Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST001   The Christian Faith


The Doctrine of the Word of God.

Man is a religious being; his basic nature is a religious one. Any discussion of the Christian Faith must take this into account. Even atheistic communities have to substitute some conception of the relationship of the state to the individual place of religion.

Wiley reminds us that there are four fundamental characteristics which are necessary to any religion.

1..........The thought of a supernatural power of God or Gods.

2..........The sense of need which seeks satisfaction from this supernatural power.

3..........The idea of reverence, the feeling of incumbency to do homage and render willing obedience to the supernatural.

4..........Some sort of assurance of the manifestation of God.

This last, of course, depends entirely on God and is His special right and favour. Some have had conceptions of religion which would make it merely lie in the feelings, others only in knowledge  and others in action. None of these conceptions are true and complete. Religion must combine all three areas of man`s life in their relationship to God. It must embrace both emotions, the intellect and the active moral life.

Modern ideas on religion have usually followed the evolutionary trend of the age and maintained that religion has evolved from a very base and primitive type of animism, through various stages to pure Judaism and then to Christianity. This view cannot be considered to be in accord with the teaching of the Bible.

The Scriptures imply that after Adam`s sin and man`s fall there was devolution rather than evolution, and that devolution continued where God did not reveal himself to man. It was only through God`s revelation of Himself and His ways that He led man back to Himself and produced first the Jewish religion and then the Christian Faith.

Wiley suggests that, the origin of religion must be traced back to man`s original constitution. Man was made for a personal relationship with God and as originally endowed, he has  personal integrity and a sufficient knowledge to preserve him in the state in which  he was created.

But the fall and the introduction of sin, fellowship with God was broken and man`s mind became darkened by the loss of that spiritual light which forms the true principle of illumination in the things of God. We must therefore regard natural religion as an attenuated and diluted remainder of man`s original constitution and endowment.

God`s revelation has been a progressive one as mankind has been able to receive it. Neither the whole of God`s purpose nor the highest was fully revealed immediately. Yet even from the very commencement the highest was revealed on occasions in promises shown in God`s remarkable words to the serpent after the fall. (Genesis 3:15).

Likewise it must be allowed that there are reflections and elements of truth in other religions, though they have lost a great deal of God`s original revelation and are devoid of saving truth. The Christian religion is therefore distinctive and unique. The scripture declares that there is salvation in none other but Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12). It is all inclusive and therefore utterly exclusive. It provides all that man needs for reconciliation to God, for union with Him and for ability to live according to His purpose on the earth.

Thus it is exclusive; no other religion can take its place, none can compete with it. It can be regarded as distinctive for at least three reasons.

1..........It is an historic religion.

It is more than a philosophy or a theory. It is based on historical facts. It is redemptive power worked out on the plane of human history in the person of Jesus Christ. (Wiley Vol.1 page 122).

2..........Its founder is Jesus Christ, the Divine son of God.

The New Testament book called `Hebrews` tells us clearly, that God who at different times and in different ways spoke to the leaders of the nation by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His son. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

In the past revelation was partial and imperfect because it was mediated through human means; now it is mediated through divine means, through the very son of God and therefore it can be perfect and replace all that has gone before. It is a final revelation, nothing can take its place.

3..........It is a Redemptive religion.

Apostolic writers regarded Christ not solely as a prophet or a teacher, or a great man but as a redeemer. Many scholars believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is no more than a system of ethics or a profound philosophy of life. But anything that stops short of the power of God in salvation, stops short of the place where the message of Christ becomes a gospel.

If, however, the Christian faith is distinctive it must have come by revelation. In no other way than by direct revelation was it possible for God to make known to mankind His nature, His attitude to sin and His plan to restore man to fellowship and union with Himself.

The necessity and nature of this revelation will be the first matter to be discussed in this section. Revelation, though, must have had a method by which it reached man. This will form the second matter to be discussed under the title, the inspiration of the scriptures. Somewhere, also, there must be a place for this revelation to be recorded, so that it can be found, read,  and consulted. We shall consider this under the `Canon of the Holy Scripture or the Bible.`

1..........Revelation, its nature and evidence.

Revelation has always been considered to be of two kinds, "General Revelation", which is the revelation of God through natural means, and "Special Revelation" , which is the revelation of God through supernatural means. Before dealing with the latter, which is the purpose of this section, it would be as well to say a few words concerning the former.

There is no doubt that God has sought to urge and encourage mankind to think of Him in various ways other than direct, supernatural revelation. Three of those ways may be mentioned.

2..........Through Nature.

Nature declares the glory of God, but man through his darkened mind is often blind to it. Also our familiarity with its wonders makes us lose the sense of God in them. Nature only reveals God when we know Him personally through redemption.

3..........Through the constitution of man himself.

Man understands himself as a spiritual being. He is conscious of himself, he is conscious likewise of something outside of himself and other than himself, the world around; he is also conscious of someone above and beyond himself, someone who demands a moral response. He is aware that he is a spiritual being made for communion with the supernatural.

4..........Through the process of human history.

History is not merely the record of a series of disconnected events. Man is conscious that there is an inner directing presence in history and an authoritative will above it. The coming of Jesus Christ is the apex of the pyramid of history. All led up to His coming and His coming left its impress on all that followed.

While all this is true, this type of revelation is not the real concern of the Christian Faith and of Theology. The real interest of the Christian Faith lies in the Supernatural revelation of God which makes known to mankind in no other way. It is this type of revelation which is the subject of this section.

The word "revelation" means an "uncovering" or "unveiling". As applied to God it means "the making known to humankind the character, mind and will of God, especially as related to man, his needs and destiny".

In a specifically theological sense this revelation concerns the making known to man the necessity and provision of Redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ. Dr.Pope puts it this way, "The term 'Revelation' as used theologically signifies in its last and highest meaning the unveiling or disclosing of God`s redeeming purpose to mankind. This definition distinguishes it from the more general manifestations of the supreme being and gives Christian revelation its distinctive character, as including all forms of divine teaching and adding its own supplement and consummation. It is at once the most elementary and most comprehensive word of our theological system."  (Compend.of Christian Theology.vol.1.p.36).

The Christian Faith declares that such a revelation has been made and it is necessary to give consideration to the plausibility of such a claim, to the character of revelation and to its credentials.


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