December 31, 2006

Low Christology: Everything old is "new" again.

Gentle Reader: During my dissident days I was heavily exposed to Catholics (including clergy and religious) who stated their belief in "low christology". I would hear things like: "I believe in the Jesus of low christology".

Friends, when you hear a Catholic say that they essentially believe in Jesus Christ only through the lens of low christology, run like the devil is after you.

What is low christology?

Low christology thinks of Jesus as primarily, if not entirely, human. It basically ignores or denies Jesus' divinity. Low christologists like to think of Jesus as pretty much a regular guy. If you and I work really hard at it, we can be exactly like Jesus. Jesus was a prophet, a high priest, the son of man and a teacher. They like the Jesus of the Beautitudes but pretty much ignore the Transfiguration. Jesus was a rebel who subverted the dominent paradigm. He was a "forward thinker" who spoke to an adulterous woman, but they ignore his final message to her: "go and sin no more". His miracles are nice but present difficulties. A couple of favorite authors of this crowd are: John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. Liberation theology flirts with it too. Furthermore, I think you can pick up any just about any issue of America or Commonweal and read low christology.

In my humble opinion, low christology is perilously close, if not exact, to Arianism. Arianism was a heresy of St. Ambrose's time. Many Bishops, clergy and faithful subscribed to it. It's named after a Bishop named Arius. The Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. combated, or attempted to combat, the heresy by giving us the Nicene Creed. Pope St. Sylvester who's Feast day is today, convened the council.

I am not studied in high christology so if anyone wants to add or educate me about high christology feel free to do so in the comments.

At the end of the day, as Catholics, we must believe in the revealed truth of the Hypostatic Union. If it can be expressed as a formula it is as follows:

J = (DP)+(DN)+(HN)

J = Jesus
DP = Divine person
DN = Divine nature
HN = Human nature

Lest anyone think I'm some kind of theological genius (well, if you read this blog you know that's not true!), the formula is not mine. Deep curtsy to Father Robert Altier. I "lifted" the formula from his Fundamentals of Catholicism course. I have taken the course twice because, God knows, I need it.

I find it fascinating that 1700 years have passed and the Church is still fighting the same battle. Yet, most low christologists, that I know, think they have really stumbled upon something new. It's not new and it's not acceptable.


Blogger Angela Messenger said...

Thanks for sharing that Cathy - I learned something new today!

I guess "Buddy Jesus" is as low as one can get in regard to low christology.

December 31, 2006 11:37 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Me, too. I never have heard the term "low christology." But I am somewhat familiar with "The Jesus Project" which is the the attempt, among other things, to provide natural causes to all of Jesus' miracles.

[Snow alert! It's only 2:47 p.m. and a glance out the window tells me it looks like we might have a "White New Years Eve"]!

My favorite explanation that comes out of the JPG (Jesus Project Gang) is how the miracle of the loaves and fishes came out. Jesus didn't miraculously create more food. He convinced the 10,000 folks that had pita bread and perch hidden away in their togas and burkas to share with those who forgot to bring lunch.

Somehow, these people believe that God could create the universe out of nothing, but creating a lunch is beyond his abilities.

December 31, 2006 2:53 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ray: LOL! I wander how JPG explain the Wedding at Cana. "Oh, the bridegroom forgot he had a bunch of wine stashed in the storeroom and it so happens Jesus found it"

December 31, 2006 4:02 PM  
Blogger Adoro Te Devote said...

These people are heretics, without a doubt.

And if they ever READ the Wedding at Caana, they would realize that passage alone blows "low christology" completely to smithereens.

As far as the heresies go, well, they are the same now as they were after the time of Christ; they have not changed, only the trappings used to express them have changed. Even in Acts, Gnosticism reard its ugly head under the leadership of Simon the Magician, causing confusion as the early Church was under the leadership of Simon Peter; new converts weren't sure which was the Pope and which was the Anti-Pope.

And some of the heresies were so subtle that people wandered into their sects without realizing they had left the fold. For example; Montanism. It seemed fine on the surface, but then took a detour with a few teachings, then a few more.

People need strong teachings that strongly denounce the heresies which are still among us.

Great post!

December 31, 2006 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"low christology" that is the theology of St. Joan of Arc In Mpls if I'm not mistaken?

January 01, 2007 2:41 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

anonymous: Pretty much.

January 01, 2007 7:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan from SMU said...

Cathy, I tried to find an email to write this, but couldn't.

I appreciate what you are going for here, but Low Christology by definition says that Jesus is divine. It means that in our understandably imperfect expression of the enormity of Jesus Christ, those expressions that depict more of Jesus' humanity get named Low Christology. It's not a derogatory term; it's descriptive. The gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke are considered depictions of Low Christology, simply because although it is clear they claim that Jesus is the Anointed, the Messiah, the Son of God, and thereby divine, they pay more attention to his human nature. John is clearly High Christology; his balance falls on the Divinity side.

You can prefer High Christology expressions, but people holding low and high Christologies are both holding that Jesus Christ is fully human and divine. The difference lies in the recognition that the human expression of the fullness of God is inherently imperfect.

Having said that...I agree with you that Crossan and Borg cross the line. They aren't doing Low Christology...they're denying that Jesus is God. That is a big difference, I think.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post...I hope you don't mind getting my two cents.

January 01, 2007 3:45 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Susan: Actually, from what I've read Mark is considered Low Christology and Matthew and John are High. Not sure where "they" would put Luke.

I accept that your definitions may be the technically perfect ones. However, I think the low christologists that I have actually known come perilously close to denying Jesus is God. What I went for in the post was my lived and observed personal experience of low christology

I do not personally prefer low over high or high over low. The ideal is understanding and accepting the Hypostatic Union which I strive to do.

January 01, 2007 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Susan from SMU said...

"I do not personally prefer low over high or high over low. The ideal is understanding and accepting the Hypostatic Union which I strive to do."

Yes, I agree.

January 01, 2007 8:42 PM  
Anonymous sue said...

How did Jesus feed the multitudes? He passed around lefse and lutefisk and everyone said "No thanks,I'm full!"

January 04, 2007 11:27 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Sue: As well they should have! I did not know Jesus was a Norwegian.

January 04, 2007 1:06 PM  
Anonymous sue said...

Yes,Jesus was Norwegian.I saw it on 'The Mysteries of the Bible' on TV. BTW I enjoy your blog.I have only been Catholic since 2004 and I'm still trying to learn everything!

January 04, 2007 2:16 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Sue: Well, I've supposedly been Catholic since 1968 and I certainly don't know everything about the Faith. It is a rich faith. I think you could spend your entire life on it and not know it entirely. That can be the beauty of it too.

Thanks for your comments.

Welcome to the Faith. May God Bless You.

January 04, 2007 2:37 PM  

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