Sunday, Nov 24, 2002: “Who Do You Say That I Am?”

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 Do You Say That I Am?”

Sunday, November 24, 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 fifth session.

Sunday, November 24:  “Who Do You Say That I Am?”   What approaches can we take to answering out basic question today?  What models for Christology are being discussed?  What new possibilities do they open up for Christian faith and life?

3 Paradigms (Jacques Dupuis; following J.P. Schineller):

            1) Ecclesiocentric (centered on the Church):  “Outside the Church there is no salvation.”; Athanasian Creed (The Book of Common Prayer, page 864) “This is the Catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.”  (No American Prayer Book had included it until the 1979 book; even here, it is included in the “Historical Documents” section only.); Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ explicitly expressed within the Church.

            2) Christocentric:  Jesus Christ as “the constitutive Savior for all humanity” whose saving power operates even beyond the boundaries of the Church; Schillebeeckx, “an anonymous Christian”

            3) Theocentric: Salvation is from God alone.  “Rejected here is not only the notion of obligatory belonging to the Church for salvation but the universal mediatorship of Jesus Christ in the order of salvation.”  (Dupuis, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, page 183);

                        “The Christocentrism of Christian tradition is not, in fact, opposed to theocentrism.  It never places Jesus Christ in the place of God; it merely affirms that God has placed him at the center of his saving plan for humanity, not as the end but as the way, not as the goal of every human quest for God but as the universal mediator of God’s saving action toward people.” (Dupuis, Ibid., p. 181)

            [ There have also been other paradigms proposed, such as Regnocentrism (Reign of God), Logocentrism (the Logos) and Pneumatocentrism (the Spirit).]

 Typology of interfaith dialogue; approaches to Christocentric model:

            1)  exclusivism  (“solus Christus”)

            2)  inclusivism  “Jesus Christ is the unique and normative Savior and revelation of God to the world””, “but grace is universal and available to others… in virtue of the Christ-event” (anonymous Christians); does not take seriously enough the difference among the other world religions; it “fails to promote real dialogue”  (Terrence Tully:  “Inclusivism is a form of exclusivism with a happy face.”)

            3)  religious pluralism:

                        (a)  There is a growing awareness that all religions are historically and culturally conditioned

                        (b)  God is incomprehensible: no religion can have the final word.

                        (c )  The real issue facing humanity today is human suffering.. (the work of religions is to address suffering by working for liberation and justice)

            — There is a growing awareness that these three categories were useful, but the boundaries between them are now porous.   D’Costa and Haight see them as inadequate.  They do not advance mutual respect and understanding, plus the advancement of one’s own religion.


3 Possible Approaches to Christology that Being Discussed Today

1) Begin with Jesus Christ as human and divine:

            “to be God”: mystery, relational, goodness, love; self-communicating Being; self-giving Being; descending

“to be human” means to co-exist; we are relational beings, conscious, restless, seeking, self-transcending, ascending; “There is within the human spirit a God-shaped hole.” (Salmon Rushdie); “Our hearts, O Lord, are restless until they rest in you.”  (Augustine); in search of Sophia” and “Logos” (John MacQuarrie has suggested that we translate “logos” as “meaning”)

            “Jesus of Nazareth brings together God’s gracious self-communication to the world and humanity’s dynamic self-transcendence toward the divine…  The person of Jesus embodies God’s gracious self-communication to the world and humanity’s dynamic drive toward the divine.” (Dermot Lane);  Jesus Christ is the coming together of God and humanity in history


2) Begin with Creation:

            There is a fundamental unity between creation and incarnation:  “Creation is the basis of incarnation, and the incarnation is the fullest expression of creation.”);  Incarnation is about God’s continuous presence in the world; “about crystallizing and intensifying and concentrating what is already there”  (two models of incarnation: God coming into the world, and God breaking out of the world; both are needed, and both include a sense of divine initiative)


Elizabeth Barrett Browning:  “Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire

with God; But only he who sees,

takes off his shoes – The rest sit

round it and pluck blackberries.”


            Rahner:  the more we respond positively to God’s grace, the more God is present in our lives.

The Incarnation fulfills Creation.  In the Incarnation, the potential for union between Creator and created is realized.


Schillebeeckx: “The incarnation is concentrated creation.”


            Some of the earliest Christologies in the NT were creation-based Christologies.  (cf. the hymns)

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”  (Colossians 1:15-20)

In Christ, we return to creation as the Creator intended it to be, to creation as it achieves its fullest potential.  We encounter the God who has been present in creation all along.


            T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”, No. 4, “Little Gidding”

                        We shall not cease from exploration

                        And the end of all our exploring

                        Will be to arrive where we started

                        And know the place for the first time.


3) Begin with the image of the Cosmic Christ:  

            a dialogue between cosmology and Christology; interfaces with “Creation” approach;  “the universe is the sanctuary of God”:

“With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”  (Ephesians 1:8-10)


Some of the Church Fathers drew on creation-based and cosmic-based approaches, and recognized God’s self-revelation in those outside the Church.

            Justin Martyr:  God has done all things through the Logos; “God ordered the universe through him” (2 Apol. 6:3); similar to the Prologue to John; God as revealed through all of creation;

            Logos as revealing God through the ancient (pagan) Greek philosophers, as well as through the Hebrew prophets:


            Irenaeus:  “the revealing Logos”; “through [God’s] Word, all learn that there is one sole God and Father, who contains all things, who gives being to all things…  For the glory of God is the living human being; but the life of the human is the vision of God.”  (Adv. Haer. 4,20:6-7);  the Logos has been revealing God to humanity from the beginning;


            God’s work of revelation is universal


            Clement of Alexandria: Logos as revealing God in preparation for the Gospel, both to the Jews and to pagans;  “As the proclamation [of the Gospel] has come now at the fit time, so also at the fit time were the Law and the Prophets given to the barbarians, and philosophy to the Greeks.”  (Stom. 6:6)




            Jacques Dupuis:  Christ-event as constitutive of salvation, and limited in history and time; the Logos is present and active in the world outside the Christ-event