Neville Smart
The Grounds of Faith

The Grounds of Faith

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of realities we do not see" (Heb.11:1, R.S.V. and N.E.B.).

The realities we do not see but of which faith gives us an inner certainty are the existence of an almighty, entirely righteous and loving God by whose word the world was made, and the power of His Son to save us-and ultimately to save the world-from the domination of sin. And the things hoped for of which faith gives us assurance are the coming again of that same Son from heaven, the ensuing regeneration of the earth, the vindication of the righteousness and love of God in the hearts of all who have served Him and the perfecting of their fellowship with Him in the day when He is all in all. Other things are inextricably involved in these, but these and the implications they carry with them are the central features of belief and trust which distinguish the Christian view of life from all others. And wherever they are held in faith they are expressed through a way of life that is also distinctive.

Because this view of life presents a powerful challenge to the natural thinking of the human mind it has always been threatened by the inroads of the wisdom of this world; because this way of life imposes uncomfortable restrictions on the natural impulses of the human heart it has always been in danger of corruption from the self-interest and materialism of the world's way. In other words, the Christian faith is perpetually under attack - open or insidious - from the influences of the alien world in which it has its being.

Present Dangers

I am not going to suggest that the forces of evil, the influences destructive of faith, are altogether more powerful today than they have ever been: in some respects I have no doubt they are; in others I am quite sure they are not (and one of the points I want to bring out later for our comfort is that the evil forces tending to undermine faith today are in essence no different from those that faced our brethren and sisters in the first century). But two things are reasonably certain: the first, that since the Christian religion became generally established in our western world (whether in its purity or not need not concern us for the moment) its hold on men's minds has never been so weak as it is in this second half of the twentieth century; and the second, that since the establishment of the Christadelphian community as a distinctive, living witness to the Truth which is in Jesus that community has never been surrounded by such powerful influences conducive to its disintegration as it is now.

What I want to do in this booklet is to identify the more significant of these influences; to point out some of the dangerous effects they are already producing among us because of wrong responses to them; and finally to indicate what I feel to be the positive, constructive, and only saving way of meeting the challenges that face us.

There is no doubt in my mind that the threat to faith in our generation comes from two primary sources, and if I were asked to identify these sources each in a brief phrase I should call them scientic rationalism and affluent materialism. These two forces are by no means separate and independent of each other in their influence (as we shall see), and together they combine to produce a most powerful and insidious threat to our individual and communal faith. Let us look at them a little more closely, and first at what I have called scientific rationalism.

The Rationalistic Approach

The rationalistic approach to the interpretation of the universe is no new thing: theories and explanations of a world without God are ages old, and even in the nominally Christian society of our western world such interpretations have had prominent and eloquent exponents since at least the middle of the seventeenth century. Nor, of course, is scientific thinking and experimentation a modem thing in itself (though one recognizes readily enough some significant differences between "modern science" and the science of the ancient and mediaeval worlds). But what constitutes the particularly powerful threat to the Christian faith today is the tremendous impetus given to basically rationalistic and godless or agnostic views of life by modern scientific theory and discovery, especially in such spheres as geology and biology; and side by side with this the development of what purport to be scientific methods in the approach to the interpretation of the scriptures themselves. (The so called "higher criticism" of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was perhaps the least reputable of these approaches; but there are other and later ones, more genuinely scientific as far as they go, and more apparently convincing.)

In both of these spheres-in scientific investigation outside the Bible and in the scientific approach to the Bible itself-a tremendous mass of thinking, experiment and writing has been going on during the past hundred years or so. Much of it has been superficial, self-contradictory, unconvincing and of but fleeting significance; some of it has had a greater appearance of established truth; and some of it is true beyond any reasonable doubt. But the total pressure of all this can almost overwhelm the mind by its sheer mass; and since the direction of most of it is in effect, if not always by intention, anti-Christian, it is no wonder that faith is disturbed and not infrequently uprooted by its influence.

