A Dangerous Christocentrism

In De Trinitate, Augustine spends pages explaining that at the last judgment, the wicked will see Christ in his form of a servant, not in his form of God. That sight, the fullness of deity, is reserved for the justified; it is the final reward of faith. Edmund Hill, one of Augustine’s translators, reflects on the significance of this interpretation:

One particular value of Augustine’s long discussion of the judgment … is that it provides a cogent and salutary corrective to an excessive emphasis on the humanity of Christ. The tendency in theology to explore to the limit all the implications of the incarnation and the humanity of Christ is valuable and sound. But like all good things it can be and is sometimes overdone. One is left wondering at times, when reading or listening to those who would stress the properly christocentic quality of Christian theology—christocentric instead of theocentric—whether there is any point or meaning in saying that Jesus Christ is true God as well as true man. From a misconstrued christocentricity it is only a step to a purely anthropocentric view, which soon leaves one wondering whether there is any point or meaning in saying God: period. And one answers that comes back honestly enough is “No, God is dead.”

It does make all the difference where one puts the center. A fully humane, even humanist, anthropology is one thing, and a good one; but a Christian may question whether it is true to the deepest heart of man to put him at the center of things, even of himself. Again, a fully balanced christology, doing full justice to the human nature of Christ, is one thing and a good one, and even a christocentric approach to the Christian life is excellent in a limited context. But it leaves one with the question, what was the center of this Chrsit center, of Christ’s own life? If one is going to be honest with the gospel, one must surely answer, God, the Father. So ultimately Christian theology must be unashamedly theocentric.

Augustine’s certainly was so. It is the ultimate human destiny, and fulfillment, and “hominization” to find God, that is to know God, that is to see God. If it is also, according to the New Testament gospel, our ultimate destiny and fulfillment to know and see Christ, this can only be because Christ is God the Son of God, equal to the Father. Christ as man, true man, complete and perfect man though he be, cannot satisfy us as our final destiny, because he is, or will be, also available to the knowledge and sight of the wicked, that is to say, of those people who have somehow or other willfully foresworn their true destiny.

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Published in: on February 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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