Posts Tagged ‘ Forsyth ’

The Greatness of Christ and Interpretations thereof

…that is the title of the chapter of Forsyth’s book „The person and the place of Jesus Christ“, an amazing Christology that was authored as a response to German higher criticism (first published 1909). Not an easy-read, but worth the toil…here comes your Christmas-quote:

What a man! What a maker of men! What a master of men and of events! What a sovereignty was the mien of his self-consciousness! Lord of himself and all besides; with an irresistible power to force, and even hurry, events on a world scale; and yet with the soul that sat among children, and the heart in which children sat. He had an intense reverence for a past that was yet too small for him. It rent him to rend it; and yet he had to breakt it up, to the breaking of his own heart, in the greatest revolution the world ever saw. He was an austere man, a severe critic, a born fighter, of choleric wrath and fiery scorn, so that the people thought he was Elijah or the Baptist; yet he was gentle to the last degree, esprecially with those ignorant and out of the way. In the thick of life and love he yet stood detached, sympathetic yet aloof, cleaving at once both to men and to solitude. He spoke with such power because he loved silence. With an almost sacramental idea of human relations, especially the centralrelation of marriage, he yet avoided for himself every bond of property, vocation, or family; and he cut these bonds when they stood between men and himself. Full of biting irony upon men he yet was their healer and Saviour. Of a quick understanding which tore through the pedantry of the Scribes, with a sure dialectic which never failed him, and never left him at the mercy of his hecklers, he had yet a naive nature and a pictorial speech which brought him very near to the simplest – whom next moment some deep paradox would confound, and even wound. Clear, calm, determined, and sure of his mark, he was next hour roused to such impulsive passion as if he were beside himself. But if he let himself go he always knew where he was going. With a royal, and almost proud, sense of himself, he poured out his sould unto God and unto death, and was the friend of publicans and sinners. With a superhuman sense of authority he had superhuman humility. When he emptied himself it was done in the fulness of God. He could be bitter, and almost rough in his virility, yet he could pity, obey and sacrifice like a woman. The mightiest of all individual powers, he has yet set on foot the greatest Socialism and Fraternity the world has known, which is still but in its dawn. „King and beggar, Hero and Child, Prophet and Reformer, Polemist and Prince of Peace, Ruler and Servant, Revolutionist and Sage, man of action, man of ideas, and man of the Word – he was all these strange things, and more, in one person.“ (Weidel) And he was all that without being torn asunder as a common man would have been; for, if his heart broke, his sould never did, nor his will. He was all that, in a unity greater than the unity of the most uncommon men, a unity ruled by his tremendous will. Dwell on the wealth of his person more than its mystery, on his irresistibility rather than his gentleness, on his steadfast energy of concentration upon his one work more even than his elemental force of passion or his depth of suffering – dwell on such things if you would come near the centre and secret of this personality and its root in coequal God. His effect on human soul is greater than any human cause can explain, whether you think of the extent of his effect in history, or, still more, of the nature of his effect in a Church and its experience.


Man….the first one I have to criticize is MYSELF. It has been so long since I wrote the last thing. Sorry for anyone (if you exist) who checked regularly.

Actually I can just blame it on Brian McLaren. Normally I wanted to read his book „Everything must change“ and then write my comments on it. A task which was a little bit too much work for me. First I was surprised by alot of what I read – positively so. To make it short: there was alot I really had to think through in order to be able to remain honest with myself.

Of course I was a little bit afraid. After all I am a Calvary Chapel youth leader – and I like some of the stuff Brian McLaren writes? Am I in trouble? Will I be excommunicated? Aaaahhh! So I decided to ask one of the people I am blessed to know personally: David Guzik ( I asked him to read the book and to tell me what he thinks. And he actually did. Not only that: he wrote a little critique on it while he was reading!

So I will ask for his permission and then put it up here on my blog.

Before I go to bed, I will bless you, dearest reader, with a quote from Forsyth’s book „The person and the place of Jesus Christ“, a book which, I think, is a very timely answer to the Emergent approach, even though it was partly a reaction to the early liberal movement in Germany. The book first was published in 1909.

„Criticism is our friend and not our enemy in its place. It is a good servant but a deadly master. It becomes our enemy only when it aspires from being an organ of Evangelical faith to be its controller.“ That is exactly where liberalism went off-track…

Question: Is uncertainty spiritual?

I read something else which I feel balances what I wrote before. It is from P. T. Forsyth’s book „The person and place of Jesus Christ“, Lecture 1: Lay Religion.

„The root of all theology is real religion; of all Christian theology, and even apologetic, it is Christian religion, it is saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is justifying faith, in the sense of faith in a forgiving God through the cross of Jesus Christ. But this religion cannot be stated without theology. If theology can be shewn to be irrelevant to a living and evangelical faith, then the Chruch can afford to treat it with some indifference, and to leave its pursuit, lie philosophy, to the Universities. But the Christian religion is theological or nothing. We are but vaguely and partially right in saying that Christ is the Gospel. Years ago to say that was the needful word; but it is now outgrown and inadequate.“

A question I ask myself at this point: Is it enough to say that Christ is the Gospel at this point in time? In my culture? The first edition of this book came out in 1909.

„The Gospel is a certain interpretation of Christ which is given in the New Testament, a mystic interpretation of a historic fact. It is the loving, redeeming grace of a holy God in Christ and His salvation alone. Theology, it is true, does not deal with thoughts but with facts. That is the great note of modern theology. But the Christian fact is not an historic fact or figure simply; it is a superhistoric fact living on in the new experience which it creates. The fact on which Christian theology works is the Christ of faith and not of history only, of inspiration and not of mere record, of experience and not of memory. It is the Christ of the Church’s saving, justifying faith.

A Christianity without such faith is not Christianity. Spiritual sensibility is not Christianity, nor is any degree of refined unction. A spirituality without positive, and even dogmatic, content is not Christianity; no are gropings when stated as dogmas; nor is a faith in the broad general truths of religion. Christian faith must surely dogmatise about the goodness of God in Christ, at the least. A conversion which is but a wave of spiritual experience is not the passage from death to life. Religion can only be made more real by a deepened sense of the reality of the salvation. An access of religion which does not mean, first or last, a deeper repentance and more personal faith in Christ’s salvation may be sincere enough, and it is certainly better than worldliness and unconcern; but it is not believing unto life. It is not New Testament Christianity. And, tender as we should be to it as a stage, we must be very explicit when it is offered as a goal. Gentle as we may be to it as a search, we must be quite plain with those who proclaim it as the great finds.“

A clear warning and call to only accept uncertainty about who Christ is and what he’s done for us as a stage but never as a goal. That would fly in the face of all who are trying now to promote even uncertainty about Christ’s nature as a higher form of spirituality. It is not. Even though the disciples started out that way, Christ was constantly teaching them and revealing himself to them – all his revelations centered on himself as a person.

I understand that this teaching might be a reaction to the over-emphasize on the new birth as a „at-one-certain-point-experience“. Now while of course a birth by itself is a one-time-event and not a process, there is a whole process leading up to that point (pregnancy) and another process starting at that point (growth).

So is uncertainty spiritual? No. But if this uncertainty leads you to seek, knock, and ask, it can be helpful in leading to a deeper understanding, a deeper trust and a closer walk with Jesus. There is some things which we can never know in an intellectual sense. But that doesn’t mean that we should look up to a state of ignorance as something noble. Blessed are those who don’t see (intellectually), but yet believe.