Monday, February 11, 2008

Reflections on the Person and Work of Christ

Reflections on the Semester 1 modules of the Second Year at HTC continue with the Systematics module: Person and Work of Christ. This module is taught by Welshman Rob Shillaker and covers the broad spread of the topic including Christology in the Early Church, the Humanity and Deity of Christ, Atonement Theories, Modern Christology and the Uniqueness of Christ. Texts for the course are Berkhouwer and Macleod (of course). So, the highlights of the module? They follow in brief:

Atonement theories. Surveying atonement theories was very useful and the presence of penal substitution in early church thought is hugely important for debates today. However, in the early Church, this was held alongside other perspectives on the atonement, of varying validity and importance. Penal substitutionary thought at that time was not developed along the lines of the Reformers' paradigm and, whilst current defences of penal substitution are important, I am worried about any tendency towards the total exclusion of other biblical prespectives on the atonement. A helpful book on the topic is The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. Thomas Schreiner argues for penal substitution (whilst stating up-front that he does not see it as the 'only truth' about the atonement, but as 'the anchor and foundation for all other dimensions of the atonement'); Joel Green argues for a kaleidoscopic view (which is redemptive-historical in its emphasis) where 'on its own, no one model or metaphor will do'. I have sympathy with Green, but it seems that Schreiner and Green might be getting fairly close from either side on the one point. Whilst I go with Schreiner, one continuing problem is the absence of penal substitution from the Lukan corpus.

Athanasius' De Incarnatione. We had to analyse this work for a seminar. However, Macleod throws up a difficulty when he says this about Athanasius...

Most of his work survives only in fragments gleaned from quotations by his opponents and the position is further complicated by the fact that some of his writings, published posthumously, appeared under false names (for example, two pseudo-Athanasian compositions, Quod Unus Sit Deus and De Incarnatione Verbi, are now widely regarded as works of Apollinaris).
It is true that you notice the Apollinarian thought in De Incarnatione. But after some degree of investigation, I'm still not clear if De Incarnatione is the same as De Incarnatione Verbi Dei and which of the manuscripts may or may not be in view here. This illustrates the difficulties that can face you with this kind of thing.

Quest for Historical Jesus. The Modern Christology unit on the module covers the Quest for the Historical Jesus (Reimarus and Wrede through Schweitzer to the neo-liberalism and neo-orthodoxy a la Bultmann and Barth - hence his picture above - to Kasemann and Second Questers through to the so-called Third Quest). This unit was a highlight and a helpful article on this whole thing is: Is there Really a 'Third Quest' for the Historical Jesus? SBET 24.2, by Dr Mike Bird no less.

Macleod on Uniqueness. Macleods' work on the Person of Christ is both comprehensive and invigorating. I read most of The Person of Christ during the module and really enjoyed the chapter on the uniqueness of Christ (or maybe it just seems like I enjoyed it more because it was one of the last ones I read!). I posted a good quote on this before.

Redemption. The essay question for the module was 'Explore the concept of redemption in the work of Christ'. Where to go with that one?! I'll post separately on how I approached it.