Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Christocentrism vs. Christology

Stumbling toward an anti-theology . . .

When we compare the Christocentric Anabaptist approach with the Reformers' methodology, we can appreciate the distinctive nature of the Anabaptists' approach. The Reformers' hermeneutics can faily be described, explicitly or implicitly, as Christological. Jesus Christ is the supreme revelation of God to humankind, and his death, resurrection, and ascension are God's central acts in history. The biblical message was that through these events salvation was available to those who would believe. The whole of Scripture testified to this central truth. With this Anabaptists heartily agreed. However, the Reformers' emphasis was less on Jesus himself and more on his salvific acts and the doctrine of justification by faith. In this sense, we might describe the Reformers' hermeneutics as soteriological: their understanding of salvation provided the hermeneutical key to Scripture
Anabaptist hermeneutics, however, were not only Christological but Christocentric in the sense of focusing on Jesus himself instead of on a doctrine describing the effects of his redeeming work. For Anabaptists, he was not only their redeemer but also the example they were to imitate and the teacher they were to learn from. Their Christocentrism was tied more firmly to the human Jesus than was the Reformers' Christological approach, and their interpretations of the rest of Scripture were significantly different as a result, making their hermeneutics distinctive in the Reformation context. . . .
Luther's main interest was in Christ as redeemer and the doctrine of justification by faith. He subordinated the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus to a minor role, even suggesting that to know nothing of these would not be a catastrophic loss. For Anabaptists, such a divorce between the human Jesus and the Christ of faith was untenable. To them, Luther's approach might have been Christological but it was not Christocentric, and they felt it dishonoured Christ. They feared the Reformers had lost sight of Jesus as a person and were left only with a theological principle. (Stuart Murray, Biblical Interpretation in the Anabaptist Tradition, 84-85) 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Love and Metaphor

The lover speaks out of a keen awareness of the power of figurative language to break open closed frames of reference and make us see things with a shock of new recognition. (Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry, 193)
(Alter may be writing about the speaker of Songs 1, but can anyone blame us for feeling for the outer limits of what sort of lover this may be?)
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