Religion of Jesus
Walter E. Bundy
The Religious Authority of Jesus
JESUS is the most puzzling and paradoxical personality of our human history. Although the peculiar character of his genius made him a son of the East, it is in the West that his person has had its strange fates and fortunes. Jesus has had a double history: on the one hand, the plain prosaic career of the prophet-preacher of Galilee; on the other hand, the triumphant Son of God to whom the Western World has attached its religious hopes. The Jesus of history was a genuine child of the Jewish people with the blood of ancient Syria in his veins, but in the faith of his followers he became Westernized. The Christ of faith, body and soul, is the product of Western piety. Christianity had its birth in the homeland of Jesus, but the very disposition to see in him a religious object is Greek rather than Galilean. The Christ of faith was girded for a career in the world on Greek soil and was clothed in full splendor by the Greek intellect and imagination. Even Paul was more Greek than Jew in his conception of the person of Christ. The history of Christianity is simply the story of the gradual suppression of Galilee by Greece. Galilee has never been much more than the scene of a pleasant pastoral idyl, a sort of soothing prologue that failed to set the theme for the great drama that was enacted in the West.
GALILEE AND GREECE
From one point of view, it seems strange that Jesus should be reckoned among the great. judged by the
outward phases of his life and work, there is nothing specially striking or remarkable in his historical appearance. He lived his life to the early maturity of the East in the little village of Nazareth of Galilee without leaving upon the village folk the impression either of growing wisdom or of promising personal powers. He left private life for engagement in his public work, "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the highpriesthood of Annas and Caiaphas." (Luke 3,1-2a.)
Such is the most elaborate historical setting which one of the few records that have come down to us gives for his public life and work.
Jesus' public work confined itself to his own native land, a small and remote province of the Roman Empire. He never came into contact with the life of the world at large as did his great protagonist, Paul. He attracted little or no attention in the world of his day and was practically unknown beyond the borders of Galilee prior to the last week of his life. Contemporary Roman and Jewish historians accord him at best not more than sporadic, usually doubtful mentions of his name. What we know of him in the way of literary records was produced and preserved by his followers.
Jesus died a young man, probably not more than thirty years of age. He did not have a long, but an abruptly short career, probably a few months in length. Approximately the last year of his life he spent in public.
Although he confined his work to his own people, he did not win them to his cause and he came to influence but few of his contemporaries. His work in the capital of his nation was brought to a tragic end within the space of a week. He did not die, as other great men have, with his followers numbering thousands, hundreds or even scores. His personally chosen circle of companions fled from the scene of his arrest after one of the trusted twelve had betrayed him into the hands of his enemies. Only a few faithful women from among his following witnessed his death and burial.
Such are the prosaic aspects of Jesus' historical appearance. Yet from another and more familiar point of view, the fates and fortunes of the person of no man are comparable to those of the person of Jesus, nor has the influence of any man on our Western life been so imposing and ineradicable. "Jesus lives in humanity to an extent and in a way never experienced by any other human being."' In the history of Christianity, at some time or other, there has not been a major concern of man's life, hardly a minor concern, whether joyous or sorrowful, hopeful or full of fear, that has not been attended by sincere invocations through and to him. Over against the prosaic features of Jesus' historical appearance stands an ancient and triumphant religious faith that attaches itself to him and of which he was at once the object, a faith that, paradoxically enough, produced and preserved this prosaic account in which it felt itself enriched and which in turn it enhanced.
The figure of the Nazarene has always had about it a peculiar and invincible fascination that has increased
rather than diminished with the passing of even long periods of time. Through nineteen centuries Jesus has been the source of a strange stimulation for the religious imagination, one of the most potent factors in the life of individuals and institutions. To the ever-growing portrait of Jesus each people that has accepted Christianity has contributed of its native genius. Each has offered tribute of its best talent-art, poetry, music, philosophy, even mythology. About his head each has cast its own glorious halo and crown, the last more splendid than the rest.
The historical expressions of Christian experience are most multiform and of infinite variety. Every principal phenomenon known in the history of religion, primitive or cultured, has appeared in Christian worship. A great, highly-organized and powerful institution claims Jesus for its very own, as its founder and perfecter, and it feels itself commissioned by him as the guardian of his cause and faith. There are signs, symbols, images, formulas, prayers, incantations, liturgies, benedictions, consecrations, celebrations, mysteries, sacraments, sacred rites, rituals, confessions, creeds, high services, holy performances, hymns, rhythmic chants, offerings, contributions, whole calendars of feast and holy days-all in the name, honor and worship of Jesus. All constitute a tremendous tribute to him and originally all were endowed with the most treasured sentiments and emotions of the Christian consciousness. Yet the whole array presents an elaborate system of religious worship, whether Catholic or Protestant, quite far removed from the simple scenes in the Galilean synagogues, quite unlike the prophet of the kingdom of God who preached on the mountain, by the countryside, from fishing boats, in village streets and
marketplaces, and who himself sought out the silence and seclusion of the desert solitude to pray to his God. When one reads the simple New Testament story of Jesus and then surveys simply the objective side of Christianity's history and development, the very proportions of the final issue are almost inconceivable. A Galilean witness of Jesus' ministry could not believe his eyes if he were permitted to see.
If we turn to the subjective side of Christianity's history, to the development of its mind and faith, the outcome is even more amazing. "Christianity has had a history as has no other religion."" At a surprisingly early date it won its way as the official religion of the Western 'World. In the course of its triumphant march from East to West it wrought radical changes and made remarkable contributions to the life of whole nations and peoples. But Christianity did not emerge from this process unscathed, and the changes wrought in itself are quite as radical and remarkable as those it was able to effect. In its history, early and late, the Christian faith has gone through various developments, transitions, alterations, eliminations, additions, accretions, outgrowths, aftergrowths and overgrowths which separate and distinguish it very clearly from the simple yet profound faith that possessed the soul of Jesus.
The person of Jesus became the perennial source of speculation wherever Christianity struck permanent root. About his person there evolved great systems of thought, elaborate and intricate structures of belief, theologies and Christologies, schemes of salvation, doctrines and dogmas, creeds and confessions. Faith became fixed and
formal; beliefs became impersonal and official, and with officiality of belief came orthodoxy of opinion. The historical Jesus was enveloped in a mystical, mythical and metaphysical atmosphere that hid him from the eyes of even the believing Christian world. Theology and philosophy in Christian garb overgrew and obscured the religion of Jesus, the simple yet strong sources of spiritual life which he knew. There came, what Professor Rufus M. Jones has called, "the profound transformation of Christianity from a way of life to an elaborate system of thought." 114
By the third century Greece had submerged the homeland, and the religion that named itself after a Galilean and that claimed him for its founder had left of him little more than a highly exalted but lifeless figure. Every historical student of first-century Christianity knows that the Greek mind, when it was turned to Christianity, did not cease to think Greek and that the great body of Christian theology and Christology is the free and spontaneous reaction of the Greek genius to the Christian message, the natural outgrowth of Greek thought turned with fervor to a new object of religious faith. As Christianity came into new intellectual atmospheres it experienced fresh expansions of life; as it struck root in different psychic soils it developed outgrowths that were perfectly natural and that are perfectly intelligible to the historical student. But the development of the faith that attached itself to God's great Galilean went so far that only those who are trained by tradition can recognize the Jesus of history in the Christ of faith.
It is at this point that the unnatural element appears.
Christianity's expansions brought shifts in the centers of emphasis; natural outgrowths became unnatural overgrowths; accretions submerged the original acumen; later developments gradually eliminated the primitive intrinsic 'deposit. And these acquired elements became more impressive for the Christian imagination, official and lay, than the plain prosaic picture presented in the first three Gospels. They gradually usurped the seats of authority in Christian thinking and feeling; they were accepted as the criterions of infallible faith, and unquestioning loyalty was vouchsafed as the guarantee of religious certainty. At not a few points in Christianity's history Jesus has been lost to the church so far as the things that meant most to him were concerned. In the tumult of its theoretical tributes Christianity has often stood in danger of losing Jesus himself. Exalted estimates of his person have obscured the cause to which he felt himself called and to which he committed himself without reserve; controversies over titles befitting his dignity have often grossly contradicted the simple sincerity of his spirit; and both have raised a barrier in the way of the work he sought to accomplish-the kingdom of God among men.
The common idea is that Jesus founded a religion--Christianity. But it is better history to say: Jesus became a religion. Christianity from the moment of its birth was a religion about Jesus rather than the religion of Jesus. The personal piety of Jesus has played practically no role, at least no regulative role, in the history of official and organized Christianity. For the general thought of the church, his appearance in history has been primarily an act in the great divine drama of salvation. The exalted elevation and enrichment of man's religious experience, the close approach of man to an adequate
understanding and knowledge of his Maker, the infinite contribution to our common human problem of religious living, which came in the form of the personal religious experience of Jesus, have never been commanding centers of interest and emphasis. Instead there has always been a subtle swinging away from this best source of spiritual supply. But the history of religion seems to teach that the priest supplants the prophet, that the institution submerges the individual whose genius gave it birth. Such, it seems, is the fate of any social movement that dares gird itself for a career in the world and that commits itself to the great currents of culture and civilization. There is, always, it seems, a slow seeping away of the original sources of strength, a subtle stagnation of spirit , a growing weariness and a gradual weakening of the will to work its original and genial way, a shift in the centers of interest and emphasis in the face of new conditions, concessions and compromises that at the outset would have been unthinkable, changes within, influences from without-all resulting in something quite foreign to the first faith.
