Prior to James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein, enormous prestige was placed on developing a theory and producing the subsequent mathematics to show the strength of the theory. It was often very complex and little regard was given to those who could not replicate the ideas through experimentation. It was not important to have a theory and the subsequent evidence of the theory correspond to empirical facts of objects in the real world. To grasp a theory, one had to turn to the theorist, adopt his axiom and pursue the theorist’s premise usually involving complex mathematical equations to understand the object in question. The result was the scientific world was in chaos where little forward progress was made due to the emphasis on the theory rather than the object in question.
As a result of the work of Michael Faraday, James Clerk-Maxwell and Albert Einstein we would not have the technology we have today. Building on these predecessors, Einstein’s work made radio and television possible. It helped develop the “electric eye” used in remote control applications. His work in the photoelectric field won him the Nobel Prize. These things would only be possible if the work they carried out corresponded with the intrinsic nature of the objects they studied.
Now lets turn to theology. This method of investigation of theorising the way to a truth is rife in Biblical studies. Understanding “God” is infested with ideas of who He is and is not, and what He can and cannot do. Once this is established then whole systems of theology are laid out to best reflect the various theories regarding God, salvation history, Incarnation and our salvation, judgement, heaven and hell and sanctified behaviour. I feel Albert Einstein was confronted with enormous inconsistencies in Christian belief conveyed by the Church community. He was very familiar with the New Testament and had developed his own meaning of understanding them that was closely related to his Jewish heritage. The logical step by step theological processes of the various schools of thought in the church would have cut across his way of understanding the truth of the universe. He even said this regarding denominational traditions: Denominational traditions I can only consider historically and psychologically; they have no other significance for me (Ideas and Opinions, p. 262). These inconsistencies were also picked up by Karl Barth where there was no fixed point of reference for navigating what was true and not true regarding the Christian gospel message.
Generally speaking, in the church, the theories of God are often more important than the One who is disclosed in the Scriptures. To understand a particular denominational doctrine, one has to adopt their axiom and allow their premise to determine how Scripture is understood. The premise will either validate some parts and not others or even disregard almost entirely what Scripture has to say so as to preserve their preconceived ideas. If one is a unitarian, then Scripture will be manipulated to support this view. If one is Pentecostal, then Scripture will be manipulated to support this view. If one is Calvinistic or Arminian then Scripture will be manipulated to support this view. With 30,000+ denominations, the church today is in utter chaos because most rest on the importance of their theories regarding God and His ways and works formulated through logical scriptural bridges to create Him to fit within their own framework of thought.
What is sorely needed is a stable non-negotiable corrective. As created light is the physical constant that is central to all physics, Uncreated Light is also the physical constant that is central to all theology. A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel (Luke 2.32). The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1.5). The Light here is the Word coming into the world filled entirely with people ignorant of the ways and works of God. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men (John 1.4); And again, There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man (John 1.9); And again, Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8.12); While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world (John 9.5) and so on. The Light is synonymous with Jesus Christ and this Light is the source for all humanity. If Jesus is the Light and is the constant for all people then it would be of vital importance for us to understand full significance of who He is.
The authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament are much like Michael Faraday. They observed what they saw and heard and proceed to record these events in writing. These eye-witness accounts are for the purpose of standing where they stood hearing what they heard and seeing what they saw. In this way, we can see for ourselves the true nature and character of who the Triune God is in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is of the same being with the Father and the Spirit, then He becomes the object of our study to understand all the ways and works of God. In this case, as James Clerk-Maxwell proposed, we need to study for ourselves the Person of Jesus Christ and engage our minds with Him so that we become familiar with Him. Then we can begin to recognise the true nature and character of God. We begin with the fact of the Incarnation, i.e. God become Man, so that whatever we build from here is built upon the revealed Triune God in the Person of Jesus Christ so that everything we say lines up with who He is in Himself. Truth flows out of God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, and we come under the weight of what is disclosed in Him. Our doctrines must be conformed to everything He says and does.
