The coherence of the Chalcedonian Definition of the incarnation<sup>1</sup>

Richard Swinburne

in The Metaphysics of the Incarnation

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199583164
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725647 | DOI:
The coherence of the Chalcedonian Definition of the incarnation1

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The definition of the Council of Chalcedon provides the standard orthodox account of the incarnation of Jesus. This states that the Son, the second person of the Trinity, while remaining divine, acquired a perfect human nature (having a ‘rational soul’ and a human body). As Son, he is a spiritual being, having all the divine properties (such as omnipotence, omniscience, perfect freedom, and so perfect goodness). He could only acquire in addition to the divine nature ‘a rational soul’ if that is understood as acquiring a human way of thinking and acting; and not as acquiring a soul in the Platonic sense of a substance which forms the essential part of a human being. A person can have two separate ways of thinking and acting, the divine and the human, along the lines of a Freudian model in which the person thinking and acting in one way (the human way) is not fully aware of thinking and acting in the other way (the divine way). However his ‘perfect humanity’ must be understood in such a way as to involve inability to sin (although compatible with an ability to do less than the best).

Keywords: nature; abstractism; human nature; soul; individuation; consciousness; beliefs; temptation; supererogation

Chapter.  7801 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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