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Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by John B. Cobb, Jr
Christ in a Pluralistic Age (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975.  287p.)

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It is interesting to read this analysis, written in 1975, which provides good insights into the post-modernist movement in American culture and its affect on thought and faith.  Cobb takes a Process Philosophy approach to analyze ways to interpret the concept of Christ as incarnation of the Logos in Jesus, the historical person.

I read the original edition by Westminster Press. It is now available from Amazon.com in paperback from Wipf & Stock Publishers (January 1999, 286 p).

Contemporary Communication
He determines how this concept may be communicated in concepts of the contemporary worldview, and deals with the challenges to western thought in the post-enlightenment sciences and the role of reason and the post-modernist challenge of relativism of values.  He specifically discusses how the concept of Christ, in the traditional faith of the Christian church, can be related to the other faith expression in the world's religions, as these come face to face in our present world.

It is good to see how these views fit with the world 30 years later.  I am impressed with the grasp Cobb has on the problem, and the formulations he presents which attempt to overcome the static concepts of Aristotelian "orthodoxy" which has been rejected in modern western culture.  Cobb formulates ways to see the reality of Christ in everyday realities and faith relationships in terms other than the static concepts of substance that so tangled the pre-medieval and medieval mind.

Council Formulations
A very helpful and impressive chapter ("The Christ of the Creeds") covers the discussions that led to formulations explaining how God was in Jesus in the incarnation.  The unusual contribution he makes is to explain the line of argument and discussion that led to the formulations, helping us understand the steps involved over 5 centuries in getting to the final formal statements now on record from the various early Church Councils.

This background illustrates how important it is to understand the current cultural worldview.  The current worldview and the questions it raises are the context of our statements of our formal propositions representing Christ, the Trinity and other respective aspects of our faith.  Cobb's thoughtful work here on our behalf helps us see the limitations of using a different theology from a different age.

Worldview Sense
Older theologies, like the philosophical theology of Thomas Aquinas, were also dependent on the worldviews of their age.  They often fail to make sense, since the terminology and concerns they address are not those of the current society and language.

The words and statements mean something different now than when they were first written.  Using the language and ideas of someone else's language theology often obscures the meaning of the original biblical truths, further alienating the church from the society it should be speaking to.

The church of this age has the obligation to speak to this age, not to the Middle Ages.  To do this, today's language — both thought and word meaning, has to be used.  Otherwise the end product will say something different than what is intended.  Too much of the church has already lost touch with the reality in which it lives.  No message gets through.

Religious Diversity
The new world of variety and diversity is the reality of our lives in today's exciting and challenging pluralistic society.  Cobb goes into some detail in comparing Christian faith and Buddhist faiths to illustrate how Christians might interact with other religions they now face in our pluralistic world.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Eastern Focus, Western Comment
[Review] Graduation to Reality — The Church Emerging
[review] Karma and Christ:  A Dialogue
[Review] Liberal Protestantism:  History and Personality
[Review] Mysticism and Christian Unity
[TXT] Orality and the Post-literate West    
[Review] Postmodern Challenges to a Rising Evangelicalism
[Review] Postmodernism — The Church's Challenge and Opportunity
[Review] Progressive Foundations for Postmodern Christianity
[Review] The Rich, Persistent Centre

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First written 15 November 2005
Expanded and Posted on Thoughts and Resources 23 April 2007
Last edited 24 March 2011

Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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