Monday, November 19, 2007

Docetism Today

In our current systematics module on the Person and Work of Christ, contemporary expressions of Docetism were discussed. For example, Berkhouwer's suggestion that some Roman Catholic teaching tends to Docetism when it denies that Jesus was ignorant of the timing of the Parousia, or when it stresses Jesus' 'uninterrupted vision of God' at the expense of his suffering and experience of fear. According to the module notes, these are examples of 'dogma-conditioned exegesis' in which the doctrine of the hypostatic union is used to override the natural teaching of scripture. To my mind, this is not just a tendency in Roman Catholicism.

But, far more cogent in my view is McDonald's article on 'Docetism' in the New Dictionary of Theology, where he writes...

But modern theology by divorcing the Christ of faith from the Jesus of history is in danger of initiating a new form of docetism.

For me, this observation is on the money. And it's not just a problem of modern theology in general, but is a lot closer to home in evangelicalism. A disinterest in the historical roots of our faith and an over-emphasis on what we experience in the here and now are the cause. We need to rediscover our commitment to the historical Jesus and an historic, not an existential, faith.