In some serious contemplation between classes at university, I came up with these two concepts of Christ that come from my recent study. Hopefully this article is able to give the concepts some clarity.
The unique Christ and the universal Christ are synonyms for exclusivity vs. inclusivity. The unique Christ represents an exclusive understanding of Christ as being the only connection between man and God. The universal Christ represents an inclusive understanding of Christ as one manifestation among many of God-consciousness.
The unique Christ is the person of Jesus Christ of time-space-history, upon whom the Christian religion focuses attention and worship/adoration. This concept of Christ has past, present, and future dimensions.
Past: The Incarnation of Christ (God impregnates the Virgin Mary); the Ministry of Christ; the Crucifixion of Christ; the Resurrection of Christ.
Present: ‘Seated at the right hand of God’; revealed in visions to the Apostle Paul; the mystical presence behind the worship experience of Christians; ‘the Body of Christ’, the church universally embodied as Christ on earth.
Future: the Coming Christ – said to be returning as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the ultimate authority of heaven and earth.
The universal Christ is not only embodied in Christianity inclusive of the above, but is also revealed in other religions and cultures. This is more of an essence or nature than a person, and could also be referred to as ‘the Ground of all Being’ or Spirit. As such, the Buddha is an example of an expression of the universal Christ. Even the terminology of ‘Christ’ is not exclusive; this is simply the name that those in Christian culture give to the ‘Spirit’ behind the individual manifestations. The manifestations themselves are never ultimate, rather they simply point to that which is.
At one point in time, the differences were irrelevant, as cross-cultural knowledge was limited. Now that we have reached such a time where cultural awareness has greatly diminished our ignorance, we see that the different ways of viewing Christ are essential in moving beyond fundamentalism, beyond black-and-white thinking.