A Short Overview of Christology

On November 5, 2011, in Doctrines, by july

Christology is perhaps one of the less discussed topics in the Christian circles today.  In the absence of resources on Christology on a popular level, discussing such would require an extra grace from God… something that He has abundantly given last night as our DGroup looked into the subject of Christ’s nature.

This blog post does not aim to exhaustively discuss the different views on Christology.  Rather it aims to simply give a bird’s eye view of what the church fathers have been up to and the philosophies they wrestle with during their time.  This post may lack some important information so please feel free to correct any errors you may find in this post… and also if there are extra information that one wish to contribute.

Different Views on the nature of Christ

Logos Christology

The Logos theologians believe that Jesus, the Son of God emanated from the Father as the Word.  As John described in his Gospel (John 1:1,14), Jesus was the Word—the thought and mind of God as it were.  And so in Logos Christology, Jesus, the Word, was given flesh and that’s how He became a human being.  Justin Martyr describes this theology by saying that Jesus and God the Father are co-eternal in existence.  Just as the sunbeam cannot exist without the sun and the sun cannot exist without a sunbeam, so is God the Father and Jesus.  Jesus is the sunbeam and God is the sun.

Modalism

Modalism is a system where it is believed that God is only one person with 3 different modes or roles.  God as the Father, God as the Son, and God as the Spirit.  Sort of like saying that I can be the son of my father, a programmer, and a churchgoer.  Tertullian wrote strongly against this.  He used John 10:30 to show that Jesus and God the Father are not the same person.

Arianism

This is a belief that Jesus was a created God.  This however, had problems in that it is against God’s characteristics to be created.  God has to be timeless.

Council of Nicaea

One of the items discussed in the Council of Nicaea was regarding the nature of God.  The church fathers concluded here that God is one being in three persons—thus the Trinity.  As a result, both Modalism and Arianism were condemned as heresy.

Different views on Christ’s Human and Divine Natures

Monophysite

This view claims that Jesus has one will and one nature Divine-Human.  So it’s different from God, different from Man, but rather is another form of being.

Dyophysite

This view claims that Jesus has two wills in two distinct natures—Human and Divine.  The problem that arose in this view is that how can one know which will of Jesus is in effect? A person can only have one will and so it became very difficult to explain how Jesus can have two wills.

Kenoticism

This is the view that Jesus stripped himself from his Godly nature and put on only a human nature.  In this view, Jesus is fully man but is stripped of his Godly characteristics.

Council of Chalcedon

This council was organized to discuss the differing views on Christ’s nature.  At the end of the council, the church fathers agreed in saying that Jesus has two distinct natures—human and divine, but only has one will.  The council doesn’t really show how this works, but rather they simply set the boundaries upon where Christian debates might be enclosed.

 

Some questions raised during the discussion:

  • How can we say na there’s only 1 God when we have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit? Is it fair to say na Christianity is really Polytheism?
  • When Christ Resurrected, did He resurrect by abandoning His human nature, or did He resurrect with the human nature?
Here’s a flowchart courtesy of Wikipedia.  It has a lot of terms not mentioned here… yet this may somehow aid in understanding.

 

Main Reference:

William Lane Craig.  Defenders Podcast on the Doctrine of Christ.  http://www.reasonablefaith.org

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