The way things are going, I’m beginning to think there ought to be a good news website where we can go and be cheered up; as yesterday’s post showed, even my irrepressible cheeriness is under strain! But then, of course, we have the Good News, and the fact that so many will not receive it says more about them than it does the Good News, and reminds us of why we need it.
It has been said before here that the main reason why Christianity is losing its hold in the West is that so many here no long believe in sin; if you don’t believe that, then it makes no sense to believe you need a Saviour, and ‘do as you will – as long as you don’t harm others’ is the whole of the law. It is a comfortable law for a comfortable people – Jeshun waxes fat and kicks – but then it was always so. It is easy to see whence the extreme Calvinists derived the idea that Christ died only for the elect. Few there are, in any generation, who follow the ways of the Lord.
I can understand why some, seeing part of the message in the Good News, think it a branch of social work or psycho-therapy, for surely our faith commands us to help others, and offers the only real cure for what ails us; but it should not be reduced to just those things, important though they are. Jesus died in agony on the Cross – the was the price of love. In the shadow of that, it is hard to credit that some folk think sin does not matter or is a matter of definition if it even exists. It was from the consequence – and the cause – of our sins that Jesus came to save us.
Convenient though it would be to believe that all that is needed is ‘mercy’, that jumps the gun a bit. We know that God loves us even when we are far off; we know that his mercy is offered to us all, as was the sacrifice of Jesus; we know he wants all to be saved; and we know he is all-powerful. It is characteristic of modern man (though it has been so in all ages too) to suppose that all of that requires nothing from him. But if we stop a moment, there is a mystery here which points to some hard lessons. If it had been sufficient for our salvation that God forgave us our sins in advance, then what need was there for the Son of God to suffer and die on the Cross? Whatever variety of atonement one holds, that there is a need for it seems so plain to me that I can attribute the desire not to believe in it only to a horror of the thought that God had to pay the price for our sin. But for me, either he did, in which case there was a need for it, or he didn’t, in which case there’s no need for Calvary at all. It’s the same with Original Sin. There are a variety of ways in which Christians hold this notion, some see it as an hereditary taint, some as a marring of our nature, but whichever way you view it, it is in us, it is what makes us go to the wrong, and the one remedy for it is Christ.
Someone asked me the other day whether I was a fundamentalist, and, outlining something if what I’ve just written, I responded that if these are fundamental to being a Christian, I was happy to say I was a fundamentalist. I wondered, however, how many BIshops could say yes to the same?