Much scientific theory (and the evidence that is adduced to support it) concerning the origins of life appears to render untenable the basic human situation that is presented to us in the Bible. The fact that science has been able to explain so many wonderful phenomena in man's experience on a purely natural and rational basis and without reference to the supernatural has led to the calling in question of the divine origin of all things and to scepticism concerning the miraculous element in the scripture records themselves: stories like that of Jonah are widely ridiculed, and such fundamental miracles as the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus are discarded even among the ranks of professing Christians. The scientific approach to the examination and interpretation of the scriptures has had the effect of undermining faith in the authenticity of the documents, in the genuineness of authorship and dating, in the integrity of the writers-ultimately in the "inspiration" of the scriptures in any distinctive and meaningful sense. And in the wake of these processes has come, inevitably, the attenuating of the person of Jesus as Christ and Son of God (even in some cases to the point of his disappearance as a historical personage); and accompanying this the discrediting of Christian truth and of the Christian challenge in the moral sphere.

I do not say that all these things had to be so, that some of them are not due to misunderstanding, that science and the scientific approach have nothing to teach us. I am saying that this is what in fact has happened and that in all the circumstances it is very understandable that it should have happened.


I come now to a consideration of the second major threat to faith that I have referred to-the threat of affluent materialism. Materialism, in the sense of an outlook on life and a manner of life basically self-centred and preoccupied with the satisfaction of selfish, personal and essentially tangible desires and pleasures, is, like rationalism, almost as old as our race. What has given it a special power in our modern world is the unprecedented extent to which it has been able to find its characteristic satisfactions over a wide area of society because of the affluence of our age; and the extent to which it is ministered to by the arts-notably literature, the stage and the visual arts generally (especially as these are conveyed to us through the medium of television). When those who profess the Christian faith find themselves sharing in the affluence of their times there is a grave danger that they may be more ready than they should to be to some extent absorbed by the society which provides them with such comforts; that they may begin to adjust themselves in all kinds of subtle ways to its standards, and that in this as in other respects they may come to lose their distinctive identity as a protesting community.

I have dealt with the influences of scientific nationalism and affluent materialism in separate categories. In practice

in the life of an individual or a community they interact in a very complex way. Where Christian truths are held less firmly in our minds because of the influence of this world's wisdom it is easier to make compromises in daily living in a society which provides us with ease and comfort; where, on the other hand, ease and comfort have led us to make compromises in moral principle our minds are the readier to modify the Christian truths that lie behind the moral disciplines we have compromised-we are the readier to lean a little towards philosophies that make us feel less uncomfortable about the compromises we have made. Thus the combined influences of the two forces we have been examining work insidiously in the mind to the destruction of vital and robust and saving faith.

Now what in fact is happening in our own community in this second half of the twentieth century by way of response to these threats to faith from the world about us? What is happening to our thinking and to our way of life? Let us consider first the impact upon us of the affluence and materialism of our age.

Impact Upon Us

"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing ... I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire. that thou mayest be rich" (Rev. 3 : I 7-18). I suppose that of all the charges levelled against the churches of Asia Minor in the first century that of Laodicean affluence and materialism is among the last which our community would have felt relevant to its condition prior to the Second World War. We cannot deny its relevance today. We have certainly had our share in the affluence of the affluent society; and though we may not say, or even consciously think, "I am rich, and increased with goods", the fact is that most of us are. And there is every reason for us to be greatly concerned at the extent to which many of us are engrossed in the affairs of this affluent world; at our waning consciousness of our position as strangers and pilgrims, with no continuing city in this order of things but rather with a primary obligation to bring home to its citizens their dire need of the salvation which is in Jesus; and at the degree to which, through preoccupation with the cares of this life and through compromise with its standards, our minds have become dulled to the spiritual issues that should he absorbing us, and our hands loath and slow to take up the tasks which life in a community demands of us.

