Christology is an issue that is vital to the Christian faith, and is something that has been hotly debated [1].  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 [2].  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 [3].”  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 [4].”

 

“Christology from above” was the strategy of the early church [5].  “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 [6].  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 [7].

 

“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 [8].  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 [9].”  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 [10].  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 [11].”

 

Works Cited

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

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One thought on “A Very Brief Study of Christology

  1. I think that faith is not a magical gift but it is a choice of the will to trust in Christ. See here for more information: https://crosstheology.wordpress.com/faith-is-a-choice/

    Concerning reason, I believe that Charles Finney rightfully stated: ‘If a truth which needs demonstration, and which is capable of demonstration, is barely announced, and not demonstrated, the mind feels a dissatisfaction, and does not rest short of the demonstration of which it feels the necessity. It is therefore of little use to dogmatize, when we ought to reason, demonstrate, and explain. In all cases of truths, not self-evident, or of truths needing proof, religious teachers should understand and comply with the logical conditions of knowledge and rational belief; they tempt God when they merely dogmatize, where they ought to reason, and explain, and prove, throwing the responsibility of producing conviction and faith upon the sovereignty of God. God convinces and produces faith, not by the overthrow of, but in accordance with, the fixed laws of mind. It is therefore absurd and ridiculous to dogmatize and assert, when explanation, illustration, and proof are possible, and demanded by the laws of the intellect. To do this, and then leave it with God to make the people understand and believe, may be at present convenient for us, but if it be not death to our auditors, no thanks are due to us. We are bound to inquire to what class a truth belongs, whether it be a truth which, from its nature and the laws of mind, needs to be illustrated, or proved. If it does, we have no right merely to assert it, when it has not been proved. Let us comply with the necessary conditions of a rational conviction, and then leave the event with God.’ source: Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Systematic Theology, p. 9.

    And:

    “I have not yet been able to stereotype my theological views, and have ceased to expect ever to do so. The idea is preposterous. None but an omniscient mind can continue to maintain a precise identity of views and opinions. Finite minds, unless they are asleep or stultified by prejudice, must advance in knowledge. The discovery of new truth will modify old views and opinions, and there is perhaps no end to this process with finite minds in any world. True Christian consistency does not consist in stereotyping our opinions and views, and in refusing to make any improvement lest we should be guilty of change, but it consists in holding our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every quarter and in changing our views and language and practice as often and as fast, as we can obtain further information. I call this Christian consistency, because this course alone accords with a Christian profession. A Christian profession implies the profession of candour and of a disposition to know and to obey all truth. It must follow, that Christian consistency implies continued investigation and change of views and practice corresponding with increasing knowledge. No Christian, therefore, and no theologian should be afraid to change his views, his language, or his practices in conformity with increasing light. The prevalence of such a fear would keep the world, at best, at a perpetual stand-still, on all subjects of science, and consequently all improvements would be precluded.”
    – Charles G Finney, Lectures on Systematic Theology, Preface (1847) (emphasis mine)

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