Essentials of Evangelical Theology

Volume Two: Life, Ministry, & Hope

© 1979  Donald G. Bloesch

HarperCollins, New York, NY All Rights Reserved


1. Evangelicalism. 2. Theology, Doctrinal. 3. Bloesch, Donald G. — 1928-2010 — v. 2. — Essentials of evangelical theology  
LC Class: BR1640 .B54 vol. 2 BT75.2 ~~ Dewey: 230.8 B652 ~~ OCLC: 954755477 ~~ LCCN: 78003140 ~~ 315p.

Essentials of Evangelical Theology Volume 2 is presently held by 122 libraries including Indiana University (Bloomington) and the San Antonio Public Library

Table of Contents

From the Jacket of the Book

Preface ... xi

I. Introduction ... 1

Notes ... 5

II. The New Birth ... 6

The Meaning of Regeneration ... 6

The New Birth and Experience ... 10

Baptism by Water and the Spirit ... 11

Continual Conversion ... 15

Erroneous Interpretations ... 19

Notes ... 27

III. Scriptural Holiness ... 31

The Call to Holiness ... 31

Justification and Sanctification ... 41


IV. The Cruciality of Preaching ... 71

Preaching as a Means of Grace ... 71

Preaching the Whole Counsel of God ... 83

Reformed Worship ... 87

Biblical versus Cultural Preaching   92

Notes ... 98

V. The Priesthood of All Believers ... 104

Priesthood in the Bible ... 104

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit ... 107

Historical Development ... 110

The Ministry of the Word and Sacraments ... 118

Toward a Catholic Balance ... 123

Notes ... 128

VI. Two Kingdoms ... 131

The Biblical Testimony ... 131

Development in Catholic Thought ... 135

Reformation and Post-Reformation Perspectives ... 138

Modern Discussion ... 142

A Theological Reappraisal ... 147

Notes ... 151

VII. The Church's Spiritual Mission ... 155

The New Testament Perspective ... 156

Witness of the Church Tradition ... 158

Reinterpreting the Church Tradition ... 164

Evangelism and Social Concern ... 167

Notes ... 171

VIII. The Personal Return of Christ ... 174

Current Issues in Eschatology ... 174

The Second Advent ... 179

The Resurrection of the Dead ... 183

The Millennium ... 189

Notes ... 204

IX. Heaven and Hell ... 211

Promise and Warning ... 211

The Historical Controversy ... 214

Universalism and Particularism in Karl Barth ... 220

The Twofold Outcome ... 224

Notes ... 230

X. How Distinctive is Evangelicalism? ... 235

Confusion in Terminology ... 235

Supreme Authority of the Word of God ... 239

The Transcendent God ... 242

The Radical Pervasiveness of Sin ... 244

The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ ... 247

The Free Gift of Salvation ... 250

Inward Religion ... 257

Notes ... 260

XI. Toward the Recovery of Biblical Faith ... 265

The Outlook for Evangelicalism ... 265

The Need to Reappraise Biblical Authority ... 269

The Need to Rediscover Evangelical Distinctives ... 275

The Need to Recover Catholic Substance ... 278

Toward a Catholic Evangelicalism ... 283

Notes ... 290

Scripture Index (not included here) ... 299

Name Index (not included here) ... 304

Subject Index (not included here) ... 311

From the Jacket of the Book

This volume completes one of the finest and newest American Christian systematic theologies. Essentials of Evangelical Theology blends illuminating scholarship with balanced judgment, while remaining rooted in the classical tradition of reformation theology and informed by biblical spirituality. It focuses and clarifies the distinctive aspects of Evangelicalism as it lays the foundations for productive dialogue with others in the Christian tradition.

Donald G. Bloesch is Professor of Systematic Theology at Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa. He is the author or editor of seventeen books, including the recently published Struggle of Prayer. Dr. Bloesch received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has done postdoctoral work at the Universities of Oxford, Tubingen, and Basel. He has served as President of the Midwest Division of the American Theological Society.

In praise of Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Volume 2:

"A major American systematic theology ... presents evangelical convictions in the light of a comprehensive awareness of historical and contemporary theology." — Sojourners

"Extensive and comprehensive." — Eternity


While the first volume of Essentials of Evangelical Theology concerned the themes of God, authority, and salvation, this second volume focuses on life, ministry, and hope. At the same time in the discussion of evangelical distinctives and strategy in the last two chapters, I shall recapitulate and amplify some points that have been made earlier.

   It is my intention in these volumes to reconceive evangelicalism so that it can become an effective force for renewal in the church. Too often in the past evangelicalism has been divisive and has drained needed energy and resources from the established churches. It would nevertheless be unfair to blame all these schisms on evangelicalism, since a protest had to be registered against the drift into a latitudinarianism and modernism that sundered the church from its biblical and historical roots. Moreover, reformers and prophets of an evangelical stripe were not tolerated in many denominations, and the dissidents had to withdraw if they were to maintain their integrity. In this task of reinterpretation I wish, by all means, to avoid a nebulous evangelicalism where the lines between true biblical faith and liberalism are blurred; instead, I seek an evangelicalism that is historically informed and theologically profound.

   In a time when Christianity is being translated into social and psychotherapeutic commitment, evangelicalism, with its emphasis on the fundamentals of biblical religion, can help the wider church to recover the vertical dimension of the faith. It can remind the church that any lasting social change is based on interior spiritual transformation and that a new society ultimately rests upon a new humanity.

   This book is addressed not only to evangelicals but to all Christians who are seeking to think through their faith int he light of new advances in biblical and theological scholarship as well as in the face of new challenges from a secularized culture. Its intent is to break down the walls that divide Christians from one another on significant doctrinal issues so that the church can give a unified witness to a world that sorely needs to hear and believe the good news of reconciliation and redemption through Jesus Christ.

   I make no claim that this is an exhaustive systematic theology, a

Page xii

task that would entail several extensive volumes. My purpose is simply to spell out the core of the historic Christian faith from an evangelical and Reformed perspective. In the last two chapters I shall not only recapitulate previous themes but point directions for the church as it faces an uncertain future. Biblical authority and theological method will again receive attention as I seek to steer evangelicalism on a path that will insure its continuity with the historic church as well as confirm its fidelity to the Scriptures.

I. Introduction

Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." John 6:28-29.

If we could have been saved by our works, it would not have been necessary for Christ to die. Ulrich Zwingli        

It is a hallmark of the true evangelical religion to emphasize that sin and morality are inward rather than outward ... that a new birth is indispensable to a new life, and that therefore what pleases God is heart-religion and heart-morality. John R.W. Stott

Evangelical theology is at war with all views which graft salvation on to natural goodness or revelation on to natural knowledge, on the grounds that such views fail to grasp both the sinfulness of sin and the graciousness of grace. James I. Packer

To me the real distinction is not between high and low, but between religion with a real supernaturalism and salvationism on the one hand, and all watered-down and modernist versions on the other. C. S. Lewis

There is a pressing need today for evangelical unity as Christianity faces a world that is steadily becoming more secularized and therefore more hostile to traditional religious values. As we survey the current scene, however, we see a sorely fragmented evangelicalism. Carl Henry has sagaciously observed that we are no entering a new era of evangelical controversy, and this means that we can expect to see further division and polarization.

   Evangelicalism, it should be remembered, is wider and deeper than nineteenth-century revivalism. It is even broader than the Reformation, though it was in that period that evangelical distinctives were rediscovered and proclaimed with power and authority. If evangelical fragmentation is to be overcome, we need to recover our historical roots not only in Pietism, Puritanism, and the Reformation but also in the biblical renewal movements prior to the Reformation. Evangelical unity can only be realized if we press for the unity of the whole church under the Word of God, and the this means Evangelical-Catholic unity. If we are to break free from provincialism and sectarianism, we need to rediscover the evangelical motifs in the church fathers, including Irenaeus, Augustine, and Ambrose, and also in the doctors of the medieval church, such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas.

   The present-day controversy in evangelicalism revolves around four issues: biblical authority, eschatology, election and reprobation, and the gifts of the Spirit. All these issues will be addressed in this volume, but particular emphasis will be given to the conflicts concerning baptism and the new birth, the gifts and ministries of the church, the millennial hope, and universal salvation.

   Epistemology, too, figures in this controversy, since one's approach to biblical truth is integrally related to one's theory of knowledge. Those who see biblical revelation as basically, if not exclusively, propositional are inclined to be rationalists in their epistemology. Those who understand this revelation as predominantly historical are more likely to embrace an empirical methodology. On the other hand, those who

Page 2

view revelation as the living God in action disclosing himself and the truth of his Gospel through historical events as well as verbal concepts and imagery will stress the priority and supremacy of faith over reason.

   The breakdown in biblical authority in the churches today creates both opportunities for evangelicalism and possibilities for new dissension. A critical method that a priori rules out supernatural intervention into human history has served to undermine confidence in the Bible as a document of revelation and must assuredly be rejected by evangelicals. At the same time we must not make the mistake of trying to turn the clock back to an earlier or precritical period in the history of the church, since we are living in a different age and must face the challenges that historical criticism presents to the church.

   It is becoming customary in evangelical as well as ecumenical circles to speak of the culturally conditioned garment of faith, and I too occasionally use this language. Yet we must avoid the temptation to drive a wedge between the cultural expression of faith and the prophetic and apostolic witness to Jesus Christ, since we hear this witness only in its cultural form. There are some today, for example, who say that Paul was wrong in his conception of the man-woman relationship; but this kind of exegesis simply will not do, since what Paul says God also says, for Paul (as well as the other biblical authors) seemed to only partially grasped the import of the revelation given to him. The Holy Spirit made use of the patriarchal values and imagery of biblical times; but through his appointed witnesses, the prophets and apostles (including Paul), a patriarchal ideology was transcended, while the abiding truth in patriarchal ideology was transcended, while the abiding truth in patriarchalism, the difference between an above and below, a relationship in which Christ's authority is realized in the role of a servant (Ephesians 5:21-33).

   We need to see that revelation is incarnational, that is, it enters into the relativity and ambiguity of history and thereby has a this-worldly as well as a transcendent locus. We also need to consider that inspirational is organic in that the Holy Spirit makes use of culturally conditioned language and concepts in order to direct people to a supramundane truth and destiny. The Bible is not Spirit-dictated but Spirit-effected and Spirit-filled.

   Evangelicals must firmly resist the tendency in neo-orthodoxy to equate revelation with an existential encounter. Revelation entails

Page 3

what God has definitively disclosed in the history of the past as well as what he wishes us to apprehend in the present. Barth's distinction between the event of revelation, which is always new, and the revealedness or inspiredness of the biblical record, which he disclaims, must be treated with a certain degree of reservation, since revelation in the biblical sense has a propositional and a historical pole as well as an experiential pole.

   At the same time evangelicals should oppose the concept of verbal revelation, which denies the actual entrance of the Word of God into human history and rests the case for biblical authority on the errorlessness or faultlessness of the Bible's language or mode of expression. I agree with the orthodox theologian Gilbertus Voetius that it is necessary to distinguish between the material or content of Scripture and its external form or special mode of writing.1 The inerrancy of Scripture pertains to its teaching authority, not to the impeccability of its text or language.2

   Just as Christ was truly human but without sin, so Scripture is truly human but without error in its matter. But just as Christ entered into our limitations, so the Word of God also entered into the cultural limitations and history of the people of Israel. The analogy of the incarnation must not, of course, be pressed too far when we are dealing with Scriptural authority, since Jesus Christ is himself God, whereas Holy Scripture is the creation and instrument of God.

   Likewise, we must oppose the view of faith as an irrational leap in the dark (an idea sometimes entertained in existentialist theology) and the view that identifies it primarily with intellectual assent (as in an orthodoxy gone to seed). Faith is a commitment of the whole person which entails rational understanding. At the same time the object of faith is not directly accessible to human reason, and this means that reason must ruse above itself if it is to apprehend the mysteries of God (Calvin).

   It can be shown that our position on faith and reason is inextricably tied to our view of biblical authority. If the object of our belief is the objective data recorded in Scripture, then the reason of unregenerated man is quite capable of coming to the truth of God on its own apart from any special illumination of the Spirit. On the other hand, if the focus of our belief is the living Christ and the abiding significance of his life, death, and resurrection, then reason must make way for faith as a special creation of God. The words and concepts in Scripture are the vehicles by which we apprehend the reality and goodness of the infinite God himself and by which we come to know his will and purpose for us.

Page 4

The Bible might be likened to a well that consists in a supply of water (the inner content) and a pump (the outer form).3 We cannot see the inner content, but we can experience it when we go to the well to satisfy our thirst.

   There is a need today for new statements that will bridge the barriers between the various parties in evangelical Christianity as well as the barriers between Evangelicalism and Catholicism. It is not only the doctrine of Scripture that has become a point of dispute but such themes as the new birth, the mission of the church, the immortality of the soul, the millennial hope, and the reality of hell. My intention is to open new ground in the discussion of these and related issues.

   Certainly it is also imperative that we take seriously the call to the Christian life so that the boundaries between the church and the world will again become visible. Though our justification is to be attributed to the vicarious, imputed righteousness of Christ, apprehended by faith, our sanctification is inseparable from a life of love and obedience in the midst of the world's anguish. Only a life that is consonant with our doctrine will make the faith credible in the eyes of its cultured despisers. The social impotence of modern evangelicalism is to be traced partly to its overemphasis on polemics and apologetics and its neglect of ethics, particularly in the social or political dimension.

   Eschatology could give a biblical rationale for a revolutionary style of life, but too often it is used to reinforce a reactionary social stance. The millennium has become a pretext for social apathy in many circles, whereas rightly conceived it could become a catalyst for social change. The Christian hope has been misunderstood to mean escape from the world (the Marxist opiate of the masses) whereas in its biblical context it should inspire the people of God to battle with the world and triumph over it. The church will regain its social relevance when it recovers an eschatology that gives meaning and direction to the ethical task of the Christian in today's world. Hope and vocation are integrally related, for only those who have hope can overcome and persevere.

   At the same time, evangelicals must avoid the misunderstanding common in liberal social gospel circles that the dominion of Christ is extended by social engineering. Progress toward social justice must not be confused with the coming kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is present only where people enter into that higher righteousness, the fellowship of sacrificial love. A degree of social justice can be realized among all peoples because of God's common grace, but the higher righteousness of the kingdom is made possible only by the gift of redemption accomplished by Christ at Calvary and the outpouring of the

Page 5

Holy Spirit. With the higher righteousness as our norm and goal, we can and should press for an ever greater measure of justice and freedom within our present world order. Yet penultimate hopes of peace, justice, and political emancipation must not be confused with the ultimate hope of the new heaven and new earth for which all creation is now groaning in travail (Romans 8:22).


   1. See Henrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. and rev. Ernst Bizer, trans. G.T. Thomson (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950), p. 15.

   2. Despite my difficulties with Gerhard Maier, who completely equates the letter of Scripture and revelation, I find myself in agreement with him when he says that infallibility in Scripture "in the sense of authorization and fulfillment by God" must not be confused with "anthropological inerrancy." Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method, trans. Edwin Leverenz and Rudolph Norden (St. Louis: Concordia, 1977), p. 72.

   3. In this illustration the pump can also be said to be the external sign, and the supply of water the thing signified. The Bible, like the sacrament, consists in both an external sign and the matter or spiritual reality to which the sign points.

II. The New Birth

Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit. John 3:7-8

If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

If there is one essential issue in our Christendom, it is surely that of the new birth .... it is the well out of which all good has to come. Philip Spener

There is a cost involved before one can come to peace with God. The new birth and its process does not happen without much pain. Philip William Otterbein

In baptism Christianity gives him a name, and he is de nomine a Christian; but in the moment of decision he becomes a Christian and gives his name to Christ. Soren Kierkegaard

The Meaning of Regeneration

   The Scriptures speak not only of justification but also of regeneration. Regeneration is the creation of a new heart within man which entails new goals, new aspirations, new power for service. We read in Ezekiel: "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh: (Ezek. 36:26; cf. Jeremiah 31:33; Psalm 51:10-12). Paul declares that when we were dead in our sins God made us alive with Christ (Colossians 2:13). In his view the man in Christ "is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). In the Fourth Gospel those who become children of God are "born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). This same theme is also embodied in 1 Peter: "You have been born anew,

Page 7

not of mortal parentage but of immortal, through the living and enduring word of God" (1:23).

   While justification signifies the imputation of the righteousness of God, regeneration means to be engrafted into this righteousness. Whereas justification consists in the pardon for sin, regeneration refers to the taking away of sins, the interior cleansing of sin (cf. 1 John 1:9). Salvation includes more than the declaration of pardon: it also involves being made righteous. In regeneration justification is made concrete. Regeneration can in one sense be regarded as the subjective pole of justification. It occurs simultaneously with justification, though the latter has logical priority. Yet while justification is complete, regeneration is incomplete. It must be continued through life, though its commencement signifies a radical and decisive break with the old pattern of life. [This webmaster differs on his definition of regeneration. I believe it is included in the new life that is implanted into the new creation, the new believer. Regeneration is a present reality, a present condition for the Christian, part and parcel of the gift of Eternal Life. I think he should be referring to sanctification in the sense of something which grows, develops in the Christian]

   Regeneration is also integrally related to conversion. Indeed, conversion is the subjective response to God's decisive intervention in man's life. Conversion signifies man's turning to the way of the cross, but he could not turn unless he had already been inwardly liberated by divine grace. The initiative of God in the act of conversion is poignantly expressed by Isaiah: "I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you" (44:22). IN Ezekiel 37 the people of Israel are depicted as a valley of dry bones that cannot be brought to life until God causes his breath to enter them. Before man can obey in faith, he must have been breathed upon or baptized by the Holy Spirit. Even his repentance and obedience testify to the work of the Spirit within him, the grace that is drawing him irresistibly to Jesus Christ. The supernatural basis of conversion is made abundantly clear by Jonathan Edwards: "Conversion is a great and glorious work of God's power, at once changing the heart and infusing life into the dead soul; though that grace that is then implanted does more gradually display itself in some than in others."1

   In the circles of radical mysticism conversion is understood as a turning from the manifold to the essential, from the world of the temporal to the Eternal. But in biblical faith and piety conversion means turning from the way of sin to the way of righteousness. It issues in service to the world, not in withdrawal from the world.

   Conversion entails not only a turning to Christ (epistrepho) but also repentance (metanoeo). Repentance consists in the renunciation of sin and the commitment to lead a new and better life. It means not a certain discontent with oneself but brokenness of heart. It involves not merely feeling sorry for oneself but forsaking sin. It implies not

Page 8

simply coming to Jesus but casting oneself on the mercy of Christ.

   Regeneration and conversion signify the coming to faith. Indeed, no one can be born again unless he believes, and if he believes, he is indisputably born again. As the apostle declares: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ..." (1 John 5:1; cf. John 1:12-13). Melanchthon and many who followed him separated the act of faith from regeneration by the Spirit. Against this view we contend that the new birth is simply another way of describing the awakening to faith. The new birth is not fulfilled apart from the decision of faith. This means that faith itself is instilled by the Holy Spirit, that faith itself is a manifestation of the work of the Spirit within. Calvin wisely observed: "Faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification."2

   It is perhaps allowable to distinguish between the Spirit as agent and as gift (as we find in some contemporary Lutheran theologians).3 In this perspective faith becomes the means by which we receive the gift of the Spirit, though the Spirit is the agent by which faith is created. There is some biblical basis for this distinction (cf. Acts 2:38; 5:32; 11:17; Gal. 3:2-5),4 but if pressed too far it can give rise to a serious misunderstanding. Faith is not simply the receptacle of the Spirit but a living union with Christ created by the Spirit (as Luther was fond of saying). The bestowal of the Spirit is equivalent to being united with Christ in faith. We do not first have faith and then the Spirit makes his abode within our hearts; the very entry of the Spirit into our lives gives rise to faith. Faith is the response created by the Spirit as well as a means by which the Spirit becomes resident in our lives. We were made alive while we were dead through our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), and this means that the grace of regeneration is definitely prior to faith,5 though this grace does not become a permanent indwelling reality in our lives except through our faith.

   Regeneration does not consist in the alteration of the old nature but in the impartation of a new nature. In the traditional Catholic view grace builds upon nature, but in Evangelical Protestantism grace transforms nature. The new birth signifies not rehabilitation or reformation but a new being. As Luther phrased it: "The putting on of Christ according to the Gospel, does not consist in imitation, but in a new birth and a new creation."6 In the liberal view enunciated by Schleiermacher and Bushnell grace is an awakening and stimulation of our natural powers. In the Catholic perspective grace is an infusion of supernatural power. In the Reformation position grace is the invasion of the Holy Spirit. The key word in both neo-Catholicism and neo-Protestantism is

Page 9

development. In Evangelical Christianity the key word is crisis. The old man must die. He must be crucified and buried. He cannot evolve into the new.

   The Evangelical understanding of regeneration is certainly present in the history of the Catholic church. Tertullian insisted: "A man becomes a Christian, he is not born one." Augustine and Pascal both testified to dramatic experiences of conversion by which their lives were completely altered. In their view conversion is upheaval, reversal, and reorientation.

