Crucified and Resurrected

Restructuring the Grammar of Christology

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Ingolf U. Dalferth
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 
    Baker Academic
    , November
     352 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


While it has already been recognized as a major work in the area of systematic theology, English readers will welcome this translation of Ingolf Dalferth’s Der auferweckte Gekreuzigte, first published in German in 1994. Jo Bennett’s English translation is readable and lucid, a tremendous accomplishment for which students of theology may be thankful.

The thesis for the book is found in chapter 1, in Dalferth’s analysis of The Myth of God Incarnate (ed. John Hick, Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd., 1977), and the many responses to that work. In Dalferth’s view, both sides of the debate (incarnation as myth and incarnation as christological foundation) do not do justice to the content of christological confession of the New Testament, insofar as the incarnation is not foundational, but derivative of that content. Analysis of the christological confessions reveals two things: first, the priority of christology within Christian theology, for it is upon this article of dogmatics that Christian theology stands; second, the thought process of the christological confession reveals a grammar or structure of thought concerning the whole of theology (xvi). The content of Christian confession concerning Christ is “the one who has been crucified and raised” (24). By thorough examination, Dalferth argues, one can begin to see a structure of christology, and of theology as a whole. By examining the resurrection in light of the cross, one first asks the christological question of how to understand Jesus (32). This leads to the second question, pertaining to the God whom Jesus Christ proclaimed and how God and divine action must be understood in light of the cross and resurrection (32-35). Finally, since this pertains to God’s activity in the world, the final question concerns the implications of divine activity in the cross and resurrection with respect to humanity (35-38).

This complex, dynamic flow of thought, which moves from christology to theology proper to soteriology and pneumatology, trinitarian in pattern and arising from the christological confession, becomes the basis for the thought process of Christian theology itself, structuring the whole of dogmatics. This is Dalferth’s task throughout the book.

Chapters 2 and 3 deal with christology proper. In chapter 2, Dalferth sets the stage for his argument by laying out the topic of the christological confession of the one who was crucified and has been raised. In short, it pertains to the activity of God, who has raised this particular man Jesus (christology), who has revealed himself in this activity (Trinity), and who has thus acted in such a way toward every human being (soteriology) (57). This activity is the divine activity of God’s creative love. It thus points to God’s particular manifestation of his love in Jesus Christ and with reference to the “eschatological qualification” of the whole world (77). Chapter 3 deals with the person and work of Christ. The issues dealt with here are familiar to those who study christology. Dalferth gives detailed attention to the biblical witness, and his sections on Chalcedonian definition and the communicatio idiomatum are particularly informative. The central theme of the chapter is that God has manifested and realized his creative and eschatological activity in Jesus Christ.

In chapter 4, Dalferth turns his attention to the doctrine of God and the Trinity, the next step in his analysis. When considering the cross and resurrection in light of Jesus’s message concerning God, one sees that God can only be conceived in trinitarian terms in order to account for this eschatological event in which God defines himself as love, and as love pro nobis (160). Dalferth shows through his analysis and careful distinctions that the trinitarian pattern of thought is regulative of both the idea of God and also of Christian life experience in faith (210ff).

Chapter 5 deals with the pro nobis of God’s activity in the cross and resurrection. Correct understanding of the relevance of that activity for us brings correct understanding of humanity and the world (235). Through analysis of the proclamation of Jesus’s death “for us” in the New Testament, as well as the Tübingen Antithesis, Dalferth focuses on the sacrificial language surrounding the biblical and dogmatic language of soteriology. Dalferth pinpoints this primary line of questioning with regard to sacrifice: “can, must, and should” Jesus’s death be understood as a sacrificial (291)? Dalferth argues that this death is sacrificial, provided that it is understood that this has rendered sacrifice obsolete by God’s giving himself to be near to man (298). Faith realizes this nearness of God in the Christian through its focus on Christ and by the power of the Spirit.

Dalferth’s work carries through its thesis thoroughly and with tight argumentation. Undoubtedly such a work gives rise to debate and critique. I will mention one particular point. I agree with Dalferth’s appropriation of Barth, that God’s identity is to be found in none other than Deus pro nobis, that this is the identity and self-definition of God (160). Dalferth extends this so that God “binds his divine selfhood to our free assent to him as God” (160), and that the creature’s free acceptance of him is an allowance of the creature “to codetermine his divine being” (161). One can respect the intention of Dalferth, in that he wishes to make clear the worth of finite existence, but this comes at the cost of God’s own identity. In order to respect divine aseity, should not God’s binding himself to humanity or creation be consequent to his identity, not its very definition? The language is problematic, or, at the very least, not careful. Even if, as Dalferth says later (232-33), the Spirit actualizes God in the world and in creatures, yet this is still a determination of God and not of the creatures themselves.

All points of contention aside, Dalferth’s work is a masterful study of christology and method, deserving of engagement by students of theology. It is highly recommended for advanced undergraduate students, graduate and seminary students, and academics in the field.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Mark P. Hertenstein is a M.Div. candidate at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Date of Review: 
November 30, 2016
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Ingolf U. Dalferth (DrTheol, University of Tübingen) is Danforth Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. He is also professor emeritus in the faculty of theology at the University of Zurich, where he served as director of the Institute of Hermeneutics and Philosophy of Religion for many years. He has held academic positions at the universities of Durham, Tübingen, Frankfurt, Fribourg, and Copenhagen. Dalferth is the author or editor of over forty books, including Crucified and ResurrectedDie Wirklichkeit des Möglichen:Hermeneutische Religionsphilosophie, and Becoming Present: An Inquiry into the Christian Sense of the Presence of God.


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