The Creed of Chalcedon
but rather the property of each nature being preserved
Granted, lines like, “the property of each nature,” is not the ordinary language of Scripture, nor even the way we moderns talk, but that does not disqualify such expressions. The word, “Trinity,” is not in the Bible either, but no one of an orthodox persuasion would suggest getting rid of the term.
So the fathers at Chalcedon were once again trying to say that the union in no way harms the integrity of the natures. You respond, “Yes, they’ve said that—over and over again. Why must they repeat themselves?” I answer, “So that no one will mistake their meaning, and they leave no stone unturned with their definitions—definitions they thought necessary to believe to be among the faithful.” I agree with them.
I take, “property of each nature,” to refer to each nature in and of itself, what it is, what goes into its being. This is easy with reference to the human nature. The properties of the human nature are referred to the image of God in which we are created: rationality, self-awareness, a moral nature, freedom of will, relationality, and all in conjunction with a human body responsive to stimuli. All of this our Lord shared with us, only without the effects of sin which have so shattered our lives. As to the property of the divine nature, well, not even the bishops at Chalcedon were ready to define that. God is God and no more need be said. And whatever one might say God is (and only God could tell us that), that is what our Lord’s divine nature is.
And what the fathers want us to understand is that the union of the divine with the human nature in the union of the one person of Christ changes nothing regarding those natures. The divine nature is not changed because of that union nor the human changed as a result of being united with the divine. Our Lord remains the God-man—the Spirit-filled human being working together with the divine nature, fulfilling the mission the Son was sent by the Father to accomplish—our salvation and God’s glory.
Some may see this as the wranglings of church leaders who need hobbies. Not at all. Heretics were teaching that Christ was not the God-man but something in between, or with a human nature so swallowed by the divine as to be irrelevant, or with two natures so divorced as to be schizophrenic or a mere man-God. The fathers at Chalcedon answered these heresies with skill and intelligence and thereby left us better off all these centuries after.