The Doctrine of Christ (part 1)

March 17, 2008     Time: 00:49:18


Craig relates interesting experiences from Europe debates and travel. Introduction to The Doctrine of Christ series. Jesus is truly God and truly Man. Studying Jesus using "Christology from above" or "Christology from below" method.

I was on a trip this last week – a one week debating and speaking tour to Germany and England that I’d like to share a little bit with you about because it was really quite a remarkable event. It was sponsored by the European Apologetics Network which is a group that has been hosting for the last three years apologetics conferences in Hungary and inviting young promising Christian apologists from all over Europe – about 25 different countries – to come to Hungary to receive training in apologetics during this summer conference. One of the visions that they got in the course of that conference was to have a sort of debating and speaking tour that I would do at various European universities to provide kind of evangelistic apologetic outreach that they could put on in their own country. This was the first year that we tried to do this. The two countries that stepped forward and said were ready to host an event were Germany and Great Britain.

I flew over last Saturday to London, spent a night there to kind of recover from the jet lag a little bit, and the next morning flew on to Munich. For the next five days, every day I would travel in the morning and then debate in the evening and sleep in the afternoon. It was a very, very hectic and rigorous schedule.

The first debate was at the Technical University in Munich and was hosted by a young Christian philosopher and theologian there named Daniel von Wachter. My opponent was a German philosopher named Norbert Hoerster. This was in German. I did my doctorate at the University of Munich so it was kind of coming home there, but my German is kind of rusty. So I really rehearsed and practiced a lot for this and hoped that I could listen to his German as he spoke very rapidly enough to be able to understand what he was saying and then offer a response.

When I arrived there, Daniel had booked a huge hall – a great lecture hall – and I thought this really shows vision on his part. But he said to me, I don’t have any idea how many people are going to come to this. He introduced me to a couple of Christian students and a couple of Christian professors and said let’s go pray before the event begins. We went into this empty room and prayed. One of the Christian professors prayed like this: “Oh, Lord, please send people to this debate this evening so that the hall will not be almost empty.” I thought ye have little faith! It is sort of what you have to do – lower your expectations – when you are in Europe. Before I left, Jan said to me you have to remember what Europe is like. If 25 or 30 people show up, you can’t be discouraged. You’ve got to just understand it is much more secular there, and you just minister to those that come. I was trying to keep those expectations in view.

When we went into the room, they introduced me to Norbert Hoerster and we both sat down and spread out our materials. People then began slowly filing into the auditorium. Pretty soon it was half full. I thought this is great. They still kept coming and coming. Finally, Daniel von Wachter got up to the front and he said, “Please everyone scoot to the middle so that people sitting in the isles will have some place to sit.” So everybody moved in, and then people filled up those side seats. In the end virtually every seat in the auditorium were taken. There were only a couple in the front row on the end that weren’t taken. Almost every seat was filled. So the German Christian students and faculty who were involved in putting this on were just elated. They were so excited to see that this many people would come to this event.

It was interesting when they introduced us, because I hold doctorates in philosophy and theology from the University of Birmingham in England and the University of Munich in Germany.[1] What I didn’t realize when they introduced Hoerster is that he also has two earned doctorates. I thought, wow, there is four earned doctorates between the two debaters here tonight. But then they introduced Daniel von Wachter who was the moderator and it turns out Daniel has doctorates that he earned at Oxford University and the University at Munich. So the three participants in the debate that night represented six earned doctoral degrees. I thought, man, only in Germany do you have that kind of academic firepower on display. It was really unusual.

The debate was on the existence of God. Having read Hoerster’s material in advance I figured he would bring up the problem of evil. So I prepared a very thorough response to that. Sure enough, that is exactly what he brought up. I just went through the logic of the problem. The same logic I’ve explained in this class when we went through this, showing how there is no logical contradiction and how the attempt to defend hidden premises that would bring out the contradiction is unsuccessful, and then actually showing how you can show that God and evil are logically consistent.

Poor Professor Hoerster hadn’t heard any of this. He was not familiar with the current cutting edge work in Anglo-American philosophy of religion. That is the huge difference, I think, between the Europe and the US. Over there, philosophy of religion is utterly undeveloped. There aren’t really very many, if any, Christian philosophers. So what passes for good work in this area is really superficial, popularistic arguments that might move laypeople but really you couldn’t publish it in an Anglo-American philosophy journal or professional theology journal. He just wasn’t really in a position to defend his argument anymore.

