Church Things We Say: “Man-Centered Theology”


Whenever someone in church says “man-centered,” I’m pretty sure I know what this means: that the whole spiritual walk needs to be uber-focused on the face-melting glory of God or else we’re totally sugarcoating the wrathful explosive fury of our precious doctrine.

There’s this urgency we need to go back to our roots like Acts 2 and keep it straight Table-Flipping Jesus and there’s no room for feel-good therapeutic advice here, because that would be selfishly consumeristic and you-centered.  “God is for Himself and not for you, you know.”

I think I understand all that.  Man-centered bad, God-centered good.

I’m just wondering if even God sees it this way.  I’m wondering if He makes this sharp distinction between His glory and your problems: because I seem to remember God wore a coat of flesh and became one of us and got right in the middle of our mess.  The Gospel seems to be saying that it was His Glory to take on our shame and He was exalted by humbling Himself among us.

It seems that God Himself would say He was both man-centered and Him-centered, because God became man and took on the worst of us.

I know that the institutional church culture has catered to people by entertaining them; I know there’s a pervasive smog of people-pleasing in our Sunday services; we’re all tempted to hear cute three-point bowtie sermons that teach us how to have better finances and nicer kids.  I do not believe in a self-help theology.

But God is a God of help.  He gives grace in our time of need.  He lifts up the downcast and strengthens weak knees.  He entered into humanity to reverse the curse of sin.

The Bible is also not disconnected from our daily struggles and concerns.  Scripture makes clear that life is about Him, but there’s plenty of wisdom there for us too.  I hope our pastors have a Bible in one hand and their church’s hurts in the other, because these things cannot be separated.

God will even make much of us so that He will make much of Him.  When David took out Goliath, he said it was so that “All those gathered here will know it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.

God won that day: but God was pleased to give the victory over to David because He knew David would center it on Him.

David and Ruth and Paul and Mary were certainly celebrated: but they maintained a mirror-status to reflect the one who mattered most.

I think we need to relax about a lot of this stuff.  A theology that helps you is not a terrible thing.  I don’t think Christian theology would draw a jagged line between “man-centered” and “God-centered,” but really just sets the priority. God will do amazing things through us for His Glory, but we get to enjoy them.  We don’t get to boast in those things, but we get to enjoy boasting in the God who does them.  And God does care about every nuance and detail and worry of your life, so that His glory informs all those daily decisions.

The Glory of God is not above your everyday worries.  It is, instead, in them, working through them, pointing to Him.

— J.S.

“It’s a glorious thing to be enabled by the atonement by the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be freed from self and make much of God as your supreme joy in life. And it’s a glorious thing to delight in being made much of by God. Everything hangs on their ordering. Their ranking. Their being the bottom or not. That’s what I’m after.

“… God, everywhere in the Bible, loves us in such a way as to make clear his design in loving us is that he would be made much of. His design in making much of us is to make clear that his goal is that he be made much of.”

— John Piper

One thought on “Church Things We Say: “Man-Centered Theology”

  1. Actually, man-centred theology is pretty awful. Now, human-centred does speak a little better, and even when we are in such distress that we “appear” to be self-centred, when we turn to God in the middle of it all God has then taken centre-stage. I agree, Creator is a lot more efficient and flexible about dealing with us than we give credit for.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.