The Hypostatic Union of Christ
The Hypostatic Union of Christ taught in the Chalcedonian Creed has a fine line to traverse, indeed. It must avoid the two major errors in contention up to 451AD: Apollinarianism and Nestorianism. Additionally, the Chalcedonian Creed must deal with the communicatio idiomatum. It is clear that the creed does not aim to solve any mysteries regarding the metaphysical co-subsistence of the two natures. In fact, a common argument leveled against the creed is that it does more to say what the union of Christ’s two natures is not than what it is. This problem is then left to philosophers and theologians who are faced with biblical facts that seem to contradict the orthodox position. One such situation is the position asserted by Wallace.
A more modern solution to the difficulties of what Chalcedon does not affirm is the Kenosis theory. Berkhof, especially, looks upon this theory with distaste, calling it “a pantheistic conception.” While the kenotic theory is not preferred and most likely based on poor exegesis, it articulates the metaphysical need for interaction between the two natures of Christ without blurring the lines into a single nature. Ronald Carson explains the difficulty of the biblical material thusly:
“The natures are not to be conceived of as being in any way mixed or blended; and yet there is a real exchange, a real communication of properties, in the case of the genus majesticum, the communication of divine attributes to Jesus Christ according to his human nature.”
The stage is set for a stand off not unlike the one between the two camps on either side of the predestination and free will argument. Orthodoxy exclaims, accurately, what can be said positively and negatively about the direct statements in Scripture regarding Christ and the two natures. However, it does not speak directly to the metaphysical difficulties the likes of which Wallace has presented in his article. Rather than reject Chalcedon or prematurely accept kenosis, it may be helpful to review an article by Stephen W. Need.
Need wants us to examine the use of language in forming theological principles, especially as they relate to Chalcedon and Christology. He finds elucidating information in the examination of language. Specifically, he wants readers to accept the limitations of what our language is capable. Need offers the concept of an understanding on the basis of “double vision” in conceptualizing our theological notions, saying, “Human language relates to the divine in a way that is neither merely expressive nor permanently true.” As much as our words are concrete, they should be given the freedom to express in their limited scope the larger infinite impossibility of our understanding the metaphysical postulations surrounding the hypostasis of Christ.
Need solidifies this claim by citing the use of metaphor, not only in theological propositions, but also in the biblical record as well. There is no shortage of people willing to acquiesce to the claim that our language is incapable of explaining the nature of God. There must also be no shortage of people willing to concede that even Christ, in dealing with the shortcomings of language, resorted to the use of metaphor in theological proposition.
“Metaphor constitutes an important element of human speech about God; its double element yields a tensive interaction. While articulating truth at one level, metaphors are usually literally false. They contain an “is and is not” structure, a simultaneous affirmation and denial. This gives them specific power and richness.”
Need proposes, then, that this use and understanding of metaphor should also, and especially, be extended to Chalcedon. While the Chalcedonian creed would certainly not be labeled a metaphor by most, one wonders how helpful such an analysis would be in healing the disparity between the natures of Christ and the shortcoming of the adverbs “inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly and inseparably” used in the creed. He proposes that the etymology of these adverbs leads the reader to the conclusion that Chalcedonian Christology, “affirms unity between the defining characteristics of two things: a common derivation, continuity, or unity between the logos and the Father, on the one hand, and between Jesus’ humanity and that of humans, on the other.”
Based on Need’s proposition of metaphor, the Chalcedonian Creed does not avoid speaking to the metaphysical. Instead, it offers a dynamic and fluid relationship between the two natures of Christ. Chalcedon in the true fashion of theological language is a set of guidelines or restrictions. If, then, Wallace does not violate what is implicitly stated as the positive or negative qualities of the hypostatic union, there seems to be some metaphysical ‘wiggle room’ afforded in orthodoxy.
Conclusion – Wallace’s Use of Attributes and Orthodoxy
How, then, does Wallace’s proposition for moral and amoral attributes coincide with orthodoxy? If we consider the premise of Need’s work to be sound, which we should, then Wallace has a good chance of conformity to orthodox teaching. The greatest challenge that Wallace’s proposition faces is the potential for his teaching to be misconstrued as dividing the attributes of God. However, he is in the company of Erickson who prefers to use a modification of the natural and moral division of God’s attributes. Certainly, Wallace’s designation is similar in effect. The strength of Wallace’s proposition is that it derives basic information from sound biblical exegesis. There is a point in our theological posturing where even the orthodox creeds must bow to the supremacy of Scripture (yes, you heard me say that – quit gasping fellow Episcopalians).
Philosophically, Wallace’s designation of God’s attributes is preferable. Citing the biblical material, it offers the strength of speaking to the metaphysical interaction between the natures of Christ. In comparison to the work of Need, Wallace’s distribution has the strength of utilizing the metaphorical nature within the confines of Chalcedonian Christology. He does not purport that Christ grew into his divinity, but rather elements of that divinity were mitigated by the work of the Spirit in His life. Wallace thus makes a way for Christ’s humanity to be more significant than even Chalcedon allows, while also affording Christ the fullness of deity. We see in his understanding of the attributes of God, a careful estimation of how to reconcile the biblical material to orthodox teaching. It is an effort that has helped us to understand better the interaction of the dual natures of Christ. Ultimately, it may take modern theology time to round the corner, but efforts on behalf of thinkers like Wallace may smooth the path to an increasingly perfect theology.
 Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 328.
 See John G. Gibbs, “The Relation between Creation and Redemption According to Phil. II 5-11.” Novum Testamentum 12 (July 1970): 270-283. Specifically, he points to the focus of the passage being the work Christ came to the earth to do, “That Paul’s purpose was more to describe the work of Christ than present a metaphysic of the person of Christ is evident, also, in the fact that he does not elucidate the relation between “the form of God” and the ‘the form of a slave.”
 Ronald A. Carson, “The Motifs of ‘Kenosis’ and ‘Imitatio’ in the Work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, with an Excursus on the ‘Communicato Idiomatum.’” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 43 (September 1975): 546.
 Stephen W. Need, “Language, Metaphor and Chalcedon: A Case of Theological Double Vision.” The Harvard Theological Review 88 (April 1995): 238.
 Ibid., 243.
 Ibid., 248.
 Erickson, Christian Theology, 293.