Such is the strange and paradoxical picture which the history of Christianity and its faith presents. On the one hand, a plain peasant prophet, a Iay preacher of the kingdom of God, a religious subject in possession of the richest and most resourceful religious experience of which we have any knowledge. On the other hand, the Risen Lord, the Christ, the Son, very God, the center of a religious faith, the object of religious reverence. The cardinal claims of the Christian faith are something quite different from anything we hear from Jesus himself. As a matter of the best attested historical fact, Jesus kept his own person so completely in the background that we are
not in a position to say exactly what and how he esteemed himself, except as the called and commissioned prophet of the kingdom of God. But as a matter of historical fact also, the person of Jesus occupies, as it has from the very first, the whole foreground of Christian thought. All else sinks into the hardly visible background, including some of the things for which he staked his all.
An infinite number of attempts have been made to reconcile the old alternative set by Strauss in 1835: The Jesus of history or the Christ of Faith. Theological prejudice has reconciled it because it has never perceived it. Vital religious faith has felt it, yet as is faith's peculiar privilege it has seemed to prosper in its presence. That vital religion can thrive in the midst of the most perplexing paradoxes between faith and fact is clear in the religious experience of Jesus himself. But when it comes to the matter of historical fact, to the question of sources and standards of authority in the Christian faith, the old alternative of Strauss is as live as ever after more than ninety years. It is clearer and more certain than ever because we now know more about Jesus and the beginnings of the early Christian faith that attached itself to him. In such a recent and important work as Professor Otto's Das Heilige the old issue is restated: "Is Christianity in general and in the strict sense the religion of Jesus?"" In the Zeitschrift fuer Theologie und Kirche we find an elaborate article on "The Christ of Faith and the Historical Jesus," by Professor Mundle, who frames the issue more incisively than ever.
The issue will not down for it is too deeply imbedded in the New Testament itself. Over against the religious
experience of Jesus there is something quantitatively great, something qualitatively new in the religious experience of the first Christians. In the New Testament itself it is quite clear that Jesus was something more and different in early Christian experience, something infinitely more and different, than he professed to be for his contemporaries in general, for his intimate companions in particular, indeed, something infinitely more and different than the content of his own self-consciousness exhibits so far as this is accessible to us. In his own experience he was a religious subject, but in the experience of the earliest Christians he was always a religious object. As such he gave to the Christian faith its distinctive character and content.
Jesus did not have followers as have other great men of history, even founders of religions. who came to influ. ence subsequent generations. Other great men have had followers who took up their work where they were forced to leave it off. They have carried it on, seeking to be true to their master's spirit and to accomplish what he had seen by faith. The followers of other great men have championed their master's cause, preached and propagated his message, taught and expounded the things that he thought and taught. The followers of Jesus did none of these things. They did not take up his work where he was forced to leave it off. They did not propagate his distinctive message. The New Testament itself is not made up of injunctions of Jesus but of faith's fervent interpretations of his person. Outside of the first three Gospels there are not in the New Testament more than a dozen sentences from his religious message. The first Christians preached Jesus himself. Jesus had his own message, the kingdom of God, and the early Christians
had their own distinctive message, Jesus himself, to whom they attached the whole body of their religious hopes.
Between the religious experience of Jesus and that of the first Christians there is a complete shift in the centers of interest and emphasis. What Jesus guarded as a sacred secret within the inner recesses of his own consciousness, the first Christians announced to the world as the sole hope of religious salvation. How it was that this shift from religious subject to religious object, from the Jesus of history to the Christ of faith, came about we are not in a position to explain, but it stands as a clear fact in the testimony of the New Testament itself. It goes back to the first faint dawning of the Christian consciousness and it had its birth in the Easter experiences of the original witnesses. Jesus as religious object was inherent in the resurrection faith of the first witnesses. Thus, the most radical change came at the very outset.
Theologies and Christologies required time for formation and formulation, but faith in Jesus as religious object was the work of a moment. It transpired with a flash because it was the one ignition point in the experience of those who claimed that Jesus was alive and that they had seen him. Long before the Gospels were written the Christian faith had received its distinctive features which later were to mark it as a new religion. The belief in Jesus' Messiahship, his divine dignity, and his present exaltation and glorification, was a fixed element that reached back beyond Paul to the resurrection faith of the first witnesses. Paul did not create the Christian faith in Jesus as a religious object. He speaks of himself as the last of the Easter experients. (I Cor. 15,8.) Paul
was simply the sharer of a faith that was older than his own Christian experience.
In the history of Christianity, from the first Easter morning down to the present, we see the Christ of faith gradually suppressing the Jesus of history, the supernatural and superhistorical object of the Christian faith slowly but surely submerging the human historical subject of the richest religious experience of which we know. This process was only natural, for it was the involuntary outgrowth of the experiences of the first disciples at the center of whose lives stood the firm conviction that Jesus was not dead but lived and that they had seen him. This process of obscuration is at work in the New Testament itself and there it has already accomplished this great shift from religious subject to religious object.
THE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE OF JESUS AND THEOLOGY
In the past Jesus has been approached almost exclusively from the theological point of view. Each word of his, each incident in his life, has been fitted into the great systems of Christian thought. Until the last century the Christian interest in what Jesus said and did confined itself to a quest for confirmation of theological theories in his words and deeds. This theological approach reaches back to the New Testament itself and it has invaded even the thought of Jesus. An excellent example of this is found in Mark 10,45: "For the Son of man also came not to be ministered
unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
In the first part of this passage we have a genuine word of Jesus, the very essence of whose mission was not to be ministered unto, but to minister. However, the closing clause is a Christian conviction cast about the death of Jesus. That it is of Christian origin is clear from the fact that it looks back on his life as closed; it surveys and appraises his work as a whole. It presents a Christian interpretation rather than a personal conviction of Jesus, who did not regard his death as a part of a great divine drama. His fate was his own personal problem, a pressing perplexity of his own religious loyalty, which he solved in the light of the divine will for himself. Mark 10,45 must be read in the light of Jesus' Gethsemane prayer in which he casts no reflection concerning the significance of his suffering and death for later believers.
Christian theology has seemed to aim at system rather than at a sharing of Jesus' religious experience. At times it has been so systematic that little indeed of his own originality has been left. Traditional theology has never had the right disposition toward Jesus, and no matter how refined and how carefully stated, its formulations will never be able to do him justice, for theology is always more interested in itself than it is in Jesus. Theologians have never seemed to want to be near Jesus as he actually was, to be in his company and to enjoy his companionship. They have exalted him to a towering throne. Between him and us yawns that impassable gulf that separates dignified deity from humble humanity. The historical stu-
dent who repeats the official creed, as he naturally does because he feels that he senses and shares the religious convictions out of which it came, can not escape the feeling that theology has missed the cardinal centers of Jesus' own religious experience, that it has neglected the religious Jesus almost entirely or has so covered him with theological tributes that he is no longer one of us. This theological Jesus was not the man of Galilee; in fact, the Jesus of theology never existed and by his very nature could not exist, for he is too far removed from a serious sharing of historical and human conditions. The Jesus of Matthew and Mark and Luke is a wholly different figure. He is real in the strict sense. He appears as a man among men. His closest friends are human persons of surprising simplicity, yet he is one of them. They thrill at his touch, grow in the presence of his gracious goodness, learn from his lips the ways of God, and respond to the imposing power of his personality. Theological pride can take no pleasure in such a prosaic picture.
The historical Jesus was most untheological. There is nothing intricate or involved in his religious thinking. In the first three Gospels we have no record of Jesus' delivering a doctrinal discourse or of his discussing some 'technical theological theme. Without exception, he preached the personal and practical phases of piety--religion as it relates itself organically to the creation of character and the control of conduct. We never find him in a technical theological controversy so characteristic of the religious leaders of his day and people. In his con-
flicts with the religious authorities he contends for the elemental over against the elaborate in religion.
With his contemporaries Jesus does not seem to have left the impression of formal learning. Nevertheless, he spoke "with authority," as one who speaks out of great conviction and deep inner certainty. Thus he found his way to the hearts of his hearers as a display of learning would never have been able to do. Jesus had no systematic theology. His only theology was theologia experimentalis. Jesus stands as the disappointment and dismay of all those who seek careful formulation and system in religious thinking. Theology is not religion. If it were, we to-day would have little to hope for in turning to him. Jesus gives no theological instruction, rather he imparts religious inspiration. He thought and spoke too much to the point, too little at length, to frame his faith in a formal structure. Nowhere do we see him searching for terms that draw the usual careful distinctions in the treatment of theological themes. His utterances strike at the very heart of religious problems, yet they have all the natural variety that belongs to a vital and vigorous faith. His longest addresses in the first three Gospels are brief enough, and they show no interest in either a full or a formal treatment of a theme.
