Jesus and Christ
Monday, February 11, 2019
Is Christ simply Jesus’ last name? Or is it a revealing title that deserves our full attention? How is Christ’s function or role different from Jesus’ role? What does Scripture mean when Peter says in his very first address to the crowds after Pentecost that “God has made this Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36)? Weren’t they always one and the same, starting at Jesus’ birth?
To answer these questions, we must first go back and ask: What was God up to in those first moments of creation? Was God totally invisible before the universe began? Or is there even such a thing as “before”? Why did God create at all? What was God’s purpose in creating? Was there any divine intention or goal? Or do we even need a creator “God” to explain the universe?
Most religious traditions have offered explanations, and they usually go something like this: Everything that exists in material form is the offspring of some Primal Source, which originally existed only as Spirit. This Infinite Primal Source somehow poured itself into finite, visible forms, creating everything from rocks to water, plants, organisms, animals, and human beings. This self-disclosure of whomever we call God into physical creation was the first Incarnation (the general term for any enfleshment of spirit), long before the personal, second Incarnation that Christians believe happened with Jesus. Creation is the first Bible, and it existed for 13.8 billion years before the second Bible was written (see Romans 1:20).
Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) tried to express this primal and cosmic notion when he wrote that “God first wills Christ as God’s supreme work.”  In other words, God’s “first idea” and priority was to make the Godself both visible and shareable. The word used in the Bible for this idea was Logos, taken from Greek philosophy; I would translate Logos as the “Blueprint” or Primordial Pattern for reality. The whole of creation—not just Jesus—is the beloved community, the partner in the divine dance. Everything is the “child of God.” No exceptions. When you think of it, what else could anything be? All creatures must in some way carry the divine DNA of their Creator.
The Incarnation, then, is not only “God becoming Jesus.” It is a much broader event. “Christ” is a word for the Primordial Template (Logos) “through whom all things came into being, and not one thing had its being except through him” (John 1:3; my emphasis). Seeing in this way has reframed, reenergized, and broadened my own religious belief, and I believe it could be Christianity’s unique contribution among the world religions.
 See Carlo Balić, “Scotism,” Encyclopedia of Theology: A Concise Sacramentum Mundi, ed. Karl Rahner (Burns and Oates: 1975), 1548.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019), 11-13, 21.