The A Priori And A Posteriori In Christology





The following considerations prove the necessity of this procedure.

Two methods of examining the being of Christ can be distinguished.

According to the one method the facts of His life are reviewed as they

are presented in the New Testament, and a formula is then constructed

to fit them. The other method starts from the concept of a mediator

between God and man. It supposes that concept actualised, and asks the

question, "Of what nature must such a mediator be?" These methods may

be distinguished, but they cannot be separated. No one, however

scientific, can come to a study of the life of Jesus with an absolutely

open mind. Presuppositions are inevitable. Similarly, as the a

priori thinker develops his concept of a mediator, he compares the

results of his thinking at every stage with the picture presented in

the Gospel story, and that picture unavoidably modifies his deductions.

Both diphysite and monophysite used a combination of these two methods.

Each party took the recorded facts and interpreted them in accordance

with their notion of what a mediator should be. Both parties studied

the same facts; but the a priori of their thought differed, and so

their conclusions differed. In the realm of Christology this a

priori of thought is of paramount importance. Preconceived opinions

inevitably colour our mental picture of Christ. Readers of the Gospel

narrative find there the Christ they are prepared to find. On this

well-recognised fact we base our contention that an examination of any

Christological system must begin with the philosophy on which the

system rests. That philosophy supplies the a priori, or the

presupposition, or the metaphysical basis, whichever name we prefer.



We do not suggest that theologians have consciously adopted a

metaphysical principle as the basis of their beliefs, and then have

applied it to the special problem of Christology. That is a possible

method but not the usual one. In most cases the philosophic basis

remains in the background of consciousness; its existence is

unrecognised and its influence undetected. If Christian thinkers took

the trouble to analyse the basis of their beliefs about Christ, they

would not halt, as they so often do, at the stage of monophysitism. If

they laid bare to the foundations the structure of their faith, the

danger of error would be reduced to a minimum. Viewed from the

standpoint of timeless reason, monophysitism is based on a definite

metaphysical idea. Not all monophysites have consciously adopted that

basis; many, had they recognised its presence, would have rejected it.

But it was present as a tendency. A tendency may be neutralised by

counteracting causes; but it has its effect, and sooner or later it

will produce positive results.





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