Approaches to Christology

Christology is at the heart of the gospel for it is the study of the God-man, the savior of sinners. In this episode, Jim Cassidy and Camden Bucey speak about several fundamental doctrines of Christology and uncover a number of different approaches to its questions. As they describe formulations of theologians such as Karl Barth and Karl Rahner, Jim and Camden expose how alterations to the basic doctrines of Christology have drastic implications for soteriology.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Jason D

6 years ago

Congratulations on your ordination… soli Deo gloria!

Camden Bucey

6 years ago

Thanks Jason.

Mala

6 years ago

Brothers, many thanks for what your are doing, reformed forum has become one of my best programs and sites. I am a baptist pastor here in Malawi, Central Africa. I have introduced some Of my friends to this great resource and are learning a great deal…keep up with the good work! In Christ alone!

Jim Cassidy

6 years ago

Thanks, Mala! Praise God for this testimony, it encourages us! Keep laboring for the sake of the Gospel in Africa!

Bill

6 years ago

First off a big congratulations to Camden Bucey on becoming a pastor! Second thank you to the Reformedforum for putting together such a great program. Third after writing so many posts on the episode “The plan of salvation” with Lane Tipton no more lutheran – reformed debates. So no comment with regard to the differences on the Lord’s Supper or the lutheran doctrine of the communication of attributes.

But now and after giving due recognition to this exceptional program and having given appropriate praise to the two hosts of the program, I have to say that I am puzzled. What has the world come to? Karl Rahner is supposed to be a sola scriptura theologian and is very well respected. Where in the bible is that professing muslims, hindus, orthodox jews or atheists will be in heaven? Where does the bible say that every man will have an opoortunity to be saved based on how he acts in accordance to his conscience? Does Karl Rahner know there is an old testament and a new testament where God says who and how anybody will be saved? Does Karl Rahner know the doctrine of election? Does he know that in the old testament salvation is of the jews and nobody else? And in the new testament salvation is of those that have faith in Christ and nobody else? Scripture makes it so clear but Karl Rahner chose to ignore scripture, he is not a sola scriptura theologian. In the old testament salvation is of the jews. and Jesus made this very clear, In John 4:22 Jesus told the Samaritan woman “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.”

It’s not up to Karl Rahner to say that every man can be saved. Jesus clearly taught in John 4:22 which I just quoted that in the Old Testament salvation belonged to those that knew God which were the Jews. Salvation did not belong to every people but to God’s chosen people Israel. And not to all of Israel but only to the children of the promise:

Romans 9 verses 6 to 9 :
“6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”[b] 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

Karl Rahner’s theology to me is nothing more than a new form of pelagianism or semi-pelagianism where man is able to choose his own salvation and natural revelation (in the conscience and nature) is sufficient for salvation. None of this is taught anywhere in scripture. Karl Rahner is a philosopher that chose to reject all scripture and write his own man made theology.

Bill

6 years ago

Karl Rahner’s doctrine of the anonymous christian is an assault on scripture and on sola fide. It does not stand against the test of scripture, Romans 3:23 to 3:25solidly refutes it where Paul tells us that we are saved by faith in the blood of Jesus, there are no anonymous christians in scripture. God does not reward with salvation those that follow their conscience, since scripture tells us that all men without a single exception sin.

Romans 3:23 – 3:25
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Now somebody may argue that the last sentence of Romans 3:25 makes room for the anonymous christian. I say that the former sins that God passed refer to the old testament Saints that had not seen the Messiah, men of faith, Israelites that were saved under the Old Testament dispensation of grace as Jesus taught in John 4:22 which I quoted in my post above from yesterday..

You see here’s the problem with Karl Rahner, he denies the total depravity of man. He also denies that the sole remedy to this total depravity of man is the blood of Christ received through faith, Romans 3:25 which I just quoted. Saving grace is not given to man in any other way that through faith in the propitiation of sin through Christ’s precious blood. And this faith is a gift of God. This is what separates classic protestantism (lutheran, reformed, and neo-orthodox as Karl Barth) from Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism (like Rick Warren and Billy Graham). Both roman catholics and evangelicals deny the total depravity of man, they teach that man can be saved by works whether it be obedience to the conscience or making a decision for Christ. The altar call is a form of neo pelagianism by which it its taught that man is capable of making a decision that will change his life forever and profit him eternal life, scripture teaches the opposite that no man can embrace Christ unless he be born again first (what the reformed would call regeneration and lutherans would say that God has to create faith prior any man being able to receive Christ as Saviour).

