toward a Christo-centric study of Origins, pt1

Part 1 of 2

The Center

The center of the Christian worldview is Christ. So when we approach any endeavor or topic at its core is Christ. The reality of Christ is present in all matters. Whether we see him or not, he is there. The Christian worldview is Christo-centric by default, not by choice, which means the presence and supremacy of Christ is here (in the world) and there (at the center). That Christ is central to all things is a first order truth, not a secondary truth. The task, purpose and joy of the Church in every place and in every age is to know Christ and work out his own divine task, purpose and joy that in everything he might have the supremacy (see Col 1:18, niv throughout unless noted) or as Young’s Literal Translation renders it …that he might become in all things – himself – first. The pronoun himself as an ‘emphatic pronoun’ demands Christ’s centrality and priority in all the cosmos. His supremacy is not optional. Christ’s sovereignty is indigenous to reality. Exultation in the cosmicly exalted Christ is our “bucket list.”

On the other hand, Western influenced religion – American style Christianity included – prefers to build a life where a semblance of Christ is the most we can tolerate. Making much of Christ is too much. The fully sovereign Christ is diluted. In other words, Western influenced religion has struggled with the task of letting Christ become in all things – himself – first. Even various Christian worldviews, so called, we see Christ removed from the center and given assigned seating at the edges, near the exit if need be. In ‘Christless Christianity’ Michael Horton notes “Christ is ubiquitous in this subculture, but more as an adjective (Christian) than as a proper name [Christ]. While we swim in a sea of ‘Christian’ things, Christ is increasingly reduced to a mascot or symbol…”

So, when we come to Origin studies (as with any subject) our first concern should be to fill it up with Christo-centric awareness. To clarify, this does not mean that being Christo-centric will leave us with an air of hyper-spirituality. Instead, a Christo-centric focus is a lively awareness of His kingship and His unfolding Kingdom. In his book ‘Redeeming Science’ Vern Poythress reminds us that the Creation narrative “…puts the all-powerful God at the sovereign origin of all (114). Genesis 1 and 2 is not only about how we got here (origins). Genesis 1 and 2 is a declaration of divine sovereignty.
King and His Objectives

When we come to the subject of origins (as with any other subject or endeavor) our objectives are the same as that of our Sovereign, Jesus Messiah. Therefore go and make disciples… (see Matt 28:19). Just before Jesus said this He declared his sovereignty and divine kingship as supreme Ruler over all things – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (see Matt 28:18). The continual proclamation of the Gospel is kingdom work for this present age. The watchwords, “Christ is King” and “Jesus is Lord,” signify the core of the Gospel. That Yahweh has restored and is expanding his global kingship in Messiah is the Good News. The particulars (key Christ events) how this happened is the substance of the Gospel.

God has used America in many ways to advance the Gospel on these shores and around the world, but we have alongside this nurtured a reduced Christ. Sentiments like ‘Your Own Personal Jesus,’ sung by Johnny Cash (words and music by Depeche Mode) sum up America Christianity of the last several decades. We teach and preach a Jesus as Savior, but not Lord or perhaps lord in some reduced or futuristic sense. It is interesting that a quick survey of the title Savior both the OT and NT as it pertains to Yahweh and Christ also has kingly connotations. Instead, the American church has been accustomed to presenting the Gospel as an addendum to its other work and teaching. The America church sees Jesus as the “only ticket” to Heaven, but they have kept the King of Kings out of science, culture and government. They kept the Creator Sovereign at best on the fringes of Origin studies concerning the very world He made.

The result is that Christ has been reduced to an individualistic god, “Jesus and me” or a dealer in fire insurance for the after life or a private interest firewalled away from academia, science and industry. Even conservative Christianity has bought into the adage that “faith and reason don’t mix.” It is much safer this way.

Sure Faith & Proof

Part of the problem is that the definitions of ‘faith’ used by the culture and used in the Word of God are quite different. Often, we who affirm the Bible as God’s true word use the cultural idea of ‘faith.’ The cultural usage of the word ‘faith’ and the biblical word ‘faith’ are not the same. These are not inter-changeable.

In common parlance the word ‘faith’ typically is used to talk about what you are somewhat sure about (even if to a high degree) or what you hope might happen or when you want to convey the idea of “chances are” that such ‘n so will happen or that so ‘n so will come through as promised. Faith in the Bible is quite different. Faith in Scripture is way of saying that even though you don’t have all the information you would like to have or that the information you have may be incomplete you are still absolutely sure because the information you have been given is enough to be totally sure. For example, the word ‘faith’ in the NT is the noun pistis which in verb form is the pisteo. Literally faith is the result of faithing or belief in the anchor of that believing or trust.

