Cover image for Who do you say that I am? : christology and the church
Who do you say that I am? : christology and the church
Armstrong, Donald, III.
Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., [1999]

Physical Description:
xvi, 143 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Proceedings of the 6th international conference of the Anglican Institute, held in the fall of 1998 at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Paris, France.
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Central Library BT205 .W457 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In our current time, the essential, life-changing question that Jesus asked of his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" has been effectively changed in the thinking of many to "Who would you like me to be?" From feminist theologians who critique Jesus through the experience of women to church growth experts who offer "God at your service", Jesus has been revisioned and reimaged to bless our most indulgent desires. In this clear and forthright book, six New Testament experts provide a credible antidote to the raft of inaccurate pictures of Jesus by reclaiming a place for traditional faith in our postmodern age.

Author Notes

Donald Armstrong is rector of Grace Episcopal Church and St. Stephen's Parish and rector of the Anglican Institute in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is also the editor of The Truth about Jesus (Eerdmans).

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

This collection of essays attempts to offer a corrective to what the authors contend are "devastating, despairing, and inaccurate pictures" of Jesus painted by the Jesus Seminar and other contemporary New Testament critics. Armstrong, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Colorado Spring, Colo., and other contributors argue that much contemporary writing about the historical Jesus "re-visions Jesus" in humankind's images rather than seeing humankind in the likeness and image of Jesus. As contributor N.T. Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God) puts it, the Bible's "stern and tender God... has been replaced by a celestial bellhop, a mirror, mirror on the wall telling us that we are the fairest of all." In his essay on the Christological problem, Christopher Hancock, vicar of Holy Trinity in Cambridge, argues that the proper theme of Christology is not our interpretation of Jesus but "what God has to say to us in Jesus." Former Virginia Theological Seminary New Testament professor Hancock asserts in his essay on "the necessity of a biblical Christology" that "Christology which is not rooted in the Bible will always be inadequate, or worse, just plain wrong." And, in what is the centerpiece of the collection, N.T. Wright argues in "The Biblical Formation of the Doctrine of Christ" that discovering more and more about Jesus as his identity is revealed in the Bible is the urgent Christological mission of the church. Although the language of the essays is sometimes academic, each contributor has tried to make his remarks as accessible as possible to a wide audience, for these writers believe that recovering the New Testament Jesus is the contemporary church's most important task. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One The Christological Problem CHRISTOPHER D. HANCOCK     So, once again, for the last time or the first, we face that face ... FREDERICK BUECHNER I have been asked to consider the formidable subject, "the christological problem. This subject addresses the heart of the Christian faith. I am mindful of C. S. Lewis's warning to scholars, "If you can't turn your faith into the vernacular, then either you don't understand it or you don't believe it." In dealing with such a large topic, the artist Vincent Van Gogh's advice to his brother Theo is also pertinent, "Exaggerate the essentials; leave the rest vague." The aim of this chapter is, in the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews, to "consider Him," to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (12:2, 3).     Looking back at lecture notes for courses on Christology that I've taught over the years at Virginia Theological Seminary I found these words: "I approach teaching `The Person and Work of Christ' with more hesitancy, more circumspection, more self-examination and with greater self-criticism with each succeeding year." Those were the words of an academic; now as a parish priest I'm more than ever committed to their truth. For pastoral ministry and theological reflection together confirm that Christology -- that is, faithful reflection on the history, identity, personality, and significance of Jesus Christ -- is not a problem, but, to the eye of faith, the problem posed by God to the world. It encompasses the supreme question and the supreme answer in life. It isn't so much about what we make of Jesus as what he makes of us. For Jesus is, as Emil Brunner wrote, "what God has to say to us." The study of Jesus Christ, Christology, is an invitation to an intellectual, a spiritual, and an eternal feast hosted by God, served by Christ, and enlivened by God's Spirit.     I have organized this introductory chapter for this volume around seven key issues for different types of inquirers. 1. The Problem of Christology for the Diligent Student At the end of the first chapter of John McIntyre's book The Shape of Christology (1966) we read these words: If we define Christology as rational reflection upon the person, nature and claims of him with whom we have to do when we make the confession, `I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ', then in the process of such analysis the simple given reveals itself to be an amazing complexity.     