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RIMINI MEETING/ Spencer: We stand in need of a Protestant Giussani today

ARCHIE SPENCER, Trinity Western University, Canada, talks about Giussani's theology, on the occasion of the presentation of the English edition of Giussani's book on American Protestantism

Luigi Giussani (1922-2005) (Archiv image) Luigi Giussani (1922-2005) (Archiv image)

If I were to summarize Giussani’s theology in one sentence it would go something like this. “I have encountered the mystery of true God and true man in Jesus Christ of Nazareth and he has been, and ever will be, the ground of our own reality because he is the ground of the reality of God.” This was true for Giussani in everything he did and said. As I have read in the history of Christian theology, both Protestant and Catholic, only one other theologian in Protestant circles has been so “Christocentric”, namely Karl Barth.

Again it is the experience of this language of encounter in C.L., and the ongoing charism of Giussani, that confirms the centrality of the language and experience of encounter. Furthermore, Protestant thought and experience in its history, especially that of the Great Awakenings in America, is replete with such language. Jonathan Edwards becomes a catalyst in making the language of encounter the model by which Protestant sectarians expand in the Americas. Giussani certainly tapped into this, but not in a utilitarian way. This is not manipulation of language in order to get at an existential experience, for him. Rather in it he sees a new way to express a reality that always impressed itself upon his religious nature. The need for a personal faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ animated Giussani.

Well, again it would seem that we Protestants are in a position of relative strength here. Giussani might not have much to teach us? Perhaps in the Early years of Protestantism that is so, but not in the current context. Giussani reminds us once again that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, in his divinity and his humanity, is the key to identifying the substance of the revelation that our human nature longs for. With a similar interest in mind, Karl Barth intimates that all Christological heresies of the Church are either docetic or ebionetic in nature. That is to say, they involve either a denial of the divinity (ebionetic) or the humanity (docetic) of Christ. Protestant Christianity stands in danger of either and/or both today.

In the contemporary Protestant circumstance (both European and North American) I believe thinking and preaching about Jesus Christ, the God-man, has become somewhat of an embarrassment for us. In our Protestant desire for cultural relevance and acceptance we seem to want to reduce the role of Christ in our religious life and experience. We worry over the particularity of Christ and the “offense” he might cause if we hold exclusively to a Christological orientation of our faith.