Wednesday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

The Creed of Chalcedon

and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence

What is “concurring in one Person and Subsistence?”  The divine and human natures.  But what does it mean to “concur?”  And what in the world is a “subsistence?” 

Indeed, the language does throw one.  Well, “concur” comes from Latin literally meaning, “to run with.”  When something concurs with something else, that means that they are happening at the same time, or agreeing with one another.  So, to say that the divine and human natures of Christ concur is simply to say that they are “happening” in the same place at the same time—agreeing together, working together—but still two distinct natures in one place.  The next question is: What is that place?  And that’s where the word, “subsistence,” comes in.  The two natures concur in one subsistence—that is, a particular being, to the point—a person.  So, a subsistence is a person.  “Well, why didn’t they just say that?” you ask.  Richard A. Muller says the teachers in the West thought the word, “subsistence” (translating the Greek, hypostasis) was a more philosophically precise term than “person.”  We’ll take his word for it.  (Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, 195, 286.)

So the divine and human natures of Christ are perfectly together and agreeing with one another in the one person of the Son, Jesus Christ.  That’s all this line is saying.  Yes, it’s technical.  Yes, it sounds like jargon.  But the bishops at Chalcedon were using the language of the day, employing concepts from Greek philosophy to whet the precision of their words.  And I see that as providential.  Greek is a wonderful language for honing definitions as it is both subtle and supple.  And Greek philosophy (at least the kind they adopted) was a philosophy that examined reality, a much better philosophy to serve theology than any other to come around in the last thousand years, to be sure.  Imagine, the peace that Rome imposed on the world (pax Romana) and the excellent roads they built helped the Apostle Paul spread the gospel.  And later, Greek philosophy, which was regnant at the time, helped the Church define these important matters of Christology, just as relevant now as then—perhaps more so.  Why, it’s as if God were behind the whole thing!

I believe that God was with those Bishops at the Councils of Chalcedon and earlier at Nicaea.  God works through his Church, “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) against which the gates of hell shall never prevail.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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