Notice that phrase, "the simple given reveals itself to be an amazing complexity." A subject of amazing complexity confronts the student of Christology. Study of any person is a complex business -- let alone someone claiming and believed to be God, and venerated for two thousand years in many languages, cultures, crises, and contexts. Biography, theology, psychology, spirituality, philosophy, sociology, ecclesiology, sacramental theology, comparative religion, all impinge on the mind and heart of the diligent student of Christology.     In 1989 the editor and translator for SCM, John Bowden, published a book entitled Jesus: The Unanswered Questions . I quote from it to illustrate this first point, viz. the complexity of Christology . This is a book of questions. They arise out of a wide variety of areas of Christian thought, practice and experience: study of the Bible, doctrine, ethics, the history of Christianity, liturgy, personal prayer, pastoral work, the use of Christian belief as a source of manipulation within society and the relationship between Christianity and other faiths -- to mention the main ones. Few of these questions are ones that I have thought up myself; some are more sophisticated than others, but they can all be found elsewhere, often discussed at great length. Later he adds, The questions are all focussed on Jesus, because on any account Jesus of Nazareth, and the developments to which he gave rise, are the focal points of Christianity, and it is around the interpretation of his person, Christology, that so many problems cluster.     A direct corollary of the complexity of Christology for the diligent student is the plurality of perspectives found -- and I don't just mean the mountain of literature that, broadly speaking, deals with Christology.     To illustrate this, we return to McIntyre's The Shape of Christology . In chapter two, McIntyre identifies eight "methods" in Christology. We take these to represent eight different perspectives on "the christological problem." The list isn't exhaustive, but it is a useful starting point. i. The dogmatic method, which comes to the New Testament account of Jesus Christ with clear dogmatic presuppositions, shaped by the historic faith of the church; ii. The historical method, which critically cross-examines the historical evidence for the person and work of Jesus Christ, questioning the verifiability or falsifiability of Christology's historical records (e.g. the New Testament); iii. The literary-critical method, which examines the meaning of words and the status of texts qua texts dealing with Jesus of Nazareth (as a subcategory of this we might add now the deconstructionist method, with its suspicion of textual meaning or commitment to an infinite plurality of meanings in texts); iv. The mediatory method, which, McIntyre argues, seeks to release into the present the meaning and reality of Christ's person and work from the history and texts about him; v. The "singular" method, which ascribes a radical singularity to the Christ-event and rejects its accountability to the constraints of scientific inquiry and certain forms of historical exegesis; vi. The socio-geographic method, with its preoccupation with understanding Jesus in his humanity in a particular time, place, and cultural context (under this heading we might gather today literature on "Jesus the Jew" or writing associated with the "Second" or "Third" "Quest for the Historical Jesus"); vii. The liturgical method, which sees the foundation and fulfillment of christological reflection in the dynamic context of liturgy, worship, and preaching; viii. The ethical method, which, according to McIntyre, looks at Jesus Christ as a paradigm or principle of moral integrity in the vicarious conformity of his life to the will and purpose of God.     Though couched in generalities these eight perspectives address fundamental issues in Christology. In particular, they ask, What does the church say about Jesus? Can the Gospels be trusted? What do Jesus' life and death mean for us today? What does it mean to claim uniqueness for Jesus? What kind of man was he? How can or should someone respond to him? What does his life say about living today? McIntyre's eight perspectives (and others we might add) explain the volume and variety of material comprising "the christological problem" which confront the diligent student. 2. The Problem of Christology for the Honest Scholar Changing tack, I want to move from the problems of Christology for the student to those of the scholar; to shift, that is, from the stance of a spectator to that of a participant. What problems confront the person who is willing to participate actively and intellectually in the quest to understand Jesus?     At the beginning of chapter one of David Wells's helpful introduction to Christology, entitled The Person of Christ, we read this: The shape which our Christology assumes is determined by the presuppositions and operating assumptions with which we start.     