I just finished reading the short book Knowing God Incarnate from one of my favorite authors, Richard Bauckham. While reading it, I noticed his ideas on knowing God in the Incarnate Christ fit into Frame’s triperspectival categories fairly well. (If you are not familiar with triperspectivalism then I put a link on his picture that is really helpful in explaining it). Bauckham’s book can be summarized perspectivally in the following ways:
Normative: We need to know the historical Christ. As Bauckham writes,
The significance of this is that the early church preserved the memory of Jesus not only in order to recall what God had done for them in the history of Jesus, or the example and teaching which Jesus had left them, important as these things were, but also to know who Jesus is now. (Bauckham, 10)
God has chosen to reveal Himself in history through Jesus. If we want to know God now then we have to know the God of then. The Christ in history is the regulative principle for our existential experiences today.
Existential: Bauckham writes about several things when it comes to having a personal relationship with Christ today. First, this historical Jesus is the risen Lord and is present now. He is not present in the flesh with His church, but present through the Spirit. His present Spirit is of the same nature of the Incarnate God who walked the earth. Second, it is healthy for Christians to imagine the presence of Christ in there lives. It is okay to imagine sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His parables. It is right to imagine Christ at our dinner tables today as long as it is the Christ that is grounded in the memories of His gospel. Bauckham points out that imagination is healthy because it is grounded in reality whereas fantasy is wrong and unhealthy because it grounded in falsity. Imagination is a gift of God that should be used to bring us into His presence and when imaginations die then are spiritual vitality suffers greatly.
Situational: We know the Incarnate God through His corporate body. We know the historical Christ as He is proclaimed through the Church. God gifts us with his proclaimed Word through other people in our lives. We also commune with His spirit through the sacraments that he has given us. His presence in communion and baptism are to be cherished. If we want to know the living God we need to know Him as his corporate people.
In his book, he goes into a historical study of how these principles played out. He looks at the early church as seen in the book of Hebrews. He looks at the use of imagination in the Ignatian Exercises. The most touching study was how this worked out in the Slaves of the southern plantation owners. He notes that the Slave owners had shallow spiritual lives with Christ because they couldn’t identify with the historical Christ. The slaves, on the other hand, could identify with the beaten Christ who was oppressed by all but found victory in obedience. This can be seen and felt in the Negro Spirituals that they sung.
Hopefully we can see how these three perspectives work out harmoniously when it comes to our relationship with the living Christ. To know Him today we need to know Him historically, personally, and corporately.