Bill

6 years ago

Who would have thought Pelagius would fare so well in modern theology. He found a way into evangelicalism through Charles Finney (who denied original sin and invented the altar call and decision theology) and into roman catholicism through Karl Rahner. The pelagian heresy is alive and well today, probably doing better than ever in the history of christianity.

Camden Bucey

6 years ago

I don’t believe I understand the response entirely. Are you under the impression that I was advocating for Rahner’s theology?

Bill

6 years ago

Not at all Camden. You did an amazing job at objectively describing Karl Rahner’s theology. I had not heard of Karl Rahner prior to this program, and I never figured out where Vatican 2 theology came from (that opens the door for the anonymous christian).

So after I heard this program I did a bit more research on Rahner. What I wrote in my posts were my conclusions on Rahner’s theology. What strikes the me the most is how Rahner can do theology without backing up his conclusions from the biblical text (he’s basically doing philosophy), even though he has a reputation as a sola scriptura theologian, he’s certainly not.

I was never under the impression that you were advocating for Rahner’s theology. I say it again, you guys did an amazing job. And if you ever get get registered as a charity organization for tax purposes in Canada (and I think you should since many canadians follow your Ministry) I would gladly make a donation to support the work of your Ministry. The White Horse Inn and Reformedforum are do an amazing job of spreading the word of God. You guys are amazing preachers of the gospel, and I would not expect anything less from the calvinist / reformed tradition. Beside the lutheran tradition, the reformed are the only christian group today that represents the doctrines of grace in the tradition of Auigustine, Luther, and Calvin.

Jordan Cooper

6 years ago

Interesting program; I think this time you did basically represent the Lutheran position clearly in regards to the communicatio. Though to be honest, I think this may be the only time I have heard Lutheranism fairly represented on this program.

Anyway, I strongly disagree with calling the extracalvinisticum the extracatholicum, or the extrapatristicum. Lutheran Christology is taken largely from Patristic sources. Our Confessions have a section titled “the Catalogue of Testimonies” which is a selection of quotes taken from various Patristic writings. Cyril’s soteriology, for example, is largely based on the conviction of the deification of Christ’s human nature. This is present in the Cappadocians, Athanasius, and various other Eastern fathers. Perhaps Calvin’s christology is representative of late western medieval theology, but it is not universally Patristic.

I also disagree with some of your criticisms of Barth and Rahner; Christ taking human nature (the universal rather than the particular) upon himself, and changing something about humanity universally is not necessarily Hegelian or Heideggerian. The concept is implied in Irenaeus’ recapitulation soteriology. I understand that it doesn’t work within a Reformed framework, due to its particularism, but it really is an ancient idea. Luther uses similar language as well.

Bill

6 years ago

Jordan, since you are a lutheran pastor I’m interested in hearing your view on Barth and Rahner. I think Rahner can not be considered a friend of the Reformation in that he does not adhere to sola fide and sola scriptura. Barth, on the other hand definitely adheres to the 5 solas (sola gratia, sola fide, solus christus, sola scriptura, and soli deo gloria). I think most lutherans don’t like Barth because of the following:

1) Barth rejected the primacy of justification, instead giving equal importance to justification, sanctification, and vocation.
2) Barth criticized Luther (and lutheranism) for the dichotomy of a God Hidden (that predestines some for salvation and not others – which calvinism theology understands very well) and a God Revealed (that wills the salvation of all men – which the theology of Karl Barth understands very well). I personally think that lutheranism in a way acknowledges the validity of the theology of Barth (God Revealed) and Calvin (God Hidden). I know most lutherans are not fond of either Barth or Calvin, but I do consider both of them to have sound doctrine and to be among the greatest theologians that ever lived.