It's a frank and honest admission that behind the complexity and plurality of perspectives on Jesus Christ lies a host of scholarly presuppositions that give shape and character to a Christologian's inquiry and conclusions. Wells lists three pervasive presuppositions that shape the way the christological problem is often addressed: · first, literary presuppositions about how the Bible should be analyzed and used; · secondly, intellectual presuppositions -- that is, philosophical or epistemological decisions about what can or cannot be accepted now in the late twentieth century about what could or could not happen in the first century as recorded in the Gospels (N.B. debates about Jesus' miracles fall into this category, as do the equally complex issues of exorcism, sexual purity, and the nature of "wholeness" in humanity); · thirdly, interpretative or hermeneutic presuppositions -- "categories of understanding," he calls them -- that is, explicitly named filters through which data dealing with Jesus is both discerned and disseminated.     In illustration of this third category, Wells cites the Lives of Jesus written by the nineteenth-century German Friedrich Schleiermacher and the twentieth-century American Shirley Jackson Case. Both strip Jesus of supernaturalism. They illustrate the pungency of interpretative presuppositions for Christology. As Wells observes, The supernatural was `reinterpreted', the uniqueness of Jesus being concentrated under the thought of the mystery of his personality, the power of his morality, or the sublimity of his teaching. Such a teacher was, in fact, no different from any other great leader and teacher, and the faith he taught was generically no different from the other great religions of the world. Wells asks of this non-supernaturalist filter (or "category of understanding"), Does this reinterpretation really do justice to the figure at the focus of the Gospel accounts? Do we not have here what Bultmann called disparagingly `a middle class conception of Christianity', and one which is quite out of touch with `the strangeness of the New Testament'?     Wells alerts us to the extent to which a scholar's -- indeed, our own -- understanding of Jesus Christ is consciously, or unconsciously, conditional upon a range of potential or actual presuppositions. To say that is not to say that presuppositions are necessarily wrong. It is to understand that presuppositions in Christology are both inevitable and (potentially, at least) identifiable. In Christology (as in theology, generally), where you begin shapes where you end. Christology flourishes when it honestly faces this fact.     I want to address briefly now two further issues under this second heading:     a. If it's true presuppositions shape Christology, the question remains, "Are there more or less appropriate presuppositions for Christology?" Or, to focus the question more precisely still, "Is Christology best done by (what used to be called) `the alienated theologian' (the one who claims neutrality of conviction concerning Jesus) or `the invested theologian' (who makes no bones about being a professing believer)?"     Not so long ago detachment was commended. More recently, a committed or "invested" stance in sociology, epistemology, and ecclesiology has been reaccredited. Commitment permits the inquirer to pursue a subject freely, radically, singularly, where the subject leads. The word christ-ology itself suggests commitment. It evokes the sense that there is more to Jesus than mere history. Indeed, christological "commitment" to Jesus -- as both subject and object -- acknowledges his preeminence both as theme (to control inquiry) and as person (to challenge presuppositions). The "invested" stance is both epistemologically necessary and spiritually appropriate. Apart from this commitment the subject Jesus Christ cannot be said to shape christological inquiry nor lead christological discovery. With this investment Christology assumes a new level of honest self-criticism (for it is accountable to this figure, Jesus) and a new kind of self-awareness (cross-examining the propriety of presuppositions it employs). The fruit of "invested" Christology is a presuppositional commitment to Jesus Christ as both historical fact and spiritual figure, as significant both phenomenologically and theologically. This represents the irreducible core of honest scholarly commitment to "the christological problem." In the light of this Christology we can consider aright the radical claims, unique character, and ultimate significance of Jesus of Nazareth.     b. Following on from this, christological inquiry must be dynamic . In this, it is not unlike any living subject; though now, in a particular way, this subject (if indeed the living Christ ) must be permitted to dominate inquiry with his own dynamic freedom to pull, push, shape, elude, as always greater, always free. As in any worthy subject -- only more so, if the subject is worthy of worship -- control is, as we've seen already, surrendered by the scholar or worshipper to this figure, Christ. Understanding and interpretation are to be seen then as dynamically given (like divine revelation), not presumptuously grasped (by critical scholarship). The Anglo-Catholic theologian E. L. Mascall makes an important christological and ecclesiological application of this when he writes in his bRook Jesus: Who He is and How We Know Him, That the Christ whom we know today is the historic Christ, is basic to our faith, but we do not depend for our acquaintance with Him on the research of historians and archaeologists. He is also the heavenly Christ, and as such is the object (we might say, the subject) of our present experience, mediated through the sacramental life of the Church.     In other words, the honest Christologian (who surrenders control to Jesus as subject) has reckoned with the dynamic greatness of the living, reigning, dominating figure of Christ. Considering Christ, she looks up to Christ, and is confronted by her lack of faith and limitation in understanding. Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed his own sense of this inner, rhetorical dynamism in Christology when he spoke of Jesus Christ as the great questioner of humanity. Writing in his Letters and Papers from Prison he poignantly comments, "What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today." We would do well to face the fact, like Bonhoeffer, that the historical Jesus and the dynamic, sovereign Christ is a botherer, and good Christology a bothersome, questioning kind of thing! 3. The Problem of Christology for the Critical Skeptic So much, then, for the problem of Christology for the diligent student and honest scholar. Does Christology present any kind of problem for those who are skeptical about its significance, submerged (perhaps) in ignorance, or critical of its relevance? It is all very well to address the christological problem as it pertains to those "in the know" within the circle of faith; but, is that a sufficient account of the one who reached out to the nocturnal Nicodemus and confronted the skeptical Thomas? Christology that cannot be bothered with, or bother a little, the critical skeptic is not worthy of the name. True Christology is as much the art of communicating Christ to a skeptical world as it is the science of understanding him in the context of faith. So what of the problem of Christology for the critical skeptic?     One of the most pressing problems Christology presents to the skeptic or cynic is, I would argue, the lingering aura of Christ's radiant character . After two thousand years very few disparage Jesus' greatness or question his goodness. In my experience of evangelism and pastoral ministry I am yet to meet someone who needs persuading Jesus was "a good man": this conviction may not lead to faith, but it is a good place to start. Many times I have quoted the poet Tennyson's description of Jesus' character as "more wonderful than the greatest miracle," and J. S. Mills's description of him as "a unique figure, not more unlike all His predecessors than all His followers." I even quote, if I have it to hand, this statement I found one day by P. Carnegie Simpson: Instinctively we do not class Him with others. When one reads His name in a list beginning with Confucius and ending with Goethe we feel it is an offence less against orthodoxy than against decency. Jesus is not one of the group of the world's great. Talk about Alexander the Great and Charles the Great and Napoleon the Great, if you will ... Jesus is apart. He is not the Great; He is the Only. He is simply Jesus.     Simpson may press some skeptics too far. But I have found many over the years who have responded, as he puts it, "instinctively" to Jesus's greatness. They have felt with Charles Lamb that, "If Shakespeare were to come into the room we would all rise up to greet him, but if Jesus Christ were to enter we would fall on our knees and seek to kiss the hem of His garment." This is the lingering aura surrounding Jesus Christ. As James Denney wrote memorably in Jesus and the Gospel, From beginning to end, in all its various phases and aspects and elements, the Christian faith and life is determined by Jesus Christ. It owes its life and character at every point to Him. Its convictions are convictions about Him. Its hopes are hopes which He has inspired, and which it is for Him to fulfil. Its ideals are born from His teaching and His life. Its strength is the strength of His spirit.     If not a spiritual, theological, or even historical problem for the skeptic, Jesus Christ is a lingering cultural problem. As Jaroslav Pelikan points out in Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture: For each age, the life and teaching of Jesus represented an answer (or, more often, the answer) to the most fundamental questions of human existence and of human destiny, and it was to the figure of Jesus as set forth in the Gospels that those questions were addressed.     To both the diligent student and the honest scholar the lingering aura and cultural awareness of Jesus Christ's character and work provide invaluable grist to the christological mill. Culture, if not Scripture, echoes Jesus' question to the skeptical unbeliever: "Who do you say that I am?" The figure of Jesus in art and literature, in music and drama, keeps alive "the christological problem" beyond the circle of faith.     My wife Suzie and I saw this clearly after a Japanese student living with us returned from a weekend visiting the art galleries of Paris. In the course of a meal she suddenly asked -- drawing a cross on the table -- "What does this mean? And why did the man have those injuries?" It is tempting to think the case for Christ stands or falls on the witness of Scripture or the skillfulness of a theological author: no, the most eloquent account may arise from popular cultural portraiture. 4. The Problem of Christology for the New Testament Reader However potent cultural influence (for good and ill) on understanding Jesus Christ (after all, to quote Jaroslav Pelikan once again, Jesus has been "the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries"), to come "face to face" with him leads us to the problem of Christology for the New Testament reader. Sooner or later "the christological problem" is an exegetical problem. The New Testament Gospels are the primary textual cause and abiding literary companion of all responsible christological reflection. But what problems do they present us with?     Other chapters will address the biblical christological literature in greater detail. I restrict myself to three general comments of an introductory kind. They concern the parameters of a reader's expectations of the biblical literature.     Firstly, the Gospels may be said to provide a sufficient resource for Christology. That is, they provide sufficient information for a reader to know the basic facts of Jesus' life and the essential acts whereby he saves. Article VI of Anglicanism's Thirty-nine Articles of Religion addresses this, maintaining that Scripture "contains all things necessary unto salvation." In other words, the New Testament provides enough to profess faith that this Jesus is God's Christ. It is the primary source for knowledge about Jesus and the primary literary resource for faith in him as Christ. It is the starting point historically, exegetically, theologically, and spiritually for reflection on Jesus Christ. It is sufficient in that at the outset of christological reflection no additional information is necessary and in the communication of Christ's work of salvation no supplementary data or work is essential. Leaving aside issues of infallibility, inerrancy (and even accuracy), this is simply to say, "Here there is enough ."     Secondly, the Gospels provide an authoritative source for Christology. A direct corollary to claiming sufficiency for the New Testament is affirmation of its christological authority . But let's be clear: the authoritative, canonical status of the New Testament Gospels rests -- as Article VII of the Thirty-nine Articles makes clear -- not on some human decision to accredit certain texts but on the unique manner in which they bear witness to a unique figure, a unique savior. As Article VII states: Both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only mediator between God and man. Commenting on this Oliver O'Donovan wisely explains, ... the authority of Jesus and of these events (recorded in the Gospels) is (from an epistemological point of view) vested entirely in the New Testament, and communicated exclusively through its witness. There is no other route by which these events make themselves known to later generations.     In other words, the uniquely authoritative character of the Gospels and the unique figure they portray are inseparable. In the end, the diligent student, the honest scholar, and the critical skeptic are brought to the bar of Scripture. Here thought and study are provoked, presuppositions formed and challenged, doubt addressed and faith inspired.     Thirdly, the New Testament Gospels provide a narrative force within Christology. It is possible to overstate problems in understanding or using the gospel account of Jesus. To a reasonable reader, the problem is not that the Gospels do not tell one story about one person in four ways: the problem is they do . Again, the problem for the New Testament reader (with or without faith) is not the obscurity of the gospel narrative, nor its predictable biographical and chronological diversity, but its remarkable clarity and unity given its antiquity. Furthermore, surely, the problem for the reader is not that the Gospels say too little about unimportant things but so much about extremely important things. Though scholars may get lost in details, to storytellers and story-readers the Gospels have amazing narrative force: they drive Christology.     The narrative force of the canonical Gospels constitutes the essential cause of which Christian faith and two thousand years of church history are the remarkable effects. What is more, as story, the medium of story should, I suggest, continue to form the genre in which the Gospels are read and interpreted and the focus through which the rest of the New Testament is given coherence and contemporary relevance.     So much for my three general introductory thoughts. I ought to come clean and explain why I have included them. In part, because (to an Anglican!) they express a classical Anglican biblical hermeneutic, which is both christocentric and coherent. In part, also (and, possibly more importantly) because they express the epistemological principle articulated previously. According to this, the subject of an inquiry (here Jesus in the Gospels) should have priority, freedom, and power over the reader. The text and its subject, to be treated responsibly, always hold the initiative. In this way manipulation of the content of the biblical data (by overt or covert presuppositional assumptions) and evasion of the impact of the biblical figure (Jesus Christ) can be held in check. This hermeneutic principle does justice both to Jesus and the Gospels.     Recent reflection on the role of texts qua texts suggests that part of the problem of Christology for the New Testament reader lies in reckoning with the determinative historic function of the biblical narrative in the formation of the Christian community. Texts which tell the story of Jesus have forged and formed the faith and life of the church. They have been accorded power and authority to grasp, shake, push and pull (and bother!) both the reader and the church. Doubts linger about the details of Jesus' life. Little doubt surrounds the historic, christological role of the Bible in the life of the church. Over the centuries the church has confidently affirmed the Gospels' power to bring the reader "face to face" with Jesus. Through them we meet him -- and meet him together. We meet the one whose "cast of mind" was (as Dodd records) original, intelligent, creative, sensitive, imaginative, pictorial, concrete, cryptic, ironic, humorous, mystical, allusive. We meet one whose manner was sociable, bold, bracing, sympathetic, forgiving, single-minded, friendly, authoritative, rugged, deliberate, thoughtful, encouraging, devout, reserved, solitary. This is Jesus. This is the biblical figure at the heart of Western culture. The problem for the New Testament reader is "Who on earth is he?" It was the problem Jesus' contemporaries faced. It's the heart of the christological problem today. It's the question longing for an answer. 5. The Problem of Christology for the Historian of Doctrine A good case can, I believe, be made for the possibility of a New Testament reader coming "face to face" with Jesus. Biblical studies and historical theology reveal, however, both doubters and disciples struggling with the question "Who on earth is he?" The history of their struggle to answer that question is central to the problem of Christology for the historian of doctrine.     Rather than attempt the impossible task of reviewing the history of christological thought, let me suggest that the problem of Christology for the historian of doctrine consists of four key issues: the divinity of Christ, the development of doctrine, the role of culture, and the impact of science. A brief comment on each.     a. The divinity of Christ . The existence and humanity of Jesus are unquestioned by the writers of the New Testament. Biblical studies and the history of doctrine grapple with "the more" claimed by the carpenter's son, his contemporaries and successors. The New Testament, the earliest creeds and first five ecumenical councils of the church reflect progressive reflection on the identity of Jesus and growing confidence in his divinity as Son of God. Progressive reflection is already apparent in the Gospels, as Vincent Taylor points out in his classic study The Person of Christ: The development which can be seen [in the Gospels] is not a mark of corruption, but a process of interpretation made necessary as the tradition is understood better and is expounded in the light of the missionary expansion of the primitive Church.     In the process of according full, or true, divinity to Jesus Christ ( pace the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD) prayer, worship, preaching, evangelism, and hardheaded philosophical reflection all had a place. The path from Peter's confession "You are the Christ" -- via the Logos Christologies of John and Philo and the subordinationism of Origen and Arius -- to Nicaea's "Christ is not made, being of one substance with the Father" was directed by the twin concern to honor the indivisibility of divinity and the mystery of incarnation. Nicaea left open the door to Apollinarius's denial of Jesus Christ's full humanity. Apollinarius argued that the divine Logos replaced the human spirit and will in Jesus. The incarnate Person had a human body, a human soul, but a divine Spirit, he maintained. The Council of Constantinople (381 AD) judged Apollinarius heretical, claiming that only one who is fully God and fully man can fully save and fully sympathize.     Following Constantinople, the Antiochene school (led by Nestorius) challenged the unity of Christ's "person" and the monk Pelagius the sufficiency of Christ's "work." Nestorius argued for two distinct, but essentially unrelated, "natures"; Pelagius for human "free will" in salvation. Both were condemned at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) where Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine affirmed the God-Man Jesus Christ to be one person and the perfect savior. The Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), opposing as it did Eutyches' claim that there were two natures before the incarnation and one after, established the definitive "Definition" of incarnational orthodoxy. Chalcedon held that the one Lord Jesus Christ is both God and Man, one person in two natures. The subsequent history of christological thought is the history of the church's attempts to own, refine, reconstruct, and reformulate Chalcedon's "two nature Christology" (as it is called) and where necessary repudiate its rejection.     The problem of Christology for the historian of doctrine concerns originally, then, the church's progressive affirmation of full divinity in Jesus Christ, and its relation to his humanity.     b. The development of doctrine . The history of christological reflection is inseparable from the history and critique of doctrinal development in the church. New Testament scholars chart development through Scripture, theologians through history. Pressure of a positive and negative kind inside and outside the church fuelled the fires of controversy. Internally, the church struggled to find and defend intelligible ways of communicating Christ to alien cultures (theologians in the East and West disagreed about the value of secular thought in apologetics). Externally, the church encountered a plethora of intellectual and religious traditions and practices that shaped or corrupted Christology. Platonism, Hellenism, Judaism, gnosticism, mystery religions and cultic acts variously influenced Christian theology and worship. To the late nineteenth-century German church historian Adolf von Harnack this influence was almost entirely corrosive. Writing in his History of Dogma, Harnack argued that the origin of dogma lay "in the activity of the Hellenic spirit upon the gospel soil." As he wrote in volume seven, The gospel entered into the world, not as a doctrine, but as a joyful message and as a power of the Spirit of God, originally in the forms of Judaism. It stripped off these forms with amazing rapidity, and united and amalgamated itself with Greek science, the Roman Empire, and ancient culture.     