Theology and Christology – 2

“All theological statements win their Christian character only through their connection with Jesus”[1]

“As Christians we know God only as he has been revealed in and through Jesus. All other talk about God can have, at most, provisional significance. In this sense it may be very meaningful and necessary, even a presupposition for the message of Christ. But the way in which God is revealed through Jesus suspends even its own presupposition, so that one can only speak about God himself in that at the same time one talks about Jesus. Therefore theology and Christology, the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Jesus as the Christ, are bound together. It is the goal of theology as well as Christology to develop this connection.”[2]

Here Pannenberg expresses the absolute significance of Jesus Christ for knowledge about GOD. What this means is that all claims to know God (including in its subjective sense) must be evaluated in view of GOD’s self-revelation in Jesus.

What this does not mean is that all previous knowledge about God is to be set aside. God was not silent and inactive until Jesus, the major events throughout GOD’s covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants also revealed much about the Creator, and themselves set the stage to understand Jesus as the one through whom the Creator is revealed.

The NT gospels intentionally tell Jesus story as  part of YHWH and Israel’s story, ‘the God whom Jesus called “Father” was none other than the God of the Old Testament’[3]. So while we cannot abandon the Exodus for example, as a genuinely revelatory event, God’s mission of which this was a part comes to fuller clarity (although not absolute clarity) in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. This is the central significance of Jesus for the knowledge of GOD.

[1] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus- God and Man (London: SCM, 1968 [1980]), 11

[2] Ibid., 20

[3] Pannenberg, 32


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…