Is Open Theism Incompatible With a Chalcedonian Christology?

Question: The Chalcedonian Creed says Jesus was “fully God and fully human” and that these “two natures” remained distinct in the Incarnation, even though Jesus was one united person. I’m told that part of the reasoning behind the concern to keep Jesus’ humanity distinct from his divinity was to protect the “impassibility” of the divine nature (impassible = God does not suffer). Since Open Theists reject divine impassibility, shouldn’t they also reject the Chalcedonian Christology? In fact, couldn’t one argue that the rejection of divine immutability requires one to also reject a Chacledonian Christology?

Answer: Historically, there were a number of factors that led to the Chalcedonian Creed. The most important, I would argue, was that the Church wanted to affirm the full divinity and full humanity of Christ as revealed in Scripture over and against a number of competing views that were subsequently judged to be unorthodox.  At the same time, its undeniable that the increasing influence of the platonic paradigm of perfection (and thus of God) as impassible and immutable on the evolving theology of the church throughout the second, third and fourth centuries affected the particular way many worked out the two natures of Christ. It was, in particular, a strong influential force in the fear some had of “mingling” the two natures.

But I don’t see that Open Theists need to reject the Chalcedonian Creed to be consistent. It’s important to note that many classical theists now reject the classical understandings of immutability and impassibility, and many others attempt to argue that the classical understanding of these concepts was not as absolute as was previous thought (that is, immutability didn’t mean God was unchanging in every respect and impassibility didn’t mean God is above suffering in every respect.) Yet few theologians feel compelled to reject the Chalcedonian Christology. It’s also important to note that many today – including some classical theists – are rethinking the concept of “nature.” It is at least as much in question as are the concepts of impassibility and immutability.

In this light, it’s clearly difficult to argue that any given theological position – including Open Theism — is intrinsically inconsistent with the Chalcedonian Christology.

Related Reading

Living Incarnationally

The Christian faith is centered on the belief that in Jesus Christ God became a human being. This is commonly referred to as the doctrine of the incarnation. It means that in Jesus, God became embodied. God left the blessed domain of heaven, was born in Bethlehem, and took on our humanity that we might…

What is the significance of Ezekiel 33:13–15?

“[W]hen I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered…he will die. But when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness, if a…

Topics:

What is the significance of Hosea 8:5?

The Lord asks, “How long will they [Israel] be incapable of innocence?” The Lord’s continual striving with Israel regarding their lack of innocence suggests that this question was not merely rhetorical. If God knows the future to be eternally settled, however, he could not in earnest ask this (or any other) question about the future.…

Topics:

What is the significance of Numbers 16:20–35?

After Israel’s sin under the leadership of Korah, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment” (vs. 21). Moses and Aaron pleaded with the Lord to only judge those who were most guilty. In response, the Lord modifies his judgment and gives…

Topics:

How can we determine what is and is not “open” about the future?

Question: You believe that the future is partly open. You’re writing has pretty much convinced me this is true, but I’ve still got some serious questions about it. For example, how does anyone determine what part is open and what part is not? If we can’t determine what is and is not open, isn’t the…

What is the significance of Ezekiel 22:29–31?

The Lord says he “sought for” someone to stand in the breech for Israel “but I found none.” Hence Israel experienced the wrath of God. If everything that shall ever come to pass is eternally fixed in the divine mind, God would have foreknown that no one would respond to his call for a Moses-like…

Topics: