Christology is an issue that is vital to the Christian faith, and is something that has been hotly debated . There were scholars who set out on what was called the “Quest for the Historical Jesus.” The scholars set out to find out what Jesus was really like. However many of them set out with a preconceived notion that the real Jesus is very different than the one we read about in scripture . Scholars David Strauss and Ernest Renan concluded that Jesus was a good man, good moral teacher, but works no miracles. These finding were echoed by Adolf von Harnach, but were taken further by saying that the Gospels “do not give us the means of constructing a full-fledged biography of Jesus .” His reasoning for this is that Gospel tell very little of the early life of Christ. Albert Schweitzer say Jesus very differently , as he saw Christ as a man who thought the end was coming and it would be through him. Martin Kahler perhaps made the greatest stride in this movement as he saw the effect that Christ had on the disciples. In regards to this Dr Erickson states, “Increasingly, study was focused not upon the actual events of the life of the historical Jesus, but upon the faith of the church .”
“Christology from above” was the strategy of the early church . “Christology from above” is categorized by the proclamation of the church regarding Christ, a preference for the writing of Paul and the Gospel of John, and faith is not legitimized by reason . This method was made popular by Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, and Emil Brunner in a work entitled The Mediator. The premise of the this system is that faith never comes out of facts, but of the church’s witness. Christology is connected with observation, and that observation is the witness of the church and scripture .
“Christology from below” had many contributors, but none so much as Wolfart Pannenberg. He cited three reasons why “Christology from above” could not be implemented. According to Pannenberg the task of Christology was to offer rational support for the belief in the divinity of Christ, “Christology from above” neglects the historical Jesus, and “Christology from above” is only possible from God . The important thing about this method is the conclusion that Pannenberg made in regards to the resurrection. In short, the resurrection validated the claims of Jesus’s divinity.
In regards to these two systems Dr. Erickson proposed an alternative model. This model he calls “Augustinian” in that Faith “precedes but is not permanently independent of reason .” With faith at our starting point we start our Christology with the historic belief and teaching of the church. Doing his allows us to make better sense, and understand the historical Jesus in a deeper way. This method allows faith and reason to work together in harmony.
From a biblical perspective the alternative view that Dr. Erickson describes makes the most sense. Faith should be at the center of all we do, but the Lord crated us with the ability to reason. Those two things need not be enemies, but used to help us understand the things o the Lord even better. There are many biblical passages tat support the viewpoint. Some of those are Matthew 12:22-32, Mark 3:20-30, and Luke 14-23 . The Pharisees saw the miracles that Jesus was doing, by reason ad knowledge of their tradition they knew it was things the Messiah would do, but they obviously made the wrong decision. Point being that those that knew Jesus words and deeds really had no idea who he was. Faith and reason were not working together. An example of the working together is Peter in Matthew 16:15-18. Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ. He knew who Jesus was and reason led him to the same conclusion. Another example is John 20:28 where Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God .”
1. Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology 3rd ed. (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI: 2013), 604.
2. Ibid, 605.
3. Ibid, 606.
4. Ibid, 607.
5. Ibid, 608.
6. Ibid, 608.
7. Ibid, 608.
8. Ibid, 610.
9. Ibid, 614.
10. Ibid, 615.
11. John 20:28, New International Version