In this icon the artist has depicted Christ with uneven eyes. The right eye (left for the viewer) is divine: impassive, unchanging, looking into the middle distance. The left eye is human: tired, preoccupied and conscious of its mortality.
This was the artist's way of representing the dual nature of Christ, who was, as the doctrine has it, wholly God and and the same time wholly human. It reflected the resolution of centuries of dispute in the early Church about whether Christ had one nature or two.
Nowadays we would tend not to talk about Christ having two 'natures', as though he combined two different types of DNA, but of two ways of conceptualising Christ, (a) as the historical Jesus and (b) as the Second Person of the Trinity.
In every generation theologians have to work with the linguistic tools at their disposal. But that is a fundamental shift in the way of expressing the issue, and there are other, similar shifts we have to make to re-express Christian doctrine in contemporary terms. It may be legitimate, even necessary, to make such moves, but what are its implications?
The challenge is to switch from the use of 'realistic' language when talking about God to a discourse which recognises that language, or the way we conceptualise, is of the essence. But can we move to a linguistic theology without throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
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