Christology answers the questions, “who is Jesus” and “how are we supposed to respond to what we know?” Christianity is built on the person and work of Christ, which includes pre and post incarnation, as well as the incarnation itself. One cannot understand the totality of Christianity outside of having a solid grasp of who Christ is, what he accomplished on the cross, and the magnitude of the resurrection, encompassed in Christ’s three offices, prophet, priest and king (Westminster Shorter Catechism #23).
This is a 5 part series explaining how Christology informs our theology. Part 1 focuses on a brief history of two main forms of Christology and how one helped shape liberation theology. Part 2 describes the history of liberation theology and its various expressions. Part 3 looks at sin and how liberation theology has an insufficient view of sin. Part 4 compares Biblical salvation and salvation according to liberation theology. Part 5 briefly reveals how liberation theology has been repackaged into current church debates over Critical Race Theory and includes a summary that describes Biblical solutions to changing society.
Historically, many theologians and Bible scholars have embarked to understand and explain who Jesus Christ is. The formal term for this kind of study is called Christology. Christology is defined as a specific type of theology that focuses on the person, nature and role of Christ. Basically, Christology answers the following two questions, “who is Jesus and how are we supposed to respond to what we know?” Christianity is built on the person and work of Christ, which includes pre and post incarnation, as well as the incarnation itself. One cannot understand the totality of Christianity outside of having a solid grasp of who Christ is, what he accomplished on the cross and the magnitude of the resurrection, encompassed in Christ’s three offices, prophet, priest and king (Westminster Shorter Catechism #23).
Throughout church history, the understanding of Christ had fallen on the shoulders of early church leaders during ecumenical debates, formally described as councils , which have formed the foundation of current Christian denominations. With the rise and fall of kingdoms and countries and their respective impact and effects on people groups across the globe, the questions regarding Christ prevail, especially in regard to how people view themselves in relation to God and how they worship. These questions, often lumped together in “the search for the historical Jesus”, tended to be liberal in approach, focused on God, the Kingdom, and righteousness that worked itself out through love, according to Adolf von Harnack  , who was a liberal nineteenth century German theologian who sought to change the authoritative dogma that ensued out of the 4th century concerning the identity of Christ. Harnack believed the doctrine that emerged out of these early church councils served ecclesiastical authority church structures and promoted a Jesus that did not connect to humanity. He believed that the primary message of the gospel was “the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man and the infinite value of each individual soul” , along with the commandment of love. Not until many years later that Harnack eventually came to embrace that the fundamental message of Christ was having faith in Christ .
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries ushered in various scientific lenses by which many used to view or reject orthodox Christian theology, specifically biology, sociology, psychology, economics and anthropology. The Industrial Revolution, progress and applied technology moved society from an “outdated” theological understanding of the world, sin and humanity by embracing “metaphysics” and finally “science”, which rejected traditional views of applied Scripture . Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud left a significant nineteenth century stamp on intellectual society that solidified scientific reasoning, further flourishing the above mentioned disciplines which sought to understand society and the mind . These disciplines added further questions about Christ’s identity in which theologians sought to establish a picture of Jesus that lay people could relate to by minimizing his deity and highlighting his life on earth. Since the establishment of the early church, questions regarding the identity of Christ had always been “up for grabs”. As a result of these questions, it is important to recognize two dominating perspectives or trajectories that theologians have been responding to, in various forms, “Christology from above” and “Christology from below”. These two forms of Christology sought to answer questions regarding the meaning of life and work of Christ .