Religion Essay, Research Paper
CHRISTOLOGY: THE HISTORICAL & THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, was born in Bethlehem in Judea. The chronology of the Christian era is reckoned from a 6th-century dating of the year of his birth, which is now recognized as being from four to eight years in error. Christians traditionally regard Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, and as having been divinely conceived by Mary, the wife of Joseph, and a carpenter of Nazareth. The name Jesus is derived from a Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Joshua, or in full Yehoshuah. The title Christ is derived from the Greek christos, a translation of the Hebrew Messiah. Christ was used by Jesus’ early followers, who regarded him as the promised deliverer of Israel and later was made part of Jesus’ proper name by the church, which regards him as the redeemer of all humanity (http://www.encarta.com).
The principal sources of information concerning Jesus’ life are the Gospels, written in the latter half of the 1st century by the generation that had known Jesus firsthand. The Epistles of Saint Paul and the Acts of the Apostles also contain information about Jesus. The scantiness of additional source material and the theological nature of biblical records caused some 19th-century biblical scholars to doubt his historical existence. Others, interpreting the available sources in a variety of ways produced biographies of Jesus in which his life was purged of all supernatural elements. Today, scholars generally agree that Jesus was a historical figure whose existence is authenticated both by Christian writers and by several Roman and Jewish historians (http://www.encarta.com).
In its simplest form, the definition of Christology is the study of Christ. We derive this definition by defining the syllables: “ology” means ‘the study of and Christ is self-defined. Theologians and scholars; however, tend to make all definitions more difficult and more complex than this. The definition; however, is fully dependent upon which theologian one reads. Some focus on the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ; others explore his life and work on earth. Some deny the fact that Jesus is God, and others express strongly that yes, Jesus is part of the trinity and is God. Christianity is founded on the belief that Jesus walked the earth and was given to humanity to die for our sins. In a manner of speaking, Christianity is Christology because all Christian faiths study the life of Jesus Christ (http://www.encarta.com).
William M. Thompson defines Christology thusly: “Christology entails a struggle or contest over the true meaning of the Bible; that Christology and biblical studies are two aspects of a single inquiry into divine revelation; and that this kind of inquiry demands a meditative form” (12). Another aspect of some points of view in Christology has to do with the formation of Christian Churches, especially the Catholic Church. Hans Kung says that the student must begin with the historical life and teachings of Jesus instead of depending on the interpretation of the early church, which is still prevalent today. He believes that by negating what he believes is the Hellenistic paradigm, dialogue with both Judaism and Islam would be facilitated which would be a good thing for the world (35).
Robert Imbelli’s interview with Jesuit Father Joseph Fitzmyer interprets Jesus’ place in the historical and spiritual worlds are more in line with the Bible. He suggests the question being asked by Christology is age-old: “Who do you say I am?” The responses found in the New Testament are many: “You are the Messiah . . . the Son of God . . . the Image of the invisible God . . .the Word made flesh . . .Lord and God.” The canon rules out any other answer to the question (25). Imbelli also notes that there has not been such a “farrago,” meaning a mixed up hodgepodge, of differing images of the identity of Jesus as there is today since the second century. He quotes some of the images as Jesus the cyruc philosopher; Jesus the social reformer; Jesus the therapist; Jesus the protofeminist. He also argues that although some of these presentations capture some of the traits of Jesus, they are, for the most part, reductive. He asserts that this latest chapter in the “age-old postic saga” divorces the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith (25).
These interpretations attempt to categorize Jesus. Jesus cannot be placed in a category. He is too large, too vast, and too mysterious for labeling. In much of the current academic study that is what is missing — the mystery of Jesus. Instead, there is an effort to examine the “Jesus of history.” There is certainly nothing wrong with a historical study but if it ignores or denies the “Spiritual Jesus,” the “Christ of faith,” the study is a hoax. It isn’t real, accurate, or valid. This type of study neither illuminates nor inspires the student and those who study Jesus to walk in his path is left without any sort of nourishment for the mind or the soul (27). For Imbelli, the central interpretive key to Christology is the “Resurrection of the crucified Jesus and his presence.” This is the view that is reflected in the New Testament, which views Jesus’ life and ministry in the light of the Resurrection and the Lord’s continuing presence in His community (25).