   For Luther and Calvin the new birth was certainly a fundamental doctrine, but it was given peculiar emphasis by the Anabaptists and Pietists. While the Anabaptists conceived of the new birth as a great obligation and task, a decisive commitment to the will and work of God, the Pietists (Spener, Francke, Zinzendorf) understood it more in terms of the peaceful possession and enjoyment of salvation. The Anabaptists stressed bearing the cross in lowly discipleship; the Pietists emphasized believing in the cross of Christ and upholding this cross in our preaching and life.

   There was no general consensus among the Pietists on how the new birth comes to man. Spener spoke of a preparation of the heart prior to regeneration, though he allowed that the new birth sometimes occurs suddenly. Francke stressed the struggle for repentance (Busskampf) as necessarily preceding the new birth. For Zinzendorf the new birth is an instantaneous gift. They are all agree, however, that the new birth signifies a radical alteration of man's being and not simply a reformation of his character. Oswald Chambers, a representative of later Pietism, put it this way: "The entrance into the Kingdom is through the panging pains of repentance crashing into a man's respectable goodness."7

   In the contemporary period Karl Barth has stressed the incongruity between grace and nature and the radicality of the new birth. While maintaining that man's ontological change has already occurred in the life and death of Jesus Christ, he nevertheless affirms that a second ontological change happens in the event of conversion. "When a man becomes a Christian," he declares, "his natural origin in the procreative will of his human father is absolutely superseded and transcended."8 Indeed, "the man involved in the act of conversion is no longer the old man. He is not even a corrected and revised edition of this man. He is a new man."9

   On the British scene P.T. Forsyth has emphasized the radical nature of conversion and the new birth. While recognizing that not all

Page 10

Christians will undergo a crisis experience like that of St. Paul, he nevertheless perceived that such an experience is the paradigm of Christian conversion.10 Every Christian should be translated from the way of sin to the way of righteousness, though not every one will be conscious of the precise moment that this occurs. "The Kingdom of God," Forsyth contends, "can only come by the Cross, by crisis, by a breach with the natural life, though not a disruption of it."11 For him regeneration signifies not simply the fulfillment of man's yearnings and strivings but their transformation. The state of grace and of faith is qualitatively different from the state of nature.

The New Birth and Experience

   The new birth is both an event and an experience, but it is primarily and essentially the former and only secondarily the latter. What is regenerative is the even of the new birth, even though it cannot happen apart from an upwelling of joy and an outpouring of love.

   There can be no equivocation concerning the need for an experience of the love of Jesus Christ and the joy and power of his resurrection. Jesus held out this hope to his disciples: "You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy" (John 16:20). The disciples were not imbued with spiritual power and joy until after the resurrection of Christ, when he sent forth his Holy Spirit. St. Paul fully expected that the Christian would experience "joy in the faith" (Philippians 1:25). To belong to the kingdom of God is to experience  "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). Calvin made his position quite clear: "The whole man must be born again if he wishes to enter into the kingdom of God, for in both mind and heart we are entirely alienated from the righteousness of God."12 In this perspective the whole man includes his feelings as well as his mind and will. "It is not enough to know Christ as crucified and raised up from the dead, unless you experience, also, the fruit of this .... Christ therefore is rightly known when we feel how powerful his death and resurrection are, and how efficacious they are in us."13 Luther agreed: "No one can correctly understand God or His Word unless he has received such understanding immediately from the Holy Spirit. But no one can receive it from the Holy Spirit without experiencing, proving and feeling it."14

   The emphasis on a personal experience of Christ's salvation was even more pronounced in the circles of Pietism, Puritanism, and Evangelicalism. Neither Spener nor Zinzendorf could point to the exact time

Page 11

when they were saved (here they differed from Francke and Wesley), but they both stressed the need to experience the joy and peace of Christian salvation, the fruits of the resurrection of Christ. For Zinzendorf faith was basically trust in God as revealed in Christ, but it must be authenticated in personal religious experience.

   While one can expect to feel the love and joy of Christ, this feeling should not itself be identified with the new birth. It is a sign and fruit of the new birth, but it is not the event itself. We can and must experience the new birth, but the new birth itself is not the same as the experience. It is not realized apart from experience, but in itself it transcends experience. We here concur with Abraham Kuyper: "The union of believers with the Mediator, of all matters of faith the most tender, is invisible, imperceptible to the senses, and unfathomable; it escapes all inward vision; it refuses to be dissected or to be made objective by any representation ...."15 Paul declared that our new life in Christ is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). Yet if the root and sap are hidden, the fruit is visible not to the one who himself is born again but to others who see the work of the Holy Spirit in his life.

Spell checked to here 7/31/18

   The new birth

The new birth is not accompanied by rational guarantees, but there are signs which are persuasive to the eyes of faith. Foremost among these are heartfelt repentance for sins, a sense of the love of God and the assurance of salvation which enables one to give praise and pray to God (Romans 5:5; 8:14). The new birth is also attested by the exercise of a new power over temptation and a new love for one's neighbor (1 John 3:9-14; 4:7; 5:4). It is the fruits of the Spirit that prove that we have the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23; 1 John 3:7), and the crowning fruit is love.

One cannot be converted apart from conviction of sin and joy in the Spirit, and yet the essence of conversion is not feeling but the forsaking of sin and practice of the new life. We should heed again these words of Dwight L. Moody: "Repentance is deeper than feeling. It is action. It is turning right about. And God commands all men everywhere to repent."16 The new birth is not only a spiritual reality but a moral action that gives rise to deeds of loving service.

Baptism by Water and the Spirit

The baptism of the Spirit, or the new birth, is integrally related to water baptism, and yet the two are not identical. That there is a very close connection between the two is attested by our Lord: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter

Page 12

the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3: 5-6). In Peter's Pentecost sermon the implication is taht the cleansing work of the Spirit is accomplished through repentance and baptism, or at least in conjunction with them (Acts 2:38). Paul proclaimed: "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27; cf. Romans 6:3-4; Eph. 5:26). This emphasis is also reflected in Titus 3:5: "He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit." Biblical scholars generally agree that the washing of regeneration refers to the rite of baptism. Similarly, in Hebrews we are enjoined to "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (10:22).

In the New Testament the gift of the Spirit does not always occur at the very same time as the rite of baptism. The disciples of Jesus had been baptized, but they did not receive the Spirit into their hearts until Pentecost. On the other hand, Paul's regeneration took place at the time of his baptism (Acts 22:16). The Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Ephesians in Acts 19 had both received baptism by water but had not yet received the Spirit. Apollos in Acts 18:24-25 was in the Spirit and yet had only received the baptism of John.

The overall witness of the New Testament seems to be that baptism by itself is not indispensable for salvation, but baptism joined with repentance and faith becomes the means by which people receive the gift of regeneration. The integral relation of baptism and faith is attested in Acts 2:38 and Colossians 2:12. To be effectual for salvation baptistm must be accompanied by faith or else give rise to faith (cf. Heb. 10:22; Col. 2:12; Acts 2:38). Though they had been baptized, the Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Ephesians in Acts 19 had not oyet received the Spirit because they still did not possess effectual faith (pistis). They did not have the "full assurance of faith" which distinguishes the truly converted. The Spirit came to them as they were awakened to repentance and faith through the preaching of the Word. The Word of God alone is the indispensable means of salvation, while baptism is a spiritual aid.

In our view baptism is the sign and seal of the new birth. There is only one baptism, and the gift of the Spirit and immersion or sprinkling with water are its two sides. Water baptism is the outward sign; the Spirit is the inward reality. With John Nevin we affirm the reality of baptismal grace but not baptismal regeneration.17 The Holy Spirit is

Page 13

indeed working upon a person at baptism, even upon an infant, but he does not make his abode within that person until the decision of faith. Our new birth can be said to be initiated at baptism (in the case of infants), but it is not fulfilled until conversion. In the case of adults who are already believers baptism is a confirmation of their conversion. We can say that baptism is not a condition of salvation but a preparation for it in some cases and a certification of it in others.

In the New Testament baptism was a public testimony of faith. It is also a means or instrument by which faith is strengthened and even fulfilled. The inward seal is the Spirit himself (Eph. 1:13; 4:30), which is attested by the rite of baptism, the outward seal.

This brings us to the enigma of infant baptism. Since infants cannot have faith, why then should they be baptized? The New Testament answer is that the promises given to the parents extend to the children (Acts 2:39), and our Lord expressly wished to receive the little children into his presence (Luke 18:16). Moreover, there are grounds for arguing that the practice of infant baptism goes back to the very first century; it is said that whole households were baptized (Acts 16:33; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16), though this in itself does not prove the case for infant baptism.18

It cannot be denied that infant baptism became a rite of cheap grace very early in the history of the Christian church, and the Reformation did little to correct this abuse. The Pietist movement did not discard the practice of infant baptism but sought to link it with the faith that it was hoped, would follow. Philip Spener, who adhered to baptismal regeneration, nevertheless contended that, because many fall away from their regeneration, it is necessary that such persons be regenerated anew through personal repentance and faith. August Hermann Francke insisted that the promise of salvation is not connected with baptism alone but with baptism and faith. The Pietists advocated the rite of confirmation as a supplement to baptism to give people an opportunity to confess their faith before the congregation.

We affirm the validity of both infant and believer's baptism but insist that, in both cases, one must not presume that regeneration has indeed taken place. The new birth is an inward reality mperceptible to the senses, but it is not realized apart from personal faith in the living Christ. With Luther we can say that in thet sacrament of baptism the treasure of Christ is given to us, but we still need to appropriate or receive it into our hearts. The sacrament may have objective validity, but its benefit extends only to those who repent and believe. In the case of infant baptism one is baptized toward faith rather than into faith. As John Calvin put it, "children are baptized for future repentance and faith."19

Page 14

Again we contend with Luther that baptism is not completed until that which it symbolizes takes place on the last day, namely, perfect regeneration or glorification.

Contrary to the traditional Catholic view we hold that there is no automatic development from baptism into conversion. Sometimes Catholic scholars use the illustration of the oak tree and acorn to clarify their understanding of the relation between baptism and conversion. Conversion is indeed a ripening process but only after the new birth has taken place. Infants cannot be said to be regenerated, for they lack conscious faith in Jesus Christ. At the same time, if they have been baptized, we can say that they are under the claim of divine election and are within the sphere of the kingdom of God.

Again in opposition to what has come to be the recognized Catholic position, we contend that baptism is efficacious not on the basis of the work of the priest or pastor nor on the basis of the rite itself (ex opere operato) but on the basis of its union with the promises of God in Scripture. It is not baptism by itslef that results in salvation but baptism joined to the Word of God and to the faith of the recipient.

Our position by no means contradicts the whole of the Catholic tradition, since many of the fathers and doctors of the church stressed the necessity for faith and repentance if baptismal grace is to be effectual. St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lectures warned that "if you persist in any evil purpose, the water will receive you, but not the Spirit."20 Symeon held that a baptism without genuine conversion is a baptism only in water. In the view of Catherine of Siena some people have "the form of holy baptism, but none of the light, for they have been deprived of the light by a cloud of sin."21 There are signs that current Catholic theology is seeking to give greater recognition to the decisive role of faith and repentnace in the life of the believer without underrating sacramental objectivity.22

Baptism does not need to be repeated, since a person is born again only once. To be sure, the spiritual reality may still need to take place even though one is baptized, but the sign has permanent validity, since it has the blessing of both God and the church. When Catholic religious made their solemn vows this was regarded in Luther's day as a second baptism. Luther vehemently opposed such an understanding, since it detracted from the efficacy and sufficiency of othe sacrament of baptism. This practice among Catholic religious was never given dogmatic formulation, but it pointed to the need for a personal profession of faith that would give substance to the rite of infant baptism.

Page 15

Baptism is a sign of God's efficatious grace poured out for us in Jesus Christ and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It is a sign that God elects us before we decide for him, that God's grace is the basis of our decision of faith. This is particularly evident in infant baptism, but believer's baptism too symbolizes this reality. Yet baptism is more than a sign: it is a means by which the Holy Spirit comes to us and works upon and within us. Baptism plays a prominent role in our conversion and is not just a symbol of our conversion. This is because the God of the Bible works in and through human instruments to accomplish his purposes among people.

Continual Conversion

While the new birth happens only once, conversion is a broader term which applies to the whole of the Christian life. Conversion is both an event and a process in that what has been begun must be carried forward and completed. The new birth itself is sometimes depicted in the New Testament as something begun but also continuing insofar as the renovation of human nature must continue (note that the perfect tense is used in 1 Peter 1:3 and 1:23). Reformed theology has understandably identified the new birth with the first intrusion of God's grace into human life, but we must bear in mind that in the total biblical perspective regeneration indicates something much more than the initial change within man.

The old man was indeed crucified and buried in the decision of faith (Romans 6), but he reappears like a corpse coming back to life. He was drowned at baptism, but he ever again bobs up to the surfact (Luther). Sin is expelled from our lives in the moment of conversion, but it returns whenever we look to ourselves instead of to Christ. This means that ouro regeneration is both complete and incomplete. When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, we are cleansed from all sin (1 John 1:7), but an inclination to sin lingers on, and this is why sin can take root within us once again.

It was a man of God who declared: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:10-11). This must also be the prayer of the born-again Christian who, though united with Christ, nevertheless falls away from the ground of his being again and again and must therefore be restored to the state of grace.

It is true that Paul announced with confidence: "We know that our

Page 16

old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin ... So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:6,11) Yet he went on to say: "Let not sin ... reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness" (Romans 6:12-13). Here he recognized that though the Christian is dead to sin in principle and should be in fact, he nevertheless remains vulnerable to temptation and can and does fall into sin ever again. Paul's perception that conversion must continue in the Christian life is even more evident in his admonition to the Christians at Ephesus: "Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24; cf. Colossians 3:5).

The Reformers were adamant that conversion and regeneration must continue throughout life. In Calvin's view, "It is not enough to have embraced only once the grace of God, unless during the whole course of your life you follow His call."23 Luther considered the remission of sins a divine work continuing until death:

Forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but of perpetual duration. For the forgiveness of sins begins in baptism and remains with us all the way to death, until we arise from the dead, and leads us into life eternal. So we live continually under the remission of sins. Christ is truly and constantly the liberator from our sins, is called our Savior, and saves us by taking away our sins. If, however, he saves us always and continually, then we are constantly sinners.24

In later evangelical revivalism the event of the new birth was perceived in terms of a climactic transformation, and the subsequent life of the Christian as simply basking in the glory of a past conversion. It was held by some that selfishness and sloth are all consumed and annihilated in the fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit so that a new man emerges without any stain of past sin.

Such naivete, however, was not characteristic of Jonathan Edwards, who remained faithful to the Reformation in his keen awareness of the struggle and travail in the Christian life. Like the Reformers he acknowledged that we in ourselves are "utterly without any strength or power to help ourselves."25 Yet when grace comes upon us, we are impelled to turn to a new way of life. But it is not enough to turn to Christ:

Page 17

we must remain in Christ, and this entails a lifelong struggle against sin, death, and the devil. Edwards spoke of a "continued conversion and renovation of nature" in the life of the Christian, but this view was eclipsed in the perfectionism that later came to dominate revivalism.

Kierkegaard too perceived the struggle involved in a life of conversion. Becoming a Christian is not an immediate transformation but a lifelong decision. He in no way denied the reality of the transforming grace that comes into one's life at the moment of conversion, but he recognized that, because evil in the human heart is not wholly extirpated, one must be engaged in a constant battle to subdue it. This gives the initial decision of faith more significance rather than less, since it means embarking on a pilgrimage in which one is arrayed agaisnt the forces of evil both within and without. It means breakign with the values of the world and facing perpetual opposition from the world. "Becoming a Christian," Kierkegaard declared, "is then the most fearful decision of a man's life, a struggle through to attain faith against despair and offense ..."26 But then having made the decision, one must continue in trust and obedience. The gate is narrow and the way is hard by which one gets to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14; cf. Luke 14:27-30). "Conversion is a slow process," he observed. "One has to go back along the same road where one previously went forward."27

It is possible to recognized several stages in regeneration. First there is the pre-Christian stage in which one is encountered by the grace of God and thereby awakened to seek for salvation. We are not here affirming a universal prevenient grace: it is redemptive grace itslef that arouses man and quickens him, grace that comes to him only through the hearing of the Word. The disciples before Pentecost were in this stage. They had been converted to the way of the cross but not yet to the Gospel of the cross. They had embraced Christ as the Messiah of Israel but not yet as the Savior of the world. They were seeking for salvation, but they were not baptized by the Holy Spirit into the salvation of Christ. The Holy Spirit was with them but not yet in them (John 14:17). Their natural yearnings for God were appealed to and awakened by the Spirit as they heard the preaching of Christ.28 It might be said that they had the faith of a servant, but not yet the faith of a son (Hebrews 3:5-6). John Wesley, before his Aldersgate experience, described himself as "almost a Christian," though he had led a life of exemplary piety. As he confessed, he had repented in a legal sense but not in an evangelical sense. He was pursued by grace but not yet convicted by grace.

Page 18

The second stage of regeneration is the new birth in the narrow sense. Here the Holy Spirit enters into our lives and makes his dwelling place within us. Now we are convicted of sin and awakened to faith. Now we repent of our sins and acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior. Now e have the power of godliness and not just the form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5). Now we taste and live in that forgiveness which is already ours by virtue of our election in Christ. Now we seek the glory of God and not simply the help of God.

On the road to Damascus Paul was confronted by the blinding light of grace, but the new birth did not take place until he received the Spirit at his baptism by Ananias (Acts 9:17-18). Then he was not only blessed with true faith but empowered to confess his faith before the world.

Regeneration must continue into sanctification, where we take up the cross and follow Christ in costly discipleship. It will entail new decisions, new dedications which confirm and renew our baptismal decision. Having been baptized by the Spirit, we must go on to be filled with the Spirit, and having been filled, we must seek to be more deeply filled. Regeneration culminates in glorification, where we are completely transfigured in the image of Jesus Christ. But glorification does not occur until the resurrection at death, and final glorificaiton does not occur until the final resurrection on the last day.

Both Lutheran and Reformed orthodoxy as well as Pietism and Puritanism affirmed a preparatory stage of conversion before the new birth itself, a period of gestation before the actual delivery. Lutheran orthodoxy was accustomed to speak of two acts of grace. The first act seeks to divert the unconverted man from his state of sin and instill within him a horror and detestation of his past sin. As Heinrich Schmid says:

The second act of divine grace is this, that it drives man, alarmed on account of his sins, to take refuge in the merit of Christ, which covers his sins and is accounted as his merit; so that conversion, which commences in contrition, is finished in faith. The former is produced by the preaching of the Law, the latter by the preaching of the Gospel.29

While this point of view has much to commend it, our interpretation is somewhat different. First, we contend that the man who is confronted by divine grace is no longer an unregenerate person but a person who has already tasted the grace of regeneration. He is already under grace, though grace has not yet fully possessed him. This position is in agreement with some of the representatives of Lutheran orthodoxy,

Page 19

but not with Hollazius, for example, who restricts the term conversion to the excitation of contrition and the term regeneration to the bestowal of faith. Moreover, we maintain that the conviction of sin is the result not of the Law alone but of the Law joined with the Gospel. Indeed, one cannot fully or truly repent of sin until one is awakened to the depth of Christ's love revealed in his suffering and death at Calvary. Both the Law and Gospel are a means of the redemptive grace of God by which he both convicts people of sin and awakens them to faith in Jesus Christ. This same redemptive grace creates within one a desire for salvation so that one is prompted to seek for the mercy of Christ. This very seeking is conditional on the divine calling (cf. Psalm 27:8), since the natural man in and of himself cannot seek for God (Romans 3:11; Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3). The person who seeks for salvation is on the way to conversion, but he is not truly converted until his seeking culminates in repentance and faith. And faith itself is not fulfilled apart from obedience to the commandment of Christ (1 Peter 1:5-7).

It is possible to speak of a type of faith that is already operative in the early stages of the sinner's salvation, but as Wesley says, it is "a low species of faith, i.e., a supernatural sense of an offended God."30 It is not yet faith in Christ and his Gospel, which alone is saving faith. The Samaritans in Acts 8 and the Ephesians in Acts 19, it can be argued, had this preliminary or external faith but not yet "the full assurance of faith" which characterizes the truly converted, those whose hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22) The same can be said for the disciples of Jesus, as has been indicated. True faith is the wellspring of true repentance, but there is no true faith apart from the gift of the indwelling Spirit.

Erroneoous Interpretations

Erroneous interpretations of the new birth are surprisingly abundant, especially today. On the right there are the dangers of sacramentalism and predestinarianism and on the left, religious enthusiasm and perfectionism.

In the circles of enthusiasm the new birth is frequently reduced to a stereotyped experience, which is considered the hallmark if not the essence of the new birth. In the Halle brand of Pietism this experience was conceived as a struggle toward repentance (Busskampf), in which people were inwardly stricken with sin. Upwelling joy and assurance were regarded as further distinctive signs of the new birth.

Page 20

Many insist upon a datable, palpable experience of conversion, and it is a fact that a study of the lives of the great saints of the church nearly always reveals some special personal salvific experience. This is true of Paul, Anthony, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Francke, Charles Finney, Moody, Wesley, John of the Cross, and Loyola. Yet not all these experiences necessarily coincided with the moment of translation from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. In some cases experiences after an initial conversion proved to have greater depth and intensity. Moreover, it can be shown that, in many cases, there was a preparation for the experience as well as a subsequent development of it. Conversion is both sudden and gradual, though the experience itself may often be cataclysmic.