Jesus never makes even an approach to anything like a formal and full statement of his faith. The Lord's Prayer is the nearest approach to such. Here within compact compass we have the great religious beliefs of Jesus, not doctrines and dogmas but vital religious f aith. As we raw, it is the finest fruition of his prayer-experience. Now we may say that it is the finest and fullest fruition of the whole of his religious experience, of all that he found God to be and to mean for our humankind. It is his greatest
and most significant utterance. It is the richest single deposit of his faith, and into it the whole of his religious life is emptied. In view of its remarkable freedom from those side-issues that so readily distract and distort the religious outlook, in view of its brevity and comprehensiveness, we might speak of it as the creed of Jesus. It is his creed in the sense that it presents what he regarded as of most matter before God. But it is not a creed in the sense that would make it a formal statement of the substance of his religious faith. It should be the great creed of Christianity, and if the authority of Jesus were actual rather than theoretical with us, it would be our one great confession of faith. Of the Lord's Prayer, Professor Wernle writes: "A more simple, a more confident prayer certainly has never been uttered. . . . It is the greatest and grandest confession of all Christian churches, the only thing that can not separate and that can bind together, the only thing that confronts us with the one great issue upon which all else depends."
A thorough reading of the first three Gospels will tekch us emphatically enough that Jesus was not a theologian and that from him we may expect no formal theology. As Professor Weinel writes: "Jesus had no theology; he was an unschooled man of action."" In his experience of religion he was closer to life than formal theology can ever hope to be. He was the bitter opponent of a piety that based itself on learning rather than on living. It was in a religion of traditionalism that he saw the greatest danger to the divine cause. He speaks of the theologians of his day as blind leaders of the blind; both shall fall into the ditch. He was unremitting in
his arraignment of those for whom conceptions about religion had obscured and submerged religion itself. It was not in the religious constitution of Jesus to accept or to advocate a divinely-revealed, a God-given dogma or fixed objective standard of religious truth. Above all tradition he sets the authority of personal religious experience. He accepted and rejected on the sole basis of tradition's contribution to personal religious loyalty and devotion. The best of the past and the present he confronted with the terrible test of actually stimulating, feeding or giving outlet to the more sacred source-springs that lie within.
Theology, formal and full statements of faith, belong to historical Christianity, but not to its Founder. If Jesus had a theology, if he actually taught it, it failed to register itself as a feature in the picture retained by those who knew him best. The simple and single impression which he seems to have left upon those whose witness is at the base of the first three Gospels is that he was a passionately religious personality. Such theology as appears in his religious thought is simply a dim reflection of the thought-forms in which the religion of Israel, early and late, had found expression. These features are characteristic of Jesus, but they were equally characteristic of his contemporaries. They are not distinctive, and at this point Jesus makes no contribution. But into these familiar thought-forms he poured a solid substance and through them he breathed a new life that was his very own.
Jesus is greater than all the theological systems that have tried to compass him about. He is more than Jewish Messianism, more than the resurrectionism of Paul, more than the Logos of John, more than Greek soteriology, medieval mysticism, the Roman regime, or Protestant
piety. All of these are only local interpretations of men and peoples who have been his great and less great disciples. Jesus will bear the weight of all the burdensome theologies that have attached themselves to his person, but his religious significance is in no wise dependent upon any of them. Those who feel that the acceptance of Christianity in its historical forms and statements involves an intellectual sacrifice too great for a religious view of reason, may approach Jesus in complete confidence. Jesus required no intellectual sacrifices. He did not restrict or repress; he released the whole of life. A lamp may not be put under a bushel, but on a stand.
The religious experience of Jesus defies systematization. Religion in his experience is neither a maximum nor a minimum of beliefs. It is rather quantity and quality of life actually lived. To advocate a special theological opinion about Jesus, is to be untrue to all that he represented. He was not the advocate of any opinions about himself. And the religion that names itself after him must be more than definitions and statements about him. Jesus can not be defined by a single doctrine or set of doctrines. No single statement or series of statements will say all that he is f or all of his followers. We can not press him into a single phrase, no matter how pithy and pregnant it may be. He can not be cramped within the close confines of any creed-he is too great!
In its traditional emphasis historical Christianity has seemed to forget the original sources of its theology. All of our Christian theology had its origin in vital religious experience. It sprang from a fountain of fervent faith that was in no sense cautious or self-conscious concerning the form in which it expressed itself. Most of
our Christian theology comes from Paul, but Paul never thought that he would become Christianity's first great theologian. It never occurred to him that his formulations of his own personal faith would become normative for later Christian thought. His statements of his faith were not framed in a, self-conscious way. His only interest was in expressing the controlling elements of his experience of Christ. His doctrines of the cross and resurrection were in no sense formal for himself or for his original readers. They were -far removed from theological theories, for both were cardinal centers of his personal Christian experience. Paul felt that he had been crucified with Christ, that he had died with him, and that he had seen the Risen Lord on the Damascus road. Both the cross and the resurrection represented religious realities in his Christian life. They were actual, not theoretical. The theology of Paul is the religion of Paul; it was the organic issue of his faith in Christ. He shows no special interest in the form of his faith, but his faith means everything to him. To separate the theology of Paul from the religion of Paul is to do him injustice, for his theology was part and parcel of his personal piety. Our New Testament theology may sift out Paul's doctrines and end by missing the Apostle entirely.
Theology at its best possesses only a relative value. It is valuable only to the degree in which it is able to communicate to us the original religious convictions out of which it sprang. Much of our traditional theology has lost its original freshness and vitality, for it has become an empty form devoid of the solid substance that once gave it body. The great weakness in the transmission of our theological tradition is that it fails to transmit the rich religious experience in which it had its birth.
Theoretically our theology conserves, but actually it fails to communicate.
The final crucible for all doctrine and dogma is religious experience, the genuineness of the religious experience from which it came, and its ability in turn to reproduce itself in subsequent Christian life. Our theology, inherited from the distant past, is meaningless unless we press behind it to the very pulse of the primitive Christian piety that once throbbed through it. And, in many cases, the recovery and reproduction of the religious experience behind our theology will result in an abandonment of the traditional terminology, because vital religious experience seeks to express itself in its own way, true to itself and its best genius. Faith, not the form, is the living thing. And the task of the Christian to-day, even of the theologian, is not to cling for dear life to an empty shell that is too frail to bear him up but to lay hold of its original faith-content. Actual piety must be the criterion of all theology, for theology is its off spring. In and of itself, theology is barren ground. Individual personal experience is the only fertile soil in which religion can live and thrive and do for human life what it claims. "Experience is the only creative factor in the world's religions."
In the theological emphasis that still prevails in our modern Christianity we need to be reminded that theology is valuable, and can be valuable, only to the extent in which it is the expression of a surging religious life, because of the religious verities and certainties it represents in actual experience. Theologies are worthless unless we enjoy the corresponding experience in which they had their
birth. Further, we must remen-4)er that it is entirely possible to enjoy the original experience and at the same time desert the traditional theological terminology. One of the great tragedies in the history of Christianity has been the insistence on form and the neglect of faith. Theology has often been identified with religion, and this has resulted without exception in an impoverishment of the religious life. The problem of the theologian who has any sense of religious mission is not to create a more friendly atmosphere toward theology on the part of the modern mind that by disposition is unsympathetic or even hostile toward such. His real task is to take theology out of the remote realm of meaningless abstractions, bring it down to the real world of religious experience, and disclose to all the profound spiritual depths from which it sprang, the primitive piety that stands behind and that courses through it.
Whether we like or not, the drift to-day is away from theology and in the direction of a religious experience that is adequate for the living of actual life. The time has for ever passed when enlightened Christianity can make orthodoxy of theological opinion the touchstone of re
ligious loyalty. The modern religious mind has developed a disposition that is wholly indifferent toward the intricacies of theological speculation. The modern follower of Jesus feels that theology is too far removed from the pressing problem of living life religiously. He feels that doctrine and dogma are cold and formal, that the fire of faith is not in them. He feels that the formal statements of faith are retained even though life has
departed from them. He feels that the affirmation or denial of most of our theoretical theology is equally unim-
portant. In Jesus, as in most great religious geniuses, he finds no stimulus to a systematic statement of his faith. In our Christian theology he finds little that suggests Jesus himself. All that is left of him in official creeds is intangible, vague and shadowy.
Theology may have a place in religion, but when it begins to suppress vital religious experience or is offered as a substitute for such then the really devout person will revolt in the name of religion itself. Religious faith, as Professor Herrmann taught his students, is first of all a living thing." Beliefs may codify themselves into confessions and creeds, but living faith never. There is no real religious faith apart from a living subject who experiences it as the commanding element of his conscious existence. All the religiously valid theology can be stated in a single sentence: God is a living, loving Father. All else is incidental and accessory.
Christianity, if it is to be what Jesus meant that the religion of his followers should be, must transcend its theology, dogmatics and traditionalism. They must be overcome as primitive Christianity overcame its inherited Judaism and its apocalypticism. Theology can offer us a theory, but no actual hope of religious salvation in the light of which we can live and work. Christianity's victories have not been due to its theology except where such has been the natural and spontaneous expression of a deep piety. Christianity's genius has carried it along, the best of which has been its local loyalties to Jesus. To its sporadic preservations of the spirit of Jesus, Christianity may ascribe its religious but not all of its successes.
The essence of a religion is to be sought, not in its
formal and theoretical expressions, but in the richness of the religious experience of those who are claimed and commanded by it. Creeds and confessions may force the intellect to a rigid behavior in its speculations, but they do not necessarily contribute to the religious living of the believer. A religion is no more, no less, than what it means and accomplishes in the life of the person who confesses and experiences it.
