Who Is Jesus Christ for Us Today?: A New Kind of Empericism

I thought this was a good and interesting way to summarize Ben Quash’s essay on Revelation in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology; Quash writes,


[T]he opening up of a ‘third term’ in the confrontation between the recepient(s) and the medium of revelation is something that all good theologies of revelation in the modern period have had to attempt in different ways. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has left us with what is arguably one of the most suggestive and fruitful, with his affirmation of the penultimate (the rational, empirical, social domain) in its intimate closeness-in-distinction to the ultimate. The ultimate opens opens up within the penultimate in the form of a question, as we confront and examine the phenomena of our earthly existence. It is not our own question—it is given to us. And although it is given to us phenomenally (in the penultimate), its answer is not. The questions is “Who Is Jesus Christ for us today?’ (Bonhoeffer 1966: 30: 1971: 279). This question draws us along the way of the cross into dispossessive relationship with one who is the non-circumscribable ultimate of existence. We find him incognito, ‘hidden in empirical history as empirical reality, “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3)’ (Janz 2004: 220). He is the definitive revelation of God by allowing himself to be pushed out of the world onto the cross, in this way showing us the God who is not an agent in competitive relation to other agents in the world—not just one who makes particular differences—but one who makes all the difference, in but not in addition to all the differences that there already are. [Ben Quash, 342.]

I think the most decisive thing Quash notices about ‘Revelation’ and its theory, is this: ‘It is not our own question—it is given to us….’ Christians did not invent the story for their own political purposes (to the contrary); Christians did not schematize the categories by which we approach God, they were given to us. And so we ought to allow what is given, hidden as it is, in the veil of the flesh of the Son of Man, to impede upon us in the gracious way it is given; in the Love of the manger, in the Love of the cross, in the Love of the resurrection, in the love of the new heavens and earth. Jesus Christ for us today is the same as he was for them yesterday, and as he will be for us tomorrow.

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