Friday, 24 May 2019

Doctrinal Purity and the Pre-Eminence of Love

It is easy to wonder why the church has stuck so doggedly to its claim that Jesus is pre-eminent.  According to the traditional line of belief, Jesus is God in the flesh, with no one and nothing above him. This kind of claim can be seen as arrogant, divisive, and exclusive. (It certainly is the latter.) If Jesus is pre-eminent, then there is no other Messiah to expect, no other figure equal, no other religion to merge with Christianity or replace it. An unfashionable belief in our (allegedly) relativistic age. So why not be more open to changing our beliefs? Why not give up the doctrine and believe in ‘love’ or ‘inclusion’ instead of Jesus? The reason is that, if Jesus is pre-eminent, without equal and not to be superseded in any way, then self-sacrificing love, compassion, mercy, communion (etc.) are pre-eminent. And not just a bloodless, hypothetical form of love, but an enfleshed love that shows us the way to love and be loved. Subtract the belief in Jesus and how would the pre-eminence of love hold? Add the traditional belief back and we see that Jesus is not just the exemplar of love but the guarantee of love’s pre-eminence.
It seems to me that this is the practical effect of holding to the traditional doctrinal purity of the church’s belief in Jesus. Rather than diminishing love, compassion, mercy, and self-sacrifice, the traditional belief intensifies them. Love displayed and lived on a cross. This is the very nature of God! There can be nothing more primordial or nothing more important. And this provides a way for us to bring together (as good Christology – theology about the Christ – always does) that which we have torn apart in the church. Often it seems that Christians divide into two camps: those who hold to doctrinal purity and those who stand for justice and peace. The two are meant to go together.