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The great 20th century Russian Orthodox theologian Sergius Bulgakov wrote that “All human beings will be resurrected without exception.”  Why?  Because, as he draws upon the Church Father John Chrysostom, “the Savior’s death freed all of us.”  Which, Bulgakov says, means “To be a human being and therefore to belong to Christ’s humanity is the sole basis for resurrection.”

Last week I began this series of columns on recent Christology with a brief survey of a variety of voices, particularly feminist, queer, and Asian.  One of the themes across those various perspectives is that the Christ must be a power available for all humanity, even all creation.  Which jives quite well, actually and maybe somewhat surprisingly, with some of the most traditional of recent voices.  For example, I find some deep resonances in the Russian Orthodox theology of Bulgakov and the Asian-American queer theologian Patrick Cheng, despite them speaking from radically different positions and perspectives.  For example, both emphasize the centrality of Christ’s physical body as key to the transformative power for all human bodies.

The early Church Fathers, particularly in the Greek tradition, emphasized that the Christ is the power to transform humanity and all of creation.  A theme drawn upon by more recent writers.  Like the Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas who claims that the very reality of what it means to be a person is revealed in Christ.  Or the Greek professor Christos Yannaras (it’s fun to say both of their names I think) whose major work is entitled Person and Eros.  He also claims that personhood is revealed in the incarnation, and it is revealed to be “a possibility of erotic self-transcendence and loving communion.”  I also delight in, though I don’t fully grasp, Yannaras’s poetic phrase “truth is an erotic wonder.”

One reason modernism struggles to articulate a Christology is that Western Christianity took a wrong turn at some point and separated out the “natural” from the “supernatural.”  Such that over time it becomes quite impossible to explain (or for many even to believe) that the supernatural can be present in the natural.  But the ancient and the Eastern notion didn’t separate out such things.  All creation is filled with the Divine and capable of actualizing that potential.  You don’t, then, have the metaphysical puzzle of trying to explain how God appeared in human form in Jesus of Nazareth, because God is always present in all humanity (and all of creation for that matter).  Jesus reveals how we can actualize the possibilities already a part of our personhood.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams also draws upon the Church Fathers and Orthodox theology in his quite dense (meaning I don’t really recommend reading it) Christ the Heart of Creation.  He declares that the Christ restores creation “in which humanity actualizes its long-lost potential for establishing just relationship and reconciliation among the diverse forms of earthly existence.”  According to Williams, the “logic of creation” is “the immeasurable diversity and interwoven complexity of a finite order destined to be drawn into harmony and mutual life-sharing through the reconciliation of humanity to God.”  And this, “The life that lives in Jesus is the active source of all relations in the finite world” (which resonates with something I quoted last week from the queer theologian Gerard Loughlin).

In last week’s column I mentioned my friend Tripp Fuller’s book (he’s the Fellow at the University of Edinburgh) Divine Self-Investment.  Tripp is a Process theologian (meaning a non-substantial, relational approach to reality).  He identifies the struggle of modern liberalism as trying to explain an interventionist God, rather than viewing God’s relationship with creation as divine self-investment.  God gives to and lures the world, as the Most-Moved Mover, towards our potential.  He writes, “The incarnation of God’s Word in Jesus is not accomplished through divine intervention, but rather through divine fidelity, patience, and loving investment in the world.”  And what occurs in the incarnation is the bodily assumption of all living things and their entire story into the divine story.  Salvation, in this model, is our participation in the divine giving.

Next week I’ll round out this series with a focus on J. Kameron Carter’s contention that Christology is what can rid us of our whiteness problem and set us all free.  But today I want to close with the wonderful final paragraph of Tripp’s book:

The work of God is revealed in the person of Jesus–precisely in what he said, did, endured, and continues to say, do, endure, and transform through the spirit.  A disciple’s confession of Jesus as the Christ is not simply an act of identification, but one of recognition.  If one comes to know themselves as known and loved by God in Christ, and one can see her life as also sustained and empowered by God, they might seek to discover and share the mind of Christ in which their will comes to cohere with God’s will.  It is this life together in God for which the Spirit of God has always worked and the Word of God has always beckoned in desiring a full response.  The promise and hope of salvation rests in this: that the God who chose to invest Godself in creating creaturely co-creators and who was ever faithful to the covenanted people of Israel, is the God of deep solidarity who stands in need of our shared salvation.  Through the resurrection of Jesus into the life of God, his relationship with God came to shape both the disciple’s experience of God and God’s experience of the world.  This transformation within the life of God in which the Spirit of God is shaped by Jesus Christ is now invested in the world.  And now, in light of the resurrection, Divine self-investment means that Jesus is not just the fruit of the vine of David, but also the first fruits of a Creation reborn in God.


If you want to dive deeply into this topic:

  • Sergius Bulgakov, The Bride of the Lamb
  • Natalie Carnes, Image and Presence: A Christological Reflection on Iconoclasm and Iconophilia
  • John B. Cobb, Jr., Jesus Abba: The God Who Has Not Failed
  • Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ
  • Tripp Fuller, Divine Self-Investment: An Open and Relational Constructive Theology
  • David Bentley Hart, You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature
  • Hans Kung, The Beginning of All Things: Science and Religion
  • J. Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation
  • Andrew Sung Park, Triune Atonement: Christ’s Healing for Sinners, Victims, and the Whole Creation
  • Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture
  • Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places
  • Shelly Rambo, Resurrecting Wounds: Living in the Afterlife of Trauma
  • Rowan Williams, Christ the Heart of Creation
  • Christos Yannaras, Person and Eros


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