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Indigenous Jesus, Reading Luke with Settlers

Painting by ᐅᓵᐚᐱᐦᑯᐱᓀᐦᓯ

Painting by ᐅᓵᐚᐱᐦᑯᐱᓀᐦᓯ

Dan Oudshoorn (Blog Link) has recently begun a project entitled A Blog Commentary on Luke’s Gospel, Written for Settlers in the Occupied Territories Called Canada, in which he reflects on the gospel text alongside the history and lived experience of indigenous persons to understand more about who Jesus is and challenge the assumptions of “settlers” like himself (and me).

At the time of writing this post, he had posted the first two entries, and Introduction and a selection regarding Luke 1:1-4. (Part 1 | Part 2)

Oudshoorn’s treatment in his introduction provides parallels between the historical context of Jesus of Nazareth and the Lukan community with the indigenous people of North America, specifically Canada. Similar to James Cone’s assertion that Jesus is Black (more on this here), the research and presentation provide the means for recovering from the blinders of assuming Jesus belongs to a privileged class (white, male, Western).

In striking fashion, Oudshoorn describes the similarities, writing,

It is also what it means to say that Jesus was an Indian, i.e. a Judaean.  Shortly before Jesus was born, the Roman soldiers had passed yet again through the region engaging in a scorched earth, shock and awe campaign to pacify the region and to punish the people for their refusal to be extinct commodities.  Children were taken from parents (like the RCMP and the Indian agent took children away from Indigenous parents and jailed or shot any who resisted) and sold into slavery (sent to residential schools or white families) in faraway lands.  The land that had been a part of the people was taken from them, crops were destroyed, people were forced to become transient labourers, maintaining a cheap labour pool for absentee mega-farmers or for city folks.  The roads were lined with the crucified bodies of able-bodied men – the very bodies that many large family units depended on to earn the money to buy their daily bread.  Sacred places were defiled, taxes were imposed, and temples were built to foreign gods.  Many were killed.  Many women were raped.  And Mary became pregnant with Jesus.

The significance of Jesus identifying with the Indians lays the foundation for the remainder of Luke-Acts for what it means for the community of his disciples.

But the story about this Indian whose name Jesus (Yeshua) means salvation, deliverance and rescue – this Indian from a colonized land, from an uprooted people, from a scorched earth, from a single teen mom – is presented as “good news.”  This, after all, is what the word “gospel” (εὐαγγέλιον or “euangelion”) means.  From this word we get the title, “evangelist” i.e. one who brings good news” or “one who spreads the gospel” but what we will discover is that the “good news” spreads not so much like light into darkness or leaven in a loaf, but like a virus in a computer system, or like fire in the master’s house, or like revolution in the hills of Saint Domingue in 1791.  Because, and here I’ll say only gesture at what is to come later, this good news is only good news to some people.  It is very bad news to others.

The second post enters into a conversation about what it means to be a “friend of God”- the Theophilus whom the gospel is addressed to. This section is a challenging polemic about whether to consider ourselves friends or enemies of God. For someone who is attempting to support and encourage recognition of historically oppressed perspectives, this section was personally challenging as it lays raw the need to reflect truthfully about the realities of oppression and one’s own power and privilege:

We have treated Jesus as if he were a European settler (Roman), God as if God were white (and male), and us as if we are God’s friends.  If we’re going to get this right, we have to try and hear these stories again.

Please follow the link to Dan’s blog (Part 1 | Part 2) and subscribe. I am looking forward to continuing to read his Commentary as a fellow Settler in Occupied Territory.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology and an adjunct professor at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA.

Following a Transgender Jesus

jesusSuzanne DeWitt Hall’s recent article, Jesus: The First Transgender Man, wades into the contemporary firestorm about transgender access to public bathrooms in the United States with a reflection about gender identity and biological determination from two- fairly important- characters from the Biblical record: Eve (Genesis 2) and Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, et al.).

Much has already been written about the flaws of seeing gender as a biological binary as well as how gender roles (and the number of gender options) are culturally formed, but her article approaches the issue using a different tact.

She writes,

If we take the Genesis account in it’s literal meaning, as conservative Christians demand that we do, she is also the first case of a transgender woman. God reached into Adam, pulled out a bit of rib bone, and grew Eve from that XY DNA into Adam’s companion. She was created genetically male, and yet trans-formed into woman.

