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Chalcedonian Christianity is the religious doctrine of those Christian churches which accept the Definition of Chalcedon (from the year 451 AD). This teaching is concerned with the relation of the divine nature to the human nature in the person of Jesus Christ. While most modern Christian churches are Chalcedonian, in the 5th – 8th centuries the ascendancy of Chalcedonian Christology was not always certain.
The dogmatical disputes raised during the Council of Chalcedon led to the Chalcedonian Schism, and as a matter of course to the formation of the non-Chalcedonian body of churches known as Oriental Orthodoxy. The Chalcedonian churches were the ones that remained united with Rome, Constantinople and the three Orthodox patriarchates of the East (Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem). Together, these five patriarchates became the organizational foundation of Chalcedonian Christianity, and during the reign of the Emperor Justinian I they were recognized as the Pentarchy, the official leadership of the Christian Church.
Today, the great majority of Christian churches and organizations are descended from the Pentarchy, and subscribe to Chalcedonian Christianity. Examples include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and most Protestant denominations.
The groups that rejected the Chalcedonian definition were the majority of the Armenian, Coptic, and Ethiopian Christians, together with a part of the Syriac Christians. Today, these groups are known collectively as the Oriental Orthodox churches. Some Armenian Christians (especially in the region of Cappadocia and Trebizond inside the Byzantine Empire) did accept the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon and engaged in polemics against the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The Chalcedonian dogmatical dispute
The Chalcedonian understanding of how the divine and human relate in Jesus of Nazareth is that the humanity and divinity are exemplified as two natures and that the one hypostasis of the Logos perfectly subsists in these two natures. The Non-Chalcedonians hold the position of miaphysitism (sometimes called monophysitism by their opponents). Miaphysitism holds that in the one person of Jesus Christ, divinity and humanity are united in one nature, the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration. This led many members of the two churches to condemn each other: the Chalcedonians condemning the Non-Chalcedonians as Eutychian Monophysites, and the Non-Chalcedonians condemning the Chalcedonians as Nestorians.
Dissent from the Chalcedonian doctrine
Those present at the Council of Chalcedon accepted Trinitarianism and the concept of hypostatic union, and rejected Arianism, Modalism, and Ebionism as heresies (which had also been rejected at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325).
Those present at the council also rejected the Christological doctrines of the Nestorians, Eutychians, and monophysites (these doctrines had also been rejected at the First Council of Ephesus in 431). Later interpreters of the council held that Chalcedonian Christology also rejected monothelitism and monoenergism (rejected at the Third Council of Constantinople in 680). Those who did not accept the Chalcedonian Christology now call themselves non-Chalcedonian; historically, they called themselves miaphysites or Cyrillians (after St Cyril of Alexandria, whose writing On the Unity of Christ was adopted by them and taken as their standard) and were called by orthodox Christians monophysites. Those who held to the non-Chalcedonian Christologies called the doctrine of Chalcedon dyophysitism.