The central element and aspect of the Christian Faith is the divinity of Jesus Christ, the founder of the religion. Acceptance, belief and confession of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world and humanity is the most basic element that distinguishes a Christian from a non-Christian. This shows that Jesus Christ is the foundation on which the entire Christian faith is built. As such, every Christian must give reverence to Him and to His position as the pivot around which every other thing in the spiritual world revolves.
The idea of Jesus being God and Man at the same time is a mystery that most people cannot understand or appreciate. This is something that is embedded in the mysticism of Christianity and can only be explained within a framework of Christian theology that provides an insight into the matter. The purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of Christology and what it means to the entire world and how it works to define the very essence of Christianity.
Christology is the name of that field of Christian theology that explains the essence and features of Jesus Christ. It shows how Jesus is elevated into the status of God, a feat that no other human being to ever live has been raised to. A matter of that is bound to have several definitions and descriptions in itself.
One definition states that “Christology is the section of Christian theology dealing with the identity of Jesus Christ, particularly the question of the relation of his human and divine nature”. And this is an investigation of the true nature of Jesus and its presentation to people of all backgrounds.
Christology is the belief that Jesus Christ was with God in the beginning (John 1), was incarnated into a human form and resurrected and ascended to heaven after his crucifixion and will come back to judge humanity. These elements form the core and essential feature of Christology and the aspects of Jesus Christ’s divinity.
Christology therefore attempts to use scripture to justify these pointers and prove that Jesus is indeed the son of God. For many years, Christology was a function of the Catholic Church. And this was based on the view that Christianity could thrive on the ideologies of Peter, Jesus’ lead disciple. This is supported by Matthew 16:15-16 where Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is. Peter stated that he is truly the Son of God. And that encapsulates the idea of Christology and its fundamental essence.
Thus, the Catholic Encyclopedia states that Christology can be defined as “The person of Jesus Christ [which is] the second person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Son of the Word of the Father, who was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man”. This is a form of Christology that was accepted by the Nicaea declaration which unified the Catholic Church and made it a state religion of the Roman Empire.
The Christology of the Catholic Church remained intact for several generations after the first years of Christianity. However, Christology through the ages had to go through various changes in definitions. It must be noted that Christology was fairly simple throughout the Middle Ages. This is because the beliefs and acceptance of the teachings of the Church was fairly straightforward. However, after the Age of the Reformation and other modifications in social thought and ideologies, there was the need to modify the presentation of Christology in order to meet modern contemporary views and ideals. According to McQuarrie, this was the only way through which the modern man could grasp the essence of the mystery of Christology which was not something the ordinary member of society could easily comprehend and appreciate.
Thus, there were numerous changes and modifications in the presentation of Christology and this varied throughout the Protestant, Evangelical and other movements, including the African-American brand of Christianity. These modifications came with various changes in the presentation of the position and features of Jesus Christ to humanity.
Ontology of Christology
After the Age of Reformation and the move from the Middle Ages to modern times, there were different worldviews that developed in relation to the core features of Christology. There was the question of the person of Christ and what his essence is in the different forms and states. This is because Jesus is presented ad a divine individual but he had human aspects and features as well.
Some authorities identify that the essence of the mystery lies in the holiness of Jesus and the fact that he never sinned when he came onto this planet. Works of Jesus were human in nature and they laid a humanistic foundation. This means that Jesus was divine and had to do things as a human to lay a foundation in this world for mortal men to follow. This is in sync with the Catholic and conservative view of Christianity whereby Jesus was here to lay the foundations of the Church.
Therefore, based on the holiness of Jesus, it can be postulated that he was of God and of a completely different spirit from all the people he moved with on this planet. Based on that, the credibility and essence or logic of Jesus humanity was one that was meant to emanate the divine spark. This implies that Jesus’ life as a human being was just about bringing down a divine soul that belonged to heaven to this world to fix something that had to be fixed and shortly after that, Jesus left and took his place in heaven where he belonged.