What is religion? Is it a precious heritage from the past that is to be preserved changeless and intact? Or is religion the commanding element in the experience of living men, the greatest of all forces in the molding and moving of human life from one age to another-sometimes in one form, sometimes in another-but always contributing to the excellence of all that men are, that they canandhopetobe? In our odd moments we quarrel over doctrine and dogma. Sometimes it becomes our chief Christian occupation. We pride ourselves on our liberalism or on our fundamentalism, when in reality neither offers any religious hope. Thus we push theology in all its forms into the very center of the religious consciousness, and give it a place to which it has no native and natural right. Such is plain disloyalty to Jesus.
Christianity may have its theology, but if it is no more it is certainly not the religion of Jesus. If we conceive of Jesus in only theological and doctrinal terms, we miss the greatest, grandest and best that he has to offer us. We miss his religion; even more serious, we miss Jesus himself. Jesus is the chief heritage of Christianity and when we come to see something more sacred and secure in the traditions of our faith than we see in Jesus himself we have come to a very dangerous pass. We have fallen into a really deplorable situation when we begin to think
more of our theology than we think of our religion, and especially when we recognize the authority of tradition rather than the religious authority of Jesus, whose every word should be our command. We dread doubt on theological questions, but we are all skeptical of Jesus when it comes to the actual practise of his personal piety and the reproduction of his religious experience.
We to-day rely on practically everything except the faith by which Jesus lived and died. Our modern Christian attitude toward Jesus is about as follows: We believe in him, but we do not trust him. We confess his name, but we are not yet willing to commit ourselves loyally to his leadership. We retain the most exalted beliefs about Jesus, but we manifest no real confidence in him and his way of life. His own personal piety is not the principle on which we order our existence. We take our theological theories very seriously, but religiously we desert Jesus.
THE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE OF JESUS AND ORGANIZED RELIGION
In recent times a great deal of debate has arisen about the question: Who founded Christianity, Jesus or Paul? The answer to this question depends upon one's understanding of Christianity. If by Christianity we mean Jesus' faith in God as Father and in His kingdom and its coming, such as he preached in the Sermon on the Mount and in his parables, then Jesus was the founder of Christianity. But if by Christianity we mean an organized and official religion, a new faith that involved a definite break with the religion of Israel, competing with other religions of the first three centuries for supremacy in the Roman
world, then Paul was the founder of Christianity. The founding of Christianity in the historical forms in which it has appeared is the work of Paul and other early Christians as the result of their Easter experiences.
That Paul and the early disciples foresaw the great institution that was to come and that they consciously laid the foundation for it, is, of course, out of question. Paul and the rest were passionate preachers of their great religious convictions and certainties concerning Jesus. They were propagandists of their faith, not plotters of a program that was to reach down through the centuries. In Paul's day there was little or no official organization; the Christian centers which he established were only mission stations, purely democratic communities, one differing quite naturally from the other. But at the heart of the Christian experience of Paul there were elements that demanded a definite break with the judaistic past, elements that were actually distinctive, and of this break Paul himself was clearly conscious. In fact, Paul stands as the great first-century progressive who shook from the new faith the shackles of Judaism and who launched it in the great currents of the life of the Roman world. In its historical forms as a new faith, as a system of thought, as an organized religion, Christianity bears the marks of Paul rather than those of Jesus.
Jesus appears before us as a man with a profound experience of religion rather than as the founder of a new religion. He manifests neither the elements nor the efforts of the founders of the great world religions. The idea of founding a new religion over against that of his people's past appears as a conception wholly foreign to the mind of Jesus as revealed in the first three Gospels. He never once gives the impression of inaugurating some-
thing wholly new. He often appears as a non-conformist in his conduct. He breaks with certain religious conventionalities of his contemporaries; he openly sets his ownn experience of religion over against particular precepts of his people's past. But he never establishes between himself and the religious past of his people an open breach. Not once does he proffer a substitute for the ancient faith of Israel. He teaches no new and different God, but the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. He is the champion of the faith of Israel's fathers. As we saw in chapter one, Jesus' own personal piety is inextricably rooted in the best of the religion of his people.
Jesus was not conscious of founding a new faith that would later be transplanted from its native to a foreign soil. The one commanding element of his experience was the kingdom of God and its coming. His one great task was to announce it. But even the kingdom he does not present as something new and strange in the religious life of his people. On the contrary, he paints it in Jewish colors. It is true that he preached the kingdom as universally human rather than as a strictly Jewish value. But in this he was in perfect keeping with his great prophetic predecessor, Second Isaiah (40-66), who first gave to the religious mission of Israel a world outlook. For Jesus the kingdom was God's great goal for his own and for all peoples. (Matt. 8,11.) In his faith in the kingdom he was conscious that a greater thing than the temple or Solomon or Jonah was here, but he never presented it as wholly other, as something entirely foreign to Israel's religious experience in the past.
Every student of the life of Jesus knows that the distinctive elements in his experience of religion were superJewish and universally human, that his very appearance
in Judaism meant the twilight of the old and the dawn of the new for those who followed him. But in the historical form in which it appeared the religious experience of Jesus was Jewish. He was consciously Jewish in his experience of religion, and he remained such to the very end. Paul, however, was consciously Christian in his experience of religion. There was the break with his Jewish past, the annulment of the law, the Risen Lord of the Damascus road-all distinctive elements of his Christian experience. The very form and content of Jesus' religious experience force the historical student to take a Jewish view of him. If one judges the personal religious faith of Jesus and the Christian faith by their sources, objects and issues, he is forced to agree with Wellhausen to the effect that "Jesus was not a Christian, but a Jew."
The traditional Christian idea is that Jesus, during his lifetime, looked forward to and formally founded the church. But when we turn to the Gospel accounts we find that this tradition rests upon an extremely weak literary basis. The church as a word or plan of Jesus is found nowhere in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. The word church is found only twice in the Gospels, both times on the lips of Jesus and both in passages peculiar to Matthew. The first passage comes in Matthew 16,17-19 in which Jesus is represented as celebrating Simon's confession of his Messiahship by a festival founding of the church: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say unto thee, that thou
art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
This passage is now commonly regarded as ingenuine and as a later Christian addition. It has no parallel in Mark or Luke who report the confession scene otherwise with as much interest and fulness as Matthew. The utterance itself is too officious to come from Jesus. It is impossible in the thought of the historical Jesus, for it contains the later Christian theory of the church. It is impossible as a situation in his life, for it teaches explicitly the primacy of Peter, a doctrine that can not have arisen before the closing decades of the first century. Matthew reports the substance of this passage a second time (18,18) where it is out of all connection with the Apostle Peter.
The second ecclesiastical passage comes in Matthew 18,15-17; "And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou has gained thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican."
This passage represents an earlier and less official type of
primitive Christianity than the first. The church is still a democratic community. But this passage is plainly an extract from early Christian discipline and does not go back to Jesus. His original word is to be found in Luke 17,3-4: "Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in the day, and seven times turn again to thee saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him."
The two passages just quoted belong to the history of early Christianity, and both are late contributions of the churchman Matthew.16 The church as the official organ of his faith and the future form of organization for his following never figured in the religious outlook of the historical Jesus. In fact, the idea of the church contradicts the whole of his religious outlook. Jesus did not look to the future in terms of centuries, but he thought and spoke of it in terms of weeks and months. In the future he saw only the kingdom of God. The man who spoke Matthew 10,23; Mark 9,1; Luke 22,18 can not have looked forward to an organized future for his following. When he sent out the twelve, it was not as pastors but as hasting heralds of the kingdom. He gave them no ecclesiastical or educational program. They are not to halt or greet any man on the way, for there is no time for such. It is only in the Fourth Gospel that Jesus becomes pastoral, planning and providing for
his orphaned disciples after his death, promising an Advocate that will fill the gap in their lives.
In Jesus we see none of the plans and preparations for the future such as other great religious geniuses have left with their followers. He founded no order as did Buddha, no school as did Plato, no sect as did John the Baptist. Not a single word suggests that he planned an official and organized religion to survive him. He has about him his personally chosen circle of companions, but there is no hint to the effect that he attempted to organize them either for the present or the future. The only suggestion of an organization among the twelve is in the Fourth Gospel where Judas appears as the dishonest treasurer of the group (12,6), whose duty it was to buy provisions or to give to the poor (13,29). But even these details belong to the Fourth Evangelist's policy of blackening the character of Judas.
Throughout his public life Jesus is utterly indifferent toward numbers in his following; he seeks to avoid the great crowds. Such is certainly surprising on the part of any one who is laying plans for the survival of his work and following after his death. Why he chose just twelve personal companions we do not know. On the basis of a word like Matthew 19,28 we might think that the number twelve was a matter of Jewish tradition with Jesus. However, he was not the man to include an unworthy disciple or to exclude a worthy disciple for the sake of a sacred number. If the number twelve was a part of any plan that he had in mind, it was shattered by the desertion of Judas.
Within the following of the Baptist there were ele-
ments of nascent organization, religious practises which he seems to have given his disciples that held them together as a group and that distinguished them from other religious sects of the day. The one practise which seems to have distinguished them and to have given their master his popular name, the Baptist, was the religious rite of baptism. A second bond that held the followers of the Baptist together was the custom of periodic fasting which they had in common with other Jewish sects and which brought them into conflict with Jesus and his disciples. (Mark 2,18.) A third bond that seems to have come from the Baptist himself was that of prayer. The Baptist seems not only to have taught his disciples prayer as a religious practise, but he seems to have given them a special prayer. (Luke 5,33; 11,1.) A fourth bond of organization came from the Baptist-a common religious confession which he seems to have heard from those who presented themselves to him for baptism. (Matt. 3,6; Mark 1,5.) Of its exact nature we can say little except that it was a confession of sins, but it seems to have been informal rather than formal, a voluntary response to his message of repentance rather than compulsory.
