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 'The Name high over all' 

Crossesingrass

 Christology in the 19th and 20th Centuries

 Tim Bradshaw

  • Tim Bradshaw teaches theology at Oxford University. His research interests are Modern systematic theology, especially Pannenberg and Barth; ecclesiology, ecumenical theology. View all resources by Tim Bradshaw

Doing Christology

Christology as a term contains a depth of paradox and even irony: the meaning of the universe, the way of salvation from sin, the revelation of God and the purpose of history, encompassed in a human field of study, an ‘ology’! Christology involves the basis of all study, all thought, the very Logos behind reason itself – and yet is a subject for analysis and detached critical thinking. For the Christian, Christology breaks the bounds of the academy and indeed reverses the flow of judgement. But our secular – increasingly anti-Christian - culture, and other cultures based on other religions, relate to Christ with rejection, questioning, even integration into other systems of faith and thought, and Christians cannot escape giving reasons for the hope that is in them in their mission and life.

Christology then is unavoidable for worship, for evangelism, and even more widely for our input into society and politics. The Gospel itself is a Christology: the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s very Word to us, the crucified and risen saviour of the world. The question then is what sort of Christology do we espouse, and how do we explain Christ to our unbelieving culture?

That was precisely the situation for the very first Christians, living as they did in multi-cultural, syncretistic times, having to preach Christ as the ultimate revelation of God – foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. Arguably the task of Christology compels itself on us from the very imperative of the Gospel itself to love the world, to love those who have contempt for the faith and even persecute us. The love of God for the human race is focused in Jesus and his work for us: to hide this truth by failing to unpack it and explain it while preaching Christ would be a failure not only of nerve, but of love. It is very plausible to argue that the way of Jesus has shaped western culture, from the abolition of slavery to the spread of hospitals and social care for the poor – things we have taken for granted as just being there stem from Christology in effect.

Christology must be done, and done for each generation, and it must be done in relation to surrounding cultures. The early 21st Century culture of the western academic tradition can be a hostile environment – for Christological reasons. ‘Political correctness’ can probably be most simply defined as a secularist reaction to Christianity, guilty of most of the world’s ills from colonialism, to slavery, homophobia, prison-like marriages, oppression of women, racism and the like. ‘Pluralism’ seems to be the corollary to the demonization of Christianity – that is the assertion that all religions must be equally true, a matter of taste and culture. It is becoming fairly clear that ‘pluralism’ in religious studies generally takes an uncritical view of non-Christian faiths, while subjecting Christianity to radical critique. Jesus can be portrayed as a nice man, but not more. In essence, this means that Christology is often studied in a deistic or even Hindu or Islamic context rather than in the Christian one. This is especially true of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and his cosmic significance.

Christology will be taught, the one question is which Christology, and do you know the differences and issues at stake?

Christology to the 19th and 20th Centuries

The big question for Christology has remained the same through history: who is Jesus? The gospels themselves show that this question pressed itself on those who came into contact with him. Was Jesus an inspired man, a remarkable teacher updating Judaism and modelling what God wants for humanity? Or was he more than this, more than a prophet or  sublime teacher, but rather God himself? For the Christians Jesus was divine, and their New Testament canonical writings collectively point to this unambiguously. John’s Gospel begins with the classical Christian claim, the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, and that this Word or Son, was one in being with God. This Johannine clarity became the heart of the Christian Gospel: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’, as Paul put it, or again in terms of worship: ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, so we cry Abba, Father!’ Jesus’ life, death and resurrection overcame sin and death for us, securing peace with the holy God.

God himself was the subject of this life of love, self-giving, death and rising again - to understand Jesus as simply a good and inspired young man who was given up to death for us would have been something akin to an Aztec sacrifice. Christians were convinced that this Jesus was the divine Son and so were drawn into a Trinitarian theology. Christology  helps us to define God, and vice versa. Such a dynamic view of God fits in with the ‘interactive’ kind of God we meet in the OT, who creates us in his own image, who can relate to us, who cares passionately about us and has a purpose for his creation.

