The Creed of Chalcedon
…truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body
We read yesterday that our Lord is perfect (complete) in both Godhead and manhood. Today we read that he is “truly God and truly man.” We will read much the same thoughts repeated with different words throughout this Creed, the desire of the Fathers being to cover all the bases. So here we add the adjective “truly” to “complete.” “Truly” speaks to veracity, or the dependability to what is said. But more than that, in this particular instance, to say that Christ is “truly God and truly man” is to verify the nature of the case. To put this another way: What God is, Christ is; moreover, what man is, Christ is as well. He fully and truly shares the same nature of God the Father, and he fully and truly shares the same human nature as every human being. He is God and he is man.
But it is the next line I would like to capitalize upon: “…of a reasonable soul and body.” A fourth-century heretic by the name of Apollinaris, in an effort to defend the deity of Christ, denied that our Lord had a human (rational) soul or spirit but instead was merely a human body filled with a divine soul, called the “Divine Logos.” But such a proposition denies our Lord’s complete and true manhood as described above. It also jeopardizes the salvation of men in that the whole man must be saved—soul and body. The Bishops who met at Chalcedon understood this ancient formula: That which is not assumed is not redeemed. In other words, if the Son of God does not assume a human soul from the Virgin in that wonderful and mysterious conception, then he cannot save the soul of any man in his work of atonement as he has not a human soul for which to atone. So in order to save any single human being, he must be a complete and genuine human being himself—body and soul—or we are still in our sins.
So our Lord must possess both a “reasonable soul and body,” meaning a rational human soul capable of remembering, understanding, and willing—the mental processes which separate us from the beasts. And then there are the affections and desires—the heart of the man. All of these our Lord must have that he may 1) Experience human existence; and, most important, 2) Redeem men and women by truly dying and rising in their place. As exalted as the angels are, no angel could do this for us for the simple reason that such a one is not human. And, of course, a brute is not human. And even God, if he will die for us, must assume manhood, as God in and of Himself is incapable of dying. We require the God-man to save us, truly God and truly man—and that’s exactly who our Lord is.