Monday, September 19, 2011

Short Essay on Christology

Christology, the doctrine concerned with the nature and person of Christ, has been debated through the centuries and to commence this debate the issue of Christ’s humanity is raised. The Synoptic Gospels clearly point to Jesus’ human qualities such as growing (Lk. 2:52), hunger (Mk. 2:15), distress (Mk. 14:33), and ultimately death (Mk. 15:37). However, the Synoptic Gospels were not the only place where these claims can be found, in other places scripture witnesses explicitly to his true humanity (Gal. 4:4; Heb. 4:15).[1]
The second aspect of Christology should focus on the claims in Scripture for Christ’s deity. Jesus had a proper understanding of his nature and this can be seen in the claims he made as the “I AM” of the Old Testament.[2] Seven times in the Gospel of John he refers to himself as ego eimi; “I am the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35), “I am the good shepherd” (Jn. 10:11), and “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25). These self-claims speak to who Jesus believed himself to be. Furthermore, encapsulated in the application of logos is the claim to pre-existence which should be understood as a claim of deity (Jn. 1:1).  This verse points to Christ, who in the beginning was the agent of God’s creative decree and subsequent creative activity. [3]
With the previous two paragraphs in mind we can tie the two natures together as the Council of Chalcedon (451), officially defined the doctrine of the hypostatic union. [4] This bond of both God and man Scripture will attest most cogently to in the incarnation. Christ was born of the flesh (Jn. 1:14), had family lineage (Rom. 9:5) and yet this same man was attributed with God-like qualities for he knew what was in man (Jn. 2:24-25), a clear representation of omniscience. Paul gives credence to the deity of Christ when he ascribes omnipotence to him in the act of creation (1:16). When the whole of Scripture is tied together the union is revealed. Calvin believed when Christ became flesh he did not suspend nor alter his conventional commission of upholding the universe a declaration of Christ being both fully God and fully man.[5] 
For Christ to exist in such a union he would have to have a proper self-knowledge of his nature. He would have to claim deity and act upon it as judge (Rev. 20:11-12), savior (Jn. 3:16) and creator (Jn. 1:3). He would have to embrace his humiliation in full by experiencing emotion (Jn. 11:35), hunger (Mk. 2:15) and ultimately the finality of the flesh (Mt. 27:50). When taken together Jesus could fully relate to man in the flesh because he lived as one and he could properly relate to the Father and the rest of the Godhead because he was of the same essence as them.
In Christ’s incarnation he took on the form of humanity in order that he save humanity from its fallen condition. Because the essence of God is an immaterial being (Jn 4:24), he could not be the propitiation for human sin because an immaterial being cannot bleed. Blood was the requirement to atone for the sins of man (Lev.16:15). Thus, the only way was to offer a sacrifice that was without blemish to atone properly for humankind. Yet an animal cannot fully cover the sins of men, it would take a perfect man, still more, it would take a perfect God-man.[6] Christ Jesus was that perfect God-man atonement (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
When overemphasis on one of Christ’s nature is given over the other heresies can arise. These heresies can give rise to a misconception or a complete disregard for the humanity and subsequent incarnation of Christ as is seen with Apollinarian Christology.[7] After Tertullian unerringly identified the Father and Son were of “one substance”[8] debate arose as to how this might be. Arius denied Christ as having a human soul and the Council of Nicea (325) condemned him.[9] To defeat this heresy it should be pointed out that if Christ did not have a soul and possess the full human qualities then he could not be the acceptable placation for sin. Nestorianism arose after the Nicene Council alleging that Christ two natures existed side by side and thus denying the popular view of Christ. Much as the same above, if you separate the two natures, then man could not be the adequate source of atonement, it takes God to satisfy this penalty (Heb. 7:26).
The humanity of Christ enriches my life by giving it a source of example and study on how to conduct life with a focus on holiness. Walking victorious because of the sacrifice helps me understand that true relationship and friendship rests in my desire to lay it all down for those I love. (Jn. 15:13)

Blaising, C. “Hypostatic Union.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed., 583-84. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.

Towns, Elmer. Theology for Today Mason, OH: Thomson Custom Solutions Center, 2001.

Wallace, R.S., and G.L. Green. “Christology, New Testament Christology.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed., 239-45. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.

[1] R.S. Wallace and G.L. Green, “Christology, New Testament Christology.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 239.
[2] Elmer L. Towns, Theology for Today (Mason: Thomson Custom Solutions Center, 2001), 160-161.
[3] Wallace and Green, 241.
[4] C. Blaising, “Hypostatic Union.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 583.

[5] Wallace and Green, 243.
[6] Wallace and Green, 242.
[7] Ibid, 242.
[8] Ibid, 241.
[9] Ibid, 242.

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