Jesus Christ is the only God we can truly know. Jesus Christ is the truest truth about who God is, what God does and what God continues to do. Everything we claim must line up with this one and only human being who contains in Himself all we are ever able to know about God. To declare to be Christian and dare to go anywhere else other than Jesus Christ is the first sign that we are totally blind to the subject and content of all we need to know about revelation, reconciliation and redemption etc.
It is the ultimate act of arrogance on our part if we believe we can bring something from outside of Jesus Christ and call it Christian doctrine. If a line is to be drawn between theology and mythology it is to be found in the differences between the epistemological and the ontological dualisms that endeavour to divide the saving work of Jesus Christ from the very person of Christ as God of God and Light from Light who is of the same being with the Father. If we give no credibility to the integrity of Jesus Christ’s Godness, then we are left with nothing. There is nothing to be gained from anything outside of Jesus Christ. Unless we conform to precisely what is presented to us in this one human being, then we convey a so-called truth as enemies of the gospel rather than allies. In addition, we act as destroyers of the truth.
As an aside, I just want to raise a common objection to Nicene Theology, particularly the Council itself in AD325. Those who align themselves with their so-called truth over and against what Nicene theology presents, argue that because the Emperor Constantine convened over the Council, then its conclusion should be disregarded with suspicion. According to historians, Constantine was not a theologian and was not interested in points of theology that were dividing the church at the time. Rather, his motive was political. Constantine believed gaining unity in the church could be a political advantage to himself and thereby he would bring unity to his empire. It was thought he hoped that the Arians would win the day as his beliefs were leaning towards Arius. He was baptised by an Arian Bishop, Eusebius. In a nutshell, the mindset of Constantine appeared not to line up with the outcome of Nicaea. As a result of the decision of Nicaea, Constantine exiled Eusebius for not siding with the Council, only to later have him reinstated. The years that followed under the emperor were marked with much bloodshed. To have the full implications of the decision at this Council and its champion Athanasius undermined, simply because of the suspicion that it was chaired by Emperor Constantine, is a severe lack of judgment over and against the significance of this event. This Council gave rise to a firm Christological basis to theology that is sorely needed today. If we let the light of Nicaea shine into the church today then we have a truly objective canon of truth in which every human being stands judged.
When we have Jesus and the Father in union, when we have Jesus in union with our fallen humanity, we have revelation, redemption, reconciliation and sanctification centered in the heart of God in union with humanity. Jesus is the personification of revelation, redemption, reconciliation and sanctification where it interpenetrates our humanity and is brought into the fellowship of God in Jesus Christ. We are just witnesses to this event. When we are confronted with the truth of Jesus Christ, we are confronted with the truth about ourselves and everyone around us. It is not just truth for Christians but is the truth for all human beings. The resurrected humanity of Jesus Christ is tied to and represents the humanity of every human being. It is news that far exceeds the bounds of our conception and love that is bigger than the universe itself.
Now if we place a wedge between the Father and Jesus as well as Jesus and our humanity, then the truth becomes abstract from God. Revelation, redemption, reconciliation and sanctification are now somewhere between God the Father and Jesus Christ, and Christ and humanity. Now that Jesus Christ is no longer the centerpiece for all the ways and works of God, ordinary human beings step in and interpret the meaning of the Incarnation event. Jesus Christ no longer is revelation Himself but mediates a revelation. He is no longer redemption Himself but mediates a redemption as well as a reconciliation and sanctification. Rather than Jesus being the subject and the content of all these acts while standing in our place, on our behalf and for our sakes, it is taken out from of the hands of Jesus and placed in our hands. The power shifts from God to ordinary human beings. Now nothing happens unless we act through certain rites whereby we are re-generated and “born again”. In the case of the Roman church, the church itself acts in place of Christ where salvation is merited through means of grace by Christ and dispensed through the sacraments. Reformed theology fared no better with the emphasis on the sinner’s prayer as the vehicle through which Christ is enable to act. Both denominations have specific orders of salvation according to their view of a logically ordered approach to systematics. What we are left with are believers who have lingering doubt as to whether or not they are really saved or have they really given their life to Christ or if they are doing enough to earn their place in eternity.
With revelation, redemption, reconciliation and sanctification taken from the humanity of Jesus Christ, these acts are now external, human-controlled actions that are judged by human beings. During the Reformation, there was a revival of the of the ancient principle of the ecumenical church, ‘that the unassumed is the unhealed’ – that ‘what Christ has not taken from us has not been saved.’ However, as the evangelical church drifted away from these Reformational roots, they became bedfellows with Latin theology. Torrance says there have been notable exceptions such as Martin Luther and H R Mackintosh.
At the heart of differences in atonement is the fact that it has been torn away from the very being of God in Jesus Christ. Human beings started to interpret the atonement through there own measure of what is right and wrong and necessary to facilitate our salvation. It is here we give rise to the penal substitution model and the moral influence conception where there are contemplations of the wounds of Christ. There are rituals of prayer outlining each of the wounds of Christ. There was even interpretation of the definition of sin’s place under the legalistic, juridical model and split up into different categories. Sin itself has drifted away from the its original Jewish roots. In Jewish theology, sin is the phenomena that shows our imperfections – something that is part of our nature. It is granted that the Law is the means of grace that can bring us close to God but is not the means through which we can be saved. Only God saves. They trust God as loving and gracious. They are not concerned with sin and do not believe in the doctrine of original sin. Sin is the mysterious part of us that causes us to wander from the path and behave in such a way that undermines our dignity as well as the dignity of others. The fruit of this character flaw is behaviour that damages relationships. The Law teaches us God is merciful and gracious, which, for the Christian, is evident in Jesus Christ.