Then along comes Jesus and the whole pattern is both repeated and reversed. The first couple’s refusal to cooperate is turned around by Mary’s yes, and the second act of cloning occurs. The Holy Spirit comes upon the second Eve, and the child takes flesh from her and is born. Born of her flesh. Born with XX chromosome pairing. Born genetically female, and yet trans-formed into man.

The significance in considering how these bodies are formed should not be a biology lesson, but ought to lead us to consider how tightly we hold to cultural assumptions about gender and identity.

This is the same spirit in which we read Galatians 3:28 about other categories,

There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The differences between people are not magically erased but they no longer form the basis of our identification and relationship with one another. Any identity, gender included, is to be secondary to our identity in Christ.

Perhaps a modern reading could include that there is neither cisgender and transgender, but you are all one in Christ Jesus. If this seems scandalous, I believe that we are approaching the original intent of Paul- to show the radical inclusion that is possible within Christian community.

She concludes her post with a meaningful benediction, writing,

A quick look at the dictionary for the prefix “trans” tells us that it means “across,” “beyond,” “through,” and “changing thoroughly,” all of which are great terms for the person of Christ. He cuts across all boundaries. He is beyond our understanding. He is through all and in all. He changes us thoroughly into new creations.

In his person, and in his salvific actions, Jesus is truly the first and forever trans man.

A special blessing to those brothers and sisters (and all who may find those terms of affection difficult) to know that Christ is present with you in your journey and invites you to live deeply from your identity as a new creation in Him and full fellowship within all of God’s family.

The Emptiness of Christ: Mahayana Christology

Jesus in Meditation

The Christology of the Western Church has, with few exceptions, developed in dialogue with the categories of Greek philosophy. As fruitful as the dialogue has been, however, it has created problems for our articulation of the doctrine of the Incarnation, and it is now problematical for those Christians who do not share the philosophical tradition of the West. This article begins the development of a Christology of emptiness, derived from one of the philosophical traditions of Buddhism.

Mahayana theology is a Christian theology which attempts to understand the Christian faith through philosophical concepts developed in Mahayana Buddhism.

(more…)

Minjung Theology: A Korean Theology of the People

Dream of a Female Worker

Dream of a Female Worker

How do you find the hope for freedom after centuries of oppression from four different world powers? What spark is there to transform the pain that you feel within and the emptiness of the world around you? Minjung theology is borne out of these questions and finds a response in a unique understanding of Christ and how to follow him faithfully.

Minjung (민중) is a word derived from the Korean pronunciation of two Chinese characters: “min” (the people) and “jung” (the masses). The combination of the two creates an image of the majority of people, the poor, the oppressed. The term originated as a descriptor in contrast to the Yangban, or ruling elite class.

Although it is similar in some respects to liberation theological movements, it is an oversimplification of the Korean context to lump in with Latin American, African, or other movements. There is less of an emphasis upon economic injustice and more attention to institutional oppression from colonial and hierarchical structures. These forms of injustice are partly due to geography, as the Korean peninsula is situated between China and Japan, and also (much more recently) politically between the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Minjung theology derives from the experience of the minjung– the people who are exploited by the elite. Initially conceived as an interpretive source by leaders of the Urban Industrial Mission who volunteered for labor camps in the early 1960s, the term has taken on added significance in successive generations. A similarity to the minjung can be found in the gospels’ use of the term ὄχλος (ochlos) to refer to the crowds (of commoners, outcasts) following Jesus.

There are two distinct features of minjung theology: 한 (han) and 단 (dan).
(more…)

Where to Start with World Christianity

There is a specific book that started me down the path of discovering World Christianity and has led me to engage with global perspectives of theology and contextualization. I bought it for a friend who was also finishing an undergraduate Biblical Studies program. When it arrived from the bookseller, I flipped through the pages and before I knew it, had read the entire first chapter. And the second. And the third.

Theology in the Context of World Christianity , by Timothy Tennent, is the book that I have recommended to several people who have asked me where to start start in bridging their (Western) theological training and emerging non-Western perspectives.

The premise of the book is that (more…)

Jesus Without Borders (Interview)

About Jesus without Borders:

Jesus without Borders

Jesus without Borders

Though the makeup of the church worldwide has undeniably shifted south and east over the past few decades, very few theological resources have taken account of these changes. Jesus without Borders — the first volume in the emerging Majority World Theology series — begins to remedy that lack, bringing together select theologians and biblical scholars from various parts of the world to discuss the significance of Jesus in their respective contexts.

