The Vicarious Humanity of Christ and the Reality of Salvation (book review)

The Vicarious Humanity of Christ and the Reality of Salvation
Christian D. Kettler
University Press of America, Lanham, MD, 1991; 338pp., $28.00;
ISBN 0 8191 8273 7
‘A memorable month in 1981’, when Kettler served as teaching assistant at Fuller Seminary to Thomas F. Torrance, stimulated him to explore further ‘the profound evangelical and ecumenical implications of Torrance’s doctrine of  the vicarious humanity of Christ’. This study, originally a Fuller Theological Seminary Ph.D thesis, is, however, much more than a study of Torrance’s theology. Kettler begins with an analysis of the doctrine of salvation in the teaching of John B.Cobb Jr., Leonardo Boff, Jurgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, John Hick and Hans Kung. Identifying these theologians as ‘anthropocentric’, Kettler uses Karl Barth’s teaching on the ‘humanity of God’ as ‘a telling critique of the dangers of the anthropocentric tendencies in modern theology’. From the importance of Barth’s teaching that ‘God himself in Jesus  is the foundation of true humanity’, Kettler moves on to the teaching of Torrance, ‘To see the humanity of Christ is to see the revelation of who God really is’, and J. McLeod Campbell, ‘not only is there a revelation of the Father in the Incarnation, but there is also the gracious atoning response of obedient, faithful humanity’. Kettler then considers the doctrine of  ‘the vicarious repentance of Christ’ with special reference to the teaching of McLeod Campbell and Barth. He stresses that this ‘vicarious repentance of Christ’ is ‘absolutely needed because of the inability of humanity to provide a perfect repentance’. He emphasizes ‘the total obedience of Christ’ as ‘the basis of vicarious repentance’. Discussing Barth’s doctrine of vicarious repentance, Kettler writes, ‘God in Christ undertakes to do himself “what the world cannot do”‘. He commends Barth’s exposition of the atonement in terms of ‘the obedient Son of God… taking the place of sinners and becoming “the one great sinner”‘. Those less at home in the field of systematic theology may be interested in the two biblical studies offered by Kettler on ‘The Exalted Humanity of Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews’ and ‘Humanity Restored: Christ as the Last Adam and the Church as the Body of Christ’. Other helpful features of this book are its lengthy bibliography and indexes. These aids to study will appeal to those who may wish to ‘dip into’ this difficult and demanding book without attempting to read it from cover to cover.
This book review was published in the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology

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