The Christocentric Principle: A Jesus-Centred Hermeneutic -- By: Christopher C. Peppier
Conspectus 13:1 (March 2012) p. 117
The Christocentric Principle: A Jesus-Centred Hermeneutic
There are many different understandings of the word ‘christocentric’, both among past and current scholars. In this article, the author aligns with those who regard the life, teaching, and person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the locus of doctrinal formulation and proclamation, but applies this approach specifically to the hermeneutic enterprise. The key contention is that scripture should be interpreted primarily from the perspective of either of Jesus’ character, values, principles, and priorities as revealed directly or indirectly by the biblical revelation of what he said and did. This is called the ‘christocentric principle’. The article proceeds from interacting with other scholars who hold a similar view, to identifying the biblical support for the argument, to a brief example of how the principle can be applied. Before concluding, the author deals briefly with some objections to the central idea espoused.
My intention in this article is, firstly, to examine the different understandings of the word ‘christocentric’, and then to provide a definition of what I have called the ‘christocentric principle’. I then interact with various scholarly understandings of similar hermeneutical
Conspectus 13:1 (March 2012) p. 118
formations before providing biblical support for my contentions and considering the practical application of the christocentric principle. Before concluding, I address some possible objections to what I have proposed.
The term ‘christocentric’ means different things to different people, applied to the theologies of past scholars such as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, and Bonhoeffer. The wide range of theological positions flying under the flag of ‘christocentricity’ indicates that the word does not mean the same to everyone and it does not necessarily imply a uniform hermeneutical approach.
Bruce McCormack identifies a difference between what he calls ‘formal’ and ‘material’ christological centricity. Formally, christocentricity means that christology is central to a particular theology. However, materially, the meaning of christocentricity differs because the doctrine of Christ, although central, differs from one christocentric theologian to the next (Cortez 2007:2). This partially explains why one may regard both Barth and Schleiermacher as christocentric in their approach to theology, although their theologies are substantially different.
Cortez quotes McCormack’s definition of Barth’s particular form of christocentrism as his
attempt to under...
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