This paper will compare and contrast two different theologians by discussing how these two theologians do their theology and how they have contributed to the better understanding of Christology. This essay will make a critical assessment of the theologians, Jurgen Moltmann and Nicholas Thomas Wright who have been active in the 20th and 21st century. To better understand the works of Moltmann and Wright, this essay will explore the meaning and understanding of Christology and how the two formulate their theology. A key summary of points that define Christology and the content specific to Moltmann and Wright’s theology arguments are going to be discussed in this essay. Each contribution by Moltmann and Wright will be assessed on how they have influenced the current theological thought on Christology. The comparisons will be based on contrasting their different approaches to Christology looking at their methods and the context in which they base their theology. To understand their methods and context, this essay will discuss the history and background of each theologian to better understand what influenced their approach to Christology. The key insights in from each theologians contribution to Christology will be discussed. The implications of Moltmann and Wright’s theology to the church mission will be discussed.
Christology is the study of Christ by looking at Jesus’ nature and works concerned with the incarnation, the resurrection, humanity and divinity. Christology looks at the relationship between humankind and divinity, taking into consideration the role of Jesus in our salvation. The study of Christology believes in the historical Jesus and the accounts of the record of Jesus as it is recorded in the gospels is an authentic record.
The New Testament biblical portrayal of Jesus Christ in early Jewish apocalyptic eschatology of the portrayal by the early Christians who believed that Jesus the Messiah would come back in their own lifetime as the saviour of the world. The New Testament provides the source material for the early development of Christology by the early century theologians. The apostolic creeds and the foundations of the early Christian writings were based on the biblical text, which also produced the reflections of the early theologians.
The New Testament and the worship practices of the early church played an important role in the formation of early Christology and mainly influenced by the reflections of these theologians. The early theologians have played an influence in the works of both Moltmann and Wright, by shaping their theology either in support of or theology formed against the current theology of the early theologians.
Philo of Alexandria through his Logos theology described how God is active through the divine made manifest in Jesus Christ. The Gospel according to John, talks about Jesus was pre-existent with God who is sent down from Heaven in human form by God. The early church attributed the birth of Jesus to the fulfilment of the church mission of God’s work through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Moltmann’s early years were during the time of conflict in Europe and the time of Nazi dictatorship which greatly influenced his theology. He views theology from a lense of pain and suffering and how Christ fits in this narrative to bring liberation to the suffering people as he identifies with our pain. Moltmann’s theology has been accepted across multiple denominations because of how he was willing to understand other denominations to come to a better understanding of Christology.
Wright influence was based on biblical text were he preferred more to do an in-depth study of the biblical text rather than rely on other works of other theologians to come up with the right answers and he had some influence from other influence is coming up with theological arguments that has supported his theology.
Approaches to Christology
History of Jurgen Moltmann
Jurgen Moltmann is a German Reformed theologian who has contributed to different areas of Christian theology, including Eschatology, Political theology and Christology. Moltmann is best known for his works in The Crucified God (1972) and Theology of Hope (1964) where he discussed that God suffers with humanity and promising humanity a better future through the hope of Resurrection.
Moltmann lived in Nazi Germany where he was drafted in the army and became a prisoner of war where his theology was developed. Moltmann was prisoner of war when he found Jesus, through Christians and how he was treated by his captors during that period. After his release from prison Moltmann was influenced by Karl Barth, because of Barth’s resistance to the State’s interference into Church affairs. Just as Barth was against the support that other theologians had for the Nazification of the protestant church and to concentrate and get back to the fundamentals of the Word of God.
Method – Creeds, Biblical, Response to other theologians
Moltmann’s work in influenced greatly by Karl Barth’s theology that was developed after the First World War to re-evaluate the teachings of the Reformation as a way to against liberal theology that began in Germany based on human reason and religious experience. His work was influenced by multiple other theologians like Martin Luther whose doctrine of justification and theology of the cross, he also studied Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reflection whilst in prison who was anti-Nazi and a vocal critic Hitler.
