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Yesterday & Today - Study of Continuities in Christology Paperback – 31 Jul 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Spck Publishing; 2nd Revised edition edition (31 July 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 028105083X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281050833
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,471,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Interesting case study against modernist Christologies 2 Dec. 2012
By Jacob - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Gunton argues that the content and form of ancient, synodal Christology, particularly that of Chalcedon, are necessary one for the other (Gunton, 5). He posits this thesis aware that recent attempts in Christology (Pannenberg and Rahner) are uncomfortable with the "Greek-ness" of the early church, label it as "dualist," and reject it, instead opting for a "Christology from below." Such a Christology starts with the man Jesus who may be a vehicle for the divine, or attains the highest point of the love of God for us, but in any case is not to be confused with Logos Christologies that do not take into account human experience.

Gunton, however, sees the problem with both Christology from above and below as the same: dualism. Both seem to posit a dialectic between time and eternity in the sense that one cannot co-penetrate with the other. Gunton wants to maintain the conclusions of Chalcedon without the language and mindset of Chalcedon. This is particularly problematic, as Gunton himself is aware, since Gunton had previously argued that form and content are interrelated. He is not deterred, though, for he thinks he can maintain the conclusions via biblical theology. He argues God's self-communication is revealed through Jesus (79). Gunton is aware that any attempt to answer the "above/below" question, assuming they have dead-ended, must also deal with the problems of time, space, and eternity, to which he devotes his next chapter.

Questions of time and eternity often hinge upon usually unexamined presuppositions. As Gunton notes, modern metaphysics, especially concerning the divine and human natures, time and eternity, etc., suppose that these realities are "opposites or contradictories to each other" (86). In a very interesting move, Gunton notes that for Schliermacher God was "absolutely simple and unconditioned" (87), which presupposition would later dominate the rest of the discussion. For Gunton's discussion, this is the foundation of "dualism" (though Gunton does not spell it out this way). The only way to combat this dualism is it insist that these realities are not opposed ontologically, as noted by Leontius (93).i Gunton goes on to say that post-Kantian theology is for us what the doctrine of impassibility was for the Fathers (97).

In his chapter on "The Logic of Divine Love" Gunton continues with his usual slams against Augustine. If one compares page 106 with page 110, Gunton shows how Kant almost quotes Augustine word for word in his definition of time. Both draw upon Platonic images of "time as the moving image of eternity." The former marks change as opposed to the latter. There is a difference, though, for Kant the preferred is time, not eternity. For Augustine it is the reverse. But, as Gunton notes, both share a key presupposition: both are dominated by the old Hellenistic pessimism of time's fleetingness (107). This is problematic for Christology, for if the two are so radically juxtaposed how can God (eternal) co-inhabit the temporal?

Gunton then sharpens his focus on Augustine. Given Augustine's view of simplicity and truth (e.g., the more simple one is the more being it has, and the more being it has the more true it is), then for Augustine, despite his Catholic conclusions and dogma, to be in creation and time is ultimately to be lacking in being (and ultimately, good) (109). In other words, change is the problem.

The rest of the chapter deals with "space" and is quite interesting. Surprisingly, and contra Bultmann, the New Testament really does not use spatial metaphors all that often: Christ came in the fullness of time and the word became flesh (12-113). In other words, the New Testament is more interested in time than in space. Therefore, Christology must seek a view of eternity "co-inhering" in time. In other words, the structure of time itself must allow for an eternal dimension.ii

The question of space, though, cannot be dismissed just yet. The problem is that we are Newtonians who hold to a "container" doctrine of absolute space (114). Gunton notes that our problem with understanding transcendence and immanence is that we tend to view things in exclusive categories: a thing is here and cannot allow something else to be here. In short, we have a tendency towards nominalism--objects are dead matter. The best way to refute the container notion of space is the idea of music. When a triad is played hear in one and the same place three tones which create a new chord, yet nothing is excluding the "others" (115). Therefore, space and time must be seen in terms of perichoresis. (I've been challenged on this point, but I maintain that Christology not only solves the problems of theology, but also of ontology and science itself. Anyway, Thomas Torrance said the same thing).

Gunton ends his work with a discussion of dualisms within Christology as it relates to Christendom. Which should be ultimate: the suffering, liberal, "Lutheran" Christ, or the Byzantine Pantokrator? I'm not entirely sure how Gunton answers this question.
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