Fidelity with Plausibility

Modest Christologies in the Twentieth Century

By Wesley J. Wildman

Subjects: Christianity
Paperback : 9780791435960, 441 pages, January 1998
Hardcover : 9780791435953, 441 pages, January 1998

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Table of contents





Reflections on Ernst Troeltsch and the Origins of the Crisis of Plausibility in Contemporary Christology

Introduction to Part I

Chapter 1. Christology and the Historical Jesus


Strategies for Managing Dependence
Criticism of the Extant Dependence Strategies
Troeltsch on the Dependence of Faith and Dogmatics upon History


Chapter 2. Christology and the History of Religions


The Theology of the History of Religions
Supernaturalism and the History of Religions
The Development of Doctrine and the History of Religions


Chapter 3. Christology and the Sciences


The Philosophical Sciences
The Natural Sciences
The Human Sciences


Modest Christology and the Resolution of the Crisis of Plausibility in Contemporary Christology

Introduction to Part II

Chapter 4. The Absolutist Principle and Modest Christologies


The Origin and Structure of the Absolutist Principle
Absolutist Christology
Modest Christology


Chapter 5. Incarnational and Inspirational Modest Christologies: Two Case Studies


John Hick: The Logic of Modest Inspirational Christologies
The First Step: The Myth of God Incarnate
The Second Step: Jesus as Inspired
The Third Step: Jesus' Inspiration as Divine Love Incarnate
John Cobb: The Logic of Modest Incarnational Christologies
The First Step: Christ as Principle of Creative Transformation
The Second Step: Identification of Jesus as Christ
The Third Step: Affirming Christian Uniqueness


Chapter 6. Modest Christological Solutions to Internal Challenges


History: Christological Dependence on Knowledge of Jesus
Tradition: Reassessing Christological Development
Metaphysics: The Universal and the Particular
Assessment of These Three Perspectives


Chapter 7. Modest Christological Solutions to External Challenges


Ethics: Christological Responsibility?
Natural Sciences: Evolutionary Biology and Cosmology
Religious Pluralism: The Modest Consensus




Modest Christologies and the Quest for a Believable Jesus
Approaching the Conceptual Heart of Modest Christologies






The task of interpreting the religious significance of Jesus Christ takes shape in this book with the tension determined by two goals: fidelity to the classical Christological tradition, which draws our attention to Jesus in the first place, and plausibility with respect to all forms of contemporary knowledge. To ignore the classical tradition is to assume uncritically that contemporary plausibility structures are beyond question, while to forsake plausibility is to embrace the irrationalism of the theological ghetto-dweller. This book argues that maintaining this tension in our time can be achieved only with a modest interpretation of Jesus Christ, one that repudiates the hermeneutical absolutism associated with affirming that Jesus Christ is uniquely, exhaustively, unsurpassably significant for revelation and salvation.

Wesley J. Wildman is Assistant Professor of Theology at Boston University. He is coeditor with W. Mark Richardson of Religion and Science: History, Method, Dialogue.


"This book's scope is unusually wide: it truly deals with Christology across the whole range of relevant issues--philosophical, historical, scientific, religious. It has a clear, consistent thesis: the advocacy of 'modest Christologies.' The thesis has significant originality, for Wildman points out strikingly the way in which 'modest' Christologies need not be 'low' ones and the way in which Christologies may make many 'modest' sounds and still remain structurally 'absolute.' The book is organized with clarity and briskly written--rarely lingering on a subject once the argument has been made. The topic is highly significant--Wildman addresses core questions of a core subject." -- S. Mark Heim, Andover Newton Theological School