Ordinary Christology : a qualitative study and theological appraisal
The aim of this study is to identify and critically to analyse the ordinary christologies of a group of thirty regular Anglican churchgoers. Ordinary christology, by the definition employed here, is the account, by believers who have received no formal theological education, of who Jesus was/is (christology) and what he did/does (soteriology). Data was gathered by means of in-depth interviews. Three main christologies are identified: these are designated as fuctional, ontological and sceptical christology. Functional christology considers Jesus to be the Son of God, not God and is effectively Arian; ontological christology holds the orthodox doctrine that Jesus is God; and sceptical christology doubts or denies altogether the divinity of Jesus. Three main soteriologies are also identified: these are named as exemplarist, traditionalist and evangelical soteriology. Exemplarist soteriology emphasises the life and death of Jesus as exemplary; traditionalist soteriology cannot articulate a theology of the cross at all; and evangelical soteriology hinges on substitutionary atonement and a personal relationship with Jesus. Functional christology and exemplarist soteriology dominate the sample. Difficulties with the 'traditional' theology of the cross, and the idea that God’s forgiveness is dependent on Jesus' atoning death, are widespread amongst the sample, indicating that new ways of telling the story of how Jesus saves are urgently required if Christianity is to capture again the imagination of our contemporary world. Various formal characteristics of ordinary christology are also brought to light. The ordinary Christology of this sample is story-shaped, avoids metaphysical speculation, highlights the affective dimension of christology, resists learning cliristological dogma and is primarily non-cognitive. It also shows that christology is at heart an on-going hermeneutical process rather than a doctrinal system, and it suggests that what matters most in christology is not right doctrine, but letting the story of Jesus have its way with us.