A Very Trivial Encounter
As I was browsing through the “Christian” section of the Tampines Regional Library yesterday, hoping to find a book that might introduce a young believer to orthodox Christian theology, I was at first pleasantly surprised to find this: Michael J. Taylor, Theological Reflections: On the Trinity, Christology, and Monotheism (Maryland: University Press of America, 2001).
Well, the title - “Theological Reflections: On the Trinity, Christology, and Monotheism” - seemed to indicate that the book was probably a primer to Theology proper and Christology. At last, good Christian books find their way to the national libraries of Singapore! Or so it seems.
My initial gladness was quickly inundated by the gloom from within the pages of Taylor’s little book. It was not a primer to Theology proper and Christology. It was an attack on historical Christianity. And why was this book placed in the “Christian” section of the library?
I was taught since primary school that we should not attack the religions of fellow Singaporeans, all in the name of religious and racial harmony. But here in my hands, in the “Christian” section of a national library of Singapore, is a book that repudiates orthodox Theology and Christology confessed by the Evangelical, Baptist, Reformed, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran and Catholic churches of Singapore.
The author of this book is a Jesuit priest. This was my first surprise, as I had assumed that Catholics around the globe confessed Nicene Christology. He is also a respected scholar, professor and prolific writer.
If you think that I am going to review this book, you are sincerely mistaken. In the present post, I intend to quote from a few passages of Taylor’s book, and offer the readers an opportunity to discern his theological slant. I would then post a reply to your educated guesses (if any).
I am supposed to continue with my series on “Spiritual Discernment.” But before I continue with this series of posts, I believe this “exercise in discernment” would be beneficial for all orthodox Christians. Well, you ought to know what orthodox Theology and Christology is, at the very least.
"If Jesus were to be called Son of God, in Arius’ view his sonship would be through adoption, not from any equality of essence. The council refused to see any “lessness” in Jesus. Rather, it ascribed to him the ontological divinity of the Logos. . . . Although few scholars today would embrace or defend Arius’ approach to Christology, many do find the terminology of Nicea and its manner of expressing the “divine dimension” of Jesus to be too narrow and confusing. (p 35)"
"Nicea seems to have little awareness of Old Testament use of such symbolic terms as Logos (Word), Wisdom, Spirit, etc. All of these biblical terms do not refer to separate divine persons or entities. (p 36)"
"[The Council of Chalcedon] shows little knowledge of or respect for Scripture’s many literary forms and figures of speech. Where the Old Testament often spoke of God’s nature and activities by means of symbolic terms and personifications, such as Spirit, Wisdom, Word, etc., Chalcedon personalizes (or hypostasizes) these ways of speaking about God’s immanent activity without any critical elaboration of why it feels justified in doing so. The council mostly prefers the abstract metaphysical terms of philosophy to the biblical and historical descriptions of Jesus. (p 40)"
"After centuries of understanding Jesus almost exclusively as a divine, pre-existent being who descended from heaven (the assumed Johannine perspective), no wonder scholars today ask that our Christological search for Jesus’ full identity begin where the earliest books of the New Testament (Paul and the Synoptics) began - with the historical human Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus should first and foremost be one of us who lived his life the way God intended it should be lived, and whom God finally raised to glory. It is there that we find a very appealing, gifted, vulnerable human being that we can identify with, one who is obviously united in prayerful intimacy with God. We see him as a man called to preach and reveal a saving Father. He gave us a deeper meaning and purpose to our lives. He showed us how we should properly live them, so that at the end of them we would rise to eternal glory with him in the love of the Father. This Jesus is close to us. He is our brother. He is imitable and fulfills the role of teacher and model. His picture of God is clear and appealing. Christians accept this man as their spiritual leader and rightly call him Lord, the one who shows them the way to salvation. (p 41)"
"Earlier Christians would find the saving God in a fleshing of the descending Logos. Today Christians find the same God in the human Jesus, for in him God dwells fully with his transforming love and through his love has made Jesus a perfect image of himself. (p 42)"
1. Study the meaning of the Logos and Spirit in Scripture. Are these terms symbolical?
2. Check up what is meant by the theological term hypostasis. You will then understand what Taylor meant by “hypostasizes” in page 40.
3. Do you think Taylor agrees that Jesus is “a divine, pre-existent being who descended from heaven?”
4. Is Jesus “the one who shows [Christians] the way to salvation?”
I have deliberately included quotes that are not so obviously “anti-Nicene.” See if you can deduce Taylor’s Christological stance.
Note: I will post the answer within the next few days. Please do not surf the Web for answers.