This means that when God gives us faith He is giving us proof. The Bible is among other things a book of proofs, a book of evidence that can be fully relied upon. So when we hear phrases like “faith and science” as though these are in tension or even at opposite ends what we are hearing is a false dichotomy produced by the secular culture and received as true by Christianity at large. The secularist or material uses the word science to mean first hand information (empiricism). But he is not consistent with his rejection of faith and demand for empiricism. How many times do secularists receive second hand information? A lot. They use faith all the time.

However, the Bible and the Gospel give us proof, not a “chances are” kind of faith or a probability faith. Faith in the Christ-centered worldview is confidence – from the Latin, con: with + fide: faith. This sure faith is not merely a confidence theoretically or an abstraction of theology. Sure faith touches us deeply and practically for you cannot fully love what you cannot be fully sure exists, otherwise you are in love with a fantasy or a hybrid composed of partial reality plus partial fantasy. We are called to love God with all our heart, mind and soul (see Deut 6:4-5), but we cannot do this as we ought if we are living under the impression that the faith we possess is a “chances are” kind of faith. You cannot love and enjoy fully what are not sure of. Why bother?

The beauty of biblical faith, sure faith, is that it is grounded NOT merely in a body of evidence nor in supposed “third party verification,” but in the very Person of Jesus Christ, Yahweh come in the flesh. For example, when we read in Hebrews 11 that now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (kjv), we are being led into a sure faith, an absolute confidence in the very Person of Christ.

The KJV translation of the Hebrews 11:1 may have been suitable at the time, but its wording has allowed us in our time to harbor a “chance are” idea of faith rather than the biblical sure faith. In the current Zeitgeist the concept of what is hoped for is another way of expressing a “chances are” kind of faith. Also, when we speak of evidence we impose ideas from modern jurisprudence over the biblical idea of faith. In law court we separate evidence from proof. We put the data in a separate box from the arrived at conclusions.

In biblical faith this is not so. The substance is the confidence and the evidence is the proof. The HCSB serves us well in its word choices which indicate the solidity of the Greek: Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. In the Greek we beautifully that the word the KJV translates as substance (hypostasis) is the same word, though in different form, used by the biblical writer in Hebrews 1:3, the exact representation of his being (hypostasis). The word in Hebrews 11 which speaks of reality is the same word used to speak of the reality of God’s very divine being (or person or nature as other translations render it) in Hebrews 1. Reality is rooted in the being of God.

 

Apologetic Methods

Therefore, when we come to an apologetic method if we are to remain consistent to the core truths of Christo-centric theology, then Christ as Lord will be woven all through our methodology. Several apologetic methods have been used by the Church. Whether it be an evidentiary method (such as Intelligent Design) or philosophical method (such as Classical apologetics) or academic theological method (such as Creation Science) if Christ is not at its center, then the method is not Christian in the biblical sense. It may be a useful ancillary methodology or discipline to Christ-centered apologetics, but it is not in the proper sense a Christ-centered apologetic.

Apologetic methods tend to privilege a particular area of knowledge and research over others. This does not mean that a given apologetic method ignores all other data sets, but we do see in various approaches an emphasis on a certain data set that is in accord with its system. For example, Intelligence Design focuses on data sets in areas of knowledge common to physical sciences. Intelligent Design consciously ignores theology. Stephen Meyer and his colleagues have done splendid work in service of the basic axiom that the universe and its contents require a great designer.

Yet, they hardly ever mention Yahweh God as the one who is the Great Designer much less that Jesus Christ is the Creator Sovereign come in the flesh. For example, in the endorsement Meyer wrote for Poythress’s book, ‘Redeeming Science,’ he applauds Poythress for demonstrating “another compelling reason to acknowledge the wisdom and design that lie behind physical reality.” Notice that he speaks of “the wisdom and design” in the abstract while Scripture presents Christ as the Logos, the living wisdom of God (see John 1 and 1 Cor 1:24, 30). We may be able to offer “compelling” reasons that complexity and order demand a great designer, but this still keeps Christ at arms length, the One who made us and who bought our redemption. No wonder He stands outside the door and knocks (see Rev 3:20).

Instead of subscribing to a private Jesus or a gospel focused on the after life we should receive Christ’s now kingship as “compelling reason” enough to make much of His nurturing rule over the Church and also astrophysics, DNA studies, geology, literature, the arts, conservation, etc. It is all His anyway.

 celebratio Christi

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