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.

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