It is also well to recognize that the great saints often warned against placing trust in one's feelings. Feelings can be deceptive, and one must persevere in faith even when there is an absence of joy or rapture in one's life. Hannah Whital Smith advises:

Pay no regard to your feelings ... in this matter of oneness with Christ, but see to it that you have the really vital fruits of a oneness in character and walk and mind. Your emotions may be very delightful, or they may be very depressing. In neither case are they any real indications of your spiritual state.31

Then there are those who interpret the experience of the new birth as so transforming that the Christian is no longer in the state of nature but wholly in the state of grace. They appeal to passages like 1 John 3:9: "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God" (cf. 1 John 5:18). While it is true that no one can sin in unioni with Christ, the irrefutable fact it that time and again we fall away from this unioin and thereby into sin. We have the power not to sin, but we inevitably, though not necessarily, succumb to the temptation to sin. John himself gives this word of warning: "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John: 1:10).

Against the enthusiasm of his day Luther contended that the decisive mark of being a Christian is the consciousness of sin. "No saint," he delcared, "regards and confesses himself to be righteous, but he always asks and waits to be justified."32 This orientation is also reflected in the writings of Pascal, Kierkegaard, Barth, and many others. It is evident, too, in the Baptist missionary Oswald Chambers: "No man knows what sin is until he is born again ... The evidence that I am delivered from sin is that I know the real nature of sin in me."33

Page 21

In the Holiness movement emerging int he middle nineteenth century, the doctrine of the second blessing was advanced: it was asserted that a second experience after conversion brings entire sanctification or perfection. The rudiments of this idea are to be found in John Wesley, who clearly distinguished between justification on the one hand, and on the other, perfection in love, which he associated with a second crisis experience. Among those representative of this movement were Charles Finney, Joseph H. Smith, Hannah Whitall Smith, Andrew Murray, Daniel Warner, and Samuel Brengle. Like most spiritual movements this one contains a solid core of truth, namely, that there are blessings of the Spirit beyong conversion and that a relative perfection is attainable in this life. Yet many of the people involved went further, speaking of sinless perfection whereby one was belileved to be free from the very taint of sin though not from temptation. It was said that the sanctified Christian is still stained by faults and weaknesses in character, but he is free from actual sin. If sin is conceived as a conscious transgression of a known law of God, as Wesley defined it, there there is some substance to the Holiness allegation. But if sin is though of as any inclination to eveil within man, in the manner of the Reformation, then, of course, no one, not even a sanctified Christian, can be free from sin. Wesley himself never claimed to have achieved entire or total sanctification and maintained that even the perfected Christian is guilty of sins of omission and therefore must continue to pray the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses."

The experience of the second blessing was sometimes called the filling of the Holy Spirit and the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and the door was thereby opened to separating the new birth from the gift of the Spirit. This signified a clear divergence from Wesley, but the idea became ever more prevalent that the new birth is only a condition or preparation for the higher experience in the Christian life, perfection in love or the baptism of the Spirit.

In Pentecostalism, which grew out of the Holiness movement, the second experience was said to be accompanied by the sign of speaking in tongues. Some Pentecostals distinguished three aspects of the Spirit's activity: his regenerating, sanctifying, and energizing work. Beyond Christian perfection is the experience of empowering for public witness, and it is this which is considered the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Most Pentecostals, however, follow the position of the Assemblies of God in equating the second crisis experience with the baptism in the Spirit. Some conceive this experience as a baptism of love and associate it with Christian perfection (as in the Holiness churches);

Page 22

others see it as one of empowering for service and regard sanctification as progressive (as in the Assemblies of God) rather than instantaneous.

None of these positions is without some biblical support, and it must be remembered that we, too, speak of stages in regeneration. Yet we insist that the baptism of the Spirit must not be distinguished from the new birth. There is one baptism -- into the body of Christ (Galatians 3:27; 1 Cor. 12:13), and this baptism signifies the entrance of the Holy Spirit into our lives. To be "baptized with the Holy Spirit" is tantamount to "repentance unto life" (Acts 11:16-18). Yet Spirit-baptism has two sides: regeneration and empowering. The initiation into the Christian community may precede the consecration to his service, though ideally the two go together. Moreover, there is the promise of deeper empowering and further purification, which the New Testament calls being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Again, there are anointings and visitations of the Spirit that equip the saints for special ministries. Peter, who had been baptized and filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, received a further visitation of the Spirit (a second blessing?), which enabled him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). In Ephesians 1:16-19. Paul prays that God will grant those who already believe a "Spirit of wisdom and revelation" (cf. Romans 12:2; 2 Timothy 1:6). This can take the form of a definite experience, though it is always an ongoing process as well.34

At the same time, we must not presume that faith needs to be superseded by love; rather, faith needs to be deepened. Faith itself is an empowering; indeed, it is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). In the decision of faith we were "washed," "sanctified," and "justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). Karl Adam has rightly observed: "If it be genuine divine faith, the faith of a Christian is in very truth a 'showing of the spirit and of the power' of the Holy Ghost."35 We must not strive for a higher salvation beyond faith but seek the renewal of our faith. Indeed, we must return to the wellspring of our faith, our crucifixion and burial with Christ at Calvary, the outward sign of which is Holy Baptism (cf. Romans 6:3-6; Col. 2:12).

It is a promising ecumenical sign that some Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals today are reexamining their position and are not giving the new birth more prominence. The view held by some (Derek Prince, Harold Horton) that the Holy Spirit is only with the believer in conversion but comes to abide within him in Spirit-baptism is increasingly coming under criticism. Arnold Bittlinger sees the Pentecostal experience as a manifestation of the presence of the Spirit who already dwells

Page 23

within the born-again Christian. "We Christians," he declares, "do not look for a special act of receiving the Spirit in 'sealing' or "Spirit-baptism,' but we know that the Holy Spirit dwells in each Christian and also in each Christian can, and wants to, become manifest."36

The tension between Reformation theology and Holilness-Pentecostal theology is similar to that which exists between the former and Christian mysticism. Whereas the Reformed faith stresses the theology of the cross (theologia crucis), the mystics and enthusiasts put the accent on the theology of glory (theologia gloriae). While one tradition concentrates on bearing the cross in lowly discipleship and waiting for the manifestation of glory on the last day, the other contends that we can enter into this glory already, that heaven can be experienced now.37 There is truth in both sides, since the person of faith can have a foretaste of the glory that is to be revealed (1 Peter 5:1; cf. 2 Cor. 1:22; 3:18). At the same time the experience of glory is only partial, and the life of faith entails waiting and hoping, not a continual basking in this glory. Because the Christian is still a sinner, he must not claim too much and must always look forward to the second coming of Christ (Romans 8:22-23). The Holy Spirit indeed now abides within us, but he is not within our control or possession. He directs us to the eschatological day of redemptioni, which still lies ahead of us.

Karl Barth, who seeks to do justice to both dimensions of salvation -- past reconciliation and future redemption, gives this timely warning: "To desire to receive redemption prematurely, to possess it, to feel it, to give it form and actuality in our own experience, leads not merely to unprofitable illusions but to disobedience and rebellion."38 Barth does not deny that redemption and eternal life are already assured to the Christian: "Grace has already in itself redemption, the life eternal. ... God is already, now and here, all in all to the sinner. But all in faith .... For redemption in its true, strict sense we wait."39

While the enthusiasts and mystics are prone to give undue weight to extraordinary experiences of conversion, neo-Protestantism and neo-Catholicism stress the continuity between nature and grace. In this perspective conversion is simply the unfolding of what is already present within the human soul. A universal prevenient grace is affirmed by which one can prepare himself to receive the gift of conversion. In liberal theology it is commonly asserted that one grows into grace or faith instead of making a decisive leap of faith.

According to Horace Bushnell "the child is to grow up a Christian, and never know himself as being otherwise."40 Though he criticized the

Page 24

humanistic view that growth in Christian character is a "vegetable process," a mere "outward development," Bushnell averred that in families that are united in covenant with Christ, the child is already "regenerate when born."41 He will grow up into Christianity naturally just as he grows up into citizenship. The child should be conscious of himself as already a Christian, though he will need to struggle agaisnt evil as he grows into a mature faith.42

In evangelical theology one is neither born a Christian nor grows into Christianity; instead he must be challenged to make a life and death decision. He needs to make a decisive break with the old pattern of living. He must be translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). One is not a Christian by nature, but he must be reborn as a Christian through the grace of God.43

The divine summonos that comes to us is not simply to accept the fact that we have already been accepted into the family of God (as in some neo-Lutheran and Barthian theology). Rather, we are called to lay hold of the outstretched hand of Jesus Christ, to respond to his gracious invitation, and apart from our response we are not included in God's family. Faith is not simply an acknowledgement of God's saving work in Christe: it is the indispensable means by which this saving work is realized in our lives.

In secular-liberation theology, which is now in vogue, we find a blending of liberal and radical motifs. Conversion is seen as involving a decisive break not with man's inherent drive for power but with the conditions that hold people in economic and political bondage. The new birth signifies an intiation into the revolutionary struggle for a new world. Paulo Freire puts it this way: "The real Easter is not commemorative rhetoric. It is praxis; it is historical involvement ... I can only experience rebirth at the side of the oppressed by being born again, with them, in the process of liberation."44 What is disturbing about this point of view is that it locates the misery of man in oppressive conditions in society rather than in the concupiscence within the heart of man and sees a revollution by violence as a way to salvation.

Finally, we need once more to consider the heresy of sacramentalism, where grace is believed to be given automatically even to those who cannot yet make a response in faith. Sacramentalism is to be found not only in Roman Catholicism but also in Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglo-Catholicism and high-church Lutheranism. It is also a conspicuous feature of Mormonism, which teaches that baptism and the laying on of hands are absolutely necessary for justification. The baptism of the dead is practiced in that communion, since even the departed cannot

Page 25

partake of glory unless their sins are cleansed through vicarious baptism.

In the medieval period the sacrament of confirmation received prominent attention. In some circles it was regarded as the fulfillment of baptism, whereby the child was given an opportunity to make a public profession of faith. Baptism was seen as the sacrament of the new birth and confirmation as the sacrament of growth and spiritual maturity. While the remission of sins is conveyed through baptism, the empowering of the Spirit is given through confirmation. In our time Dom Gregory Dix, Anglo-Catholic Benedictine, conceives of confirmation as the seal of the Spirit and baptism as the sign of the remission of sins.45 Baptism in water is only a preliminary to the baptism of the Spirit given in confirmation. What is disconcedrting in this theological tradition is that Calvary is separated from Pentecost, thereby pointing to an affinity with Pentecostalism. We endorse the rite of confirmation not as a sacrament whereby grace is necessarily imparted but as a commissioning service in which one confirms the vows made on his behalf at his baptism.46 Baptism is the sacrament of both Calvary and Pentecost, though the reality of both these events will be experienced somewhat later in the case of those who are baptized as infants.

Our position is not very far from that of Evangelical Pietism in its earlier phase, where the reality of baptismal grace was affirmed without in any way minimizing the need for a personal profession of faith. Kierkegaard echoed the views of many sensitive souls within the state churches: "If people absolutely insist on infant baptism, then they ought all the more vigorously see to it that rebirth becomes a decisive determinant in becoming a Christian."47 What Kierkegaard called "the Moment of decision" of course does not happen at confirmation but is presupposed by confirmation. This solitary decision of faith can only be made when the Holy Spirit is poured out on the sinner, and this is not within man's control. The sacrament of baptism proclaims the miracle of conversion, but it does not guarantee it. As our Lord declared: "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).

Evangelical revivalism protested against both the sacramentalist view, in which one is automatically baptized into the body of Christe, and the Reformed covenant view, in which one is regenerate by virtue of having been born in the covenant community. Yet, especially in its later phases, Evangelicalism also succumbed to the temptation of formalism in its invitational or altar-call, where decisions of faith were

Page 26

called for at the end of a revival service. In early nineteenth-century revivalism on the American frontier this decision involved considerable agaonizing and sometimes days of deliberation. The place of decision, the mourner's bench, was regarded as an altar of repentance, and it frequently turned out to be so. When revivalism became more domesticated, the mourner's bench was replaced by a counseling room or simply by the act of going forward and bowing for a moment at the altar. The new birth was reduced to a packaged formula, and what David du Plessis calls "the sovereign unpredictability of the Holy Spirit" was disregarded. Some contemporary evangelists, including Billy Graham, have recognized the dangers of confusing decisions at the altar with the new birth itself. Graham now prefers to speak of public decisions as inquiries rather than conversions.

It is not within man's power, nor even within the power of the church, to bring about the new birth. The church can only proclaim the Word and hope and pray that the Spirit of God, who alone can penetrate the hearts of sinners, will act in his own time and way. Baptism by water is the sacramental sign of the new birth, but baptism itself does not effect the new birth. Like the Word of God itself baptism can be an instrument of the Spirit's redemptive action, but it is not a precondition for this action. The new birth will be accompanied by conviction of sin and assurance of salvation, but these are not absolute guarantees that the new birth has actually occurred, since feelings are not always trustworthy. The new birth may be followed by mystical phenomena, including speaking in tongues, but these, too, cannot be considered rational or even experiential proofs. Our certainty is based not onourfeelings or experienceds but on the promises of God in Scripture that whoever calls on the name of the Christ will be saved (Acts 2:21; 16:31; Mark 16:16), and whoever repents and believes will indeed receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Yet repentance and the obedience of faith are not the presuppositions of the new birth but the evidence and consequence of it.

The new birth signifies the concrete realization of divine predistination in the lives of the sdaints. This does not mean that we should simply sit back and do nothing. We can earnestly hope and pray for the gift of the Spirit. We can go to the church where the Word is proclaimed, for we have been told that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). Our obedience before faith remains a dead work of the law unless it is fulfilled in faith (Bonhoeffer). It is is fulfilled in faith, then this is a sign that the Holy Spirit has already been working upon us, that we have already been made beneficiaries of God's special solicitude. God's efficacious

Page 27

grace does not render us powerless but instead empowers us for faith, service, and discipleship under the cross. The new birth means to enter into the full dispensation of Christian freedom, yet freedom, true freedom, needs to be constantly exercised if it is to serve the cause of the kingdom.


1. C.C. Goen, ed., The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 4 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), p. 177.

2. John Calvin, "Reply to Sadoleto," in The Protestant Reformation, ed. Hans J. Hillerbrand (New York: Walker & Co., 1968), p. 163.

3. We here have in mind such respected scholars as Gerhard Krodel and Tormod Engelsviken. Similarly, Edmund Schlink makes the distinction between the Spirit creating faith and the gift of the Spirit in baptism (The Doctrine of Baptism, trans. Herbert J.A. Bouman (St. Louis: Concordia, 1969), pp. 71, 77). Also see K.F. Noesgen, Geschichte der Lehre vom Heligen Geiste (Gutersloh: Druck und Verlag von C. Bertelsmann, 1899). Noesgen contends that Luther distinguishes between the Spirit as sender or mediator and the gift of the Spirit to our hearts (pp. 137-138).

4. It should be recognized that in Acts Luke generally sees the gift of the Spirit in terms of charismatic manifestations which accompany or follow faith. Even where the reference is to salvation, the charismatic dimension is very much apparent (as in Acts 10:44; 8:14-24; 19:1-7).

5. We can affirm with Hollazius: "Regeneration is the action of the Holy Spirit, efficacious and sufficient to produce faith." In Heinrich Schmid, ed., The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3rd ed. (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961), p. 464.

6. Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, ed. Philip Watson (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1953), p. 340.

7. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1967), p. 342.

8. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV, 4, ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1969), p. 9.

9. Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV, 2, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1958), p. 563.

10. "Oour conversion may be sudden or slow, but its type and idea is given in the swift, sharp, decisive and permanent cases of it represented by St. Paul's." P.T. Forsyth, This Life and the Next (London: Independent Press, 1918), p. 86.

12. Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, 12, 2 ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. Ross Mackenzie. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), p. 265.

13. John Calvin, Commentaries ont he Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the

Page 28

Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, trans. John Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1851), p. 98.

14. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, vol. 21, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia, 1956), p. 299.

15. Abraham Kuyper, The Word of the Holy Spirit, trans. Henri De Vries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), p. 327.

16. Cited in J.F. Findlay, Jr., Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist, 1837-1899 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Reprint, 1973), p. 240.

17. See James Hastings Nichols, Romanticism in American Theology (Chicago: Universitsy of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 245.

18. For the debate between Jeremias and Aland on whether infant baptism goes back to the apostolic church see Joachim Jeremias, Infant Baptism in the First Centuries (London: SCM Press, 1960); Jeremias, Baptism: A Further Study in Reply to Kurt Aland, trans. Dorothea M. Barton (Naperville, Ill.: A.R. Allenson, 1963); and kurt Aland, Did the Early Church Baptize Infants? trans. G.R. Beasley-Murray (London: SCM Press, 1963). Aland argues that the practice of infant baptism emerged around A.D. 200.

19. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion trans, Henry Beveridge Vol. II (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957) IV, 16, 20, p. 543.

20. Procatechesis 4. Cited in Simon Tugwell, Did You Receive the Spirit? (New York: Paulist Press, 1973), p. 52.

21. Tugwell, Did You Receive the Spirit? p. 52.

22. See Paul C. Empie and William W. Baum, eds., Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue, II (New York: National Lutheran Council, 1966); Hans Kung, The Church, trans. Ray ockenden and Rosaleen Ockenden (N.Y.: Sheed & Ward, 1967), pp. 203-211; Tugwell, Did You Receive the Spirit?, pp. 50-58.

23. Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, p. 252.

24. Luther's Works, vol. 34, p. 164. Cf.: "As often as a person comes into faith anew, so often Christ is born in him." Luther, Martin Luthers Werke (Weimarer Ausgabe, 1883 ff.) (Henceforth known as W.A.) 10, 1, 1, p. 387.

25. Sermon on Romans 5:6. Cited in Carl W. Bogue, Jonathan Edwards and the Covenant of Grace (Cherry Hill, N.J.: Mack Publishing Co., 1975), p. 219.

26. Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, trans. David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1944), p. 333.

27. Soren Kierkegaard, The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard 1834-1854, ed. and trans. Alexander Dru (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), p. 28.

28. We can say that the Holy Spirit in this stage assists the will without transforming the will. He augments what is already in nature but does not yet impart a new nature.

This may seem strikingly similar to Jonathan Edwards' position, since he, too, posits a seeking for God prior to the new birth. He, too, makes a place for preparatory grace before conversion. Yet in contradistinction to Edwards we maintain that the person who seeks for God is to be considered not spiritually lost but assuredly on the way to regeneration, even though the Holy Spirit does not yet dwell within him as the abiding principle of the new life. For Edwards our seeking is a recognition that we are now spiritually condemned but that

Page 29

we may be saved if we persist in our seeking. In our view our seeking is a sign that salvation is assured to us, indeed already extended to us. Edwards maintains that our seeking is a natural ability that is simply stimulated by the Spirit. We contend that our seeking for salvation is a potentiality aroused in nature by the special, miraculous work of the Spirit upon nature.

Edwards differentiates between the seeking made possible by common grace and the genuine seeking for Christ that is a product of regeneration. We too acknowledge that the preliminary seeking for the help of God is not yet the seeking of faith, since it is invariably mixed with unworthy motivation, including a desire for our own security and welfare rather than God's glory. At the same time, such seeking is not to be regarded as obnoxious in the eyes of God (as Edwards insinuates), since it is caused by the preliminary work of the Holy Spirit.

For a stimulating discussion of the two kinds of seeking in Edwards see Bogue, Bonathan Edwards and the Covenant of Grace, pp. 279-298.

29. Heinrich Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, p. 460.

30. Albert Outler, ed., John Wesley (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 137.

31. Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1952), p. 222.

32. Wilhelm Pauck, ed. and trans., Luther: Lectures on Romans (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961), p. 113.

33. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest p. 361.

34. For an illulminating discussion of the work of the Spirit both in and after baptism see Tugwell, Did You Receive the Spirit?

35. Karl Adam, Christ Our Brother, trans. Dom Justin McCann (New York: Macmillan, 1931), p. 165.

36. Cited in J. Rodman Williams, The Pentecostal Reality (Plainfield, N.J.: Logos, 1973), p. 64.

37. A theology of glory is patently reflected in this statement of the nineteenth-century Carmelite mystic, Mary of Jesus: "Spiritual joy is the radiance of love, it is the flower of charity, it is the delight of him who loves and of him who is loved .... Joy gives wings to the soul, raising it above the earth, its trials and its sufferings, to soar to God alone." In her A Carmelite of the Sacred Heart, trans. M.E. Arendrug (New York: Benziger, 1923), pp. 126, 127.

38. Karl Barth, Theology and Church, trans. Louise Pettibone Smith (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 348.

39. Ibid.

40. Horace Bushnell, Christian Nurture, reprinted. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), p. 4.

41. Ibid., p. 197.

42. This covenantal view is anticipated in Calvin, who regarded children within the covenant as "presumably regenerated." Yet Calvin also made a definite place for personal conversion in the plan of salvation.

