procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


sometimes I get a bit over Christocentrism.
it’s not that I don’t agree that all the scriptures point to Christ. But I always thought Christ came to show us God -
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, [Jesus] has made him known. John 1:18
If the Bible is God’s self revelation, Christ is the Word of God, revealing God to us – then why do we always talk about reading and preaching Christocentrically?
Jesus is about revealing to us God
Jesus is about reconciling us to God
Jesus is about bringing us into God’s Kingdom
Jesus is about bringing about God’s Kingdom
and on top of all that, Jesus is God
so why Christocentric?
why not Theocentric – you cover Christocentric anyway.

i think a little levity on this would make free preachers up to preach God from all the Scriptures. To preach God, who is revealed throughout his scriptures, who is revealed in Jesus, but also reveals himself to us as he relates with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; with Jepthah, Gideon and Barak, with Rahab, Ruth and Rehoboam.
i think as we then preach God, we will preach Christ – the Son of God; we will preach the Holy Spirit, we will preach the whole host of God’s revelation to us in his Word, as well as in his words.

if you're wondering why i've been moved to write this? listening to some Dale Ralph Davis talks from last year's SMBC Preaching Conference as he worked through Judges and some other OT narrative passages, i am thinking more and more that we are allowed to just preach God.
it may be that the pressure i feel to make everything Christocentric is from a perceived lack of this around the world, but the error of not preaching Christocentrically is not preaching Theocentrically, but moralistic sermonising. so as a reaction to doing bad biblical theology i can understand the emphasis on Christocentrism, but that's not the direction i'm wanting to go.
make sense?

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Blogger mark said...

hey mate,

hope your holidays are going nicely! I remember hearing Ralph Davis talking about that in his talks the other year... quite interesting really. I think he's onto something there! In my mind, you can't truly preach God without preaching Christ and vice-versa, so it's much of a muchness.

I think that something else is going on though - haven't quite got my finger on it yet, but I think it's got something to do with the fear of 'sounding' different. Which I think is the danger when biblical theology eats up other theological disciplines. Sometimes I wonder if John Owen or Jonathon Edwards came to town how they would be received?

4:22 pm  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Yes, as a person in the pew I've wondered about these things too. As this is only a short blog post, I'm not entirely sure that I've understood you though.

Are you saying that Christology is in some sense a subset of Theology proper? That Christology should be used to refer back to Theology proper? If so, then I would be very uncomfortable with that. That would be to have some sort of fundamental God-talk which then includes, but is not reshaped by Christology - and that's a typically Arian move.

But, if you're meaning that our Christian God-talk will naturally entail God, Christ, & Spirit (i.e., it should be trinitarian rather than too specifically focused on the Son), then I'd agree with you. For Christians, it should be impossible to speak of the Father, without speaking of the Son and vice versa. Each identify one another in a mutually defining relationship.

I.e., through progressive revelation, the God is Israel is now known by his actions in the Christ-event, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who sent and did not spare his own Son, the one who raised Jesus from the dead. And Jesus is known as the one sent by the Father, the one who came to make God known. & Spirit of God and Spirit of God (overlapping without idenity, Rom 8:11 etc). Each are, and only can be identified by one another. This is Christian God-talk and it's thoroughly trinitarian. Not Patrocentric/Christocentric/Pneumacentric. [& I think that last is a new word I've just invented! ;-) ]

2:45 am  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Should have been Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ**

2:52 am  
Blogger psychodougie said...

Cheers for your thoughts Jonathan.
Are you saying that Christology is in some sense a subset of Theology proper?
Yeah I don’t know that I’d put it like that – but the proper study of God can look at different aspects of the ‘Godhead’.
So if you are looking at God’s contempt for sin, for example in Exodus 33, you can say “and God hated sin so much that he sent Jesus, who became sin that we might be free from God’s wrath”, BUT it’s not wrong to talk about a perfect God, a holy God, a God who deserves respect and right worship and so on. And yes, because of Jesus we can offer right worship because as we are baptised in his blood we are wrapped in a righteousness not from us, but from him.
YET so often we shy away from just talking about a big part of who God is.

As Mark says (hi mark!):
Sometimes I wonder if John Owen or Jonathon Edwards came to town how they would be received?