I come now to our community's response to the threat of scientific rationalism. Some among us, for whatever reasons (some good, I think, and others bad), seem to be virtually untouched by it; quite a substantial number seem able to sort out the wheat from the chaff, to hold on to what is worth while and helpful and to reject the pretentious and the false. I feel impelled, however, to comment in more detail upon two particular types of reaction which, though they emanate from minorities, have been and are remarkably vocal; both of them in their different ways, if undetected for what they are and allowed to develop their characteristic influences among us, would end by destroying us as a community making a true and distinctive witness for Christ in the earth.

Fear and Insecurity

"The Church is racked by fear, insecurity and anxiety, with a consequent intolerance and lack of love." This is not a description of the Christadelphian community: it is one of the reasons given by Charles Davis for his departure from the Roman Catholic Church. It is not by any means a description of the Christadelphian community as a whole; but it comes very near to being an exact description of the way in which some members of the community have reacted to the impact upon them of the scientific influences we have been describing. The fears and anxieties we can well understand, and those of us who can should be doing our utmost to remove them; the narrow, unscriptural dogmatisms that often accompany the fears and anxieties are indefensible; so is the lack of love; so are the tensions and contentions that arise when love is absent.

These things are roundly condemned in the scriptures as being incompatible with the true profession of Christian discipleship. James, for example declares uncompromisingly:

"Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish" (3 : 13-15).

And Jesus points firmly to the distinguishing quality without which no man can call him Lord:

"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another"
(John 13 : 34-35).

And in so far as the attitudes I am describing are supported by narrow dogmatists that have their origins in human tradition rather than in the clear teaching of scripture they must stand under the condemnation which was pronounced on the Pharisees:

"This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15 : 8-9).

One thing that has been especially borne in upon my consciousness over recent years is the need for us all to have very great humility before the whole of God's revelation lest we impose on any one part of it aims and meanings which it may not have had. And for the attitude I am now describing I would say that the zeal it displays for God is not according to knowledge, and that in its own way it constitutes as much of a threat to the faith of some who encounter it as does the enemy from without which it seeks destroy.

Dangers of Attenuation

There are, however, other elements in our community whose reaction to scientific and rationalist influences is such as would ultimately destroy faith by attenuating it and vapourizing away all its solid substance. There are those among us who appear to equate love with a degree of tolerance (sometimes of scientific theory, sometimes of doctrinal aberration, sometimes of the one arising out of the other) which would first of all blur and then break down the edges of demarcation between our own distinctive witness to the Truth of God on the one hand and on the other the thinking of the world and of the churches about us, which have already made significant compromises with the moral and intellectual fashions of the day. The lesson of what has happened to the churches is one that we should all take very much to heart. In his book ‘Religion in Secular Society’ Bryan Wilson demonstrates the recurring historical tendency for Christian denominations to come into existence with a view to making a new and independent witness to Christ, and then gradually to become absorbed in the larger society about them so that their originally distinctive witness is clouded and eventually lost:

"The denominations arising as protest movements in a particular period have gained strength for a time, and then gradually come to accept a place in the established order of society . . . They appear in large measure to have lost their raison d’etre."

And the danger is that the same thing might happen to us.

This same tendency in the churches is commented upon in the leading article of the Easter, 1967, issue of the Times Educational Supplement:

"The Christian should try to preserve himself from the current obsession with this world and its possibilities. Even among the clergy there is a school which seems to proceed on the simple counsel 'If you can't beat them, join them'. This ends in a whole series of follies, from trying to square religion with science to jumping on every conceivable political and social bandwagon, with the delighted exclamation 'You see., we Christians are in on this just like you'."

