gratitude & hoopla: The Centrality of the Cross

gratitude & hoopla

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

18.7.06

The Centrality of the Cross

If you cruise around the Christian blogosphere, you'll find the occasional blogger who distinguishes himself as a Cross-centered or Christ-centered or perhaps a Gospel-centered blogger. The very fact that these terms are in use points to the reality that it is possible to be a Christian and yet be "centered" on other things.

As I've progressed as a Christian I've developed in my understanding of what should be central. I don't insist that everyone agree with me (or they're not true-blue Christians!), and I fear that I may sound rather pompous and know-it-all-ish here, but I've simply identified the doctrinal hook on which I personally intend to hang my hat. And so, yes, I'm one of those who might be overheard calling my blog (or my doctrine) Cross-centered. I count among the many like-minded bloggers such fine folks as Brad at Broken Messenger, Mark at GospelDrivenLife, and Cruv at To Tell You the Truth, to name just a few (there are many others).

Now, I've been following Jesus for about 15 years. My first church was Lutheran, and there the central thing (doctrinally speaking) might be summed up with the old Latin phrase, sola fide, faith alone. This was all well and good, and it is a doctrinal understanding that is as Biblical as can be, but I'm not sure that it's really at the center, the very core of what I believe. Very near the core, perhaps, and very dependent upon what is at the core, but not the core itself. And to treat it as the core belief, the one thing without which all of the other doctrinal pieces fly apart like stars in an exploding galaxy, will lead inevitably to problems. And did.

When I left the Lutherans (for various reasons both doctrinal and personal), I wasn't exactly sure of what I was looking for as an alternative. This question of centraility--what should be the central theme, the core message--didn't really occur to me. I guess what I'm saying is, I've come by my understanding of the centrality of the cross of Christ in a gradual and rather piecemeal fashion.

Now I'm a Vineyard guy, and I love my church for all the reasons everyone else loves it. Mainly, there's a lot of love there. At the Vineyard the core doctrine has to do with their understanding of "the Kingdom of God." George Eldon Ladd's slim book, The Gospel of the Kingdom, lays out this doctrine in fine fashion.

Now, as with Luther's doctrine of sola fide, Ladd's delineation of the meaning of the Kingdom of God for Christians is something I honor very highly. I've got no argument with it at all. But in practical terms it is not, in my opinion, the primary New Testament truth on which all other truth depends. Yes, it is very nearly central (or, to change the metaphor, "foundational"), but not quite. And to treat it as the central thing can lead to problems. And does.

The Christians at Corinth, in the first century, placed various things at the center of their doctrinal understanding (the charismatic gifts, for example). Paul takes them to task for that. In fact, he wrote his letters to the Corinthians in a white heat, eager to correct false or misleading emphases, to make the Corinthian Christians understand what was truly the one thing, the central thing upon which all other Christian "things" must be anchored. He said, "I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

I'll have more to say on this, but for now just go read Brad's post called The Greatest Doctrine. It says everything I just said, only better.

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