The Creed of Chalcedon
and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
Today, we close out the Creed of Chalcedon, and I have enjoyed getting to know it better. Yes, it’s repetitive, but it has a specific teaching of the faith to drive home, and the Bishops wanted to leave no questions unanswered concerning the teaching that our Lord is one person of both divine and human natures. The Fathers at Chalcedon were sure that what they declared was none other than catholic doctrine—meaning, what the Church had always taught everywhere from the Apostles down to their own day.
And this final line of the Creed allows me to discuss something which might make evangelicals uncomfortable, and that is the importance of the teaching of the Church down through the ages. Evangelicals are often blinded by the here and now, shunning the ancient and medieval church as “Roman Catholic” or simply irrelevant for today. The thinking is that we have nothing to learn from previous ages. This is arrogance predicated on gross ignorance. We refuse to listen to the great teachers of the Church—Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine, or later on, Anselm or even Aquinas. Church history doesn’t begin for us until 1517 or later with the Mayflower. And full disclosure, I love the English Puritans of the seventeenth century.
But I also know that all of that good Puritan theology had its beginning with those early Bishops centuries before. The Reformers—Luther, Bucer, Calvin, et.al—knew them well and quoted them at length (see Calvin’s Institutes). Orthodox Christian theology did not begin with the Baptists; we inherited the vast majority of it adding what we discerned from Scripture concerning regeneration, baptism, congregational polity, and religious liberty. But the basic doctrines of the Trinity and our Lord’s person, even our Lord’s work on the cross (Anselm), we inherited from those before us and owe to them a debt of gratitude.
No one of us thought it up studying the Bible late nights at our kitchen table. Though the act of faith is a direct gift from God, the content of the faith comes indirect from God passed down through generations of believers pre-dating even our sainted grandmothers. In other words, history matters; what the Church has taught through the ages matters. And there is a sameness about her teaching which we call “orthodox” to which we must cling despite contemporary concerns. If we are to survive the pagan “post-Christian” world in which we live, we must let yesterday inform today, for the future can tell us nothing. May we humble ourselves to listen.