On the other hand, some authorities argue that there is the need to separate all the different features and events of Jesus’ life in order to make meaning of Jesus and his essence in life as a human. Therefore, they argue that separate and distinctive features of Jesus must be discussed in separate contexts. McQuarrie states that in Mark’s Gospel, it was apparent that only the resurrection of Jesus will be the catalyst for recognizing him as the Christ. Therefore, the story of Jesus must be told in a manner that can be comprehended by the human mind. “Any merely adoptionist Christology must be completed by an incarnational Christology. The rising of a man is only made possible by the condescension of God.”.
McQuarrie goes on to argue that Jesus differs in degree, not in kind from other people in society. Thus, Christ’s personal pre-existence has to be set aside because holding it up in debates undermines the full humanity of Christ. His post-existence must also be toned down and discussed in a separate context to avoid reducing its scope and meaning.
The story of salvation and the actual position and works of Jesus can be presented by examining the worldview and elements of Jesus. This is also to be done within the context of revelation and mysticism. “Revelation is not completely apprehended at the beginning, but only at the end of revelatory history.”.
These revelations show how human beings can be viewed as recipients of Jesus’ atonement and salvation to humanity. These ideas have culminated in four key models of atonement which are used to describe how Christians get salvation from God through Jesus. These are analyzed below:
In this theory, Jesus is seen to have gained victory over the powers that holds humanity in bondage – sin, death and the devil. Therefore, this victory is something that anyone can get and benefit from if he draws closer to Jesus Christ and accepts him as savior.
These things – sin, death and the devil can be traced back to Adam. And due to that, we are all human beings who will have to inherit that original sin. Therefore, through Jesus and his resurrection, we are able to overcome sin and live in a divine life that is sanctioned for nothing but the best in everything we do.
This theory indicates that Jesus was captured by the devil and that was based on the mistaken belief of the devil that he can capture a son of God without issues. And when that happened, Jesus went into his kingdom and captured the keys to life and all the things he had stolen from humanity.
This theory shows that by attaching yourself to Jesus, an individual is able to get the benefit of what Jesus took from the devil. This gives impetus for the idea that a person becomes immune to the negativities of this world when he becomes Christian and a born again.
This theory posits that the sin of our ancestors, Adam and Eve create a gap between us and God. God is holy and due to the sin of Adam and Eve, there was the need for someone to come in and bridge the gap. And for generations, God chose Abraham and his descendants and found an ideal way of getting them to connect with Him. However, due to a number of issues with their system and their own sin, God sent Jesus who lived and died for our sin.
The classical approach used by the ancient Israelites or descendants of Abraham was to slaughter sheep and cows to atone for sins. However, the death of Jesus created a kind of permanent and one-off sacrifice that was to pay for all our sins. In literal terms, this death of Jesus was to create a blank check for the entire human race and for all the generations to atone for their sins because it was a supernatural ransom. Therefore, all people are to accept this and accept Jesus Christ in order to resolve all their problems and issues. Thus, Jesus in a person’s life is like an equivalent to the sacrifices and offerings that were made by the high priest in the temples of Ancient Israel.
Moral Influence Theory
This theory suggests that Jesus came into this world in human form not only for mystical purposes but also to be a supernatural model for all human beings to follow and copy. Jesus was blameless in his life on earth. He always did supernatural things and encouraged his disciples by telling them that they can do greater things if they believe in him. Therefore, the first premise for this worldview is that Jesus as a man was worthy of emulation and there must be an effort for people to continuously try to be like him.
On the mystical level, people who support this worldview are to believe that Jesus’ supernatural efforts and works are all meant to lead us to become like him. In other words, being like Jesus is the end and fundamental essence of Christianity. Therefore, the main reason for Jesus’ death and resurrection is to lay the foundation for us to become like Jesus by way of simply believing in him. This means that when we believe in Jesus, we will get the power and ability to perform miracles like him and also live blameless lives like he did in his life on the planet. Morality and ethics are at the center of this element and aspect of Jesus Christ.
Christology and Other Faith Traditions
All religious ideologies are steeped in biography and if God is one, then there will be one religion unless all individuals view that one God differently. This therefore means that holding out Christology in a strict and rigid manner is likely to have some conflicts in a religious perspective since there are different people with different worldviews about religion and how it should be propagated.
