1. Favorable Opinions The Chalcedonian christology is regarded by the Greek and Roman, and by the majority of the orthodox English and American theologians, as the highest christological knowledge attainable in this world. Dr. Shedd (History of Christian Doctrine
, i., New York, 1863, p. 408
) thinks it probable that " the human mind is unable to go beyond it in the endeavor to unfold the mystery of Christ's complex person." Dr. Hodge ( Systematic Theology
, ii., New York, 1872, pp. 397 sqq.) notices and criticizes several of the more recent "erroneous and heretical doctrines," but holds to the Chalcedonian statement as adopted by the scholastic Calvinists of the seventeenth century.
2. Objections and Criticisms. On the other hand, the Chalcedonian christology has been subjected to a rigorous criticism in Germany by Evangelical as well as rationalistic divines-by Schleiermacher, Baur, Dorner, Rothe, and the modern Kenoticists, also by Ritschl and his followers, and by Professor Paine in America. It is charged with a defective psychology, and now with dualism, now with docetism, according as its distinction of two natures or the personal unity is made its most prominent feature. It is said to oscillate between two extremes, without truly reconciling them; as the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity stands between tritheism and modalism, now leaning to the one, now to the other, when either the tri-personality or the union is emphasized. It assumes two natures in one person; while the dogma of the Trinity assumes three persons in one nature. Professor Pains ( Critical History of the Evolution of Trinitarianism
, Boston, 1900, p. 279) marvels “how such a bald antinomy, Christ wholly God and wholly man, could have been adopted by theologians who were adepts in the Aristotelian and Platonic philosophies." Again he speaks of the Chalcedonian christology as "an unhistorical and unscientific violation of logical and psychological laws." The Chalcedonian definition, it is further objected, teaches a complete human nature with reason and will, and yet denies it personality. It does not do justice to the genuine humanity of Christ in the Gospels, and to all those passages which assert its real growth. It over shadows the human by the divine. It puts the final result at the beginning, and ignores the intervening process. If we read the Gospel history, we find that Christ was a helpless infant on his mother's breast-and therefore not omnipotent till after the resurrection, when "all authority in heaven and on earth" was given unto him (Matt. xxviii. 18
); he grew in wisdom, and learned obedience (Luke ii. 40
; Heb. v. 8
), and was ignorant of the day of judgment (Mark xiii. 32
), therefore not omniscient; he moved from place to place, and was therefore not omnipresent before his ascension to heaven; be was destitute of his divine glory, which he was to regain after his death (John xvii. 5
). To confine these limitations and imperfections to his human nature, while in his divine nature he was, at one and the same time, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, even in the manger and on the cross, is to destroy the personal unity of life, and to make two Christs. How can ignorance and omniscience simultaneously coexist in one and the same mind? How can one and the same individual pervade and rule the universe in the same moment in which he exclaims, " My God, my God, why heat thou forsaken me? " Christ speaks and acts throughout as one undivided ego. We must, therefore, so reconstruct or improve the Chalcedonian christology as to conform it to the historical realness of his humanity, to the full meaning of his own sayings concerning himself, and to all the facts of his life. This is generally felt among the Evangelical theologians in Germany, where christological speculation has been most active since the Reformation, and by not a few in other countries. If anything has resulted from the multitude of lives of Christ, written by learned and able men in the nineteenth century, it is the fact of the perfect and unique divine-human personality of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. some good remarks on thin subject by Dr. J. O. Dykes, in the >
Expository Times, Jan., 1906, pp. 151 sqq. ).
At the same time the Chalcedonian dogma is the ripest fruit of the christological speculations and controversies of the ancient Church, and can never be lost. It gave the clearest expression
to the faith in the incarnation for ages to come. It saves the full idea of the God-man as to the essential elements, however imperfect the form in which it is cast. It defines with sound religious judgment the boundary-line which separates christological truth from christological error. It guards against two opposite dangers-the Scylla of Nestorian dualism, and the Charybdis of Eutycliiaa Monophysitism, or against an abstract separation of the divine and human, and an absorption of the human by the divine. It excludes also every kind of mixture of the two natures which would result in a being which is neither divine nor human. With these safeguards, theological speculation may boldly and hopefully move on, and penetrate, if possible, deeper and deeper into the central truth of Christianity.