Pneumatomachianism and the Definition of Chalcedon

Click image to read more about this book.

Click image to read more about this book.

On Sunday, November 8, 2015, the Adult Sunday School lesson introduced Pneumatomachianism and the Definition of Chalcedon.

The class discussed the eternality of the Holy Spirit in light of the fact that he “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Then, Pneumatomachianism was introduced, and how this ancient heresy led to the insertion by the Western catholic church of the so-called “filioque clause” into the Nicene Creed, which reads, “…And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.”

Pneumatomachians–While accepting the divinity of Jesus Christ as affirmed at Nicea in AD 325, they denied that of the Holy Spirit which they saw as a creation of the Son, and a servant of the Father and the Son. Led to the Filioque of the Nicene Creed (from class handout).

The difficulty of conceiving of the human and divine natures of the Lord Jesus Christ and the gravity with which the orthodox creedal formulations of the first five hundred years of church history were enforced was then discussed.

The Chalcedonian Definition of the relationship between the two natures of Christ:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from the earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us. (Click here for more information about the Definition of Chalcedon)

Implicit faith in the revelation of the human and divine natures of Christ in Scripture despite the complexity of how this can be without falling into one or other of the ancient heresies was affirmed.

Then the discussion moved to the issue of original sin, and how the guilt of Adam was not imputed to Jesus because his conception was “extraordinary,” rather than being the “ordinary generation” by which the guilt of Adam is conveyed to his posterity, in the words of the Westminster Standards.

Finally, the class closed with some discussion of the apparent hierarchy in the Godhead and the distinction between the ontological and economic Trinity (click here for more on these terms).

Listen to “Pneumatomachianism and the Definition of Chalcedon” at mcopc.org.

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One Comment to “Pneumatomachianism and the Definition of Chalcedon”

  1. Reblogged this on The Misadventures of Captain Headknowledge and commented:

    “The decision of Nicaea related primarily only to the esssential deity of Christ. But in the wider range of the Arian controversies the deity of the Holy Ghost, which stands and falls with the deity of the Son, was indirectly involved. The church always, indeed, connected faith in the Holy Spirit with faith in the Father and the Son, but considered the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit as only an appendix to the doctrine concerning the Father and the Son, until the logical progress brought it to lay equal emphasis on the deity and personality of the Holy Ghost, and to place him with the Father and Son as an element of equal claim in the Trinity.

    “The Arians made the Holy Ghost the first creature of the Son, and as subordinate to the Son as the Son to the Father. The Arian trinity was therefore not a trinity immanent and eternal, but arising in time and in descending grades, consisting of the uncreated God and two created demi-gods. The Semi-Arians here, as elsewhere, approached the orthodox doctrine, but rejected the consubstantiality, and asserted the creation, of the Spirit. Thus especially Macedonius, a moderate Semi-Arian, whom the Arian court-party had driven from the episcopal chair of Constantinople. From him the adherents of the false doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit, were, after 362, called Macedonians; also Pneumatomachi, and Tropici.” (Schaff, Philip; History of the Christian Church, volume 3; 1996, Hendrickson Publishers; pages 663-664.)

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