Over the last three weeks, the Brazos Fellows have been studying Christology–how Christians have understood the person, nature, and work of Christ. It’s a topic that, over the course of several hundred years in early Christianity, occupied the church’s greatest thinkers, sparked some of the most intense and heated controversies, and led to the foundational creeds of our faith.
To study Christology isn’t easy work! In addition to reading overviews of this doctrinal development, the fellows have been poring over influential texts from the fourth and fifth centuries: Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, Cyril of Alexandria’ On the Unity of Christ, and Gregory of Nazianzus’ On God and Christ. Thankfully, we’ve done this work with the help of a great team of instructors, including graduate students Cody Strecker, Nicholas Krause, and Alex Fogleman, as well as Baylor professor Junius Johnson.
These fantastic teachers have not only helped us unpack the intricacies and distinctions of classic Christological texts, but also helped us grasp their importance. We’ve learned just what is at stake in our doctrine of Christ. For the church fathers, salvation hinges on who exactly Christ is–fully divine and fully human. Quite truly, then, our salvation is what is at stake. Or, as Gregory of Nazianzus puts it:
That which [Christ] has not taken up he has not saved. He saved that which he joined to his divinity. If only half of Adam had fallen, then it would be possible for Christ to take up and save only half. But if the entire human nature fell, all of it must be united to the Word in order to be saved as a whole.
Nazianzan’s words ring all the more true in light of the theological deficit in the North American church. As a recent study shows, nearly 80% of American evangelicals believe Christ to be a created being, holding the age-old heresy of Arianism! We have to admit that we’re simply not doing a good job of theological catechesis. It’s time to recover both the ancient practices of catechesis and the richness of creedal Christology.