|The Baptism of Christ, by Francesco Trevisani|
(via Wikimedia Commons)
This claim has a corollary: If the uniqueness of Jesus Christ is situated only within some aspect of his creaturely existence -- say, his perfect piety or obedience to God -- then it becomes difficult to affirm his unique dignity in any absolute sense. Whatever his blessedness might mean, in this case, it cannot be utterly unique if it resides merely within a perfection of some attribute(s) that all human beings share. In other words, the claim that Jesus is the unique Savior in a qualitative sense pushes us toward something like a traditional affirmation that he is truly God incarnate.
Of course, one might well counter: Why must Jesus be absolutely unique in the first place? Perhaps the human situation is not as dire as the doctrine of the Incarnation --- not to mention the atonement -- requires. Perhaps what Jesus does is to lead us into some form of completeness or perfection already latent without our humanity as such, albeit in a defective or stunted form. These retorts, by the way, show how intimately the Christological question is interwoven with the soteriological and anthropological ones. "To know Christ is to know his benefits," wrote Philip Melancthon.
At any rate, an astute interlocutor pushed back on my attempt to frame the Christological decision in terms of a simple binary: High Christology versus low? Bah! Posing the matter as a stark choice may have some rhetorical punch -- recall C.S. Lewis' famous trichotomy: Jesus is liar, lunatic or Son of God. Yet, perhaps, matters are more complex than my post suggested. Indeed, my friend is right, so in the next post I will discuss some of those complications. To do so, I will pull a thread from a fascinating essay by Princeton theologian George Hunsinger.