Then we went to Q&A and had a really good time interacting with the German students. The last question was something about religious experience and how does this affect you personally. So I was able to close out the evening by telling my story of Christ, how he entered my life as a sixteen year old. Many of you heard that before. That just really seemed to connect emotionally with the students in the audience. One afterwards came up to me and said, “The best thing you shared all night was your testimony at the end.” Don’t underestimate the power of sharing your testimony. I go into these debates and share the arguments, but again and again it is the personal testimony that seems to really connect with people.

That debate went very well. Everyone was really excited about the result of that.

The next morning I flew up to Düsseldorf for a debate that evening at Heinrich Heine Universitat. This debate, unfortunately, was almost the exact opposite of what happened in Munich. In this debate they had booked a huge hall and only about 25, 30, 40 people showed up. The attendance was quite disappointing. The opponent in this debate – his name was Dr. Schmidt-Salomon – is the head of a kind of free thought society in Germany called the Giordano Bruno Foundation. Bruno was a guy burned at the stake for heresy so they founded a foundation in his honor to promote free thought and things like this.

This fellow, again, was not a sophisticated philosopher in terms of grasping the issues. But what he would do is get up and denounce religion for all the persecution and the Crusades and he denounced Christianity for all the evil in the world. These things that resonate with your typical, secular German student who hates Christianity because of all the evil and persecution and so forth it has done in the world. Then he would say things about my arguments that were just completely false. He would say they were logically fallacious, that they weren’t formulated correctly, that I failed to make these distinctions. But the problem was he said this all in his second speech, so I didn’t have a chance to respond to it, because the way they had the format was they had a first speech from each and then a second speech from each and then immediately to Q&A. So I had no opportunity to respond to all these false allegations. It was very frustrating to me.

During the Q&A time these students, instead of asking questions about the arguments, would ask questions about kind of the hobby horses that they were riding when they came in that night. You know the typical questions: how can you say a loving God can send people to hell? Or, what about all the hypocrites in the church? They didn’t even need to have heard the debate in order to ask these kinds of questions.[2]

Finally I said, “You know, the objections that Dr. Schmidt-Salomon has offered to my arguments are all fallacious. I can answer all of them easily. But I need the opportunity. Will someone please ask me a question about one of these arguments?” Still, nobody asked any question about those things. I was just very frustrated.

Afterward, the fellow who put it on, an American missionary named Daniel Goering (a German name but he’s an America), said these German students just aren’t trained to think about these things. Probably for many of them they just didn’t know how to ask a question. They didn’t even know how to think of a question. I think the hostile ones in the audience didn’t want to hear the answer, frankly, to his objections.

I came away from that debate feeling very frustrated and spent a very fitful night sleep that night as you can imagine. It wasn’t just the jet lag. But these arguments and his responses kept going over and over in my mind again. I just found it really difficult to sleep. What I did finally say in the debate that I hope will be somewhat helpful is that my actual responses to his arguments, and his to mine, are longer than what we could actually present in the oral debate because we only had 10 minutes for a response. So we are going to be posting these longer texts in German on a website in Germany where people can go to them and read them. So I encouraged the students that when they do this they should take his speech and my speech and put them side-by-side. I said if you do this and look at them carefully I think you will see that in every case his responses don’t even mesh with my arguments. They don’t respond to them at all. So I am hoping this written transcript will reach far more people than the actual debate did. Only 30 or so people actually heard the debate. I think when you look at these arguments and the debate in what’s called a cool medium – namely, a print medium – rather than in a hot medium of an oral live presentation that it will be much more clear, I think, where the truth lies in these arguments. So I do think that is one good thing that came out of that debate in the end, but it was very frustrating for me.

I knew I couldn’t spend time thinking about the past – I had a debate the next day. I had to go on to Oxford. I just tried to focus on the future. I flew off the next morning to England where my contact there, Roger Preiss, met me at Heathrow Airport and picked me up and drove me to Oxford. Roger is a terrific fellow. He is a former businessman who worked in the financial district in London and a fairly high roller kind of guy in London financial circles. But he is a devoted Christian and he felt that God was calling him into the Anglican ministry as an Anglican minister. So he has left his business, sold their house, moved to Oxford, and he is now enrolled in St. Steven’s Hall, which is an Anglican college and part of the University of Oxford where he is taking Orders in the Anglican Church. Roger took a real interest in trying to use his business entrepreneurial skills to put together the events in Oxford. You could really see those professional skills coming out in the events that he organized at that university.