The following of the Baptist disappeared from history; that of Jesus conquered the Roman world. From Acts 18,24-19,7 we might conclude that at least portions, if not all, of the Baptist's following were absorbed in the Christian movement. But it is interesting to note that John the Baptist had a following of sufficiently strong constitution to survive its master's death, to preserve itself independently for considerable time thereafter, and to carry on its own missionary program far from the scene of its master's work.
Among the disciples of Jesus during his lifetime all
such elements of nascent religious organization are missing. The first personal appearance of Jesus in the Gospel story is at the Jordan where he is baptized by John. Jesus, as we said, regarded John's baptism as a sacred religious rite and he participated in it actuated by the deepest and most genuine religious motives. Yet he did not take over from John this religious rite. He and his disciples observed no custom of periodic fasting. Jesus prayed as none before or after him, and he taught his disciples extensively on the practise and principles of prayer. But we never see him observing specially set hours of worship; he does not withdraw for calendared seasons of prayer. The praying of Jesus and his group is instinctive rather than institutional. For his followers he has no formal creeds or confessions, no articles for the declaration of faith, no ceremonies or cults. Even on the last night of his life he is not founding a religious institution to be repeated in his personal memory as the primitive Christian community at an early date began to construe it. (I Cor. 11,23-25; Luke 22,19-20.) In Matthew 26,26-29 and Mark 14,22-25 Jesus makes no reference to a repetition of the occasion in the future, except as he will one day drink it anew with them in the kingdom of God. The original incident seems to be that Jesus is celebrating the Jewish passover with his disciples and that the cup and bread are simply a final personal pledge of his faith that the kingdom of God will come. (Luke 22, 15-18.)
Jesus appears in the New Testament as utterly indifferent toward organization. In fact, he manifests no genius for effecting it. From the standpoint of organization, no great religious genius ever left his following so poorly prepared to meet the future as did Jesus. He seems to have trusted to purely personal bonds to hold his disciples
to himself, and during his lifetime it was this more intimate type of bond that held his disciples together. This personal loyalty and attachment did not stand all the stress and strain of circumstances. The twelve deserted him at the scene of his arrest; Peter denied him, and Judas betrayed him into the hands of his enemies. But after his death it was the conviction that Jesus was alive again, that they, the Apostles as well as others, had seen him, that he was with them "even unto the end of the world," that welded his former companions into a compact company which later resulted in the Christian church.
With his unconventional religious character and conduct it would be difficult to fit Jesus into any ecclesiastical system. judging from his attitude toward the official and organized religion of his day, Jesus would be a poor churchman. He made no wholesale revolt against the religious institutions of his day and people. The Galilean synagogues were a frequent scene of his teaching. His attitude toward the synagogue is an excellent example of his religious conservatism, but he never connects the synagogue with the religious hope of the future. Jesus was
never more conservative than when he went as a pious pilgrim to Jerusalem to celebrate the most sacred of Jewish festivals. But even into the celebration of the Passover he pours his own personal faith concerning the coming of the kingdom. Jesus was always giving himself to the more personal and informal aspects of religion.
The impersonal and formal he neglected. His experience of religion was purely individual, apparently quite capable of dispensing with the institutional. In his message Jesus stripped off all appearances, outer casings and superficialities. He ignored prominent elements in the conventional foreground, and out of the dim
theoretical background he would bring up some neglected or conventionalized issue as a commanding element of religious experience. A religion of cult and ceremony he rejected once for all in true prophetic fashion, and he confronted his contemporaries with obedience to the divine will as the essence of true piety. He opposed the elaborate in favor of the elemental, the official in favor of the original. To religious experience he applied no external tests, but those searching tests of simple and sincere living.
Jesus bound man's hope of religious salvation to no institution, no matter how sacred or of how long standing. He left religion where the very structure and substance of the human constitution demand that it should be left, an intimate matter between man and his Maker. Religious loyalty he attached to no religious institution, to no body of beliefs, but to God himself. He did not regard faith as a deposit from the past that is to be defended against all comers. He knew of no such impersonal loyalty. In the experience of Jesus faith must function; it must have its fruitage in character and conduct. He did not judge religious living as a calculating and balancing of religious acts, as a sum of good-works that offsets shortcomings and sins. For Jesus religion in human experience is the fundamental direction intent upon God and His kingdom.
That Jesus surveyed all the coming centuries and foresaw the necessity of an organization and institution such as the Christian church is nowhere clear in our best sources. He looked forward to something far less remote, to a permanent society of God and man accomplished by a harmony of the human will with the divine. "Thy kingdom come!" is the greatest prayer, purpose and
program of the church. The fact that Jesus did not found a religious organization or an official faith should drive the church, which claims him as the center of its life, to the most searching and conscientious introspection. The church must never forget that the religious experience of Jesus is that of the layman and that Jesus singled out the original rather than the official elements of religion. It must keep in mind that in its official form an organized religion may travel far from its original sources of purity and power, that it may even come to the place where its original life-deposit is neglected, forgotten or even supplanted. It should remember that its officialism and orthodoxy are acquired and that they were not a part of the original acumen. Officialism and orthodoxy may never look to Jesus for a spiritual ally. He fixed no forms of faith; he framed no standards by which theoretical opinions are to be measured. He left man in his experience of God as unhampered and free as man is in any field of
his experience. He sought to set men spontaneously and seriously in the quest of God, His kingdom and will, and he cast no care in the direction of what or how they should believe in a formal way.
Religion as the human quest of God is not the sole possession of those who are herded and housed in a cliquish conventionality and who pride themselves on preserving the faith iota for iota. In view of the plain New Testament facts themselves the official and the orthodox, those unquestioning savers of what has been, is not now, and never again will be, should be the most modest and humble in the presence of Jesus. They should read again some of his plain paradoxes about the first being last and the last being first, about the greatness of the least and the leastness of the great.
The religious experience of Jesus stands above and beyond all organization and officialism. His spirit can not be confined to such; it breaks all the bands of institutionalism. A subscribing to statement can never be a substitute for a sensing and sharing of this spirit. In our modern church life we are too self-conscious. Not for a moment are we allowed to forget ourselves and our theo. retical opinions. We are so sensitive to our differences that we seldom feel the throb of that flow of spiritual life that should make us one. The secret of successful relig6 ious living, according to Jesus, is the complete forgetting of self, utter abandonment to the great goals of God for men. What we should seek is not conformity but unity in the midst of greatest natural variety. We must abandon the idea that the church is primarily a conserving agency. Religion, according to Jesus, is a constructive and commanding force in human life and living. As long as the church conceives of its chief task as that of preserving its heritage pure, just so long is it dispensable as an organ in our human society.
The church, if we judge it in the light of what Jesus sought to accomplish, is first of all an agency for the spiritual recovery and restoration of men as individuals and as groups. When the church calms its conscience with the complimentary thought that it is the kingdom of God on earth, it is dangerously near apostasy and betrays the morbidness of its morale. In the light of the New Testament itself it is inconceivable that Jesus could have regarded any organization or institution as the visible kingdom of God. In his f aitb the kingdom is of and from God; men may meet its conditions, but they do not make it. The church may feel that it is the representative of Jesus on earth, but it should remember that while it pos-
sesses this consciousness of high call and holy commission it is not the direct issue and product of his own planning. Rather should it take up Jesus' own work-that of preparing men for the society of God.
The church should always be humble in its claims, proving its worth and the justice of its claims in the terms of a maximum of ministry. If the church could once become true to the best of its genius, it would not be in need of making claims for itself and its right to recognition, for such would be unquestioned. It could become like a great unpretentious personality, the thoroughness of whose consecration, the simplicity of whose spirit, the certainty of whose convictions, would come as a providential blessing to all men who seek for light and strength to live by.
All great religions have had their source in some passionately religious personality. But it seems to be inevitable that a religion which starts with an intense personality, when it begins to win its way with the masses and finds itself thrown into the sweeping currents of the world's life, should develop into an organized movement that has its official institution with corresponding rituals, liturgies, ceremonies, doctrines, dogmas, confessions and creeds. The purer prophetic religion of Israel became encased in the impregnable armor of the priestly cult of Judaism.
Christianity chose Jesus rather than his cause. Whether this would have been a personal disappointment to Jesus we shall never know. But the fact remains that the great cause of God, which he served and for which he died, was almost if not wholly neglected by his confessed followers. The fervent faith that possessed the simpler soul of Jesus was soon crystallized into fixed formulas with different sources, objects and issues. How the Christian church, even when fully conscious of all the good that
it has done and of all the human help that it has rendered, can continue to read the Gospel story without a pang of conscience, without a sting of regret and remorse, is a modern psychological miracle. It seems that it might be possible for a religion that is represented by an institution to retain at least a fair measure of the warm spirit from which it sprang and to prevent itself from degenerating into a religion of rigid respectability and cold convention. In the midst of all the impediments that the centuries have loaded upon it, it would be a saving song of human hope if the church could retain a full share of inner independence and freedom such as characterized Jesus.
