The Nazarene Way of
We are in process of passing from one religious age into another. The spiritual trends of today are steadily becoming more defined. The hearts of men have never been more open to spiritual impression than they are at this time, and the door into the very center of reality stands open wide.
Paralleling, however, this significant development is a trend in the counter direction, and materialistic philosophies and doctrines of negation are becoming increasingly prevalent. To many, the whole question of the validity of the Christian religion remains to be determined. Claims are made that Christianity has failed and that man does not need the Gospel story with its implications of divinity and its urge to service and sacrifice.
Is the Gospel story historically true? Is it a mystical tale of great beauty and of real teaching value but nevertheless of no vital import to the intelligent men and women of today, who pride themselves on their reasoning powers and upon their independence of ancient mental trammels and of old and dusty traditions?
As to the perfection of the portrayed character of Christ there is never any question. The enemies of Christianity admit His uniqueness, His basic profundity and His understanding of the hearts of men. They recognize the intelligence of His ideas and sponsor them in their own philosophies.
The developments which the Carpenter of Nazareth brought about in the fabric of human life, His social and economic ideals, and the beauty of the civilization which could be founded upon the ethical teaching of the Sermon on the Mount are frequently emphasized by many who refuse to recognize His mission as an expression of divinity.
From the rational point of view, the question as to the historical accuracy of His story remains as yet unsolved, though His teaching upon the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man is endorsed by the best minds of man. Those who can move in the world of ideas, of faith and of living experience testify to His divinity and to the fact that He can be approached.
But such testimony is often passed over lightly as being mystical, futile and incapable of proof. Individual belief is, after all, of no value to anyone except to the believer himself, or as it tends to increase testimony until the total assumes such proportions that it eventually becomes proof.
To fall back upon the "way of belief" can be indicative of a living experience, but it can also be a form of self-hypnotism and a "way of escape" from the difficulties and problems of daily life. The effort to understand, to experiment, to experience and to express what is known and believed is frequently too difficult for the majority, and they then fall back upon a belief which is based upon the testimony of the trusted, as the easiest way out of the impasse.
The problem of religion and the problem of orthodox Christianity are not one and the same thing. Much that we see around us today of unbelief and criticism, and the negation of our so-called truths, is based upon the fact that religion has been largely superseded by creed, and doctrine has taken the place of living experience. It is this living experience which is the keynote of all understanding.
Perhaps another reason why humanity at this time believes so little, or questions so unhappily what is believed, may be the fact that theologians have attempted to lift Christianity out of its place in the scheme of things and have overlooked its position in the great continuity of divine revelation. They have endeavored to emphasize its uniqueness, and to regard it as an isolated and entirely separated expression of spiritual religion.
They thereby destroy its background, remove its foundations, and make it difficult for the steadily developing mind of man to accept its
presentation. Yet St. Augustine tells us "that which is called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist from the beginning of the human race until Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christianity."
The Wisdom which expresses a relationship to God, the rules of the road which guide our wandering footsteps back to the Father's home, and the teaching which brings revelation have ever been the same, down the ages, and are identical with that which Christ taught.
This body of inner truths and this wealth of divine knowledge have existed since time immemorial. It is the truth which Christ revealed; but He did more than this. He revealed in Himself and through His life history what this wisdom and knowledge could do for man. He demonstrated in Himself the full expression of divinity, and then enjoined upon His disciples, and therefore upon us, that we should go forth and do as He did.
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