Religious Reality
By A.E.J. Rawlinson

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Public Domain Books

Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father

It was characteristic of the ancient Jews that they had a vital belief in the living GOD: and belief in GOD, and that of a far more real and definite kind than the modern Englishman’s vague admission of the existence of a Supreme Being, was a thing which Jesus was able to take for granted in those to whom He spoke. GOD to the Jew was the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, holy and righteous, gracious and merciful: active and operative in the world, the Controller of events: having a purpose for Israel and for the world, which in the process of the world’s history was being wrought out, and which would one day find complete and adequate fulfilment in the setting up of GOD’S Eternal Kingdom.

What Jesus did by His life and teaching was to deepen and intensify existing faith in GOD by the revelation of GOD as Father, and to revive and quicken the expectation of GOD’S Kingdom by the proclamation of its near approach. The application to GOD of the term “Father” was not new: but the revelation of what GOD’S Fatherhood meant in the personal life and faith of Jesus Himself as Son of God was something entirely new: while in Jesus’ preaching of the Divine Kingdom there was a note of freshness and originality, and a spiritual assurance of certainty, which carried conviction of an entirely new kind to the minds and hearts of those who listened.

All the more overwhelming must have seemed to the disciples the disaster of their Master’s crucifixion. It was not merely that the hopes which in their minds had gathered about His person were shattered: their very faith in GOD Himself, and in the goodness of GOD, was for the time being torn up by the roots. Nothing but an event as real and as objective as the Crucifixion itself could have reversed for them this impression of sheer catastrophe. The resurrection of Jesus, which was for them the wonder of wonders, not only restored to them their faith in Him as the Christ of GOD, now “declared to be the Son of GOD with power by the resurrection from the dead"; it also relaid for them the foundations of faith in GOD and in His goodness and love upon a basis of certainty henceforth never to be shaken. “This is the message which we have heard of Him and declare unto you, that GOD is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”

Meanwhile what of Jesus Himself–this Christ, through their relationship to whom they had come by this new experience of the reality of GOD? In symbolical vision they saw Him ascend up into the heavens and vanish from bodily sight: in pictorial language they spoke of Him as seated at GOD’S right hand. They were assured nevertheless– and multitudes in many generations have echoed their conviction–that He was still in their midst unseen, their living Master and Lord. Instinctively they prayed to Him. Through Him they made their approach to the Father. He had transformed for them their world. He was the light of their lives. In Him was truth. He was their way to GOD.

All the great movement of Christian thought in the New Testament is concerned in one way or another with the working out of this experienced significance of Jesus. The maturest expression of what He meant to them is contained in the great reflective Gospel–an interpretation rather than a simple portrait of the historical Jesus– which is ascribed by tradition to S. John. The Christ of the Fourth Gospel is man, with all the attributes of most real and genuine manhood: but He is also more than man. He is the self-utterance–the Word–of GOD. He came forth from GOD, and went to GOD. He is the revelation of the Father, the expression of GOD’S nature and being “in the intelligible terms of a human life.” To have seen Him is to have seen the Father, because He and the Father are one. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life: the Bread that came down from heaven: the Fountain of living water: the Lamb of GOD, that taketh away the sin of the world.

Later Christian orthodoxy never got farther than this. All that the formal doctrine of the Incarnation–as expressed, for example, in such a formulary as the Athanasian Creed–can truly be said to amount to is just the double insistence that Christ is at once truly and completely man, and also truly and completely GOD. The paradox is left unreconciled–"yet He is not two, but one Christ.” The Godhead is expressed in manhood: in the manhood we see GOD.

What does it mean to confess the Deity of Christ? It means just this: that we take the character of Christ as our clue to the character of GOD: that we interpret the life of Christ as an expression of the life of GOD: that we affirm the conviction, based upon deep and unshakable personal experience, that “GOD was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.”

What is the real question, the most fundamental of questions, which arises when we seek to interpret the world we live in? Is it not just the question: What is the nature or character of the ultimate Power or Principle or Person upon which or upon whom the world depends? Is not every religion, every imagined deity, in one sense an altar to the unknown GOD? The venture of Christian faith consists in staking all upon the assumption, the hypothesis abundantly verified in the life’s experience of such as make it, that the character of the unknown GOD is revealed in Christ: that the love of Christ is the expression of the love of GOD, the sufferings of Christ an expression of the suffering of GOD, the triumph of Christ an expression of the eternal victory of GOD over all the evil and wickedness which mars the wonder of His creation. If we were to look primarily at the life of Nature, we might be tempted to say that GOD was cruel. If we considered certain of the works of man, we might be tempted to conclude that GOD was devilish. Looking at Jesus we gain the assurance that GOD is Love. We behold “the light of the knowledge of the glory of GOD in the face of Jesus Christ,” and we are satisfied.

And so we come to Jesus–the Prophet that is come into the world: and what we shall find, if we will suffer Him to work His work in us, is this. He will change our world for us, and will transform it. He will redeem our souls, so that there shall be in us a new birth, a new creation. He will show us the Father, and it shall suffice us. He will set our feet on the road to Calvary, and we shall rejoice to be crucified with Him. He will convert us–He will turn our lives inside out, so that they shall have their centre in GOD, and no longer in ourselves. He will bestow on us the Spirit without measure, so that we shall be sons and daughters of the Highest. And we shall know that we are of GOD, even though the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we shall know that the Son of GOD is come, and that He hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and that we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ.


Preface  •  Author’s Preface  •  Introduction  •  Part I - The Theory of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - the Man Christ Jesus  •  Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father  •  Chapter III - The Fellowship of the Spirit  •  Chapter IV - The Holy Trinity  •  Chapter V - The Problem of Evil  •  Chapter VI - Sin and Redemption  •  Chapter VII - The Church and Her Mission in the World  •  Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic  •  Chapter IX - Sacraments  •  Chapter X - The Last Things  •  Chapter XI - Clergy and Laity  •  Chapter XII - The Bible  •  Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim  •  Chapter II - The Way of the World  •  Chapter III - The Spirit and the Flesh  •  Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil  •  Chapter V - The Kingdom of God  •  Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce  •  Chapter VII - Christianity and Industry  •  Chapter VIII - Christianity and Politics  •  Chapter IX - Christianity and War  •  Chapter X - Love, Courtship, and Marriage  •  Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin  •  Chapter II - Prayer  •  Chapter III - Self-Examination and Repentance  •  Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion  •  Chapter V - The Devotional Use of the Bible  •  Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting

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By A. E. J. Rawlinson
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