Sunday, Oct 27, 2002: “Who Do You Say That I Am?: Setting the Stage”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary

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

“Setting the Stage”

Sunday, October 27, 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.

The first session is “Setting the Stage.”  What are we talking about, and why?  What is inadequate in the ways that we are used to talking about Jesus the Christ? 

“Christology”: what is it?

So what’s the problem? 

All descriptions of people are limited.  They can provide only one view of a person.  Yet we try to imagine that we have the person of Christ clearly defined:  Son of God; 2 natures, etc.  Actual view of who Jesus was, and who Christ is, has evolved over the centuries.  By gaining some insights, we tend to lose others.

The insights into who Jesus is, and who Jesus is for us, have developed over the centuries.  Today we face questions like: 

            Who is Jesus for us?  …for other believers?  …for Jews?   …for Muslims?   …for Buddhists?

            Has God revealed himself to people who are not Christians

            (or, before the time of Jesus, who were not Jews)?

            Does God continue to reveal himself through other, non-Christian religions?

            Does God save people even though they are members of other, non-Christian religions?

            Does God save other people through other, non-Christians religions?

            If so, where is the unique role of Christ?

Many over the years have examined the different between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.  What exactly does this mean?

            A.N. Whitehead:  “The Galilean vision of humanity flickered briefly” but was then replaced by the   image of Egyptian, Persian and Roman rulers.”

            F. Nietzsche:  “Christianity is the gravestone over the grave of Jesus.”

            H. Küng:  “We have domesticated the person of Christ to such an extent that we have lost the person of Jesus.”

The mystery of Jesus Christ is composed of two parts:

        1)  the “Christ event” which is made of the historical experience and the interpretation of that experience, and

        2)  the universal significance of that Christ event.  (cf. Jn 1:1-14; Gal 3:28; Col 1:15-20; Phil 2; Eph 1; Rom 8)

            “Jesus” focuses on a particular person who lived and died at a particular place and at a particular time.

            “Christ’ is a title attributed to Jesus by the early disciples.  It is a theological reflection on who this Jesus is.  (Mk 8:29: “You are the Christ.”)  (Acts 2:36-38: “let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”)

Dermot Lane, The Reality of Jesus, (pages 11-12) asserts:  “It is important that a proper balance be maintained between the historical and theological dimensions of the Christ-Event.  To ignore the historical side of the Christ-Event would be to deny the basic assertion Jesus identified himself historically with the human condition of mankind.  This would give rise to the theological heresies known as Docetism and Gnosticism both of which deny the real humanity of Jesus.  On the other hand to neglect the theological side of the Christ-Event leads to the opposite error of Moralism and Adoptionism which play down the divinity of Jesus.”

“Jesus is Lord” (e.g. Rom. 9:10):  historical person plus theological affirmation

We have multiple Christologies in the New Testament.  Mark, for example, presents a very human picture of Jesus.  John offers a very “high Christology.”  Paul shows little interest at all in the earthly Jesus.

Mark:   “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (13:32)

John:  “I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” (11:42)

Paul:  had first encountered the risen Christ; this was the Christ whom he experienced; not concerned with the “earthly Jesus”

“High Christology” and “Low Christology”

high:  Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word made flesh; everything in the life of the historical Jesus is interpreted from this perspective; reflected in John; effectively was the sole emphasis of Nicaea; Lane, page 15, “It has been said that the Church never fully recovered from its reaction against Arius.”; Christ as “the descending Word from above”;  tends to take a theoretical (not necessarily biblical) concept, e.g. the omniscience and omnipotence of God, and attribute it to the historical Jesus; relegates the resurrection to an event of secondary importance; effective Monophysitism

low:  emphasis revived in the 20th century, due to historical research into the gospels, the recognition of the historical character of revelation, and the recognition of the historical character of doctrinal expression; taken by itself, it can get locked-in to a single position, unable to explore the divine aspects of the Christ

Lane, page 19:  “We propose to adopt a low-ascending Christology in our investigation of the mystery of Jesus Christ.  In practical terms this means beginning with the man Jesus through a process of historical enquiry that will lead to an understanding of the confession of Jesus as Christ.