Christology and Apologetics

It is important for the essays in this collection that Christological discourse arose not in dogmatics but apologetics.50 I am not wishing to state either

47 For an examination of both his attack on apologetics and yet also the way his own theological thinking cannot seal itself off from the influences and significances of other discourses, see my Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 15—57.

48 Democracy in America, tr. Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 422.

49 'The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century ad' in Rowan Williams ed., The Making of Orthodoxy: Essays in Honour of Henry Chadwick (Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 148.

50 Apologetics were not simply something undertaken by Christians; there are a variety of apologetic forms so there were a variety of apologetic perspectives. See Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman and Simon Price eds., Apologetics in the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews, and Christians (Oxford University Press, 1999) for a collection of critical essays demonstrating the variety of apologetic viewpoints and styles. The collection serves to remind us that apologetics was not simply a matter of missionising but also the integration of identities that cultural heterogeneity and mobility across wide geographical spaces fragmented and rendered complex.

that the second-century Apologists developed Christologies free from doctrinal errors51 or that we should return to their concerns with Middle-Platonism. The point I wish to make is that Christological reflection was not simply an intra-ecclesial discourse concerned with articulating the logic of the faith with respect to New Testament titles like the Christ, the Son of God, the Word, the Son of Man and their association with Jesus of Nazareth.52 It was that as well, as the commentary work of Origen makes clear, and the later work of the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon are examples of the working of this intra-ecclesial purpose. Though, even here, it has to be recognised that anyone wishing to understand the forging of orthodoxy in the fourth century 'must perforce plunge into a jungle of Greek philosophical terms ... Very often the debate seems to be remote from the vocabulary and the thought of the New Testament.'53 But early Christological thinking, following that composed by the authors of the New Testament, developed extra-ecclesially and with conscious reference to the cultural situation in which and to which it spoke. This thinking drew on the Scriptures but also 'on the commonplaces of Hellenistic rhetoric and on the language of Middle-Platonist (and Stoic) religious cosmology and theology ... [In order to] present their faith in a way that might make it appear comprehensible and tolerable, if not attractive, to hostile readers.'54 Justin Martyr read Jesus in the light of Socrates and Hermes, and draws explicitly on Plato's Timaeus; Theophilus employed terms attributed to the Stoics; Irenaeus borrowed technical terms from Greek rhetoric; Clement describes Christ as a new Orpheus and was not adverse to using material from either the Gnostics or Merkabah mysticism; and the feisty Tertullian insisted on the need to use secular culture for furthering the gospel.55 Evidently, it is in this second kind of Christological discourse that Christ and culture are most explicitly associated. Origen, for example, draws upon his knowledge of the

51 See Jean Danielou, A History of Early Christian Doctrine: Volume Two, Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture, tr. John Austin Baker (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1973), pp. 157—94 and 354—86 for a sharp discussion of some of the difficulties the Christological debates from Justin to Origen engendered.

52 On the whole, this is the approach in James D.G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: An Inquiry into the Origin of the Doctrine of the Incarnation (London: SCM, 1980).

53 Hanson, 'The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century ad', p. 148.

54 Richard A. Norris Jr., 'The Apologists', in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres and Andrew Louth eds., The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 36—7. For a more detailed account of the social, philosophical and religious context being addressed by the Apologists see Eric Osborn, The Emergence of Christian Theology (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 1-38.

55 See J.C. Fredouille, Tertullien, et la conversion de la culture antique (Paris: Etudes Augustiennes, 1972), p. 357.

philosophical schools of the day, current modes of argument and rhetoric, literature from the classical traditions and late antiquity, and discussions with contemporary rabbis. Furthermore, Origen works on the basis of cultural assumptions shared by himself and other non-Christian readers like Celsus in order to point out to them the various errors and absences in their arguments and present them with an alternative interpretation of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the Church that he inaugurated.56 He refers to common beliefs about dreams and demons, and medical lore, for example. Christo-logical discourse was born not simply for catechesis but for mission. This is fundamental for the work involved in the essays that follow, for apologetic borrowing is not a simple matter of assimilation. While the early Church Apologists sought to persuade, they also sought to critique and to justify — to tell the story of what is in a better, more coherent, way. In particular, their critique concerned idolatry.57 Apologetics, then, is implicated in what I call a cultural politics. Its engagement with its cultural contexts offers a Kulturkritik.58

The basis for this engagement between Christ and culture is significant, in the light of Barth's dialectical method, and the resulting Christology is significant also (even if later developments in Trinitarian theology helped to formulate more adequately a non-subordinatist doctrine of Christ).59 The theological basis lies in a certain analogy that pertains between the uncreated God and creation, Christ and human beings. It is an analogy that can pertain because we are made in the image of God and therefore, as JeanLouis Chrétien understands, '[i]t is the transcendence in us that knows the transcendent'.60 Irenaeus, with his teaching on the first and second Adam and Christ as the recapitulation of all righteous human beings and prophets, states the case briefly:

[I]f the first Adam was indeed taken from the earth, and moulded by the

Word of God, then it was necessary that that same Word, when he made recapitulation of Adam in himself, should have a likeness of the same manner of

56 See Henry Chadwick's magisterial edition and translation of Contra Celsum (Cambridge University Press, 1953).

57 See Karen Jo Torjesen, 'Social and Historical Setting: Christianity as Cultural Critique'in The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, pp. 181—99.

58 In my Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2004), I present a detailed account of Christian Kulturkritik that examines its similarities to and differences from that social critique developed by the Frankfurt School. I will not cover the same ground in this volume.

59 See here Hanson, 'The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century ad' and Osborn, The Emergence of Christian Theology, pp. 142—96.

60 The Ark of Speech, tr. Andrew Brown (New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 66.

birth. Why then did not God again take clay, but instead caused the moulding to be done through Mary? In order that that which was formed should not be different, nor that which was saved, but that first man should be recapitulated, the likeness being preserved.61

The resulting Christologies from this engagement between Christ and culture, on the basis of this (still yet to be determined) analogy, were cosmo-logical, metaphysical and orientated to soteriology. In fact, the language of oikonomia, dunamis and energeia dominated Christological thinking of this period, giving rise to what one recent scholar has termed a 'power theology'.62 In a small but incisive article on Christology in Gregory of Nyssa, Brian E. Daly concludes that Nyssa's main interest is not to identify precisely what is one and what is manifold in Christ, but to explore the conditions of possibility for our sharing in his triumph over death and human corruption ... [H]is real interest is in our salvation: in what happens in human nature — to to anthropion, the common reality all of us concretely share — when it is brought into contact with to theion, the transcendent reality of God.63

This aptly describes my own Christological preoccuptations and why the questions I am asking concern the operations of God as a cultural and hermeneutical activity.

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