Saturday, February 07, 2009

Wagner on Full God Christology

This material is taken from a book written by Walter Wagner entitled After the Apostles (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1994), page

Frankly, the 'full God Christology' has problems.
More passages in the New Testament reflect adoptionist
and angelic positions than the full God option. It may
assure those who are convinced that human free will is
unable to obey God, but it makes no philosophical
sense, invites forced interpretations of the
Scriptures, and raises questions. For example, the
Gospels reported that Jesus prayed, but if he was hO
QEOS to whom did he pray? If God is one, how could a
section of God be sent out on an earthly mission? Is
God divisible? In the event that Jesus was a
manifestation of the supreme God, does that mean God
is subject to change with all philosophical risks such
a view entails? If God became enfleshed in Jesus, did
God-as-Jesus sweat, hunger, and have bowel movements?
Doesn't such a view degrade the holy and transcendent
God? If the enfleshed God did not participate in human
grubbiness as well as nobility, then what kind of
humanity did Jesus-God have?

Walter H. Wagner was associate professor at Muhlenberg
College in Allentown, PA.

Edgar Foster

Lenoir-Rhyne University
Russell House, no. 7


David Waltz said...

Hello Edgar,

Wagner's book is an interesting one—for sure. He seems to be a proponent of the fairly recent, and popular, theory proposed by “liberal” Christians that one must speak of “Christianities”, even when dealing with the material presented within the confines of the New Testament. On pages 110-112 of the book you cited, Wagner clearly endorses the notion that at least some New Testament Christians believed in a “full God Christology”.

That said, do you agree with Wagner on this point? If not, could you elaborate on the reasons why?

Grace and peace,


Edgar Foster said...

Hello David,

Speaking about the time period before Nicea (325 CE), Robert Wilken once wrote:

During these years, most Christians vaguely thought of Jesus as God; yet they did not actually think of him in the same way that they thought of God the Father. They seldom addressed prayers to him, and thought of him somehow as second to God--divine, yes, but not fully God . . . When the controversy over the relation of Jesus to God the Father broke out in the early fourth century, most Christians were 'subordinationists,' i.e. they believed that Christ was God but not in precisely the same way that the Father was God. (179)

I know that you're also familiar with Hanson's evaluation of the early church in his work on the search for a Christian God. Now while I would not want to make the sweeping claim that NO Christian ever believed that Jesus Christ was fully God prior to Nicea (after all, we have historical evidence of modalism obtaining even among early "popes"or bishops), my general inclination is to concur with Wilken and Hanson based on my reading of the Fathers. Tertullian, for example, does not seem to think that Christ is fully God. Neither does Lactantius, Novatian, Hippolytus or Irenaeus.

Best regards!

David Waltz said...

Hi Edgar,

Thanks for responding. It seems that you and I are pretty much on the same page concerning the ante-Nicene Fathers. I have been doing a series of sorts on the SUBORDINATIONISM of the early Church Fathers. If you get chance, check it out, and let me know what you think.

Grace and peace,


Edgar Foster said...

Hi David,

I will take a look at your series in the next couple of days. I was reading some of your page the other day and enjoyed your remarks about Irenaeus, among others.

Best wishes,