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Final Project Theological Statement on the Meaning and Uniqueness of Christ in a Pluralistic World_Patrick Briggs

Final Project Theological Statement on the Meaning and Uniqueness of Christ in a Pluralistic World_Patrick Briggs

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This is a final theological reflection I submitted for my Systematic Theology II class this past winter quarter at Fuller Theological Seminary.

The class was taught by Dr. Veli-Matti Karkkainen. He is a good professor who takes the right perspective about systematic theological study. It's not about forming a more dogmatic understanding of Christianity. It's about incorporating an ever wider circle of diversity in one's understanding of God's truth.
This is a final theological reflection I submitted for my Systematic Theology II class this past winter quarter at Fuller Theological Seminary.

The class was taught by Dr. Veli-Matti Karkkainen. He is a good professor who takes the right perspective about systematic theological study. It's not about forming a more dogmatic understanding of Christianity. It's about incorporating an ever wider circle of diversity in one's understanding of God's truth.

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Published by: pbriggsiam on Apr 03, 2009
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07/04/2013

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Patrick R. Briggs – ST502 – Winter 2008
Critical Reflection on Books
 – Final Project – Theological Statement on the Meaning andUniqueness of Christ in Our Pluralistic WorldThere is no universally true answer to the question – what is the meaning and uniquenessof Christ in a pluralistic world. I have a perspective which might help illuminate the discussion,however. My answer is a tentative one which starts experientially.My faith starts with the attempt to answer this question: Why am I here? It is in theconcreteness of Christ’s life and death that I begin to find an answer. In the beginning of myfaith journey at age 9, having accepted Jesus Christ as my savior independently of my parents (inan evangelical church down the street) it was a relatively orthodox and simple rationale. I didn’twant to go to hell. I wanted to be good and believed Christ could help me be so. At that time, allthat mattered was that I had found Him and importantly, felt maybe He had found me. It was ina community of loving people (I still have the bible given to me by the Sunday school teacher who encouraged me).Clearly I did not contemplate theological areas of study like Christology, pneumatology,or soteriology. It was a personal and simple call I had taken up. I can see now, that at that time,this was the one area of my life which was beyond this world – a special place. It seemed totranscend my immediate worldly needs, school, friends and even the love of my parents. It perhaps gave me the foundation upon which I could identify myself as an independent being. It became the frame within which my inner nature developed and grew.Christ was eminently meaningful in my young life. I did not consider other faiths. I donot think I was aware of other faiths outside of Christianity. In this sense, Christ was the onlyobject of my life in faith.1
 
As a teenager, I began to question my faith for the first time. It is interesting that one of the primary issues which triggered this is an exposure to other faiths. I asked myself, “whyshould somebody who doesn’t know Christ be condemned?” There are two reactions I couldhave taken: view mission work and conversion as an important part of my faith life and in thelife of the church, or question the relevancy of my faith. I chose the latter. It is this pluralisticworld which I had become aware of which became the source of my falling away from theChristian faith.The significance of the question regarding the meaning and uniqueness of Christ in our  pluralistic world is that it addresses the relevance of the Christian faith. This is useful from anecclesiastical perspective because without relevance – read ‘meaning’ – the church will die. TheChristian faith will lose its ability to influence human beings and stand against the chaos andmoral relativity of a world whose faith is fundamentally located in itself. There is notranscendence in this kind of world. Christianity, at its core, has to be the alternative to this.This is the cosmic significance.This question is also useful from an individual human being’s perspective. It is from this point that an individual may deepen their faith, the purpose of which is not to bind oneself moreclosely to God, but to move more profoundly into relationship with God. When I consider the biblical command “to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” I believe “heart and soul” somehow must include my mind. Thus, even as this question can causea person to fall away from their faith, it may often lead them back in ways unexpected with amore thoroughgoing faith.How then can the study of systematic theology, particularly Christology, pneumatology(the Holy Spirit), and soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) be factored into this discussion?2
 
One should start with several key precepts. One, systematic theology’s purpose is not toformulate a more perfect and single doctrine on the Christian faith. Its purpose is to form the basis for an ever-widening range of study such that the system includes a greater interweaving of  perspectives (i.e. liberation, feminist, womanist, Pentecostal, and eco theologies). Eachspotlights an aspect of Christian faith that prior to their respective developments, had not beenincorporated into our understanding of the faith.A second key precept is that there is no place that one may stand that is not influenced bythe contextual location of the thinker. It is a mistake to assume that there is one single universal perspective from which to describe any one aspect of the Christian faith, let alone the entireChristian faith. This does not mean that assertions cannot be made about our faith. It does meanthat one should do so with a humility and willingness to actually listen to other voices within andwithout of the Christian faith community.From my perspective, the Pentecostal movement offers a good example for honoringthese two precepts’ contribution to a good systematic theology. The Pentecostal movement is afairly recent phenomenon with its emphasis on the Holy Spirit. It now makes up 25% of allChristians in the world. As a liberal seminarian, I have found this movement in opposition tovalues I hold dear. Despite its early ecumenical and liberationist impulses, it aligned itself withthe Christian right.And yet it offers something very important to systematic theology – a strong case for anemphasis on the study of pneumatology. People are drawn to this movement which emphasizesthe Holy Spirit active in their everyday lives. Through this lens one can be led to study pneumatology in greater depth, certainly with greater attention to the role which the Holy Spirit played in history (i.e. the Monatanists, the mystics: Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux,3

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