Gogarten – Christ the Crisis (Part I)

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Here some thoughts I had on Gogarten’s Christ the Crisis CH 1-12:

1) Lutheran Christology – Gogarten begins his book discussing the Christology of Luther and its strong focus on the humanity of Christ. Luther’s Christology is reliant on scripture not on speculative metaphysics. Luther’s scriptural approach enables him to take the humanity of Christ seriously because his theology is not subservient to the rationalism of speculative ontology. Luther can think Christologically about difficulties issues like God-abandonment and suffering because his theology is not enslaved to the shackles of Greek philosophy

2) Bultmannian Christology – Gogarten discusses the way Bultmann’s Christology modifies modern Christology in two important ways. First, Jesus’ preaching is “nothing more than pure Judaism” (15). What is unique is the fact that Jesus says it now, “in the final decisive hour” (15). Second, the other modification is the “the reduction of the history of Jesus to a single event”. Both of these modificaions inevitably lead to the idea that the historicity of Jesus is “made highly questionable”.

3) Jesus Christ the Curse – Gogarten discusses St. Paul’s (Romans) notion that a sentence of doom that hangs over the world because the world has perverted “truth into lie” (68). Given this apocalyptic framework, one way for the world to be redeemed is for the sin and sentence of doom to be completely concentrated on the one person Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the lamb of God who bore the sins of the world, rescues the world from its imminent doom by bearing the guilt of the world at the cross. In fact, we can only recognize ourselves that Christ died for the sins of the world once we come to terms with the fact that he assumed the guilt that should have been “imposed upon us in our failure to attest the knowledge of God” (89).

4) Eschatological preaching – Jesus’ apocalyptic preaching departs from Jewish eschatology at a very crucial point. Jesus’ message “does not imply a change in the world to a completely different one” (102). A new cosmological world is not the horizon in the preaching of Jesus, rather Jesus ushers in “a fundamental new attitude of man to God, which is wholly determined by rule of God over men”.

5) The Oppressed – Gogarten believes that we can understand Jesus’ special ministry to the marginalized only if we place it within the eschatological framework. He argues that the oppressed have “the advantage of not being so bound to the present world as the others” (125). Given that they are not “entangled in the present world”, they have the opportunity to get unplugged from the imminent doom that hangs over all those who are enslaved to the powers and principalities.

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4 Responses to “Gogarten – Christ the Crisis (Part I)”

  1. Ben Griffith Says:

    Another helpful summary.

    I’m interested in this phrase: “Luther’s scriptural approach enables him to take the humanity of Christ seriously because his theology is not subservient to the rationalism of speculative ontology.”

    Is this your description or just a summary of Gogarten’s argument?

    I’m wondering what about a “scriptural approach” makes a Christology less speculative than ontological arguments.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Gogarten argues that the early church’s commitment to the two-natures of Christ did not enable it to think of “the human nature of Christ as unimpaired” (1). The church fathers were not able to think of Jesus’ abandonment by God as effecting his divinity because they “were not able to conceive of the unity of man and God in Jesus in such a way that it maintained the whole manhood of Christ” (2). They often attempted to explain away Jesus’ cry of dereliction, which to be fair, is perhaps THE riddle of Christology and theology as a whole. Luther, according to Gogarten, wanted to return to scripture to speak about God’s action. Luther is not concerned about knowing God’s “existence and his [sic] being in itself” (5).

  3. Jeremy Says:

    Scripture forces us to come to terms that are quite vulgar such as the humiliation of God, the abandonment of God, and the flesh of the God-man. These scriptural pronouncements are often difficult to make sense of as they bring us to the difficult truth of “God against God” (Barth, CD IV/1).

  4. Jeremy Says:

    Returning to your question, I don’t think Luther can necessarily avoid ontological statements. Rather, he does not want to go behind the back of the man Jesus of Nazareth to begin speaking about God. Theology must continually start in the historicity (note, I don’t mean historical Jesus studies) of Jesus’ life to speak about God. Luther used the Word of God to help him speak about God and shied away from abstract ontological speculations to ground his God-talk. Obviously, both the church fathers and Luther speak ontologically about God, it’s simply that Luther’s approach does not prevent him from attributing to Jesus realities that are difficult to integrate into a tight metaphysicaly system (i.e. Jesus’ suffering, ignorance, abandonment, death, etc).

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