The bottom line here is, Scripture gives us the facts of the Incarnation and brings us under the constraint of the Reality of God. From here, our statements about God are built on what we know and can be equally known by any who choose to engage in like fashion. For example, as I engage with God in the New Testament Scriptures and draw from Jesus Christ His inner truths, what I conclude does not become the rule for which everyone must abide by. If Jesus Christ Himself is the rule and is the object for drawing out all the ways and works of God, then whoever engages with Him and becomes familiar with His nature and character will freely draw the same conclusions as I have. It is far from being a logical process trying to force the outcome. It is intuitive through our own mind as we engage with the mind of God in Jesus Christ. It is God’s own self disclosure from within us that provides us with the evidence we need to be convinced of His truth. It is in such a way that once it seizes our mind, we are hardly able to shake it off. In this way, we truly are able to know for ourselves without the influence of any other, the power of God unto salvation.
As I have shown, in science, particularly in physics, beginning with a theory and working our way to the truth to arrive at the outcome we desire means we often have to manipulate the results and the object to fit the outcome. In the decades following Einstein’s publication of his special relativity concluding in his famous equation E = mc2 he was heavily ridiculed for appearing to turn his back on what was thought to be the cold hard facts of Isaac Newton’s view of the universe. Even in the 20th century science itself was locked into a rigid outlook of the physical world. The work of Einstein showed that much of it was simply not true. Einstein was passionately concerned with the truth.
In Christianity, we should also be concerned with the truth. However, it is not the truth that has its origin in humanity. Our theories regarding God cannot be pressed onto God where He is refined to fit in with our image of who we believe Him to be. Constructing theology by strings of scriptures so that it logically meets a desired outcome that fits within our own imaginations results in an outcome that will mean whatever we want it to mean. If we are to pursue a strict and rigorous theological investigation, then we must focus on what is the invariant, non-negotiable constant truth of the reality of God’s disclosure towards us. Therefore, to know God is to begin with God. It is God Himself who must be our reliable point of contact regarding all His ways and works. God as Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit is the only way He is known. We need our minds opened up in a way that is clearly seen by all so that we are not only able to see the same thing, but we are able to say the same thing. When we see and say the same thing as Jesus Christ, then we see and say the same thing as the Father.
At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
When Jesus spoke these words, He was speaking to a large crowd. No doubt there were Pharisees, teachers of the Law and many among the crowd etc who were all well educated in the Torah and Talmud. Jesus stood up and said, “You know nothing about the Father and I am the only One the Fathers knows and the only One who knows the Father. No one else knows! The Greek word for know is not just “know” but “precise intimate exact knowledge.” Jesus Christ is the only One who knows the Father to the degree that He is the reliable constant, our invariant, non-negotiable object, the Source for all the ways and works of God. By placing the emphasis on Jesus as the Uncreated Light and the only reliable Source of all that we can ever know about God has to mean something significant; far more significant than a man who simply lived a good life and showed us an example of how to live.
Many may be disturbed by such a fixed approach to theology. When this is disregarded it becomes a matter of semantics. It is a ship without a rudder that is trying to navigate its way through the stormy waters of Western philosophical thought. When we employ the method where we can totally trust the reliability of the Person of Jesus Christ to show us in His own Person and work the ways and works of the Father, then we sail the theological ship with the rudder of Christ directing us in truth. No matter how stormy it gets, we are safe. When we paint the Father as a different God behind the back of Jesus Christ as our starting point, we no longer walk in truth. We are blind leading the blind. It is a ship where everyone wants control of the rudder.
Those who are critical of such a Christological approach will not let go of their premises and presuppositions. Some are concerned with the loss of power over their congregations. Some are concerned they will lose their prestigious positions. Some are concerned with losing grip on what it is they so dearly believe and are not willing to start all over again. Some are concerned with the sin issue that such an approach is a licence for licentiousness. These are but a few of the criticisms one might face by making Jesus Christ our beginning and focus on our theological endeavour. Are these objections fair?
