Reflection on N.T. Wright’s criticism of the Nicene Creed

Source and Reference:

  •  N.T. Wright Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church | 7:00p

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Picking up the kingdom vs. cross theme, Bishop Wright claims that the Nicene Creed made a move toward the right direction but is not sufficiently truthful to the gospel witness about Jesus’ true character. Implying that the language of Nicene Creed may be responsible for having bred bad theologies, Bishop Wright underscores the importance to grasp the point that Jesus is a specific man and a specific God as we attempt to heal the “Kingdom-Cross split” in our Gospel daily lived out with the aid of the study of history-Namely, what Jesus of Narazeth possesses is not a generic divinity ([n]or a generic humanity, for that matter)—[not]  a divinity whose définition can be derived from the wide-range pool of world mythologies and philosophical deduction.

Speaking in terms of history of ideas, I could not agree with Bishop Wright more, but at the same time feel the necessity to bring forth to attention the critically nuanced notion that truth claims at one time or another are always perspective-specific (while truth or reality per se is not). For our case in view, the reasons why Nicene Creed took the shape it did are not only because it had particular concerns to address and particular agendas to advance (ie. fight Arianism) but also because, protected by the shelter of Christendom, the Nicene rhetoric universe has not [yet] become one threatened by genuine pluralism.

Here is my point:

Borrowing Mavrode’s diagram, it seems fair to say that the Greco-Roman world in fourth century A.D. operates within a different polytheistic assumption (or, a different theology of religions/pluralism) than that of post-Enlightenment/post-liberal era: the catholic church then was blatantly descriptivist monotheistic & cultic monotheistic, thinking that affirming Christ as God emphasized by the capital G and Jesus as the embodiment of true humanity in the sense of Second Adam have already at the same time refuted the possibility that any other so-called god or deity would have any truth value or ontological status. They—say, Buddha and Allah—are NOTHING ontologically speaking and are mere human construct epistemologically speaking with ethical implications instead.

The dominance with this descriptivist monotheistic & cultic monotheistic worldview gives rise to the type of “universality” discourse in Nicene Creed characteristic of the Christendom, with its theology alleged contaminated by Greek (Platonic in particular) philosophical tradition.

The postmodern and post-Christendom churches, on the other hand, has unwittingly adopted the worldview of descriptivist polytheism & cultic monotheism, according to which gods in other religions are not mere fantasies, illusions, human projections or socially externalized consturcts. They may be found as real, ontologically speaking, as an existing entity as Yahweh, though indeed they are devils and finite beings, e.g. the Canaanite Beelzebub (Luk 11:15-19), Satan (Job 1:6; 2:1).

This shift in terms of both polytheistic assumptions and public academic discourses may arguably be attributed to the recent repristination of Hebrew canonical worldview (coupled with an impulse to purge Greek logocentric metaphysics from orthodox Christian theology) and the influence from eastern worldviews carried along by its ascendant socio-political sway in an age of globalization,

Christian faith-based theological discourse appealing to universality thus is neither appropriate nor adequate as it continues to seek for relevance and intelligibility.

After all, the Old Testament (Jewish Bible/Tanakh) seems to express this view (Ex 20:3; Pss 81:9) —at least Mavrodes so reads it.

And I still want to add that, if you exegete it closely in its own context, the Nicene Creed does connotes that Christ is the exemplar man and the true God by all His nature.




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