He didn’t want to have the events at Oxford be Christian sponsored events. He wanted them to be events that were officially hosted by the university. That was his goal – to work through the ropes, pull the strings necessary, to get the university to sponsor me in these various events. The first thing he was able to do through contacts with a Christian professor was get me into a class at Oxford University – a seminar – that was taught by Professor John Hedley Brooke. Brooke is a very famous historian of science who does work on Isaac Newton and whose work I quoted in my own work on God and time when I was looking at Newton’s view on God and time. So I knew Brooke’s work. The idea of speaking in this man’s seminar was just a thrill if that could come about. It turns out Brooke also knew my work. He was very impressed, I guess, with it because he was just effusive in saying, “Oh, we are so thrilled to have Dr. Craig come and speak in our class.” And on and on and on like this.[3] So it was just an open door for me to speak in this seminar. I spoke to the students on God and time and the Special Theory of Relativity. I don’t think they were expecting a Christian speaker from Talbot School of Theology to deal with these things on this kind of sophisticated scientific level. That seminar went very good. Professor Brooke was just really over the top in his enthusiasm and thankfulness for my coming. I think that was a strategic kind of meeting in terms of opening the academic door at Oxford University for what they want to do in the future with me if I should come back there for more outreaches. There is now some academic credibility established in the faculty with a key figure. So that was very good. That was Wednesday afternoon.

Then I went Wednesday night to the Theology Society at Oxford University to give a speech to them. This Theology Society is not a Christian group. It is an official organ of the university. But it is very interesting. There are lots of American evangelicals studying at Oxford. I was just amazed at the number of American evangelical students that I was introduced to there. These American evangelical students have more or less taken over the leadership of this Theology Society. All of the leaders in this Society were American evangelical Christians except one Russian girl who was also an evangelical who had come to Christ, and she was on the committee with these Americans. So no Brits at all. One of them was a graduate of Biola University who was a good friend of Charity, our daughter! So that was just an immediate contact. They set up an evening meeting for me to speak on the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. They booked as big a room as they could get for this.

Roger warned me in advance that the Theological Society usually only has 20 people come to their meetings. He said if you get 30 people you are not allowed to be disappointed in the attendance. 30 people, you’ve got to be pleased with that. I said all right, I won’t complain or be disappointed if we get 30 people. That night when we walked into the room, it was wall-to-wall people. You could hardly even turn around. They must have squeezed over 300 people into this little room. They were sitting on the floor in front of the stage. They were sitting on the stage around us. They were out the door listening in the hall. A lot of people just had to be turned away.

What they did to make the meeting more interesting was they had an Oxford New Testament professor respond briefly to my paper. His name was Muddiman. He didn’t muddy the waters, though maybe that was sort of a fit with his name. Muddiman was not a radical liberal; not a raving liberal. He was just a little bit kind of off to the left. It made it a very interesting evening because it wasn’t real confrontational with a real skeptic. But it was very collegial. He disagreed with me on certain points, and then I was invited to give my response to him. I got up and then showed why I thought he was mistaken and where, in fact, the points I made were good points. It was fun. It was humorous. It was light-hearted. He said at one point, in response to my argument that the resurrection of Jesus is necessary in order to explain the origin of the Christian faith, “I don’t think you should put all your eggs in one basket.” I responded to that, “Well, I do think there are, of course, other factors in the claims of Christ and his life, but really it is the resurrection that is key. And as for putting all my eggs in one basket, well, at least they are Easter eggs.” He even had a good laugh at that. It was a very collegial time; very nice.

Then they threw it open to the students for questions. Unlike the students, say, in Düsseldorf, these students at Oxford posed questions directly on what was said – on the lecture that was given and the response to it. They were very analytical, direct, really good questions. They not only challenged me, but some of them challenged Muddiman as well on what he was saying. There were a couple of girls in the audience that really held his feet to the fire. I was very proud of them. I thought, “I’m not going to say anything; I’m just going to sit here and let these girls take this guy on.”

