The Protestant Reformers sought the renewal of the Christian church, in the sixteenth century, by means of both doctrine and practice. They stressed a number of important doctrinal truths, with the goal of reforming the church’s pastoral and liturgical practice. The two doctrinal truths that are most often cited, when people talk about the Reformer’s efforts, are sola Scriptura, called the formal principle of the Reformation, and sola fide, called the material principle. I believe, however, there is a very real sense in which the most important sola for them was solus Christus.
The Reformers understood that the Old Testament prepared the way for Christ. The New Testament, understood in this way, explained the Christ who was concealed in the Old. The New Testament put forward his life, death, burial and resurrection as the basis for faith and life in the Spirit. At the center of the whole of divine revelation the Reformers saw Jesus Christ as God’s perfect and final Word. Their emphasis was intended to bring glory to Christ alone in the saving of God’s people.
Now you would think modern evangelicals would be clear about Jesus Christ if they are clear about anything at all. But it is not so. My friend David Bryant recently noted that over the past few months respected news periodicals, ranging from US News to Time, from Ebony to Harper’s to Business Week, have all published cover stories about the evangelical movement in America. (This has come about because of the media’s reflections upon the last election, in November 2004). Bryant notes that there are over 150 pages of reporting in these various magazines, drawing on the research of an army of journalists, all designed to tell the reader about evangelical Christianity in America. Bryant writes that in reading over these pages of reporting he saw the name of Jesus Christ mentioned only five times. This means, David added, "That as reporters dug around in today’s church life, they found virtually nothing about our walk and talk that compelled them to even reference—let alone grapple with the claims of—the One by Whom we are called, for Whom we exist and toward Whom everything we do was meant to point. Their deafening ‘silence’ already carries consequences."
The "consequences" of not making Christ alone the center of our movement are massive. One thing is certain, we cannot renew the Christian faith without renewing the centrality of Christ. If anything, or anyone, thrills our souls more than Christ then we are already in deep trouble. My observation is that the vast majority of evangelicals are thrilled with many things, Christ rarely being one of them. This observation holds true for mainline Christians, conservative evangelicals, and charismatics. I find this absence shocking really. But what I find even more shocking is the unwillingness of most of us to recognize the problem.
A true revival in our time must surely be, as David Bryant has so accurately put it, "A Christ Awakening."