Can We Question the Creeds? image

Can We Question the Creeds?

This is a fascinating story, with a thought-provoking punchline, from Roger Olson:

“Some years ago I became editor of Christian Scholar’s Review—a scholarly journal dedicated to integration of faith and learning supported by about fifty Christian colleges and universities. It publishes many articles about Christian theology. About the time I came on the editorial board, before becoming editor, there appeared in the Review an article by a young evangelical scholar entitled (I’m going by memory here) “Jesus: the One-Natured God-Man.” It was an attempt to examine and correct the metaphysics and language of Chalcedon. The author clearly believed in the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ and was not just repeating the old Eutychian or Monophysite heresies (although exactly what those were is not always clear). He was wrestling with whether the “two natures” doctrine of the Person of Christ is biblically and metaphysically sound. He agreed with the intention of Chalcedon but saw it as ultimately coming down too heavily on the Antiochian side of the dispute that led to it. And, he concluded, the model of Christ expressed there (“hypostatic union”) ultimately divides the person of Christ by, for example, implying two wills and two consciousnesses in him.

“I read it with interest and considered his critique of orthodox Christology. He was not arguing from some modern bias against the supernatural (he affirmed Christ’s preexistence as the eternal second person of the Trinity, Christ’s miracles and resurrection, etc.) He was solely concerned to raise questions about the conceptuality and language of Chalcedon and ask whether it does justice to Scripture’s testimony about Christ or the Chalcedonian fathers’ own intentions.

“I never did agree with the author, but neither did I see him on a slippery slope toward heresy or “liberal theology” just for questioning the concepts and language of Chalcedon. It was a worthy attempt even if it ultimately fell short of being convincing.

“Years later I “met” the author (we corresponded by e-mail) and he told me that he had first sent his article to the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society which rejected it out of hand without editorial peer review because, so the then editor said, JETS is a creedal journal and does not publish articles that question orthodoxy.

“So, for that editor, anyway, Chalcedon, the hypostatic union, even though it is extra-biblical, was sacrosanct, above questioning—even from Scripture and reason.

“My question then and now is: how that does not add the Chalcedonian Definition to Scripture as the fifty-second (or fifty-third or fifty-fourth) book of the Bible? In effect, it does.

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