It All Points to Jesus

In his new book, Evangelical Theology, Mike Bird points to the centrality of Christ with these golden words:

God is known to us most profoundly in the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, and it is through the economic relationship of Father-Son and Son-Spirit that we can glimpse into the Trinity.

In creation, God makes the universe in, through, and for Jesus Christ.

In revelation, Jesus Christ unveils the mystery of God, executing the divine covenant for redemption, hidden in ages past but unveiled in these last days.

In eschatology, the end of all things involves every man and woman appearing before the judgment seat of Christ and Christ himself consummating the Father’s purposes of the new creation.

On the Holy Spirit, Jesus is the bearer of the Spirit and the dispenser of the Spirit; only through him is the Spirit given.

The church is a community called and commissioned by JEsus to represent him before the world.

Ethics is the practical discipline of learning to walk in Christ’s steps behind him and showing our likeness to him in our behavior….

If theology were a maze, every corner and every turn would lead us to Jesus (343-344).

But how does one go at this task of articulating who Jesus is and what he means? How do we do christology? Bird sketches a Christology from Below, one that — like Pannenberg and NT Wright — seeks to get behind the creeds to examine what is scripture and what happened and to see what is later articulation. In this approach the emphasis falls on God acting in real history, that Jesus was a historically-shaped person, and that the resurrection happened in history. Yet, as Bird admits (he lives in considerable tension here), this becomes a scholarly construct. He believes in historical Jesus studies but does not think it can deliver all we need.

Christology from Above begins with the church’s witness to Jesus. One begins with Jesus as both human and divine. He sees this in Barth and Bultmann. He dips into Luke Timothy Johnson’s focus on the experience of the first Christians. Or the “identity” question of seeing how creed and canon help clarify the identity of Jesus.

The issue emerges: is the Jesus we believe the one who lived in history or the one whom the church as articulated? Is it about reconstructing history or confessing our faith?

Thus, is it Jesus of history or the Christ of faith? the Synoptics or John? Rationalistic or fideistic? Humanity or deity? is it Antiochene or Alexandrian? Does it lead to Ebionitism or to Docetism?

Bird thinks these are false dichotomies. He says we are to do christology from behind (OT), below (historical Jesus), above (divine speech) and before (creeds).

In this Bird’s theology surpasses standard evangelical theologies (e.g., Grudem): he has extensive discussions at this point about the life of Jesus.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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