As noted in an earlier post, I am reading a lot by Hans Frei, a postliberal theologian associated with “the Yale School.” He has a lot to teach us.

I really appreciate the quotes below. The context is his argument that to affirm the identity and presence of Jesus is to affirm the inseparable unity of “factual affirmation” (we could say doctrine) with works of love. To embrace the reality of Christ’s Spirit is to make verbal confession alongside the performing of neighborly service. He wisely observes, however, that there is a tendency to lean only toward one or the other. Some will cling to doctrine and eschew works, and others will be enthusiastic about works and be aloof about doctrine. Here is the quote:

“On the one hand, in their imperfection and temptation, believers will often seek refuge in dogmatic affirmation, escaping selfishly from the works of love and the risks of nonconformity involved in committing oneself to the presence of one who made his lot not with the righteous but with the rejected of this world. But they always know better, and their very lack of love of God and neighbor and their insistence that others agree with their own opinions, attitudes, and dispositions will indicate the uneasy and defensive way in which they hold their dogmatic affirmations.

On the other hand, believers will, in their doubt, seek to escape the burden of factual affirmation [that is, doctrinal confession] by identifying response to Christ’s presence with making the causes of the disinherited their own (often quite automatically). But their conscious is almost always uneasy because commitments to one’s neighbor may have many impulses, of which appeal to the presence of Christ in and to the neighbor is only one. Apart from the factual affirmation of Christ’s presence, the association of his particular image with one’s sensitivity to humanity in oneself or others will seem a halfhearted or forced undertaking.” [1]

Many of the divisions persisting today among Western Christians fall somewhat among these lines… but maybe it is getting better. What do you think? Their certainly seems to be more of an emphasis on justice and works of love among doctrinally sensitive evangelicals, right?

[1] Hans W. Frei, The Identity of Jesus Christ: The Hermeneutical Bases of Dogmatic Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 156-57.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.