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Systematische Theologie: Dogmatik


Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti


Christ and Reconciliation.


Grand Rapids u. a.: Wm. B. Eerdmans 2013. 457 S. = A ConstructiveChris­tian Theology for the Pluralistic World, 1. Kart. US$ 40,00. ISBN 978-0-8028-6853-4.


Dhawn B. Martin

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen’s Christ and Reconciliation is the first vol-ume in a series by Eerdmans entitled: A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World. The book and series’ titles effectively convey the major themes and horizons addressed in the body of the text. The anticipated volumes include: Trinity and Revela-tion (2014), Creation and Humanity, Spirit and Salvation, and Community and Future. It would be erroneous, however, to conclude from the other volume titles that topics, such as salvation or Spirit, are reserved for later exploration by K. Christ and Reconciliation is a systematic work that plumbs the interrelatedness of doctrinal loci, voiced through a passionate commitment to the creeds, confes-sions, histories and diversities of the Christian tradition.
Christ and Reconciliation, resonant with the trajectories of K.’s previous works, attends to Christian theologies’ global locations amid and encounters »with other living faiths« (292) and with academic disciplines. The text undertakes the theological task, which, as K. defines it, is a rigorous intellectual and spiritual endeavor, »an integrative discipline« founded upon »Christian truth and faith« (13). This discipline draws upon the resources of traditional Chris­tian professions, biblical studies, religious studies, theology of religion, comparative theology, and »external spheres« of research. Yet it also rejects movements to create »a ›pan-religious‹ mixing« that waters down the commitments of any living faith; K. is thus soundly »contra« any pluralism that calls individuals to abandon core beliefs in the name of facile harmonies (24.26.210–235). Christ and Reconciliation is, therefore, a work that strives to engage in hos-pitable dialogue with diverse bodies of faith and knowledge, yet, at the same time, to remain steadfast to the confessional identity of Christian traditions, historical and contemporary.
Hospitality serves as a primary methodological dynamic in Christ and Reconciliation. A hospitable methodology endeavors not only to encounter others in their own terms – be it a living tradi-tion or contemporary frame of thought – but also to engage in open, mutual, and trust-filled conversation. A corollary methodological dynamic to the practice of hospitality is the use of metaphor as an interpretive frame. K. discovers in the metaphoric a useful tool that speaks simultaneously to the constructed, and therefore provision­al, meaning of human words, and to the »polyphonic truth« that dwells beyond and behind metaphors (8). The hospitable and metaphoric promise a dynamic methodology that, while rooted in the truth of the Christian faith, nevertheless seeks to engage in mu-tual exchanges with other faiths (primarily, in this case, with Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism) and other disciplines.
K., Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, divides this work into two sections, »Christ« and »Reconciliation.« This seeming division of the person (Christology) and work (soteriology) of Jesus Christ, is far from static; but rather, in the spirit of the Chalcedonian creed, attests to a relationship between this particular identity and work that is without confusion, change, division, or separation. The introduction to the work, thus, challenges impulses to divide, prioritize, or isolate traditional categories developed to express human encounters with the second person of the Trinity, whether those categories be the person and work of Jesus Christ, a Christology framed »From Below« or »From Above« or designations of the fully human/fully divine natures of Christ. Nevertheless, the text need start somewhere, and that is with the person of Jesus Christ.
The first section of the text delves into doctrinal, confessional, and constructive articulations of the Christ event. This survey, as with each historical and doctrinal survey presented within Christ and Reconciliation, aims toward depth and breadth of presentation. Take, for example, the third chapter of the work, »Jesus in the Matrix of Diverse Global Contexts and Challenges.« Across a mere twenty-seven pages, K. engages multiple theological discourses and living traditions ranging from African Christologies and the fecund resonances these Christologies discover between New Tes­tament metaphors and African contexts, feminist theological challenges to the power structures attending God »he« language, the methodologies of hybridity deployed by postcolonial theologies, and to liberation theologies that situate Jesus Christ and Christian activism in the midst of earthly struggles for justice. A sampling of the scholars discussed in this chapter include John Onaiyekan, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Elizabeth Johnson, Marcella Althaus-Reid, James Cone, J. Doetis Roberts, Gustavo Gutierrez, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, A. P. Nirmal, and Kwok Pui-lan. Central to each of K.’s engagements with these scholars, their traditions and disci-plines, is the Chalcedonian affirmation of Jesus Christ as the fully human, fully divine Son of God.
As noted earlier, the biblical canon and Christian tradition, together with the classical confessions and creeds, set the confessional horizon of Christ and Reconciliation, a horizon attuned to the metaphoric densities and elasticities of language. Yet when faced with Althaus-Reid’s call for an expanded horizon for Christology, as evident in her discussions of a »Bi/Christ,« K. rejects this particular metaphoric latitude as too transgressive, as neither reflective of ­tradition nor meaningful to »most« (84). The response to Althaus-Reid’s work is symptomatic of a recurrent methodological stance in K.’s work: hospitality has its limits.
The reconciliation section of the text is parallel in design and tone to the first, marked by expansive surveys, commitment to Christian truths, and a methodology of the metaphoric and hospitable, together with its horizons and limits. Reconciliation, in brief, encompasses the salvific work of God. This salvation, however, is neither bound solely to the cross of Christ nor restricted to the work of the second person of the Trinity. Counter, then, to constrictive models of salvation that view atonement only through the lens of the cross, K. – concurrent with the work of liberation and postcolonial theologies – affirms the salvific efficacy of the bodily life of Jesus Christ. In addition to his atoning earthly life, the ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ are linked, by K., to the work of salvation.
Review of the roots and trajectories of »classical« atonement theories, Christus Victor, substitution, and moral exemplar, to name three, begins this section and determines the content of the remainder of the work, which explores atonement theories in conversation with contemporary examinations of topics »such as violence, power, and inclusivity« (292). K., in his work with and revi-sion of certain elements in these theories conveys a twofold objective: first, to accentuate the continuing saliency of tradition in the face of contemporary challenges; and second, to discover common grounds between Christianity and other living traditions, in par-ticular, resonances related to the doctrines of incarnation, Christol-ogy and reconciliation.
Throughout Christ and Reconciliation, K. stresses that God’s work – be it incarnation or salvation—is the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Two primary theological voices shape the tenor of the text, Wolfhart Pannenberg and Jürgen Moltmann, with insights appreciatively drawn from Karl Barth, Kathryn Tanner, andN. T. Wright, to name but a few. This systematic theology would serve well the purposes of an advanced seminar in seminary classrooms. A methodology of metaphor and hospitality warrants extended study; so, too, however, does K.’s at times inhospitable review of other works, including those of Ruether, the early works of Cone, John Hick, John Cobb, and Althaus-Reid. Frequently K. dismisses a work or argument as »unnuanced« (Ruether, 242; Cobb, 214), »rhetoric« (Cone, 84.375), or a »linguistic gimmick« (Hick, 226). Part of the problem with these dismals is that K. attempts too much in a limited space. Recall the scope of chapter 3. K.’s quest for breadth, while illustrative of the diversity of voices shaping ­Christian discourses and their encounters with other traditions, too readily condenses complex arguments. This reductionist move, particularly when engaging theological perspectives counter to his own, mars the overall hospitable and compelling prac-tices of K.’s work.