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Jesus Christ: A Theological Introduction

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“Theologies are yet to fathom the implication of the “globalization” of the church”. [1: Kärkkäinen, V.-M. (2016). Christology: A Global Introduction (Second Edition, p. 143). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group.]

Ford stated that “in every generation Christian theology is faced with the task of articulating the intuitions of the biblical tradition about the significance of Jesus Christ in a way that engages its own cultural context.” Plainly suggesting that worldviews of how Jesus Christ is perceived has changed and that any relevancy regarding the ‘presentation’ of Christ needs to consider the cultural location, the linguistic expression and the framework of the society or people that it is trying to reach. This “Contextualization” needs to respond to “the gospel within the framework of one’s own situation” but finds its function in responding to the ever changing historical and theological landscape relating to worship, preaching, systems of church governance, symbols, and ritualistic approaches where individuals are seeking an ‘experience’ and identification with God.” This, is further evidenced by Budden who suggests that an “understanding of who god is and the ability to “fit” God into our context” is counted within the Gorrie and indigenous cultural as a form of practicing justice [2: Ford, David F.(1997). “Introduction to Modern Christian Theology.” In The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology in the Twentieth Century, edited by David F. Ford. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Blackwell.] [3: Kärkkäinen, V.-M. (2013). Christ and Reconciliation (Vol. 1, p. 42). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.] [4: Sailer, W., Christman, J. C., Greulich, D. C., Scanlin, H. P., Lennox, S. J., & Guistwite, P. (2012). Religious and Theological Abstracts. Myerstown, PA: Religious and Theological Abstracts.] [5: Moreau, A. S., Netland, H., & Engen, C. van. (2000). In Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions (p. 225). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Baker Books; A. Scott Moreau.] [6: Moreau, A. S., Netland, H., & Engen, C. van. (2000). In Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions (p. 226). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Baker Books; A. Scott Moreau.] [7: Harry Walker “Goorie Jesus”, in ibid 107-112.] [8: Chris Budden,(2009). Following Jesus in Invaded Space: Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, p68]

In order to understand who Jesus Christ really is, it is imperative that followers of Christ, look through a cultural lens when interpreting scripture and developing their theological viewpoint. Grant suggests that an identification with the message of salvation needs to be culturally accepted, for all cultures. A one size fits all approach is ineffective and, in many situations, may be deemed as not working due to being in an environment with an incorrect set of possible roles. Furthermore, a dogmatic approach, or an insistence on a western version of Jesus is devoid of cultural sensitivity that does not have the desired missiological effect i.e. to the Goorie Rainbow Spirit Theology presents Christ different to “an English, or German, or Jewish” Jesus. Indigenous theology affirms that Gods ability to live among gives them a freedom to affirm their past culture, including their past ancestral connections. The implication that an understanding of Christology must be from a western viewpoint may be the root cause of the ineffectiveness of missions, a “loss of power and the message” of the church due to a “killing” of the “humanness of the people” by not recognizing their cultural and traditional values.” Niebuhr, sixty years earlier echoed similar complaints in suggesting that “Protestantism did not introduce any new models for understanding its interaction with culture. It worked within existing Christian paradigms, adapting and developing them to meet its concerns – but not developing new models of its own.” [9: Tennent, T (2007). Theology in the Context of World Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan. p105-134] [10: Cecil W Grant. (1996) “The Gospel and Culture: An Aboriginal Perspective”, in Martung Upah: Black and White Australia Seeking Partnership (Blackburn, Victoria: Harper CollinsReligious, p162-170] [11: Chris Budden, (2009). Following Jesus in Invaded Space: Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, p70] [12: Ong, A. (2016). Mission and Culture. Review of One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical Contextualization by Jackson Wu. Themelios, 41(1), 206.] [13: H Niebur (1951), Christ and Culture, Harper & Row, New York] [14: Kevin Gilbert. (1996). “God at the Campfire and That Christ Fella”, in Aboriginal Spirituality edited by Anne Pattel-Gray (Melbourne: HarperCollins, p54-65.] [15: McGrath, A. (2007). Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution: A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First (p. 313). London: SPCK.]