43. Bultmann reflects the biblical view when he declares: "For rebirth means ... something more than an improvement in man; it means that man receives a new origin, and this is manifestly something which he cannot give

Page 30

himself." In Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, trans. G. R. Beasley-Murray, eds., R.W.N. Hoare and J.K. Riches (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971), p. 137.

44. Paulo Freire, "Education, Liberation and the Church." In A Reader in Political Theology, ed. Alistair Kee (Philadelphia: WEstminster Press, 1974), [pp. 100-106], pp. 101-102

45. Dom Gregory Dix, The Theology of Confirmation in Relation to Baptism, 3rd ed. (Plymouth, England: Bowering Press, 1953).

46. See Donald G. Bloesch, The Reform of the Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 87-95.

47. Howard Hong and Edna H. Hong, eds. and trans., Soren Kiergegaard's Journals and Papers, vol. 1 (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1967), p. 219.

III. Spiritual Holiness

For dominion belongs

In a time of religious

Scriptural Holiness

Strive ... for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

1 Thessalonians 4:7

Because they have been called to holiness, the entire life of all Christians must be an exercise in piety.

John Calvin

Gospel holiness differs greatly from the holiness of man in innocency. Man had the Holy Ghost then as the Spirit of God but now he must have Him as the Spirit of the Son of God, the Spirit of a Redeemer.

Jonathan Edwards

Repentance is the porch of religion, Faith is the door of religion, Holiness is religion itself.

John Wesley

We need the work of the Holy Spirit as well as the work of Christ; we need renewal of the heart as well as the atoning blood; we need to be sanctified as well as justified.

Bishop J.C. Ryle

Holiness is the architectural plan on which God builds up His living temple. God has set apart His people from before the foundation of the world to be His chosen and peculiar inheritance.

Charles H. Spurgeon


The Call To Holiness

The call to holiness resounds throughout the Scriptures, and in every church and theology rooted in the Scriptures. According to the Bible only God is holy in the full sense of this word. His holiness is his power, majesty, righteousness, and love. Such holiness has the character of depth and mystery and elicits reverence, awe, and fascination. While God's holiness is realized in its fullness on the plane of humanity only in Jesus Christ, all believers participate to some degree in it.

Page 32

Indeed, God declares his children righteous and holy through faith (Genesis 15:6). To be righteous means to stand in a right relationship with God; to be holy connotes separateness as well as ethical purity. We are made righteous in order to pursue holiness (Col. 1:21-22). We receive travails and crosses from the hand of God so that we might share in his holiness (Heb. 12:10).

The Scriptures do not teach self-sanctification, but they do depict man as active in realizing the fruits of his sanctification in Christ. The righteousness of faith is based on the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross, but the righteousness of daily living is conditional upon our cooperation with the Holy Spirit.1 The work of Christ is substitutionary, but the work of the Holy Spirit is not. He engrafts us into the body of Christ so that we might strive for the holiness which Christ exemplifies (Heb. 12:14). It is not enough to believe in the light; we must also walk in the light (1 John 1:6-7; Eph. 5:8). We are not co-redeemers in procuring the light of salvation, but we are co-workers in manifesting this light. Christian practice is the proof and consequence of authentic discipleship (John 15:8). Though the grace of God is sufficient, it must be given maximum effect by the earnest endeavors of believers. A living faith will give rise to godliness and brotherly love (1 Peter 1:5-7).

Yet the Scriptures also teach us that the basis of our acceptability before God is not our own holiness but the righteousness of faith in Jesus Christ. The gift of righteousness (Romans 3:21-22; 5:17), which is imputed, must not be confounded with the gift of sancifying love (Romans 5:5; 6:22; Heb. 6: 4-5), which is imparted. Moreover, it is not our own works in and of themselves that deserve a reward after faith. Our works count for nothing unless they are united with the regenerating and purifying work of the Holy Spirit within us. God equips us with all we need for doing his will, but it is he, working in us, who makes our work pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:21).

The biblical meaning of piety is fear of the Lord. It is deemed one of the seven gifts of the Spirit in traditional Roman Catholic theology (Isaiah 11:2). Piety is focusing attention upon God and his self-revelation in Jesus Christ, not upon our own spiriutal status or experience. Moses was able to endure because he saw "him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27). Piety is seeking to know Christ and the power of his resurrection in the hope of attaining the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11).

Piety or godliness is a gift from God, but it is also a goal that we should strive to realize. The motivation and power come from the Holy Spirit, but it is up to us to cooperate with the Spirit in bringing this blessing to fruition. "Train yourself in godliness," the apostle advises,

Page 33

"for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. ... For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God ..." (1 Timothy 4:7-10).

In the patristic period the pursuit of holiness was held in high esteem, but biblical motifs were often subverted by too great an openness to Graeco-Roman philosophy. Christ came to be depicted as a teacher and law-giver, and the Christian faith was regarded in many circles as a new code of ethics. The emphasis of the apologists was on the imitation of Christ as an example and on obedience to Christ as teacher. Christianity was distinguished from pagan religions by its superior standard of moral conduct. For Clement of Alexandria Jesus Christ was a tutor whose aim was to improve the souls of h is charges and to train them for a virtuous life. In this theology it is "by learning that people become noble and good." Harnack observed: "It is not Judaeo-Christianity that lies behind the ... doctrines of the Apologists, but Greek philosophy ... the Alexandrine-Jewish apologetics," and "the maxims of Jesus."2

This is not to discount those among the church fathers who placed the accent on the atoning sacrifice of Christ and salvation by grace (e.g., Athanasius, Irenaeus). Yet even with them the emphasis was not simply on the descent of God to man but on the ascent of man to God. This idea in itself has a biblical basis (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3-4), but attention came to be focused on the holy life as a means to salvation. Moreover, through the influence of Gnosticism and Platonism it came to be believed that perfect, active holines is attained by the renunciation of all earthly blessings, even of life itself. In the dualistic asceticism that eventually prevailed one sought to gain release from the body in order to return to the World Soul, or the ground of all being. After the age of the martyrs, anchorites and monks were seen as the new models of holiness. The Christian life was viewed as a preparation for death (Irenaeus). This world was depicted as a vale of tears which had to be endured through patience and resignation. The Platonic Eros came to overshadow the New Testament Agape (particularly in Dionysius). The goal in life was reunion with the Eternal, deification, the perfection and realization of the self in union with God. This was a far cry from the biblical understanding of the Christian life as one of outgoing service to one's neighbor, oblivious of any gain for the self.

In the medieval period a dual standard of moralilty came to prevail. A distinction was drawn between the active and the contemplative life; the former, oriented about corporeal works of mercy, was believed to

Page 34

be inferior to the latter, where attention was devoted exclusively to the love of God and the beatific vision. The religious life, which connoted separation from the world, was considered more worthy before God than the secular life, life in the world. Whereas the religious were under the counsels of perfection (poverty, celibacy, obedience) ordinary Christians were only under the commandments. Botho ways, of course, lead to haven, but the counsels give a practical assurance of eternal life. Holiness was seen as a higher happiness, and love (Caritas) was regarded as self-perfecting, under the influence of the Platonic Eros (see Nygren). While salvation was still thought to be anchored and grounded in the grace of God, the growing consensus was that it could at the same time be earned through works that proceed from faith. Little by little holinessd came to be understood as a task rather than a gift. Although both these notions have roots in the Bible, the task of holy living is never regarded as the condition or prerequisite for salvation and justification (as in the later medieval period).

The Reformers of the sixteenth century sharply protested against the works-righteousness that had come to dominate the piety of the cloister. To counteract the view that costly discipleship is intended only for the religious elite, Luther and Calvin sounded the universal call to discipleship. Luther opposed not the pursuit of holiness but the idea that one's own efforts toward holiness merit eternal salvation. He also firmly rejected the notion that holiness is for those who embark on an ostensibly relilgious life and not for all Christians. He sought to extend rather than restrict the call to holiness: "I hop that by this time almost everybody knows that whoever prides himself on being a Christian must also take pride in being holy and righteous. Since Christendom is holy, a Christian must also be righteous and holy, or he is not a Christian."3

While the popular piety of his time understood holiness in quantitative terms, as a matter of greater or lesser degree, Luther viewed the Christian as sinful and righteous at the same time (simul peccator ac iustus). The separation is not between those who are more holy and those who are less holy but between those who trust in Christ for their salvation and those whose confidence lies in their own works and experiences. The Christian is always a sinner because he is never freed from the contagion of sin, though he can withstand and subdue this through repentance and faith. At the same time the Christian is always righteous because he is covered by the righteousness of Christ through faith. Justification is an act whereby God declares the sinner righteous through faith in the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Page 35

Luther did not deny the regenerating work of the Spirit but insisted that this interior work of purifcation is a life-long process, completed only at death. The righteousness which justifies us is not this inherent righteousness, which is incomplete, but the alien righeousness of Christ, which is perfect in the eyes of God. Luther expressed the paradox of the Christian's life this way: "He is perfectly whole in hope, while he is in fact a sinner, but he has already begun to be actually righteous, and he always seeks to become more so, always knowing himself to be unrighteous."4 The Christian is righteous not in fact but in hope. He cannot boast of his own righteousness, since it is always accompanied by the inclination to sin. He is victorious over sin only when he ceases to rely on his own strength and trusts only in the might and power of Christ. "In this trial and struggle," Luther wreote, "the righteous man always resembles more a loser than a victor, for the Lord lets him be tested and assailed to his utmost limits as gold is tested in a furnace."5

While the medieval theologians were concerned with an active righteousness, in which man is an active aollaborator with the grace of God, Luther's emphasis was on passive righteousness. It is not produced by us but provided for us. It is God-given, not man-made. This is why it is alien to our perception and to our being, though its effects take root within us through faith and hope.

Luther repudiated not good works but works-righteousness. If he emphasized the continuing sinfulness of the Christian, he also sought to hold out the note of vitory over sin in the life of the Christian. "Christ did not so die for sinners that we might continue to live in sin.... Rather He came to redeem men from sin."6 Thus "a Christian struggles with sin continually, and yet in his struggle he does not surrender but obtains the victory."7 The Christian life should be characterized by works of love, but these good works are the sign and fruit of our salvation, not its basis. They show to the world that we are justified, but they do not earn divine justification.

In his later years, because of the controversy in which he was engaged, Luther placed the accent more and more upon extrinsic or forensic justification and sometimes lost sight of its mystical dimension. While he never separated justification and the life of regeneration, he often gave the impression that trust in the holiness of Christ is far more important than the pursuit of holiness in daily living.8 Though in the biblical perspective this is true, it must not be supposed that the pursuit of holiness is of little importance. Luther sometimes suggested this, but some of his followers went further and actually denigrated the life of holiness.

Page 36

It remained for Calvin to give due recognition to the pursuit of holiness. Whereas for Luther the dominant motif was the justification of the ungodly, for Calvin the pervading concern was the Christian life. Nonetheless, he too saw forensic justification as the foundation of the holy life, but the purpose and goal of justification is perfection in holiness. Our calling, he declared, "demands purity of life and nothing less; we have been freed from sin to this end, that we may obey righteousness."9 While Luther frowned upon the cultivation of interior piety, Calvin believed that our entire lives must be an exercise in piety, which he defined as "that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces."10 In addition to upholding Christ as the Savior from sin, Calvin also saw him as a model or example for righteous living.11 Indeed, "only those can be called disciples of Christ who truly imitate him and are prepared to follow in His footsteps."12 To follow Christ in discipleship entails self-denial and the willing bearing of the cross. To spurn the call to discipleship and holiness is to render the cross of Christ ineffectual: "Paul not only exhorts us to exhibit an example of Christ's death but declares that there inheres in it an efficacy which ought to be manifest in all Christians, unless they intend to render his death useless and unfruitful."13

At the same time, Calvin agreed with Luther that the presence of sin can never be entirely eradicated in the Christian while he is still in mortal flesh. The work of regeneration is effected not in one eventful experience but throughout the life of the Christian. "And indeed, this restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year; but through continual and sometimes even slow advances God wipes out in his elect the corruptions of the flesh ... "14

Even more than Calvin, the Anabaptists stressed the need for holy living, not simply as a fruit and sign of salvation but as a condition for continuing salvation.15 They accepted justification by grace through faith, but this is not the whole of salvation. We must also go on to sanctification, which entails cross-bearing, mortification of the flesh, and separation from the world. They sought to combine the medieval stress on the holy life with the FReformation emphasis on faith and grace. According to Menno Simons we are not only accounted righteous by faith but "the righteous must live his faith."

In the polemics that followed the Reformation right doctrine came to be viewed as more important than right living, and the call to holiness, which was present in the original Reformation, receded more and more into the background. It remained for the movements of Pietism and Puritanism to recover this dimension of the Christian faith

Page 37

for the mainline churches within Protestantism. The Christian life was seen not simply as a by-product of salvation (as in later Protestant orthodoxy) but as the arena of salvation, the field in which salvation is recovered and renewed. Jonathan Edwards expressed it this way: "Those who fight as those that beat the air, never win the crown of victory ... the kingdom of heaven is not to be taken but by violence."16 The notion of the heart-prepared camed to dominate in Puritanism, where the Christian was summoned to cooperate with preparatory grace so that he might be ready to receive the work of justification.17 Yet for many of the Puritans our seeking for salvation is already a sign that we have tasted of the grace of justification, that we are already within the sphere of the kingdom.

In Pietism and Puritanism the holy life was regarded as the inevitable consequence of interior renewal. The Holy Spirit does not simply bring knowledge of what Christ has done but implements and actualizes the work of Christ in the personal history of his people. The revelation in the Bible is not completed in a theological or conceptual system (as in Protestant scholastic orthodoxy) but in the life history of the believer. As Philip Spener phrased it: "It is by no means enough to have knowledge of the Christian faith, for Christianity consists rather of practice."18 Francke preached that an outwardly honorable walk of life is insufficient: the entire inner man must be renewed in holiness. Good works are not simply a testimony of our salvation but its goal and crown. "Though we are not saved by good works, as procuring causes," declared Walter Marshall, "yet we are saved to good works, as fruits and effects of saving grace."19

Whereas the Reformers focused their attention primarily on the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom in the world, the Pietists were concerned with personal salvation and the demonstration of this salvation in daily living. This is not to deny that they, too, were devoted to the glory of God, but one's own salvation as well as the conversion of souls to Jesus Christ are precisely what gives glory to God. Spener sought to preserve a balance between the goals in life in this way: "Next to God's glory my great object is that God shall save my soul and those whom he has entrusted to me."20

An otherworldliness characterized Pietism; this was not, however, the world-denying spirituality of a certain kind of Catholic mysticism but an evangelical spirituality that sought to bring the heavenly vision to bear on practical activities in this world. Asceticism came to be seen not as a means to salvation (as in popular medieval piety) but as a method of service by which the Gospel is carried into the world in both

Page 38

words and deeds. The Puritans encouraged people to distrust the world and to look for true life in spiritual religion. Yet, armored in the righteousness of God, they could then sally forth against the world and bring it into submission to Jesus Christ. Included in the Puritan dream were holy commonwealths in which the Law of God would be brought to bear upon the political and economic life of nations.

Much more than the Reformers the Pietists emphasized the separated life.21 They saw themselves as a leaven in a hostile and fallen world. The way the world would be changed was through the creation of a new humanity by the grace of the Gospel. The radical Pietists, unlike the Puritans, sought to build not holy commonwealths but eschatlogical communities, anticipatory signs of the coming kingdom of God. Both Puritanism and Pietism signify a reaction against a purely external religion. The worship in the Anglican churches in England, as in the stsate churches of Protestant Europe, had become formalistic. Prayers were recited rather than spoken from the heart. Symbols and ceremonies gradually preempted the preaching of the Word. Crredalism came to be the badge of orthodoxy. Jonathan Edwards protested that outward ethics and mere profession of the creed save no one. Against a barren orthodoxy he stressed the necessity for a living experience of the Word of God. Spener believed that people would not come to a sufficient knowledge of Scripture by what they heard in church. This must be sustained by piety and the continuing study of the Bible in the home.

There was in Pietism, and also in PUritanism, a stress on the optimism of grace over the pessimism of nature (Gordon Rupp). This note finds poignant express in John Preston: "With every godly man, in every regenerate heart there is a Spring of Grace which works out anything that fouls it."22 The redeeming work fo the Holy Spirit was given virtually as much weight as the reconciling work of Christ on the cross. Christ in us (Christus in nobis) came to be seen as a necessary complement of Christ for us (Christus pro nobis). The focus was no longer on perseverance in faith under the cross but on victory over sin through power from on high. While Luther emphasized the continuing struggle against temptation and unbelief, the Pietists, though allowing for an initial period of struggle (Busskampf), stressed the joys of life and the assurance of God's favor in service to the world.

This same emphasis on the holy life can be detected in the later Evangelicalism of John Wesley and George Whitefield. With the Reformers Wesley maintained that the righteousness of Christ -- both his

Page 39

active and passive righteousness -- is the meritorious cause of our justification. Yet he insisted that though this alien righteousness entitles us to heaven, personal holiness is necessary to qualify us for heaven. "None shall live with God," he declared, "but he that now lives to God; none shall enjoy the glory of God in heaven but he that bears the image of God on earth."23 In Wesley's view personal holiness signifies the culmination and fruition of faith.

There is no doubt that the spiriutal movements of purification subsequent to the Reformation (Pietism, Puritanism, Evangelicalism) brought new life and vigor to the churches of the Reformation. In one sense, they signaled the fulfillment of the Reformation, since a reform in life is just as necessary as a reform in doctrine. At the same time, the legalism of taboos reappeared in these movements, especially in their later phases. The good news of God's free grace was frequently overshadowed by an overriding concern with one's own salvation or spiritual status.

The bane of legalism and moralism was particularly apparent in radical Pietism, which stressed the evangelical counsels, that is, nonresistance, not going to law courts, the absolute prohibition of divorce, and literally gaiving up the goods of life. Celibacy, too, came to be a requirement among some of the radical Pietists: here can be mentioned such religious communities as Ephrata, Bishop Hill, and Harmony. Johann Beissel, founder of the Ephrata community, taught that marriage represented a fall from grace. In the Amana Society and the Society of Separatists at Zoar, Ohio, celibacy was for a time deemed evidence of a higher spiritual state. This code of moralism was not present in the founders and guiding lights of the Pietist movement, including Spener, Francke, Wesley, and even Zinzendorf. While recognizing the merit in some of these practices, none of these men saw them as indicative of deeper sanctification nor as a prerequisite to full salvation.

On the modern scene two theologians who have reaffirmed the biblical call to holiness, but within the context of sola gratia are Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonheoffer was heavily influenced by Barth, and his Nachfolge (The Cost of Discipleship) was fully endorsed by Barth. Both these men reflect concerns of German Pietism as well as the Reformation. Barth has acknowledged his indebtedness to Johann Christoph Blumhardt and Kierkegaard and has spoken highly of Bengel and Zinzendorf.

Barth vigorously opposed a theology which takes for its point of departure man's religious experience (as in Schleiermacher), and this

Page 40

is why he often appears highly critical of an overt concern for personal piety and holiness. At the same time he affirmed the reality of a true piety, a biblical piety that points beyond itself to Jesus Christ. While he was accustomed to speak of both justification and sanctification as realities that have happened to man in Jesus Christ, Barth nevertheless contended that these realities must make contact with the actual ongoing lives of people. Sanctification is something that has happened to man in the cross of Christ, but it must also take place within man by the power of His Spirit. Faith is not ony cognitive but creative and regenerative, though the regeneration which the Spirit works within man is necessarily incomplete and partial. Nevertheless, it is possible for the believer to be faithful and obedient to Christ, since his life is now grounded in Christ and directed to him. According to Barth, "man is righteous and holy before God and on the way to eternal life to the degree that he lives by the grace of God and therefore for the grace of God, for its glorification in his creaturely existence."24 In and of themselves these works are the product of a living trust in Christ, they are acceptable before God. Barth goes beyond the Reformation in his view that it is possible for the man in Christ to do works that are truly pleasing in the sight of God. He also diverges from Luther and Calvin in maintaining that sin is not a part of, but alien to, the nature of man, and this is especially true for the Christian who is indwelt by the Spirit of God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer inveighed against what he termed cheap grace, which has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works. Cheap grace is the grace that assures the pardon of God without demanding repentance and obedience. It is something guaranteed to man, either through the sacraments or preaching, without sounding the call to discipleship. It is the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Costly grace is the grace that cost God the life of his own Son, and it must also cost us ours, our reputations, our time, as we seek to follow Christ. "When Christ calls a man," Bonhoeffer says, "he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther's, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time -- death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call."25

Bonhoeffer departs from the Reformation in maintaining that obedience must sometimes preced the gift of faith. He acknowledges, however, that such obedience is a dead work or the law unless it is

Page 41

fulfilled in a commitment of faith to Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer sees the relation of faith and obedience in terms of a paradox: only he who is obedient can believe, and only he who believes can be obedient.

According to Bonhoeffer the Reformers were mistaken in viewing the salt in Matthew 5:13 as the Gospel.26 The disciples themselves must be salt and light. They are called not only to uphold the Gospel before the world but to manifest the truth of the Gospel in their lives. The law of Christ must be not only taught but done, for "otherwise it is no better than the old law." The righteousness of Christ is not only a righteousness of faith; it must also be put into practice.

