Last week I posted on theological method and outlined five foundations for Christian interpretation of the Bible. In the next week (or weeks depending on how busy I get), I hope to expand on each of those five in separate posts. Today I’ll expand on the first, which is that,
A Christian theological method ought to be Christocentric, but within a properly Trinitarian framework. That is, it recognizes that God the Father reveals himself to his people in God the Son and by God the Spirit.
When Christians say that God has given us revelation, we mean that God has communicated to us who he is through certain means. God has “at many times and many ways” spoken to us (Heb. 1:1 – here namely through the OT prophets). These ways include general revelation, through which we can see that God is eternal and all powerful (Rom. 1:20); special revelation of himself in history, such as the burning bush episode (Exodus 3); special revelation of himself particularly in the incarnation (John 1:14; Heb. 1:2); and special revelation of himself through Scripture (2 Tim. 3:14-17).
Of these many ways of revealing himself, we should say first that general revelation does not communicate all that is needed for salvation or about God, but only that he exists and is powerful. Only special revelation communicates what is sufficient for faith. Of the three means of special revelation, only one of those is still accessible to the people of God – Scripture. Although Christians commune with the risen Christ through the power and indwelling of the Spirit, we cannot see, touch, hear, taste, or smell the incarnate Jesus (and the latter two would be weird anyway). In other words, there were only 30ish years when people on the earth could interact with the person of Jesus on a material/bodily level. Scripture is what the people of God are given, both before and after Christ, in order to know God and who he is.
The second and more fundamental truth we need to understand about revelation is that it is always Christocentric. That is, God the Father is known and perceived and understood by his creatures through seeing God the Son in the power of God the Spirit. God the Father “dwells in unapproachable light” and “no one has ever seen or can see” him. God the Son, though, is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3), and the one who allows us to see the Father through seeing him (John 12:45; 14:9). To know, see, and understand God, then, is accomplished through knowing, seeing, and understanding the Son.
This puts a Christocentric reading on a Trinitarian path, but that Trinitarian nature of revelation is made even more clear through understanding the role of the Spirit. The Spirit’s role is to testify to the Son, both through convicting unbelievers of sin and to guide believers into all truth about the Son (John 16:4-15). In all things he glorifies the Son (John 16:14-15). To summarize, then, God the Spirit testifies to God the Son who makes God the Father known to his people.
This makes the call to a Christological reading of Scripture, including the ones by Jesus (John 5:46; Luke 24:27, 44, etc.) all the more intelligible. We as Christians confess that “the holy writings are able to make you wise unto salvation in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:14-15; notice he’s referring to the OT here and Christ) because it is through Christ’s death and resurrection and indeed his entire person and work that we can gain access to God the Father. To know God the Father is accomplished by knowing God the Son, to whom the Spirit testifies in Scripture. Thus special revelation, and particularly the form to which Christians now have access, holy Scripture, is Christocentric because God is made known by his Spirit through Christ.
Additionally, general revelation is also Christocentric, as the cosmos is patterned after divine Wisdom (Prov. 8:22-31), the Logos, who is also the one by, through, and to which creation is made (Col. 1:16-18). Thus to say that “only some verses talk about the person of Jesus” is to miss the point of Christian Scripture. The nature of revelation is such that all Scripture speaks of Christ, because it is the inspiring Spirit’s job to make it so, since it is through the Son that we know the Father.
One final note: this claim of Christocentrism is not Christomonic; rather, as noted above, it is Trinitarian. Further, I am not here claiming that every verse of the entire Bible is prophetically pointing forwards or mimetically pointing backwards to specific events in the life of Christ. In other words, I’m not arguing for bad allegory, where we make every detail of a narrative mirror the events of Christ’s life. I am saying, however, that the message of every book in the Bible, both individually and collectively, is ultimately about Christ.
12 thoughts on “Christocentric Method”
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