Thursday, August 24, 2006

The end of grace IV

The ultimate goal: the Father
I spoke at the start of this series about the end or goal of grace for humanity as a society liberated from fear, suffering and death, a city of creative possibilities.

But there is so much more to this perfection of humanity; there is the Father.

Christ is the centre of Christian thought (despite a previous whimsical post), because (as David rightly pointed out), all things are through him and for him and in him all things hold together. Or as Paul puts it elsewhere, it is through Christ that all things came and through him we live. Christology is centre, but the goal, the direction, the world's true telos is found in theology proper, in the Father: from whom all things came and for whom we live.

Christ's life, death and resurrection are rightly the centre of our knowledge of God, the centre of our hope, but even these were ultimately for the glory of God the Father. This gospel story, summarised in the phrase 'Jesus Christ is Lord', has a final chapter in which Jesus hands the kingdom back to the Father.

This end of grace ensures that grace doesn't end. There is always more to come...
Important discussion in comments. Ten points for naming the town in this pic.
Series: I; II; III; IV.

14 comments:

Spooh said...

Hi - i take it you're a Moore student - i'd love to study there. Maybe you know my friend Jonny Gibson, I think he's in 2nd year - he's Irish, I'm not. Anyway, nice blog - check out mine if you've got some time - seems we might have a bit in common.

byron said...

Thanks Spooh, I am indeed a 4th yr Moore student. I know of Jonny, but don't really know him personally. I'll go and check out your blog now.

Drew said...

Christ is the centre of Christian thought

A thought on the dynamics of this 'centre' - he pours himself out, he is with his people, he seeks them out, he serves, makes himself a slave, and, as you point out, hands back the kingdom to the Father.

That is, he dominates in a very undominating way. The direction towards this centre, is only in response to his outward gesture, and in his response to the Father.

Just thinking in circles...

byron said...

Great point Drew, and nicely put. Subverts all our centri-centrism by providing a 'centre' that itself has a centrifugal or 'ek-centric' focus.

michael paget said...

PFJ famously (?) critiqued Goldworthy et al by arguing that the central them of the Bible was not Christ, but rather the Kingdm of God. His point was that Goldworthy's approach tended to force every passage straight towards Christ, thus depriving it of contextual richness.

byron said...

Mike, could it be possible that KoG is the main theme of the Bible, yet Christ is still appropriately the central theme of theology? Or have I given too much away to the biblical studies/theology split?

Perhaps a better response would be ask about the meaning of 'central'.

Weekend Fisher said...

I have to wonder how many theological hairs are being split that cannot rightly be split. Can you separate King Messiah from the Kingdom of God in a meaningful sense? How much distance do we care to put between God and Christ? And when did we know the Kingdom of God was upon us except when Messiah came?

I wouldn't want to see anyone trying to crudely force any given passage to Christ (book of Esther springs to mind), but that doesn't tell against Christ being the true center of Scripture any more than (say) the trees in the background of the Mona Lisa tell against the lady being the center and proper focus of the picture.

Take care & God bless

byron said...

weekend fisher: I'd love to hear why you thought my post was putting distance between Christ and God. That was certainly not my intention. The Kingdom of God is none other than that ruled by his Christ. Yet my point was simply that it is God's Kingdom, that is the Kingdom of the Father. It is also the Kingdom of his Christ, but using 'of' in a different sense. This is where I was trying to go in my post: that Christ is the centre, but the ultimate goal is the Father.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi there

The part where it strikes me that way is especially "Christology is center but ... " is that to insert reasons why something else is more important? And again "theology proper, in the Father". Which left me wondering, "is he asserting that the study of Christ is not theology proper?" And again "Jesus hands the kingdom back to the Father" draws a fairly firm distinction between Christ and the Father, and seems to put splits in the Godhead.

Now, I know that you wouldn't want to go off and be more Pauline than Paul (or however that's said in your neck of the woods). It's good practice to take all those sayings seriously, whether or not they fit neatly with our preconceptions.

But I thought and haven't remembered a passage of the New Testament saying that we can know God apart from Christ. So that would lead me to believe that "theology proper" must still have Christ at its center until we can see face-to-face.

byron said...

weekend fisher: when I speak of 'theology proper', I am referring to our speech about (and to) the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ. I affirm the full divinity of Christ and am (as far as I am aware) orthodox regarding Christology. I also believe that it is only in Christ that we can know the Father. All I am saying is that in Christ, it is the Father that we truly come to know. In Christ, by the Spirit, we have access to the Father (Eph 2.18).

As for Christ delivering the kingdom back to the Father - how are we to understand this, when Christ's kingdom is an everlasting kingdom? However we understand it, I never want to imply that Christology is anything but the centre and sum of our knowledge of the Father. Yet while Christ is centre, the goal towards which he himself points us is the Father. This is not a goal that supplants his centrality, but which confirms it.

peter j said...

Is the town Oxford by any chance?

byron said...

Pete - Close, but keep guessing.

peter j said...

Cambridge?

byron said...

It was only a matter of time. Ten points and you hit the lead!