Christology can be translated as ‘the words about Christ’. It is the way in which the Christians faith understands and interprets the significance and identity of Jesus. It deals with his unique role in mediating God’s communication of his love to humanity and humanity’s response to God. Christology concerns itself with Jesus’ action and teachings during his ministry as well as who he is in the context of faith and the Christ-event.
Christology arises in the perspective of faith. It is guided by the centrality of Jesus in God’s dealings with the world. Jesus in present in Christology as the modeller and enabler of faith.
Christology is not a neutral, value-free activity but arises at the heart of what the Christian community believes about Jesus and in doing so tries to correspond with the Christian faith-experience; one that is varied among people and across the centuries.
“The rule of prayer is the rule of belief”1.
This points to the church’s understanding of Jesus having to be in accordance with the church’s practice of prayer. Christology then has an important point of connection with the church’s faith-experience which goes back to the Pre-Easter experience of the first disciples. What they experienced of the Risen Christ guided how they understood him. Interpretation in Christology drawns upon the tradition of faith-experience.
To talk about Jesus without the context of faith is to examine only part of his meaning both historically and today.
The focus of Christology is Jesus’ existential relationship with God whom he called Abba (Dearest Father). Pannenberg has commented that in the reading of Patristic debates Christology can easily be mistaken for matters of divinity versus humanity which lends itself to a limited focus.
Ritschl, Kahler and Schlieirmacher said “The real Christ is the preached Christ”.
Althaus says faith does not have to do with what Jesus was, rather what he is as he encounters us in proclamation.
Koch states that we encounter Kyrios (the Lord) through sacrament, the Word, kerygma, history and scripture.
To acquire a full understanding of Christ both the historical figure – Jesus of Nazareth – and the Christ of kerygma must be examined. The dynamic between the historical and kerygmatic Jesus means one cannot be separated from another without losing something in the translation. We not only encounter Jesus in history but also in faith. To neglect one is to see an incomplete view of Christ.
Notes compiled from University of London International Program booklet and Pannenberg
1 lex orandi est lex credendi- a Latin maxim