The OT language of God, including its wealth of metaphor, points clearly to this relational God and excludes the detached or distant deity of the philosophers. Jesus is the one who brings the kingdom of God into history, fulfilling much OT prophecy and apocalyptic expectation and identifying himself in this Hebraic way. Jesus’ true interpretative background is the OT, something the NT takes as read, and something the early teachers of the faith such as Irenaeus and Tertullian asserted against the Gnostics. Christology must be undertaken with this Hebraic background full integrated: this is taken for granted by most Christians and the great weight of Christian tradition, but today different backgrounds and contexts are being substituted with radical effects. Early Christian apologists, commending their faith in the Graeco- Roman world, such as Justin Martyr, argued that Jesus’ revelation embraced truth, goodness and beauty found in all cultures and philosophies, but supremely fulfilled them. The sole lordship of Christ, however, was something that Christians would die to assert when pressed to acknowledge others. The councils of Nicea in 325 and Chalcedon in 451 produced historic definitions of the person of Jesus Christ confirming a basically Johannine understanding of Jesus, the divine Word made flesh, fully divine and fully human. His ‘person’ is that of the Logos, or the Son, of the same being as the Father and the Spirit. This divine person assumed a full human ‘nature’ (Chalcedon), in such a way the two retained their full divinity and full humanity. This became the classical way that the churches understood Jesus, (although Coptic churches of Egypt and Ethiopia preferred the formula of ‘one nature of the divine Word, enfleshed’, so were deemed ‘monophysite’ by their opponents).

The insistence that the person of Christ is the divine Word ensured the doctrine of salvation, since Jesus takes us to the very being of God by atoning for our sins and bringing us the Spirit, and by ushering us into the worship of God as Father. This is a Trinitarian Christology and a practical one – it does not tell us ‘how’ this mystery can happen, but insists that it did and does, that Jesus is the same, yesterday and forever. Core Christian biblical theology is here upheld: the full divinity of the divine Word or Son, the full humanity of Jesus ‘like us in every way, yet without sin’. The doctrine of virgin birth was upheld, following the gospel accounts; later this doctrine was unbiblically inflated with the unbiblical claim that Mary remained ‘ever a virgin’, despite Jesus having a brother, James. Patristic theologians could succumb at times to neo-platonising views of salvation, whereby divine substance cleansed sinful created substance at the point of the virginal conception. This tends towards a doctrine of ‘salvation by incarnation’ alone, neglecting the cross and resurrection as the hinge of the doctrine of redemption, the great biblical emphasis. The doctrine of the virgin birth registers the mystery and divine initiative of the incarnation, and particularly the role of the Holy Spirit throughout the life of Jesus.

'Humanitarian' Christologies: The Jesus of History

The Trinitarian doctrine of God proved to be utterly essential to Christology. Islam rejected this, in favour of relegating Jesus to the status of a revered but superseded prophet, whose death was fabricated by the NT writers and who in reality was taken bodily to heaven, thus removing the atoning death and resurrection. Muhammad took the road to Medina to raise an army and conquer Arabia; Jesus took the way to Calvary and a very different form of victory – another version of the stumbling block and foolishness, the radical challenge of the Gospel about God and salvation. Deists over the centuries have similarly rejected the divine identity of Jesus, preferring to see him as a human visual aid for God, a man who was either adopted by God or elected beforehand. There has always been this Unitarian strand of opinion that Jesus is best understood as a good man, and of course the Jewish view that he was a charismatic rabbi who felt very close to God as his Father (cf. Geza Vermes Jesus the Jew, and Pinchas Lapide The Resurrection of Jesus). This kind of interpretation began to be internalised in theological schools with the European Enlightenment, that is to say Jesus was a fine moral and spiritual teacher, inspired by God – but not God incarnate. The clarifying question here remains ‘who is Jesus’?


The Enlightenment, starting in the late Eighteenth century, asserted the power and scope of human reason, began to question the accessibility or relevance of the supernatural, and to reject of claims to authoritative revealed truth in Scripture. Ontologically the claim that Jesus was the Trinitarian Son made flesh was criticised as irrational; epistemologically revelation in Scripture and church traditions came to be regarded as outmoded relics of the past. The French Revolution, 1789, epitomised the new mood of freedom and rational self-confidence pitted against irrational and primitive Christianity. The era of liberal humanist dominance began. Kant rejected meta-physics, or knowledge of the super-natural, since our reason has not got the scope for what is beyond the worldly phenomena. But he argued that our universal moral sense is an undeniable given, which needs to postulate God, freedom and immortality to make duty reasonable. He pressed the claims of the legislative power of human reason. The figure of Jesus becomes the supreme moral teacher, and this stereotype deeply affected academic theology.