The great danger that threatens the church is not heresy, but apostasyv-a virtual denial and desertion of the faith and spirit of Jesus. Diversity of opinion is not half so dangerous as selfishness, staleness and sourness of spirit. A church that is constantly on its guard can never give itself to and for men as Jesus gave himself. Our modern religious work is half make-believe. We go through the motions, and we delude ourselves into thinking that we are religious. We trust to organization as though religion were merely a matter of mechanics. We meet in conventions and conferences, and we go home with some new complex. We appoint committees and sub-committees. We make surveys and compile statistics. We inaugurate programs with pious ords. We do all this with a sense of slogans and catchsatisfaction: Surely we have prospered the work of the Lord. We go ahead in our mechanics-madness as though the eternal order itself were composed of an almighty chairman who follows Robert's rules of order, as though the next world were a spacious accounting-house full of adding-machines,
card catalogues and filing systems (for we are modern in our conception of the next world), a great bookkeeping establishment with countless clerks, an immense information bureau with hosts of angelic apprehenders of our human misdemeanors, as though God were One who listened only to the findings of the recording angel and in the light of the conclusions drawn, started a fresh drive of propaganda among the sons of men.
The religious values represented by the church to-day are theoretical rather than actual. It requires personal devotion to impersonal things. It forgets that such is exactly counter to the human constitution. Men feel that they must center their loyalties on things that mean most to them.
Only concrete meanings can command human devotions. When the church degenerates into a school of theology, becomes a mere drill master in doctrine and dogma, congratulates itself on its conferences and conventions-then we may say that the deepest things of religion have departed from it. The church may keep its traditional theories on this or that religious theme, but it must not insist that such is the true essence of a religion that names itself after Jesus. The creeds of the church are products of conflict; its doctrines were framed against foes. They are not the natural and spontaneous expression of the Christian faith in its intimate and personal phases.
For many a liberal-minded modern man of strongly religious inclination theology possesses not more than historical interest. Doctrine and dogma are dead driftwood; officialism and orthodoxy are offensive obstacles; creeds and confessions are crumbling crusts. But still the Master of men, who taught more than these things, stands and calls for him, and he in turn, like the four fishermen and
the tax-gatherer, is ready to leave all and follow him. Jesus has lost none of his power over humankind, but men must have a chance to see and know him as he was. One of the chief obstacles in the way of a resolute return to Jesus is an organized Christianity that has ceased to interpret itself and its task in the light of loyalty to all that he was and represented in the way of religion. The pulpit is not presenting Jesus as he was, for the pulpiteer knows little about Jesus, the fulness and sufficiency of his experience of God. The chief task of too many ministers to-day seems to be to assure us that we are good and religious, when we in our better moments know that such is not the case.
From Christian circles we often hear the complaint about the lack of real religious interest on the part of the modern man. But the modern man could just as well complain of the lack of an earnest and effective enthusiasm within confessed Christian circles. He finds little to attract him, still less to command him. Seldom does he hear from the church a message, seldom does he witness from it a show of spirit, that might create within him a permanent purpose to become a better man as an individual and as a member of his group.
The church's great task is to follow Jesus, not to recruit followers of itself. Once the church begins to accomplish this task in any appreciable measure it need never again be concerned about its constituency. There will be no clanish church but a great spiritual society following Jesus toward the great goal for which he lived and worked and died-the kingdom of God in which the divine will is as seriously sought and as perfectly performed on earth as it is in heaven. This may be a radical religious idealism, but it is the clear call of that one great re-
ligious figure of history who can command the loyalty and life of modern man, the confident and consecrated figure of the prophet-preacher of Nazareth.
The church may never be able to realize this radical religious ideal set by Jesus. Its success ' will not be absolute but relative, for the higher the ideal the stronger and more serious are the obstacles of human frailty in the way of its realization. But Jesus was willing to accept followers in spite of all their weaknesses. On the basis of constitutional weakness he excluded none from the quest of the kingdom of God. The church needs to learn to be satisfied with beginnings. Jesus seems to have sought not more than a vital start, a single seed with the germ of life in it. The later stages he trusted to the Divine; for growth and harvest he could wait. One of the plainest lessons of Jesus for his followers is working, watching and waiting.
The very distance of the goal set by Jesus is awful, but this does not justify a resistless resignation or retreat. It calls rather for a resolute return of the church to the genius that gave it birth. The Founder of the past may not have foreseen all the facts of the present, but the nature of the problem is unchanged. Progress is a matter of spirit rather than of system. As a system Christianity has been about as successful as it could hope to be, but as a spiritual movement its work is not yet well under way. If it will trust to its original genius, it can work wonders in our human order. The sources of strength are there if we dare trust them in the most serious matter of our human experience.
What after all is a religious society? One that is capable not only of surviving but that is able to cope success-
fully with all odds? It would be difficult to find a finer example of such a religious society than that which speaks directly to us through the New Testament. The earliest Christian community was little more than a Jewish Christcult, a Messianic movement within the confines of Judaism. In the early chapters of Acts the message of the Apostles moves along the line that the little band with its faith is nothing other than true Judaism, the promise to Israel gone into fulfillment. Even Paul in his more Jewish moments, when his disappointed love for his people comes to the surface, shares strongly of this feeling. It was only in the presence of persecution and adversity that the early Christians realized that they represented a new and different religion.
The New Testament comes fresh and strong from the nascent period of Christianity's history. Consequently its literary expressions manifest that natural variety and diversity that belong to the early stages of any movement. Within the New Testament itself Christianity bears a dozen different complexions. A position that one writer sets forth as fundamental and indispensable another writer will neglect entirely. There is no orthodoxy or officialism, only the first faint hints of such appear in the latest and religiously least significant of the New Testament books. It would be difficult to find a more heterodox collection of Christian writings than the New Testament presents. Each of its writers who shows any measure of religious genius expresses his faith in his own free way. They write under no external restraint. There are no fixed formulas to which they must rigidly adhere in giving expression to the personal faith and feeling back of their pens.
Yet straight through the New Testament there runs a
vital bond of unity, and its writers are essentially one in their faith. It is not an orthodoxy of opinion, nor is it a singleness of statement. The New Testament writers tire one in their religious experience. With all of their diversity they arc united on the religious significance of Jesus. The religious society back of the New Testament is a community of conviction. Its writers are bound together by common longings and fears, persecutions and adversities, expectations and enthusiasms, consolations and confidences, loves and loyalties, convictions and certainties. They are one, not in form, but in fervor and fidelity of faith.
Only such a religious society possesses the power necessary to accomplish its task in the world. The church must learn again from the New Testament. Its vitality and life are quite apart from external matters. It must be a community of conviction. Religion strikes down to the source-springs, and the church must become a spiritual society of those who live by common fears and hopes, common loves and loyalties. The only valid religious faith is that which can still fear, impart courage, realize hope and nourish love and devotion.
Jesus spoke of the religious life in terms of loyalties and devotions. At the center of human devotions, as the pole of human loyalties, he set God and His kingdom. These his followers are to sense, seek, secure and share; by them they are to be claimed and commanded; to them they are to be wholly committed and consecrated. In the religious following of Jesus there is no place for those traditional divisive forces and factors that have shattered the church's unity. Only a resolute recognition of the cardinal centers of the personal faith of Jesus can bring all right-thinking and right-spirited Christian
people together. The religious experience of Jesus is essentially unifying.
JESUS-THE AUTHOR AND PERFECTER OF OUR FAITH
Who was Jesus? What is the truth about Jesus Christ? The answers have been legion. Within the New Testament we read that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Risen Lord, the Word become flesh, the Lamb of God, and the Savior of the world. And Jesus was all these things for the New Testament Christians. In the history of the church these primitive answers were retained, but they lost their original simplicity and power. They became parts of elaborate systems of thought in which supernaturalism gave its metaphysical replies; orthodoxy had its opinions; theology had its theories, and faith its fixed formulas. During the nineteenth century, the century rich in its lives of Jesus, historical criticism gave its answers: Jesus was a teacher and a healer, a moralist, a mystic, a reformer, a fanatic, a prophet, a preacher, a religious genius. The answers to the question, Who was Jesus? have always been interesting, and so far as they have come from genuine religious experience they have been and still are inspiring.
But the historical student of the life of Jesus to-day has his own answer to this question. His answer does not come in the terms of Christian tradition, nor in the language of abstract speculation, nor in the pious phrases of the past. It is framed in the light of a careful and conscientious study of the New Testament with a view to the truth and the facts. It does not come on the basis of a single passage, but on the basis of all that the best New Testament sources seem to present and por-
tray. His answer comes in the light of literary records, of the conclusions of a conscientious appraisal of these, of historical probability, and most important of all in the light of the psychology of a living personality the whole of whose being was exclusively religious. For the historical student, Jesus was a religious subject, an experient of religion, in possession of the richest religious experience of our human history.
The historical student feels that the traditional thinking of the church has never done Jesus historical and personal justice. He feels that the person of Jesus is not a problem in abstract metaphysics or in speculative theology. For him metaphysics and theology possess no key that would disclose to us the real significance of his appearance in human history. At best they can furnish only semi-mythological and imaginary interpretations. The historical student sees in Jesus a problem in history, for he actually lived in the first century; in humanity, for he was a serious sharer of our human experience; in religion, for he was an exclusively religious personality. It is only as we approach him as a problem in personal piety that we are true to the state and nature of the facts, and that we come near a satisfactory and helpful conclusion. Jesus then becomes "the author and perfecter of our faith." (Heb. 12,2.)
With religious right the Christian consciousness may state, even formulate, its faith in Jesus. But it must be sure that these statements and formulations express his real religious significance, that they demonstrate clearly the actual contribution which he has to make to our human experience. Further, it must avoid that ancient and religiously atrophying error of identifying faith with its formulations.
