Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Son of God, Eternal Savior

Churches that engage in ecumenical conversation have assumed throughout the many decades thus far that they rest on two common pieces of ancient dogma: the dogma of the Trinity and of Christ. These were settled, so understood, in 325 (Nicea) and in 425 (Chalcedon). But, as Clint writes, little has actually been settled.

Little has been settled so witness the churches' continuing difficulty in confessing Christ in the face of the concerns of modernity and now emerging post-modernity, whatever that may be. How can we answer the questions that historical investigation raises? How can labor be invested to consider not only the shared assumptions of the churches but the shared flaws? This article speaks not only about the Jesus who suffered and died but also the Eternal Son, a birth from a virgin, a person who is of two natures. It is hard not to see on the face of this article a number of myths, lsegends, and speculation run wild. These questions are those things labor requires in today's church, not so much to make intelligible this article or massage out the bad and find the concept at the root of it that we can hook up with our view of the world.

In the immediate confrontation between the evangelical parties and the Roman Catholic members of the Confutation, in the meeting between Melanchthon and others at Regensburg, in the close conversation between Thomas Cardinal Cajetan and Martin Luther, are there shared flaws? To claim that this Jesus Christ is of the same being as the eternal Father is a challenge to both parties. The concern for the evangel, the speaking of the gospel, has the potential for exploding both Melanchthon's statement here in Article III as well as much as it challenges other forms of salvation. That we are saved by another human's speaking and faith in that finds its origin in God's own speaking to us, the very Word of God, Jesus. That God speaks means that what we mean by the "two natures, divine and the human" must be considered in terms of that speaking, if we retain even the so-called "Chalcedonian settlement."

What we have inherited or what we think we know about divinity or humanity or what a nature is must be formed rather by this strange fact that human speaking, human communication is the way in which God's justice makes it advent in our lives. That this human one, Jesus of Nazareth, confronted us with the coming reign of his Father, and all that then happened, gives us pause to reconsider a new fidelity to both this article and to the ancient dogmas. Our task is to continue their work and to take seriously their authority as we throw ourselves into the job of confessing. This is why Karl Rahner entitled his analysis of Chalcedon as "Chalcedon: End or Beginning." He did so because though dogmas have authority, they do so only as they are received, developed, and given their "Amen" by the body of Chirst. Teachers, preachers, catechists, and all the baptized need to search through these important dogmas for the task of their confessing.

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