theological use of the term.

    I hope that helps Jose.

    jsaw

  5. This creed seems to have been accepted by the Reformers. I am curious as to why our Reformed churches hold to the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian, but not to this creed.

  6. TJ
    Though Belgic Confession article 9 does not explicitly name the Chalcedonian definition, that does not mean we don’t receive it. Bear in mind that article 9, on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, references the 3 ecumenical creeds you listed because those are trinitarian creeds, whereas the Chalcedonian definition is primarily about christology. However, when you read BC 19 you will see that Chalcedonian christological categories underpin our explanation of the hypostatic union.

  7. You list the Chalcedonian Creed on a par with the better-known creeds and confessions. Is the Chalcedonian Creed an official creed of the United Reformed Churches in general or of only some of the URCs?

  8. Gary
    I will say the same thing to you that I said in an earlier post to TJ. Though Belgic Confession article 9 does not explicitly refer to the Chalcedonian Definition as as a “creed” we receive, I would point out two things which indicate that we implicitly receive the Definition: 1) article 9 does say “we do willingly received the three creeds, namely, that of the Apostles, of Nicea, and of Athanasius; likewise that which, conformable thereunto, is agreed upon by the ancient fathers.” Clearly, the “ancient fathers” agreed upon the Chalcedonian Definition; so, to my mind, that statement says we receive the Definition as well and, 2) read Belgic Confession article 19 carefully, and you will notice that it makes generous use of Chalcedonian categories in its articulation of the hypostatic union, which would tend to support the position that we implicitly receive it.

    With that in mind, I find it very hard to believe that any URC pastor or consistory would have the slightest problem with saying that we “receive” the Chalcedonian Definition simply because our Reformed confessions don’t explicitly say that we do.

    I hope that helps.

    Pastor John

  9. Dear Rev. Sawtelle;

    Thank you for your clarification. I agree that it is unlikely any URC Consistory would *reject* the Chalcedonian Definition, but that wasn’t really my question. The placement of the CD in the list of Ecumenical Creeds officially received by the URC in the “What _WE_ Believe” section of a website which seems to represent official URC doctrinal standards certainly seems to imply that the CD is in fact one of those “official” URC standards. And that is the basis of my question — “Is the Chalcedonian Creed an official creed of the United Reformed Churches in general (as implied by its presentation on this website) or of only some of the URCs?”

    I mean no disrespect, Rev. Sawtelle, neither to you and the others who have assembled and maintain this useful website nor to the CD itself. Stated another way, my question would be whether the CD might better be placed in a separate category on the “creeds and confessions” page, perhaps including such other “accepted but ancillary” standards as, for instance, the Westminster Confession and Catechism. Because this website has taken on the formidable task of representing the entire URCNA, it seems at least prudent to differentiate what is required from what is merely (however firmly) accepted.

    Thank you again for your response.

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