A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Quotable J.B. Phillips (1906-1982)

God may thunder His commands from Mount Sinai and men may fear, yet remain at heart exactly as they were before. But let a man once see his God down in the arena as a Man, - suffering, tempted, sweating, and agonized, finally dying a criminal's death - and he is a hard man indeed who is untouched (Your God is Too Small).

Much of today's Christianity is almost completely earthbound, and the words of Jesus about what follows this life are scarcely studied at all. This, I believe, is partly due to man's enormous technical successes, which make him feel master of the human situation. But it is also partly due to our scholars and experts. By the time they have finished with their dissection of the New Testament and with their explaining away as "myth" all that they find disquieting or unacceptable to the modern mind, the Christian way of life is little more than humanism with a slight tinge of religion (Ring of Truth).

I have heard professing Christians of our own day speak as though the historicity of the Gospels does not matter - all that matters is the contemporary Spirit of Christ. I contend that the historicity does matter, and I do not see why we, who live nearly two thousand years later, should call into question an Event for which there were many eye-witnesses still living at the time when most of the New Testament was written. It was no "cunningly devised fable" but an historic irruption of God into human history which gave birth to a young church so sturdy that the pagan world could not stifle or destroy it (Ring of Truth).

To me there is a much more frightening ignorance in our modern world than the "ignorance of the heathen". I am referring to the almost total ignorance of the content and implication of the Christian Faith shown by many "clever" people today. Frankly, I find it horrifying to discover that men who are experts in their own line - in astronomy, genetics, or nuclear physics, for example - have no adult knowledge of what the Church of Christ stands for, and a complete blank ignorance of what the Church is achieving today. It is the more horrifying because people who rightly respect the expert for his knowledge in his own field have no idea that he has not carefully examined and reluctantly discarded Christianity; but in all probability he has never studied it at all! (The Church Under the Cross).

The New Testament is indeed a book full of hope, but we may search it in vain for any vague humanist optimism. The second coming of Christ, the second irruption of eternity into time, will be immediate, violent and conclusive. The human experiment is to end, illusion will give way to reality, the temporary disappear before the permanent, and the king will be seen for who he is. The thief in the night, the lightning flash, the sound of the last trumpet, the voice of God’s archangel—these may all be picture-language, but they are pictures of something sudden, catastrophic, and decisive. By no stretch of the imagination do they describe a gradual process (The Danger of Advent).

While we continue to pray and work for the spread of the kingdom in this transitory world, we know that its center of gravity is not here at all. When God decides that the human experiment has gone on long enough, yes, even in the midst of what appears to us confusion and incompleteness, Christ will come again (The Danger of Advent).

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