“Who do you say that I am? Jesus asks His disciples is the very same question we must ask ourselves (Matt. 16.13-20). The answer we give will command the kind of implications we draw from it. On the one hand, Peter’s response is well commended by Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Taken in the context of the passage above in Matthew 11, then it is easy to see Jesus is fully God and fully Man. On the other hand, some read it as though He is not God; or God has assumed a different kind of humanity; or is without a human mind. As we move away from Jesus Christ as the absolute invariant, epicentre of all the ways and works of God, then we shift from precise theological methods towards mythology. Suddenly, people begin to negotiate who God is according to beliefs that are outside the scope of Scripture. Jesus Christ then becomes the subject of various theories that are created in the imaginations of ordinary human beings. Scripture is manipulated and systematically organised so these theories appear to be Scriptural. Hence the impact of the preaching of the apostles is weakened to the point it has little impact and interest. If we move away from Jesus Christ as the invariant epicentre for all the ways and works of God, then how else can God be known? Who better the Jesus can show us the nature and character of God? Irenaeus says:
For the Lord taught us that no man is capable of knowing God, unless he be taught of God; that is, that God cannot be known without God: but that this is the express will of the Father, that God should be known. For they shall know Him to whomsoever the Son has revealed Him (Against Heresies 4.6.4).
If this is true, then for Irenaeus, there is only one point of contact between God and humanity, the Man Jesus Christ. The express will of the Father is for God to be known through the Son, Jesus Christ. God is the means through which God is to be known; Jesus Christ, the Word of God enfleshed, through His Person and work is the means that God is to be known. This is not uncommon in the post-apostolic period. Ignatius of Antioch expresses the same approach in his epistle to the Philadelphians 9.1 describing Jesus Christ as the better High Priest who alone has been trusted with the secrets of God as well as the door of the Father. He also says Jesus is the unerring mouth by which God has truly spoken (Romans 8.2) and the mind of God (Ephesians 3.2). Justin Martyr follows the same method when he says the function of the Logos is to reveal the truth to humanity.
For Irenaeus, Jesus Christ is the measure of Christian truth by which the worldwide church was to adhere to. He says:
The rule of truth which we hold, is, that there is one God Almighty, who made all things by His Word, and fashioned and formed, out of that which had no existence, all things which exist. Thus saith the Scripture, to that effect: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them, by the spirit of His mouth.” And again, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made (Against Heresies 1.22.1).”
Irenaeus was confident of not only his own faith and the truth in the message they believed was handed to him by the apostles and the prophets, he was convinced the same was taught by the church everywhere.
For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it (1.10.2).
He also mentions in 2.9.1 The Universal Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the apostles.
In 3.2.2 But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth.
In 3.3.1 It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about.
In 3.1.2 For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
They then in like manner founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church, (founded) by the apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way all are primitive, and all are apostolic, whilst they are all proved to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion, and title of brotherhood, and bond of hospitality,—privileges which no other rule directs than the one tradition of the selfsame mystery.
Irenaeus as well as his fellow bishops and the bishops that were to come after him over the centuries, had a clear and strong grasp on the Scriptures in a universal way bearing in mind that it is only God who can make God known.
The ancient church began with the reality of the God who came as man to show us precisely who He is. From this reality, the way, the truth and the life was clearly laid out for those who were willing to come to His knowledge. This was a method that was employed throughout the world creating a unity that only the Spirit could provide between the mind of human beings and the mind of God. As far as the church were concerned, God has come, He has said His piece, the eye-witnesses have recorded this event particularly in the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, stating the ground of Truth lies in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The Uncreated Light is the Creator of light. Therefore, even the constancy and invariant properties of light are but a shadow of the constancy and invariance of the Uncreated Light, Jesus Christ. The source of created light is within Uncreated Light. The truth of created light flows from Uncreated Light, the Truth of all truths. The Uncreated Truth is the non-negotiable measure of all created truth just as created light is the non-negotiable measure in physics. Truth flows from Uncreated Truth. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. The Truth of God flows into our beings. Our being are so filled with darkness that only the Truth of God Himself can lighten our souls and mind to His Truth. Whatever self-knowledge we have in ourselves is nothing but darkness. This darkness, as wise and logical as it may sound, is nothing but foolishness in comparison to the Truth God imparts to us. The reality of God we can only begin to understand, when His reality is disclosed by God Himself. In the darkness of our own beings we can only speak foolishness regarding the ways and works of God. In our own darkness, all we see is darkness. It is His Light that shines out of our darkness. Psalm 36.9 For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. Therefore, we must walk in the Light.
1John 1. 7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.