The Councils

Chapter 1 traced the developments in Christology and trinitarian teaching that ran from the First Council of Nicaea (325), through the Council of Chalcedon (451) and down to the Second Council of Nicaea (787). Nicaea I defended the true divinity of the Son who is 'generated', but not created, by the Father and shares such essential divine attributes as eternal existence. Constantinople I (381), as well as upholding the divinity of the Holy Spirit, rejected the teaching of Apollinarius of Laodicaea and so maintained that the Son had assumed a full humanity, including a rational soul. By defending the use of Theotokos (Mother of God) as a title for Mary, the Council of Ephesus (431) underlined the unity of Christ's humanity and divinity: his being human is not separated from his being divine. Twenty years later the Council of Chalcedon added that Christ is one person in two natures., with his humanity and divinity remaining distinct and not being confused. In passing let us underline the importance of Chalcedon's language of 'distinct but not separate', a principle that applies beyond teaching on Christ to such matters as the writing of the inspired scriptures (where the input of the human writers and the Holy Spirit is distinguishable but not separable) and, as we shall see, to the nature of the Church. The three general councils that followed Chalcedon added some significant footnotes to its doctrine, most notably when Constantinople III (680/1) taught that Christ enjoys two wills, a human will and a divine will which, while distinct, have always operated together in perfect harmony.

Unlike the doctrine of, and terminology for, the one person of the incarnate Son of God in two natures (or Christ 'in himself'), the redemption (or Christ 'for us') did not provoke theological debate and teaching from the first seven councils of the Church. All parties simply took for granted that it was only through Christ that human beings could be saved, and that the purpose of everything from his incarnation to this final coming was, as the creeds stated, 'for us and for our salvation'. One enduring result of this lopsided development has been that, whereas theology and official teaching have tended to watch carefully talk about

Christ 'in himself', talk about Christ 'for us' has at times suffered from harmful imprecision—as we will illustrate below. The councils left open (1) the question of how redemption is to be understood, as well as (2) the task of developing reflection on the Trinity in the light of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Let us look first at (2).

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