We may never under any circumstances surrender the person of Jesus. To strip Christianity of the person of Jesus would leave it utterly poverty-stricken and lifeless. It is in Jesus alone as a human, historical and religious figure that Christianity can lay claim to distinction in the field of religion. All of our religious faith must center exclusively upon what he, by being what he was, offers us. But we must remember that Jesus, not later opinions and theories about him, is the one sure and substantial thing that we possess. All else is accessory and incidental, not essential and permanent. To center all emphasis and interest upon theoretical conceptions of his person is to miss entirely his real significance. We must conceive of him in terms of his contribution to our common human problem of living life religiously. Jesus represents fundamental religious values that are absolutely indispensable to humankind if it is to extract anything permanent from its existence. We must, therefore, make a religious appraisal of Jesus. Any interpretation that neglects his religious experience misses the finest and best that he has to off er and to communicate.
Jesus' contribution to the religion of the race is purely personal. To our human history he gives a human life religiously lived, a human experience religiously exalted, enriched and enhanced. He does not stand as an indefinite and intangible ideal, as an absurd abstraction of pious f ancy. He stands rather on the solid ground of history, our great human contemporary, a real man who dared live life exclusively in the presence of God and in behalf of men. Many ingenious inquiries have been made that would disclose the secret sources of his life, the pure perfection of his personality, but all have been, doubtless all to come will be, unsatisfactory. We shall
never be able to explain Jesus for the simple reason that the ultimate sources of personality are beyond us, still more so in the case of him who stands as the one gigantic figure on our spiritual horizon. But if we seek the chief contributing cause that made him what he was, we shall have to locate it in the purity and perfection of his religious experience which, functioning as the chief factor and force in his life, had, as its necessary corollary a corresponding purity of personality.
Religion as a vital power in individual life is beyond our explanation. It is essentially irrational for those who would discover its origin, operation and manifestations in a life that is religiously lived. In the case of Jesus, there is no need of explanation so long as we may enrich the whole of our life and experience from his own.
The life of Jesus, as we have said already, is the richest and most stimulating body of religious subject-matter -that we possess. His personal piety, the nature and substance of his religious experience, is the greatest and most convincing thing about him. In the history of humanity's religious experience Jesus stands supreme, superb and sublime. His faith in God and His kingdom with all that it involves is the most significant contribution which he has to make. He is the founder of the only adequate religious faith. In him, human life is exposed to all that is highest and best in the human conception and experience of religion. In Jesus, faith and fact meet, merge and live. In him we see, and he calls on us to share, all that God and religion at their best may and can mean in human life and experience. The faithful follower of Jesus, then, may look to him, as did the writer of Hebrews, as "the author and perfecter of our faith." (12,2.) Here we have a purely religious ap-
proach such as the very substance of the first three Gospels forces us to make. For me personally, this crisp and concise confession in Hebrews is the finest of all statements in the history of Christianity concerning who Jesus was and what he is to mean for his followers.
Those who choose to see in Jesus more than the author and perfecter of our faith have a right to do so. Each has a right, according to the measure of his religious life, to enrich his experience from that of Jesus in every way that he can. But Jesus must mean this to every faithful follower, if he is to mean anything at all. The plus which Christian piety may add and has added must be more than impersonal and theoretical abstractions; they must represent religious realities that were present in the religious experience of Jesus himself. Any conception of Jesus is worthy of him that comes from the mind and heart of one who is definitely committed to a determined and devoted discipleship. Wherever he stands as the religious center and authority in individual and group life there is no danger of a too low conception of his person. As Jesus once told one of his intolerant disciples (Mark 9,39), "There is no man who shall do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me."
When all the theoretical attempts f ail adequately to comprehend Jesus, then the historical student reserves for himself the religious right to form a new resolve and return to the New Testament, there to win, for himself at least, all that Jesus offers of permanent value and worth for human life and living. The historical student who is compelled to take a religious view of Jesus is in
no way disloyal to the essential elements of the Christian faith, that is, if we understand Christianity as devoted discipleship such as he demanded of his followers. Jesus stands at the very center of the religious faith of the historical student, not as a religious object, but as a religious subject whose experience of God is sufficiently rich to demand limitless loyalty. In our modern day when we insist that religion must be real, that faith should function, there is not a finer or more resourceful conception of Jesus and the place he should occupy in the Christian faith than that of Hebrews 12,2.
Wherein lies the authority of Jesus? Certainly not in theology, for he did not teach it. Certainly not in doctrine and dogma, for he preached neither. Certainly not in confession and creed, for he never required such. Certainly not in officialism and orthodoxy, for he founded neither. Certainly not in religious convention, for he broke with it. Jesus is an authority in just one field, that of personal religious experience. He stands in history as the supreme authority on the subject of living human life religiously. And it is just at this point that the social significance of Jesus' religious experience appears, for there is no social religion apart from individually religious personalities. At the very center of our human order Jesus sets a plain yet profound piety that is a source of light and strength sufficient for coping with all the major and minor matters of individual and group life-that is, for those who dare to seek to share it. As the perfecter of the purest personal piety the authority of Jesus will remain until another of the sons of men shall choose God so completely.
Jesus, however, is not an authority on the forms of
religious experience. He never lectures his disciples on either its varieties or uniformities. He gave them no set standards and criterions for judging the forms of religious experience. It was not a problem with which he was forced to deal as was Paul in I Corinthians 12-14. Religious certainty and the genuineness of personal religion he did not base upon its psychological forms of expression. He never prescribed types even for those to whom he devoted most care and attention. How and what they should feel he did not say. To all religious experience Jesus applied but one test, that of fruits. In order to be genuine religious experience must express itself in corresponding character and conduct. He laid no emphasis on the form of religious experience, but on its content.
If we approach the personal piety of Jesus from the standpoint of religious profession, we are amazed at its simplicity and modesty. He who possessed the most exalted consciousness of God's high call and holy commission, who was held by an unparalleled confidence and conviction, makes no profuse profession that springs from experiences past or present. Rather he discourages religious profession and presses on with all his soul in the persistent pursuit of the divine will for himself and all who are like-minded. As psychological types we know next to nothing of his religious experiences. If he had such, he never refers to them; still less does he set them as normative for others. Nowhere in the words of Jesus do the stock phrases of religious witness appear.
Interest in and emphasis upon the form rather than the content of religious experience is characteristic of the history of religion among all peoples. The various Christian sects that have appeared and have insisted on
special types of religious experience as the sole sources of religious certainty have not been followers of Jesus in this respect. Conformities in religious experience seem to have had their origin in the ecstatic and strongly psychic beginnings of Christianity such as appear in the early chapters of Acts and in I Corinthians 12-14. But Jesus stipulated no set type of religious experience that should become universal among his disciples and as such give the distinctive features to their faith.
Some scholars, notably Albert Schweitzer" and Karl Weidel,"' have undertaken to estimate the contribution and authority of Jesus in terms of moral will directed toward the highest religious values. They speak of him as the man of will (den Willensmensch, Weidel), possessing and in turn imparting a strange and stimulating strength of will (Schweitzer).
Such an appraisal of the authority of Jesus has under it two solid foundation stones. In the first place, it is true to the psychology of religious experience. The moral will is the seat of all personal religion that moves on a high plane; it is an integral element in the f abric of personal religious faith. Professor Hocking writes, "A faith without a large ingredient of will, is not faith at all."'O Professor Coe writes, "The center of gravity in religion is the moral will." In the second place, the estimate of Jesus in terms of the moral will has under it the solid foundation of the Gospel picture. Any one who has observed so much as the character and content of Jesus' choices can not but be astonished at that won-
drous,wealth of will which he was capable of launching in the quest of the Divine. Jesus faced decisions and he made them in the most resolute manner. His work demanded deepest determination in the face of disappointment, and he was capable of it. His choice of the divine cause required constancy, unfailing confidence, unflinching fidelity. It required a will, a wealth of will, to believe what Jesus believed. The whole of his experience is an unprecedented exhibition of a vast volume of volition in the service of religion. Further, his religious demands upon his followers were direct appeals to the moral will. No religious leader has ever laid such pressing practical demands on the individual and social will as did Jesus. The discipleship of Jesus requires a real will-to-believe.
There is a strangely stimulating strength of will in the mind of Jesus, but to make him an authority in matters of the moral will only is a much too narrow confinement for the power that he possessed. His passionate personality bursts the narrow walls of will. They may define him on the one side, but they can not contain him. Pure will is definite, sharp and exacting. But Jesus possessed an enthusiastic energy. Pure personal piety is will, but it is more, even though will is its most substantial single element. "Not in the cold, deliberate choice of will, but in the passion of soul is to be found that flood of energy which can open to us the sources of powermastered by such a passion the soul will admit no def eat."
The thing that characterizes Jesus from the volitional point of view is the depth of his personal devotion.
Devotion is more than decision and determination. Decision may be clear-cut, extremely self-exacting. Determination may be undivided, even desperate. But in devotion there is a warmth, a glow, a burst, a fervor that make self-denying decision and determination possible. Devotion as it appears in the religious experience of Jesus means the enlistment of the whole sclf-will, emotion, thought, faith-in the service of something beyond and above self. The will is never at its best unless the subject possesses a sense of being claimed and commanded. Mere selection is far removed from service and sacrifice. Choice is only a mechanical mental process when compared with that entire commitment and consecration of which the religious subject is capable. The will may do police duty, but it takes passion to promote. The power that pushes a personality toward its goal demands will, but it demands more. It operates less under the consciousness of having chosen, more in the conviction of having been chosen. Above selection in the experience of Jesus stand service and sacrifice; above decision and determination, a depth of devotion that demands all; above choice, a consciousness of call and commission, utter commitment and consecration.