At the same time, Bonhoeffer is adamant that all the credit and glory for the practice of Christian righteousness must be given to God himself:

All our good works are the works of God himself, the works for which he has prepared us beforehand. Good works then are ordained for the sake of salvation, but they are in the end those which God himself works within us. They are his gift, but it is our task to walk in them at every moment of our lives, knowing all the time that any good works of our own could never help us to abide before the judgment of God.27

Even in his Letters and Papers from Prison Bonhoeffer maintains his intense concern for the practical demonstration of the Christian faith in daily life.28 His preoccupation now, however, is not simply with individual holiness but with social holiness. The Christian is summoned to strive and suffer "for the sake of justice, truth, and humanity." The ground of our faith is the reconciliation that God has worked for us in Christ, but the goal of our faith is the humanization of a world that has been bedeviled by a cultural and religious heritage that has crippled rather than supported man.

Justification and Sacntification

The call to holiness in the biblical sense cannot be adequately understood apart from an examination of the relation between justification and sanctification. Justification (dikaiosune) in the New Testament has primarily the forensic meaning of being accounted righteous before the divine tribunal. Sanctification (hagiasmos) means to be engrafted into the righteousness of God. Justification is imputed righteousness, whereas sanctification is imparted righteousness. In justification the guilt of sin is removed and in sanctification the stain of sin. Justification makes man acceptable to God; sanctification makes God

Page 42

desirable to man. Justification confers a new status whereas sanctification instills in man a new character. As justification is related to faith, so sanctification is related to love. Justification has logical priority over sanctification, since man is justified while he is still in his sins (Romans 5:6-8). But sanctification is the invariable corollary of justification, just as love is the necessary concomitant of faith. He who is forgiven must (justification) will love much (sanctification) (Luke 7:40-47).

Paul Tillich is helpful in the distinctions that he makes between justification, regeneration, and sanctification.29 Justification is acceptance of the New Being; regeneration is participation in the New Being; sanctification is transformation by the New Being. On the human plane regeneration has priority over justification, since no one can accept the message without participating in the power of the message. As a divine act, however, these two facets of salvation are one. Sanctification necessarily follows, and is dependent on, justification and regeneration. Tilich reminds us that the Lutheran emphasis was on justification, whereas the Pietist and Methodist stress has been on regeneration. It is the Spirit who works faith within us, and faith is a creative as well as a cognitive event.

In our view regeneration is, in one sense, the subjective pole of justification insofar as the Holy Spirit as well as the atoning death of Christ plays a role in justification. Regeneration can also properly be considered the beginning of sanctification, which is a lifelong process. Tillich's analysis has much to commend it, but we must insist (and Tillich would agree) that it is not the reality of justification that is dependent on regeneration but rather its efficacy in human life. God's will to justify us is based on the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ, not on the actual righteousness which the believer possesses.

The traditional controversy between Reformation Protestantism and Roman Catholicism has revolved about this issue: whether justification is based on an inherent righteousness which the Spirit bestows on man, or whether the latter is the consequence of the former. The Reformers were adamant that justification goes out to the undeserving and that any progress toward holiness is based on God's gratuitous favor toward man. In the Catholic view people are justified only to the degree that they are actually and morally renewed. Justification is virtually absorbed into sanctification so that its forensic dimension is obscured or ignored. The danger in the Reformation position is that justification can be conceived of as exlusively forensic, to the neglect of hit mystical and eschatological dimensions. Hans Kung, in his celebrated work Justification, accepts that biblical and Reformed distinction

Page 43

between justification and sanctification, though he is emphatic that the two can never be separated.30

Both Luther and Calvin affirmed the priority of justification (the sign of which is baptism). For Luther sanctification is not so much an increase in empirical piety as a continual taking refuge in Christ's righteousness. Progress in sanctification is a constant repetition of the beginning of justification. For Calvin, on the other hand, sanctification is a steady but sure ascent to Christian perfection. Justification is the narrow gate, while sanctification is the straight way. The metaphor that most clearly describes Luther's position is the ship or ark which holds sinners, not righteous people, but which is destined for the city of righteousness. If one falls away from grace, he must return to the ark (baptism). Calvin is more to be associated with the Augustinian and later medieval metaphor of the pilgrim road which begins at a definit point but on which some individual believers can make must more progress than others.

The ascetic dimension of Christian spirituality is considerably more pronounced in Calvinism than in original Lutheranism. It is especially apparent in this remark of Jonathan Edwards: "Without earnestness there is no getting along in that narrow way that leads to life ... Without earnest labor, there is no ascending the steep and high hill of Zion ... Slothfulness in the service of God ... is as damning as open rebellion."31

This ascetic dimension within Calvinism is again apparent in the way in which Calvin treated the Law of God. Whereas LUther saw the primary purpose of the Law as a mirror to show man his despair, Calvin saw it principally as a guide for Christian living. The Gospel does not so much abrogate the Law (as in Luther) but confirms and fulfills it. The Christian life consists not so much in freedom from the law as in keeping the commandments in the spirit of love.

Though Calvin regarded justification alone as the enduring basis of the Christian life, he strove to preserve a balance between justification and sanctification.32 His successors were often less zealous in this endeavor, particularly where Pietism came to be dominant.33 Yet the intent of the mainstream of Reformed theology was to regard both these facets of salvation as of prime importance, as can be seen in Heinrich Heppe's summary of othe historic Reformed position:

Page 44

Man needs this sanctification exactly as he does justification. The elect are called not only to redemption from the curse of sins, but also the serious purpose of the sanctifcation of their hearts, since those who have found in Christ the atonement for the guilt of their sins ought also to rise with Christ to a new, holy life.34

Among many of the early Puritans humiliation was seen as chronologically prior to both justification and sanctification.35 Through the preaching of the Law people were convicted of sin and then driven to the cross in repentance and faith. This signifies a partial return to the Catholic view that man's justification is contingent on his cooperation with preparatory grace. Yet the Puritans were adamant that legal repentance, which brings remorse over guilt, is clearly to be distinguished from evangelical repentance, which proceeds from faith, an unmerited gift of God. This view of the heart prepared by prevenient grace coexisted with the old Calvinist view that man is dead in sin until he is awakened and justified by redemptive grace.

In the piety of the Reformation, as well as in certain strands of early Pietism and Puritanism, the Christian life is depicted as a struggle toward righteousness rather than possession of it. While the Pietists and Puritans were generally inclined to stress the "already" over the "not yet," the Reformers placed the emphasis on the latter. Luther maintained that the Christian life is not a matter of being but of becoming. It is not righteousness but justification, not purity but purification, not health but healing. It consists "not in victory, but in the fight ... not in comprehending, but in stretching forward."36 Luther's view is reiterated by Bonhoeffer: "The life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh."37

Calvin, more than Luther, underlined the need for personal sanctification, but he was convinced that sanctification always entails suffering, though the forgiveness of sins takes away its sting. Calvin reminds us that no matter how much the Christian is tormented by unbelief, it does not and cannot gain ascendancy: "Unbelief does not hold sway within believers' hearts, but assails them from without. It does not morally wound them with its weapons, but mearely harasses them, or at most so injures them that the wound is curable."38

Wesley reflected the emphasis in later Pietism by which sanctification was more and more distinguished and even separated from justification. In his interpretation of 1 John 1:9 he saw forgiveness as chronologically prior to being cleansed from all unrighteousness."39 Calvin,

Page 45

on the other hand, was adamant that justification can no more be separated from sanctification than the heat of the sun can be divorced from its light. Wesley acknowledged that in the moment of justification or conversion our sanctification begins, but then he posited a second work of grace, entire sanctification, which he described as "complete salvation" or "full salvation." This work of grace, like the first, is unmerited, conditional not upon good works but upon faith alone. Yet the Christian can make progress toward it through the power of the Spirit within him. There can be no doubt that Wesley tended to subordinate justification to perfect sanctification, since the latter was seen as a still higher salvation. At the same time he was aware of this peril, urging that when we are about to speak of entire sanctification, "let us first describe the blessings of a justified state as strongly as possible." While Luther placed sanctification under the umbrella of justification, Wesley set sanctification alongside justification. In later revivalism justification was virtually absorbed into sanctification.40

Reformed piety has constantly warned of the danger of losing sight of justification as the ground and goal of Christian life. Justification is not mere forgiveness of sins (as in the Arminian view) but the eradication of sin and guilt through faith in Jesus Christ. What has been removed de jure by Christ (justification) must be taken away de facto by the Holy Spirit (sanctification), but the latter is always dependent on the former. In Kuyper's words: "It wounds the very heart of the Reformed confession when the pulpit aims at sanctification without zeal for justification."41 Berkouwer avers that the "heart of sanctifcation is the life which feeds on justification." Torroance sees sanctification as the continual unfolding and maintaining of our justification.42

Sanctification is to be deemed not a higher stage than justification (as in the Arminian view) but the concrete enactment of justification in our lives. Sanctification signifies the personal or interior appropriation of the fruits of justification. Paul declares: "Those whom he called he also justified; and those wh om he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30). Paul does not here expressly mention sanctification, though this concept is implied in verse 29 and also presumably included in glorification in verse30. The point is that justification reaches all the way from calling and conversion to glorification. Daily we need forgiveness, justification, for a right standing before God. This must be affirmed against all kinds of perfectionism.

The danger on the other side is, of course, giving justification such primacy that sanctification is relegated to the background. This is more evident in the neo-Lutheranism of Nygren, Elert, Prenter, and Jensen

Page 46

than in the neo-Reformed theology of Karl Barth. Prenter sees the Christian life as a circular movement, whereby we begin and end in a state of faith and repentance, rather than as a steady progression toward perfection.43 Empirical piety is not denied, but it is always subordinated to the alien reighteousness of Christ, which alone justifies and sanctifies. He is certainly correct that empirical piety does not pardon or take away sin, but is it not the supreme sign and evidence of our pardon and purification?

There is also a tendency in neo-Lutheran theology to depict man as wholly passive not only in justification but also in sanctification. Jensen declares: "Holiness is either God's work in us or our work for God. It is one or the other."44 To be sure, we are justified apart from our works (though not apart from the experience of faith), but we are sanctified always through works of love. Sanctification is by grace alone, but this grace moves man toward good works, and it is efficacious only in and through these works. Good works give shape and meaning to man's sanctification.45 Jensen also insists that sanctification or holiness is alien to man's being. It is certainly alien to the perception of the man of faith, but it is not alien to his being, since it signifies a change or alteration in his being. Indeed, we can even speak of sanctification as an ontological change within man by which he is given new motivations, new hopes, and a new heart.46

Finally, it is important to remember that justification and sanctification have both an objective and a subjective pole. The objective pole is Jesus Christ, for he has been made our justification and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30; cf. Heb. 10:10). [Seems that Bloesch is equating holiness with sanctification. But this webmaster feels that sanctification should be considered a separate work of God on behalf of and within those who are redeemed, not just lumping it in with holiness / righteousness which is more imputed directly through faith in His work on the cross to cleanse from sin). The subjective pole is faith (for justification) and love (for sanctification). Karl Barth is noted for his emphasis on the objective reality of both justification and sanctification to the detriment of their subjective realization. He can even say: "Sanctification is entirely God's grace. It is not man's affiar, but God's -- the affair of the God who works for man in Jesus Christ."47 This, of course, ignores the divine imperative that we should sanctify and purify ourselves (Lev. 11:44; James 4:8). At the same time, Barth corrects this kind of objectivism by recognizing that man is summoned to works of love which give shape and substance to his sanctification. Robert D. Brinsmead of Present Truth magazine also errs in the direction of objectivism when he says: "Justification is an act of God's grace that is wholly outside the experience of the one who believes."48 This imbalance can be detected in a certain kind of Lutheran orthodoxy which depicts justification as wholly extrinsic and forensic. Justification and sanctification have happened objectively for all people, but they have not yet happened in them or to them.

Page 47

All people are claimed for justification and sanctification, but no one is justified or sanctified until he believes.49

Christian Perfection

Few doctrines have created more divisiveness throughout the history of the church than Christian perfection. Yet it is indisputable that the SCriptures call us not only to seek holiness in our walk of lilfe but also to press on toward the goal of perfect holiness in Christ. The words of our Lord are unmistakably clear: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48; cf. Lev. 20:7-8) Paul advised that we should "cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). His prayer for the Thessalonians was: "Maya the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men ... so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thess. 3:12-13; cf. Eph. 1:4; 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 3:9).

To be sure, Jesus Christ is depicted as having perfected for all time "those who are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14), but it is incumbent on the believer to strive for this perfection in his own life (Heb. 12:14). Holiness is both a gift and a task. It has been accomplished by Christ in his sacrificial work on Calvary, the fruits of which are applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit. At the same time, it is realized through our striving and prayers. Empirical piety, works of love, are a sign and manifestation of holiness but not its essence. The essence of holiness is the love of God poured out upon our hearts. We do not earn or create holiness, but we can and must work toward it.

The righteousness of the Christian is the higher righteousness of self-sacrificing love to those who do us wrong. It means love toward enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, and praying for those who abuse us (Luke:27-28). This is the righteousness that will exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). It is a spiritual righteousness that supersedes all forms of civil righteousness.

In Catholic theology it was believed possible for Christians to attain this higher perfection, and consequently distinctions came to be drawn between Christians. The "perfect" were those who embraced and fulfilled the evangelical counsels, those who lived lives of exemplary dedication, those whose merits were superabundant. For Bonaventure

Page 48

the culmination of the ascent to perfection consists in "the enjoyment of eternal delights" through mystical rapture.50 The author of The Cloud of unknowing perceived four levels in the Christian life beginning with the "common" and culminating in the "perfect"; the perfect retire from the world and engage in contemplation. In heretical movements like Gnosticism and Montanism ordinary Christians were called psychics, those who still lived by animal standards, while the Spirit-filled, those whose lives were characterized by perfect dedication, were the pneumatics. The term saints came to denominate those who suffered publicly for the faith or those whose holiness became widely known through extraordinary feats of asceticism.

Happily, there remained within the church enough Christian realism to recognize that remnants of sin persist even in sanctified Christians and that the beatific vision of God cannot be fully realized while we are still in mortal flesh. For Augustine the saints are praiseworthy not because of their sinlessness but because of their poignant awareness of their continuing sin and their striving in hope for a perfection that will become a reality only after death. Bernard of Clairvaux, who sounded the call to sanctity throughout his life, said at his death: "O I have lived damnably and passed my life shamefully."

Against the perfectionism endemic to Catholicism the Reformers contended that the sanctification attainable in this life is only partial and rudimentary. In Luther's words: "Paul also calls Christians righteous, holy, and free from sin, not because they are, but because they have begun to be and should become people of this kind by making constant progress."51 He depicted the Christian as a convalescent who, if he is in too much of a hurry to get well, "runs the chance of suffering a serious relapse." The whole of the Christian life is a cure from sin; the church is a hospital or nursing home for those who are still sick. Calvin's contention was that Christians are "partly unbelievers," and must therefore constantly "fly to Christ for aid." It follows that "the highest perfection of the godly in this life is an earnest desire to make progress."52 Nevertheless, Calvin, much more than Luther, upheld the goal of Christian perfection, a goal that could be approximated in the here and now. "Perfection must be the final mark at which we aim, and the goal for which we strive."53

Philip Spener did much to bring Christian perfection to the attention of the church once again. He distinguished between "having" and "committing" sin and "keeping" and "fulfilling" the law. We cannot be free from evil desires and thoughts, but was can be free from willful transgressions.

Page 49

For "even if we shall never in this life achieve such a degree of perfection that nothing could or should be added, we are nevertheless under obligation to achieve some degree of perfection."54

Francke followed Spener in stressing the need to strive for Christian perfection but at the same time recognizing that one can never be free from sin in this life.55 For Francke the believer is both perfect and imperfect. He is perfect in Christ, since through faith he is covered by the imputed righteousness of Christ. Yet he remains imperfect in his manner of life constantly falling shor of the ideal of perfection embodied in Christ, however much progress he may make toward it by the power of the Spirit.

In Puritanism the reality of the continuing sinfulness of the Christian was duly recognized, though this was counterbalanced by an acknowledgment of the very real work of inward sanctification accomplished by the Holy Spirit. John Bunyan was keenly aware that the saint "when he hath done what he can to bring forth good works by faith, yet he dares not shew these works before God but as they pass through the Mediator Christ, but as they are washed in the blood of the Lamb."56 J.C. Ryle observed: "The holiest men have many a blemisth and defect when weighted in the balance of the sanctuary. Their life is a continual warfare with sin, the world, and the devil; and sometimes you will see them not overcoming, but overcome."57 Our very repentance, George Whitefield believed, "needeth to be repented of, and our very tears to be washed in the blood of Christ."58 That nineteenth-century heir of Pietism, Kohlbrugge, agreed taht even when we are obedient to God's commandment, we need the cleansing of the blood of Christ.59 Perfection was held to be a lifelong process not completed until death. In the words of the Shorter Westminster Catechism: "The souls of believers are, at their death, made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory." 60

Wesley went further in claiming that Christian perfection, understood as freedom from inward sin, can be attained by any believer through faith in Christ. This is not an absolute perfection, where people are spotless and faultless before the throne of God, but a relative perfection, which reflects the gloryo and radiant love of Christ and which admits of a greater degree. "Scriptural perfection," he wrote, "is pure love filling the heart and governing all the words and actions." Insofar as he is motivated by pure love, the Christian can be free from the impulsion to sin. Yet because of ignorance he can never be free from sins of omission and therefore must constantly depend upon God for forgiveness. Christian perction means freedom from sin as a conscious

Page 50

transgression of a known norm but not escape from the error and frailty that are part of the human condition.61

The Holiness movement, which was inspired by Wesley, was inclined to minimize or ignore the presence of sin in the life of the sanctified Christian by conceiving of the second blessing as total purification. Some strands within this movement spoke of sinless perfection, though this idea was disputed by many.62 It followed as a logical corollary from Wesley's contention that all iniward sin in eradicated in the gift of entire sanctification. Moreover, Wesley's definition of sin as a conscious act of wrong-doing prepared the way for a surface view of sin which does not consider that sin is essntially a state of being out of which proceed wrong actions. Jonathan Edwards warned of this when he referred to "the labyrinthian depth of self-deception in the human heart." The Holiness movement nonetheless recovered the note of victory in the Christian life and, at its best, recognized that the life of sanctification entails conflict and struggle. The perfected Christian can never be free from trials and temptations, though he is promised the possibility of victory over actual sin. Hannah Whitall Smith reminds us that great temptations are a sign of great grace, not of little grace. J. Sidlow Baxter perceptively observes that the nearer we come to the idea of perfection, t'he less conscious of it we are, and the more humblingly conscious are we of our own imperfection."63

Kierkegaard, who was also intensely interested in the Christian life, presented a somewhat different picture in his Lutheran emphasis upon the continuing sinfulness of the Christian and the constant need for grace and forgiveness. Christ must be upheld as Model but only because, first of all, he is confessed as Savior: "The true imitation is not produced by preaching on the theme: Thou shalt imitate Christ: but as a result of preaching about how much Christ has done for me. If a man grasps and feels that truly and profoundly then the imitation will follow naturally."64 As he saw it, "The forgiveness of sins ... does not mean to become a new man under happier circumstances, but to become a new man in the consoling assurance that the guilt is forgiven, even though the consequences of sin remain."65 He did not mean that the penalty for sin continues, but that after-effects of sin remain. The Christian is no longer afflicted by the curse of sin, but he continues to be bruised and weakened by sin.

Neo-orthodoxy reclaimed the Reformation emphasis on the helplessness and sinfulness of man, but the summons to Christian perfection was seldom heard. Reinhold Niebuhr referred to love as an "impossible possibility," a transcendent ideal that can only be approximated

Page 51

and partially realized in personal relationships. In affirming that one is "saved in principle, not in fact," he tended to underplay the reality of sanctification. His emphasis was on "a sober and watchful life," not a victorious life.

Karl Barth was much more open to the idea of sanctification and even allowed for the possibility of Christian perfection so long as one would remain totally in Christ. Yet he recognized that sin intrudes ever again into the life of the Christian and that therefore the man of faith, in whom the victory of Christ is only imperfectly reflected, must still struggle against sin. "Good works," Barth declared, "are always works of repentance, works in which our sin is recognized, workds in which we pray for the divine mercy, works in which we are helped because they are not the works of self-help, but a sighing -- and finally and inwardly a happy sighing -- for the help of God."66

In presenting our own position we must first point out that there are two kinds of perfection -- that of Jesus Christ, which is perfect, and that of the Christian, his own works of love, which is forever imperfect. Yet we can speak of a Christian perfection that is possible for the believer -- not an ethical perfection (which Wesley referred to) but a perfection of faith. Christian perfection is an evangelical, not a legal, perfection. Its measure is faith, not any kind of work, and at every stage it remains dependent on the forgiveness of sins. It is a spiritual maturity reflected in increasing dependence on God and on the merits of Jesus Christ (cf. Heb. 5:14; 6:1). "It is," says Forsyth, "a perfection of attitude rather than of achievement, of relation more than of realization, of trust more than of behavior."67 It is the perfection of a relationship with Christ, not a perfection of conduct or character. Christ will not leave us to our sin, but he leaves us in our sin so that we might ever more cleave to him in repentance and faith (Forsyth). We have the promise of victory over every particular sin but not of escape from the very presence of sin either outside us or within us. We must repent of our virtues as well as our vices, because sin accompanies every good work, and yet we have the full assurance that the perfect love of Christ covers the multitude of our sins (cf. James 5:20; 1 Peter 4:8). The hallmark of maturity in Christ is a boldness of faith and a freedom of love which make our very lives a vibrant witness to the love of Jesus Christ. The fullness of perfection ever lies before us (as Wesley also recognized), but even now we can grow up and be mature in Jesus Christ.

