Remembering the Word: A Decentered Approach to Two-Natures Christology Open Access

Copeland, Rebecca (Spring 2018)

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This dissertation argues that anthropocentric assumptions have distorted the development of both conciliar christology and the challenges raised against it. By bringing the liberation hermeneutics of Delores Williams and Norman Habel into conversation with the field of biomimicry, the author develops ecomimetic interpretation as a hermeneutical strategy to resist anthropocentric biases, and then applies this strategy to the doctrine of the incarnation. This approach involves paying close attention to the lives of various creatures and engaging the perspectives of these creatures while temporarily bracketing out particularly human questions. Using this interpretive strategy, this dissertation argues that challenges to the coherence and plausibility of conciliar christology are best addressed by revisiting what the ecumenical councils meant when they stated that Christ was “homoousios (consubstantial) with the Father as to his divinity” and “homoousios (consubstantial) with us as to his humanity.” These claims lay the foundation for understanding all of reality to be composed of two ousiai, or ‘essences’—that of the Creator and that of the created. After examining the “perspectives” of four non-human creatures, the author offers a provisional understanding of created ousia as characterized by the interplay of stability and transformation, individual integrity and interdependence. This dissertation then brings that definition into conversation with the christological debates. The author responds to challenges to the plausibility of conciliar christology by recasting the incarnation as the foundation of material existence. On this foundation, the primary work of the incarnation is accomplished objectively by the incarnation itself, rather than subjectively as the cognitive appropriation of revelation. This interpretation serves the soteriological concerns of the ecumenical councils, affirms the ontological distinction between the Creator and the created that Christians have traditionally affirmed, and resists the human exceptionalism that has used the incarnation to justify unsustainable exploitation of the environment. 

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Introduction                                                                                                                     1


Anthropocentrism                                                                                                               3


Methodology                                                                                                                      22


The Doctrine of the Incarnation                                                                                    25


Chapter 1: Christological Challenges                                                                 31


Coherence Challenges                                                                                                     34


Plausibility Challenges                                                                                                   63


Human Exceptionalism: An Ecological Concern                                                         82


Conclusion                                                                                                                          88




Chapter 2: Decentering Theology                                                                           90




Responses to “Centric” Thinking                                                                                    90


Multiple Lenses                                                                                                                108


Biomimetic Problem Solving                                                                                          110


Ecomimetic Interpretation                                                                                            118


The Waters of Beer-lahai-roi: An Ecomimetic Example                                           124


Conclusion                                                                                                                        137


Chapter 3: What’s An Ousia?                                                                                      139


Ousia and Categories                                                                                                       139


Ousia and the Early Church                                                                                           147


Two Ousiai                                                                                                                          162


Conclusion                                                                                                                        176


Chapter 4: Truly Created, Truly Creator                                                          178


Created Ousia                                                                                                                   178


Divine Attributes                                                                                                             207


Coherence Debates                                                                                                          212


Chapter 5: Cur Deus Creatura?                                                                                 223


The Work of Christ as a Response to a Problem Within Creation                          224


Supralapsarian Christologies II: Reversing Causation                                           244


Plausibility Challenges                                                                                                 252




Chapter 6: Conclusion                                                                                                259




Why Become Incarnate as a Human Being?                                                                  259


A Decentered Anthropology                                                                                         267


The Intrinsic Worth of an Interrelated Creation                                                    270


Soteriological Considerations                                                                                    276


Conclusion                                                                                                                        284


Bibliography                                                                                                                  286




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