3) Though Barth and lutheranism teach the objective salvation (justification) of all mankind, there is a difference in that Barth’s theology advocates the election of all mankind, every man is elect in Christ. Lutheranism on the other hand teaches that the elect are those that have saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Regardless of the above three areas of conflict between Barth and lutheranism, what lutherans have in common with Barth far exceeds the differences. Both theologies acknowledge the 5 solas of the Reformation. And the same can be said of Reformed theology (calvinism). This is why I support Mike Horton and the White Horse Inn who tries to unite in a way all that the Reformation (both lutheran and calvinist as well as Karl Barth) stands for. Because let’s face it, at the end of the day, all other forms of christianity except for the lutheran and reformed tradition in one way or another run serious risk of ending up in elagianism or semi-pelagianism and a doctrine of salvation by works, because they are not solidly founded on the augustinian doctrines of grace.

Jim Cassidy

6 years ago

Jordan, it seems as if you disagree with the preponderance of scholarship, including Barthians who readily acknowledge that Calvin’s extra belongs to the church universal.

Jordan Cooper

6 years ago

It isn’t a concern what Barthian scholars think; I don’t believe that you will find any Lutheran scholars who will argue in such a way. I think it’s been pretty well established that the communicatio idiomatum (in the Lutheran sense) is a thoroughly Patristic doctrine. Have you read Chemnitz on the Two Natures of Christ? Or have you read Cyril or John of Damascus’ Christological works? Look at the essay “The Idea of Deification in the Early Eastern Church” by Ivan Popov, collected in “Theosis in Christian Theology Vol. II”. This essay, by an Eastern Orthodox theologian, shows how the Eastern patristic writers spoke of the deification of Christ’s human nature, which consists in the transfer of divine attributes to humanity.

Bill

6 years ago

What Jordan write makes sense to me. Isn’t Christ a sinless man or isn’t he omniscient? We see there God’s properties transferred to the human nature. Isn’t Christ God in the flesh (he can bleed and die)? We see there human properties transferred to his godly nature. I see a total comingling of the attributes of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ, and yet He remains fully God and fully man. And there is a mystery here that obviously we can’t perfectly understand.. And yes the Reformed disagree with lutherans on this one.

Bill

6 years ago

A better word than commingling would have been to say that although the two natures retain their attributes, otherwise Christ would not be fully God and fully man, at the same time each nature also communicates its attributes to the other in the union, so that the divine nature participates in the attributes of the human nature and vice versa. This is the doctrine of communication of attributes that the Reformed deny and the lutheran affirm.

Tyler

6 years ago

Bill, essential divinity cannot bleed and die, I assure you.

And I know I will never be ontologically like God ad intra in any sense whatsoever. But that’s ok, I’ll be content with the Rom. 8:29 goal of perfect “image.” 🙂

Bill

6 years ago

Tyler, we have to agree to disagree. God died on the cross for me, this is how much God loves me that bled and died for me a miserable sinner. It was not a man that died on the cross of Calvary, it was God in the person of Jesus Christ. And this is why I love God so much because he lowered himself, being perfect he humiliated himself, being sinless, he subjected himself to the punishment that sinners deserved. The divine essence can bleed and die for my sin.

Nathan Rinne

5 years ago

Thanks for your program. I am Lutheran and it is my first time listening. Some questions arise.

Before I do that though, I want to point out that the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is based on nothing other than the word of Christ’s promise. “Ubiquity” got brought into the conversation only because Zwingli raised an objection and Luther, for the sake of argument, met him on his own terms. There is no need for a doctrine of the ubiquity of the human nature in order to uphold the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.

Questions:

First, I do not really understand what is going on when you talk about the reasons for the extra Calvinisiticum? Who were they responding to? I do not believe that the Lutherans, for one, ever said that the Son of God was confined, contained, and restricted by the human nature he took on Himself, so why the need to say this?

Second, I am confused when you say of the Acts 20 passage about God’s blood that this is attributing a divine quality to the person of the incarnate son of God and not the human nature. Would it not be more accurate to say that that the quality of bleeding – something human – is being attributed to God? In other words, the attribute of being a blood-filled creature which can bleed is really being communicated to the divine nature…. God really is bleeding for us.