Offering an excellent glimpse of contemporary global, evangelical dialogue on the person and work of Jesus, this volume epitomizes the best Christian thinking from the Majority World in relation to Western Christian tradition and Scripture. The contributors engage throughout with historic Christian confessions — especially the Creed of Chalcedon — and unpack their continuing relevance for Christian teaching about Jesus today.


Allahu Akbar: A Christian Call to Worship

Photo Nadezhda Kevorkova

Photo Nadezhda Kevorkova

Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios (Atallah Hanna), 49, is the only Orthodox Christian archbishop from Palestine stationed in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, while all other bishops of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are Greeks. The Israeli authorities had detained him several times, or stopped him at the border, and taken away his passport. Among all Jerusalem clergymen he is the only one who has no privilege of passing through the VIP gate in the airport – because of his nationality. “For the Israeli authorities, I am not a bishop, but rather a Palestinian,” explains his Beatitude. When talking on the phone he says a lot of words you would normally hear from a Muslim: “Alhamdulillah, Insha’Allah, Masha’Allah”. He speaks Arabic, and the Arabic for ‘god’ is Allah, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim.

In this interview, the Beatitude discusses what it entails to be a Palestinian leader in a volatile political context and the significance of the phrase Allahu Akbar for the Christian community. He also speaks directly to the use of Arabic and the phrase that has gained an Islamic connotation following identification with violent extremists.

Do people say Allahu Akbar in church?

Of course. (more…)

How Do We Imagine Jesus?

Jesus heals paralized manIn a recent post, Christine Sine reflects on the images of Jesus that are popular among different communities, and how these conceptions can radically affect one’s discipleship and faith. She writes:

I have always been fascinated by how Christians perceive Jesus and love to chat to people from different theological and cultural backgrounds to explore this. I also love to collect images of Jesus from other cultures and have included some of my favourites in this post.

It is interesting to me that early Christians (and the Celtic Christians we so much admire) saw Jesus as a companion and a brother. It was only after the emperor Constantine became a Christian that the view of Christ shifted to more of an emperor figure. No surprisingly as Christendom took hold and wars became justified as holy wars we also started to see images of Christ as a warrior king. (more…)

José y Maria: Still No Room

In the United States, it is typical to rent a room temporarily while traveling. Mary and Joseph were not looking for a room for the weekend, as we are accustomed to doing around the holidays. They were looking for temporary lodging, to fulfill whatever obligations of the census and to be ready in case Mary went into labor. In a town that would have been filled with Joseph’s kin, none were willing to make room for him and his pregnant fiancee. Think less about a “No Vacancy” neon sign and more of being told that there are no guest rooms, no rollaways, no couches, no air mattresses, no floors that you are welcome to. “That girl” is not welcome in our town.

Illustrator Everett Patterson has an image that strikes this chord in scene preceding the nativity we are accustomed to decorating our homes, lawns, and churches.

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

In his commentary on the piece, he writes, (more…)

World Cup of Theologians: Belgium – Edward Schillebeeckx

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

schillebeeckxEdward Schillebeeckx (1914-2009) was a member of the Dominican Order and a professor of Theology until his death in 2009. Schillebeeckx was also closely involved with several topics of the Second Vatican Council.

Because of his work with Vatican II, Schillebeeckx is well known for his strong arguments for a more reconciling ecclesiology, celibacy, and the sacraments. He often came under fire from the Catholic Magisterium because of his ideas, with the most volatile clash happening in the early 1980’s with the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (CDF). Schillebeeckx’s passion for the Church can be clearly seen in many of his writings, but especially in this excerpt from The Church with a Human Face: A New and Expanded Theology of Ministry (1985):

The crucified but risen Jesus appears in the believing, assembled community of the church. That this sense of the risen, living Jesus has faded in many [churches] can be basically blamed on the fact that our churches are insufficiently ‘communities’ of God…. Where the church of Jesus Christ lives, and lives a liberating life in the footsteps of Jesus, the resurrection faith undergoes no crisis. On the other hand, it is better not to believe in God than to believe in a God who minimizes human beings, holds them under and oppresses them, with a view to a better world to come. (34)

Schillebeeckx was a respected Catholic theologian, and one who has strongly influenced both the direction of the Church and of various forms of theology including liberation, European political, and systematic Catholic Theology

Zane Ridings is a Masters of Divinity student at Brite Divinity School. As an undergraduate at Eureka College, he completed an honors research thesis titled: Walking Alongside the Least of These: Liberation Hermeneutics and Praxis-based Missions in Guatemala. This work has been part of Zane’s theological exploration of questions concerning justice, politics, and Christian fellowship and ethics.

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