About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Ditch, the Marriage, and Chris Tilling on Christology

Is there a huge difference between biblical and/or historical studies and theology? Or, put another way, how can the ‘ugly broad ditch’ between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith be bridged? Chris Tilling argues that ‘Christology, understood in terms of relation, necessarily straddles that ditch.’ (Chris Tilling, Paul’s Divine Christology. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2, 323 [Mohr Siebeck: Tübingen, 2012], p. 262, emphasis original). Moreover,

Conceived in this way, there is no more an ‘ugly broad ditch’ between ‘the Jesus of history’ and the ‘Christ of faith’ than there is, to use an analogy, between a married couple’s wedding ceremony, on the one hand, and the continued (and changing) development of that relationship, on the other. To dissolve the marriage relation into either a focus on something which essentially happened in the past, or into something which only happens in the present, is a meaningless – not to mention potentially divorce inducing – manoeuvre. (p. 262).

Former-Archbishop Rowan channels Sirach 50:5-11.

The marriage analogy helps to explain how space can exist for developing Christological traditions:

Christology, grasped in the language of relationship, allows for, even necessitates, development and continuity, separation between earliest history and later faith, without assuming that an ugly ditch must exist between the two, anymore than a ditch exists between the vows at a wedding ceremony and a married couple’s ongoing relationship. The Pauline Christ-relation suggests that it is … in relationship with Christ that history and theology can meet and dialogue with one another. (p. 263).

(The references to the ‘ugly broad ditch’ [‘der garstige breite Graben’] are, of course, taken from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, though I don’t know exactly where the phrase is found. And my review of Tilling’s Paul’s Divine Christology should appear on this blog in the next couple of days or so.)

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