NEW YEAR is a time for reflection and re-evaluation; a time when it seems easier to take inventory of ourselves and our service. At this season a wise minister maps out his work for the ensuing months. And every assignment has but -the advancement of the king-dom of God. Bringing from the Scriptures new revelations of our Lord will do more to inspire unselfish service and holy living than anything else.
Man's penetration of outer space has certainly challenged the thinking of our generation. But more, it has inflated human ego. Where will be the stopping place in this new adventure?
More and more, people are losing their sense of a personal God. With many, the more they know about the universe the less they know about God. The Creator is being lost in the cosmos.
A certain type of scientist says with a sneer that our telescopes and microscopes have given not even the slightest trace of anything like a "Friend behind the phenomena," or a "God who cares." Of course not, for God cannot be discovered by research; we can know Him only by revelation. He has revealed Himself in three ways: in the book of nature, where the devout scientist can trace His hand; in the Book of truth, where the student can read His purpose; and finally in Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.
Our generation has witnessed an abundance of research, yet we have so little knowledge of real truth; "so many wise men, yet so little wisdom." Why? Because "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." If men turn willfully from the Source of all wisdom, how can they have any real wisdom? To know truth we must come as little children, in humility.
Bishop Fulton Sheen has wisely said: "It is only by being little that we ever discover anything big." We cannot always be childlike physically, but spiritual growth depends upon our being childlike in humility. Only the humble can see the greatness of our God. It is not childishness, but child-likeness we need. Jesus said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3).
When the God of eternity came from the courts of glory to become an outcast on one of the meanest of the planets, angels announced His birth. The heavenly choir burst forth in praise for this unspeakable Gift. The story of His coming to earth is as significant as it is beautiful. And it is significant that only two types came to visit the holy family—the shepherds and the wise men; the simple and the learned. It will ever remain a mystery that the Eternal God could be born among common people in a common stable in the tiny town of Bethlehem. But He came to make His home with men, to take upon Himself the sins of men, so He might share the common lot of men. "Simple souls such as shepherds find God because they know they know nothing; learned souls like the wise men find God because they know they do not know everything."
The Missing Link
For more than a hundred years men have been searching diligently for the missing link. Convinced that the human species is a development through successive stages from mud and slime, up through fish and reptiles, to animals and men, certain schools of philosophy continue to maintain that civilization as we know it today is the outgrowth of brute force and conquest. In fact, they declared that the long-hoped-for Utopia would be ushered in by the process of evolution. True, there was a missing link, but men were sure it would soon be found. The embarrassing thing about it all, however, is that despite the diligence of the searchers, the missing link is still missing.
Strange that men should be so concerned about a link that binds man to beast, and yet so unconcerned about the link that binds them to God; seek the iron chain that tethers them to the dust, and yet be so apathetic about the golden chain that connects them with heaven! Actually there is nothing in common between a holy God and sinful man, for by his willful disobedience man really cut himself off from the Creator. But grace bridged the gulf when God became man.
The devil promised Eve that she would "be like God" (R.S.V.), but such a thing could never be. Instead of becoming like God, mankind soon learned that sin had severed us from God. As a branch cut from a tree withers and dies, so we are a dying race. But there is a link that binds us to God's throne, and that link is the God-man. Call Him the cave man if you will. He
comes from a stable in Bethlehem, not from the hide-out of a Homo sapien; His name, not Pithecanthropus, but Jesus Christ. And the light in His eyes is the light of God shining amid the darkness of a lost race, not the dawn of reason illumining the mind of an evolving beast.
The New Testament declares that "when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal. 4:4). He came as a member of the Godhead. That was the most momentous event in all human history.
Man Individually Responsible to God
The concept of man's individual responsibility to a personal God is becoming less and less popular. Restraint is not a popular word these days. Little wonder we find ourselves unable to solve our problems. The study of social science gives little encouragement to hope that the nations can find their way out of our present dilemma, for a backward glance over the millenniums of the past reveals a sad but constant struggle—man fighting with his fellows for place and power. This has given rise to the thought that man at heart is only a beast; that civilization has developed by the gradual ascent of this beast instinct, and that whatever we are has been attained by our own effort.
Darwin declared that "man is developed from an ovule about l/125th of an inch in diameter, which differs in no respect from the ovules of other animals." His philosophy, though now much discredited, gripped his generation and has influenced every generation since. While recognizing his place in the scientific world, no authentic scientist today, Christian or non-Christian, agrees with Darwin in all of his conclusions on comparative anatomy. His suppositions appear foolish in the light of recent investigation. He knew nothing of genes and chromosomes.
