Reformed theologians are known for being Christocentrists — or Christ-obsessors — in their systematic theology, and Revisioning Christology is no exception! Oliver D. Crisp puts his analytic theology to task as he tackles six pillars of christology with six divines of the Reformed tradition. They are as follows: (1) the paradox of incarnation with Donald Baillie, (2) the motivation for the incarnation with John Calvin, (3) Jonathan Edwards’s unique blend of idealism and christology, (4) William Shedd’s intriguing take on the God-man, (5) spirit christology with John Owen, and (6) incarnation as atonement with Kathryn Tanner.
As usual, Crisp clarifies, critiques, and constructs new proposals. Let’s take the first chapter as an example. What did Baillie mean that the incarnation is inherently paradoxical? To cement Baillie’s position, Crisp canvases Baillie’s God Was in Christ. This process includes clarifying some past critiques against Baillie; for example, some say Baillie is an adoptionist and a Nestorian, but Crisp thinks otherwise. Crisp then evaluates Baillie’s position: Does it align with tradition and logic? Is it sound? Is it helpful? Crisp disagrees with Baillie: paradox is almost always unhelpful and is, with regards to the incarnation, “apparent but not real.” In other words, the incarnation is mysterious but not incoherent or illogical.
Along with the Baillie and paradox chapter, I enjoyed the chapters on Calvin’s motivation for the incarnation and Tanner’s incarnation as atonement — especially this chapter: my two favorite Reformed theologians duking it out. Nonetheless, I learned something about Reformed christology and a bit about theological logic — conditioned by philosophical logic and the tradition — in each chapter. Reformed theologians might be unified in their obsession about Christ but not always so in christology!