So you say to yourself, “I’m hungry. I think I’m going to whip up a fresh batch of theology.” Good idea! But where do you start? There are a lot of variations on the recipe. (Whatever number you’re thinking, double it. Then add some more.) How do you bake the good stuff?
I’m not really sure, to be honest. I mean, I have the old family recipe, and I’ve taken some liberties here and there. But there’s always something missing… and I wouldn’t dare serve it at parties. (I’ve learned that lesson.) I once heard tell of a recipe that came down from on high, with pure gold lettering and a pithy fortune on the back. They say it’s buried somewhere near the Caspian Sea.
But who needs all that? We’re real cooks, aren’t we? And a real cook never follows directions. (Much like a real kook, perhaps?)
If I had to suggest a starting place—and this one is by no means original with me—I’d say Christian theology needs to have Christ as its center. I mean, if you want to bake apple crisp from scratch the apples are kind of a given, no? And everything else is there to complement and heighten the flavor and texture and aroma and presentation. So I say a recipe for Christian theology can safely assume Christ.
And why not? Christ is the expressed image of God the Father, the model human being, the redeemer of the nations, the promised Messiah, the head of the church, the one to whom all glory belongs. What traditional branch of theology can escape the impact of the God-man? I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here; in fact, if my conclusions tend toward novelty, I will have considered this concoction a failure.
The deity of Christ is one of the things that makes Christianity distinct from other religions. Furthermore, there is a good case to be made for the historicity of Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection. So this figure is central to our doctrine in a secular sense as much as a confessional one. I propose a well-structured systematic theology at very least can (we’ll save “should” for retrospect) begin with Christ and flow out from Him in all directions.
This will no doubt have its own strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps even if we start here with success in the task of discovery we’ll find the finished product is better presented in a different order. The systematic theologies I’m familiar with often begin with philosophy—metaphysics and epistemology—or perhaps with the Trinity. Maybe that will turn out to be better in the long run. But I want to give this a try. What would theology look like if its starting point was the person and work of Christ?