The Bible Says Jesus Should be the Key for Doing Christian Theology; The Speculative Philosophers Shouldn’t Be

18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. –John 1:18

 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, –I Timothy 2:5

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. –John 15:26-27

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. –John 5:36-40

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. –Luke 24:25-27

As Christian disciples, theologians, and thinkers a hallmark, I would think, for those of us who like to worship God through pressing deeply into him in such ways (through research, deep reflection and thought) would be that Jesus defines and regulates the way we approach the task of such work. For me personally the passages I’ve noted above predisposed me toward doing theology in a certain way; it caused me to be attracted to certain theologians and not other ones. This is why Karl Barth and Thomas Torrance stand out among the theologians for me (and then some of the antecedent voices like Athanasius, Luther, Calvin); they are both men who understood what Jesus did, that in order to know God we must come through Christ alone in intensive and principial ways. They were theologians who made the entirety of their theologizing contingent upon Jesus Christ as the genuine center; they were theologians who understood that their Bible reading always had to be oriented by the living Word of God, Jesus Christ. And because of this they constructed theological ways that I believe take Scripture at its Word in regard to the way Jesus thought about his own ministry in regard to mediating knowledge of God to the people.

When I look at how much of theology has developed over the centuries there is a conflict between said development and what Jesus thought about the way knowledge of God could be attained. When Jesus Christ is not the de jure center of doing theology, when he is not the regulative key, then imaginations are free to roam the intellectual ranges at will. I think the history of theology bears this out, and continues to. It’s interesting too, because the way folks have gotten to where they have, often, when it comes to developing theological constructs based upon speculation and philosophical frameworks, is that they implicitly hold to a theological anthropology that does not really believe the human capacity (i.e. the intellect) completely fell at the fall (Gen. 3). They believe that the human mind had some sort of capacity, some point of contact with the Divine, that left it untouched and thus able to discover things about God purely by their own powers and self-reflection. This is why the classical pagan Greek philosophers can be appealed to by so many Christian theologians to provide them with the categories they think they need to do the theological task. There is a belief that it was simply the passions and the will that fell at the fall and not the intellect (at least not fully). So Jesus gets displaced as the only key for knowledge of God in this approach, and an abstract humanity (i.e. a humanity thought apart from the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ) is given the keys to supply the foundations for how God is conceived of. This is the wrong way.

 

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6 thoughts on “The Bible Says Jesus Should be the Key for Doing Christian Theology; The Speculative Philosophers Shouldn’t Be

  1. While I agree with the broad sweep of your statements here and elsewhere concerning the imposition of Athens over Jerusalem, there is still nevertheless the fact that for there to exist a human capacity to receive, understand and acknowledge Jesus there cannot have been a *total* collapse in our intellect and moral nature. If it were total, we would live forever in darkness, but we have not. We have received a glimpse of light and for that to have happened there must have been a chink for the light to have invaded in the first place. The question is to what depth and extent that chink runs, hence the inevitability for a certain form of metaphysical speculation.

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  2. Joseph,

    Yes, the “chink”, I contend is Jesus Christ. That’s why I emphasize the vicarious humanity of Christ so much; i.e. the ontological and epistemological mutually implicate one another. Biblically, it is an all the way down sort of proposition (i.e. Rom 3 etc); we were subhumanized at the Fall, and it was only by God’s grace and election in Jesus Christ for us that humanity has remained. Indeed, it has remained viable because Christ is the firstborn from the dead, and the image of God (Col 1.15) wherein we find our recreation; and where Adam found his original creation. So it is total; and you’re right, we would live in forever darkness outwith God’s mercy and grace given in Jesus Christ for us. That’s the point of my post.

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  3. Here’s a proposition: speculative philosophy applied to theology is an apophatic and cathartic enterprise. So, for example, divine impassibility is best understood as a means of removing God from a necessary chain of cause-and-effect, and not describing what God, in fact, does, which is only revealed to us in Scripture. It’s an intellectual discipline to help the reception of revelation, clearing away possible category mistakes, and nothing more. Thus, speculative philosophy has a purpose, but one far more modest than the one typical in what one generally understands as classical theism.

    What do you think about that?

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