Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Christological Categories

I was talking with the Pirate in an email conversation and was telling him about the various things I'm learning in Christology class. I love this class! So here's the chart he posted on his site, that i emailed him... so i'm taking it back. stupid stealing pirate! Here are super-condensed versions of three categories demarcated by color and font I think are really helpful:

This first category is marked Doctrines of the Incarnation

Ebionism-An offshoot of the Jewish form of Christianity that solves the Christological problem by denying the divinity of Christ altogether. This does not mean that Jesus is regarded as just another human being or a good rabbi. For the Ebionites, Jesus was the Messiah chosen by God, sent by God, and predestined by God to return in majesty to rule the Kingdom of God. Ebionism simply claims that in order to be Messiah and Risen Lord, Jesus did not need to be God.

Docetism-The Docetists did the opposite of the Ebionites and eliminated Jesus’ humanity. Jesus was really God and was only pretending to be a human being. His sufferings and death were appearances only.
Antiochenism- The Antiochenes affirmed both the full humanity and divinity of Jesus but tended to regard the two as capable of operating separately. Sometimes Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia (two major league Antiochenes) speak of “two sons” a Son of God and Son of Man. They attributed the miracles to Jesus the Son of God and the sufferings to the Son of Man. They wanted to insure that the divinity of Christ would in no way interfere with his humanity. The humanity has its own independent principle of growth and action. In its most radical form, Nestorianism, the Antiochenes even spoke of “two persons” in Jesus, leaving it unclear how the two are held together. Sometimes they spoke of the two being “married” to one another.
Alexandrianism- The Alexandrians also affirmed the humanity and divinity of Jesus but their stress fell on the unity of the two rather than the difference. Beginning with Clement and Origen (the two heavy weight Alexandrians), the tendency was to regard the divinity as dominating the humanity, even deifying it. The son of God is the governing principle of everything Jesus does.
The second category is related to the first, namely HOW the incarnation is understood. this could be called Models of the Incarnation and could be understood within any of the four categories up top.
Ontological Model- states that Jesus is made of different stuff that the rest of us. These are founded on the virgin births in Luke and Matthew and state that while Jesus does have our biology, if one were to do a biopsy one would find something different that is inherent in Jesus' make-up.
Psychological Model- based on the adoption of Jesus by God in Mark and John's gospels. This theory states that while Jesus is human just like the rest of us, he somehow had the mind of God and was concerned with what God was concerned with. This doesn't mean that he knew all things that God did as an infinite consciousness can't fit into a finite one, but that Jesus was prayerfully connected 100% of the time, where we are, at best, are connected 10% of the time and usually only when we're in prayer (and that'd be 10% of the time we're even in prayer too).
Agency Model- This model states that Jesus did the things that God would do and that his teaching or biology are of no importance, it is what he DID that was important. To have faith in Christ is to have loyalty to his methods and do what he did. This is largely taken from Paul's letters and understanding of Jesus.
The final four (so to speak) are the condensed versions of the atonement. these would be called Theories of Atonement:
Classical- (aka Greek, Patristic, Eastern): Jesus' resurrection enacts and manifests God's triumph over all the powers and principalities which hold humanity captive and oppressed. These powers could be cosmic (devil, death and demons) or psycho-social (addictions, compulsions, and all the -isms). Jesus is the conquering hero who vanquishes humanity's enemies and the crucifixion is the final (or at the very least decisive) showdown with these powers. It is "objective" even if no one believes it.
Latin- (aka Western, Anselmic): Jesus' death on the cross somehow atones for human sinfulness. Jesus satisfies the twin requirements of God's justice and mercy. Jesus is the sacrifice who takes away the sins of the world. This is also "objective" in that the relationship with God to humanity has been transformed by Jesus.
Subjective #1- (aka role model, example): Jesus provides an inspirational example of true human being. By internalizing the picture of Jesus, we can develop Jesus-like qualities. This is "subjective" in that Jesus' work has no impact if it does not inspire the transformation of individual's inner and outer lives.
Subjective #2- (aka empathic): Jesus is a powerfully moving manifestation of the extent and depth of God's love for humanity. This potent demonstration has the capacity to elicit a loving response in the human heart. This is "subjective" view where Jesus' work is only successful if people are moved by this demonstration of God's love.
for example, i find myself being a psychological modeled Alexandrian that is a Classic Subjectivist #1 & 2. meaning, Jesus had the mind of God, was very human and yet the divinity shown through both through natural Charisma and presence as well as in hindsight. Thus the incarnation is projected by his followers back onto Jesus. I explained my atonement idea in this post and i talked about how i intersect many. for me, it boils down to the idea that if you aren't affected and experience Jesus then no biggie, you're still good. when told "Jesus loves you" many don't care... but i think the best response is to love him back. thus is one reason why i'm a Christian. hope that example helps. 
any questions?


Anonymous said...

Here is what I currently am:

Ebionite - Agency - Subjective #1 and 2 Model.

I tend to see the root of Jesus as important (Jewish) alongside his humanity - since in these two things a person achieved a greatness that inspires and models a life worth living that we can all partake in.

That being said, I see him as a messianic figure in a very rabbinic molding sort of a way. He is teacher and I am a student - beyond that people can claim anything they want about him...it is this part that has changed me.

Peter said...

Hey man, I loved learning about this stuff in seminary last semester. Kudos to you for breaking it down and sharing. Good stuff...

Anglican Boy said...

WOW! These are great! I think I'm the traditional Alexandrian as a High Christology, I feel you are a low on. I focus on divinity and you focus on humanity. Not saying one is better than another, just different focuses, please do not take it as a put down. I am also a Latin ontologist. That should be no surprise either. I really enjoy these categories and helps me understand others better. Thanks for posting!

Luke said...


if you're an Ebionite or even a docetic, you have no need of a model. there is no incarnation in either or those doctrines... so all you would need is atonement.