A Couple of Observations on Spirit-Christology

The past few books on Christology I’ve read all mentioned something to the effect of emphasizing a Spirit-Christology rather than emphasizing a two-natures (what might be called Chalcedonian Christology). Spirit Christology recognizes and emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s work in Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, passion, resurrection, exaltation. Chalcedonian Christology (articulating Jesus as fully human, fully divine) may focus on communicatio idiomatum–how the human and divine attributes function in the span of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, exaltation.

Those articulating a Spirit-Christology would not want to abolish categories related to Chalcedonian Christology. The authors  would suggest that Spirit-Christology allows for Jesus to be connected with the tradition of the prophets, and perhaps is more holistic than Chalcedonian-Christology. 

Both Chalcedonian Christology and Spirit-Christology have scriptural support. For the advocates of emphasizing Spirit-Christology, they see Chalcedonian Christology as focusing arguments on the natures of Jesus that could (though unintentionally) lead to harm. An example would be if only Jesus’ humanity suffers on the cross, does God really identify with humanity? How could Jesus be fully incarnate if he did not experience the suffering in both his divinity and his humanity?

What I’ve found interesting about those advocating for an emphasis on Spirit-Christology is the disparate persons who advocate for it:

  • Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, a feminist New Testament scholar, who articulates Jesus as the prophet of Sophia (Wisdom, often thought of as the Holy Spirit in Proverbs.)
  • Marcus Borg, who sees Jesus as following the Spirit resonant in his work on the historical Jesus. (Interestingly,  Schüssler Fiorenza criticizes the historical Jesus movement because of its lack of consideration of how its own paradigms include biases supported by patriarchal (she uses “kyriarchial”) frameworks. I read these works back to back, which was fun.)
  • Sammy Alfaro claims that a Spirit-Christology can help Hispanic Pentecostals articulate a Christology reflective of their context. He views Jesus as the Divino Compañero, who accompanies Hispanics in their struggles. He turns toward Hispanic Pentecostal hymns for support, perceiving a pneumatic Christology in them.
  • Jürgen Moltmann suggests an eschatological Christology can include the Spirit and hold that together with the two-natures Christology. Jesus’ ministry is inaugurated at baptism with the sending of the Spirit, and Jesus relies upon the Spirit throughout his life and work. With Moltmann, pneumatology and Christology are always interconnected with one another.

For my own work (humility and pneumatology), it seems that discussions on humility are situated within the context of Christology, and particularly kenosis (Phil. 2:5-11). An emphasis on Spirit-Christology could allow me a way to speak of humility within the loci of pneumatology, and hopefully look beyond the kenosis hymn and the crucifixion for traces of humility the doesn’t equal humiliation.

Of course, my own ideas on this are rough, but that’s a part of this process, right?


What is humility?

I’ve noticed that the word “humility” is used many times without a uniform definition. In my readings, I’ve seen it deployed in various ways. The concept of humility is why I chose to further my studies. Here’s some questions I’ve been considering that relate to humility:

Is humility a posture, virtue, ethic, something else?

How has rhetoric of humility perpetuated harm, especially on persons who have been continually humiliated in history?

Where is humility placed in theology? Where else might humility be discussed within the theological loci? (From my studies, I see the topic of humility situated within discussions on Christology.)

Is humility identical to kenosis? Why might we need language to differentiate the two?

What do we mean when we say a person is “humble”?

How is humility connected with concepts of the self? How is humility figured in the community?

Who speaks of humility? Who doesn’t speak of humility? Why is this the case?

Is the Christ hymn in Philippians 2 the best example of humility? What biblical texts may be overlooked?

How does humility connect to how we view the great cloud of witnesses? (i.e., how does humility shape how we view historical figures in Christianity? Or does it?)

How does language about humility shape how we view time in general?

When does deploying humility foreclose legitimate critique?

Ana Mercedes’s Power For: Feminism and Christ’s Self-Giving (London: T&T Clark International, 2011) details a view of kenosis that could be helpful for women. She is careful to admit ambiguities and problems related to kenosis and how they’ve been used to maintain a harmful status quo. She figures kenosis as “power for” instead of “power over.” Her work challenges me to think closely about humility.

This is a popular quote about humility. Is it faithful to the Christian tradition and helpful for the marginalized?
This is a popular quote about humility. Is it faithful to the Christian tradition and helpful for persons who have been humiliated? Source