The Ordered Life of God as The Ground for the Ordered Life of the World: The Doctrine of the Primacy of Christ

To be a believer in an unbelieving world, can at points, become a draining prospect; depending upon the level the Christian attempts to live out ‘their faith’ in confrontation of other’s un-faith. There is a spiritual warfare occurring all around us that unless we press into our faith as Christians, we will not become aware of. This warfare occurs at various levels of society and interpersonal dynamics, but its principled reality remains the same: i.e. the kingdom of darkness is constantly seeking to unfurl the invading reality of the Kingdom of the Son of His love (cf. Col. 1.13). But it is just this; the Kingdom of God in Christ (KGC) is indeed an invading reality that the kingdom of darkness cannot possess. The KGC is not collapsed into the materiality (not that materiality is inherently evil, just the opposite in the KGC) of this world (as the kingdom of darkness is); instead the KGC constantly breaks into this world and recreates it moment by moment by the Grace of Christ as its inner-reality and source. The Grace of God cannot be possessed by the kingdom of darkness, insofar as the kingdom of darkness has already been concluded by the ultimacy of God’s invasion in Christ; as God in Christ triumphed over the devil and his minions making a public spectacle of them through His cross, burial, resurrection, ascension and ultimately second coming. The KGC is in fact the extension of God’s dominion as primally realized in the eschatos of His inner life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; in other words, the KGC is God’s telos for the created order, and as such is not ‘under’ the dominion of the evil one, but instead is under the dominion of God’s a se life as the fundamentum of all that is.

All that was just noted is corollary with the Scotist doctrine known as the Primacy of Jesus Christ. According to the Apostle Paul,

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.[1]

David Fergusson gives us greater insight into this doctrine as he writes,

In the prologue to John’s Gospel the Word (Logos) of God is the one by whom and through whom the world is created. This Word which is made present to Israel becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ. In this cosmic Christology, the significance of Jesus is understood with respect to the origin and purpose of the created order. Already in Paul’s writing and elsewhere in the New Testament epistles, we find similar cosmic themes (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:15-20, Heb. 1:1-4). By describing creation as Christ-centred, these passages offer two related trajectories of thought. First, the origin and final purpose of the cosmos is disclosed with the coming of Christ into the world and his resurrection from the dead. Second, the significance of Christ is maximally understood reference to his creative and redeeming power throughout the created universe. Writers at different periods in the history of the church would later use this cosmic Christology to describe the appearance of the incarnate Christ as the crowning moment of history. No longer understood merely as an emergency measure to counteract the effects of sin and evil, the incarnation was the fulfillment of an eternal purpose. The world was made so that Christ might be born.This is captured in Karl Barth’s dictum that creation is ‘the external basis of the covenant’ (Barth 1958: 94).[2]

The world order has no order without Christ as its reality. In order for there to be order in this world, this world must be ordered by the Great Orderer of all reality, who is God. Without this reconciliation, between God and humanity accomplished in the hypostatic union of God and humanity in Christ, the world will only experience the waywardness of a world that has been judged. And yet the world, by definition, will repudiate God’s judgment and attempt to make ‘a life’ out of the world system that has no life in it; not in and from its old fallen order. To be in Christ is to be in the ordered life that God is in HisSelf as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see an origin of relation in God’s inner life as revealed in the Son, and we participate in and from that ordered life insofar as we call Jesus, Lord. But this world does not call Jesus, Lord; as such they can only experience the dregs of a world that has been driven into the nothingness that it is. But the world loves this nothingness rather than the somethingness of God’s life, thus heaping a world of pain and suffering upon itself with no hope. A tragedy I seek to bear witness against.

 

 

[1] Colossians 1, ESV.

[2] David Fergusson, “Creation, in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, edited by John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance, 76-7.

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Creation, A Reason

In some of my posts, especially of late, we have been thinking about the Christian doctrine of Creation; as corollary, we have also been considering our relation to creation in and through Christ. The first step we ought to engage, in our consideration of such things; is to wonder about the God-world relation and what purpose he has always already intended for creation as the counterpoint to his gracious life of love, from which he created. It becomes quickly obvious, as we read the New Testament, and work out the theo-logical implications of Trintarian and Christo-logical assumptions, therein; that creation was created with Christ in mind, and us in Christ. So that God’s original intent, was in and through Christ, to bring all of creation (and humanity as the pinnacle of his creation) into his life of perichoretic (interpenetrating) love (self-giving, subject-in-distinction=Trinity). Scottish theologian, David Fergusson, helps us understand how all of this has played out in the history of interpretation:

The notion of ‘wisdom’ provides further evidence of the integration of creation and salvation in the Old Testament. As the creative agency of God, wisdom is celebrated in the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and some of the deutero-canonical works. In some places, such as Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a divine agent. The divine wisdom by which the world is created is also apparent in the regularity of nature, the divine law, and human affairs. This notion of ‘wisdom’ is later fused with the Greek concept of ‘Logos’ and becomes vital for expressing the linking of creation and Christology in the New Testament. In the prologue to John’s Gospel the Word (Logos) of God is the one by whom and through whom the world is created. This Word which is made present to Israel becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ. In this cosmic Christology, the significance of Jesus is understood with respect to the origin and purpose of the created order. Already in Paul’s writing and elsewhere in the New Testament epistles, we find similar cosmic themes (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:15-20, Heb. 1:1-4). By describing creation as Christ-centred, these passages offer two related trajectories of thought. First, the origin and final purpose of the cosmos is disclosed with the coming of Christ into the world and his resurrection from the dead. Second, the significance of Christ is maximally understood reference to his creative and redeeming power throughout the created universe. Writers at different periods in the history of the church would later use this cosmic Christology to describe the appearance of the incarnate Christ as the crowning moment of history. No longer understood merely as an emergency measure to counteract the effects of sin and evil, the incarnation was the fulfillment of an eternal purpose. The world was made so that Christ might be born. This is captured in Karl Barth’s dictum that creation is ‘the external basis of the covenant’ (Barth 1958: 94). [David Fergusson, Chapter 4: Creation, 76-7 in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, edited by John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance]

In the history what David Fergusson is describing is known as the Scotist Thesis; viz. that the plan was always for Jesus to incarnate to bring humanity and creation into the divine dialogue and life of communion through union with the Son. The ‘Fall’ intensified the Incarnation in a way that is tragic, but rife with the redemptive hope of the resurrection and advent life! I follow the Scotist thesis on this front. My friend, brother in Christ, Evangelical Calvinist co-conspirator, and doctoral adviser, Myk Habets has written this to open up his essay entitled On Getting First Things First: Assessing Claims for the Primacy of Christ (©The author 2008. Journal compilation ©The Dominican Council/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2008, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK, and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA DOI:10.1111/j.1741-2005.2008.00240.x):

According to Christian tradition Jesus Christ is pre-eminent over all creation as the Alpha and the Omega, the ‘beginning and the end’ (Rev 1.8, 21.6; 22.13). This belief, when theologically considered, is known as the primacy of Christ.1 The specific issue this doctrine addresses is the question: Was sin the efficient or the primary cause of the incarnation? This essay seeks to model the practice of modal logic in relation to the primacy of Christ, not to satisfy the cravings of speculative theologians but to reverently penetrate the evangelical mystery of the incarnation, specifically, the two alternatives: either ‘God became man independently of sin,’ or its contradiction, ‘God became man because of sin’. . . .

Wouldn’t you agree that ‘the world was made so that Christ might be born’?

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. ~Colossians 1:15-23