Moltamann’s theology was largely influenced by what he experienced during second world war, that gave him the desire to reach the, “survivors of his generations.” Over the years Moltmann’s theology has been influenced by bringing together contemporary world issues like the holocaust, feminism and inter-faith dialogue.
Moltmann’s saw Christ dying was for liberation of the oppressed and that God chose to die with the oppressed and corroborates his ideas from different denominations to better understand Christology. In his book Theology of Hope, Moltmann’s theology is shown to be based mostly on the resurrected Christ and eschatology. Moltmann looked at the weaknesses in Barth’s theology around the Confessing Church based on the influence of Ernst Bloch, an atheist philosopher whose philosophy of hope was the means of encouraging social change.
Based on Bloch’s philosophy, Moltmann found the message of eschatology where he mentioned a need a rethink of the kingdom of God or the second coming of the Messiah to better understand Christology.
Moltmann’s theology was more of a political theology that seek justice and he did not seek to maintain the status quo but to bring a social transformation. His theology is a criticism of social and political influence of religion and the Church mainly based on his experiences with the theologians in German and endorsing Germany’s war policies during World War 2.
Context – What has influenced their theology?
Moltmann was born in 1926 during a time of conflict and war in Europe, at the age of 18 he was drafted into the military service at the front line where he was captured and he was became a prisoner of war at during 1945 to 1948. This is a time in Europe where there was great suffering with death being prevalent and widespread hunger and diseases due to the war.
Moltmann was ashamed greatly by what his country had done through the mistreatment of Jews in camps to the extent that he wished he had died. He could not imagine going back to a country that could treat other people with such evil intent. He had time to reflect a lot during his time as a prisoner of war in the camp because they did not have much to do. There in the camp Moltamann who had grown up in a secular household was introduced to scripture and started to identify more with the Christian faith.
During his time as a prisoner he was shown good hospitality which are a contrast to how his country Germany was treating its prisoners of war at Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Moltmann’s work is influences by the social and political systems in the post-World War 2 German culture. The Protestant Church in Germany after world war 2 admitted guilt their contribution to the suffering that the Nazi regime brought to the German and the world.
Key Insights (Understandings)
Traditional theology created boundaries that hindered the social transformation as it was being shaped by a culture rather than the Word of God. Moltmann’s Christology is based on more just the personal interpretations of the Gospels but on their socio-political meaning. Moltmann has shown that by studying and seeking to understand other religions, one can use different elements from the various religions.
Moltmann’s contribution shows that Christology’s reach is not just for individuals but it was to bring in light that Jesus’ mission was to defeat the cosmic forces that were threatening the kingdom of God, he had the whole world in mind with the desire that everyone is saved from the hold of evil which had captured all institution including the religious establishments.
Moltmann believes in the second coming of Jesus Christ as a literal even to happen in the future and acknowledges that at the second coming there will be a resurrection of all that had died.
Implications for church mission
Moltmann’s works brings a new approach to theology which has led to other theologians to reflect on the Christian existence and a different kind of theology of hope which encourages Christians not to have fear to the future but have trust in the kingdom of God. Moltmann has influenced a lot of theologians on liberation theology and the ability to have brought different denominations and religions into a dialogue which has also helped shape his own theology. His theology is grounded on God’s promise of a better future which is explains his convictions towards a theology of hope. Moltmann logic is based on that, “hope cannot emerge from our experience, it comes from a future truth.”
Moltmann’s work has led to political influence that had captured church institution where he supported the separation of the church and state to avoid a repeat of what had happened during the Nazi reign where the church was forced into agreeing with the war policies of the Reich.
History of N.T. Wright
Nicholas Thomas Wright is a New Testament scholar and a retired Anglican bishop and unlike Moltmann grew up in an Anglican Christian household and being always aware of God’s presence. Early years of Wright were influenced by Reformed Anglican evangelicalism however he started to immerse himself in the biblical text itself rather than to read other books to get the right answers.