Schleiermacher, schooled by Lutheran pietists to have a heartfelt love for Jesus, and influenced by Kant, rejected what he saw as dry and dead Christian dogmatism on the one hand, and the atheistic rationalism of ‘the cultured despisers of religion’, on the other. Imbued also with the stirrings of the Romantic Movement, he pointed to our ‘sense and taste for the infinite’, and more specifically to our ‘feeling of absolute dependence’, true God consciousness. Jesus was reinterpreted as the supremely God conscious man, whose God consciousness spreads to his followers, so reconnecting them to God. Christology turns to the experiencing human subject and away from revealed truths of Scripture, except in so far as they agree with human religious feelings. With Schleiermacher biblical criticism begins to take root in academic theology. The turn to the human continued using other aspects besides that of human religious sense. Ritschl, more directly Kantian, used morality to portray Jesus as the morally perfect man, with the value of God for us, spreading his kingdom through good works of education and care for the sick across the globe. The old Nicene view that the person of Christ is ontologically divine is rejected as metaphysical superstition, in favour of ‘Jesus the man’ whose being constitutes the divine agency in the world.

This is now often known as functional Christology or degree Christology – Jesus functions as God for us by revealing the highest degree of moral perfection. The liberal protestant school climaxed at the end of the 19th Century with the work of Harnack and his What is Christianity?, very much in the Ritschlian mould, affirming the ‘fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man’, with Jesus the teacher of righteousness and the Trinitarian theology rejected very firmly as fantastic fable projected onto God. Harnack argued that the supernatural elements in the New Testament were primitive myth, desperate Hebrew eschatology or Greek Platonising, requiring to be stripped away so as to reveal the Jesus of history – the simple teacher of righteousness. Martin Kahler developed the distinction, if not dualism, between ‘the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith’. The Gospel of John was viewed as a free invention of pictorial Hellenistic, even Gnostic, theology, a view severely dented later by the discoveries of Qumran. How theological fashion can recycle itself - Harnack’s christology is replicated very accurately at the end of the 20thC by that of the ‘Jesus Seminar’!

Symbolic Metaphysical Christology- Hegel

The 19th Century saw other academic approaches to Christology which are again becoming influential but had petered out somewhat by the onset of the 20thCentury. Hegel, the great German metaphysician, regarded Christian theology as true in so far as it was the picture form of his own metaphysics, accessible to those not capable of taking the philosophical journey. Hegel fundamentally disagreed with Kant’s assertion that the noumenal, or metaphysical, is unknowable and totally divorced from the phenomenal world. This dualism must be rejected, as must those between mind and matter, revelation and history, reason and faith, finite and infinite. Spirit or cosmic Mind, Geist, must undergird and inform everything, and indeed the world is the finite historical form of the infinite. The doctrine of the Trinity is a simple form of this view: Spirit comes forth in finite form to make the world, the Son is therefore a symbolic way of teaching this emanation – a pantheistic version of the doctrine of creation. Christology is a symbolic way of saying that the infinite coheres with the finite, the universal with the particular, in Jesus.


The cross is the moment of the divine Spirit absorbing the pain of the negative, the anti-God dynamic found in history and sin. Hegel provides a symbolic Christology, whereby the meaning of the universe is represented by these theological dogmas. This kind of metaphysical theology of being has made a comeback in the second half of the 20th Century, through the work of theologians such as Tillich, Macquarrie, Rahner, Pannenberg, and the Process school of theology. Macquarrie, for example, speaks of Primordial Being (the Father) emanating as Expressive Being (the Son) and returning as Unitive Being (Spirit), almost pure Hegel. Macquarrie teaches that Jesus is a being who focuses Being itself, and who overcomes human idolatry by his victorious self-conquest on the cross, thus causing an at-one-ment of a being with Being. The resurrection falls into parabolic status of meaning and symbol. As with so much modern Christology, the questions arise over what is denied rather than asserted. Given the current educational context of multifaith teaching, it might be worth suggesting that the Hindu world view comes close to this kind of Hegelian theology. Indeed Macquarrie’s eschatology takes the form of an eternal sliding scale, from non-being at one end to Being, or God, at the other. We are all on this continuum, moving forward and dropping back, even after death. But God, or Being, rejects waste in the cosmos and so never allows anyone to fall wholly into self-destructive non-being. We follow Jesus so as to share the victory over selfishness and idolatry of the self, but whether we ever reach that ‘sabbath rest’ seems less than certain. The Hindu cycle forms a moral test of ‘snakes and ladders’, future happiness rewarding morally good life and less happy existence inexorably following, by an iron law of being, a morally poor existence.

