I believe the greatest theological need in our time, along side the theological idea of what I’ve called missional-ecuemnism, is the recovery of a Christ-centered theological perspective. We desperately need a Christological theology!
Our theology is often centered on perspectives that are rooted in a number of good biblical themes but lack Christ. There is nothing more central to the biblical story of redemption than Christ. He is all. Paul, in perhaps the greatest hymn in all the Bible says:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11).
A Christological theology embraces the commands to love God and our neighbor. Behind these commandments are not rules (law) but divine self-sacrifice, a sacrifice that binds together the entire enterprise we call theology. And the self-sacrificial character of Jesus means the trinitarian nature of God does not leave us at the whim of an arbitrary God. He rescues, will rescue and must rescue all who cannot rescue themselves and call upon him. Understanding God as self-giving in Christ is not an abstract theology of the attributes but rather an accessible theology of the cross and the resurrection. The cross reflects, contains and embodies the trinitarian mystery of the eternal self-giving Father who begets the Son and gives procession to the Spirit. In the words of one theologian: “Christology shares in the reality of who God is (theology) and reveals it” (cf. Matthew 11:25-30).
Further, a Christological theology does not detract from our doctrine of God but rather opens it up to the fuller reality that God’s intentions are inherent in his divine essence. Simply put, this means that God does what he does because of who He (God) is.
Much of Westminster-type Calvinism, especially of the sort that majors on the divine decrees as central to theology, fails at this precise point. It gives the Christian a view of God that is detached from God’s self-sacrificing nature and thus the center of his revelation, Jesus Christ. When I grasped this focus my life and my preaching were profoundly altered. I believe many neo-conservative Reformed Christians desperately need this richer, deeper and more Christ-centered perspective.
N. T. Wright captured this so well in his book, The Climax of the Covenant (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991, 83-84). He wrote:
The real humiliation of the incarnation and the cross is that one who was himself God, and who never during the whole process stopped being God, could embrace such a vocation. The real theological emphasis of the hymn [Philippians 2], therefore, is not simply a new view of Jesus. It is a new understanding of God. Against age-old attempts of human beings to make God in their own (arrogant, self-glorifying image) image, God reveals the truth about what it meant to be God. Underneath this is the conclusion, all-important in present Christological debate: incarnation and even crucifixion are to be seen as appropriate vehicles for the dynamic self-revelation of God (italics are Wright’s).
I believe Wright’s short sentence that this is a “new understanding of God” is at the heart of the Christian revelation. Jesus revealed the Father as he had never been revealed and now in the full light of his glory we see the heart and mind of God as never before. Let us lay hold of this truth and go forward into deeper and better theology in our personal thinking and in the community life of the whole church.