I think maybe at the heart of it is, do we jump too quickly to Jesus, without dwelling on what we can learn about God’s Character?
For that matter, do we do the same with Jesus? Do we jump too quickly to what he’s done, without reflecting on who he is?

Maybe that’s it?

Cheers for your thoughts guys.

10:21 am  
Blogger psychodougie said...

and mark:

Which I think is the danger when biblical theology eats up other theological disciplines.

do you think this is a uniquely Australian predicament (with our strong history of biblical theology, with Goldsworthy, Robinson, et al)?
chatting to some continental europeans on saturday, they were saying they'd never even thought about biblical theology until they got to bible skool in australia! so your mention of Edwards and Owen is right, but maybe people living elsewhere have the opposite problem?

10:25 am  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Ah I see what you mean now. If you haven't read it yet, you might well find Richard Bauckham's book God Crucified very helpful for holding together God's character and actions in terms of "identity" and how he relates to the world. It's only the beginning of Bauckham's work so there are lots of gaps/questions that remain about his approach, but it's very suggestive.

10:02 pm  
Blogger psychodougie said...

cheers for the tip
i've been wanting to read a little more on bauckham - or should i say 'read bauckham', not just 'about bauckham'. will put it on my list.

10:59 pm  
Anonymous Wonders for Oyarsa said...

I think, in this case, I simply disagree - strongly even. There is absolutely no proper way for us as Christians to look at God, other than through Christ. I think John's Gospel speaks to this in the strongest possible language:

No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Trinitarian theology is absolutely not something where we are supposed to somehow give equal time to each person so as to not be unbalanced. That's not the way it works. We come TO the Father THROUGH the Son BY THE POWER of the Spirit. We don't look at the Father, as it were, bypassing Christ - we look at the Son, and know the Father through him. If Moses saw a face in the tent, it was the face of Christ. If Jacob wrestled with a body that night, it was the body of Christ.

I can't stress enough how important this is. We as Christians must not read the OT without seeing Christ there. He is the interpretation of scripture, and if we do so without him, we deny the Gospel. For instance, to read the desire for babies heads to be dashed against rocks and simply make it our own prayer towards our enemies, would not only be a minor error in hermenutic - it would be a diabolical sin which endangers our very souls. We absolutely may not read that passage and pray it ourselves without letting Jesus redefine who the true enemy is (sin & death) and the means of its defeat (the cross & resurrection). Jesus said in John 8, of those who diligently studied the scriptures and yet did not see him by those same scriptures, were making the devil (and not God) their father. What stronger warning on this point could we be given?

7:02 am  
Blogger psychodougie said...

cheers for your impassioned response WFO. and it's not that i disagree, but that i don't think that's ALL we can ever say about anything.
our hermeneutic is indeed as those who come to the father through the son by the spirit, but as we are those who come to the father through the son by the spirit can we not then look at these things (like the babylonian psalm) and say - this is how much God hates sin, this is how much God is against his enemies, and the enemies of his people. YES, the biggest enemy is sin and the consequence of sin, death, and YES he overcame that in Christ, BUT by not lingering on the context, from what this passage tells us about the abhorrence of being against God's elect - such that dashing their babies against the rocks is seen as an admirable thing, hard as that can be to understand, i think you do a disservice to the entirety of God's self revelation in his word.
is that ok?

7:06 am  
Blogger Kurt Peters said...

Hi mate, I feel like in your last comment you stepped back a little from your orginal post.

I feel like you are not calling into question Jesus as the necessary end of Old Testament texts. You are just saying lets "linger a little more on the Old Testament revelation of God " before giving them the Jesus resolution. To understand the depth of Christ's work we need to understand the fullness of the Old Testament text. Agreed. I need to work harder on this.

It seems like you are concerned by going to Jesus we take something away from the force of the Old Testament texts as they reveal God. But I think the reality is that Jesus should intensify our picture of God rather than take anything away. Whatever part of God's character in the Old Testament should be seen more vividly in Jesus than anywhere. Smashing babies as punishment for sin is only a small taste of the smashing of God's son on the cross for sin. Maybe the problem is not just that we don't linger on the Old Testament enough. Maybe the problem is we don't linger on Jesus enough.

