Posted by: chuckbumgardner | January 23, 2010

Garrett, Systematic Theology, Part 7: “The Person of Jesus Christ”

James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, 2 vols. (North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL Press, 2000), 1:605-716.

Somewhat unusually for a conservative theologian, Garrett approaches his Christology from below, and that for three reasons: that is the “perspective from which Jesus was first beheld” by mankind; today, the humanity of Jesus is “relatively noncontroversial among Christian scholars”; and the humanity of Jesus may provide “an apologetic bridge” to twenty-first century people who are “interested in all things human.”

Christ in his incarnation was truly tempted although sinless, experienced human emotions (though not remorse for sin), was limited in knowledge and power, and dependent upon the Father.  His humanity provided the basis for his saving work and the occasion for a perfect example for mankind.  Garrett examines Christ’s earthly life through a study of major titles given to Christ during his incarnation.  For Garrett, “the sinlessness of Jesus does not need to be validated theologically . . . on the twofold basis of the virginal conception of Jesus and Jesus’ consequent avoidance of and noncontamination by Adamic corruption” (1:656).  Further, Garrett does not affirm that Christ could not have sinned, merely that he was able not to do so.  Under his discussion of Christ as Savior, Garrett espouses an exclusivist position, while not denying the possibility that God may indeed choose to “work outside the boundaries of exclusivism” (1:663).

Jesus Christ is God.  As the Son of God, the fullness of deity dwells in him, his deity is the same as that of God the Father, and his sonship is eternal.  He was eternally preexistent before his incarnation, and was virginally conceived, which allowed him to “identify himself with human beings and at the same time transcend the human race” (1:682).  Christ is Lord, and Garrett speaks strongly in favor of the necessity of reckoning Jesus as Lord if one is to be a Christian.  Garrett also speaks of Christ as “king,” currently reigning at the Father’s right hand.

As to the hypostatic union, Garrett agrees with the Chalcedonian formula.  There exists no “independent functioning of separate natures” in Christ; neither is there a “fusion of the divine and the human natures or absorption of one of the natures into the other nature” (1:715).  Garrett does deny the possibility of two wills in the God-man.

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