In the chapters of his book, Erikson critically examines the nature of Jesus Christ through a discussion of the most prominent theological trends and opinions. At the center of the analysis is the recognition of the historical significance of Jesus as a teacher and a man who managed, nevertheless, to build a small social influence and create only a small group of disciples around himself, in contrast to the biblical Jesus. Thus, in the context of this discussion, some of the most famous views of Christology are from above and from below ones. Christology from below implies the human origins of Jesus Christ, evaluating his historical significance through the paradigm of rational thought. Obviously, the best model for examining these views is systematic theology, seeking evidence from a variety of sources. This approach most resembles the researcher’s way, and hence Christology from below is a more critical path. Christology from above, on the other hand, describes the divine origin of Jesus. Any incoherencies, vulnerabilities, or errors are usually explained from the perspective of the divine providence of the biblical sources, and thus errors are ruled out. Jesus, in this paradigm, is presented as a divine son who was able to perform miracles and spread his incredible influence during his lifetime. Thus, it is possible to see that these are two conflicting positions that present entirely opposite views of the New Testament story.
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Nevertheless, the strategy of adhering to only one position is radically wrong because it emphasizes only one feature of Christ. Thus, Christology from below postulates complete or partial disbelief in the New Testament, which is a great sin for the true Christian. Any attempt to find errors and inaccuracies in the narrative builds a dangerous path for the believer, one in which he is prone to distrust and ultimately unrecognize God. On the other hand, an extreme deification of Jesus can lead to disconnecting him from reality and forgetting the price that man paid for all humankind. If one focuses only on Christology from above, there is an increased risk of total divine justification of all actions, including sinful ones. Thus, the desire to choose only one position is doomed to be dangerous for the Christian, and therefore such emphasis should not be encouraged.
In fact, as Erikson has shown, the two positions complement each other and serve to cover weaknesses where they can be found. The author called this approach an alternative approach because it gave rise to a third way for the Christian. Between the two branches of Christology, the alternative way creates a symbiosis, showing the historical figure of Jesus as a man endowed with divine power and will . More specifically, Christ’s life journey can be explained through a critical historical study associated with other retrospective events occurring at the time. Nevertheless, any unscientific and seemingly unbelievable miracles described by the New Testament are explained through faith and religion. It seems that this particular way, created and promoted by Erickson, is genuinely biblical, taking into account the best perspectives of the New Testament.
There is no doubt that this mode of interpretation characterizes the unity of Christological ramifications. In turn, this creates an essential direction for the contemporary Christian church since it inhibits the emergence of any radical views so dangerous to the religious community. An alternative approach allows the historical person of Christ to be viewed through several paradigms at once and thus has the potential to increase engagement and criticality of opinion. Finally, such a system of views proves to be extremely useful for preservation and more detailed study of the Bible, as it allows us to delve deeper into the study of the texts and find patterns that were previously omitted.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 3rd edition by Erickson. Ada: Baker Academic, 2013, p. 607.