Date of Award

5-1-1981

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Theology (ThD)

Department

Exegetical Theology

First Advisor

Martin Scharlemann

Scripture References in this Resource (separated by semi-colons)

1 Corinthians 1:17, 23; 1 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Corinthians 15:28; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; Colossians 2:19; Colossians 1:15-20; Colossians 1:16, 17; Ephesians 3:11; Ephesians 4:9;

Abstract

This study was undertaken as an attempt to evaluate and possibly correct some recent interpretations of Christ's person and work. Much of theology today has left the impression that Christianity is just another agency of good will to fight against social, political and eco­ nomic injustice in the world. Accordingly, the motive behind much of contemporary theological discussions has been to challenge the church to join in what is often called the "humanization" of man.

It is our position that Christology occupies the pivotal position in any facet of Christian theology. In fact, it performs normative functions for the rest of theology. Consequently Christian theology hinges on the proper understanding of Christology. We maintain that an inadequate appreciation of Christ's person and work is at the root of the theological defections which we mentioned above.

There are perhaps two major misconceptions in the Christology of today. One body of teaching assumes that a "Christ-Principle" is present in all religions, and therefore it is not necessary to verbalize the New Testament gospel in all situations. The second is a secularized version of theology which interprets Christ as "the man for others," "the New Humanity" and "the Liberator."

Is there a Scriptural solution to the problems raised thus far? Are the propositions articulated in the New Testament sufficient for a thorough understanding and appreciation of God's concern for His creation? What are the implications of the Christ-event for our present­ day existence as individuals and as Church? These questions should find their answers in our study of the Cosmic Christ as revealed in Paul's letter to the Colossians.

This study has two focal points. The first is to establish the historical context of the research. For this purpose we will center attention on the Christological issues in contemporary theological thinking as well as in some recent official church pronouncements. These analyses will indicate that a growing indifference to taking the incarnation of Jesus Christ seriously is the greatest danger in theology today.

A detailed exposition of all the pertinent statements is not within the scope of the present study. For the sake of convenience in the second chapter we will present the Christological viewpoints of some selected theologians. With a view to understanding the influence of these approaches to Christology in the life of the church we will examine the teachings of the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council.

The second point on which this study will focus is to propose a Scriptural solution by which the issues raised thus far may be evalu­ated and corrected. For that purpose, we will provide an analysis and a synthesis of the great Christology of Paul's letter to the Colossians. We will deal specifically and only with Colossians since it contains a "description in verses few but almost intolerably weighty of Christ and of his position in relation to the universe and the church.”

In the third chapter we will deal with the historical setting of the epistle to Colossians and analyze the key Christological statements in the letter. By way of procedure we will deal with the apostle's background in Judaism and also try to understand the nature of the Colossian heresy. Then we will proceed to conduct an exposition of Paul's description of Christ as Lord of all creation and head of the church.

In the chapter on a synthesis of Colossians 1:15-20 we will indicate that Christ is the source, the means of existence, and the goal of everything that has been created. We will also attempt to show that the church has a unique place in all of creation, and that, therefore, it is not just another agency busy with spreading a secular kind of good will. In the church the great mystery of God's eternal plan of salvation is revealed as the gospel is proclaimed and the forgiveness of sins is received.

These two focal points of our study, it is hoped, will merge into one in the fifth chapter, where we will test the conclusions of the second chapter against those of the third and fourth chapters. For that purpose we will briefly discuss some current ideologies such as secularization, humanization, the theology of liberation and indigenization which govern much of contemporary theological thinking. Then we will work toward a positive statement of the identity of Jesus Christ and his work of redemption. We will also analyze the biblical concept of the kingdom of God because that is the umbrella concept with which much of contemporary theology and ideology work.

With these ideas as background, we have then developed the theme of the cosmic Christ. This study is conducted on the conviction that it will help in a small way to combat also the present-day teaching of universalism which plagues particularly the so-called "Third World Theology." The task of the theologian is to narrate the mighty acts of God in Christ. Jesus Christ is the means by which God chose to reconcile the world unto Himself. It was through his cross and resurrection that God conquered sin and its consequences once and for all.

It is our position that the New Testament does not describe Jesus as the bringer of a new humanism. Rather, in the sacred writings we meet the pre-existant Son of God who became flesh to redeem humanity from eternal damnation. This redemption is appropriated to the individual in baptism by faith. He must always remember that it is God who saves man.

We will note that there are few clean choices left in theology today. The very foundation of Christian theology is being destroyed as the person and work of Jesus Christ are vehemently attacked by way of distortion and misrepresentation. We contend that the formulation of wrong Christologies which we shall attempt to evaluate and correct in this study is the result of an incorrect understanding of sin, salvation and the church.

The present study does not deal with the Christological view­ points of "process theology," "black theology" or "the theology of hope."

These items merit separate studies in and of themselves. Furthermore, recent interpretations of sin and of salvation may be explored as in­ dependent areas of research. Much work needs to be done on the specific question of the relationship between philosophy and theology as these apply to Christology. Attention must be given also to the difficult task of setting some Scripture-based criteria for comparing different religions of the world. It is hoped that such studies will in some small way help to solve the present day confusion of God's revelation and His unique act of redemption in Christ.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.