The development of the church’s Christological faith came through the early councils but Imbelli argues that this does not represent a Hellinization of the simple gospel; instead, it demonstrates a Spirit-guided discernment of the truth of the narrative proclaimed in the Scriptures. The Nicaea and Chalcedon councils affirm a new understanding of the divine and the human revealed in Jesus Christ. The expositions from these councils serve as the norm for systematic understanding (25).
The first Ecumenical council of the Christian Church was called by Constantine the Great. It was held in Nicaea in Asia Minor. The primary purpose of the council was to discuss the views of Arius, who argued that Jesus was the most exalted human of all time but that is what he was – human. Jesus was not created out of nothing; he was not eternally existent; and he was capable of right and wrong through his own free well. The council rules against Arius’ views and ascribed a purely divine nature to Jesus (Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia 216). The council also published a confession of faith that is called the Nicene Creed. This was based on an older creed that had been used in Caesarea, but it clearly defined the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. The Nicene Creed is still used and recited in the liturgies of numerous churches including Roman, Greek and Anglican. Further, it has been adopted, although sometimes slightly modified, as part of the doctrinal teachings that are accepted by most Protestant religions (Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia 216).
Modern Christology honors the affirmation of both the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ in a unique union as described in Chalcedon. Imbelli and O’Collins together offer an explicit relational understanding of the person of Jesus and His filial relationship to the person he calls “Abba (Father). This understanding inherently argues the legitimacy of speaking of the faith of Jesus. He alleges that faith is not yet sight (27). In summary, the understanding of Christ focused initially on his divinity. Through the councils, that focus changed to Jesus’ divinity and humanity. Both are essential in understanding Jesus Christ, Son of God. This same view is held by both Catholic and Protestant theologians.
Perhaps the greatest mystery surrounding the life and death of Jesus was his resurrection and then his subsequent presence among the Apostles and other disciples. This aspect of Jesus’ life is a focal point in some of the Christological studies. It was in the crucifixion, then in the resurrection that both the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ can be seen; it is called the hypostatic union as stated by Imbelli (28). One of the interesting aspects to come out of these kinds of studies was stated by Cunningham in his interview with Father Joseph Fitzmyer on St. Paul. The crucifixion of Jesus is treated as an historical event, one committed upon his human body that has had a dramatic effect on the minds and hearts of all believers. This event is significant to Christians who profess they are trying to be Disciples of Christ. At some point in the middle ages; however, the crucifixion became separated from the resurrection. In the Pauline tradition, the crucifixion became something that happened “for us” and the mystery of the resurrection is all but forgotten (40). People typically remember that Easter celebrates the resurrection but there is far less emphasis placed on this day than there once was. (40)
Millard J. Erickson observed that the resurrection of Jesus has taken on greater importance in theology in the last half century. (255) Wolfhart Pannenberg has been a major force in this emphasis. Pannenberg also argues strongly that there is only one kind of history, and that resurrection is an objective event that happened to Jesus and, like other historical facts, it can be proven (Erickson 1995, pg. 255). Pannenberg s argument has encouraged evangelicals, who have argued for the resurrection both positively and negatively. The positive argument is that there are three kinds of evidence: the empty tomb; the appearances of Jesus; and the rise of Easter faith. Evangelicals have argued that these three evidences increase the likelihood of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ more probable. On the negative side, some simply refute the possibility of miracles. In the resurrection of Christ, evangelicals see the supreme miracle that definitively sets Jesus apart from others as unique among all humans who have ever lived. They argue that the arguments by David Hume and Anthony Flew are circular, not proving anything (255).
Soteriology is the theological doctrine of theology as Christ effected it. Tillich argued that Christology is a function of soteriology and Pannenberg argued that soteriology is a function of Christology. The core concept of Pannenberg’s theory, called Christological soteriology is the concept of reconciliation, wherein God is perceived as the only agent in the process of atonement. Pannenberg asserts that: “Humanity as the recipient of God’s reconciling action participates in it by being represented. And in this way representation is the form of the process of salvation. Jesus’ death on the Cross is therefore the divine judgement over sin and in this sense the ground of the possibility of reconciliation” (260). Christ represents all the sinners in the world and thus, this has an inclusive significance for all humanity. This is an essential concept for Christians: Jesus’ moral body was crucified, died, buried and that body rose. His appearances following the crucifixion was of his divine spirit in a form his disciples recognized.