As he moves toward an ever greater perfection, however, the Christian is ever more conscious of his imperfection. The fruits of his faith are visible to others but not to himself. In Calvin's view, "the more

Page 52

eminently that any one excels in holiness, the father he feels himself from perfect righteousness, and the more clearly he perceives that he can trust in nothing but the mercy of God alone."68 Luther realized that "it profiteth us very much to feel sometimes the wickedness of our nature and corruption of our flesh, that even by this means we may be waked and stirred up to faith and to call upon Christ."69 Bonhoeffer agreed that "the saints are only conscious of the strife and distress, the weakness and sin in their lives; and the further they advance in holiness, the more they feel they are fighting a losing battle and dying in the flesh."70 Our assurance is based not on our good works, which ware hidden from us, but on the promise of the mercy of Christ.

The Christian life is a movement from faith to faith. Faith cannot be replaced by anything else, even love. Love is the flower of faith, but it is always dependent upon its foundation -- trust and confidence in the mercy of Jesus Christ on the cross. The genuine Christian will forever focus his attention not on his own piety or works of love but on God's act of reconciliation and redemption in Jesus Christ. He will be oblivious to his own works even while assiduously serving his neighbor in love. In Luther's words: "He who believes in Christ empties himself and becomes disengaged from his own works, in order that Christ may live and work in him."71 Pietism and Methodism rightly perceived that there is also a place for examining our lives to whether we are really doing the will of God. Yet later in these movements attention began to be focused unduly on the self, and one became preoccupied with one's own salvation rather than with serving the flory of God and the cause of his kingdom. Our faith is deepened and strengthened not by continuous introspection but by outgoing service to God and neighbor.

A catholic evangelical theology will seek to learn from all the great spiritual movements of the past, including medieval Catholicism, without succumbing to their pitfalls. There is even a place for the doctrine of the saints in a true evangelical piety. We are thinking here not only of the company of the saints, which is the church triumphant and militant, but of individual saints whose lives noticeably reflect and bear witness to the passion and victory of Christ. Such persons are not necessarily paradigms of virtue but public signs and witnesses of the One who alone is perfectly holy -- namely, Jesus Christ. While they are not conscious of their holiness, they may well be poignantly aware that God is working in them and through them to bring others to Christ.72 They know in their hearts that ever again they fail to live upl to God's expectations, but they also know that God will never fail them. They

Page 53

are potent testimonies to the reality of divine sanctification in the lives of his people. Their perfection is one of persevering faith in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, manifested in a life of outgoing love to the poor and despised of this world. Such individuals can be held up in the church as models of holiness, though it must always be pointed out that their holiness is symbolic and derivative, that it has its source and goal in the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ that alone atones for sin.

Holiness in the World

In contrast to an ethereal mystical spirituality evangelical piety emphasizes a holiness in the world. The world is deemed the theater of God's glory (Calvin), where Christians are to live out their vocations in vicarious identification with the needs of their neighbors. Discipleship is interpreted not in terms of withdrawal into a cloister but of wounded servanthood, bearing the cross in the midst of the agony of the world. Bonheoffer put it this way:

The antithesis between the world and the Church must be borne out in the world. That was the purpose of the incarnation. That is why Christ died among his enemies. That is the reason and the only reason why the slave must remain a slave and the Christian remain subject to the powers that be.73

This evangelical strand was not absent in the tradition of Christian mysticism, but attention was focused more upon the vision of God than service to our neighbor. Gregory the Great contended that the contemplative should regret the necessity of action even when it becomes a matter of duty. Other mystics, however, spoke of a spiritual fecundity whereby one pours out the fruits of his contemplation in love to others. Yet even among these persons the cloister was seen as a surer road to salvation than the active lofe in the world. Some mystics, under the influence of Quietism, upheld a "holy indifference" over vicarious identification.

In the mysticism of the Eastern religions the call to detachment and withdrawal from the world is even more pronounced. The Bhagavad Gita speaks of the world as maya (illusion) and lila (the play of the gods). But in the Bible the world is real, not an illusion; it is solid, not a jest. It is not abrogated by God but instead is the arena of his action. People are saved not from the world of nature but in it.

Whereas mysticism placed the emphasis on the journey inward, Luther stressed the importance of breaking out of the self into service to others. For the Reformers the road to God is the road to our neighbor's needs.

Page 54

Works of piety must be supplemented by works of mercy, though the latter should always be grounded in the former. Worship without morality is indeed positively displeasing to God.

The need to identify oneself with the suffering and travail in the world is made dramatically clear by Calvin:

Christians certainly ought to display more than a smiling face, a cheerful mood, and polite language when they practise charity ... Christians ought to imagine themselves in the place of the person who needs their help, and they ought to sympathize with him as though they themselves were suffering; they ought to show real mercy and humaneness and offer their assistance as readily as if it were for themselves.74

Schleiermacher, in his earlier phase, reflects a mystical more than an evangelical spirituaity, since he placed the accent on detachment and contemplation In his Speeches to the Cultured Despisers of Religion he contended that a pious person does not theorize or perform but sits quietly in a corner experiencing life in receptive contemplation. The experience of piety is passive, not active. The essence of piety is neither knowing nor doing but feeling. Silence is valued over words and contemplation over action. God-consciousness is contrasted with world-consciousness, which is seen as an impediment to spiritual progress. This orientation is considerably qualified, however, in his Dogmatics, where he cautions against withdrawal from the world: "Still less is there room for an arbitrary flight from the sphere of temptation which would be at the same time a flight from the sphere of duty ... Fellowship with Him is always a fellowship with His mission to the world, and this such a withdrawal would contradict."75

The themes of contemplation, meitation, and silence became prominent again in Pietism and Puritanism. Yet a biblical perspective genearlly predominated over a Platonic one. Contemplation was reinterpreted to mean living one's whole life toward the love of God. All activities should be performed in a constant awareness of God. Silence was used not to get beyond the Word (as in neo-Platonism) but to prepare oneself for it.

Asceticism, too, came to be appreciated in these movements, but as Troeltsch and Weber have observed, it was an "inner-worldly asceticism." The emphasis was on expanding the kingdom of God in the world rather than calling people out of the world into a purely spiritualized kingdom. Detachment was prized but only for the purpose of greater involvement in the world. An urgency for action distinguished the Puritans. In this spirit John Preston warned: "Cowardliness may

Page 55

lose your souls," for just as "Christ takes notice" if you "suffer for him," so he does if you "decline the cross."76 In order to lay hold of the assurance of his salvation, one must assent not only to the promise of the Gospel but also to its demands, which may very well entail persecution and imprisonment and even martyrdom. Patience in bearing the cross is not enough: one must cultivate courage and not lose opportunities for doing good through fear or cowardice. The saints can prepare the way for the kingdom of God and must not simply wait in blissful expectation.

Whereas Lutheranism sought to come to terms with the political order in such a way as to preserve freedom of worship, Calvinism laid the foundations for a new political order, one that would be shaped by the law of God revealed in the Bible. Troeltsch trenchantly observed that Calvinism, must more than Lutheranism, was politically creative and therefore also politically subversive. In Lutheranism the intramundane asceticism took the form of a metaphysical depreciation of the sinful world, whereas in Calvinism it took the form of the methodical disciplining of life. Calvinism endorses all legitimate worldly means to produce a holy community, but it reduces these to a means only, having no particular value in themselves. In early Calvinism assurance of election was integral to faith itself, and consequently the believer was freed "to give all his attention to the effort to moul the world and society according to the Will of God."77 In later Calvinism and Puritanism assurance was seen as conditional on one's obedience to the claims of the Gospel. This vision of a holy community is not to be confused with the eternal kingdom of God; it is best understood as a secular sign of this kingdom. Coercion plays a significant role in such a community because its citizens are still sinners, and their sinfulness must be restrained, if necessary by the sword.

The privatization of religion was singularly absent in both Pietism and Puritanism. More than the Pietists, the Puritans sought to influence the political order directly because of their vision of a holy commonwealth. They rightly perceived that God's Word calls not only for the conversion and nurture of people's souls in the fellowship of the church but also for the creation of a new social order where righteousness reigns.78

The vision of a holy commonwealth is in our estimation still viable, though it must be considerably qualified in the light of the pluralistic religious basis of modern industrial nations. The disturbing thing about Watergate was not just the private immorality, which was rightly denounced by the general populace, but the lack of any comparable outcry

Page 56

against the immorality in the wider public realm as practiced in the higher quarters of the government of that time. We are thinking here of the bombing of open villages in Viet Nam, the terminating of welfare aid, and the growing disparity between rich and poor. Yet against the New Left we maintain that only one who holds to absolute standards in private life can also consistently hold to absolute or transcendent norms in public life.

Liberation and political theology today generally stands within the Augustinian and Calvinistic "Christ transforming culture" tradition, though it very easily slides into a "Christ of culture" position, especially where Christianity is virtually equated with democratic socialism. Jurgen Moltmann, who draws upon Pietism as well as the Reformation, is adamant that the Christian faith teaches the need for personal inward change as well as a change in circumstances and structures. The decision of faith entails a breakthrough into meaning as well as a commitment to social justice. Yet in Moltmann salvation is emptied of its supernatural content and too easily becomes identified with liberation for human dignity and responsibility. In his view the purpose of the incarnation is to enable man to learn to accept and bear his humanity.79

Hans Kung in his social-critical theology is more concerned than Moltmann to differentiate the Christian meaning of salvation from political and economic liberation, though he sees the one leading into the other.80 Redemption, which is liberation by God, sets man free to enter the struggle for emancipation, which is man's self-liberation. At the same time, Kung also conceives salvation primarily as the realization of man's humanity rather than deliverance from the condemnation of hell or transformation into the image of God's glory.

The Life of Prayer

While evangelical piety focuses attention on the agaonizing needs of the world, it does not lose sight of the truth that all social service must be grounded in a life of prayer. Prayer is the very "soul of faith" (Calvin), and its neglect means the demise of true religion. Joseph Sittler has rightly observed: "Love is the function of faith horizontally just as prayer is the function of faith vertically."81 Prayer is both a gift and a command: it is a command made possible by an outpouring of divine grace. For John Preston prayer is the "banquet of grace," so it can be said that "a man of much prayer is a man of much grace."82

Page 57

The founders and luminaries of the Reformation as well as of later Evangelicalism were all people of prayer. Luther spent several hours in prayer daily. Philip Spener rose every morning while it was still dark for private prayer and afterward assembled his entire household for morning prayers. John Wesley rose at 4:00 A.M. for several hours of prayer and meditation. The great missionary outreach of evangelical Protestantism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was grounded in the intercessory prayer of very dedicated yet humble people.

Biblical or evangelical prayer, it should be noted, differs from the prayer of primitive religion and even from the prayer of omysticism. Friedrich Heiler, in his monumental work Prayer: History and Psychology, compares five different types of prayer in the phenomenology of religion.83 Primitive prayer is motivated by fear and need and seeks to persuade and even control the divine power or powers for its own purposes. Its goal is the attainment of earthly aims and escape from misfortune. Ritual prayer formalizes the spontaneous petitions in primitive religion, but the magical intent is even more obvious. Vain repetitions and incantations are performed by a priestly caste. Philosophical prayer reduces prayer to resignation or thanksgiving. In mysticism prayer becomes contemplative adoration of the infinite, and petition, if it is allowed at all, is seen as a lower or carnal form of prayer. Prophetic prayer, which Heiler associates with the biblical religions, consists of spontaneous petitions made out of love as well as need and for the purpose of fulfilling God's will in the world. It is the pouring out of the heart before God more than the elevating of the mind to God (as in mysticism).84 It is based on the presupposition that God is supremely personal and hears and answers petitions made with sincerity of heart, though in his own way and time. Heiler's depiction of prophetic prayer is amazingly close to our own understanding of evangelical prayer.

True prayer is not only resignation and submission but striving with God, pleading with God, seeking to change the ways of God with his people so that his ultimate will might be more surely or fully accomplished. God's ultimate purposes are unchangeable, but his immediate will is flexible and open to change through the prayers of his children. Prayer is "filial reciprocity" (Forsyth), for it entails a dialogic encounter whereby man proposes and God disposes (Prov. 16:1, 33). Such prayer often takes the form of complaint and question (Exod. 5:22-23; Psalms 44:23-24; 55:17; Jer. 12:1), since God wants us to understand his decisions, and only by searching and questioning do we understand.

Page 58

Evangelical prayer is based on the view that a sovereign God can and does make himself dependent on the requests of his children. He chooses to realize his purposes in the world in collaboration with his people. To be sure, God knows our needs before we ask, but he desires that we discuss them with him so that he might work with us as his covenant partners toward their solution. There is, of course, a time to submit as well as a time to strive and wrestle with God in prayer, but this should come always at the end of prayer and never at the beginning. Moreover, our submission is not a passive resignation to fate but a relinquishing of our desires and requests into the hands of a living God to answer as he wills.

While petition is dominant in evangelical prayer and is indeed present to some degree in all prayer which takes its inspiration from the Bible, it must not be regarded as the only mode of prayer. True prayer also takes the form of thanksgiving, confession, and adoration. Forsyth maintained that adoration should be present at both the beginning and culmination of our plrayers since, if they remain exclusively petitionary, they become incurably anthropocentric and bereft of reverence to God. On the other hand, the complementary modes of prayer presuppose petition, since we must ask God to accept and crown our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and also to hear our confessions. We could not approach the throne of grace apart from faith in the Mediator Jesus Christ who prays for us and in us, and who presents our sacrifices and intercessions to the Father. This is why all Christian prayer should be offered in the name of Jesus.

With the shift in theology to a panentheistic or pantheistic stance, prayer has come to be reinterpreted as soliloquy, reflection on life or meditation on the ground of being. Moltmann contends that one can no longer pray to God but only in God, that is, in the spirit of God.85 Schleiermacher, who denied the efficacy of petitionary prayer, believed that prayer should take the form only of gratitude, resignation, or meditation. Tillich sees prayer as an openness to the ground or depth of being rather than a petition to alter the ways of God. In some circles prayer is understood as a consciousness raising experience which brings us into tune with the infinite. In others prayer is reduced to a technique whereby we come to know ourselves in a new way. Or it is a method by which one arrives at inner serenity.

True prayer is neither a magic formula nor a therapeutic technique. Rather it is a dialogic encounter with the living God whose Spirit enables us to pray and who prays for us in groans too deep for words when we cannot adequately verbalize our needs (Romans 8:23, 26). In prayer

Page 59

we do not so much ascend to God as he descends to us and meets us on our level (cf. Isaiah 64:1, 5). In the outpouring of his Spirit we are enabled to give voice to our complaints and trials and seek for his aid and mercy. We do not tap into spiritual power (as today's pop mysticism would have it), but receive power from on high and are therefore enabled to pray from the innermost depths of our being.

Prayer is not so much an address directed to God as a spontaneous outburst of praise and supplication in response to God's gracious outreach to man. Prayer will invariably take the form of structured address and of ritualized formula because man, in his weakness, desires a crutch in his relationship with the divine. But in those moments when he is impelled by the interior movement of the Spirit to cry out to God as a child to his loving father, he transcends the prayer of rote and enters into biblical or prophetic prayer, the conversation of the heart with God.

We do not deny the rightful and necessary place for a structured order of worship when God's people come together to praise God and to hear his Word. Christian prayer is not only private but also corporate, and the latter especially lends itself to set or prescribed forms. Nor do we rule out the possibility that read preayer in a liturgical service, either on the part of the pastor alone or by the congregation, can be genuine prayer if it proceeds from the heart. Yet more often than not in a church where liturgy is emphasized over free prayer the lilberating movement of the Spirit is impeded. James Denney, who here reflects the Protestant bias against high churchism, nonetheless gives a timely word of warning: "A liturgy, however beautiful, is a mealancholy witness to the quenching of the Spirit: it may be better or worse than the prayers of one man, but it could never compare for fervour with the spontaneous prayers of a living church."86

Worldly Christianity

Our concern in this section is not with holiness in the world but with worldliness in the church. When the church becomes acculturized and secularized, it can no longer penetrate the world as a leaven; instead, it contributes to the vacuity and dissolution of the surrounding culture.

Syncretistic mysticism is one manifestation of a worldly or cultural Christianity. The Gnostics in the early church sought to come to terms with the Hellenistic mythos by reinterpreting Christianity as one of the ways to salvation from the prison of materiality. They held up

Page 60

gnosis (knowledge), which enabled the soul to escape from the flux and change of life and to find assurance of immortality. The dualism of spirit and matter, which was endemic to Platonism, persisted in Gnosticism. Manichaeism, another form of syncretism, sought to absorb elements from Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity. The body was depicted as a material prison in which the soul was confined. Salvation was based on right knowledge of man's true nature and a desire to return to the realm of light. In the neo-Platonic mysticism which infiltrated Christianity, it was taught that the world of sense is entirely opposed to the Idea of the Good. Against these various heresies Augustine saw in the life of this world the radiance of the heavenly world.

Biblical Christianity teaches not escape from the world into a heavenly realm but the renewal of both heaven and earth by the transforming grace of Christ. H. Richard Niebuhr rightly maintains that Christ "does not direct attention away from this world to another; but from all worlds, present and future, material and spiritual, to the One who creates all worlds, who is the Other of all worlds."87

Legalism is another form of worldly Christianity. In this heresy one's salvation is held to be conditional upon one's moral rectitude. Holiness is viewed as a human achievement rather than as a gift of God. One of Paul's primary tasks in his Epistle to the Galatians was to combat the legalism of the Judaizers, who made circumcision a prerequisite to entry into the family of God.

Perhaps the most subtle form of works-righteousness is faith-moralism, in which lip service is paid to the doctrine of justification by faith, but faith is seen as a human work or virtue. We must remember that faith is not a virtuous quality within man but the new creation of grace that enables man to believe, to hope, and to obey. Arminius opened the door to faith moralism by regarding faith as the first cause of justification, not the instrument by which man accepts justification. In his opinion the faith which resides in man as a potential quality is the basis for the imputation of righteousness. This stands in contrast to the Reformation principle that "justification is the utterly paradoxical imputation of righteousness to the sinner, in contrast to his moral condition, and without regard to the moral alteration in him."88

It was against the legalism of the Jews that Paul reminded his hearers that we do not have a righteousness of our own based on law (Philippians 3:9). Instead our righteousness is based on faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, which alone entitles us to heaven. "Our purest works," declared J.C. Ryle, "are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God's law."89 It is not the quantity of our moral exercise

Page 61

but the quality of our faith that makes us effective ambassadors of Christ (Forsyth).

Antinomianism is the opposite peril of legalism. Here it is maintained that because salvation is assured through the grace of Christ, the Christian is thereby freed from the obligations of the law. Free grace becomes cheap grace, since it saves but does not rule the lives of its subjects. Luther opened the door to this pitfall by conceiving of holiness as God's productivity and activity, not man's. Insofar as man can do nothing apart from God's grace, this is a viable position, but it overlooks the fact that man is called to a holy life on the basis of grace. The early Barth also reflected antinomian tendencies in his devastating critique of the pietism and moralism that characterized culture-Protestantism. "Depth of feeling, strength of conviction, advance in perception and in moral behaviour," he averred, "are no more than things which accompany the birth of faith. Being of this world, they are in themselves no more than unimportant signs of the occurrence of faith."90 Yet our Lord tells us that if we do not bear fruit in works of piety and love, we will lose the grace that is given to us (Matthew 25:14-30).

Modern evangelicalism frequently depicts sanctification as simply yielding oneself to God. Its motto is: "Let go, and let God." This ignores the truth that Scriptural holiness entails warfare and struggle in carrying forward the banner of Christ. In the words of Bishop Ryle: "A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier's life, a wrestling, are ... characteristic of the true Christian."91

The law of sowing and reaping is not annulled by the Gospel of grace but altered and redirected. In Christ we reap what he sows, that is, peace, righteousness, hope, and love. Outside of Christ we reap what we ourselves sow, that is, enmity, discord, terror, and death. Yet the believer is only in Christ when he abides in Christ and walks in his light. We turn away from Christ when we take his law for granted, when we acknowledge him as Savior without following him as Lord, when we do what we please and not what pleases Christ. We also find ourselves outside of Christ when we trust in our own efforts and goodness as the ground of our security.