Again, they were just thrilled with the response and with how the evening went. Just the warmth and the credibility of the defense of the resurrection.[4] Afterward, Roger said to me, What made this talk so different is that these Oxford students, when they hear a professor talk about the resurrection, what it is like is he will get up and he will go through the form critical analysis of the narratives, giving both sides of the discussion, here are the objections, here are the arguments. They never really take a position on it himself, and then quit and that’s the end and nobody knows what to believe. What was so different is here was a professor willing to get up and say ‘This is what I think, and here are the reasons why’ and then give a convincing case. I guess they just found that very different and very refreshing. Afterwards there was thunderous applause after the event was over. I think it was a tremendous encouragement to the Christians as well as a challenge to the non-believers that were there. That left me feeling very encouraged and very good about both of the events that occurred Wednesday.

The next day Roger and I got up early and drove over to Cambridge, England for my debate at Cambridge University. This was sponsored by a group called Christian Heritage which is a private Christian foundation who was putting on the debate. So this was not an official function of Cambridge University. Cambridge seems to be much more closed than Oxford. I think there are many more Christians at Oxford than at Cambridge. The best that could be done at Cambridge was for this Christian group to rent a hall at the university. It wasn’t a university building but was put on at Christian Heritage.

The two follows involved in that were Ian Cooper and Ranald Macaulay, who is the son-in-law of Francis Shaeffer. Both of these men helped to found L’Abri in England. Really dear good Christian brothers. My opponent for this debate was a fellow named Arif Ahmed. I don’t know if Arif Ahmed was ever himself a Muslim. His name is certainly Islamic and he was ethnically Islamic but he seemed thoroughly Anglicized. He was very young – probably in his 20s, just gotten his doctorate, a young philosopher at Cambridge University – and may well have never been a Muslim. Maybe his parents were. Maybe he was just an atheist. But that was the position he espoused – atheism.

This fellow, again, his arguments weren’t that good but he was very skilled rhetorically. He had objections for all of my arguments for God. He had three arguments of his own for atheism. He would use all kinds of very good debating techniques like organizing his time, trying to put me on the defensive, and other sorts of techniques. He was a very good debater. Whatever he lacked in philosophical ability he made up in his debating ability.

Again, the thing that left me frustrated in this debate was the format. We had two opening speeches, two responses, and then went immediately to Q&A. So, again, I couldn’t respond to his final response. He was very, very condescending and disrespectful in this debate, trying to paint me as sort of a dumb American fundamentalist frankly. He would say things like this – with respect to my argument concerning the impossibility of an actually infinite number of things – he would just respond to this by saying, Dr. Craig is not trained in mathematics. Then in other arguments he would say, Well, Dr. Craig, those arguments may work at Talbot School at Theology, but they won’t fly at Cambridge University. On another occasion – in response to the argument against an infinite regress – he said, Every event is followed by another event. Now, which of those five words don’t you understand, Dr. Craig? It was just really annoying to be debating this guy. I didn’t return tit-for-tat. I was very gracious. But it was very difficult.

I had talked to Jan about my experience at Düsseldorf and my frustration there, and I said these other debates are the same format. What am I going to do? She said you have to do what the politicians do when they are asked a question. You answer the question that you want to see addressed and just ignore the question the audience is raising. I thought that is what I am going to do. So, after Ahmed had finished his second response, I felt emotionally as though I were kind of behind in the debate and had to get back into it. So during the Q&A time, I would briefly answer the student’s question but then use the rest of my time to say, “I want to get back to this issue that Dr. Ahmed raised. Every event is followed by another event,” and then I would refute that.[5] Time and again, time and again, I would come back in this way to the things that were said. I just felt as though I was clawing my way slowly back into the debate again. Then I was able to finish in my final speech again by sharing my testimony of how Christ had changed my life and how he can change their lives as well. I think that ended with a punch and on a good note.

So although it was a very difficult debate, both in terms of the condescension that I felt as well as just feeling this sense of needing to claw back into it, I think it ended on a very positive note. We had a huge crowd come out for that debate, too, comparable to what we had at Munich. So that was very encouraging.

