Does American Christology suffer from cultural blinders?
I would imagine that there are a number of character-images of Jesus and theological perspectives that are informed by the multitude of cultural contexts that are present in America. Is this wrong? Are we short-handed by it? Are there deficiencies in our views which ought to be examined for a possibly better construction? I think that these are valid questions to be asking; some of our prominent evangelical thinkers have posed their own questions and have produced this impressive work as a result.
Brandon O’Brien wrote in a recent Christianity Today book review that “[m]ost Americans… like our Jesus triumphant and our Christianity muscular.” In the book he’s reviewing, The Suffering and Victorious Christ: Toward a More Compassionate Christology, Richard Mouw and our own Douglas Sweeney address this deficiency in American Christology. As O’Brien explains, the prevailing issue is how “we struggle to express how Christ stands in solidarity with the destitute, diseased, and disenfranchised because we fixate on the glorified Lord and forget the suffering Savior.”
O’Brien explains how the authors mine through their own traditions of Lutheranism and Calvinism, as well as a spectrum of minority 19th-century theological traditions, in search of a more compassionate Christology. He points out that Mouw and Sweeney model how to give a faithful critique of one’s own tradition, and still they identify where there are limits. Humble and constructive methods of critique allow for the sharing of certain strengths — found among Japanese and African-American Christian traditions — that rightly inform mainstream American Christology to be more compassionate.
There is no doubt that this is an academic volume, with its complex themes and scholastic vernacular. However, O’Brien states that this is the best kind of academic book because it deals with issues that are relevant and important to Christians outside of the academy. If you’re looking for a recent work that engages contemporary Christology critically and constructively, then I would encourage you to check this one out.
Editor’s Note: Two more copies of The Suffering and Victorious Christ will hit Rolfing’s shelves soon!