The Ultimate Criteria for Theology
Theology is thinking (logos) about God (theos). It is a good and necessary discipline, but only so long as it is centered on Christ. All of our speculation and debate about such things as God’s character, power, and glory must be done with our focus on Jesus Christ—more specifically, on the decisive act by which he reveals God and redeems humanity, his death on the cross.
The definitive thing to be said about God’s character is found here: God dies for sinners on a God-forsaken cross.
The definitive thing to be said about God’s power is found here: God allows himself to be crucified on a cross for sinners.
The definitive thing to be said about God’s glory is found here: God dies a horrifying, God-forsaken death upon the cross.
God’s character, power and glory are decisively revealed on the cross. Though it is “foolishness” to the natural mind, the cross is the power and wisdom of God to all who believe (1 Cor 1:18f). If we entertain concepts of God’s character, power, and glory that are inconsistent with what is revealed here, our thoughts are outside of Jesus Christ. Every thought about God, every mental picture we entertain about God, every single emotion that is “raised up against the knowledge of God” must be taken “captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).
The true God revealed in Jesus Christ is not at all what the natural mind would expect—it is “foolishness”—for our natural expectations are influenced by our experiences in a fallen world that is permeated with the foundational lie of the serpent. We create a god of our own designs by magnifying our own fallen conceptions of character, power, and glory. Consequently, sometimes God’s character, power, and glory are presented in ways that don’t even resemble Jesus Christ, even within the Christian tradition. For instance, we often project onto the screen of heaven a cosmic Caesar, controlling the world through coercive power and intimidation rather than accepting God’s definition of himself in the crucified Jesus Christ. Such mental chimeras may inspire fear, but they do not transform us to become outrageous lovers.
The only hope we have of getting out of this fallen condition and walking in the ecstatic love of the triune God is to resolve that God’s revelation in Christ is true, however much it may contradict our fallen, worldly expectations. When the deceptive veil over our mind is removed and we see the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ and when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we find a picture of God that could not possibly be more loving and beautiful. For here we find God going to the greatest extreme possible—suffering a God-forsaken, hellish death at the hands of the very creatures for whom he was dying! This is the greatest expression of love imaginable, and it alone reveals the truth about who the eternal, triune God is. God is this kind of love.
This is the ultimate criteria for all theology. Any other estimation of God will block not only our ability to think rightly about God, but also to love like God loves.
—Adapted from Repenting of Religion, pages 132-133
Image by brownpau via Flickr
In a previous post, I wrote about the Christocentric interpretation of the Scriptures espoused by the magisterial Reformers, specifically Luther and Calvin. Their hermeneutic was focused on the work and the offices of Christ, but in my opinion the Anabaptists surpasses their approach because it focused on the person of Christ with an unparalleled emphasis…
Greg talks about the nouns and verbs of God. Dan talks about unicorns named Gary. http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0411.mp3
In my previous post I addressed two of the three parables that Paul Copan argues present God in violent ways. Today I will address the third, which is the parable of a vineyard owner with hostile tenants (Matthew 21:33-41; Luke 20:9-13). This parable differs from the previous two parables. Whereas the previous parables deal with…
During the twentieth century the development of a Christocentric reading of the Scriptures—which is crucial to understanding what I argue in Crucifixion of the Warrior God—surged in the wake of Karl Barth’s publication of his Romans commentary in 1916. It was justifiably described as a “bombshell” that fell “on the playground of the theologians,” demolishing…
There is this passage that has sometimes been labeled “Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse” that proclaims how the Lord will “lay waste,” “destroy,” and “ruin” the earth. (The following builds on this previous post which identifies a dual speech pattern of God). It begins with: The LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate…
Over the last few posts, I’ve been arguing that the cross represents the thematic center of everything Jesus was about. Hence, rather than striving to have a “Christocentric” theology — which is so broad it means next to nothing—we ought to sharpen our focus by striving for a “cruciform” theology. I then offered some suggestions…