Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Object Of Faith Rather Than The Example Of It

This is a powerful, profound and simple summation by J. Gresham Machen that is every bit as valid today when looking at so-called "progressive" forms of Christianity (emphasis mine).
The truth is, the witness of the New Testament, with regard to Jesus as the object of faith, is an absolutely unitary witness. The thing is rooted far too deep in the records of primitive Christianity ever to be removed by any critical process. The Jesus spoken of in the New Testament was no mere teacher of righteousness, no mere pioneer in a new type of religious life, but One who was regarded, and regarded Himself, as the Savior whom men could trust. But by modern liberalism He is regarded in a totally different way. Christians stand in a religious relation to Jesus; liberals do not stand in a religious relation to Jesus – what difference could be more profound than that? The modern liberal preacher reverences Jesus; he has the name of Jesus forever on his lips; he speaks of Jesus as the supreme revelation of God; he enters, or tries to enter, into the religious life of Jesus. But he does not stand in a religious relation to Jesus. Jesus for him is an example for faith, not the object of faith. The modern liberal tries to have faith in God like the faith which he supposes Jesus had in God; but he does not have faith in Jesus.
J. Gresham Machen. Christianity & Liberalism (Kindle Locations 1164-1172). 
I think the mindset of Jesus as an example (loving the poor, self-sacrifice, associating with sinners, etc.) is very common among  the "red letter Christians". the Jesus versus the Bible and the Jesus versus doctrine people. Of course the example of Christ for what He did in common, everyday life situations is important but more important, infinitely more important is who He is, what He came to do and what He accomplished via the cross and empty tomb. If Jesus had ignored the poor or the leper but still died and rose again, He would be just as worthy of praise. Conversely if He had done wonders for the sick and the lame but didn't go to the cross or having gone didn't rise again, who He is revealed to be is very different. He would be an example that is helpful to emulate but mankind would still be lost and hopeless.

Jesus without the cross is just Jesus regardless of how nice He was to people. Jesus risen from the dead after the seeming defeat of the cross is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. I've said it before and I will keep saying it: doctrine matters. What you believe about Jesus and who you believe Him to be is quite literally the difference between eternal death and eternal life.

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