Aug 30, 2022
“Only six verses long, this Christology contains the elements of a complete Theology, and, beyond that, of a complete Cosmology.”
St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians (the congregation at Colossae, east of Ephesus in Asia Minor) includes an ancient, Christological hymn (1: 15-20), possibly the earliest liturgical Christology to be found in Scripture. Only six verses long, this Christology contains the elements of a complete Theology, and, beyond that, a complete Cosmology:
"He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation,
for in him all things were created…
All things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things
and in him all things hold together…
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him…"
Let’s break this down:
He (Christ) is the (visible) image of the invisible God.
God is invisible, but Christ is Imago Dei.
He is before all things, he is the beginning, the firstborn of all creation and the firstborn from the dead.
Christ is universal and eternal; therefore, Christ is in the 'actual world' of every event and every event is in the ‘actual world’ of Christ. Therefore, elsewhere, Christ is referred to as the Alpha and the Omega.
All things were created in him, through him, and for him.
Christ is the locus of whatever is (i.e., whatever is now, was once, or may come to be in the future).
Christ is the efficient cause (origin) of whatever is.
Christ is the final cause (destiny) of whatever is.
In him all things hold together.
Christ is the order (logos) of creation.
Whatever is, in so far as it is, participates in Christ and Christ in it.
Therefore, all events share at least one element in common (Christ) and participate in at least one common event (Christ).
Because, and only because, all events share at least one element in common (Christ) and participate in at least one common entity (Christ), whatever is enjoys the Solidarity needed to form Kosmos.
In him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him.
Christ is not just the sensible image of an insensible God; Christ is God (“all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him”).
Solidarity presumes the ultimate reconciliation of all things.
The reconciliation of all things is a necessary pre-condition for “God to be all in all” (I Cor. 15: 28).
Now if Christ, God, and Creation are not your cup of tea…no problem! Use whatever words you like – just make sure that they do the same job that Colossians does with its choice of vocabulary:
Colossians provides a cosmological model that seeks to account – successfully in my view – for our experience of the cosmos. Of course, it won’t tell us whether the Boston Celtics will win another NBA championship, but it does tell us most everything else that is important to us.
Beginning with Einstein, physics and philosophy have been searching for a GUT (a grand unified theory) or a TOE (a theory of everything) to account for cosmos as we experience it. With all due respect to Hawking & Co., Paul of Tarsus gave us just such a TOE roughly 2000 years ago.
Image: Philippe de Champaigne, Saint Paul (c. 1650)
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