King's Business - 1938-09

November, 1938

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


What Is Christianity? By W . G R A H A M SC RO G G IE * London, England

short of a divine revelation, an emergence into the world of God Himself, at once consummating and transcending all previous revelations. It is because of this fact that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolish­ ness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Christianity, then, is a fact, and this Fact is a Revelation. All other religions are facts, but no one of them is a Revelation. Christianity in its origin and character is absolutely unique.. An Experience of Salvation And now, in the next place, let it be said that Christianity is an experience. Christianity is embodied in the Christian church, and the Christian church is a society of converted people, of men and women who follow Christ. But to acknowledge the fact of Christ in human history is not neces­ sarily to follow Him, and to give intellec­ tual assent to His claims, on the evidence supplied by the Gospels, is not necessarily to follow Him. Many do this who would disclaim being Christians. Christians are people who have a knowledge of Christ in their experience, who know Him to be the Saviour, not merely because the Bible says so, but because He has saved them. The church is Christianity’s monument. It is the institution in which the fact of Christ becomes experimental; in which the Christian religion finds articulation; and what is true of the church as a whole is true of every member of it. Christianity is an experience o f salvation, and were it not that, it would have perished from the be­ ginning. This cannot be said of Moham­ medanism, or Buddhism, for Mohammed and Buddha are not living realities in the hearts of their followers. They are dead, and they are not further necessary to the religions to which they gave rise. But Christianity needs Christ for its very existence—not a memory of Christ, but Himself —risen from the dead, and mys­ tically, but very really, indwelling those whom He has delivered from the guilt, the stain, and the dominion of sin. The very nature of Christianity requires this. Chris­ tianity is a fact in the world, which for multitudes has become an experience in the soul, an experience which begins at the foot of the cross. Christ Indwelling the Christian Thus it can be said further that C/iris- tianity is a life. W e all have many experi­ ences, which touch us on one or other of the many sides of our nature, but the ex­ perience of Christ touches us on every side of our nature; it invades and pervades the whole soul. [Continued on page 372]

A Fact to be Acknowledged First of all, Christianity is a fact. It is not unnecessary to make this, declaration, for this truth seems to have been overlooked by many. Christianity is as genuine a fact in religious history as is Mohammedanism, or Buddhism: and as are these, Christianity is a great factor in human history. W e shall see, in a moment, that it is the greatest of all factors, but even those who will not admit that point cannot deny the fact of Christianity. Like Mohammedanism and Buddhism, Christianity takes its name from its Foun­ der. Mohammed, Buddha, and Christ are historical characters, and nothing we may think about any of them can affect that fact. All Mohammedans acknowledge Moham­ med; all Buddhists acknowledge Buddha; and all Christians acknowledge Christ; but those who do not follow any of them can­ not call into question the fact of all of them. The fact of Christianity, then, originates with the fact of Christ, and He has given to it its character, as Mohammed and Buddha did to the religions which bear their names. Therefore, we are not now con­ sidering an abstract idea, but something substantial, actual, present, a religious fact and force in the world. A New Revelation In the second place, Christianity is a revelation. Christianity is not the develop­ ment of anything that went before it, but something startlingly new. Christianity is no more a product of the past than Jesus Christ was a product of the human race. Of Christianity it has been said truly: "It was not developed out of Judaism— the Jews were its bitterest opponents; it was not indebted to Greek philosophic thought, or to Roman political science, though afterwards it made use of and powerfully influenced both; it had nothing in common with the current superstitions of Oriental religions; it did not owe its origin to some cunningly devised religious syn­ cretism, such as was not uncommon at the time when Christianity began to infuse life into the declining Roman Empire.” There had been, of course, under the Old Covenant, anticipations of Christianity. The foundation of it was laid in the monotheism of the Hebrews, and something of its char­ acter was indicated in Isaiah’s Rhapsody of Zion Redeemed, and in Jeremiah’s Spiritual Covenant. Nevertheless, when Christianity came, it was entirely new, so new that even at this late date we are far from fully under­ standing it. Christianity, at its advent, pre­ sented new doctrines, new impulses, new motives, new outlooks, a new ground of faith, and a new hope. Christianity was not and is not anything

T HESE are days in which many values are being debased, and among them the values of Christianity’s ter­ minology and of Christianity itself. It is a serious thing that some modem bastard cults should have chosen to employ the vocabulary of the Christian faith, after having emptied it of its true content, and poured into it a foreign meaning. In conse­ quence of this deception, numberless souls are greatly perplexed, and the situation de­ mands that we redefine our terms. I invite my readers, then, to consider with me the question: W hat is Christianity? In answering this question, a wide field of thought might easily be covered, relative to the origin of Christianity and to its essence and progress, its tendencies and claims and influence, its place among other religions, and much besides. Christianity being “a complex multiform phenomenon,” it is perhaps impossible comprehensively to define it with accuracy, though many at­ tempts have been made so to do, most of them cumbrous, and all of them inadequate. The subject may be viewed in many aspects, objectively and subjectively, his­ torically, and dogmatically, but no one approach is adequate for an understanding of what Christianity really is. The subject is too vast to be crushed into a formula, but that does not mean that we must remain in ignorance of what Christianity really is. That which cannot be defined may be described, and thus—having regard for our limits of space—I would call your attention to certain phases of this great sub­ ject which, together, will at least help us better to understand and more to appreciate the meaning of Christianity. * Pastor, Metropolitan Tabernacle.

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