I wrote a paper a while back on Hans Küng’s book, On Being a Christian. An awful lot in the book, but it brought me back to the question of whether our Christology needs to be “bottom up”, or “top down”. Where is our starting point for knowing the person of Jesus Christ. Is it the Jesus of history, as best we can ascertain who he was from that vantage point, or is it the Jesus of the kerygmatic message of the Apostles? What if any is the difference? Do we know Jesus best by what we can determine from a historical-critical approach, or from the workings of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Apostle and their sucessors through the Church?
Küng clearly takes a “bottom up” approach with his historical-critical methodology. He says we cannot separate historical research from contemporary Christological problems, for to do so would further divide Christology from its roots and source of truth. He suggest that we know Jesus better today than any former generation of Christians except the first, due to our historically objective significant research. He goes on to say that historical-critical research cannot provide reasons for faith, only the message of Jesus can provide those reasons. He also believes that historical-critical research cannot destroy faith because the Jesus we believe in was a historical person.
The underlying question for many is what if the historical-critical approach does lead to the destruction of faith for some? What if it leads many into doubt and turmoil? In other words, what is its pastoral implications? Isn’t the whole purpose of theology to make more accessible the meaning of revealed truth to the people of God?
On the other hand, some might argue that a “top down”, dogmatic approach to Christology has led many into confusion and departure of faith.
So, the historical Jesus or the Jesus of the Apostolic preaching? Where does your heart lead you?
Perhaps we know Jesus better today because the Holy Spirit has led us to a deeper reflection and understanding, more so than what historical research can tell us. Küng would seem to say no. What would you say?
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