If the church is to fulfill her calling to know and glorify God, we must return to sound theology, and this must begin with a proper understanding of who the triune God is in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In its most basic sense, systematic theology, or dogmatics, is the orderly, comprehensive study of the triune God and all things in relation to him. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism rightly answers the all-important question—“What is the chief end of man?”—“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” There is nothing more urgent for humans as God’s creatures than knowing God. And especially for God’s redeemed people in Christ, there is no higher calling than delighting in our triune God in all of his majesty, beauty, and holy splendor. The life and health of the church is directly dependent on our knowledge of God, which is central to the theological task.
But in thinking about the theological task, is it possible to propose a central point around which all theological reflection turns? My answer is yes, and my proposal is that our Lord Jesus Christ is central to all theological reflection. My suggestion is not new to me. In fact, Herman Bavinck made the same point years ago when he wrote: “The doctrine of Christ is not the starting point, but it certainly is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics. All other dogmas either prepare for it or are inferred from it” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, 274).
In our day, Michael Reeves has proposed something similar. As he answers the question of what is central to theology and doctrine, he suggests that “the center, the cornerstone, the jewel in the crown of Christianity is not an idea, a system or a thing; it is not even ‘the gospel’ as such. It is Jesus Christ” (Rejoicing in Christ, 10).
It is crucial to remember that theology is more than a bag of marbles, that is, isolated doctrines that are somehow related to each other. Theology, instead, is more like a beautiful tapestry which finds its coherency in Christ. It is Christ who brings coherence to the whole of theology, and each doctrine cannot be understood apart from him. Let me offer four examples to underscore this point and to illustrate how Christ is central to the theological task.
Four Ways to See the Christ-Centeredness of Theology
1. The doctrine of the Trinity is Christ-Centered.
This fundamental truth about God is ultimately revealed to us by the divine Son’s incarnation. The church confesses that God is triune because Scripture reveals the coming of God the Son as a man in eternal relation to the Father and the Spirit. Christ, then, opens our eyes to see the Father, Son, and Spirit working inseparably, yet distinctly as the one Creator-covenant Lord.