Mark my words, people – Tripp Fuller’s work is going to be essential reading for seminarians for the next half century – and I wouldn’t be surprised if much longer, given his theological astuteness and gift with the pen (aka keyboard). Fuller, the host of the podcast “Homebrewed Christianity,” is witty, candid, delightfully irreverent at times, faithful, and incredibly intelligent. In his most recent book Divine Self-Investment: An Open and Relational Constructive Christology, Fuller explores how we can find a new theological way forward between a Christian tradition that has often insisted on rules, dogma, and literalism, and a liberalizing culture that is becoming increasingly less concerned with religious tradition. He seeks to provide a theological response to the question, How do we think about God and Christ in our modern, science-based era in a religiously plural society? He considers this question from a liberal perspective (some people are surprised by this; they should not be) but a perspective that is committed to Christianity, theologically astute, and that seeks to do justice to the message Jesus brought while also honoring contributions from historians, theologians, and the church.
Fuller wants to move us past questions about historicity of the Bible and the historical Jesus quest to a much more important idea: are we willing to follow the way of Jesus who leads to the cross. This, he says, is how Christology is shaped.
A few quotes I found notable, to give you a little taste for the book [You have been forewarned: this book is very heady and theological]:
The growing epistemological situation of more and more people in the West is such that a clarity of conviction is needed for Christian communities in a milieu where the cultural heritage of Christendom is waning. Most importantly, a Christian is a disciple of Jesus, and Christology is the disciple’s discipline... Historical Jesus research is one of the most powerful tools for addressing the temptation to deny the missiological nature of the Christ-confession and resist the call of the one he called Abba.Divine Self-Investment, pg 14 (bold mine)
As the famous saying goes, “we make the path by walking it.” (Antonio Machado). Jesus called his followers, and did not require they believe the right things about him or behave perfectly, but just follow him. Walk the path to find out what it is.
Fuller identifies as an open-relational theologian. What is that, you say?
For relational theologians there is a form of panentheism in which, at least in the normal flow of history, God and the world co-create each moment. While this relationship is in process and even God is subject to the movement of the world—the most moved mover—the essence of God does not change. God is love. Divine love is not an occasional activity, as if there could be occasions in which God shed the identity given by God’s essence as love. Each moment of existence is one that shapes both God and the world, but what God brings to each respective moment comes from perfect divine love.Divine Self-Investment, pg 17 (bold mine)
And the “open” part of this is that the future is open to what has not yet happened, instead of everything being planned and preordained by God. God is moved by the action of the creation, thus the future must be “open.” It is an ongoing process.
One last quote to leave you with before I encourage you to check out this book if you are ready for some heavy-duty reading. I love this one because it starts to address how to theologically navigate religious pluralism.
When the particular figure of Jesus is understood in a way that limits access to God to this single point or relativizes the particularities of other traditions as functional only because of God’s work in Christ, the good news of the one who died at the hands of imperial power seems to have inspired a missiology with the logic of Rome and not Galilee… A Spirit Christology is attractive because it resists the exclusivist options by articulating the divinity of Jesus as a form of inspiration through the Spirit who is present to all, rather than a kind of divine invasion.Divine Self-Investment, pg 43 (bold mine)
Fuller engages 8 different theologians throughout the book, so the reader has a chance to learn from other formative people’s perspectives as well as Fuller’s views. The book is, in my view, appropriate for seminary and graduate-level reading, or an advanced undergraduate class. I recommend it for people who want a third way between dogmatic conservatism and the dry intellectualism of liberalism.
Find it on Amazon
Visit Tripp at his website trippfuller.com
Check out the Homebrewed Christianity podcast wherever you listen to your pods!