I want to take this guy on again. Very often, I get invitations here in the US and they can’t find an opponent. I am going to suggest they bring him over because I want to have another crack at this fellow in the format I prefer. Afterwards, Ranald Macaulay said over dinner, “Is this the format you prefer?” I said, “No, I like the format where there are four speeches on each side.” Then it was like the light just went on. I thought, that is why I am having such difficulty. Because I win these debates in the rebuttals. It is when the other guy runs out of ammunition that then I come ahead. I thought of the Spong debate. I thought if you had cut off that Spong debate after just two speeches apiece, he would have still looked pretty good. It was in the rebuttals that he gets up and says I don’t want to debate anymore and just started telling stories. I felt like in these debates I had been cut off at the knees and wasn’t able to give the full presentation. I am going to suggest if we have another round in the states sometime and see how it goes then.

The next morning we drove back to Oxford. This was really the climax of the trip. What Roger had managed to secure was an official invitation from Oxford University for a debate that evening at the Oxford Union. This is the oldest and most famous debating society in England. It is where people like Gladstone and Churchill debated. Richard Nixon spoke there at the Oxford Union after the Watergate fiasco. Initially, they wouldn’t have me there. They said, who’s he? We don’t think he is important enough to have a debate at the Union. But Roger wouldn’t take no for an answer. He kept working with members of the committee trying to lobby them and win them over to his side. They finally got someone on the committee who was sympathetic to the idea and they went back to the President and said what if we could get a really big name atheist to do this with Craig? Would you then be open to it? He said, yeah if you can get somebody who is a big name. So they went and got this guy named A. C. Grayling. I never even heard of A. C. Grayling, but apparently in Britain he is very well known as a newspaper columnist and BBC Radio commentator who is just vitriolic in his denunciation of Christianity. I read some of his work in advance of the debate. He is just vicious. He blames Christianity and religion in general for virtually every evil of society down through history, and he extols the virtues of humanism and secularism. They wanted to get him. They said, If we can get A. C. Grayling, would you go for the debate? The Union said, Yeah, if you can get him, we’ll do it. Roger called A. C. Grayling, and Grayling said, yes, he’d love to be in the debate. So they were able to secure the Union for the debate that evening on Friday night and then put out the word.

I walked into the event that night and I thought, boy, what is this going to be like? After Arif Ahmed and his condescending sarcasm, I thought Grayling is going to make that debate look like a stroll in the Sunday park compared to him. I said to Roger, how can we handle this, that the same thing doesn’t happen again? He said, let’s do this – after the four speeches, instead of just going to Q&A, let’s have a dialogue time between you and Grayling where you take three questions from the floor and you dialogue about it. That way you can force him to answer your objections and arguments. He won’t be able to wriggle off the hook. I said, OK, let’s do it that way.

I walked into the Union that night.[6] It is this ancient building that is lined in a kind of a horseshoe pattern with wooden benches covered with leather seats made to mimic the pattern of seating in Parliament. There is a great large podium right at the end of the horseshoe where the speaker delivers his speech. Behind that is this ancient carved wooden table where you sit. Then there is a gallery that rings the three sides of the hall around. Around the walls of the hall are these busts of people like Gladstone and Israeli and these famous figures that have spoken and debated there. There are paintings on the walls of these other prominent members of the Oxford Union down through history. It was a very august setting.

Roger very formally introduced the whole evening, very proper and everything of that sort. I got up to speak. The speech went very well, I felt. The opening speech was able to connect with people. You are so close – they are right around you. So I tried to have eye contact with them. Then Grayling got up to speak. He was an interesting looking chap. He is shorter than I am and has long flowing gray hair with wire-rimmed gold glasses and dressed very properly in a three-piece suit. When he came in he looked at me – I had on this yellow and blue necktie – and he said, You already win on the better necktie. I said, Well, you win on the better hair. He said, Then we are even, aren’t we? That was all we said before the debate began.

He got up and to my utter astonishment he was like a docile little lamb. He didn’t attack anything about Christianity. The debate topic was “Belief in God Makes Sense in Light of Tsunamis” – in other words, the problem of evil. I thought he would at least tell emotional heart-wrenching stories about dying children and things to get the audience on his side. He didn’t do any of that. He was the perfect gentleman. As I listened to him, I thought I am going to wipe this guy out. He is not doing anything. Then I thought don’t get overconfident. He can come back in the next speech and get you. When it came my turn again I pressed the argument forward, explained where he hadn’t answered, and in a very collegial and gentlemanly way just continued to press him and put him on the defensive. In the next speech, he was no better. He just wasn’t equipped to deal with these arguments. It was very clear to me he was just basically a popularizer who just is an angry person that is good in the press and the radio but he couldn’t answer the arguments.