To Harnack, the historian of doctrine must guide the church to strip off the "husk" of cultural accretion from the "kernel" of gospel truth. The "Chalcedonian Definition," for example, must be jettisoned "in order that the gospel might be preserved." The French scholar Alfred Loisy countered Harnack at the time. Subsequent defenders of the normativity of the Bible, the ecumenical creeds, or the magisterium of the church have likewise repudiated Harnack's critique of doctrinal development. But Harnack is an influential voice in support of all who have heard Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" and challenged the character and content of the church's original answers.     c. The role of culture . As we see above, culture plays a major part in Christology. It has done so for good and ill from the beginning. H. Richard Niebuhr's modern classic Christ and Culture (1951) fuelled mid-century debates. To Niebuhr the issue was not how culture encountered Christianity but how Christ encountered culture. Following Bonhoeffer, Niebuhr asked not, Who? but, Where? (is Jesus Christ in our world). Is Christ against culture or within it? Is he Lord over it or the transformer of it? In many ways Niebuhr reprised patristic debate about the role of secular thought. Recently, "Liberation Theology" and creative indigenous Christologies (imaging the creative missionary theologizing of Roland Allen) have taken discussions further. These have proved controversial. Caution is certainly needed. Culture can be corrosive of classical, biblical Christology. But this comment of Vincent Taylor on christological development in the New Testament is helpful: The development which can be seen is not a mark of corruption [ pace Harnack] but a process of interpretation made necessary as the tradition is understood better and is expounded in the light of the missionary expansion of the primitive church.     Christology plus culture do not necessarily equal corruption. Indeed, to be worthy of its name Christology takes culture seriously. It cannot and must not be denied. After all, the Christ of whom Christology speaks is the universal, cosmic Christ; and the God of Jesus Christ "loved the world so much that he sent his only-begotten Son."     d. The impact of science . The historian of Christology cannot overlook the impact of the natural and social sciences on Christian reflection on the person and work of Christ. Back in 1950 W. R. Matthews, then Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, published a slight volume entitled, The Problem of Christ in the Twentieth Century . In it he identifies three pressing problems for the church's understanding of Jesus at the time: i. Historical inquiry (or "criticism" of New Testament evidence for Jesus) -- calling for reformulation of the doctrine of the incarnation because "we know practically nothing about the real Jesus"; ii. The nineteenth-century heritage -- critiquing ( pace Friedrich Schleiermacher) the theological and linguistic adequacy of the christological terms "nature" and "person" and affirming ( pace Albrecht Ritschl) the importance of ethical/historical value judgments about Jesus; iii. Twentieth-century developments in psychology (and philosophy) -- i.e. the work of Jung, Rhine, Myers, Sanday, and Tyrrell as it pertains to understanding Jesus' will, behavior, and personality.     According to Matthews, scientific discovery (in this instance psychology) requires a fresh appraisal of classic "two nature" Christologies. Traditional theories of the person and work of Christ fail to draw upon the insights of modern thought and address the modern reader. The nineteenth-century debate between Christianity and science was here transmuted into twentieth-century criticism of primitive Christian anthropology.     Matthews alerts us to the danger of shackling Christology in patristic chains. Faith must remain self-critical about the forms in which it is expressed. A Christology which has no response to scientific criticism of Jesus' person and ministry, his ethics and miracles, risks confining Jesus to a primitive worldview. The nineteenth-century Lives of Jesus movement reveals the opposite danger. Jesus there became a nineteenth-century figure with nineteenth-century values. As Albert Schweitzer warned: "There is no historical task which so reveals someone's true self as the writing of a life of Jesus." The quest to make Jesus relevant or intelligible risks rapid obsolescence and partiality. The Bultmann who critiqued the primitive inadequacy of the gospel account of Jesus, became the Bultmann later accused of subjectivity and scientism. This is not to say that science has not had and should not have an impact on Christology. Rather, that impact, because it is essentially fluid or transitory, offers no additional security or necessary support to the self-critical Christologian. "The impact of science" is simply part of the complexity of "the christological problem." (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

The Rev. Dr. Christopher D. HancockThe Rev. Dr. Richard ReidThe Rev. Dr. N. T. WrightThe Rev. Dr. Alister McGrathMr. Alan R. Crippen IIThe Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. George L. Carey
Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. xiii
The Christological Problemp. 1
The Necessity of a Biblical Christologyp. 25
The Biblical Formation of a Doctrine of Christp. 47
Christology: On Learning from Historyp. 69
The Biblical Christ in a Pagan Culturep. 91
Christ and His Church: The Implications of Christology for the Mission of the Church Todayp. 125
Contributorsp. 143

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