The Lure of Social Welfare

We have not as a community gone that far yet, nor perhaps anything like that far, but that is the direction in which some of us are already quite plainly moving. And a word in passing about the "social bandwagon". It is of course a natural and indeed inevitable outcome of true discipleship of Jesus that the Christian should do good to all men, and that where it lies within his power he should alleviate the world's sicknesses and minister to its basic social needs. It is an entirely laudable thing that not a few of Christ's disciples should find their daily work in the various branches of medicine and of social welfare. The danger arises when the Christian gradually, almost without being aware of it, begins to see in such activities (whether voluntary or professional) the essential satisfaction of his obligations in Christ, the essential justification of his existence as a committed Christian: and this happened all too often in the churches-almost always when their alertness to their specifically spiritual obligations to the world and within their own fellowship has become dulled. It is all too easy, moreover, once one has become involved in such activities to find oneself being influenced by the essentially non-Christian, humanistic philosophies and moralities from which as often as not they draw their inspiration. And all these dangers are the more subtle and insidious because they grow so imperceptibly out of motives and promptings which in their original form are entirely and blamelessly Christian. Let us beware of the wolf that may emerge from out of the sheep's clothing.

The truth that is revealed with glaring clarity from all these considerations is that in one way or another, morally or intellectually or both, some of us are in danger of trying to have the best of both worlds, like Bunyan's Mr. Facing-both-ways: and we might do well to remember that the name of the community to which Mr. Facing-both-ways belonged was Vanity Fair.

Meeting the Challenge

This brings me to the last phase of my subject-a consideration of the positive, constructive, and only saving way of meeting the challenges that face us-the true grounds of faith. And I would begin by making two preliminary points that seem to me to be of fundamental consequence in our thinking about all this.

The first point is that faith involves total commitment. I know that there are times in the experience of all of us, and of some more than others, when we stand in our need beside the father who cried to Jesus, "Lord, I believe: help thou mine unbelief!". But basically a Christian is a committed person, committed through the waters of baptism to a morality that is not of this world, to a love that is not of self, to a wisdom that is from above. And our community is a committed community; and if our faith is what we profess it to be, and if we indeed belong where we profess to belong, then we are all of us committed people-and we ought to think and to behave as such: the scriptures make it trenchantly clear (and nowhere more clear than in John chapters I4-17 and in the Epistle of James) that fence-sitters and facers-both-ways have no part nor lot in the committed community of Christ.

My second fundamental point is that the grounds of our faith lie ultimately not in our ability to contend successfully with the forces which oppose our faith from without (a very necessary but nevertheless secondary and derivative feature of the spiritual life): our faith is grounded essentially in the positive truths about God and His Son and His kingdom that we outlined in our opening paragraph as the basic substance and content of our faith. And in the end both our positive, forward spiritual growth as a living and witnessing community, and our ability to contend with the destructive moral and intellectual influences about us will depend on the extent and depth to which the positive truths we distinctively stand for have taken possession of our minds and hearts. This above all is the desperate need of our community in these days, and in this lies the essential remedy for all our current ills-to recapture the vision and the vitality of our first faith and to deepen our awareness and understanding of the central truths that give it life and meaning.

Let us see how some of the New Testament writers sought to help their readers in this very thing.

Truths of the Faith

The second chapter of Peter's Second Epistle describes the extremes of moral licence to which Christian churches can descend even in the course of their worship when they forget or become dulled to the truths on which their faith and their very existence are grounded. How does Peter deal with this situation? In his second chapter he condemns the immoral practices in some of the most witheringly eloquent language in all scripture; but then, in the third chapter, he justifies his condemnation by demonstrating the total incompatibility of his reader's behaviour with the positive grounds, the fundamental truths, on which their professed faith is built-and in particular in this case with the truth that God is righteous and that a day is coming in the outworking of His purpose when that righteousness will be vindicated in all the earth and all unrighteousness destroyed from before His face:

"The heavens and the earth which are now reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men . . . But we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."

And it is these grounds of Christian faith that give sanction to the Christian morality:

"Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness ... Seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."

So moral waywardness is rebuked and moral uprightness given renewed encouragement and vigour by firm reminders of the established truths of the faith once for all delivered to the saints of God. But Peter goes further than this. In his letter as a whole he is concerned not merely to reaffirm the grounds, the fundamentals, of his readers' faith: he reaffirms also the grounds, the evidences (or at any rate what was for him one of the most convincing of the evidences), on the basis of which that faith is held with conviction:

"We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount" (1:16-18).

