Sunday, Nov 17, 2002: “Who Is This Christ?”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary

“Who Do You Say I Am?”  a reflection of God’s Work on Salvation in Jesus Christ

“Who Is This Christ?”

Sunday, November 17, 2002


One of the most important and hotly contested topics of discussion for Christians is the person of Jesus Christ.  For more than 100 years, Christian scholars have attempted in various ways to conduct a “Search for the Historical Jesus.”  Theologians today are proposing new approaches, yet approaches that are still based on Scripture and tradition, of answering Jesus’ ancient question to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”  Over the course of six weeks Mike Kreutzer will lead us in trying to ask the right questions and help us to offer possible approaches to answer it.  Following are Mike’s notes on the discussion from the fourth session.

Sunday, November 17:  “Who Is This Christ?”   How did the Church’s understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ develop over the centuries.  What do we assert about him in the Creeds, and why?

First principle of hermeneutical interpretation: “The best interpretation takes place within community.”  The community of faith must ask, “How does it resonate with the community of faith’s praxis?”


What is the Church?

a)      a community of interpretation, safeguarding principles and teachings, or

b)      a community of praxis

Aristotle said that knowledge includes both.  (Theoria does not change; it is academic; praxis: is about effecting change and transformation).  It is ongoing.  It is what drives society.


Dermot Lane:  The Church is a community of praxis and interpretation, in that order.  It requires an ongoing dialogue between the two.  The basic question is whether a “truth” sets people free, have a theological dimension, and lead people to live the Gospel.


“Abba” experience empowered the ministry of Jesus;  T.S. Elliott: “We lived the experience, but missed the meaning.”   This was an experience that existed in Judaism before Jesus.  It was interpreted by Jesus in terms of “sonship,” leading to a unique relationship with God.  It shaped the mission and ministry of Jesus.  Jesus’ fidelity to this relationship provides a basis for understanding the unique, divine nature of Jesus.


Jesus as “the Word made flesh” is the high point of NT Christology. (John McQuarrie suggests that we translate “logos” as “meaning.”)



The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
    creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
    He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
        and born of the Virgin Mary.
    He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
        was crucified, died, and was buried.
    He descended to the dead.
    On the third day he rose again.
    He ascended into heaven,
        and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy catholic Church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting. Amen.



2nd century:  a century of the transformation of Christian doctrine; enculturation from several sources


Alexandria:  “logos-sarx”, no human soul


Antioch:  “logos-anthropos”, Nestorius, moral unity only  (therefore, no “theotokos”; this notion was rejected by the Council of Ephesus in 431).


Nicaea (325):  declared the oneness of Father and Son, but the language was open to a variety of interpretations


The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made man.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

     He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
    He has spoken through the Prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.


The “Nicene Creed” was first used in the East as a baptismal Creed.  It was later amplified by the Council of Nicaea, and again by the Council of Constantinople (381).  The Council of Chalcedon (451) adopted it as a statement of orthodox faith.

 Ephesus (431):  condemned Nestorius  (believed that there were two persons in Jesus Christ, one human and the other divine. Furthermore, he argued that Mary gave birth to the human person only–though she was the passive recipient of the divine person–and could not, therefore, be called Theotokos)

 Chalcedon (451):  Over 600 bishops reaffirmed Nicaea and Ephesus; “homoousios” with God and humanity (two natures, one person); patristic principle “What is not assumed is not redeemed.” 

 Definition of the Union of the Divine and Human Natures in the Person of Christ
Council of Chalcedon, 451 A.D., Act V           (From The Book of Common Prayer, page 864)

“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance (homoousios) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.”

Limits of Chalcedon:  the language is confusing and the concepts have changed; the description is a-historical; it did not talk about the salvific import of Jesus, or (what J.B. Metz has called) “the dangerous memory of Jesus” – perhaps, “the disturbing memory of Jesus”

Over the centuries, Christ has become “decontextualized”: without rootedness in the earthly Jesus and his place in history.