On Resurrection Sunday a few years ago, numerous pastors of churches in a fading mainline American denomination rose to deny Jesus. The statement dozens of these heretics had agreed upon was spoken as in unison. They said, “Jesus, called the Christ, if he ever actually existed, was certainly not the divine Son of God and cannot be said in any way to be sole means of salvation for human souls.”
A few months after this event, I sat listening to a friendly woman pastor of the same denomination. She had written a well-received book on the demise of American Christianity. I admit I did not read her book. She lamented the death of American Christianity, coming, as it did, in a time when her Church had come to so believe in grace that no one actually needed to present Jesus as the divine Christ, since all persons were already accepted by God in grace.
I am going to make some statements to follow up on these ruminations above. I freely admit they have bothered me since I heard them, though their denomination is certainly not mine.
Statement One: I perceive God in Jesus Christ. I believe in Jesus Christ as the only-gotten Son of the Father, the Savior of a race in need of saving.
Statement Two: The historic, creedal affirmation of Jesus as the Christ, Second Person of the Holy Trinity, is the last and final bulwark between the real, confessing Church and paganism.
Statement Three: The group or the person who fails to continue (or never begins) to recognize Jesus as the Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and resurrected, ascended into Heaven and coming again, loses the vitality to call itself the Church, or any part of the Church, or part of any Church.
Statement Four: God is a people-having God. This group or that sect may perish, but God will have a people. For any of us to claim to be Christian must mean we accept the moral demands put on us by the presence, person and purpose of the Christ.
Statement Five: Christ’s moral influence on us is the inevitable consequence of His appearance in the flesh and His death on the Cross. If I am so good I do not need saving (no one who knows this will claim it for me) then the Cross is an extreme event.
Statement Six: Christ’s inevitable moral influence on us requires (rather than allows) that we take a stand against evil, whether we find it in popular culture or populist politics.
I freely admit a dissident (immediately or finally) has to suffer the wages of his dissidence. Contemporary North American Christians notice their denominations dwindling down to death and wonder why. I believe the basic requirement of spiritual awakening must be the reaffirmation of the historic and creedal emphasis of Christ among Christians who wish to have a Christian Church.