Alister McGrath is a widely acknowledged master of contemporary spirituality, and in Knowing Christ he has written a profound meditation on one of the most deceptively simple-sounding tenets of the Christian faith, the centrality of Christ in the life of his followers.Written in an accessible style that will appeal to Christians of all denominations, Knowing Christ aims to stimulate a more direct and intimate relationship between Christ and the reader by engaging not just the intellect but, more important, the heart and imagination. It is a work of spirituality saturated with biblical texts and themes, but it also draws on the rich tradition in art and literature of Christian reflection on the centrality of Christ throughout the ages. The result is a lively, engaging, and always inspiring book of twenty-first century spirituality from one of the world's most popular and respected Christian writers, a book that will strengthen the faith of all who read it.
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Knowing Christ by Alister McGrath
Knowing Christ in Our Minds
God has created us with the gift of understanding, and clearly expects us to use our minds in deepening our grasp of and commitment to the gospel. Knowing Christ is partly about knowing more about Christ--about deepening our understanding of who he is and what he achieved for us.
This is an immensely important theme. Christ demands to be understood. He calls upon us, as he called upon the disciples of old, to tell him and others who we think he is (Mark 8:27). Who is this person who enters into people's lives and so radically transforms them? How can we even begin to offer an explanation of his identity? To grasp who Christ is means appreciating who he is for us, and hence to open the door to spiritual growth in and through him. The greatest minds of the Christian Church have addressed this question down the ages, and constantly found themselves failing to do justice to it. There is always more to Christ than we appreciate. All our explanations and theories can do is give us access to part of the truth. What we see is wonderful; what remains to be discovered is likely to be more wonderful still.
There is more to Christ than our minds will ever be able to embrace. Hilary of Poitiers, a Christian writer of the fourth century, expressed this point well when he wrote: "We are compelled to attempt what is unattainable, to climb where we cannot reach, to speak what we cannot utter. Instead of the bare adoration of faith, we are under an obligation to entrust the deepest matters of faith to human language."
The Gospel writers set us alongside the disciples as they encounter Jesus for the first time and gradually begin to grasp his significance. He enters into their world as a mysterious figure, someone who commands authority. When the apostles heard his call to follow him, they left everything behind and walked alongside him. They did not fully understand who he was or what he had in mind for them, but there was something about him that was attractive and compelling. Leaving behind all that they counted precious, they walked into the unknown future, knowing that it would include the consolation of his presence. They would spend the remainder of their lives appreciating who Christ is and why he is so important.
As we read the Gospels, we realize that we are being set alongside the apostles on their journey of discovery, seeing and hearing the remarkable events which gradually brought them to the electrifying realization that here among them was none other than the Son of God. The Gospels allow us to see with the eyes of the first disciples, taking in with them Christ's encounters with those around him. We can hear the astonishing words of Christ with our own ears, and share in the dawn of faith--the moment when they realized that here, in front of their eyes, was the hope of Israel and the one who held their future in his hands.