Published on December 19, 2018 by Steve West

Baker Academic, 1996 | 666 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

By Steve West



In this book, Erickson examines the doctrine of the incarnation. He combines biblical, historical, philosophical, and theological considerations into a unified study of the topic. Rival views are carefully evaluated, and Erickson’s own formulation of the incarnation is set forth. This book covers a wide range of data and issues related to the doctrine.


Table of Contents

Part One: The Formulation of Incarnational Christology

Chapter 1 The Biblical Source
Chapter 2 The Development of Incarnational Christology (1) To the Council of Chalcedon
Chapter 3 The Development of Incarnational Christology (2) After the Council of Chalcedon

Part Two: Problems of Incarnational Christology

Chapter 4 The Historical Problem (1) Critical Christology
Chapter 5 The Historical Problem (2) Existential Christology
Chapter 6 The Sociological Problem (1) Liberation Christology
Chapter 7 The Sociological Problem (2) Black Christology
Chapter 8 The Sociological Problem (3) Feminist Christology
Chapter 9 The Metaphysical Problem (1) Functional Christology
Chapter 10 The Metaphysical Problem (2) Process Christology
Chapter 11 The Anthropological Problem (1) Universalist Christology
Chapter 12 The Anthropological Problem (2) Postmodern Christology
Chapter 13 The Logical Problem (1) Mythological Christology
Chapter 14 The Logical Problem (2) Narrative Christology

Part Three: The Construction of a Contemporary Incarnational Christology

Chapter 15 The Reliability of the Historical Evidence for Jesus (1) The Synoptic Gospels
Chapter 16 The Reliability of the Historical Evidence for Jesus (2) The Gospel of John
Chapter 17 Jesus’ Testimony to His Deity
Chapter 18 The New Testament Witness Regarding Jesus’ Deity
Chapter 19 The Uniqueness of Christ: The Resurrection
Chapter 20 The Metaphysical Basis of the Incarnation
Chapter 21 The Logic of the Incarnation (1)
Chapter 22 The Logic of the Incarnation (2)
Chapter 23 Jesus as the Savior of All People
Chapter 24 the Incarnation and the Problem of Evil




Part One: The Formulation of Incarnational Christology

When we begin to study Christology, we need to see what the Scriptures say. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ favorite self-designation was “son of man.” This title has layers of meaning, and it draws on Daniel 7. It was an implicit claim of deity. Jesus saw himself as God’s unique son. He was fully human, and the Gospels depict him having the full range of human experience. Yet he was completely without sin. Both Matthew and Luke highlight the special circumstances of Jesus’ birth—he was born of a virgin. All of the Gospels record that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. John’s Gospel has Christology at its heart. John is unique in identifying Jesus as the incarnate logos (a word that is rich in connotations). The “I Am” statements of Jesus teach us many different things about him, but when he calls himself “I Am” in John 8:58, it is clearly understood as a claim to deity. John presents Jesus as God, the Son, and fully human. The Book of Acts places great emphasis on the resurrection. Paul understood that Jesus was a man, and that he was the Christ. But Paul also asserted unequivocally the full deity of Christ. Unsurprisingly, the resurrection is crucial for Paul. Hebrews highlights both Jesus’ full humanity and deity. John builds his first epistle around Christology. Revelation shows Jesus as the glorious and conquering Lord who is praised.

Although the evidence we have for Ebionism is fragmentary, and it seems incredibly diverse, at its heart was a denial of the deity of Christ. Docetism, on the other hand, maintained that Jesus only appeared to be a man. The Gnostics were docetic. The doctrine of Christ could not be articulated adequately until the church had worked out an understanding of the Trinity, especially concerning the relationship between the Father and the Son. Monarchical modalism obliterated the difference between Father and Son. Arius and his followers denied that the Son was of the exact same nature as the Father. Arians believed that the Son was created, and then the Son created everything else. The Nicene Creed explicitly condemned the Arian position, and asserted that the Son was of the same substance as the Father and uncreated. Apollinarianism denied that Jesus was fully human. It held that Jesus was the Word animating flesh, and that Jesus didn’t have a human mind or spirit. Other inadequate Christologies were presented, until things reached a head at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Chalcedon provided the classic statement of orthodoxy. Christ was fully God and fully man, one person and two natures.

Chalcedon did not settle things, however. In its aftermath there were other meetings and political machinations. Many struggled to relate the human and divine natures together. Monothelitism denied that Jesus had a human will, and the debates about this issue were extremely heated and politically charged. In the end, the orthodox position was that Christ must have two wills—a human will and a divine will—or else he was not fully human and fully God. Kenotic Christology derives its name from Philippians 2:7, and focuses on the fact that the Son of God became a real man. Kenosis Christology is the view that the Son emptied himself of some of his divine attributes in the incarnation.


Part Two: Problems of Incarnational Christology

Since Christology is bound up with New Testament Studies, critical approaches to the NT have resulted in new formulations of Christology. Form critics argued that much of what was said about Jesus in the NT was really invented by the early church for its own purposes. They attempted to peel back layers of tradition to get to the authentic life and teachings of Jesus. It was accepted that Jesus’ own self-interpretation was very different from the Christology of the church. The Christ of faith is attached by the church to the Jesus of history, but they are not the same in reality. There is a definite bias against the supernatural in this methodology.

Lessing argued that the accidental details of history can never prove the necessary truths of reason. As a result, Lessing looked to the internal quest for truth, and the production of good moral fruit, rather than objective religious truth. Kierkegaard went farther and insisted that historical knowledge was irrelevant for faith. In his view, subjective knowledge of God was about our relationship with him, and that was more. . .

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The Word Became Flesh: A Contemporary Incarnational Christology

Baker Academic, 1996 | 666 pages

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