With all of his wealth of will, the attitude of Jesus is never that of self-sufficiency. As we saw in chapter three, Jesus on this as on all points remains rigidly religious. He is fully aware of the weakness of the human will. Therefore, he taught the graciousness of God over against the merit of man. And there is no good reason why we should not regard this fundamental religious position as autobiographical, an extract from the depths of his own experience.
In our modern approach to Jesus we must leave him where and how and what he was, as real as he was-human, historical, religious. We must leave him where he found God and God found him, a religious figure of our human history. Above all, we may not separate him from the religious centers of his life without inflicting grave injustice on him and on ourselves. The religious evaluation of Jesus is the only one that will bring us to him and him to us, the only avenue that will communicate what he has to impart. In all of his life and work Jesus placed himself on the side of humanity. Speculation only separates him from us and makes him increasingly unreal.
There are very definite religious dangers in deification-dangers destructive of Christianity and the chief cause of the church itself. Absolute deification withdraws Jesus and his religious experience from the ranks of men who most need religion. As long as he remains with them, one of them, men may feel that he has something to say to them, still more to impart. They may be reasonably assured that what he became they may at least attempt with courage and in some measure attain. The great majority of modern men who feel that religion is practical and who are convinced that religious living is -. hard task claiming their all, will never consent to the removal of Jesus from their ranks, for their only hope is the conviction and certainty that he is on their side. We may take Jesus from the ranks of men of true and deep religiousness and ascribe to him all possible predicates, but the sense of being led and the courage to follow has departed from men and leaves religiously stranded those who are most in need of religious leadership and command. A religion about Jesus may fit the pious
patterns of the past and satisfy the ecclesiastic and doctrinaire of the present, but only the religion of Jesus can recommend and prove itself in the life and experience of modern men who find themselves confronted at every turn with grave moral struggles that threaten to destroy them and their kind. We may admire and adore Jesus, deify and worship him, as our inclinations and inspirations prompt us individually, but we must follow him, believe with him, and seek to share his experience if he is to mean most to us religiously.
The disposition to deify Jesus was natural enough for the first Christians. The very nature and substance of their Easter' experiences virtually demanded this. But for us to-day such deification will only keep him remote, out of all contact with the problems of our experience. The whole structure of Paul's Christian faith rested upon the validity of his Damascus vision of the Risen Lord (I Cor. 15,14), "If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, and your faith also is vain."
But the resurrection faith will never claim us as it claimed Paul and its original experients. We may entertain it as a common human hope, we may maintain it for Jesus in particular, but theoretical belief in the resurrection willnever solve for us the common human problem of living life religiously in the sense of Jesus.
Our loyalty to Jesus is not a matter of theoretical and impersonal belief. It is a matter of trust, of warm personal confidence in his ability to help. We must approach Jesus to-day as he was approached by those of his contemporaries for whom he did most-with the hope of
high helpfulness from him. The leper came to him with a confidence that almost staggers us (Mark 1,40), "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." The centurion met him with a faith that was new in Israel (Matt. 8,8), "Only say the word, and my servant shall be healed."
The woman's reflections are a tremendous tribute (Mark 5,28), "If I touch but his garments, I shall be made whole."
Jesus and his contemporaries were not separated by theological theories. Their relation to him and his relation to them was purely personal. They knew him as a real man of their own life and experience, a knowledge unhampered by traditions. And even to-day we have a native and natural religious right to approach him as he was approached by his contemporaries and as he approached them, so far as careful study can clear the way for us. In our approach to Jesus we have a right to strip our minds of everything that has intervened since his death, so far as this is possible.
To base the religious authority of Jesus on the Immacu. late Conception, the Virgin Birth, the historicity of the nature-miracles, or even on the resurrection, is distorted devotion to primitive Christian values. His religious significance does not stand or fall with any of these things. We must determine the authority of Jesus by those elements in his experience that are vital and life-giving,
those elements that are capable of enriching our human experience in such a way that we become capable of coping successfully with all the exigencies of our existence.
The modern question concerning Jesus is not whether we may or may not speak of him in the terms of deity and divinity. The great question is: How valid is Jesus' religious experience? May we trust his experience of God as true? Is his faith real and reliable? May we live in the faith that the world is good because it is God's, that God is a living and loving Father, that all men of all conditions are His children, that He has a kingdom that will come?- Is Jesus' personal piety worthy of reproduction? Is his religion something that we may share? Is it something that we may live by? It is at these points that the religious authority of Jesus is at stake, and only seasoned experience in his devoted discipleship can answer these questions. The historical student is ready to answer these questions in the affirmative. He believes that the religious experience of Jesus will stand until all human experience proves itself to be only a delusion.
The question, Who was Jesus? each must answer for himself with the New Testament before him and in the presence of God. Here our learned text-books in systematic theology will not help us. In the nearness of the historical Jesus we feel that we have come into the presence of the Divine, as near as our human constitution will permit. Again-in Jesus, faith and fact meet, and we come at once into the presence of the human and the holy.
Eduard von Hartmann once wrote that Jesus is "a much too narrow foundation for the erection of a religious structure." But Von Hartmann was judging Jesus
more in the light of the historical background of the first century than in the light of the nature and substance of his religious experience. This fallacy of mistaking the form of Jesus' faith for its content is not unknown even to-day. In the form of his faith he certainly belongs to the first century where he remains firmly imbedded as a man of history. But the substance of Jesus' faith is superhistorical. It is solid and sound to the core for, to use a principle of Kant, it is capable of universalization. The religious experience of Jesus is not outgrown. It i's the most abiding value of our human history, as commanding and adequate to-day as it was in 30 A. D. We have yet fully to comprehend the religious experience of Jesus and all that it involves for our human life. Religion in his experience leaves no phase of human life and living untouched; it strikes down to the very sourcesprings of our existence and lays hold on the elemental forces of life in a way and to a degree that offers the only hope for man's future on earth as reasonably religious and righteous.
Religion is a serious matter in human life and experience. Its presence or absence makes itself felt, and life is different. Religion of a high order does result in respectability of life, but respectability is not religion. Respectability is not resourceful enough to rely on in time of crisis. When elemental human instincts, impulses and passions are aroused, whether of the individual or of the group, there is need of something that will carry us out beyond ourselves and the opinions of others and furnish us with powers of inhibition, guidance and control. The Western World ascribes to Jesus a theoretical authority, but it does not accord him an actual authority. It rises instantly against those who dare question the author-
ity of Jesus, but it feels no obligation to order its actual existence after his way of life-an attitude of impersonal rather than personal devotion. If we interpret religion and the part it is to play in human life as Jesus seems to have interpreted it, we shall have to say that Christianity, even at its best, has as yet touched not more than the periphery of our existence.
We to-day must reconstruct our religion, not in the light of Paul, or John, or of later accepted and official dicta, but in the light of the religious experience of Jesus himself. Christianity will never be true to its best genius, it will never accomplish its real work in the world until it has the courage to undertake such a reconstruction. The hope of Christianity and its contribution to our human life is not a rigorous restriction of what may or may not be believed about Jesus, but in an unreserved release of all our powers to believe with him. It is to share his religious experience and faith that Jesus calls us over the tumults of theology, over the confusion of controversy and conflict. And a resolute return to him will require courage to overcome all obstacles, not the least of which will be our own selves and the delusion of our religious-
If Jesus is to be taken at all, he is to to be taken seriously. Surely we are not supersensitive souls whose constitution is not sufficiently strong to appropriate and assimilate the solid subject-matter which is offered us in the form of his religious experience. Surely we are capable of facing the facts and fighting our way back to that great contribution which he has to make. If we are going to be religious, let us be really religious in the sense of Jesus.
What is the preacher to preach and, with his preaching, live? What is the layman to live and, by his living, preach? The answer is simple and clear: the religion, the personal piety, of Jesus which he himself sought to share with his followers.
Jesus came to cast fire upon the earth, that mysterious element of his own East, the fireof his faith. (Luke 12, 49.) Into our human history Jesus has hurled a firebrand. Men may relate themselves to it as they will, but it continues to burn, igniting the fires of judgment upon our human delinquency and wickedness, but for those who have the courage to snatch it up, it illuminates the way out. The very fact that Jesus lived-human, historical, religious-for ever forbids that life should go on unchanged, without elevation, enrichment and enhancement, unless we are to be overtaken by that most terrible of human maladies, a creeping paralysis of the religious consciousness.
Who was Jesus? This study has sought to show on the basis of the New Testament, the history and psychology of religion, that Jesus was a religious subject, an experient of religion, the most religious personality, the possessor of the richest and most resourceful religious experience of our human history. The author is not ready to say who Jesus was, all that he was; but he feels that Jesus is religiously sufficient for all our human needs. He feels that we may actually trust Jesus in the most serious matter of our human experience, that of living life religiously. He also feels just as strongly that Jesus is entirely too intense a personality to be cramped within
the narrow confines of intellectual concepts. He strikes the whole of our life, not just the thinking process. The Christian task is not to define Jesus, but to demonstrate him to all who know him not.