The Divine and Human Aspects of Christ in Hymns

From the outset it may be pointed out that there is no Christmas hymn, at least as presented in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal, which does not refer to the divinity of Christ. This may or may not probably be by design, but it is apparent that Christmas carol/hymn writers were informed by a christology that heavily leaned towards Christ’s divinity.

Having said that, Hymns that elevate the divinity of Christ such as 276 acknowledge the Jesus as an infant, but quickly qualifies that infant as “holy”. The hymn continues with very strong ideas of Christ’s divinity by saying statements such as “little knowing Christ, the child is Lord”; angels pictured as creating an environment of worship with “singing” and ringing of bells. Also hymn 267 is nothing but shouts for joy about the Lord who has come. if one does not read carefully they may miss the fact that this is about an infant.

Looking at the humanity of Jesus, hymns such as 296 paint a familiar picture about the child ‘s humanity, lying on mother’s “lap”, with the heavy presence of human tools like “nails, spear…” and familiar creatures, except angels. Though he is King, but “shepherds guard” him. Also, hymn 277 presents a picture of a little baby, born in poverty possibly since there is “no crib”, “the stars in the bright sky …” being witnesses, as though it is nothing special.

Engaging Contemporary Soteriologies

Considering Merit Trelstad’s “Ontological covenant” in relation to the sermon sample i presented in class, i would not see the need to adjust any of the soteriologies employed therein, since in my view the idea of God’s being in relation with humanity is vividly exemplified in the suffering of Christ in solidarity with the suffering humanity. ┬áThis relationship between humanity and God makes it possible for God to suffer together with us. Also, the idea of God being “present and encouraging…” ( Trelstad, pg. 116) involves God in humanity’s suffering.

Again, as far as Mary J. Streufert’s concept of “maternal sacrifice”, my sermon does agree with this view in that Schneider’s reading of Mary Magdalene and Jesus after Jesus’ resurrection indicates Jesus pointing Mary’s attention not to Jesus’ “restored” body, but for her and other disciples to “…look to each other to find the glorified Jesus Christ” (Streufert, pg. 74). This was precisely the call of the sermon, that as we identify with each other in suffering, we begin to make sense of Christ’s presence with us in the salvific sense.

Christologies in Setting 5 of the ELW

The idea of forgiveness of sin is the basis of the whole section of “Gathering”, suggesting the Atonement through Satisfaction model. This is exemplified by statements like, “…who forgives all sins” (pg 342), and “…cleanse the thoughts of our hearts… that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name through Jesus Christ our Lord” (pg 343).

There are also statements like, “…we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves” which suggest the Christus Victor model. Furthermore, in the Thanksgiving for Baptism, statements such as “By water and your Word you claim us as daughters and sons”, “we praise you for the gift of water that sustains life” (pg 345) suggest a Christus Victor model.

In the Nicene Creed, the statement, “For us and for our salvation he came…” (pg 352) may suggest a Christus Victor model, but further when it says “for our sake he was crucified” (pg 352) it suggests a Sacrificial model.

The Lenten Great Thanksgiving also alludes to the Sacrificial model when it talks of the “paschal feast” (pg 361). Besides, the second statement of Preface 5 seems to be a mixture of the Christus Victor and the Sacrificial models (pg 374).

Lastly, the Sending prayer’s second statement of the first paragraph seems to suggest a Moral Exemplar model when it says, “As you sent the angel… assist those… to share…” (pg 385).

My Contentions with Theodicy

How can God leave us as a Zimbabwean nation to languish under the Mugabe dictatorship for all his adult life, without any hope in sight as he continuously steals elections unabated? As if the oppression itself was not enough; he and his government have lost the plot in governance, as evidenced by the 90% unemployment rate to date. We are tired of this endless oppression.

But how can i understand this crisis theologically, and how can i deal with it? Well, it maybe that God is the omnicause in this situation; that God is the one who anointed Robert Mugabe and his ruling party, and that God knows what God is doing with us. But these guys are corrupt and uncaring.

Or it could be that God’s ways are not our ways; that what we think of as freedom is probably lack of freedom Coram Deo?? In this case we better stay put and let God be God. In any case who are we to question God?

Alternatively, we may take the view that God has empowered us to act freely in dealing with this monstrous regime. But due to the overpowering nature of dictatorship the nation has been disempowered from acting to liberate ourselves. Nonetheless, in due course God will intervene through nature, seeing how feeble we are to withstand this oppressor on our own. We simply need to continue putting our little efforts towards the democratisation of our country until God overpowers us with God’s saving intervention.

 

Traditional Versus Contemporary Views on Imago Dei

McGrath has published part of a letter written by Pelagius in 413 in which Pelagius argues very persuasively for the idea of free will. He argues that humans’ complaints about God’s commandments have the following implications: a) God does not understand God’s creation (in this case, humans); b) God does not even understand God’s commandments and how difficult they are; c) if God understands both God’s creation and God’s commandments, then God is cruel. In other words, for Pelagius, by raising these complaints, humanity is putting God’s credibility on the line. Surely, if God is good and perfect, humanity must, with necessity, reflect that, since humans are God’s image. This argument was properly set out in terms of defending God’s credibility, because how can an imperfect image reflect a perfect object?

 

Alternatively, people like Amos Yong would not have thought it necessary that humans be perfect for God to remain perfect and good. It is actually self-evident in human life experiences that humans are not perfect. The complaints that Pelagius is pointing out as being raised indicate the lack in willingness to exercise that free will, which lack is actually an indication of imperfect free will.

Rather, for Yong, it is not the quality of the body that determines the Imago Dei, but the presence of the Holy Spirit who facilitates a relationship between a human being and God – who is the marker of the Imago Dei. So the bottom line question becomes, “can a human being relate with God?