The world-views of the western world have experienced dramatic shifts over the last century. For example, with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Gödel’s mathematics, science and math have shown, at the extreme edges, the limitations of human logic.
Further, the atrocities and horrors of war last century exposed humanity’s inability to bring about a world of lasting justice and peace. This was only reinforced with the authoritarianism in the forms of such ideologies as Fascism and Communism.
And now in this second decade of a new millennium, there is a distrust of the absolute claims of religion, including Christianity. In a post-modern climate, no group can claim that it has the truth, for it is said objective truth does not exist. The outcome, as we see around us, is diversity and fragmentation. Life, its meaning and values, is defined by self-interest more than anything.
However as Robert Letham observes: ‘Postmodernism cannot stand the test of everyday life. It does not work and it will not work. It fails the test of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who insisted that language and philosophy must have a “cash value” in terms of the real world in which we go about our business from day to day. To do that we must assume that there is an objective world and act accordingly… Wittgenstein… compared such a situation to someone buying several copies of the morning paper to assure himself that what it said was true!’ (R Letham, The Holy Trinity, P&R Publishing: 2004, p.452f).
How can we live in a world of diversity where is there is no unifying principle – where everyone is pursuing their own agenda, and ethical principles are framed by ‘my rights’?
God. Letham rightly observes that the God of the Bible is triune: one God in three persons, unity in diversity and diversity in unity. When we think about it, professing Christians everywhere need to recover this fundamental understanding of God so that we can proclaim and live out the self-giving love of the One God who exists in Trinity and who delights in giving love and life.
It is therefore worth considering one of the great statements concerning Jesus Christ that we find in the New Testament. In Colossians 1:15 we read: Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God.
Here Paul restates words that we read in his earlier Letter (2 Corinthians 4:4) that may reflect his conversion experience on the Road to Damascus: Christ Jesus is the image of God. To say this is to say that Christ Jesus perfectly and visibly reveals the nature and being of God. When asked when he would show his disciples the Father, Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
To speak of Jesus Christ as the image of God takes us back to Genesis 1:26f where we read that men and women are ‘created’ in the image of God. And while that image has been defaced through the fall (Genesis 3), it is still true that we remain God’s image-bearers, albeit for the present distorted ones.
That said, Paul’s words in Colossians 1:15: Jesus Christ is the image of God, the firstborn of all creation, are significant. The force of the genitive, of creation, is better translated before creation, indicating that the Son of God is not a created being. Rather as we read in the following lines: In him (Christ Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him (1:16).
The Son of God, existing before all things, has the privilege of first-place over the creation he was instrumental in bringing about. It was for him and through him that creation came into being.
It is Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who put the show together. He is the One who actually did the creating. He also sustains the universe: he is before all things and in him all things hold together. In Jesus all things cohere. I draw my next breath because Jesus sustains the world.
One of the interesting things that recent science indicates is that the universe fits into a single huge pattern. The same laws that control the fall of an apple control the orbit of the moon. The same equation that describes the behavior of an atom can explain the inferno of the sun. Jesus, we can say, is the logic, the intelligence, the wisdom, who gives the universe its rationality. And that of course is why science is a Christian occupation.
What does it mean? To understand that God is more than one (more of the Holy Spirit later), is most important for understanding ourselves, our worship and prayer and our lifestyle. To know that there is a distinction of persons in the Godhead, that in their unity and diversity they love one another, will also effect our relationships – something that is central in reaching a society that in its drive for diversity has lost its unity.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com