Without Composition...

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KMK

Administrator
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WCF Chapter 8; II. The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature,[10] with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin;[11] being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance.[12] So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.[13] Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.[14]
I know "without conversion" and "without confusion" come from the Athenasian Creed:

Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.

One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

Where does "without composition" come from?
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
"The Definition of the Faith," at Chalcedon (451) describes the hypostatic union in this way (variously translated): "one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation."

The WCF is picking up that four-fold descriptive language, translating it slightly differently as "inseparable, without conversion, composition, or confusion." In this case, "without composition" would mean the same thing as "without division."

Peace,
Alan
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
"The Definition of the Faith," at Chalcedon (451) describes the hypostatic union in this way (variously translated): "one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation."

The WCF is picking up that four-fold descriptive language, translating it slightly differently as "inseparable, without conversion, composition, or confusion." In this case, "without composition" would mean the same thing as "without division."

Peace,
Alan

Thanks for the help, Dr. Strange.

Just to clarify, does the relationship go like this?

Chalcedon=WCF

no confusion=without confusion
no change=without conversion
no division=without composition
no separation=inseparable


Can you elaborate on the word 'division' in Chalcedon? Obviously it not a synonym for 'separation'.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
without division = It means that the natures are not so separated from each other two suddenly become two concrete hypostases.

It's trying to avoid the errors of both Eutychianism and Nestorianism.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
William Cunningham (Historical Theology, 1:314):

It is not needful to suppose that these three words in our Confession are intended to convey three distinct or materially different ideas; or indeed anything more in substance than the atreptos kai asunchutos introduced by the fathers of Chalcedon against Eutyches, and ever since generally adopted by the orthodox churches. Composition and confusion are here used as critically synonymous — the one being merely exegetical of the other, and the two together just expressing most fully the sense of asunchutos, for which indeed the word communication, as well as composition or confusion, has been sometimes employed.

On the other hand, if there is a qualitative difference, "without composition" would more naturally refer to the properties belonging to the nature than to the nature itself. Hence God, who is without parts, is also said to be "without composition." In relation to Christology, the phrase would guard against any idea that the communication of properties is from nature to nature; the Reformed position being that the communication terminates in the person. If this qualitative difference is permitted, then "conversion" equates to Chalcedon's "change" and "confusion" retains the same ideas as Chalcedon's use of "confusion," but "composition" guards against those who ascribe certain properties of one nature to the other.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
William Cunningham (Historical Theology, 1:314):

It is not needful to suppose that these three words in our Confession are intended to convey three distinct or materially different ideas; or indeed anything more in substance than the atreptos kai asunchutos introduced by the fathers of Chalcedon against Eutyches, and ever since generally adopted by the orthodox churches. Composition and confusion are here used as critically synonymous — the one being merely exegetical of the other, and the two together just expressing most fully the sense of asunchutos, for which indeed the word communication, as well as composition or confusion, has been sometimes employed.

On the other hand, if there is a qualitative difference, "without composition" would more naturally refer to the properties belonging to the nature than to the nature itself. Hence God, who is without parts, is also said to be "without composition." In relation to Christology, the phrase would guard against any idea that the communication of properties is from nature to nature; the Reformed position being that the communication terminates in the person. If this qualitative difference is permitted, then "conversion" equates to Chalcedon's "change" and "confusion" retains the same ideas as Chalcedon's use of "confusion," but "composition" guards against those who ascribe certain properties of one nature to the other.

It sounds like Cunningham is saying that, instead of three different ideas, the use of the words is intended to show that Westminster stood in agreement with the historic creeds. They were not trying to 'reinvent the wheel'.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
As Jacob intimated, at Chalcedon, both Nestorianism and Eutychianism were refuted: the latter by "no confusion, no change" and the former by "no division, no separation."

Clearly, Westminster in its Christology picks up credal and conciliar language and I've equated them as you did in #3, Ken, though I find intriguing what Matthew suggests about "without composition" having reference to the Calvinistic view of the communicatio idiomatum in concreto. I'll have to look into this more (or be lazy about it and just ask Chad van Dixhoorn!).

Peace,
Alan
 
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