2:59 pm  
Blogger Honoria said...

Gee, you get up early!

Sons of Korah sing Ps 137 (but they tone down the baby dashing a little "Blessed is he who destroys your progeny"). Not at all sleepy music.

What do you think Jesus meant in Luke 24:44?

2:43 pm  
Blogger psychodougie said...

KP - i am a work in progress. yeah i think maybe that's the issue - we start at the OT as Christians, go to Jesus, then apply to us, then go home. But what we don't do is go via Jesus, from the OT to God. we start and finish at Jesus, instead of letting him illumine our understanding of the triune God, of God as he reveals himself to us through the Torah. so when i preached on exodus, i started there, with our hermeneutic as discussed by W4O, then went to Jesus, shows how he fulfils this, and THEN went back to exodus, showing how it is both heightened and deepened (excuse the oxymoron) because of Jesus.

Hon - yeah that's right, not really lullaby-esque.
i think Jesus meant what he said, that he showed them where and how the OT points forward to him. but i don't necessarily think that's as all-encompassing as perhaps Philip with the ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 - do you think he could have turned everywhere and anywhere and showed how it was written about Jesus?

11:54 am  
Blogger Honoria said...

What do you think of this take on Luke 24? It's not that Christ is 'hidden' in every verse /part of the OT. And therefore we can turn anywhere and find Jesus there. But rather, the OT hangs together as one cohesive work, and Christ is the main, unnamed subject of that whole unit. Seeing it as a whole allows you to comfortably say that the OT is all about Jesus.

(Is that a cheat's way of getting around the question?!)

11:49 am  
Blogger fatima said...

I agree with your comments on Christocentrism, although I have never heard it called this before

7:38 pm  
Blogger psychodougie said...

Hi Honoria. yeah i think i'd agree with that, except to say that as a cohesive work, that doesn't mean it doesn't say things about other things (Geography, practices, human relationships, the character of God). and that it is perhaps helpful to relay some of these things in our preaching, some more than others...

Cheers Fatima. you may be interested in this article, which i talk about in this post. i use different overlapping terms i think, depending on the tides, atmospheric pressure, the day of the week. sorry for contributing to any confusion!

8:52 am  
Blogger mark said...

Hey fyfe-dog (did you know one of the members the prolific hiphop crew called A Tribe Called Quest was named fife-dog!?),

Sorry I took donkey's to reply to this - I didn't even check to see updates!

Well it is and it isn't an australian phenomenon. Historically speaking, biblical theology has been around as long as Christians tried to work out the relationship between the old and new testaments. Through the middle ages, many theologians furthered it in their understanding of priesthood etc. In a sense, biblical theology has been around as long as Christians tried to work out the continuity and discontinuity of the biblical covenants.

But the definitive work was done in the reformation under the banner of 'covenant theology'. I posed a little up on my blog about some of it just yesterday. For the reformers, this 'biblical theology' was synonymous with reformed theology (Horton surveys this in the book I blogged about). So this form of biblical theology provided the framework for their thinking and was Christocentric!

BUT - what I worry about is it 'eating up' other disciplines and causing becoming a priority. Here's what I mean:

I assert that: Systematic theology is based on exegesis of Scripture within a biblical theological context, with historical theology providing guidance. All of these theological methods should be Christocentric. None should take a precedence because they all rely on each other (Eg, we cannot deduce that God is always faithful via biblical theology alone - it's a systematic presupposition based on exegesis!).

I suppose it's understandable that biblical theology has needed to be elevated in importance due to the rise of dispensationalism and basic biblical misunderstandings, but I fear an overcorrection at the expense other things. Thus, the fear of systematic categories is not just a postmodern phobia, but I think a potential overcorrection on the emphasis of biblical theology. I don't want to undercorrect it, but just bring a harmony to the disciplines!

PS - Check out for some really good international stuff. One of the fellas who got this off the ground is in 4th year here at Moore! And an Irishman no less!

11:30 pm  
Blogger mark said...

Here's another good post to have a read of mate.

The 2nd paragraph nails a few things which say more or less what I'm thinking...


2:15 pm  

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