If we insert the authentically Christian Jesus into this cycle of being, his redemptive death and resurrection bring the iron law to a halt: he absorbs all the ‘bad karma’ to himself, taking upon himself the consequences and judgement for sin. The apparently inexorable claim of the moral law, always able to condemn even the best of us, breaks open at Calvary and the rising of Jesus to new life. Just as Islam has no coherent basis for the forgiveness of our sins, so Jesus Christ stops the immovable Karmic wheel and brings a whole new pathway into existence by his great sacrificial act of dying and rising for us. If we are encouraged by multi-faith teachers to equate religions and find them basically the same, we need to ensure that we do not produce a Jesus shaped by a foreign religious framework, such as Jesus the prophet or mystical sage, and rather insist on the full Christology of the Christian gospel.

Kierkegaard - the infinite qualitative distinction between God and man

A lone prophetic voice protesting against the Hegelian synthesis and its outflow in theology came from Kierkegaard, again someone whose impact is far larger now than it was then. He can be called the founder of Christian existentialism, although he was far more orthodox in his Christology than his 20thC successors. For Kierkegaard the Jesus of history as accessed by merely historical study could not get you to revelation. We can read about Jesus, study texts, dissect them and stitch them together differently, but that gains merely a figure from the Near East. To know him as the saviour, we need to take the leap of faith, to commit our lives to him. Then we can know him as the incarnation of God, who saves us from our sins, the risen one. History cannot itself take us to that point. Hence the liberal quest for the historical Jesus was irrelevant for faith and for church, it was only relevant for the university seminar room as a possibly interesting subject. Jesus is no mere sage or wise teacher, he is the one who obediently enacted God’s will by dying for us on the cross!


Individual faith is vital, and cannot be reduced to rational investigation. Here is a deeply challenging and important voice, whose Training in Christianity repays study, among his many other probing reflections. But has he overdone the dualism of faith and reason, God and history – if God in Christ did enter the world of space and time and accommodate himself to human historical conditions, should history not bear the record of this somehow? But there is no doubt that for Kierkegaard God breaks into our sinful condition and saves us as we respond in faith. We have no rational calculus to explain how this might be possible, God is infinitely different to us in his holiness, and this incarnation is sheer paradox – foolishness to the intellectuals and sages. Sin and grace are the key categories for Kierkegaard: the holiness of the God and our own sickness unto death. 1914 bore out his critical realism as against the liberal protestant optimism.

Eschataological Christology

The liberal quest for the historical Jesus ended up portraying itself, a middle class Victorian moral gentleman, according to the acute observation of George Tyrrell, author of the famous analogy of the liberal protestants peering down a long well and reporting their own reflection at the end! But the liberal quest bore the seeds of its own downfall, as shown by Weiss and Schweitzer. Their investigation of history uncovered Jesus as an apocalyptic Jew, someone steeped in OT prophecy and eschatological hope, looking for the end of the world and bringing in a kingdom not reducible to moral niceness. Schweitzer’s book The Quest of the Historical Jesus, first published in 1906, argued this, and concluded bleakly that Jesus died a disillusioned figure, since God did not bring in the end times at his death. The theological optimism perished through the historical analysis of this work, as it further perished on the barbed wire of the Somme.