To be logical, Darwin would have to claim that the California redwood in all its stately magnificence has developed from a tiny seed differing in no respect from the seed that produces a ragweed. Although modern science renounces many of the nineteenth-century concepts, much of Darwin's original premise is retained. The following statement sums up his basic belief:
Man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect, which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system—with all their exalted power—man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. (Italics supplied.)
Someone has suggested that a primitive native wandering over the hills of his homeland might come suddenly upon the wreckage of a great airplane. He begins to examine various pieces, picking up bolts and nuts and some broken sheets of aluminum. Of course, he has no conception of their use, for he is entirely uncivilized. Gazing intently at the remains of the intricate panel board, he cannot possibly understand what that could ever be. Now he looks at the great wingspread. "What is this?" he says to himself. Then suddenly he hears a roar. Looking up, he sees a great jet liner streaking across the sky. Picking up a handful of the wreckage he begins to make comparisons. "Now I understand it all," he says. "That mighty machine traveling so swiftly, with almost the speed of sound, bears in itself the indelible stamp of its lowly origin. From bits and pieces like these it has come to be what it is."
Ridiculous, you say? Of course; but no more so than many of the foolish claims sometimes made in the name of science. Man did not begin in a jungle, much less in a pool of slime. Is it not more reasonable and sensible to accept the revelation of God that the human race as we see it today is but the wreck of what was originally the magnificant creation of God?
The study of comparative anatomy set a pattern for other comparative studies, such as the study of comparative religions, in which Christianity is declared to be but the capstone of the whole pantheon of faiths. Many books have appeared during the last century, such as Frazer's classic, The Golden Bough. While presenting a fascinating picture, yet it is but a collection of the follies of the human race in the field of religious thought. To depict the crudest forms of heathenism as man's endeavor to commune with the Infinite is tragic. History reveals clearly that polytheism is not the root of all worship.
Schmidt, of Vienna, in his recent four-volume work, Urstrung der Gottesidee, considered by scholars the last word in its field, ably demonstrates that the oldest religions of the world were monotheistic, not polytheistic; that the concept of the one God is much older than the corrupt idea of many gods. This statement by a recent authority is much to the point:
J. G. Frazer, whose Golden Bough so delightfully purveys third-hand information, the so-called "comparative method," is utterly discredited, for there is no simple pattern of the stages of man's development.
It has been abundantly proved that man's cultural progress can be either gradual or cataclysmic, backward or forward. Therefore the rigid evolutionary formula of a few decades ago has had to be discredited. We would not linger on these negatives, but in order to understand the inroads modern thought has made upon the Christian message we should notice at least one more recent writer.
Bertrand Russell, one of the world's foremost philosophers of our day, in his book A Free Man's Worship, declares:
Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; . . . that all the labor of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast depth of the solar system. And the whole temple of man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.
Brilliant oratory, but bleak philosophy!
How refreshing to turn from such empty rantings and read the Book of God! Man is not just a cosmic accident in an alien universe. He was created to be a son of God, a member of the family of heaven. Our interest in one another is not just "the in-stinct of gregarious animals"; it is a God-implanted instinct that makes us one all over the world. To ridicule the God of all grace, and speak of Him as just the "herd leader in the great spaces behond the stars," as is stated in Gilbert Murray's Stoic Philosophy, is blasphemy indeed. Although some may mock God's promise of man's future home, calling it a "dream castle in the clouds," that does not change the divine purpose. This earth will be recreated and will once again reflect its Edenic beauty, and misery and death will never again be known. And the Holy City with its golden streets and gates of pearl will be the great metropolis of that new world. This is not something that man builds up from mud and slime, but rather a city that comes down from God out of heaven.
Earth a Stage for the Divine Drama
When the modern evolutionary hypothesis began to fascinate men it soon replaced Providence, and man began to think of himself as the mere outcome of cosmic forces. Instead of worshiping his Creator, he began to deify false philosophy. True science, of course, has added tremendously to man's knowledge of himself and the universe, especially in recent decades. And we certainly have discovered much about the stage on which we are all acting our parts. But science itself is utterly unable to tell us what the play is all about.
Interesting as it is to know even a little about our tiny world and its relation to the immensity of the universe, and thrilling as it is for men to penetrate outer space, yet it is vastly more important that we know the God of all creation and comprehend the purpose of the divine drama in which a righteous God and a sinful race are so tremendously involved. Nothing can so stir the human mind as the contemplation of God Himself stepping from the courts of glory onto the stage of this little world to take His place as one of the players. Then at Calvary, having completely outmaneu-vered the enemy in the cosmic drama of redemption, He in one tremendous act brought the rebel race back to Himself.
This is not a false philosophy; it is a conquering faith—the faith of Jesus. Let us resolve to preach Christ in the power of the Spirit of God during this coming year, and thus prepare a people for that "outer space" journey when our Lord returns.