Then we went to the dialogue time. It was just great because by having the dialogue he couldn’t wriggle out of things. When he would say something I would challenge him on it and say, “You haven’t answered the question here. Do you believe in this or not?” It was just very clear he couldn’t dialogue on these issues. He would finally just sort of retreat and then Roger would say let’s move on to the next question.

We finally had closing statements, and I thought in the closing statement, having done this kind of intellectual work, I would want to try to connect with the audience emotionally because I think that is where most people really have a problem with evil and suffering – it is emotional. I hope you remembered this story I shared in class, but I basically shared with them the story of Mabel. You remember the woman who for 25 years, blind, deaf, wheelchair bound, suffered in a nursing home, but had a vibrant faith in Christ and had, as my colleague Tom Schmidt who visited her said, incredible power. That is where I closed the evening. Even Grayling was touched by the story of Mabel. He, of course, wrote it off to the strength of the human spirit to survive all kinds of suffering, but it really did connect with folks on an emotional level rather than just an intellectual level. That was really a great climax to the evening.

The Christians at Oxford were so encouraged. I anticipate that this will be a door opening for future ministry there and hopefully elsewhere.

Thank you so much for your prayers. It was very rigorous, very hectic traveling and debating everyday and sleeping in the afternoon. But I think it was well worth the time.[7] I am just so grateful that you were praying for me. I am grateful to be back. I wanted very much to return on Saturday so I could be back here for Sunday morning. That is a report on how it went.

I understand that you had a very interesting time in this class with Ben Witherington when he was here. I haven’t had a chance to hear Ben’s talk on what the Left Behind series left out. But John Herring told me that he got all kinds of emails, phone calls, letters expressing how upset people were about this and why did they allow this to happen. John said one thing to me that made me very proud of you. He said the people who were voicing all these complaints weren’t the people in your class. They were primarily the people from other classes. I think that says a lot for the people in the class because one of the things we’ve tried to emphasize in this class is to think for yourselves and not just take my word for things because I say it. I can be wrong. There are legitimate issues on which biblically faithful Christians can disagree. This is one of them. Eschatology – that is the study of the last things – is one of the most controversial fields of theology. Therefore, Ben Witherington’s point of view which is that there is not some sort of a secret return of Christ, a rapture, is what I would say the majority view. It is certainly a view that we need to deal with and interact with. It is simply naïve to think that there is only one view on these sort of things that biblically faithful Christians can hold to.

In talking with John about it, he said to me that JFBC does not have any position on these issues; there is not anything in their doctrinal statement. So what Ben was saying was not in anyway at odds with what this church stands for. This church doesn’t have a position on this issue because it recognizes that there is a diversity of opinion among Bible-believing Christians. That is quite legitimate here. John said on the ministerial staff here at JFBC there are differences of opinion. Bryant holds one view, somebody else holds another view. There is diversity of opinion here. So this is part of, I think, doctrinal maturity as Christians that we recognize that we should have unity in the essentials and charity on the inessentials. God help us if we have to exclude people or reject people out of our fellowship because they don’t agree with our point of view on all of the secondary issues. That would make the church very, very narrow indeed.

So I was pleased at least that the folks in this class were able to handle this with critical thinking and not feeling threatened. I am anxious to hear the tape myself and see what I think of his presentation.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think what that means is to be critical thinkers. Having an open mind doesn’t mean an empty mind into which somebody else can just pour whatever they want to and you just accept it. That is why I say don’t just believe things because I say them even though I am the teacher of the class. You need to weigh what I say critically against Scripture and assess it for yourself. Open-mindedness but not uncritical


In our waning moments, what I would like to do is to move to our new topic. We are going to move now from the doctrine of God into the doctrine of Christ. We talked about the attributes and existence of God. We talked about the persons of the Trinity. We talked about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Now it seems appropriate to talk about Christ – his person and work – especially because many of the questions that were raised during our discussion of the Trinity were pertinent to the doctrine of the incarnation.[8] So I think it is very nature to move from the doctrine of God into the doctrine of Christ.