The horrific war ripped apart ‘Christian Europe’, the heart of liberal ‘cultural Christianity’ and its moral self-confidence. Now the themes of human sin and divine holiness came onto the theological agenda. Jesus the saviour breaking into history and culture, rather than a moral example, becomes a compelling theme. PT Forsyth, the Scottish Congregationalist theologian, spoke of moving his theological stance from being a ‘lover of love’ to ‘an object of grace’. His book The Justification of God was written in 1917 amid the chaos and terror of war, urging his readers to see Christ as the great act of divine judgement, the expression of a holy God redeeming desperately disobedient humanity whose sin resulted in catastrophe. Forsyth went on to write penetrating Christological works, notably the Person and Place of Christ, and the Work of Christ, rooting the person of Jesus in the self-giving, or kenosis, of God,after Philippians 2. James Denney’s work on the atonement offered similar criticisms of shallow liberal accounts of human sin. The theme of divine suffering begins to open up from the dreadful experiences of the trenches, notably through the poetry of the army chaplain Woodbine Willy, G.A Studdert Kennedy. The two world wars of the 20thC unquestionably make divine suffering and empathy a growing theme for Christology and the cross, along with that of divine forgiveness. ‘Crisis theology’, krisis meaning judgement, replaced the moralistic Protestantism of the German academy. Bultmann developed his Christology on the lines of the leap of faith, but pared down Kierkegaard’s theology by reducing Christ to a subjective act of faith, removing the objective Jesus as its object and anchor. For Bultmann the message or kerygma of the cross is heard and stimulates response, bring us authentic existence. Jesus showed this faith as he died on the cross. The resurrection accounts are merely re-expressions of this message, die to self – they are not meant to describe an objective event. Bultmann ‘demythologised’ the New Testament in this way: it is, according to him, virtually all preaching material to encourage faith, it is not referring to actual events. Bultmann believed that all the NT is of this kind, all ‘faith’ material and not historical, therefore there can be no quest for the actual historical Jesus.

Karl Barth, the other wing of the Crisis theology movement, developed a more objective theology, much more like that of Kierkegaard, starting with his famous Romans commentary, which spoke of divine judgement on human sin and the inbreaking of God in Jesus. Barth horrified his liberal protestant teachers, notably Harnack, and their famous Correspondence remains a fascinating clash of theologies. Barth became the great critic of liberal theology and Christology, arguing that liberalism begins with human experience elevates it to divine status, confusing human with divine in ‘the secret identification of God with man’, or ‘the domestication of God’. Detached critical study of history cannot itself produce or uncover truths about God, rather ‘by God alone can God be known’, Christ is the objective self-revelation of God accessible only by faith and the help of the Holy Spirit. Barth returns to Nicea and Chalcedon to shape a Christology of the divine Son who assumes humanity, indeed sinful humanity, although he never enacts sin. Christ is priest, king and prophet: the self humbling God, the elevation of humanity to royalty, and the self-proclaiming word of life in the world. Creation is ‘elected’ in Christ, before the foundation of the world, teaches Barth, coming close to a Christo-universalist position, since Christ died as the elect and the reject. Barth develops a thoroughly Trinitarian Christology.

From his work flowed that of Moltmann, and his famous work The Crucified God, in particular. The question of divine suffering again focused itself after a war, this time the 1939-45 war and the ghastly reality of the holocaust – where was God, how could such sin and suffering be permitted? Bonhoeffer’s prison writings probe such issues, as Christians were faced with interpreting unimaginable depths of human suffering. Moltmann sought to focus on Jesus as the godforsaken one, in identification with human misery and apparent abandonment by God.

Moltmann’s theology moves from the cry of dereliction to the hope of the resurrection. Here Christology is conditioned by the great question of suffering in history, rather than with sin and holiness. Pannenberg, of the same post WW2 generation as Moltmann, wrote one of the most famous Christologies of the second half of the 20thC , Jesus God and Man. Drawing on Hegelian concepts, he takes up Barth’s view of divine self-revelation but connects it to historical knowing and being, by pointing to the presence of the Spirit throughout the world. Pannenberg argues for ‘revelation as history’, the whole of history proving revelatory, with its true meaning found at its end – as the apocalyptic writers of the OT held. But the resurrection of Jesus means that this end time insight has already come, that Jesus Christ is the meaning of history and is therefore one in being with God, the source of all history. Pannenberg reaches conservative conclusions about the identity of Jesus as divine through historical critical methods. Karl Rahner, Hans Kung and von Balthasar, modern Roman Catholic theologians, share the debt to Hegel and the concern for meaning and symbolic meaning of Jesus Christ in history.

