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Systematische Theologie: Dogmatik
Loke, Andrew Ter Ern
A Kryptic Model of the Incarnation.
Farnham u. a.: Ashgate Publishing 2014. XIV, 185 S. = Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies. Geb. £ 75,00. ISBN 978-1-4724-4573-5.
R. David Nelson
Among the more noteworthy recent trends in theological and religious studies is the attention and energy devoted by some theologians to analytic theology. Located at the intersection of dogmatic theology and philosophy of religion, analytic theology places great emphasis on virtues of discourse such as conceptual clarity, logical coherence, critical and analytical rigor, and forthrightness con-cerning problems and counterexamples. In this short, clear, and interesting book, Andrew Ter Ern Loke, research assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong, brings together the presuppositions, intellectual tools, and textual resources of analytic theology to address the incarnation.
The problem L. tackles in the volume is the apparent logical ›incoherence‹ at the heart of the Christian confession of the incarnation. At various locations in the text, he refers – unfortunately without citation or further identification – to the ›sceptic‹ as giving voice to objections against belief in the incarnation on the basis of its failure to follow the rules of logic. How – so the sceptic’s argument putatively goes – can true divinity and true humanity concur in the one person of Jesus Christ, when divinity is entails infinity, eternity, immutability, incorruptibility, in-corporeality, etc., and humanity, to the contrary of divinity, entails finitude, contingency, temporality, changeability, passibility, embodiment, etc.? Many of the stratagems observable in traditional doctrines of the incarnation, such as appeals to the categories of mystery or paradox or to the insufficiencies of human knowledge, fail to meet the challenge of logical coherency head-on, and thus put at risk the tenability of one of the central affirmations of the Christian faith. For L., it is imperative for theology to find a way to assert that the incarnation is reasonable and to thereby rebut the sceptic’s case.
L. contends that he can establish the incarnation’s logical coherence. He deploys the tools of analytic philosophy in order to chart out a counterargument to the sceptic’s objection, and it is precisely by virtue of his approach and its attendant methods that the vol-ume stands as an exercise in AT. As he describes it in dialogue with some key recent texts from the analytic theology movement, his argument is highlighted by »(a) explanatory/metaphysical ambi-tions that prioritize explanations marked by rhetorical features like clarity and (b) a commitment to the view that there are theological truths that are accessible to human beings« (12). Over the course of five body chapters, he identifies the logical problems at stake in Christian talk of the incarnation, judiciously evaluates solutions to these problems available in the theological tradition, demon-strating along the way the flaws these models variously perpe-tuate, and develops his own alternative – the ›Kryptic‹ model for Christology from which the book gets its title.
L. admits that human reason can never hope to accurately reconstruct the relation between the divine and human natures in the person of Christ. So his Kryptic model is put forth as a possible model; acceptable for now because it avoids logical pitfalls, but potentially surpassable insofar as better, presumably-more-logical models might eventually emerge. L.’s Kryptic Christology is itself a version of what he calls the Divine Preconscious Model. Accordingly, the incarnate Jesus Christ possessed a consciousness, a precon-scious (»mental contents that are not currently in consciousness but are accessible to consciousness by directing attention to them« – 66) consisting of two parts corresponding to divine and human sets of properties, and a human body (69). Jesus Christ was one agent, as he embodied only one consciousness. But since divine and human properties – classically, attributes or idioms – are sorted out in the preconscious, as one agent he was able to »utilize« them in his acts variably (150). This calculus allows L. to follow the typical approach of dividing the acts of Jesus Christ according to his natures without compromising his personal unity. Moreover, because in the incarnation the divine properties are concealed (from the Greek Krypsis; hence the name) in the preconscious, Jesus Christ can be said to possess them even though they remain hidden in his acts (e. g. he can still possess, in the preconscious, perfect di-vine knowledge, and yet, during his lifetime, grow in human knowledge; 152).
Whether L.’s argument can convince any sceptics – or, for that matter, theologians and philosophers of religion wary of the commitments of analytic theology – remains to be seen. But the book serves well as an introduction to analytic theology by way of a re-examination of the incarnation’s logic.