Monday, October 02, 2006

Syllabus: Introduction to Christology in One Lesson

Christology of Chalcedon

Jing Cheng
Proposed, Southern Methodist University
Fall 2006

Motivation of the Course

The imaginative audiences are young adults who are curious of Christian culture but find it weird to believe in a human being as the Son of God. This course attempts to help them understand the formation of a Christian doctrine and the concerns involved during this process.

Reading Assignments

1. Richard A. Norris, The Christological Controversy (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), pp. 1-31.
2. Cyril of Alexandria, “Second Letter to Nestorius,” in The Christological Controversy, pp. 131-135.
3. Cyril, “Third Letter to Nestorius,” in Christology of the Later Fathers ed. Edward R. Hardy (Louisville, London: John Knox Press), pp. 349-354.
4. Cyril, “Letter to John of Antioch,” in The Christological Controversy, pp. 140-145.
5. Leo I, “Letter to Flavian of Constantinople,” in The Christological Controversy, pp. 145-155.
6. “The Chalcedon Decree,” in Christology of the Later Fathers, pp. 371-374.

Lecture Outline

1. The doctrinal achievements of the Council of Nicaea I and Constantinople I

Council of Nicaea I: the first Ecumenical Council, summoned by Emperor Constantinople in 325. Athanasius was the leading champion of orthodoxy. The council condemned Arianism, which denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ and accepted “Homoousios”—the Father and the Son are of one substance—as orthodox.

Council of Constantinople I: convened by Emperor Theodosius I in 381. The council ratified the work of the Council of Nicaea with regard to the doctrine of Christ, and confirmed the humanity of Christ by condemning Apollarianism, which denied the presence of a human mind or soul in Christ.

(Now that the real divinity and real humanity of Jesus Christ was affirmed, what is the relation of the two in the God-man?)

2. Nestorianism: The christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius

Theodore of Mopsuestia: The Word of God dwells in the man Jesus of
Nazareth by God’s good pleasure. Therefore, there are two subjects in Christ: the Logos united himself with the man Jesus ever since his conception started and the union of the two grew with Jesus’ human life going on and is fully expressed in the resurrection of the crucified Jesus.

Nestorius: Virgin Mary should not be called “Theotokos”—mother of God; she was only the mother of the humanity of Christ and could only be called “Theodochos”—recipient of God. The Logos is not the ultimate subject of the human attributes of Jesus, so He was not born of Mary, did not suffer, did not die, nor was raised. Jesus was only a human being, in whom the Logos dwelt, though intimately and completely.

3. Cyril’s response to Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus (431)

Cyril of Alexandria: The second person of God Himself took flesh and became a human
being, but he did not thus undergo a change and ceased to be God; remaining God he took on
the conditions of human life. “[A]lthough He existed and was born from the Father before
the ages, he was also born of a woman in his flesh.” And “the Logos was born of a woman
after he had … united human reality hypostatically to himself.” (Norris, 133) There was
only one subject in Jesus. The one hypostasis is the Logos himself, making a full human
existence his own. Though as God He is impassible, in the human body He assumed He
suffered for our sake; therefore the resurrection is also His according to his human nature.

Council of Ephesus: took place in 431. Both sides went but met separately and mutually excommunicated each other. The imperial authorities recognized the meeting Cyril presided over and Nestorius’s doctrine was condemned and he himself was excommunicated. The council reaffirmed the Creed of Nicaea and gave formal approval to “Theotokos.”

4. Eutyches’ claim
After the union, Christ had only one nature.

5. Leo I and the Council of Chalcedon (451)

Leo I (“the Great”): condemned Eutyches. Christ is one “person” having two natures,
each of which was the principle of a distinct mode of activity. The inner, ontological identity of Christ is the Logos himself.

Council of Chalcedon: convoked by Emperor Marcian. Condemned Eutyches; confirmed the Nicaea and Constantinople Creed and drew up a statement of faith—Chalcedon Definition, according to which Chris is the one divine Son, possessing at once complete deity and complete humanity. Christ is not “out of” two natures but “exists in” two natures, which are neither divided from each other nor confused with each other.

Discussion Questions

How do we understand that a historical man is believed to be the eternal Son of God? What is at stake throughout this debate? Are you satisfied with the definition in the Chalcedon Decree? How can it be more than a human concomitant?


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