The Alpha & Omega of Theological Studies
I recently wrote a post entitled “Hinge Points: Solving Big Problems with Small Steps.” Here, I shared how my journey into the study of Bible and Theology was slow and confusing. I spent many years struggling to wrap my mind around the big concepts, and constantly felt myself pulled from one school of thought to the next. Even when I started taking courses in seminary, I struggled to find firm footing and feel confident in my views. That was until I found a “hinge point”: one concept that brought it all together.
Christ at the Center
At first glance, Scripture, and consequently the study of theology, appears to be a collection of stories, ideas, and answers to life’s big questions. It could be viewed as a rule book, or even an instruction manual for righteous living. In reality, it’s a story (and the study of a story) about one person: Jesus Christ. Once I came to this conclusion, I stopped trying to wrap my mind around every concept, every theory, and every isolated school of thought that exists in Church history. Instead, I began to focus on the one consistent theme that runs from cover to cover.
Not Just a Sunday School Answer
Before I go on, I want to be clear that by focusing on Jesus, I do not mean that I abandoned the study of theology and just focused on my own person experiences of Jesus. This approach is becoming increasingly popular and it misses the richness that comes from the deep reflection and rumination of active study. Instead, I mean becoming more and more familiar with Christology (The study of Jesus) and using that as a foundation for everything else.
What is Christology?
Christology is the study of Christ, or, more accurately, the study of the second person of the Trinity. Among such questions as the nature of Christ (humanity vs deity) and the role of Christ in redemption, Christology grapples with the purpose of Scripture altogether.
Is Christ a Valid Hinge Point?
Some struggle to accept Christ as a valid starting point. After all, the Bible is full of material leading up to the first mention of the person Jesus Christ. Certainly the mature reader understands that that material speaks to the prophecies that set the stage for the coming of Christ, but shouldn’t that material all be scrutinized before broaching the subject of Christ Himself?
When in Rome…
Without a doubt, God revealed Himself to the Jewish people first, long before Jesus walked the earth. This revelation, and the religion that it birthed among the Hebrew people set the stage for the coming of Christ. Judaism and the Law served to set apart a people group that would later become the Church of Jesus Christ. The church would then serve as God’s primary vehicle for redeeming the world. However, the gentile nations (those people who were not the Jews) were not converted by first understanding the Law, and then revealing Christ. Instead, the evangelists to the gentiles started with Christ and used that understanding to teach the rest of Scripture.
Like Father, Like Church
Similarly, the early Church Fathers wrestled with many questions surrounding Christ and how He fits into our theological understanding. As the central figure of the Christian faith, a well rounded understanding of the person (both historically and conceptually) was seen as essential to the survival of the orthodox teachings of the Church. While many topics were discussed in the writings of Augustine, Jerome, and Athanasius, the central idea was surrounding Christ Himself.
Christ: The Perfect Revelation
Without a doubt, God has revealed Himself since the onset of creation. However, until Christ came in the flesh (specifically as we see Him on the cross) mankind was only given an essential glimpse. Christ on the cross revealed the nature of God as being one of justice, love, and mercy. When we look back into the Old Testament, and see what appears to be a God of wrath and cruelty (one who very much resembles the ancient Canaanite gods who required death and blood), we might be confused with the apparent contrast of a self sacrificing God who gives Himself as the ultimate sin offering. But, when we start with Christ, and use this as a lens for reading the rest of Scripture, we realize that Christ (as the perfect revelation) is the same in Matthew and Mark as he was in Leviticus: taking on the sins of His people and appearing to deserve of death on a cross). All the while, He was redeeming His people by descending to a level we could understand.
The Beginning & The End
As a hinge point, Christology holds the study of Theology together. It keeps the student on track and keeps us from majoring in the minors. So much time has been spent debating topics such as young earth and old earth creationism, premillennialism and postmilinialism, and Calvanisn and Arminianism. While these topics can be interesting, and certainly provide beneficial insight for reflection, they often serve to distract us from what’s really important. I believe that a well rounded understanding of Scripture and theology begins and ends with Christ at the center.
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