I want to argue a simple point. Since we don’t have a theological anthropology, our current Christology has little theological foundation; and, therefore, Christology will be the next theological battle that we have (and it already is).
How do we prevent this?
We need to articulate and believe in human natures that have both material (blood, nerves) and immaterial properties (will, mind, etc.). We need to also affirm that persons (Joe, Anne) individuate human natures.
We need to understand concretely what the mind is, what the soul is, what the will is, what a person is, and so on. Since most psychologize personhood today as the centre of consciousness, our anthropology does not match our Christology. That’s a massive problem.
We need to apply (as we had in the past) our anthropology to our theological dogma of Christ’s incarnate nature. We must affirm that Christ assumed a human nature with rational and noetic properties that belong to human natures. If he does not assume these properties, then he cannot redeem and heal them.
And (this is key but will seem counterintuitive) we should read Scripture theologically so that we can understand how Christ acts kata theologia and kata economia. The first phrase kata theologia points to who the Word is according to his divine nature; the second phrase kata economia signifies what the Word has done for the sake of our redemption.
Reading Scripture requires theological and Spiritual interpretation, which becomes clear when we read passages like Matthew 26:39: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (ESV).
What is going on here in this passage? Does Jesus deny God’s will? Or does he have a separate will that wants something other than what God wants? It is a challenging statement to be sure, and the historical and literary contexts do not answer the questions posed above. Only the theological context can do so.
The theological context is that Christ was born of a woman through whom he receives the fullness of finitude as a human and that Christ is born of God through whom he receives the fullness of infinitude as divinity. Given this theological context, Christ here acts as a human on behalf of humans.
As Maximos the Confessor would say (580–662), God does not resist his own will! But actually, Christ considered as the Saviour does not seem to do so either. While he expresses his fear in the first clause, he affirms his unity of will in the second phrase (“but as you will”). For reasons like this, Augustine (354–430) along with Maximos understands Christ speaking on our behalf, in his role as Saviour.
Jesus experiences human fear and overcomes it (Matt 26:38). In this way, he in fact unites his human will exactly with the divine will which we can observe through his words and actions (“not as I will, but as you will”). The words, “not as I will” expresses the reality of human will while the words, “but as you will” defines his total concurrence between divine and human wills.
The theological context, not the historical or literary contexts, provides the most clarity to the type of questions that were previously posed. Of course, theology does not speak to the literary structure of the narrative nor the grammatical sense of one of the elements in a phrase. Each context has its place.
Sadly, we (Protestants) often ignore the theological contexts in which we can discover the most important conclusions for the sake of our salvation and sanctification.
While individual theologians that the Spirit gifts in the church can cultivate this change, it will also need to be enacted by pastors in pulpits. They should preach theologically, ensuring that all relevant contexts for interpretation get applied to our understanding of the text:
- The Spiritual context since only those with the nous of Christ in the Spirit can rightly read Scripture.
- Theological context since Scripture testifies to a living and real being whom we call God. Reading as if the text is only history and does not reveal a Person Being misses the mark.
- The literary context (grammar, syntax, etc.).
- The historical context (geography, politics, etc.)
These four contexts answer the most relevant questions that we can ask of the God-inspired text so that we can understand what God aims to communicate through the text. And since God truly inspired the Bible, then it follows that we should see Scripture as the revelation of an unchanging God whose theological reality never changes whether at creation or in the incarnation.