It is clear both from the records of the synoptic gospels and from the writings of Peter and John that the transfiguration of Jesus made a tremendous and overpowering impression on those who witnessed it, and that in later years they cherished the unforgettable memory of it as one of the most manifest and convincing evidences underlying their faith in him. And through their witness it ought to loom large among our own grounds of faith.

The Power of the Resurrection

We turn for our second scriptural case to the opening verses of the sixth chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Here the apostle is dealing not so much with moral licence in itself as with a subtle and soul-ensnaring philosophy which would seem to justify it and give it an appearance even of religious sanction: "What shall we say then.? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?".

Paul deals with this threat to the faith in essentially the same way as Peter with that which concerned him. He vigorously rejects the philosophy ("God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"), and then proceeds to show its incompatibility with the faith his readers profess. This involves him, like Peter, in a reaffirmation of certain of the grounds, the fundamentals of their faith, and in the drawing out of some of its further and deeper implications:

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

The philosophy that justifies moral licence is shown to stand condemned by reference to the rite of baptism (which is here confirmed as a central obligation of Christian faith and worship, and the significance of which for Christian living is drawn out in the rest of the chapter); baptism in turn is shown to derive its sanction and meaning from the cross itself-the very core of the Christian gospel and the ultimate ground on which rests the salvation which that gospel proclaims. But on what grounds does our faith rest that the cross is indeed the cross and has the saving significance which Jesus and his apostles ascribe to it? Like Peter, Paul goes beyond those grounds of faith which are its fundamental constituent elements and points to those further grounds which are the evidences on which that faith rests; he points in this case to that event which is not only a fundamental element in the Christian faith but which carries with it its own validation, its own manifest historical sanction; namely, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead:

"Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father."

We see once again, then, as in the case of Peter, how a threat to Christian faith and living is met by a firm reiteration of fundamental truths and a drawing out of their deeper implications, and by a renewed and emphatic affirmation of the evidences on which faith in those truths is itself grounded.

The Ground of Assurance

There is something very impressive about the frequency and consistency with which in the Acts of the Apostles and in the New Testament Epistles the resurrection of Jesus is pointed to as the ultimate and incontrovertible ground of assurance in Christian faith and living. In our next scriptural passage, 1 Corinthians 15, it is referred to in refutation of doctrinal error. The error is defined in verse 12: "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?". The apostle's method is as before-to refute error by a strong reaffirmation of the basic elements of faith which it challenges, to draw out the implications of those elemental truths and show their relevance to the present crisis, and to justify faith in those truths by reference to the evidences on which they rest. In this case it is the resurrection of Jesus himself which is called in question by a denial of resurrection generally, and Paul points uncompromisingly to the implications for faith of such a denial; without the resurrection of Jesus the cross itself would have no meaning-it would not be the saving act it claimed to be:

"If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain . . . Ye are yet in your sins."

That Christ is risen Paul demonstrates (verses 5-8) by reference to an impressive list of witnesses, including himself; and he concludes (verse 12) with a bold and challenging reaffirmation of this ultimate ground of Christian faith:

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and (the consequent implication as far as the present heresy and personal faith are concerned) become the firstfruits of them that are asleep."

According to the Scriptures

Yet even this is not all. The resurrection of Jesus as a historical event attested by many reliable witnesses is in itself a profoundly satisfying assurance that truth is in Jesus; but what makes assurance doubly sure and confirms faith to the uttermost is that the resurrection was not an isolated event in time but that it took place in a certain context that, like the cross itself, it was "according to the scriptures" (verses 3-4): it happened in accordance with and in confirmation of Old Testament prophecies which foretold in considerable detail the coming of Messiah, the Lord's anointed one, and the circumstances in which his life on earth should be lived out. It has always seemed to me one of the most utterly convincing demonstrations of the truth of the Christian gospel that the powerful historical evidences of the resurrection of Jesus are combined with and arise out of a whole patterning of divine purpose foretold long ages beforehand by the Old Testament prophets, the cross itself being an integral and crucial part of the pattern. And I am at a loss to understand how professing Christians can ever have thought it possible to minirnize or spiritualize away this physical event in time and yet still regard themselves as Christians. That such things can come to pass (and they are to be seen on every hand today among the leaders of the churches about us) is perhaps the most devastating demonstration in human experience of the power and the subtlety of the wisdom of this world in first undermining and finally destroying the grounds of meaningful faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We come now, and finally, in our consideration of scriptural passages, to the First Epistle of John. The faith of John's readers was being radically disturbed by a particularly subtle and insidious fusion of Greek philosophical speculation and superficially Christian theology. The result of the fusion was a plausible pseudo-Christianity the ultimate implications of which were, however, that Jesus of Nazareth was not the one, true and only-begotten Son of God; or put another way, that the Messiah, the anointed one of the Lord, had not made a real, physical appearance on earth as a true man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Fundamental Truths

