I’m against “biblicism” if by that we mean treating each and every passage of the Bible as equally inspired and authoritative. However, I’m not sure a “Christocentric” reading is a viable alternative if it means this:
The Bible is about Jesus Christ, and the only way to read the Bible is read it from beginning to end to be about Jesus, and to read each passage as about Jesus Christ and to be unlocked only through the gospel about Jesus Christ.
Two thoughts here. First, on a plain reading, every passage in the Bible just isn’t about Jesus, and trying to read it as if they were will probably result in bad readings. Second, such an approach seems to me to risk shortchanging the integrity of the Old Testament witness, ultimately re-inscribing a form of supersessionism.
Now, perhaps there’s a way of re-stating this that avoids these problems. Jesus is, so Christians believe, the incarnate Word or Wisdom of God. So in that sense, it may be true to say that the Bible as a whole is about Christ–because the Bible is ultimately about God. Although, even this has to be qualified because I don’t think we can say that each and every passage in the Bible reflects the Wisdom of God. Some passages attribute qualities or actions to God that are unworthy of God as we have come to know him through the biblical witness.
I would say that our Bible reading should be Christocentric in this sense: we believe that Jesus is the clearest expression of the nature and character of God. That means that this revelation should be the controlling image for how we read the Bible. When we come across a passage that seems to conflict with the divine nature as it has been disclosed in Jesus, we have to ask whether it is really a revelation of God, or a human projection. This is hardly a straightforward task, but some kind of “canon within a canon” does seem necessary if we’re going to avoid “flat” theories of biblical authority and inspiration (which I don’t think anyone consistently sticks to in practice anyway).
This might seem like splitting hairs, but the difference is that this kind of “Christocentric” view would allow the biblical witness to speak in all its plurality, without trying to harmonize seemingly inconsistent passages by asserting that they’re “really” about Jesus. And yet Jesus remains the controlling image or icon of God for Christians–even while we recognize that the same Wisdom that was incarnate in Jesus was present to ancient Israel (and continues to be present in other traditions, including contemporary Judaism).
3 thoughts on “Is “Christocentrism” the proper alternative to “biblicism”?”
This pretty much sums up where I’ve landed on this issue. I’ve had some of the same reservations about the Christocentric hermeneutic as described in your quote.
Yes, that’s my opinion exactly. Luther called Christ the sun of the Bible and compared the Biblical writings to a landscape. Some parts of the landscape get more light than others, ie. more truly witness to Jesus than others. The classical Lutheran example of this would be to say that Romans gets a lot of light, while James gets less. I would add, as you point out, that there might be places of shadow. The Canaanite conquest, for example, seems like a good contender for such a place.
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