The Creed of Chalcedon
to be acknowledged in two natures,…without change
This is the second of four modifiers to what it means that our Lord is acknowledged in two natures. Yesterday’s word was the awkward, “inconfusedly,” better rendered, “without confusion.” Today, we see that our Lord’s human and divine natures are held together “unchangeably” or “without change.” So, what does this mean and why does it matter?
The Bishops at Chalcedon understood that just as our Lord’s divine and human natures are in no way blended or mixed, so the properties of each nature are unchanged in the joining—meaning that the human nature remains the human nature and the divine nature remains the divine.
So let us consider the ramifications of this important and essential statement. To say that the human nature of our Lord and Savior is in no way changed by its union with the divine is to say that our Lord is not changed into some superman by virtue of this union. This is the temptation to which the Monophysites succumb when they submerge our Lord’s human nature within the divine. Frankly, it is a temptation ever-lurking about many of us. It is hard for us to imagine a sinless human being. But we need to understand that we do not sin because we are human but sin because we are less than human. Christ was and is the unfallen man; he is the way we would be had we never sinned. Though we can never be innocent again, the purpose of salvation is to redeem and heal us so that we shall never sin again—which won’t happen until we reach that state in heaven. There, our humanity will be fully restored unto us, and we shall see him as he is, for we shall be like him (1 John 3:2-3). We must hold to the essential teaching that our Lord was fully human, of the same nature as us, but apart from sin.
But we must equally hold to the truth that neither was the divine nature changed due to its joining with the human. I have heard theologians say that God was changed when he took upon himself that which he never had before—a human nature. God was always a “perfect circle,” they say; he only became a “bigger” perfect circle! God never changes, for perfection in all his attributes is the nature of His being, nor need He ever change his mind for He knows, indeed, decrees, all things from beginning to end (1 Samuel 15:29). The joining of the two natures makes the Son suited for his office as Mediator between God and man—the God-man. If in any way one nature is changed from being fully God or fully man, to that extent do we lose the God-man—and the Mediator of our salvation.