by Robert Brow
A LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF RELIGION prepared us for philosophy. The past reminds us of what man has done; philosophy sets out the alternatives open for his future; and both are essential disciplines for a well-trained mind. In themselves, however, history and philosophy are of no value. Unless study issues in decisive action it is as empty as the most futile of time killers. To spend time in books is considered more respectable than wasting it in taverns, but in the light of death it is equally trivial. God has made man for decision.
The decision concerns Jesus Christ. We have looked at religion from many angles, but the crux of the problem is the Man who died on a cross. That he was a great man few but Nietzsche have denied. To confess that he was God as well as man, and to act on the basis of that fact, makes one a Christian.
The original religion of man was the worship of God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth. Jesus Christ came from him and revealed him. The Deity of Jesus Christ makes clear that God is not a mathematical unit, nor a monistic principle or force. He is the living God, rich in his complexity, and more personal than all the personalities of men. In the oneness of his three Persons there is room for men and women to be adopted into the family of God.
Jesus Christ took birth as man in the smallest of countries in the place where Asia, Africa and Europe meet. His own people had been prepared for his coming for centuries. Their prophets had spoken in detail of what he would do and the world-wide nature of his influence among the nations. When he came, a majority of his own people rejected him, and only now, after nineteen hundred years of persecuted homelessness, are they beginning to recognize him for what he was.
In his teaching he condemned for ever all forms of self-righteousness, hypocrisy, religious superiority and sham. Whatever the strongest critics of religion rightly have to say, Jesus Christ said more strongly. He calls man to be man, to live vigorously in the world, and all forms of science, culture, art, literature and social righteousness have flourished wherever he has been known and the Bible obeyed.
Until the great revolt against priestcraft in the sixth century BC men had always known that sinful man could not approach God in his own righteousness. He needed a sacrifice, a substitute, one who died instead of him. Obviously sacrificial animals could have no permanent significance, but when the Son of God himself died as Sacrifice and Substitute for the sins of the whole world, all ancient religions proved to have their centre in him. Among the nations animal sacrifice has virtually ceased. In other parts of this book we have indicated some of the reasons for this. As far as Christians are concerned the sacrificial animals have given place to the bread and the wine, symbols of the death of Christ the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice was complete and sufficient.
Before the coming of Christ death was a dark cavern that inexorably engulfed the generations of men. As man, Jesus Christ entered the cavern and reappeared triumphantly the other side, the evidence and assurance that death is not the end. We no longer sprout and shrivel like grass in a space-time continuum. We live in the universe that God has made for us, but we belong to eternity, and Jesus Christ has the key that opens up the way to eternal life.
In all other directions there is no hope for human personality. Religions have recommended the extinction of man's humanity, or its merging in a World Soul. States have become ends in themselves, or the masses have become fodder for some imagined superman. The greatest ideals for human personality shatter at the gates of death even if they have survived the corrosion of human selfishness. In Jesus Christ the personality of every single man and woman of every race, rich and poor, learned and simple, is of infinite importance since each one is made and destined for eternity in the family of God.
Best of all, he invites us all. Criminals, failures, drunkards, the warped and perverted, those too weak to be what they ought to be, sinners with nothing in their hands to bring, these are the ones he invites. He does not say 'Do your best, be good, and I will receive you'. Nor does he ask for religious bribery, asceticism or merit. He invites us to come just as we are. He has forgiveness for the darkest recesses of secret sin, and he has power to become significant in a senseless world. Tenderly he brings love and friendship and understanding to heal the wounds of the soul.
The writer has written. The reader has read. The only reasonable outcome is for both to kneel before the one Creator-God and say, 'My Lord and my God; take me and make me what you want me to be.'
1. See Matthew 23.