Book Reflection: Christology. A Global Introduction – Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
an excellent – clear, succinct, and considered – introduction to Christology
This is my second of Kärkkäinen’s global introduction series, having already benefited from his Ecclesiology text last year. This time around it was his Christology text.
Kärkkäinen’s structure is straightforward.
First, he briefly explores how Christ appears across biblical texts, through the Gospels and through Pauline Christology. These few chapters provide a framework of the scriptural foundations for Christology.
Second, Kärkkäinen outlines the development of Christology across history, from the patristic era through to the reformation, the enlightenment, the quest for the historical Jesus, the liberal picture of Jesus, and into the new quest of the second half of the 20th Century. Within each of the timeframes, Kärkkäinen brings helpful clarity around the key contextual factors and their concerns and aims that influenced the theological approach and the ideas being developed as a result.
Third, Kärkkäinen outlines ten theologians, their approach and their work, as representative of contemporary western Christology. For each, he describes their methodological approach and its key contextual influences and thus concerns and aims, any of their key distinct theological contributions that relate to their Christology, and of course their Christology, highlighting its distinctions and connecting it to the methodology used. While this results in a demonstration of the spectrum of Christologies that exists within this space, attention is still paid to their shared commonalities.
Fourth, Kärkkäinen spends almost equal time outlining contemporary contextual Christologies as he just did on contemporary western Christologies. Of course, he quickly notes that contextual does not imply that the former Christologies were free from contextual influences, but simply that this is now the common term for theologies not based essentially on traditional western ones. He first outlines four contextual Christologies that are not regionally based, namely, process Christology, feminist Christology, black Christology and postmodern Christology. For each, he considers their shared contextual influences, concerns and aims, before exploring a range of their methodologies and ideas. For his outlines of regionally based contextual Christologies, he looks to Latin America, Africa, and Asia. For each, he first outlines the commonalities shared in contextual influences, concerns and aims, and a range of their methodologies and ideas, before diving into one specific theologian of that region and their Christology as an example.
This text is what I expected of Kärkkäinen.
It provided a clear, succinct yet thoughtful overview of Christology through a brief consideration of key scriptural foundations, a delineation of its historical development, and balanced explorations of leading western and contextual contemporary theologians and ideas.
While occasionally I wanted a bit more criticism of the ideas presented, it seems that Kärkkäinen does not aim to critique each idea presented within the text. Instead, he presents the ideas and the criticisms that have already arisen in response to them. Nonetheless, his particular approach shines through. It can be seen in the structure of the text, that significant weight is given to contextual Christologies alongside western Christologies, and through the occasional insightful observation that he does bring in conclusion. His intention can also be seen within some of his final comments in the epilogue, where he encourages students of Christology to approach with “reverence and anticipation.”
This is an excellent – clear, succinct, and considered – introduction to Christology. Highly recommend for anyone interested in this field of study, aka studying Jesus / Christ.