The following reflects explanations of some words and concepts:
In the humiliation of Jesus’ self identification with humanity (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15), Jesus fulfills not just the part of the victim but also of the high priest (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12), offering himself in an act that brings about a new relationship, a new covenant, between God and man. Jesus’ life from his baptism through His cross is His own self-sanctification to His eternal priesthood. It is in and through Jesus self-sanctification that His people are sanctified forever (John 17:19). For Paul, God made Christ Jesus “our sanctification,” the means whereby human beings are dedicated anew to God and oriented to serve God with awe and respect (Editors 2000, pg. 22).
Justification is addressed, when Paul says that Christ has “justified” human beings, he means that by His Passion, death, and Resurrection, Christ has brought it about that humans now stand before God acquitted or innocent (Editors 2000, pg. 22). The image of salvation expresses deliverance from evil or harm, whether physical, psychic, national, cataclysmic, or moral. Paul recognizes that Christians are being saved by the cross of Christ (Editors 2000, pg. 22). Redemption, Paul acknowledges that Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection was a ransom to set sinners free from bondage and enslavement (Editors 2000, pg. 22). Erickson argues that “Christian faith is dependent on the process of mediation of tradition and its institutions, but it must nevertheless lead to an independent immediate relationship of the believer to Christ which Christians experience as the effect of the work of the Spirit” (Erickson 1995, p. 261). The Pauline triad of faith, states that hope and love is based on the fundamental salvific effects of the Spirit in the believer. For Pannenberg, both hope and love have their foundations in faith because faith is based on the promise of God in Jesus. Love is based on faith through the inclusion of Jesus’ filial relationship to God the Father (Erickson 1995, p.259).
Evangelicalism emphasizes the authority of the Bible, the deity and humanity of Jesus, and the regeneration for salvation through faith in Christ. Calvin taught that God would select or repudiate individuals based on their works. If a person did the necessary works of regeneration, it was likely that he would be among the chosen. Calvinists, thus, had high motivation to live a life that was appropriate for the regenerate. An individual must demonstrate conscientious observation to whatever duties one was called to do in order to bear witness to regeneration. This was the way to salvation (Pannenberg s Html). Jesus, the Son, did what the Father sent him to do; a reconciling action and this is the fulfillment of the old covenant’s promises. The work of reconciliation then, is perfected in the Spirit, which elevates humans above their station (Erickson1995, pg. 260). Every human is created to enjoy the freedom that comes from communion with God but that freedom is only realized through redemption from sin and death. These were attained through Christ’s death and resurrection. This is the Christian notion of freedom (Pannenberg s Html).
Archbishop Averky has spoken out to present the truth about secularism and theology in today’s world. He pointed out that the terms Christian and Orthodox was once understood clearly by everyone. Today, there is so much deception and so much falsehoods floating around that the terms and concepts do not convey what is significant without the speaker clarifying them. These terms, in fact, have become nothing more than deceptive labels (Averky s Html).
Averky points to the number of organizations and societies and new sects that call themselves Christian but they reject the principal dogma of Christianity, specifically, the divinity of Lord Jesus Christ (Averky s Html). The same holds true for the term ‘Orthodox.’ This term no longer expresses what it should. The latest innovators reject the true spirit of Orthodoxy. Some of these people call themselves “neo-Orthodox” and they verbalize the importance of renewing the Orthodox Church. At the same time, they spend no time renewing their own souls and reforming their own sinful natures (Averky Html). Archbishop Averky rebuked all those who would call for unions of the religions of the world but do not focus any amount of energy on the spiritual union of peoples (Averky s Html). Averky makes some clear and valid points as the citizens of the world try to come to a point of spiritual edification and of spiritual growth and yet they still debate the most basic concepts of Christianity, specifically, but they are still debating who is Jesus?