Eudaemonism is another temptation that beguiles many people to embark on a spurious road to holiness. This is the ethical stance of ARistotle, which sees the goal in life as man's own well-being or happiness. In medieval Catholicism holiness was viewed as a higher happiness, but the Aristotelian motif was still very pervasive.92 The equation of holiness and happiness was also extremely prevalent in Protestant Pietism. This is a subtle error, since Christians may very well be happy

Page 62

as the world understands it. But when happiness is made a Christian goal, the values of this world have usurped the cross of Christ. Then egocentric religion has supplanted theocentric religion. It is important to bear in mind that being happy (eudaemonon) is qualitatively different from the state of being blessed (makarios), which Christ extols in the beatitudes. Luther pointed to th is difference when he described the hallmark of the Christian life as a "comforted despair." Calvin agreed that "this life, taken by itself, is full of unrest, trouble and misery, and not really happy from any point of view."93 What the Christian can be assured of is not the absence of conflict but the gladness of knowing that his sins are forgiven. The Christian is summoned to bear the cross sometimes even at the expense of his own physical and emotional well-being (cf. Psalm 44:22). He will nevertheless have in the midst of his suffering an inner joy, and in the midst of his anguish a peace that passes all understanding.

Worldliness also infiltrates the church whenever a sacramentalist mentality become dominant. Here forgiveness is assured through the sacraments without any clear call to repentance or summons to obedience. In this kind of objectivism salvation is something conferred on us through the ministrations of the church rather than something that one must appropriate through a lifelong struggle.

Other forms of objectivism are predestinarianism, which locates salvation completely outside us in the eternal decrees of God, and Christomonism, where sanctification is said to take place in Christ and not in the sinner. "Christ in you," then becomes a status objectively realized in Christ for all people, not a promise subjectively attained in faith and obedience.94

Worldliness even asserts itself in perfectionism, particularly when those who aspire to Christian perfection fall into the delusion that they have arrived. We need to take seriously Paul's confession: "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Philippians 3:12). Paul reminds us that perfect holiness will not be attained until the end of our journey: "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

James Dunn, a trenchant critic of current revivalism, gives these words of wisdom:

The antithesis between the inward man and the flesh is not overcome and left behind, it continues through and beyond the shout of thanksgiving -- as a continuing antithesis between mind and flesh ... The religious experience of the believer is characterized by paradox and conflict -- the paradox of life and death, the conflict of Spirit and flesh. It is a religion of Anfechtung -- of faith always assailed by question and doubt, of life always assailed by death, of Spirit always assailed by flesh.95

Page 63

Religious enthusiasm is still another perversion of Scriptural holiness. Here the attention is focused not on ethical fruits or the cross of suffering but on extraordinary experiences which function as outward signs of sanctity. Among the signs prized by enthusiasts through the ages have been the stigmata, dreams, miracles, visions, speaking in tongues, and dancing in the Spirit. The Puritans encouraged people to look for such signs or evidences as zeal, love, and faith, but they distrusted any claim to extraordinary gifts or experiences. There is nonetheless a danger when religion becomes conscious of itself as a relilgion. True sanctity is oblivious to its own merits. Our Lord warns that the leeft hand should not know what the right hand does (Matthew 6:3). Loud boasts of folly should not be mistaken for religious certainty (cf. 2 Peter 2:18). While grace will have visible effects in our lives that can be discerned by others, grace itself is hidden and imperceptible to the senses. In this light we can appreciate Barth's remark: "Grace is and remains always in this world negative, invisible, and hidden; the mark of its operation is the declaration of the passing of this world and of the end of all things."96

The call to holiness is also distorted by a certain kind of social activism that confuses kingdom righteousness with social justice and Christian charity with humanitarianism. Ritschl laid the ground work for an unbiblical Social Gospel by asserting that the purpose of justification is to serve the ethical striving for the attainment of the perfect society of persons. Forgiveness was seen as the divine companionship that enables the sinner after every defeat to arise and resume his ethical task. Only by engaging in civic work for the common good, by being faithful to one's social calling, is it possible to be true to the example of Christ. The later Ritschlians substituted the phrase "the brotherhood of man" for the kingdom of God." The current theologies of revolution and liberation which see the kingdom of promise ushered in by revolutionary struggle and warfare reflect a secularizing of the Gospel call to holiness.97

Finally, we must warn against the technological morality which is manifest in the human potential and pastoral psychology movements. When the religious or moral life is based on the techniques of psychology and related social sciences rather than the authority of Scripture

Page 64

and the spiritual wisdom of the church tradition, group dynamics becomes a surrogate for the koinonia, and counseling takes the place of confession. The goal in life is now self-fulfillment and personal integration rather than the great commission. The seeds of this current focus on the quest of the self for wholeness and health are to be found in Pietism and Puritanism, where the keeping of spiritual diaries was encouraged to lay bare the soul's struggle for holiness. It is ultimately rooted in the Eros piety of Hellenistic philosophy and religion.

The values of the technological society have even penetrated the bastions of conservative evangelicalism, where some of its spokesmen are now advocating a technology of the spirit to inculcate Christian virtues in man by human conditioning.98 In some Lay Witness missions people use spiritual growth charts to gauge their spiritual progress empirically. Fasting and tithing are sometimes portrayed as tried and true methods for insuring physical and spiritual well-being. The clinical psychologist Millard Sall, who identifies himself as evangelical, argues that the reward of faith is "maturity and enrishment," that the right use of the Bible and psychotherapy can bring people "the highest satisfaction and enjoyment possible."99

This technological morality is also glaringly apparent in the school of Positive Thinking and the neo-transcendentalist movement (Christian Science Unity, New Thought), which depict health and prosperity as the inevitable concomitants of right thought and action. In this orientation prayer is reduced to a method of attaining personal satisfaction and social success.

One danger in this new form of culture-religion is that holiness becomes a result of technique and therefore something within man's power. Another peril is that santity is confused with sanity, holiness with healthfulness. Emotional stability is valued more highly than the zeal and madness of faith. The aim is to be absolved from bad feelings, not to repent of sins. Philip Rieff scores the ethical stance of modern psychotherapy, including that which has a Christian guise: "A man can be made healthier without being made better -- rather, morally worse. Not the good life but better living is the therapeutic standard."100

Evangelical Christianity stands in diametrical opposition to the technological morality by its insistence that holiness is a product of God's supernatural grace and not of human technique. It is election by grace, not the rational discovery and application of spiritual laws, that places one in the kingdom of the redeemed. Biblical faith does not deny the place for spiritual disciplines but stresses that these have no value apart from the secret inward work of the Holy Spirit, and they are

Page 65

designed to bring our actions into conformity not with the canons of scientific rationality but with the will of God, which is perceptible only to the eyes of faith. Moreover, the goal of the Christian life is seen not as personal integration or wholeness nor as the realization of human potential but rather as the sacrifice of the self to the cause of the kingdom and the glory of God. Jesus Christ, the pattern for Christian living, had neither a long life nor a tranquil one. He was accused of insanity because of his fervency and boldness in faith (JOhn 10:20). Yet in emptying himself and giving himself for the welfare of his fellow human beings, he exemplified that perfect wholeness which is at the same time perfect holiness, for he was integrated not iwth the standards of the world but with the will of the living God, the ground and goal of all human existence.


1. I agree with J. Sidlow Baxter in his criticism of the Victorious Life and Higher Life movements in which sanctification is generally depicted as wholly the work of Jesus Christ within and not also the work of the believer empowered by Christ. It seems that in those movements we do not ourselves battle against temptation but let Christ dispose of it while we stand by as onlookers. See J. Sidlow Baxter, A New Call to Holiness (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975).

2. Adolf Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. 2, trans. Neil Buchanan (New York: Russell & Russell, 1958), p. 228.

3. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, vol. 14, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia, 1958), p. 93.

4. Luther, Luther: Lectures on Romans Ed. &Trans. Wm. Pauck, p. 127.

5. Ibid., p. 189

6. Martin Luther, W.A. 37, 357.

7. Luther's Works, vol. 27, p. 87

8. Luther generally saw justification and regeneration as correlative, whereas Melanchton was inclined to regard regeneration as following upon justification. The latter view renders faith purely cognitive rather than regenerative and creative as well.

9. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III, 16, 2 ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), p. 800.

10. Institutes I, 2, 1 ed. McNeill., p. 41.

11. Cf. Calvin: "Christ, through whom we have returned to favor with God, is set before us as a model, the image which we should express in our own lives." Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera 1, 1125.

12. Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera 45, 481.

Page 66

13. Calvin, Institutes II, 16, 7, ed. McNeill, p. 512.

14. Calvin, Institutes III, 3, 9, ed. McNeill, p. 601.

15. See Kenneth Ronald Davis, Anabaptists and Asceticism (Scottdale, Pa.: Heral Press, 1974).

16. Jonathan Edwards, Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. In Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John E. Smith, Vol. 2 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), p. 387.

17. See Norman Pettit, The Heart Prepared: Grace and Conversion in Puritan Spiritual Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966).

18. Philip Jacob Spener, Pia Desideria, ed. and trans. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964), p. 95.

19. Walter Marshall, The Gospel-Mystery of Sanctification (London: Oliphants Ltd., 1954), p. 99.

20. In Marie E. Richard, Philip Jacob Spener and His Work (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1897), p. 46.

21. Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth-century heir of Pietism and Puritanism, declared: "If you cannot keep good company and avoid the circle of dissipation, do not profess to be followers of Christ, for He bids you come out from among them and be separate." The Treasury of Charles H. Spurgeon (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1955), pp. 78-79.

22. John Preston, The Saints Qualification (1637). Cited in Irvonwy Morgan, Puritan Spirituality (London: Epworth Press, 1973), p. 118.

23. Albert Outler, ed., John Wesley (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 378.

24. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II, 2, ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1969), p. 576.

25. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, trans. R.H. Fuller (London: SCM Press, 1959), p. 79.

26. Ibid., p. 105.

27. Ibid., p. 267.

28. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge (New York: Macmillan, 1972).

29. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 176 ff.

30. Hans Kung, Justification, trans. Thomas Collins, Edmund E. Tolk, and David Granskou (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1964).

31. Edwards, Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, pp. 387-388.

32. For Calvin both justification and sanctification exist in their own right, and neither is to be subordinated to the other. Both are necessary for the Christian life. See Francois Wendel, Calvin, trans. Philip Mairet (London: Collins, 1963), pp. 255-257. To be sure, in his Institutes Calvin deals with regeneration before justification, htough it could be argued that his purpose in doing so was to highlight justification. See the editorial comment in Institutes, III, 3, 1, ed. McNeill, p. 593.

33. Some Reformed theologians, such as Kohlbrugge and the early Barth, erred on the other side and emphasized justification to the detriment of sanctification.

34. Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. and rev. Ernst Bizer, p. 566.

Page 67

35. Morgan, Puritan Spirituality, p. 75.

36. Martin Luther, W.A. 57, 102, 15. Cited in Gordon Rupp, The Righteousness of God (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1963), p. 200.

37. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 152.

38. Calvin, Institutes, III, 2, 21, ed. McNeill, p. 567.

39. John Wesley's Forty-Four Sermons, 12th ed. (London: Epworth Press, 1975), p. 475.

40. In the Swedish Pietist Paul Peter Waldenstrom the Lutheran doctrine of forensic justification is called into question, and salvation is said to consist in imparted rather than imputed righteousness. Waldenstrom's teachings were influential in the formation of the Mission Covenant Church in 1878, though the precise relationship between justification and sanctification has been left open in that communion. See Julius Bodensieck, ed., The Encyclopaedia of the Lutheran Church, vol. 3 (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1965), pp. 2450-2451.

41. Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, trans. Henry de Vries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), p. 270.

42. Thomas Torrance, Kingdom and Church (Fair Lawn, N.J.: Essential Books, 1956), p. 101. "Sanctification is not a response of man that must be added to justification, but the continual renewing and re-enacting in the believer of a justification that is made once and for all."

43. See Regin Prenter, Spiritus Creator, trans. John M. Jensen (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1953), pp. 87, 245.

44. Richard Jensen, Touched by the Spirit (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1975), p. 118.

45. J. Sidlow Baxter rightly reflects that "although human effort is ... powerless in itself to maintain inwrought holiness after the Holy Spirit has wrought the ... miracle within us, yet human cooperation is all the while necessary in resisting encroachments of evil upon the sanctified territory, in cultivating prayerful responsiveness to the Holy Spirit, and in carefully culturing those conditions which are required for a continuing experience of holiness." A New Call to Holiness, p. 142.

46. Jensen would possibly not disagree here, since he appears to mean that sanctification is alien to the being of the natural man. But can we even say this if we affirm that man in his created being is good and not evil? Regeneration does not negate but transforms the being of man.

47. Karl Barth, A Shorter Commentary on Romans, trans. D.H. van Daalen (London: SCM Press, 1959), p. 65.

48. Present Truth, vol. 4, no. 1 (February 1975), p. 48. If pressed, Robert Brinsmead will recognize that the Holy Spirit, as well as the Father and Son, plays a role in our justification, and that we are not effectively justified until the Spirit produces faith within us. I agree with Brinsmead that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ, which is outside ourselves. But we must make contact with this righteousness by faith, which is a subjective work of the Holy Spirit (and which has an experiential side). My position is close to Brinsmead and to Present Truth (now known as Verdict magazine), but by emphasis is not the very same in this area.

49. Our Reformed fathers made a helpful distinction between "active justification,"

Page 68

which takes place in the tribunal of God (Romans 3:20; Gal. 3:11) and "passive justification," which takes place in the heart or conscience of the believer. See Louis Berkhof, Manual of Reformed Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1933), p. 259.

50. The Works of Bonaventure, IV, trans. Jose de Vinck (Paterson, N.J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1966), p. 37.

51. Luther's Works, vol. 29, p. 139.

52. Corpus Reformatorum Vol. 79, Calv. Op. 51, 186.

53. John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, trans. Henry J. Van Andel (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), p. 18.

54. Philip Spener, Pia Desideria, p. 80.

55. For a perceptive discussion of regeneration and Christian perfection in Spener and Francke see Dale Brown, Understanding Pieetism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), pp. 95 ff.

56. John Bunyan, Justification by an Imputed Righeousness (Swengel, Pa.: Reiner Publications, 1970), p. 67.

57. J.C. Ryle, Holiness, reprint ed. (London: James Clarke, 1956), p. 39.

58. Quoted in J. Mcleod Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement (New York: Macmillan, 1895), p. 124.

59. This reflects Luther's view that, apart from God's merciful judgment, the good works of the Christian can only be counted as "mortal sin."

60. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 37. In Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Bros., 1919), p. 684.

61. Robert Monk argues that regarding the doctrine of Christian perfection Wesley is remarkably similar to the Puritan John Preston, who envisioned a perfection of intention or dedication that nevertheless does not exclude the continuation of human infirmities, which he recognized as sins. This perfection of the "sound heart" is an imperfect perfection, which plresses on toward the ultimate perfection obtained when the taint of sin is taken from man at death. Botho Preston and Wesley conceived a perfection that demanded continual increase in love. Monk does not suggest that Wesley derived his ideas from Preston but rather that this doctrine was present in the Puritan tradition and that Wesley was familiar with its formulation. See Robert C. Monk, John Wesley: His Puritan Heritage (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1966), pp. 113-118.

62. Wesley himself sometimes employed this term, but he regarded it as unwise and finally decided to refrain from using it, since it conflicted with his view that even a person encompassed by the love of God still commits involuntary transgressions.

Those in the Holiness movement who have held to the eradication theory, namely, that sin is extirpated in the second blessing, are more likely to speak of sinless perfection. That branch of the Holiness movement that stresses the counteraction of sin in the second blessing emphasizes victory over sin rather than sinless perfection (e.g., the Keswick Convention).

63. J. Sidlow Baxter, A New Call to Holiness, p. 171.

64. The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, ed. and trans. Alexander Dru (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), p. 413.

65. Ibid., p. 174.

66. Barth, Church Dogmatics, II, 2, p. 770.

Page 69

67. P.T. Forsyth, God the Holy Father, reprint ed. (London: Independent Press Ltd., 1957), p. 124.

68. John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1, trans. James Anderson (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), p. 526.

69. Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, ed. Philip Watson, p. 505.

70. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 257.

71. Luther's Works, vol. 27, p. 332.

72. That the Christian will sense that he is being used by God as a witness and sign of God's power and holiness is made clear by Paul in II Cor. 1:12. At the same time, the genuine Christian will forever be aware of his unworthiness before God and will forever marvel that God's power is made perfect through weakness (II Cor. 12:9).

73. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 239.

74. Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, p. 36.

75. Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, vol. 2, ed. H.R. Mackintosh and J.S. Stewart. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), p. 517.

76. John Preston, The Doctrine of Self Denial in his Four Godly and Learned Treatises, 3, 3rd ed., (London: T. Cotes, F. M. Sparke, 1633) p. 227. Cf. Richard Sibbes: "It is a dastardly thing for a Christian to be cowardly, because he hath death and hell conqueered, and everything is made serviceable to help him to heaven." In The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart. Vol. III (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), p. 441.

77. Ernst Troesltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, vol. 2, trans. Olive Wyon (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950), p. 589.

78. The Calvinist vision of a new social order is admirably stated in Abraham Kuyper, Christianity and the Class Struggle, trans. Dirk Jellema (Grand Rapids: Piet Hein, 1950).

79. Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, trans. R.A. Wilson and John Bowden, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 231. Moltmann claimsd to be expressing Luther's position on this matter, but, as Bengt Hoffman documents in his Luther and the Mystics (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1976), Luther, in line with the mystical tradition, saw the goal of the incarnation as man's elevation into glory.

80. Hans Kung, On Being a Christian, trans. Edward Quinn (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976), p. 571.

81. Joseph Sittler, The Structure of Christian Ethics (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1958), p. 64.

82. John Preston, The Fullness of Christ for Us (London: J. Oakes, John Stafford, 1640) p. 22.

83. Friedrich Heiler, Prayer: History and Psychology, ed. and trans. Samuel McComb (New York: Oxford University Press, 1958).

84. The metaphor of the pouring out of the heart to God is clearly set forth in Isaiah 26:16; Lam. 2:19; Psalm 119:145-147; 142:2; and Hebrews 5:7.

85. Moltmann sees God not as a "heavenly person" but as a dynamic "eschatological process." He breaks with monotheism and embraces a Hegelian form of panentheism. See The Crucified God, pp. 247-249.

Page 70

86. Cited in J. Oswald Sanders, The Holy Spirit and His Gifts (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 99.

87. H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper & Bros., 1951), p. 28.

88. Otto Heick, A History of Christian Thought, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 232.

89. Cited in Present Truth, vol. 4, no. 1 (February 1975), p. 61.

90. Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, Trans. from 6th ed. Edwyn C. Hoskyns (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 39.

91. Ryle, Holiness, p. xvi.

92. In the theology of Thomas Aquinas we see Christian ethics combined with the ancient ethics of self-fulfillment, with its natural virtues. For Tillich's discussion of eudaemonism in Thomas see Tillich, A History of Christian Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), pp. 196-198.

93. Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, p. 69.

94. This orientation can be discerned in the early Barth, but in his maturity he definitely made a place for sanctification as a regenerative process within the believer wh ich reflects and attests his perfect sanctification accomplished in Christ.

95. James D.G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), pp. 315, 338.

96. Barth, Epistle to the Romans Ed. Hoskyns, p. 103.

97. We see this secularizing process espeically in Gutierrez and Colin Morris. Though Moltmann and Kung seek to maintain a Christian identity in social involvement, it seems that the Christian message is also compromised in their theologies.

98. Dr. Paul W. Clement of the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology advocated such a technology of the spirit at the International Conference on Human Engineering and the Future of Man, at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill. (July 21-23, 1975).

99. Millard Sall, Faith, Psychology, and Christian Maturity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975).

100. Philip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 58.

IV. The Cruciality of Preaching

Every word of God proves true .... Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you, and you be found a liar.

Proverbs 30:5-6        

Its Divine Authority


The Cruciality of Preaching

So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. Romans 10:17


I am certain that when I enter the pulpit to preach or stand at the lectern to read, it is not my word, but my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Martin Luther


God ... deigns to consecrate to himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that his voice may resound in them. John Calvin

With preaching Christianity stands or falls because it is the declaration of a Gospel. Nay, more -- far more -- it is the Gospel prolonging and declaring itself. P.T. Forsyth


Preaching is "God's own Word." That is to say, through the activity of preaching, God himself speaks.1 Karl Barth


He has put His Word in our mouth. He wants it to be spoken through us. If we hinder His Word, the blood of the sinning brother will be upon us. If we carry out His Word, God will save our brother through us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Preaching as a Means of Grace

The cruciality of preaching in the plan of salvation is already very much in evidence in the Old Testament. We read that Moses was appointed by the Lord to confront Pharaoh with the divine summons to release the people of Israel from their slavery: "Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak" (Exod. 4:12). When Moses hesitated, God chose Aaron as a partner for His unwilling servant with the promise that He would also be with

Page 72

Aaron's mouth and teach them both what to say and do (Exodus 4:15).

The prophets of Israel definitely saw themselves as the mouthpieces and instruments of the Word of God. They were appointed to proclaim both the grace and the judgment of God. They were messengers of doom but also heralds of glad tidings (Isaiah 40:9; 61:1). They were servants of the Word, not its creator or originator (Jeremiah 25:4, 8). They were sent forth not only with the Word but also with the Spirit, since it is the Spirit who fills their words with meaning and makes their hearers receptive to the divine message (see Isaiah 48:16; 61:1).

