Is "Chalcedonian" Christology Nestorian?


I realize that historically speaking this opinion would be problematic for one claiming to be part of the Anglican Church, however it seems to me that the definition of two natures of Christ endorsed by Chalcedon veers into Nestorian territory already, for why else did they go to such lengths to differentiate their doctrine from myaphitism? The answer only makes things look even worse: because the Churches which accepted the council ( and this is why I put Chalcedonian in quotes) later clarified at III Constantinople that they not only believed Christ has two natures but also two wills. I can’t see how this could be anything less than implicit, covert Nestorianism.
It is for this reason I think I’m coming to accept the miaphysite definition of Christ’s united human and divine nature and one will, for the divine and human are perfectly united in one being this way as opposed to remaining distinct insofar as they are two separate natures which smacks of Nestorianism.
Nonetheless I suppose the Church has had her reasons for these stances, and the last thing I want to do is fight the bulwark and pillar of the truth. So in short, how is the Christology of Chalcedonian Churches different from that of the Nestorians?


There are two natures but only one person. The fifth-century Christian heresy of two distinct persons in the Incarnate Christ (one divine, one human) opposed the orthodox teaching that Jesus Christ is a divine person that assumed a human nature.


Nestorian Christology held that there were two persons as well as two natures in Christ. Nestorius understood the Incarnation as similar to when you lift up another person who is lying down and have to “join” yourself to them in order to pick them up. Basically he believed that the Divine Word did this with a human person from the moment of that human person’s conception. This belief led Nestorius to say that Mary was not and could not be the mother of God. With two persons in Christ, Mary could not be mother of God, but only the mother of the human person that the divine incorporeal person joined himself to.

Chalcedonian Christology rejected all of this by saying in Christ there is only one person with two natures, one human and one divine. The human and divine natures must exist without mixture, because any admixture of the two would render a nature that is neither fully human nor fully divine. This is similar to when you mix colors. If you mix blue paint with yellow paint you’re going to get some shade of green that is neither fully blue nor fully yellow. If the human and divine natures were mixed, then Jesus as a result would be neither.

Now, when there is one person in Jesus, Mary gave birth to that one person who was both fully human and fully divine, so she can truly be called mother of God, contrary to what Nestorius said. Christ is one person who is consubstantial with us according to his humanity, and consubstantial with the Father according to his divinity.


I don’t understand. Even if the nature is a divine nature united with a human on, it is still both divine and human by the definition of the word “united”, isn’t it? But the main problem for me of the Chalcedonian definition is its (apparently) logical conclusion that because Christ has two natures he must have two wills; I don’t see how it is possible for one being to have two wills.


There is a difference between “union” of natures and “mixture” of natures. A mixture of the two natures produces one nature as a result which can be neither divine nor human, just like a mixture of blue and yellow produces a green shade that is neither blue nor yellow. But in a union where there is no mixture, both the full humanity and full divinity are preserved, like the colors blue and yellow are preserved if they are “united” by being painted side by side on the same canvas and not mixed.

To illustrate:


Short answer is that having a will is part of having a nature. A person can’t truly have a human nature while lacking a human will, or truly have a divine nature while lacking a divine will. And because Christ truly has both a human and a divine nature, it follows He must have both a human will and a divine will.

For more in-depth information:
On monophysitism, the heresy which held Christ had only one nature:
On monothelitism, the heresy which held Christ had only one will:


Take the time to actually look at the recent statements of the RCC and various oriental churches.

They were not in the story and at the time ofthat schism, Either.

It was yet another case of announcing what the other side was saying, and arguing against that, rather than actually listening . . .

They were saying exactly the same thing as Rome, just with different freezing. At 1500 years later, it’s still a mess…



Christ’s two natures are distinct but not separate.

Why this must be the case should be clear from philosophical consideration (to say nothing of the authority of the Church). The act of divine intellection is entirely different from human intellection, since the divine intellect necessarily comprehends absolutely everything whatsoever, even things utterly beyond the realm of human knowledge. Given this, it should be clear that Christ must have had two intellects, one divine and one human. From this, His having two wills follows necessarily, since the will follows the intellect.