This stress on the resurrection puts Pannenberg in a different category to much twentieth century Christology that follows in the pathway created by the liberal protestants. Donald Baillie, for example, produced a famous book entitled God was in Christ, arguing that the old classical Christology was ‘docetic’, that is failed to show Jesus’ full manhood. For Baillie Jesus’ divinity is provided by divine grace to which the human Jesus is absolutely open – a position close to that of Schleiermacher. The divine background in God of Jesus is eternal, says Baillie (p 150) but it seems more a doctrine of election than Trinitarian being. Does Baillie teach that God always had this human in mind for this role, a matter of divine choice and will, rather than divine being? The issue still driving this family of Christology is how a man can be God: the answer is that he can be inspired by God or have the value of God for us. The concern to show a genuine humanity of Jesus is vital, but it squeezes out the Trinitarian biblical identity of Jesus as the divine Word. Likewise the mid 20thC popularisation of liberal Christology, The Myth of God Incarnate, replayed the 19thC tune of stripping away the miraculous from the NT so as to produce Jesus the man, with a divine meaning, or myth, for us.

The early 21st Century

‘The Jesus Seminar’ of the late 20th and early 21st centuries orchestrates the same monotone, insisting that Jesus must be interpreted as an inspired sage, and not the incarnation of God. The seminar conducts its theology by the votes of its members: one wonders why the votes of millions of Christians worldwide cannot be registered, especially as the seminar tells us that it resists ‘elitism’! In particular the rejection of Jesus’ resurrection as an objective reality, rather than an uplifting parable and historically untrue story, has received much powerful criticism by NT Wright. One absolutely key point at issue here is that made powerfully by Irenaeus in the early church, that Jesus needs to be interpreted against the OT, that the four gospels are decisive witnesses, that creation and redemption cohere. Attempts to split Jesus from his context and background, to portray him as an Eastern sage for example, are not only implausible but theologically contradictory. The modernist methodological assumptions of the Jesus Seminar rule out the supernatural and eschatological by imposing a naturalist grid on history, a grid surely to be rejected by the Christian church which stands under the authority of the prophets and apostles and heeds their witness to divine act in space and time.
Liberation theology often portrays Jesus as a political liberator, a role he surely resists. Process theology, owing much to Hegel, sees Jesus as the point of disclosure of the powerless divinity in total empathy with the plight of the human race. Macquarrie’s version of Process theology regards Jesus as the one who overcomes the false gods of the world and embodies ‘expressive being’. Feminist theology divides over the figure of Jesus. Radical feminists are repelled by the notion of a male saviour, who cannot act for women without patronising them; traditionalists see that gender is not to be literally appropriated into the divine being; moderate feminists see that Jesus changed things for women, accepting their ministry, and so is a positive figure.

‘Post modernism’, the cultural description of the West denoting rejection of rationalistic and all-encompassing theories of reality and thought, seems to consign Christian claims to uniqueness into the sea of relativism. But we can point to Jesus and his self-giving act of love on the cross as ‘unmasking’ the hollowness of endless speculative interpretations and demanding commitment and faith, bringing divine realistic judgement into the playground of shallow religiosity.

Alpha and Omega

The Christian estimate of Jesus must satisfy several theological requirements in obedience to Scripture. A very neglected factor is that of worship: if we reduce Jesus to just being a good and inspired man, how does this affect Christian worship of God the Son, and are we not en route quickly to deism or binitarianism? Closely linked is the factor of salvation: how does the death of an innocent young man save us, and does it not seem more like an Aztec appeasement of the gods than the work of the triune Father, Son and Spirit? The doctrine of creation likewise is often forgotten in Christology: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes a restoration of creation, yet to be finalised. We need Jesus Christ eschatologically, the judge and saviour, the bringer of hope, the vanquisher of evil, and the meaning of creation. Our Christology must embrace such basic theological facts.

Christianity does need the full incarnational understanding of Jesus. So often reduced Christologies focus on a problem and allow that to push out some of these basics. Hence the proper concern to embrace the genuine humanity of Jesus, emphasised by NT Wright for example, has often led to the banishment of his divine personhood and its evaporation into some symbolic or moral meaning for us. Christians know the presence of Jesus now, rather than the presence of a value system or impersonal structure of meaning. Often our best criticisms show such Christologies to be insufficient, while pursuing useful questions. Humanity and divinity are compatible in Jesus Christ and need not be alternatives: the creative Word made us in his own image and so can become that image. It remains crucial to retain the Hebraic background to Christology, and to resist placing Jesus into other religio-cultural interpretative contexts.

There will never be final Christology: we are led to the glory of God, who has indeed revealed himself finally in Jesus, who has acted decisively to redeem and restore creation. He is the image of the invisible God, in Jesus we behold divine glory, full of grace and truth.