Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Too Much Jesus?

In thinking about Moltmann's Hope Theology, the question of Christology takes the center stage. I am reminded of Neuhaus' claim about Pannenberg and the particularity of Christian history and its claims for Jesus. Eventually Pannenberg finds common ground, at least with many Jewish scholars, in the coming reign of God (focus of his hope project). But is this true with Moltmann as well? And if it isn't then what is the problem? I mean, the Christian claims about Jesus are pretty lofty (and I believe rightly so), but does this present a liability to the Theology of Hope? At the very least it presents some tricky obstacles.

The main issue is one of history. Is history something we take at face value or is it something we need to impose a framework (worldview maybe) upon? There are several realities of history that we need to bear in mind here: a) history is accomplished b) history has winners and losers (and it is not always easy to see who is who) c) history is told by the living who interpret the past d) history is not the test of veracity.

That last one is where I think many evangelicals trip up. We like to read history as support for our preconceptions, just like we do with our sacred texts. What we end up with is a very skewed view of history. One year I decided to study Count Zinzendorf, the much loved patron saint of the 24/7 movement. What is interesting is Zin was one wacky man. No doubt he championed pietism and has had an indelible influence on the history of the Church, but it is a sanitized version of the Count that we know and love. History, seen this way, is merely a tool to serve an ulterior motive. When we treat history in such a way we not only miss the lessons of history, but we grind underfoot those caught on the underside of history.

If Christology is the lens we bring to our reading of history, then we end up with a sort of his-story, but not with the whole-story. That doesn't mean there isn't a place for a high Christology, but if our theological reading of history continues to trample underfoot the losers of history, then really we have done nothing but comforted our ears with what we want to hear. This does not stop us from looking for Christ in history, I am not suggesting we delimit the sciences, but it is the imposition of Christ onto history that is the problem. In this theology should be the second act and it should be a redemptive (not deformative) act.

But how does this square with a Christology that claims Jesus' as the hinge of all that ever has and will happen? If the Christ event is the one defining event of all history, then can we not make the assumption that all history is ultimately his-story and the rest, if there is anything, is superfluous? I think that ultimately the question comes down to why we need such certainty in our Christological assumptions. My concern is that we are simply treating the past with the same fear we treat the future - we need to mitigate our risk by increasing our certitude. However, this is not a stance of faith it is a stance of fear. History can be both and needs to be both if Christ is to enter into history as saviour and redeemer.


steven hamilton said...

i just picked up a copy of Moltmann's Theology of Hope at a used book library sale...i haven't cracked it as yet, but you have me pondering and looking for liabilities to a theology og hope...

One of Freedom said...

I would love to hear your thoughts Steven, that is an excellent book BTW. I love his treatment of the grand themes of Christianity, so inspiring.