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Fall 1989 · Vol. 18 No. 2 · pp. 113–14 

Book Review

Jesus Christ Our Lord: Christology from a Disciple's Perspective

C. Norman Kraus. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1987.

Reviewed by Tim Geddert

The Orthodox Christian Creeds (Nicea and Chalcedon) emerged out of the Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries. Their statements about the nature and being of Christ have been considered foundational (and treated as normative) by many Christian theologians for 1600 years. But they have also been subjected to criticism, especially during recent decades (and especially by Anabaptist theologians). Among the chief criticisms are these: the creeds claim more than the Bible does about Jesus’ “being”; they are tied to a philosophical system not acceptable today; they distort Christology by focusing on Christ’s being rather than on his work and message.

Kraus considers the creeds not only insufficient (by ignoring Christ’s person and work), but also misleading (by using Western rationalist categories to analyze the Bible, an Asian book.) Kraus’s goal is to read the biblical data on Christology out of an Asian (specifically Japanese) framework of thought. He shifts the focus from the being of Christ to the work of Christ, specifically to his work of revealing God and relating to humankind.

Kraus does more than shift the focus: he reinterprets the data. In assessing Christ’s atoning work, he suggests that a Japanese “shame” culture is a less distorting lens through which to read the New Testament than a Western “guilt” culture. The “atonement theory” which emerges from Kraus’s reading centers more on “solidarity” than on “substitution.”

Many helpful insights are to be found in Kraus’s re-reading of the New Testament. Most readers, however, will also be troubled by some conclusions that are drawn. Among the orthodox Christian doctrines which are either minimized or rejected as “post-biblical distortions” are such fundamentals as Christ’s pre-existence, his virgin birth and the ontological reality of the trinity. The Holy Spirit receives very little attention in the process.

The goal of reading the Bible through non-Western cultural assumptions is to be applauded, though it could be questioned whether a modern Japanese outlook is really all that much like a first century Palestine outlook. There is {114} clearly both justification and need for a continual re-examination of the biblical data in any discussion about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

But is it really the case that Nicea and Chalcedon point as far away from the biblical writers as Kraus suggests? How much of orthodox Christological thinking needs to be eliminated before the defensible core is augmented? The early creeds may not be normative and they certainly are not complete. But they are also not as deficient or indefensible as Kraus suggests.

Timothy J. Geddert is Assistant Professor of New Testament, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California.

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