Naked in the World
Man comes naked into the world, but no man comes into a naked world.
Every man comes into a culture and into a religious framework. The idea of God, with the idea of right and wrong, is in every culture. Although it is debased where there has been no preaching of the true Gospel of Christ, the remnant of true knowledge is everywhere
So men are without excuse before God. It has been long debated: Is man's mind is a tabula rasa (a wax tablet) upon which is written the experiences of life, or is man born with innate ideas, a debate beyond the scope of this paper. But all must agree: the world man is born into is not a wax tablet. The world is rich in ideas, in customs, in history.
This is the reason that every educated man eventually has to deal with Jesus Christ. The sheer numbers of those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, the impressive mark that Jesus Christ has made on the religions of the world, the importance of Christian thought on theories of government, ethics, history, music, art, philosophy, and all the other disciplines make it imperative that the thinking man confront Christ. Not to confront Christ is madness, and is to ignore the greatest part of human history.
Much of the literature of the last centuries has been from the desire to "explain" Jesus Christ. Who is He? How can you explain the effect He has had on the world?
Why is this? The place of Jesus Christ in Christianity is unique. No one speaks of "Loving Mohammed," or "Loving Joseph Smith," or "Loving Moses," or "Loving the Buddha.") The teachings of these religious leaders may be seen to be authoritative, or even inspired, but the Mormons do not speak of "having a personal relationship with Joseph Smith," nor do Muslims speak of such a relationship with Mohammed. For one thing, these prophets are dead, and their graves are known.
Not so Jesus Christ. Love for Christ is the only acceptable reason for anything that is believed or done in Christianity. "If you love me, keep my commandments," is the word of Christ. "If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be anathema," is the way the apostle put it. The call to personal fellowship, to devotion, to love and communion is uniquely Christian. When Christianity is reduced to a philosophical system, or an ethical and moral system, it loses its unique character, and the life goes out of it.
Because of the impact that Christianity has had on the world, every culture and system must meet the question: "Is Christianity of God?" There is no way that any religious leader can escape the confrontation that the question brings.
This doesn't mean that people don't try. "There is good in all religion," is the mantra. It makes them feel expansive, large-minded, and VERY religious. But instead of them getting off the hook, this shallow response just sets the hook deeper. For if there is good in all religions, then there is a standard by which the good can be known, if good is anything more than benevolent feelings. And if there is a standard by which the good can be known, then there is religious truth--and religious error. This will require me to decide which is which.
When I see this, the basic principle at the beginning of this article is confirmed. Man is born naked into the world, but he is not born into a naked world. He is born into a world where truth and error are mixed together, and he has responsibility to choose the good and to reject the error.
Then, what about Jesus? Which is He, Good or Evil? Was Jesus of God? or did His doctrine and life arise somewhere else? He is undoubtedly THE major moral teacher of the history of the world.
But still men try to wriggle off the hook. "There are many paths to God. All the religions teach much the same thing, and if the good in any of them is followed, man will find peace."
Those who say such things are ignorant, willingly or negligently, of the unique claims of Jesus Christ. "I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me." "If you believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins." "He that believeth on me is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the only begotten Son of God." "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." "The Father shows the Son all things that He does." "That men should honor the Son, just as they honor the Father." And many like things.
Any man who would think the things Jesus said--if they are not true--is insane, viciously deceptive, or personally deceived, none of which gives credibility to his witness. There have been many such people in the world, asterisks of history. Was Jesus insane?
Here is the unbeliever's dilemma. On one horn: if there is good in all religion, then what is the good in Christianity? If the good is not Christ, then Christianity is rotten at the core and is a great evil to be expunged. Modern humanist leaders are unabashed at this and hate Christianity and would do all to suppress it. Or lacking that, would subvert it from the love of Christ and turn it into a sentimental moral system, of service to the state.
On the other horn: If Jesus is the good in Christianity, what about His claims of exclusivity? You cannot have it both ways and still continue to think.
Israel was commissioned at Sinai to bear witness to the Unity of the One True God, to speak of His justice and His Simplicity and Invisibility. The religion of the Jews condemned all the idolatry of the ancient world, for the true God is Invisible and cannot be imaged. In condemning the idolatry it condemned the disunity of the ancient world. One God means One Law for all the nations. Further, it means that man is created in the image of God and responsible to be moral according to the Word of the Law given at Sinai. To say that nothing happened at Sinai, to deny the words of Moses, is to make a mockery of history, and reduce the heroic history of the Jews to folly. There is an implicit anti-Semitism among all those who deny the authority of the Old Testament.
One thing is certain: the prophets of Israel did not preach the good in all religion. They scornfully and satirically denounced all idolatry.
But just as the life is in the acorn, so the gospel of Christ is in the Old Testament. Both David and Moses spoke of the One, the Messiah, who would be after the order of Melchizedek, a higher priesthood than that of Aaron, who would establish His own temple and ordinances and rule His people from heaven, for He would never die. (Psalm 110 and Genesis 14). Melchizedek is greater than Moses and Aaron and David, because Abraham their father paid tithes to Melchizedek. Who is that priest who was to come? The church has always answered: Jesus Christ.
How do you explain Jesus Christ? It is certain that insane men, and viciously deceptive men, have been important for periods of human history: witness our own century and the rise of Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, and others. But what communist spoke of his love and communion with Lenin, or what Nazi could speak of such love to Hitler? Some could fear such men, some might be inspired by them, some might even admire and respect them; but love? Devotion and fanaticism--these are common coin in the marketplace of human ideas, but not love and communion. These belong only to the true followers of Jesus Christ, for to be a Christian is to partake of the life of Jesus Christ, and to partake of His nature.
So we are left with our first premise: Man is born naked into the world, but man is not born into a naked world. He is born into a world dominated by the Person: the Person who lights every man who comes into the world (John 1:9).
"What will you do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?"
Pastor C. W. Powell
Trinity Covenant Church
Colorado Springs, Co.