The earliest views of Christology were presented by the Catholics. These Catholics sought to present their worldview as an absolute and universal one and it worked significantly for the generations leading to the Middle Ages. Catholics view the Vatican declarations and Catholic traditions as accurate and absolute without errors and contradictions to Christianity and Christology.
The Catholics sought to present the idea of the Trinity as an embodiment of Peter’s leadership and the institutionalization of the Church and Christianity. This came with some requirements and mandatory expectations like having services in Latin, mandatory clerical celibacy, opposition to female priestly inductions and rejection of birth controls. Their view of sin and atonement was one steeped in the idea of a God that was going to punish humanity and the need for some kind of controls to be placed on people’s conduct.
On the other hand, there was a major shift that caused the Protestants to present a worldview that diverged from the Catholic doctrine. The idea was that justification is forensic, it leads to total freedom and the basis is on Christ’s righteousness, not inherent righteousness. Therefore, the move shifted to believing in Jesus and trying to link to Jesus as a central figure of the religion.
Protestants and Evangelicals believe that Jesus Christ could be opened to new images and descriptions . This included shifting from the position that God is a judgmental God who only sought to punish people for what they had done wrong. They rather presented an image of God who was merciful and kind and could love humanity for who they are.
The Protestant worldview therefore ensured that there was some kind of liberalization of religious systems and the presentation of a different thesis of how to gain salvation. This included the need to know and embrace Jesus as a personal savior. This system weakened the institutionalization of Christology and challenged the Catholic Church to undergo numerous reforms.
Although the Catholic Church is still based on an institutional model, there are many changes that have occurred in Catholic affairs. On the other hand, the Protestant and Evangelical groups have embarked on a path of fundamentalism in defining the tenets of Christology.
The main element of biblical interpretation adopted by the Protestant (mainly in North America) and Evangelical groups is the idea of Biblical inerrancy which states that the Bible is accurate and does not contradict any facts in real life. Therefore, Protestants and Evangelicals are moving towards a path of defining a logical approach for defining Christ and his essence within the context of any organization or social environment that these discussions are held.
This has created a new and distinct Christian Culture that is distinct from other cultures. Therefore, Protestant and Evangelical Christians are more likely to institute a code of ethics that reflects a Christ-centered approach that helps them to interpret important matters and logically present them to an audience. This is meant to transform a culture within which the message of Christianity is presented. Thus, in effect, this system of integrating Christianity into different cultures is replacing the rigid canonical approach used by the Catholic Church. And through this new approach, Evangelical and Protestant models of Christianity are building on people’s worldviews in order to give them an understanding of the way things are done.
Evangelical Christians believe that Christ is unique and God is willing to save all people through Christ. Therefore, in every situation, Evangelicals support the confession to faith in Jesus and a commitment to action This leads to a system whereby a person is taught to value piety and carry out actions that are logical and are appropriate for the context and system.
These new paradigms have ensured that different cultures have different approaches to accepting the message of Jesus Christ and integrating it into the worldview of the people. In communities like African-American communities, the idea of Christology needs to be transposed into a context that the followers and congregants can understand and appreciate. The passionate, incisive and ecstatic reason of the African-American theological culture must be integrated to explain the mystery of Christology. Jesus Christ is identified with the oppressed and downtrodden and imprisoned (Luke 4:18-19). Non-violent redemption through divine approaches is believed through experience of slavery and exodus and God being there to help supernaturally. This is what African-Americans understand, thus the message of Christianity is presented within that context to ensure familiarity with the message and strong action that will help members of these Churches to appreciate the essence of Christianity.
Christology is about the divinity and nature of Jesus Christ. There are two dominant views of Christology. One is about the view that Jesus Christ was divine and became human just to lay a foundation for humanity to follow. Another view is that we must separate the different aspects of Jesus –before, during and after his incarnation. The latter view is embraced by Protestants and Evangelicals that emerged after the Age of Reformation. And it enables Christianity to pursue its ideals through the build-up of a Christology message based on the dominant beliefs and understanding of a people. On the other hand, the view that Jesus came into the world as a human being is supported by conservative groups like the Catholics. And this is a view that supports the institutionalization of Christianity.
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