King's Business - 1938-09


T H E K I N G ' S B U S I N E S S

November, 1938

WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY? [Continued from page 367] Christianity is not an ethic, nor a the­ ology, though it is both ethical and theo­ logical, but it is vital religion. I do not say a vital religion, but the only religion that is vital. W e have but to compare Christianity with other religions, in this view, to be convinced that it stands apart from them all, incomparable and matchless, a religion which throbs with divine energy in the soul of every one who commits him­ self to its Founder and Head. When a man embraces Christianity, it embraces him. Christ is the life of a Chris­ tian, and he is not a Christian whose life is not Christ. The apostles expe­ rienced this fact, and they taught it. Paul says: “Christ . . . is our life” (Col. 3 :4 ); and again, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20, R .V .); and again, "For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21); and John says, "He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life” (1 John 5:12, R .V .). The apostles did not say these things simply because Christ had said, “I am the life,” but because He indwelt them, and was daily and hourly their standard of character, and power of attainment, their peace, their joy, their hope, their all. Chris­ tianity is the life of God in the soul. Th® Meaning of the Facts of Christ It must be said also that Christianity is a creed. Every religion is based on certain facts, truths, or concepts, and the worth of the religion depends upon what these are. Christianity has nothing to fear from this test. It rests upon, and rises from the fact and truth of Christ’s person and work. All aspects of this subject have been assailed fiercely, and Christianity has had to con- The City Church was stone. It towered with gracious elegance above all else, And God was therel In the solemn beauty of the stained- glass windows; In the deep melodious music of the organ; In the awe-inspiring order of the service; I felt the MA JESTY of God. The Country Church was brick. It nestled safely back amid the flowering shrubs, And God was therel In the simple lives of friendly country people; In the lusty youthful voices of the choir; In the spiritual deliverance of the sermon; I found the FELLOW SH IP of God. The Mission Church was wood. It stood so bravely in a neighborhood of want, And God was therel In the humble testimonies of the Chris­ tians; In the prayerful, pleading message of the preacher; In the sin-sick souls surrendered to the Saviour; I found the matchless LOVE of God. And then I knew— Where'er the soul sincerely seeks Him, GOD IS THERE. W H E R E G O D IS By V ELMA G R A Y SUND ERMAN

tend vigorously for itself, but it has always been triumphant. What, then, are the truths which are vital for its existence, and apart from which there would be no Christianity? There are at least three, no one of which can be sur­ rendered: namely, The Deity of Jesus, His Atoning Death, and His Triumphant Resur­ rection. Jesus claimed to be divine, claimed that His death would be a ransom, and claimed that He would conquer the grave by rising from it. His life and death and resurrection are historical facts, but the facts are one thing, and the doctrine of the facts is another. Other people lived, and died, and even lived again after death, but by doing so, they did not found a religion and command the love and worship of countless millions of people. Christianity is founded on the significance of these facts concerning Christ: His Per­ son was a revelation of God; His death was vicarious; and His resurrection was the conquest of death. These are the truths which no one can really know except by being a Christian. The facts the world can know, but the meaning of the facts only the church can know. When, in the earliest creed, the church affirmed her belief in Christ crucifiedSr dead, and buried, and risen—it was a confession of her faith in the dynamic significance of those facts. The redeeming Christ is the central fact and truth of Christianity. Christianity lays the emphasis, not on Christ’s teaching or example, but upon His atonement, and atonement made possible by His incarna­ tion, and effectual by His resurrection. Christ is a spiritual Truth as well as a historical Fact/ and Christianity witnesses to both. This is “the Faith” in which she has put her faith, the soil in which she is rooted, the rock on which she rests, and any departure from the truths of the facts is a departure from Christianity. To say, as a recent writer does in a book entitled The Historic Jesus, that what the Gospel records reveal “is not a divine being becoming human, but! a human being be­ coming divine in the sense of developing in the highest degree a sonship of which, in his own teaching, all are capable, though only he has actually attained to the full­ ness of this filial consciousness,” is to run right across the teaching of the New Testa­ ment, and is not only to discredit the apos­ tolic interpretation of the facts, but also to deny the explicit claims of Christ for Him - self. To say, as some men do, that Jesus was “the greatest idealist of the race,” “the high­ est embodiment of the divine in the human,” “a creative religious genius of the highest order,” “the great free-thinker, the religious emancipator of his age,” “the highest pro­ duct of his race,” is to take a purely hu­ manitarian or naturalistic view of Jesus, and such a view is not Christian, but Unitarian. No one who eliminates the supernatural from the Gospel account of Jesus can be­ lieve in or understand Christianity, for at the heart of that, there stands the super­ natural Christ. W e shall think no more of His work than we think of His Person, and if He be not what He claimed to be, and what after the resurrection all His apostles believed Him to be, then we might as well adandon

Christianity at once, for no ground is left for Christian faith. When, in this matter, we say, "I believe,” we do not mean that we give intellectual assent to a number of theological propo­ sitions, but that in experience we have put the claims of Christ to the test, and have found them to be true. A Spiritual Fellowship But further, let it be said that Christi - anity is a fellowship. It is well to dis­ tinguish between the Christian church and Christendom. Christendom is the whole body of such as profess the Christian religion, but the church is the aggregate of converted men and women throughout the world. The visible church is an organi­ zation', but the invisible church is an organ­ ism, the Body of Christ. Now, all who are united to Christ are also united to one another, and constitute a Christian fellowship, and this fellowship is the embodiment of Christianity in the world. Those who make up this fellowship are of “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues”; there is therein in­ finite social, intellectual, and cultural di­ versity, but all are bound together in a common bond of life and love; all have "washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”; a common faith and a common hope unite them all. There is no other fellowship like this in the world. It rises above all temporal distinctions, in a spiritual community which is eternal. We shall not be likely to under­ estimate the value of our denominational testimony, but Christianity is bigger than denominationalism, for it embraces all the truths for which all the churches stand. Zealous denominationalism has often hin­ dered and broken Christian fellowship, but a true apprehension of Christianity will lead us into the fellowship of the whole Christian church, without in any way compromising specific truths to which, as denominations, we bear witness. But, of course, a fellowship such as this must be based on something more sub­ stantial than amiability and good will. It must be rooted in deep spiritual convictions and rich spiritual experiences, which have Christ for their common denominator—not the Christ of modernism, but the Christ of the New Testament. We hear much nowadays of “the re­ union of Christendom.” I express the con­ viction that such an event would be an unmitigated calamity, and for the simple reason that the Christian church is not the aggregate of the professing Christian churches, but the sum only of converted men, women, and children in the world. By the time that ecclesiastical statemen have found for all Christendom common ground of belief, and order of worship, so much will have been sacrificed as to render Christian fellowship impossible. The union of the churches is one thing, and the unity of the Spirit is another. And it is in the latter that we shall find Christian fellowship, in that “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” which we cannot make, but are bidden to keep (Eph. 4:3 ). I do not wish to be misunderstood here. W e ought to be—and we are—grateful [Continued on page 399]

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