Wright’s Anglican background has influenced how he approached his
Method – Creeds, Biblical, Response to other theologians
Mainly based on biblical source where the Pauline writings are central to his theology. Wright believes in the justification in Pauline writings and that Paul was misunderstood and he seeks to correct the confusion around the text.
Wright’s view regarding a historical Jesus was influenced by Albert Schweitzer who believed that the view of who Jesus is has evolved over time to suit the period people are in. Wright takes influence from other theologians but mainly his theology is based on the biblical text itself mostly the Pauline writings.
Wright’s view of Christology was looking at Jesus from the first century perspective of Judaism, he looks at Jesus from his Jewish roots and how he was against the Jewish institutions. A view of first century history of Judaism and the way of life of Jewish people during this period will help with an understanding of the type of life Jesus would have lived and the reasons why he said certain things or did certain things.
Context – What has influenced their theology?
Wright’s theology is based on a deep analysis of mainly New Testament scripture with a great emphasis on the Pauline doctrine of justification. Wright believed that the Church should be brought under the authority of scripture instead of just church doctrine which sometimes might be based on socio-political factors.
As the Bishop of Durham, Wright has witnessed the high levels of unemployment of the parishioners in his diocese and these issues helped transform his theology and Christology as he sees Christ as suffering with us but a belief of a better future.
Key Insights (Understandings)
Wright is concerned in making sure that the Gospel addresses the social issues as he believes that the church should be there to call the government and those in positions of power and influence to account.
Wright has always argued that the church’s faith and the doctrine has obscured real history of Christianity and shares the same beliefs on the historical Jesus that he has critique to not address the true historical Jesus.
Wright’s theology is to help people understand the true purpose of the historical Jesus and his true mission on earth, which was to bring down the current institutions and systems which are controlled by the devil and to establish the rule of God over the earth. Jesus was not against the Jewish symbols and traditions but he came to provide the meaning to this traditions and how they relate to the kingdom of God.
Wright argues that Jesus was offering himself as an alternative to the temple which was contrary to the beliefs of the Pharisees that the temple was the only way to worship God. This was threatening to the Pharisee as they saw as challenging their core beliefs and systems. He uses Jewish symbols to develop his Christology based mainly on biblical text. Jesus’ humanity through his birth by Mary gave him the authority to take Adam’s position for worldwide dominion.
Implications for church mission
Wright believes in the historical Jesus not the one that has been formulated based on Church tradition and argues some denominations which feel that they have the correct representation of Christ. Wright does on to say, “who have believed themselves to be ‘biblical’ but are sometimes demonstrably not, have made us blind,” and the willingness of Christians to challenge what they think might be biblical.
Wright opens up Christians to a better understanding of Christ who is not limited to just dying on the cross for us to go to heaven but his mission was to announce the establishment on earth of the kingdom of God. A better understanding of who Christ is from a historical perspective helps in the true worship of God as we realise who Jesus Christ really is and the purpose of his mission on earth.
This essay has discussed the different methods that Moltmann and Wright has used to develop their theology regarding Christology. Moltmann as a theologians had his greatest influence by the socio-political environment that he was operating in and how the disappointing actions of those he looked up to as practising the truth about Jesus Christ. The second World War, the atrocities of the Nazi regime and the role that the protestant church in endorsing the policy of the war and the actions of the church after the second World War had ended. Both theologians also had influence from other theological works including those of Karl Barth to help built on or critique their theology with the purpose to improve understanding of Jesus Christ and his mission on earth. Wright on the other hand even though he is influenced to a lesser extent by other theologians he has preferred more to delve deeper into the biblical text to get a better understanding of the historical Jesus. Wright in his theology has helped start a discussion on the current church traditions to see if they truly reflect scripture.
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