Third, I was puzzled when you talked about how the Reformed felt the need to assert that the Logos did not cease to uphold the universe when Christ died. If God became man really and truly, he took on a the whole of humanity – body and soul. A human being does not cease to be human when they are separated from their body. Therefore, when Christ died – the Logos died, really and truly – and was separated from the human body for that moment, even while remaining fully human, by virtue of the human soul the Logos had taken on. Therefore, there is no need to posit the Son of God being “out of operation” for three days.

Because of these questions I can’t help but wonder when you assert that there is not some part of the Logos that remains somehow independent or disconnected from the enfleshed Christ – maybe I need a definition of what you mean by independent and disconnected.

Pastor Cooper mentioned the Catalog of Testimonies above. Here is a helpful quote from Lutheran theologian (at Beeson divinity school) Peter Malysz: “Following Luther, the ‘Catalog of Testimonies’, intended as an appendix to the Formula of Concord, explicitly recognizes this when it states: ‘concrete terms are words which designate the entire person in Christ, such as “God,” “human being.” But abstract terms are words by which the natures in the person of Christ are understood and expressed, such as “deity,” “humanity.” According to this distinction, it is correctly said in concrete terms that “God is a human being,” “a human being is God.” On the other hand, it is incorrect to say in abstract terms: “deity is humanity,” “humanity is deity.” ’ Robert Kolb and James A. Nestingen, eds., Sources and Contexts of the Book of Concord (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), p. 223.

Here is one more quote from Malysz you might find helpful:

“Specifically, concerning the divine Subject, the genus maiestaticum states: ‘In, with, and through this [human] nature he [i.e., Christ] demonstrates, reveals, and exercises the same divine power, glory’ (64, emphasis added). What is interesting about this statement is that the divine Subject is here also the human Subject – Christ is a single Subject. And yet there is also a clear indication of directionality: just as it was ‘the only begotten Son of God . . . [who] was made man’, and not the other way round, so also the Subject as divine (and human) is said to work in, with and through his human nature. The non-reciprocity of the genus assures simultaneously the divine source of initiative and the resultant inseparability of the human nature from it – the God-man is the actor who acts sustained by the divine initiative. Thus the Formula can confidently affirm that ‘there is and remains in Christ only one single, divine omnipotence, power, majesty, and glory’ (66). This majesty is the essential prerogative of the divine nature alone.”

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2400.2006.00245.x/abstract

Also, I plan on doing a series about this in the upcoming days – connecting this with the question recently asked: “Why are there no Lutheran Baptists?”.

+Nathan Rinne

Nathan Rinne

5 years ago

Guys,

I appreciate your taking on this important topic. I hope to hear back from you here.

A quote I appreciate from the book “the Great Jesus Debates” by Douglas Johnson is “Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is at the heart of all the great controversies that shook the Early church as it tried to work out its own self-understanding”

That sounds right to me, and perhaps you’d agree.

More than anything, I think this is about communication basics: what do you really mean when you say XYZ? When it comes to our paychecks, we are definitely concerned to get things right: we want a paycheck that is “strong enough to deliver us” so to speak. Something similar holds true for our understanding of Jesus Christ.

Again, I think we’d be on the same page here, right?

The question of course is what we all mean when we say Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% man. What does this mean? Is the flesh of Christ is life-giving in and of itself – not just some pipe through which divine operations flow – because it is united to the divine nature in the personal union? And does this mean that the whole Christ – 100% God and 100% man – dwells within you – really and truly? When Jesus says “I am the vine, ye are the branches” does this mean that we are just some pipe through which divine operations flow, or are we truly united with God? Even as we creatures never become are united at the level of natures with God.

In case anyone is interested in reading more, I have now done part II (of III) of my series on “The Real reason there are no ‘Lutheran Baptists’: Martin Luther’s 500 year battle vs. Protestant liberalism?”(here: http://wp.me/psYq5-HJ) and how this connects with Christology. Part III, coming tomorrow, will be the heavy-hitting Christological section.

+Nathan Rinne

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