Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Cobb’s Christ in a Pluralistic Age deals primarily with the Christian theme of incarnation. The doctrine of the Incarnation asks the question, “How can Jesus, in whom God became flesh, be both human and divine?” Early Christian councils debated fiercely the question of the balance between Jesus’ humanity and his divinity. The traditional Christian response to these questions is that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. Yet, this view of Christ became static, isolating Christ to a long-past creedal formulation that Christians repeat tirelessly every Sunday in their churches.

What does this ancient formulation have to do with contemporary religious pluralism, asks Cobb, and is there a more dynamic understanding of Christ that will allow us to embrace the promises of religious pluralism? His answer is to understand Christ as an image of creative transformation. This transformation is a process by which we all—looking to Jesus as the model of the incarnation of the divine—come to understand ourselves as more fully human and to open ourselves to others and all that they have to offer.

Using process philosophy, Cobb presents God’s presence, or Logos, as the potentiality of novelty to an ever-changing world. Jesus, a specific entity in this world, became the concrete actualization of this potentiality. Christ, for Cobb, becomes the image of that novelty as it is made real, or incarnated, in the world. Thus, following the model of Christ in Jesus—the incarnation of the novelty of God’s presence in the world—Christians can actualize the potential they share to deepen that incarnation. For Cobb, the Incarnation as a way of creative transformation encourages Christians to become more fully human in the same way that Jesus modeled his humanity to respond freely to God’s initiative to love others and to embrace them as fully human.

Cobb’s rich blend of process philosophy and Christian theology challenges traditional notions of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation and offers fresh new ways of thinking about how Christianity can embrace religious pluralism.