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So, who is Christ and how do we adopt a theology that encompasses a contextually and cultural relevant perspective? Firstly, it is to be understood that Christ is seen differently to different people and different cultures. To the various forms of Christianity Jesus is a savior, to Islam a messenger of God (Allah), to Bahai’s Jesus is a manifestation of God, to Gnostics a bringer of gnosis, to Scientologists a high operator and to the Mishneh Torah, a stumbling block. To Indigenous Australians and African followers, Christ is seen as one who identifies and appropriates their dispossession and struggles yet at the same time validates their heritage, culture and land. In some domains he is seen as an ancestor, a healer, or a revered family member, a chieftain, king, master, liberator, rainmaker, rainbow serpent, or a priest, many of which are not identified by western (or white) perspectives. Regardless of the cultural setting it is important to interpret Jesus by the values that the culture endorses in order to find a true expression of how the people within that cultural setting see Jesus. [16: Denise Champion, (2014). Yarta Wandatha (Salisbury, South Australia: Denise Champion). p 27-30] [17: Goldenberg, Robert. (1984) ‘Talmud.’ Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, edited by Barry W. Holtz, Simon & Schuster, pp. 129-175] [18: Chris Budden, (2009). Following Jesus in Invaded Space: Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, p 65-85.] [19: Wrogemann, H. (2016). Intercultural Theology: Intercultural Hermeneutics. (S. W. Sunquist, A. Yong, & J. R. Franke, Eds., K. E. Böhmer, Trans.) (Vol. 1, pp. 219–220). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press.] [20: Moreau, A. S., Netland, H., & Engen, C. van. (2000). In Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions (p. 401). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Baker Books; A. Scott Moreau.]

From the theological perspective, Feminist and Womanist theologies see Jesus as a liberator, one who embraces the humanity of women, and they identify with the feminine traits exhibited. Jesus is seen as caring, an upholder of motherhood, compassionate yet also culturally and historically presented as “unjustly male.” [21: Astley, J., Brown, D., & Loades, A. (Eds.). (2009). Christology: Key Readings in Christian Thought (p. 99). London: SPCK.]

Asian theology on the other hand considers Jesus as one who articulates the suffering of Asian peoples i.e. poverty, injustice, ethnicity issues, caste problems, racial, and religious differences. To a Korean immigrant in North America, they identify Jesus as one who understands their oppression and marginalization but further see Jesus as a cultural reconciler. [22: Astley, J., Brown, D., & Loades, A. (Eds.). (2009). Christology: Key Readings in Christian Thought (p. 102). London: SPCK.] [23: Heo, Chun Hoi.(2004). “Toward a Christology for Korean Immigrants in North America: A Critical Interaction of James Cone and J. Y. Lee.” Toronto Journal of Theology, Vol. 20 (2), pp: 175–189.]

The question, “who is Jesus Christ” is difficult if one is to interpret from a single standpoint. It is incorrect to “transplant” Jesus from a Jewish culture 2,000 years ago into today’s culture without first understanding the culture in which Jesus lived. The same metaphor can be said of how Indigenous people, Italians, Norwegians, Africans or Mongolians see Jesus today and then to impose a viewpoint from a different culture or suggest that the way they see Jesus is incorrect. It is only when we view Christ from another cultural perspective or new expression of Jesus, that we understand that Jesus is truly a person for all peoples. Sometimes this perception or expression of Jesus may be different, sometimes the same and sometimes opposite, but it is an expression that identifies Jesus with that culture and people. The ability to communicate who Jesus is must understand that Christology must be presented in a balanced setting between the culture of people being considered and the perception of how Christ is represented in that cultural setting. [24: Alister E. McGrath, (2005). foreword in Christ the One and Only: A Global Affirmation of The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ, ed. Sung Wook Chung (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), xvii.] [25: Case, S. (Ed.). (2012). Generational Faith: Change and Consistency across Generations (p. 8). Lincoln, NE: AdventSource.] [26: Griffiths, S. (2013). Models for Youth Ministry (p. 30). London: SPCK.]

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Jesus Christ: A Theological Introduction. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from
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