Theology and Christology

In theological discourse we often distinguish between Theology proper (about God) and Christology (about Jesus). My question is whether this separation in our presentations (written and spoken) of theology is helpful.

If Jesus ‘is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being’ (Heb 1.3), the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col 1.15), can we ever discuss God without this involving Jesus? Should we ever discuss Jesus without this involving God? If the NT places Jesus squarely within the ‘divine identity’ (Bauckham), then both Father and Son are mutually ‘interpretive’.

Doesn’t the doctrine of the Trinity show that every discussion of God should involve Father, Son, and Spirit? In this light do the categories of Theology, Christology, and Pneumatology break down? And if so, is the formal separation helpful or unhelpful? While we have surely found them helpful in organizing our thoughts and presentations, has it actually effected our theology?  Should we maintain these distinctions in our minds if they are artificial?

The answers given will no doubt vary depending on what we are trying to achieve in each presentation, but I put the question out to get us thinking. Your thoughts…

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2 thoughts on “Theology and Christology

  1. The problem, in my opinion, is really with the entire organization of theology as a system. I understand it’s little more than organizing our thoughts/speech about God, but I’m not sure how helpful it ultimately is. Since Aquinas (or possibly before him, I don’t know) it has been common to start with the divine essence or nature and then move into a discussion of the persons. In discussing what makes God God the talk always turns to attributes which in and of themselves are treated as impersonal, hence we can speak of them without regard to any one (or all three) person(s) of the Trinity.

    I think that’s what made Barth so revolutionary in his day, i.e., the Trinity was his prolegomena. Ultimately I think his Trinitarian theology needed some work but at least he had the good sense to start with Father, Son, and Spirit. We see this method throughout the majority of Eastern patristic writers while in the West there seemed to be a general tendency to worry about the divine essence/nature beforehand (although not in the way that Aquinas would later focus on it).

    I think that Christology is a helpful category only for the reason that the Son became incarnate for us and our salvation. While each person of the Trinity is involved in every action of God, the Son did something unique in taking on humanity. Christology has tended to focus on the titles applied to the human Jesus, e.g., Son of Man; Son of God; Lord; Christ; etc. while in the past 20-30 years guys like Hurtado and Bauckham have turned attention to the cultic devotion given to Jesus by the early Christians. But in focusing on this aspect is exactly to involve the Father in the equation because the driving question is how could Jesus have been accorded the same devotion that was generally reserved for God alone. Then comes along a guy like Gordon Fee who brings attention to the Spirit’s presence and importance in the life of the early Church and we see a pre-creedal Trinitarianism.

    I apologize for the long comment, God knows I hate it when people leave comments longer than my posts, but I’ll close with this: I think that the categories you’ve listed all entail one another. In other words, I can’t think of the Son without reference to the Father and Spirit, so on and so forth. The problem only arises when we focus on one to the exclusion of the other. Oh, and I think that you’ll find this paper that Peter Leithart contributed to a Trinity Blogging Summit I hosted last month relevant to your question.

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  2. Hi Nick,

    When it comes to forming theological systems, while we cannot avoid trying to synthesize and systematize our beliefs (simply for intellectual coherence), theological writings tend to break them up again in their outlines and then need to stress their integration because of this! Is that just backwards or is it just me?

    Thanks for the link, I’ll have a read.

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