Another proof comes from Christ’s temptation. It is definitionally impossible for the divine will to be tempted, ergo Christ must have had a human will as well.


Catholic Encyclopedia

The Catholic doctrine is simple, at all events in its main lines. The faculty of willing is an integral part of human nature: therefore, our Lord had a human will, since He took a perfect human nature. His Divine will on the other hand is numerically one with that of the Father and the Holy Ghost. It is therefore necessary to acknowledge two wills in Christ.

Chapman, J. (1911). Monothelitism and Monothelites. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.


We should ask ourselves what theological importance Christ having two natures and two wills has for us.

If Christ did not have a true human nature, then how could human nature be redeemed through Christ’s merit?

We have the same concern if Christ did not have a true human will. If a true human will did not submit itself out of love in full obedience to God even to death, then how could that redeem the sin of Adam and our own?

And if Jesus is God but is not one in nature with the Father, due to a mixture of natures, and is not one in will with the Father due to a mixture of wills, it seems we must either accept polytheism or deny that Jesus is God.

The definition of Christ being one person with two natures and two wills is indeed simething difficult to grasp in one’s mind based on our own every day experience with our own personhood and wills, but it should be clear why the Church’s that accept Chalcedonian Christology see this as theologically vital none the less and found the ideas of a mixture of natures or wills dangerous.


I didn’t think of the implications of monotheletism! But at the same time, dialethetism seems dangerously close to Nestorianism. Could , for lack of a better term, miatheletism, or a united human-divine will in Christ also account for His obedience to God?
Also, I don’t see how a mixture of natures means that Christ is not one with the Father. He is the second person of the Trinity, the Logos, who also assumed humanity; while remaining God, He also became man, canging his nature. Unless you want to argue that the Blessed Virgin Mary existed and gave birth to him eternally, you have to accept the fact that His nature changed at His conception.
I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be difficult, but some of the arguments shown here don;t make sense.


If Christ had only one divine-human will, then that will would be common to all three of the Divine Persons. As such, it would either have been part of God’s nature from all eternity, or God’s nature would have changed in time. Both of these possibilities are absurd.

The Son of God becoming incarnate in time requires that He take on a full and distinct human nature.

Nestorianism basically denied that Christ was a single person. Nestorius held that Jesus Christ and the Divine Son were only loosely connected, such that referring to Mary as the Mother of God was improper.


There was no change in nature. The Divine Nature is still the Divine Nature, unchanged. The human nature was taken from Mary, and these were united, but not mixed.

If the natures were mixed or blended, the mixed nature would not be the same nature as the Father’s nature.


I just realized there is a small hole in my logic there, namely that it presupposes miaphytism. I still don’t fully understand, however, how Christ, as one person can:

  1. have two natures.
  2. have those natures be distinct and yet united.
    And here we wade further into the philosophy-meets-theology quagmire:smile:


The nature of person of the Son of God is divine. The nature of the assumed incarnation of Jesus Christ (body and rational soul) is human, however there is only one person.


Are you saying the person of Christ is not human? How then is he fully human as well as fully divine?


Jesus is not a human person, rather a divine Person with a human nature. “The individual characteristics of Christ’s body express the divine person of God’s Son.”


466 The Nestorian heresy regarded Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son. Opposing this heresy, St. Cyril of Alexandria and the third ecumenical council, at Ephesus in 431, confessed "that the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man."89 Christ’s humanity has no other subject than the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it and made it his own, from his conception. For this reason the Council of Ephesus proclaimed in 431 that Mary truly became the Mother of God by the human conception of the Son of God in her womb: "Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh."90

477 At the same time the Church has always acknowledged that in the body of Jesus "we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see."114 The individual characteristics of Christ’s body express the divine person of God’s Son. He has made the features of his human body his own, to the point that they can be venerated when portrayed in a holy image, for the believer “who venerates the icon is venerating in it the person of the one depicted”.115


Thank you for clarifying and supplying those enlightening catechismal passages.


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