Gogarten – Christ the Crisis (Part II)


Here are some reflections on second half of Gogarten’s Christ the Crisis:

1) Worldly Choices – According to Gogarten, given that the world is under a sentence of doom, Jesus only had two choices: “either to despair, or to submit to the sentence of doom. Jesus chose the second alternative” (209). Jesus recognized that this was the only respectable choice given that God will righteously judged the world in all its wickedness. Jesus submitted himself to this judgment and made himself responsible for the neighbor. As Bonhoeffer says in Ethics, Jesus may have been sinless but he became guilty by associating with the condemned of the world.

2) Responsibility for the World – For one to assume responsibility before God and the world, then man must make changes. This responsibility for the world demands that man abandon his previous existence in the world. Man can no longer rely on the world for comfort. Man must trust God alone to fulfill his needs in the world. One should be reminded of the saying that “whoever loses his life finds it” (214).

3) Back to Luther – Gogarten complete his work by discussing Luther’s doctrine of Christ. Gogarten argues that Luther’s emphasis on the humanity of Christ serves to prevent “unrestrained speculation about the deity” (283). For Luther, one should begin at the “bottom” (Christology from below a la early Pannenberg) and behold the flesh of Christ. Luther was critical of the Christology of Nicea and Chalcedon insofar as they begin with the “immanent Trinity, the Trinity as it exists in itself” (285). Luther prefers to begin with the economic Trinity as the God who reveals Godself in Christ through the Holy Spirit. For Luther, “no one should know any of God apart from this man and should ‘let alone’ God and his [sic] majesty” (286). Luther wants to understand the divinity of Christ through his humanity whereas the church fathers begin with the divinity of Christ. Luther says quite pointedly, “if God himself has lowered himself [sic] in order to be comprehensible to us, it would be the most godless wantonness for man to follow the inclinations of his own mind and look for another way” (287). Luther’s Christological method obviously dovetails quite nicely with Gogarten’s project because “the person of Jesus must itself be thought of in historical terms in a way which is simply impossible with the previous theological model” (292).


3 Responses to “Gogarten – Christ the Crisis (Part II)”

  1. A.J. Smith Says:

    I really appreciated Gogarten’s emphasis on a Lutheran Christology (well, a Luther Christology really). And It really ties in well with our future Jungel reading, especially his chapter on Hegel. It should also be interesting to read the future Pannenberg, because I understand he altered slightly his Christology from below in his ST.

    This works also got me interested in Gogarten more broadly. Him and Brunner I think are forgotten men and should be academically resuscitated. How many books by either of these two are still in print?

    On another note, I think you should do a post about male pro-nouns for God. I think we could get some good discussion going. I know Jenson deals with this specifically in his ST (taking the other side than you) and I’m sure Pannenberg must mention it somewhere in his ST as well.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Agreed, I just finished the chapter on Hegel by Jungel, which was superb. We’ll have to talk about that more later, but Gogarten is clearly on the right path here. In fact, I’m quite confident that here we see the real power of Luther’s theology that clearly outflanks the theology of Calvin. Although both theologians attempt to be “Christ-centered” (although to be fair, I’m becoming increasingly suspicious when theologians use Christ as some ultimate trump card, more specfically, to which Christ is one appealing), Luther really allows the history of the God-man to drive this theology especially the cross. It doesn’t seem like Calvin really ever took the implications of death of the Son of God very seriously, which might be explained by his Christological presuppositions.

    I know Gogarten’s book on secularization is supposed to be good. Beyond that, I don’t find Bultmann that interesting although he did generate interesting followers (Gogarten, Soelle, etc).

    The question of language is one I recently addressed in my class at church on feminist theology. Jenson’s position to me seems a bit naive. Elizabeth Johnson in her great work She Who Is has already laid out a great way for how feminists can re-imagine God-talk. (Side note, I think I have written a bit about the God-talk question in some of my old posts on Liberation Theology. My main contention is that policing pronouns does little to nothing for our conception of God. It’s akin to affirmative action, insofar as it does not get to the structural problems in the Christian theology. The major problem I see is that males not only speak for God but also read the Bible in ways that often blinds them to the “feminine” attributes that are often marginalized and or misread.)

  3. Jeremy Says:

    Here’s the post I was referring to: http://jridenour.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/liberation-theology-part-ii/

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