John's method in dealing with this threat to his readers' faith is in essence the same as Paul's and Peter's. He condemns the heresy as a lie and its promoters as antichrists:

"Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son (i.e. the true Father-Son relationship) . . . Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world . . . Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world" (2 : 22, 4 :1,3).

The antidote to the heresy is, as in the other cases we have examined, a bold reaffirmation of the fundamental truths that were threatened by the new teaching.

"This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment" (3 : 23).

In these words we have a kind of compressed credal statement of the essential grounds of our faith; and the fundamental truths involved in this statement are reiterated again and again in John's letter:

"Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God . . . Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God . . . This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (4 : I.5; 5 4-5).

These assertions and reassertions rise to a tremendously powerful climax in the final affirmation of faith with which the letter closes:

"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."

This powerful affirmation reminds us of the triumphant climax of Paul's argument concerning the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians I5: "Now is Christ risen from the dead." And it is supported by the same kind of tangible evidence: once more the fundamental elements of faith are shown to be grounded in historical realities testified by eye-witnesses:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life: that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you" (1 : 1, 3).

It is as though John cannot sufficiently emphasize the tangible reality of the evidences he and his fellow-apostles had received that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed from above and not from beneath, the true and only-begotten Son of God. He comes back to the same kind of testimony in chapter 4:

"We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (verse I4).

And all this reminds us of the similar declaration at the beginning of the Gospel of John:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth."

Boldness of Conviction

These four scriptural passages we have now looked at are but a few of those we could turn to for the guidance and vision we need in facing the challenges of our time but here at any rate are some of the bedrock truths we profess to stand for, and here are some of the solid evidences that give them their validity. And the boldness of utterance and conviction that we have seen in Peter, in Paul and in John should be ours also: they are in fact the only justification for our existence as a separate witnessing Christian community. If we really hold these things in our hearts as assured and burning convictions of things unseen and hoped for, most of the contention and lovelessness that from time to time mars our worship, most of the moral compromise that dulls our spiritual sensibilities, most of the uncertainty and bewilderment that attends our contact with the wisdom of this world-most of all this would disappear at once from among us; and we might hope to develop such an intensity of inner certainty and loving kindness and joy in the gospel as would inevitably radiate outwards from ourselves and do something positive and elective towards transforming the outlook of the world we live in and preparing it for the consummation of God's purpose in Christ Jesus.

When the World has Failed

I conclude with a further quotation from the Times leader already referred to:

"Above and beyond the stuff of this life the Christian is concerned with God and His Kingdom which is not of this world ... When men turn to a Christian priest it is not to hear how Vietnam may be resolved, but to hear about God. And God is not lightly discovered. When men are more than ever taken up with the world in which they live, then it would seem right for the Christian churches to disassociate themselves from this absorption. 'Here we have no abiding city.' This is part of the Christian message. When men find that this world has failed them, it is to those who have not committed themselves to it that they will turn."

And our prayer and our striving should be that whenever and wherever men turn in disillusionment from a world that has failed them to find rest for their souls, they may find in us a community that has not only not committed itself to the wisdom and the way of this world but one that is positively committed in full assurance of faith to the Truth which is in Jesus.