Today I begin a seven-part series to be posted on Monday on the major question that occupied the church in the second and third centuries and beyond-- Who is Jesus? Christology is the doctrine concerned with God's revelation in Jesus Christ. Traditionally, christology has been expressed in the doctrine of the Incarnation, the theology of the union of the divine and human natures in the one person of Jesus Christ. Technically, christology is distinguished from soteriology. Christology is concerned with the person of Christ. Soteriology focuses on the saving work of Christ.
But, as Tom Oden points out in his Systematic Theology, it would be improper to make the separation between christology and soteriology too wide. One makes no sense without the other. If the line between the two doctrines is drawn too sharply, the death of Jesus on the cross has no meaning beyond any other crucifixion (thousands were crucified by the Romans). Moreover, the person of Christ as God incarnate is meaningless if his work is not significant.
At the same time, however, recognizing the difference between christology (person) and soteriology (work), there is a proper order in which to discuss these doctrines in classical theology: First, Christ's person is discussed and second, his work.
More next week.
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)