Jesus Christ - true God and true man

"I believe in Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, Our Lord" .. If faith in the "logos", the meaningfulness of being, corresponds perfectly with a tendency in the human reason, this second article of the Creed proclaims the staggering alliance of logos and sarx, of meaning and a single historical figure. The meaning that sustains all being has become flesh; that is, it has entered history and become one individual in it; it is no longer simply what encompasses and sustains history but a point in it.

According to this the meaning of all being is first of all no longer to be found in the sweep of the mind which rises above the individual, the limited, into the universal; it is no longer simply given in the world of ideas, which transcends the universal and is reflected in it only in a fragmentary fashion; it is to be found in the midst of time, in the countenance of one man. One is reminded of the moving conclusion of Dante's "Divine Comedy', where, looking on the mystery of God, in the midst of that "all-powerful love which, quiet and united, leads round in a circle the sun and all the stars", the poet discovers in blissful wonder his own likeness, a human countenance.


Theology of the Incarnation and theology of the Cross

In the history of the Christian faith two divergent lines of approach to the contemplation of Jesus have appeared again and again: the theology of the incarnation, which sprang from Greek thought and became dominant in the Catholic tradition of East and West, and the theology of the cross, which based itself on St Paul and the earliest forms of Christian belief and made a decisive breakthrough in the thinking of the Reformers. The former talks of "being" and centres round the fact that here a man is God and that accordingly at the same time God is man; this astounding fact is seen as the all-decisive one. All the individual events that followed pale before this one event of the one-ness of man and God, of God's becoming man. In face of this they can only be secondary; the interlocking of God and man appears as the truly decisive, redemptive factor, as the real future of man, on which all lines must finally converge.

Theology of the cross, on the other hand, speaks instead of the event; it follows the testimony of the early days, when people did not yet enquire about being but about the activity of God in the cross and resurrection, an activity which conquered death and pointed to Jesus as the Lord and as the hope of humanity. The differing tendencies of these two theologies result from their respective approaches.

Theology of the incarnation tends towards a static, optimistic view. The sin of man appears quite easily as a transitional stage of fairly minor importance. The decisive factor is then not that man is in a state of sin and must be saved; the aim goes far beyond any such atonement for the past and lies in making progress towards the convergence of man and God.

The theology of the cross, on the other hand, leads rather to a dynamic, topical, anti-world conception of Christianity, a conception which understands Christianity only as a discontinuously but constantly appearing breach in the self-confidence and self-assurance of man and of his institutions, including the Church.

These two great historical forms of Christian self-comprehension must remain present as polarities which mutually correct each other and only by complementing each other point towards the whole. Nevertheless, our reflections may perhaps have given us a glimpse of that unity which makes these polarities possible and prevents them from falling apart as contradictions. For we have found that the being of Christ ("incarnation" theology!) is actualitas, stepping beyond and out of oneself, the exodus of departure from self; it is not a being that rests in itself, but the act of being sent, of being son, of serving.

Conversely, this "doing" is not just "doing" but "being"; it reaches down into the depths of being and coincides with it. This being is exodus, transformation. So at this point a properly understood theology of being and of the incarnation must pass over into the theology of the cross and become one with it; conversely, a theology of the cross that gives its full measure must pass over into the theology of the Son and of being.