Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sufficiency of Christ

This afternoon I picked up a book of sermons preached by my predecessor many years back at Central Woodward.  The name Edgar DeWitt Jones is not widely known today, but in the first half of the 20th century he was a well known preacher and ecumenical leader here in the Detroit area and nationally.  Theologically Jones was liberal of the old definition.  He was truly Disciple in his emb
race of a simple gospel that would lead to unity.

In a sermon published sometime prior to 1916 entitled "Christ the Creed," picking up on the John 11 encounter of Jesus and Mary and Martha, wherein Martha confessed Jesus to be the "Christ, Son of God."  He declares:
Acceptance of this creed combines loyalty with the widest liberty.  If there be loyalty to the Lord Jesus then there may be the widest liberty in methods and opinions.  It must be apparent that there can be no unity of opinion on various phases of Scriptural subjects interesting, though not vital, such as the nature of the resurrection, the state of the dead, the manner and time of our Lord's advent.  But if there be loyalty to Christ as Lord and Leader of our lives, Liberty of opinion may be held in broadest charity.  [Edgar DeWitt Jones, The Wisdom of Fools, New York:  Fleming Revell Publishing Co., 1916), p. 180].
It needs to be noted that he's not saying that these affirmations are unimportant, but that there can be no definitive answer, thus we need to be wary of making a specific definition a test of fellowship.  As has been true of Disciples from early on, Jones argues that churches should only require "belief in this creed without attempting to define the nature of Christ either as to His humanity or His divinity.  

Now if we follow this word of wisdom, should we neglect theology?  If neither Unitarian or Trinitarian are words found in Scripture and are divisive and confusing, would he have us ignore them?  It's possible, but perhaps if we were to follow his wisdom, we would be best served in our walk with God to not be so insistent on a definition that we fail to see Christ in our sister or brother?  For Jones, the test was less adherence to a lengthy statement of beliefs, but rather in the Lordship of Christ -- living out the faith in Jesus -- that counted.

And isn't that the point -- seeing Christ present in the other and living accordingly?


1 comment:

Steve Kindle said...

Go Edgar (and you, Bob)! To answer your questions, this does not excuse us from trying to determine to the best of our critical abilities the depth of meaning inherent in Scripture. What it does do is keep us from committing the sin of idolatry of our own minds if we conclude that our thoughts should be everyone else's. This is the Fundamentalists' sin, although they believe they are only aping the "plain sense of Scripture," when they are actually giving an interpretation. An uninterpreted text is an impossibility.