Yes, I Am a Christolator

Yes, I Am a Christolator July 6, 2017
Christ Pantokrator
Image credit: “Christ Pantokrator, Cathedral of Cefalù, Sicily,” photo by Gun Powder Ma, Wikimedia Commons.

A little while back, when I was beginning my series on the Beautiful Gospel of WHEAT, my dearest detractor (who writes under the pseudonym of “H.A. Parker”) posted a rather lengthy critique titled “Chuck McKnight vs. the Bible.”

I have no intention of responding to the majority of what he has written, as most of it is simply a misrepresentation of my beliefs. I won’t defend a straw man, and I have confidence in my readers who know what I believe to see through his false claims without problem.

But I do want to respond to one claim in particular: the charge of “Christolatry.”

Parker is under the impression that he “coined this term” in response to my posts. Here’s the definition he gives:

The practice of espousing falsehoods under the banner of Christian doctrine, ones which are entirely independent from the authority of Scripture. Simply put, this is the practice of espousing an idolatrous Christ which bases itself neither on the Totality of Scripture, including its role as authoritative and inerrant, or the Analogy of Faith, which consequentially gives its’ entire meaning as a rightful supreme ruler, but rather an adherence to arbitrary views that hinge on someone’s notion of what Christ ought to be.

What a mouthful!

That last sentence is actually his, not mine. A mouthful his words are, but an accurate description they are not. His definition is neither accurate to what I believe, nor is it accurate to what constitutes Christolatry.

I’m not sure exactly when the term “Christolatry” was first used, but a quick search revealed that it dates at least as far back as the nineteenth century. It means “the worship of Christ,” and has generally been used as a pejorative term against orthodox Christians by those who reject Christ’s divinity.

Since I do worship Christ and affirm his divinity, I’m more than happy to accept the label of “Christolator.” But I want to press into this term a bit further.

“Christolatry” comes from combining the words Christ and idolatry. And an idol is an image (graven or otherwise) made to represent God. The Mosaic Law forbade idolatry because no man-made idol could ever represent God accurately. Any attempt to so depict God would in fact be a distortion of God.

However, when the Word of God became incarnate as Jesus, we learned that “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15, NRSV), and that “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3, NIV).

(As a fun side note, this is precisely why icons depicting Christ are not idolatrous. Jesus gave us in himself a visual representation of the invisible God—one free from the distortions of idols. So we may now depict Jesus as an accurate deption of God.)

In other words, as I’m constantly saying, Jesus is the only perfect revelation of God.

And so Christolatry (looking to Christ as the ultimate revelation of God) is the surest corrective to any form of actual idolatry—and this includes bibliolatry, which would have us take all passages of scripture as equally authoritative revelations of God, failing to give priority to the only perfect image of God revealed in Jesus.

So yes, because I worship Christ as divine, I am a Christolator (as are all orthodox Christians). But even more so, I am a Christolator because I believe that Jesus—and only Jesus—is himself the perfect image of God, revealing God with none of the imperfections or distortions that come from every other source.

Thank you, Parker, for pointing me to this wonderful term that I am happy to adopt, regardless of its pejorative intent.

And to my readers, will you join me? Will you too embrace Christolatry?

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  • This is great; really well said. I once likened Jesus to God’s own ‘graven image’ of Himself, which is partly why our graven images fall so woefully short 🙂

    Here’s a link to the article I wrote on it:

    http://tinyurl.com/or329dr

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    What I have a hard time understanding how you can rationalize to yourself that not all Scripture is equal in weight but while saying this did you not have to use 2 passages from 2 different books not of the gospels to help establish who Jesus is? Now honestly, wouldn’t any reasonable person think that if you can use those passages from the books then that would have to give serious ‘authority’ to them and that if you can justify using those verses from those books how can you not accept the use of the rest of the books for other points at othr times not haveing to do with the point you made but the book/s are still written by the same person that wrote th
    e passage/s you used??

    Truly, I’m not trying to give you a hard time on this. I am simply curious about it and how you could look at that being a ‘bibliolator?

    • It’s a fair question. But here’s the thing. My purpose is not to diminish scripture at all. I think scripture is incredibly important. It’s just not as important as Jesus himself. That is my starting belief precisely because I am a Christian, rather than a Bibliotian. My faith is in Christ, not in a book.

      Yes, the truth that Jesus is the center of God’s revelation is certainly found in the pages of the Bible itself. Not just in these two passages, but woven many places throughout. So if I am to trust the Bible at all, I must trust those portions and interpret the rest accordingly.

      But this theme is not just in the Bible. It’s also found in the teachings of the church fathers, and throughout the writings of countless saints and theologians from the whole history of the church.

      And it’s also what I believe the Spirit has confirmed in my own heart to be the truth. And it’s the only way I can make sense of the whole of scripture, because scripture taken as a flat text of all equal authority makes no sense at all.

      If you’re interested, I’ve written more on the long process that brought me to this place here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hippieheretic/2016/04/my-long-fight-to-defend-inerrancy-why-i.html

      • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

        Thank you for replying Chuck. I do appreciate it.

        I can appreciate your point on Jesus. What I don’ tunderstand is how does one come to the conclusion they know Jesus without being told about Jesus not only while he was on earth but before he got here. And if we were being given authoritative Scripture in the past from God’s prophets, why would we thin God wouldn’t give us new things to know after the coming of Jesus? And the most important thing to keep in mind is that these men who are responsible for the letters we know as the ‘NT are quite literally Christians and most of the ‘books’ are written by som eapostles correct? And are the Christians from back then not ‘the body of Christ’? And is Jesus not the ‘head’ of that body that literally directed them? If Jesus was the one giving this incite to them, why would one come to the conclusion that that Scripture isn’t just as authoritative as the books we call ‘gospels’? Did Christianity not become a whole new ‘organization’ of ppl belonging ot God that needed understanding of the things of the past that were now revealed to us after Jesus? Did these things not need to be preserved for us down to this day? We truly shouldn’t forget that Jesus did live according to the Mosaic Law as the rest of the nation was supposed to did he not? I don’t recall Jesus talking about how all of that was literally going to change once he died and was resurrected. Do you?

        • I see all of scripture as God working with his people, leading them closer and closer to the truth, and having them record their story as they go along. Scripture is God inspired and human authored; every portion of it contains elements of both divine truth and human error. But the center of all that divine truth is Jesus himself. All scripture is profitable, but those parts of scripture which are closest to the direct words of Jesus are the most important because they contain the most direct record of God’s truth. We do not discard any of scripture, as all of it is there to tell the story of God and humanity. And we do haphazardly accuse it of error. But we do focus on Jesus first and foremost. And when his words bring us to question other portions of scripture, he takes priority.