Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Habets, The Anointed Son: Book Review Part 1

Part 1 of the book review covers the first three chapters of Habets' The Anointed Son.

The first thing that needs to be said is that at the beggining of each chapter Habet's has provided a mouth-watering selection of quotes.  The book is probably worth buying just for those selections alone, although maybe they would need to be set over some soft focus photos of inspiring scenery or babies or something (;-)!!). 

The second thing that needs to be said is that Habets probably wouldn't divide his book this way.  The first 4 chapters constitute the prolegomena and chapters 5-8 are the constructive stuff.  But I have only read the first three chapters and I will treat the survey of NT scholarship alongside Habets' own exegesis of the NT in the next part of the review.  Which makes sense to me if only because it is my own area of specialization.  The third part of the review will cover chapters 6-8 which is where all the fun constructive theology will take place.

1 Spirit Christology: Awaiting the Promise

The first chapter sets about phrasing the question.  Habets states that this work will "introduce the doctrine, examine the various mutually exclusive proposals, and offer a constructive Trinitarian proposal." (p7)  He signals that he wants to avoid the traditional polarity between Logos and Spirit Christologies and present a Spirit Christology whitch is interwoven with, rather than seperated from, the traditional Logos Christology encapsulated in the creeds (p9).

2 Understanding Jesus: Approaches to Christology

In the second chapter Habets embarks on an extensive discussion of how function (what Christ does) and ontology (who Christ is) relate within Christology.   The discussion then moves into a defining of Christologies  from "above" and "below."  Habets is especially insistent that not all Christologies from "below" are equal.  Habets wishes to follow Gunton in asserting that while Christology may begin on the ground, it may not remain there and must move upwards (p42).  Habets suggests Kaseman and Pannenberg have helped pave the way in their own treatement of Christology.  He shares their refusal to presupose a "pre-formed Trinity" at the beggining of Christological enquiry and argues that instead the confession of Jesus' divinty (and hence the Trinity) should arise out of Christology (p43). This chapter asserts a methodology "that seeks to bridge the gulf between Jesus' humanity and divinity (the two nature Achilles heel of classical Christology) by means of the Holy Spirit." 

3 Logos and Spirit

The third chapter surveys the Christology of many of the important theologians from the Apolostolic Fathers through to Chalcedon.  Habets observes that in the early church "Spirit Christology was eclipsed by Logos Christology due to the fear of patripassianism [that God the Father suffered in Christ] . . . it enabled Christian faith to be harmonized with the fundamental principles of Greek philosophy." (p63)  This tendency is then tracked through to Chalcedon where Habets concludes, "perhaps the most serious problem with Chalcedonian Christology is that it has encouraged the wrong kind of Christology, exclusively from above.  It has encouraged the church to start with the deity of the Son of God and then to fit (the problem of his) humanity into the divinity.  At all costs the divinity must remain inviolate, while the humanity may be short changed." (pp87-88)  Thus the next task is to return to the biblical witness to uncover the Spirit Christology which has lain hidden by such historical tendencies.

I think Spirit Christology is a fascinating and important area of theological development and I am finding myself, thus far at least, in complete agreement with Habets' conclusions and approach, and, more to the point, excited for what will come next.

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