1. ‘New ways to say an old thing’ Nicaea: an old argument re-visited
Christology matters!South Africa: the townships, 1985 The Kairos Document
‘The time has come. The moment of truth hasarrived. South Africa has been plunged into acrisis that is shaking the foundations and there isevery indication that the crisis has only justbegun and that it will deepen and become evenmore threatening in the months to come. It isthe KAIROS or moment of truth not only forapartheid but also for the Church.
A crisis is a judgment that brings out the best insome people and the worst in others. A crisis is amoment of truth that shows us up for what wereally are. There will be no place to hide and noway of pretending to be what we are not in fact.At this moment in South Africa the Church isabout to be shown up for what it really is and nocover-up will be possible.
What the present crisis shows up, althoughmany of us have known it all along, is that theChurch is divided. More and more people arenow saying that there are in fact two Churchesin South Africa - a White Church and a BlackChurch. Even within the same denominationthere are in fact two Churches.
In the life and death conflict between differentsocial forces that has come to a head in SouthAfrica today, there are Christians (or at leastpeople who profess to be Christians) on bothsides of the conflict - and some who are tryingto sit on the fence!
Does this prove that Christian faith has no realmeaning or relevance for our times? Does itshow that the Bible can be used for any purposeat all? Such problems would be critical enoughfor the Church in any circumstances but whenwe also come to see that the conflict in SouthAfrica is between the oppressor and theoppressed, the crisis for the Church as aninstitution becomes much more acute.
Both oppressor and oppressed claim loyalty tothe same Church. They are both baptized in thesame baptism and participate together in thebreaking of the same bread, the same body andblood of Christ. There we sit in the same Churchwhile outside Christian policemen and soldiersare beating up and killing Christian children ortorturing Christian prisoners to death while yetother Christians stand by and weakly plead forpeace.’
The key question: Is there anything about ‘right belief’that connects us to the character Jesusand prevents us from doing/being blind to great evil done in his name?
Council of Nicaea Bithynia, Turkey, 325
Substance abuse: all about an ‘i’ • Homoousion – Athanasius (of one substance) • Homoiousion – Arius (of a similar substance)
Arius’ theology• God is absolutely one, the source and origin of all that exists• God’s ousia therefore absolutely incommunicable• Son was created by divine fiat in order to create the world• ‘There was when he (the Word) was not’• Son has no real knowledge of the Father• Not authentic but adoptive Son of God
Nicene Creed1. ‘Eternally begotten of the Father’ (vs created ex nihilo)2. ‘True God from true God’ (vs ‘God in name only, not substance’)3. ‘Begotten, not made’ (vs a temporal gap ‘when the Son was not’)4. ‘Of one substance with the Father’ (vs ‘of a similar substance’)
Why does it matter (1)?• God: an absolute identity of nature, will and action• God is never without the Word; therefore Jesus reveals God faithfully and eternally• ‘God is as *God+ is in Jesus; therefore there is hope!’ (Bishop David Jenkins)• Participation in Jesus is participation in the Life of God
Why does it matter (2)?• Salvation: Theosis• Christian distinctiveness: ‘new creation’; transformation – an unforeseeable event• Athanasius: God alone saves, without mediation. Salvation is to share in the finality of the divine Life• Salvation history vs a divine ‘fiat’: a critical rupture to achieve a decisive salvation
Why does it matter (3)?• Our God-talk: ‘theology of repetition’ vs something constructive & exploratory• Athanasius: do justice to the requirements of intellectual clarity + the wholeness of the worshiping and reflecting life of the Church• Arius: a conservative. Saw Christian identity guaranteed by its relationship to the Empire• Athanasius: Saw the Church to challenge both politics and charismatic individualism
Good Christology & Christ-likeness• Not enough to ‘name the name’• Right belief is supposed to pattern our living and acting in the world on Jesus• Doctrine not in itself a guarantee of Christ- likeness• Church can be part of the Kingdom or part of that from which the world needs saving• Church/Christian faith as ‘Christopraxis’
2. ‘Who is Jesus Christ for us today?’ or: ‘Making a Jesus-shaped difference’
The Kingdom of God: salvation for this world• Global village: interconnectedness of humanity and depth of brokenness• Structural sin: ‘what makes the world go round’• God’s mission: transformation of the world into the Kingdom• The Church & mission: on which ‘side’ is the Church?
The Cosmic Christ: a planet in the balance• Jesus as the agent of creation (John’s gospel, Colossians)• Creation, divine intention & the Imago Dei• Jesus, New Creation & Second Adam (Paul)• Eschatology, stewardship & climate change
The priority of the poor: a message for a consumerist society• ‘The least first’ vs ‘the greatest good of the greatest number’• ‘Make poverty history’• Salvation: from sin and the sins committed against us• Jesus: solidarity with the oppressed; forgiveness for the oppressors (Moltmann)
Good Friday: God & a world of suffering• Scandal of suffering (cf Michael Buerke)• Scandal of divine impassibility• Jesus: God’s entry into suffering• Gethsemane: Jesus is abandoned to suffering• The cross: God abandons God’s self to suffering• ‘You are not alone’
Easter Sunday: hope for the world• The resurrection: recreatio ex nihilo• The power of Life and the impotence of The Powers• The power of Love: ‘What can separate us from the love of God in Christ?’• Mustard seeds: the power of the small
The uniqueness of Jesus: Christians with something to say• Jesus ≠ Christianity• Uniqueness of Jesus ≠ uniqueness of the Church• Uniqueness of Jesus: what God has done in Jesus at Easter• Uniqueness of Jesus: how to live as a human being• Jesus: experiencing the Life of God through the Spirit