Reviews: Who Do We Say We Are?

Divine Self-Investment
by Tripp Fuller. Published by Sacrasage Press.

A few years ago I attended workshop led by an organisational psychologist for a group of clergy and lay leaders desiring to explore issues of culture and communication in our diocese. During the course of the conversation, the leader told us all bluntly, “You don’t know who you are.”

The statement has haunted me ever since.

While some sections of the church communicate themselves in rigid moralistic terms, adhere consistently to a Biblical literalist approach or articulate repeatedly the centrality of penal substitutionary atonement in defining membership, the progressive Christian voice is naturally diverse in its expression. Part of the point is to allow the emergence of faith in our time and context, practising being the church tuned into the Spirit and where she is moving. It is to recognise that faith is a relational way to be lived rather than adherence to a set of fixed doctrines. And yet I have retained a nagging sense that there was a lesson to be learned in what Neil was observing.

It wasn’t until I recently picked up Tripp Fuller’s new Christology work, “Divine Self-Investment” that I was reminded we can only ever know who we are when we can answer Jesus’ own question, “Who do you say that I am?” At the centre of Christian faith is not a doctrine but a person, and our own identity can therefore only be expressed through a clear understanding of who and what we mean by Jesus the Christ.

“Divine Self-Investment” is a fresh take on Christology in that it begins with the Kierkegaardian insight that any confession of Christ is subjective and cannot be represented as objective certainty. From there Fuller draws on the Christologies of theologians as diverse as Joseph Bracken, Kathryn Tanner and Andrew Sung Park before describing how the work of God in Christ fits into an open and relational theology.

There is little academic scholarship which defines a Christology in the context of process theology. Perhaps this is part of the identity problem we are having as people who see the life of faith as fundamentally invitational, standing on tradition yet emerging into new forms. As we have embraced a theological understanding at home with a faith that is evolving and open to possibility, we have neglected the scholarship that enables us to identify clearly who we are in Christ through this process of becoming.

The Christ in whom God has self-invested in the world and who stands in solidarity and communion with us is the icon of God and the author of our faith. Tripp Fuller’s work is a step in the right direction to restore Christology to its rightful central place in our theology, without surrendering the hope and possibilities of process thought to the harmful consequences of an allegiance to objective truth.

Humankind: A Hopeful History
by Rutger Bregman. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Humans are fundamentally selfish, right? Rutger Bregman has gathered rigorous research and personal stories to put together a cracking argument in favour of a reappraisal of the negative assessment of our own kind. An immensely hopeful read which will help you overthrow your inner cynic.

The Rev’d Suzanne Grimmett is priest-inb-charge at St Andrew’s Church of Indooroopilly, Brisbane.