Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Christ - Revealing True Humanity

From an essay presentation given to the 'Theological Anthropology' class of the University of Edinburgh. As a preview to a forthcoming post, this summarises the key points; and the main essay shall be posted by the end of November. 

What place should Christology have in the articulation of a theological anthropology?

Christ is perfect man, Who lives perfectly, showing us what it means to be human. Not only does He reveal God to us; he also reveals humanity to us.

I will argue that Christology should be central to Theological Anthropology, as Christ rebuilds the bridge between humanity and divinity. He not only reveals God to us, but also simultaneously reveals what it means to be human. In arguing this, I will concentrate on the writings of St Maximus the Confessor, St John of Damascus and other Patristic writings, highlighting the fundamental link between Christology and the salvation and understanding of man. Furthermore I will highlight how the Christology of the Church, affirmed in the Ecumenical Councils, has always been central to our understanding of what it means to be human. 

Orthodox Christian Theology highlights, as Saint Athanasius, Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria proclaim, that ‘God became man so that men might become gods.’ In other words, the incarnation of the Word, God descending down to humanity, dying on the cross, raising from the dead and granting us life, is essential in understanding that the goal of man is to have complete unity with God, being in His image and likeness.

From a Patristic point of view, we cannot separate anthropology with Christology. Our faith in the Θεάνθρωπος, Who is fully God and fully man, leads to a fuller understanding of who we are. In Christ, we have anthropophany - the revelation of humanity. The Christian Church has always emphasised the fact that our existence depends on communion and relationship with God. As John Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon writes, ‘man exists truly in unbroken relationship with God.’ 

In Christ we see the first true human being - not broken or fallen, but without sin. Pontius Pilate says, when condemning the Lord to death, ‘Behold the Man’ (John 19:5)  In this way, we could then conclude, that Jesus Christ is the true image of God. ‘If man is the image of the divine nature and if the divine nature is free, so is the image’ St Maximus writes. Here we find a direct link with Christ our God, the perfect image of man, and us as human beings, striving to unite with Jesus Christ.

Man possesses a natural will, and that will for St Maximus is known as ‘η κατα φήσιν αυτοεξουσιότης’ , a freedom of nature. This is in conformity with divine freedom and unable to lead to anything but the good. Again, we see that the human being is truly bound to Christ, the source of our Freedom, and goodness. As Meyendorff writes in his well known book ‘Christ in Eastern Christian thought,’ when discussing Saint Maximus: 

 ‘Man is inseparable from God, and since he thus possesses a particular relationship with the Logos he reflects the latter’s cosmic role.’  

Finally, throughout my essay I will discuss how the doctrine of the salvation of man, fully relies upon the doctrine of Christ. St Maximus explains this as a double movement; a divine movement toward man consisting of making God partakable of by creation, and a human movement towards God, willed from the beginning by the Creator and restored in Christ. The hypostatic union of these two movements in the incarnate Word constitutes the essence of Maximus’ Christology; two natures imply two energies or wills meeting one another. This links to what St Basil says, that ‘ God’s energies descend to us.’

To conclude, I will argue that Christology should be central to Theological Anthropology, as Christ rebuilds the bridge between humanity and divinity, granting man salvation and union with Him.

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