This is the center of Christian theology. The center of Christian theology is not simply focused upon Jesus – trying to show that Jesus the man is the key to authentic human existence as many modern theologians say. Rather, Christology (which is what we are talking about here) is the doctrine of Jesus the Christ. Christology is that branch of theology which deals with the doctrine of Christ. It states in the clearest form that Jesus is the Christ. He is true man and true God. In Latin, vera homo, vera deus. Jesus is true man and true God.

I think this is, by the way, the way we want to express the deity and humanity of Christ. Sometimes people will say Christ is fully man or he is fully God. I know what they mean, but that can be misleading because if you mean he is 100% God, that seems to exclude any humanity. Or if he is 100% human then where is the room for his divinity? The idea of saying he is fully man and fully God means he is truly God and truly man. You are not making a statement about the totality of his being. The totality of Jesus Christ is not either human or divine. It is both. Namely, he is truly man and truly God in one person.

Our two central themes to Christology that need to be addressed are the person of Christ and the work of Christ. This is all by way of introduction by the way.

The person of Christ asks who is Jesus Christ? That is the central question. The work of Christ asks what has he done? Questions about the person of Christ would include How are we to conceive of Christ as being both God and man? How are you going to make sense of his divinity and humanity? If he was truly God then how could he be human? On the other hand, if he was truly a man, then was he not then not divine? How can the infinite and the finite be combined in one person? How can deity and humanity coalesce in one individual?

Also, we would want to ask with respect to the person of Christ: what is the role of the historical Jesus in relationship to the exalted Christ? Does the historical make any difference to the religious truth of the Christian faith? Or is the doctrine of Christ just about this exalted Christ figure which is not intimately connected in any essential way with the historical Jesus that actually lived? What is the connection between the exalted Christ and the historical Jesus?

Questions about the work of Christ, by contrast, would include questions like this: how did the death of Christ on the cross win our salvation? What is it about the death of Christ in the first century on a Roman cross that somehow wrought the salvation of the world? How are we to understand this death? Also we would want to ask: what is the relationship between his person and work? Is there something about his person that was essentially related to the work that he did so that no one else could have done that work? Or is that work something perhaps that someone else could have done? What is the connection between his person and the work that he did?

There are two broad ways of addressing these questions of Christology. One would be the method that is called “from Above” and the other one would be “from below.”[9] So we can either do Christology from above or we can approach these questions as it were from below. What do we mean by that? From above means you begin with the deity of Christ and all that Scripture teaches about his exalted status and then you try to figure out how he can be truly man as well and the relationship to the historical Jesus. A good proponent of this method of approaching Christology from above would be the German theologian Karl Barth, perhaps one of the most, but not the most, influential theologian of the 20th century.

To approach these questions from below would be to say you begin with the historical Jesus and his claims and his resurrection from the dead and then you infer his deity and develop your Christology from the springboard of the historical Jesus. On this approach from below, you are beginning with the historical Jesus and working up to the exalted Christ. From above you begin with the divine Christ – the second person of the Trinity – and work down. A good proponent of this Christology from below would be the gentleman I studied under at the University of Munich, Wolfhart Pannenberg. Pannenberg begins by exploring the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from which he then infers his divinity and develops his Christology.

How should we proceed in our exploration of Christology? It seems to me the easiest way to understand these two approaches is as two projects as it were. It seems to me that theology adopts the methodology of Christology from above. Theology begins with the Word of God as authoritative and inspired and is teaching the deity of Christ and then working from there. Apologetics, however, works from below in that apologetics doesn’t assume the truth of the Christian faith or the Bible but rather explores historically the person and work of Jesus and then infers to his deity and all the rest. So I see these two approaches as really involving two quite different projects – the project of theology and the project of apologetics.

In this class, of course we do both. But our primary interest is going to be doctrinal, so we will approach it from above – from the area of theology. But obviously we will be interested in apologetic questions as we talked around our Easter season the evidence for the resurrection of Christ and Ben’s lecture on The DaVinci Code and the reliability of the Gospels. So we will have an eye out on this apologetic project, but our primary approach is going to be from above beginning with the revelation of the Bible, taking this as true, and then exploring what it teaches about the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity.

This is a good place at which to break.[10]



[1] 4:58

[2] 10:15

[3] 15:06

[4] 20:06

[5] 25:19

[6] 30:02

[7] 35:02

[8] 40:10

[9] 45:00

[10] Total Running Time: 49:18 (Copyright © 2008 William Lane Craig)