Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Biggest Theological Battle

David Ould drew my attention to this video of part of an interview between Mark Driscoll and R.C. Sproul. Driscoll asks what, in Sproul's opinion, the most important theological battle for pastors in the next few decades will be.

Sproul's short answer is "Christology". Which is spot-on. And would be difficult to disagree with in any case- arguably, every major controversy Christians have had has been fundamentally about Christology. Moreover, last century and since, the influence of theologians such as Barth and Balthasar has, I suspect (and hope), renewed the focus of theology and theologians on the person of Christ- more than for the couple of centuries prior, perhaps. Which is something to be thankful for.

Sproul's longer answer is quite interesting. He replies that the specific Christological battle in Evangelicalism over the next generation will be over the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This confirms suspicions I have had for some time (or at least strengthens them with the agreement of a noted Evangelical theologian and pastor), and indeed Sproul mentions the New Perspective by name. The shadows of James Dunn and N.T. Wright loom large as ever.

Of course, I find myself to a large extent on the opposite side of that battle from R.C. Sproul. The battle is and will be about Christology, but I think orthodox Christology is at odds with the imputation of Christ's righteousness, certainly the way that doctrine has been traditionally understood by the Reformed. The doctrine of the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ (alien being the keyword, imputation less so), in my opinion, fundamentally alienates Christians from their Saviour, placing a barrier between the two. It doesn't do justice to key biblical images such as that of Christ as the Head and the Church as His Body, or of the Vine and the Branches. I believe it also creates problems for the doctrines of sanctification and the work of the Holy Spirit, separating entirely the work of the Spirit from the work of Christ, thus, I fear, in some ways undermining the nature and raison d'etre of what the Spirit does in believers.

The doctrine of the Incarnation must be and remain at the heart of the doctrine of justification. By taking flesh, Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, has hallowed humanity, become its new and proper source and definition. Humanness has been justified- made righteous- because Christ is human, has neutralised and defeated sin conclusively as a human and He, as a human, has been glorified. By becoming a member of Him, uniting myself with Him, the justified, sanctified, glorified life that is His begins to flow into, penetrate and take root in me. And thereby, I become not only a partaker of the life of the new Adam, but a partaker of divine life (2 Pet 1:4). That is indeed good news.

1 comment:

Kiran said...

Essentially, the problem is the separation of Christology from an ecclesiology. A body must support the head, and the head support the body. If head and body are in disaccord, and if the body is not ruled by the head (in the classical sense), then you get serious problems. A Christology without an ecclesiology is like a pickled brain. An ecclesiology without a Christology is a corpse.