Like the prophet Isaiah Jesus perceived his role as a preacher of good news to the poor (Luke 4:18, 43). It was not simply his person but his Word that was the means of salvation to lost sinners: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and belileves him who sent me, has eternal life" (John 5:24; cf. 6:63). Moreover, he commissioned his disciples to be heralds of the Word (cf. Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; Luke 10:1-2). That the words of his disciples in the event of preaching are indeed the very Word of God is evident in this remark of our Lord: "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me ..." (Luke 10:16; cf. Mark 13:11).

The sacramental nature of preaching is further attested in the writings of the apostle Paul. It was Paul's deep-felt conviction that the preaching of the Gospel is the divinely-appointed means by which people come to salvation: "Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Romans 10:17). And again: "Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21; cf. 15:1, 2; 2 Cor. 5:20). Paul believed that the words of the apostles were so united with the Word of God that this Word was truly conveyed through their words. He thanked God constantly, he told the Thessalonians, "that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers" (1 Thess. 2:13). He saw himself as under a divine mandate to preach, and he knew that he would fall under divine judgment if he spurned this injunction: "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16).

A similar emphasis is reflected in other epistles of the New Testament. In Titus we read that "at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savioiur" (1:3). Peter declared: "You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and

Page 73

abiding word of God ... That word is the good news which was preached to you" (1 Peter 1:23, 25). The Book of Revelation attributes the triumph over the devil not only to the atoning sacrifice of Christ but also to the preaching of the Gospel: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Rev. 12:11).

Despite the early synthesis of Christian and Hellenistic values and beliefs, the fourth century witnessed a partial renewal of biblical preaching. John Chrysostom in the East and Augustine in the West were both characterized by a thorough knowledge of the Bible as well as of human nature. Through their oratorical skills and biblical expositions they won many souls to Jesus Christ and his kingdom. Chrysostom, unfortunately, did not always rise above the doctrinal errors of his day in his praise of alms, celilbacy, and monasticism as meritorious works. His view of sin and its remedy also tended to be more moral than evangelical. Augustine often lapsed into allegorical interpretation in his treatment of Scripture, but the truth of the Gospel nonetheless shone through his expository lectures.

In the medieval period the preaching of the Gospel was more and more subordinated to the sacrifice of the Mass, and the visual came to be stressed over the aural in the service of worship. Preaching itself was reduced to homilies or exhortations on moral themes; this was especially apparent in Gabriel Biel and other nominalists.

The rise of mysticism further eroded the cruciality of the preaching of Christ in man's salvation. The mystics maintained that God acts without instrumentality and without ideas (Eckhart). Their aim was to ascend beyond the rational to an intuitive apprehension of God in himself. Preaching was simply an external aid by which one was drawn to focus attention on the suprarational and suprahistorical. In the New Testament church the content of preaching was Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. In the preaching of Meister Eckhart there was little about the events of salvation-history but much about the birth of Christ in the soul.

At the same time, the evangelical strand asserted itself ever again in Roman Catholic spirituality. Augustine (as we have seen) and Bernard of Clairvaux were noted for their expository preaching. Thomas Aquinas gave evangelism priority even over contemplation. In his judgment "the highest place in religious orders is held by those which are directed to teaching and preaching ... For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so it is better to give to others the fruits of one's contemplation than merely to contemplate."2 The early Dominicans preached from Holy Scripture. Avoiding the homiletic

Page 74

form as too dull, they sought by their preaching to win souls for Christ. Perhaps the most renowned was Savonarola, in whose piety an evangelical strand can be detected.3 Another eminent Dominican preacher, Vincent Ferrer, who was instrumental in winning many Jews and Moslems to Christ, had a profound awareness of the sacramental character of Gospel preaching: "When a preacher preaches the Word of God and is not concerned with poets ... or how to flatter the listeners with sonorous phrases ... but preaches only the Word revealed by God, it is not he who preaches, but the Holy Spirit in him, or Christ Himself."4

Edwin Charles Dargan offers this somewhat critical appraisal of preaching in the later middle ages:

Though there was much and very eeffective preaching ... and though it attracted great multitudes of hearers, yet in quality and character it did not escape the faults inherited from the long ages of departure from a true Biblical standard ... The use of Scripture was often only sad misues -- it was either neglected wholly or served merely as a pretext for wholly unscriptural or even antiscriptural teachings ... The merit of works, the saving value of ordinances, penances, and the like, were presented, to the detriment of gospel truth and sound Christian morals. The glory of the Virgin, the legends of saints and martyrs crowded, and sometimes crowded out, the history and doctrine of Scripture ... Yet amid all this failure and perversion the main distinctive truths of Christianity were ably and sincerely presented, and by many earnest voices the vaving power of Christ was told, and thousands were brought to his cross. Sin was searchingly analyzed and boldly denounced, and to the ever-present springs of human action appeal was constantly made.5

Contemporary Catholicism is seeking to recover the crucial significance of preaching in the life of the church. The Second Vatican Council affirmed that the sermon should draw its content primarily from Scripture and "its character should be that of a proclamation of God's wonderful works in the history of salvation."6 Pope Paul VI declared that "preaching is the primary apostolate," and this "is above all the ministry of the Word." "No other form of communication can take its place," he asserted, "not even the enormously powerful technical means of press, radio and television."7

With the rediscovery of the full meaning of the Gospel, including the themes of substitutionary atonement, salvation by grace, and justification by faith, the Reformation ushered in a new age of biblical preaching. It can be said that Gospel preaching became a third sacrament in the Reformation, replacing the sacrament of confession and absolution.

Page 75

Martin Luther, in particular, was noted for his elevation of preaching as the primary means of grace -- even above Scripture:

The Gospel is really not a document, but wishes to be a spoken word, which recites the content of the scripture, just as Christ did not write but only spoke. He did not call his teaching scripture but Gospel, that is, good news or proclamation. That is why it must not be described with the pen but with the mouth.8

According to Luther the Holy Spirit has bound himself to the preaching of the Word as the channel by which he convinces sinners of the truth of the Gospel. Indeed, "there is no other means of attaining faith than by hearing, learning, and pondering the Gospel."9 The preacher is only a mouthpiece of the living Christ himself: "Those who are now proclaiming the gospel are not those who really do it; they are only a mask and a masquerade through which God carries out his work and will. You are not the ones who are catching the fish, God says, I am drawing the net myself."10

Luther maintained that the gospel preacher should convict people of their sins and then comfort them with the promise of redemption through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He should generally include in his message a call to repentance or conversion. The sermon itself should consist of an exposition of a biblical passage and usually should not exceed twenty minutes in length. As he declared, "I would not have preachers torment their hearers, and detain them with long and tedious preaching, for the delight of hearing vanishes therewith and the preachers hurt themselves."11

John Calvin, too, was convinced of the indispensability of Gospel preaching for realizing the promise of redemption: "It is true, that the sinner receives remission by the ministry of the Church; but not without the preaching of the gospel. Now, what is the nature of that preaching? That we are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Christe."12 For Calvin, as for Lluther, there is genearlly no direct bestowal of grace apart from human instrumentallity: "The word goes out of the mouth of God in such a manner that it likewise goes out of the mouth of men; but God does not speak openly from heaven; but employes men as his instruments."13 In his view preaching is a mighty instrument in the hands of the Lord "for both the awakening of faith, and for the building up of the people of God in faith."14

Calvin stressed the decisive role of the Holy Spirit in making the word effectual in the lives of people. In his understanding the Spirit must work not only within the preacher but also within the hearer. There is no benefit from the word of preaching "except when God

Page 76

shines in us by the light of his Spirit; and thus the inward calling, which alone is efficatious and peculiar to the elect, is distinguished from the outward voice of men."15 Calvin was emphatic that there is no necessary accompaniment of the word of the sermon by the Spirit: the Spirit acts and speaks as he wills. God is sovereign even in the preaching of his Word, and preaching becomes effectual "where it pleases God by the secret power of his Spirit to work in this manner."16 For Calvin the Spirit can work even apart from the preaching of the church, though preaching is the ordinary or usual means of his working.17

In the developing Protestant orthodoxy an emphasis was placed on the objective reality and efficacy of the Word of God in preaching, though this efficacy was generally tied to the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. It was asserted by the Second Helvetic Confession that "the preaching of the Word of God."18 The preaching of the Gospel has validity despite the moral failings of the preacher: "The Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good."19

The preaching in Protestant orthodoxy frequently took the form of polemics in which the Calvinistic or Lutheran doctrinal position was defended against opposing views. Learned discourses on abstract doctrinal themes where the intellectual acumen of the preacher was displayed were not infrequent. Doctrinal rectitude came to supplant gospel simplicity in many pulpits. This was more true in full-blown scholastic orthodoxy than in early Protestant orthodoxy.

Puritanism and Pietism signaled a reaction against the stultifying worship of orthodox services and the recovery of evangelical gospel preaching. The Puritan preachers were called "spiritual preachers" in contrast to the "witty preachers" of the ecclesiastical establishment.20 They thought of preaching not as reflection upon moral or theological themes but as the confrontation of sinful man with a righteous God. Their emphasis was on simplicity, directness, and sincerity. For John Preston "the Word must be presented in a spiritual manner, plain and unadorned."21 The preacher should not make a pretense of superior virtue or wisdom but instead identify himself with his hearers as only a sinner saved by grace. He should preach "as a dying man to dying men" (Richard Baxter). The dynamic of the preacher's appeal was grounded in his own experience, though the actual experience was rarely mentioned. At the same time, it was vitally important that there be a certain congruence between the preacher's life and message, since

Page 77

only a person united with Christ in faith and love could preach in the power of the Spirit.

In Puritan preaching there was an urge to evangelism: every sermon should be geared to bringing people to a personal decision of faith. Moreover, the Puritans sought to reach the common man for the Gospel and not just an intellectual or cultural aristocracy. William Perkins, Lecturer at Great St. Andrews Church, Cambridge, used an open-air pulpit to win the ear of the masses. George Whitefield preached on street corners, in church yards, and in open fields.

John Bunyan (d. 1688) saw the preaching of the Gospel as such a momentous event that he approached it with great trepidation. "Though trembling," he wrote, "I used my gift to preach the blessed gospel, in proportion to my faith, as God had showed me in the holy Word of truth."22 The goal of preaching is not to share information about God or the Christian religion but to bring sinners to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ: "In all my preaching ... my heart has earnestly cried out to God to make the Word effectual to the salvation of souls."23 Bunyan acknowledged that sometimes he was actually "in real pain, travailing to bring forth children to God."24 He was never satisfied "unless there has been some fruit." Like many other Puritan preachers he recognized that it is not human effort or preparation but the work of the Holy Spirit that makes a sermon effectual for salvation:

Sometimes I have noticed that a word cast in, by the way, has done more than all the rest of the sermon. Sometimes when I thought I had done the least, then it developed that the most has been accomplished; and at other times when I thought I had really gotten hold of them, I found I had fished for nothing.25

Philip Spener, who spent most of his working years in the pastorate and whose sermons sparked a revival in his parish in Frankfurt, exemplifies the stance of German Pietism on worship and preaching. In his view preaching should be directed toward the heart and not merely toward the mind of man. He criticized the continual preaching of the law in Lutheran pulpits and called every preacher above all to announce the good news of salvation. He also condemned the prevailing custom of exhibiting learning in the pulpit as this was reflected, for example, in quotations from foreign languages and concentration on obscure doctrinal points. Nor should the preacher go out of his way to introduce controversy in the pulpit. The hallmark of an evangelical sermon is apostolic simplicity. Spener wanted the Bible to be allowed to speak to the church and thereby be instrumental in the reformation of its life and worship. For this reason he warned against dependence

Page 78

on the predetermined texts (pericopes) while the reat of the Scriptures remained largely untouched.

Spener urged those who preach the Gospel to bear in mind that they speak not the words of men but the power of God. They should take care not to mingle with the preaching of the Word of God any thoughts of their own. At the same time they must give diligent and reverent preparation to their sermons, for to preach simply and profoundly requires much study. Only in this way can they make sure that what they preach is the Word of God and not the word of man.

If the Gospel is the Gospel of Christ, we are thereby admonished, that as the preacher should desire to preach nothing else so the hearers should desire to hear nothing else; not human triflilng and merry tales to produce laughter in the church; not deep speculation which none of the hearers can understand ... not the histories or empty services of the saints ... nor yet mere morality; for although it is proper that morality should be impressed upon the Church, it is not its first and immediate aim, but is to be awaited as a result, not looked to as a means.26

In the modern period Friedrich Schleiermacher is of special interest, since he illustrates the profound change that preaching underwent in neo-Protestantism. For him proclaiming God meant testifying to the reality of one's own experience of God. The tenets of the Christian faith are only derivatives of the inner state of man. The Word is of secondary importance, fo rthe divine is ineffable. What is of primary importance is not doctrinal fidelity but the cultivation of piety or religiousness. In his sermons Schleiermacher did appeal to the Bible, but his aim was not to confront his hearers with the judgment and grace of a holy God but to awaken the God-consciousness within all people and to encourage moral effort. What happens in the service of worship is not the proclamation of the mighty acts of God but the communication of one's awareness of the divine Spirit in human life.27 He never preached from the Old Testament, since he regarded its portrayal of God as pre-Christian. Schleiermacher reflects the subjectivistic slant in Christian mysticism and Pietism. The dialectic that was maintained in early Pietism between the Word of God in Scripture and the human response in faith and obedience was sundered in his emphasis on religious experience.

P.T. Forsyth, on the contrary, remained true to the dominant evangelical strand in the tradition of Pietism. In his view preaching should be centered on the power of the cross of Christ to redeem fallen mankind. Jesus should be presented as the Savior and Lord of the world

Page 79

and not as elder brother or exemplar of a higher religious consciousness. Forsyth lamented the fact that modern preaching lacks the note and energy "of spiritual profundity and poignancy as distinct from spiritual sympathy, and of moral majesty as distinct from ethical interest."28 Such is "ultimately due to the loss of conviction as to a real, objective, and finished redemption, and to the disappearance from current faith of a real relation to the holiness and the wrath of God."29 He regarded with special disfavor "subjective, psychological preaching," which is "weak," "exhausting," and "dangerous."30 "Analyse the Gospel in reference to the soul," he recommended. "You are a minister of the Word, not of the soul."31 Forsyth called for a return to biblical evangelical preaching in which the content of the sermon would be derived from the Scriptural witness, not from one's own religious experience. Too often, he observed, the preacher reads his own message into the Bible instead of reading God's message out of the Bible.

In more recent years Karl Barth has sought to lay the foundation for a recovery of biblical, evangelical preaching, though he diverges at certain points quite markedly from the tradition of the evangelical revival. Barth speaks of both the impossibility and the necessity of preaching God's Word.32 The task is impossible because the finite cannot bear or carry the infinite (finitum non capax infiniti), but it is necessary because the very existence of the church depneds upon the preaching and hearing of the Word. Barth contends that through our feeble and broken witness God acts and speaks. He does not speak so much in our words as with our words so that in the event of preaching people hear the veritable Word of God. Preaching, like the sacraments, is more properly a sign or testimony of grace than a means of grace, for it witnesses to the grace poured out for all people in Jesus Christ. At the same time it can certainly be regarded as a means to the knowledge of grace and thus, in this secondary sense, a means of grace, since through preaching the Spirit of God grants us knowledge of what God has done for us in Christ. And this knowledge is not simply cognitive but also regenerative in that it affects the being as well as the intellect of man.

The content of our preaching, says Barth, should be the announcement of God's grace and judgment which has taken place on behalf of all humankind in Jesus Christ -- in his incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. 5:19) is the pivotal text in Barth's theology. According to him this means that the world is already reconciled to God in that Jesus Christ, Representative Man and Revealing God, by virtue of his sacrifice of

Page 80

obedience dispels the enmity between God and man. His confession of sin on behalf of man signifies and ratifies man's acknowledgment of and gratefulness for God's forgiveness. Yet though the world is reconciled to God, it is not yet redeemed because mankind has not yet been awakened to the truth and significance of God's reconciling work in Christ.

In our preaching, Barth contends, we do not offer people salvation but proclaim a finished work of salvation. Through the word that is proclaimed the congregation receives a practical awareness of a salvation that is already theirs. We do not call our hearers to decision but remind them of God's decision on their behalf actualized in Jesus Christ. This is not to deny that the Spirit of God may reach out through our preaching and effectuate a conversion of life in our hearers, but we ourselves cannot do this or even hope to do this by preaching. Our responsibility is to make known the conversion of all humankind to God that has already taken place in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God will in his own way and time enable people to enjoy the benefits of this conversion, but it is not the task of the church. This means that we approach unbelievers not as sinners but as virtual brothers, since they, too, stand within the sphere of grace and redemption, though as yet they do not know it. The preacher is therefore a herald of good news but not a winner of souls, an ambassador of Christ but not an agent of his ongoing work of salvation. Christ alone is the Savior of souls, and his work of salvation has already been effected and completed in his sacrificial life and death. Nor should the preacher warn of the terrors of God's judgment because these terrors have already been borne by Jesus Christ on behalf of all humanity. It is "necessary to speak of human sin and error, but only in order to show that sin is annihilated and error destroyed."33

Our difficulty with Barth at this point is that he tends to see preaching not as an instrument or agency of salvation but only as a testimony to a salvation already completed. Salvation was realized in the faith of Jesus Christ, he says, and our own faith is simply an acknowledgement of this great salvation. Perhaps our difference with Barth lies in emphasis rather than substance, since he, too, insists that what has already been accomplished must be apprehended and appropriated by sinful man in the here and now. Yet in his depiction of the cross of Christ as the reconciliation of all mankind to God, he diverges from the biblical and Reformation witness that this reconciliation has validity and reality only for faith and that the world of unbelief continues to stand under the wrath and judgment of God. Preaching, therefore, is

Page 81

not only a witness to reconcililation but a means of reconciliation. Barth can be appreciated for his reminder that God's reconciling grace and love extend to all, that the atoning work of Christ is done on behalf of all, that justification and sanctification are intended for all. But what has been accomplished on behalf of all mankind de jure does not become a concrete reality for us until we receive and surrender to the risen living Christ who confronts us in the word of the sermon. And this surrender is not only an acknowledgement of a salvation accomplished for us but also a decision for a salvation that is applied to us and enacted in us.34

Although noticeably influenced by Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer retained the Lutheran doctrine that the finite can bear the infinite (finitum capax infiniti) and therefore saw the preacher not simply as a witness to Christ but as Christ to his neighbor through the word that he speaks. As Bonhoeffer's biographer put it: "The word of the sermon has, and is, the presence of Christ."35 The sermon has not an accidental but an organic and integral relationship to the Word of the living Christ. "Nothing", Bonhoeffer insisted, "is more concrete than the real voice of Christ speaking in the sermon."36 He did, of course, also acknowledge the concrete presence of the Word in Scripture and the sacraments, but thought it essentially and primarily noticeable in the preached Word. His position is made unmistakably clear: "He has put His Word in our mouth. He wants it to be spoken through us. If we hinder His Word, the blood of the sinning brother will be upon us. If we carry out His Word, God will save our brother through us."37 Bonhoeffer rightly perceived the urgency in the preaching of the Gospel. People are dying in their sins and need to be told the good news that a Savior has come to them and is ready to receive them. "Time is precious, and multitudes are still waiting for the message of the gospel. ... To tell men that the cause is urgent, and that the kingdom of God is at hand is the most charitable and merciful act we can perform, the most joyous news we can bring."38

This does not mean that the Word of salvation should be proclaimed indiscriminately. In his Letters and Papers from Prison Bonhoeffer maintained that there is a time to speak but also a time to remain silent.39 The church should remain silent when it has so falsified its message that it is compromised before the world. It should also be silent when its message becomes a facilitator of sociological conformity or when its message is a plea for its own existence. He believed that the secularization of the faith made it supremely difficult to proclaim the Word of faith in its purity and power and that therefore the church

Page 82

should seek to witness simply by Christian presence, vicarious identification with the poor and despised of the world. He envisioned a period of silence and struggle, but in the end it would once again be the proclaimed Word that would renew the church. When the Word is proclaimed again in power, however, it will be a dereligionized Word, a Word liberated from its captivity to a religio-cultural tradition of the past. It will be a Word expressed not in the archaic language of Zion, an unnecessary stumbling block to the man come of age, but in a new language capable of being understood and assimilatetd by secularized man.

While appreciating many of Bonhoeffer's insightful observations and recommendations, we nonetheless have certain reservations. His view that there are periods when the church should refrain from direct proclamation of the Gospel message has some merit, particularly when this message is compromised in the inner circles of faith itself. At the same time it could be argued that this is precisely the time when the message needs to be uttered by those who have been granted spiritual and theological discernment. In those situations where people refuse to hear or where the hearers of the message are already acquainted with it but have spuned it, there is no merit in direct proclamation, and the ambassador of Christ should then either remain in an underground role or go on to other fields where people may be more receptive (Luke 9:5; Matthew 7:6; Acts 16:6). We can think of some theological seminaries and church colleges that have lost their first love and where the message in its authentic purity and power would be resisted or even ridiculed. Here it is better to remain silent as far as public proclamation is concerned, though one must never give up personal witnessing among his fellow human beings, and this would certainly include the classroom. The point is that even in the most hopeless situations we should look for some opportunity to speak about Christ, and while one must keep silent on occasion, one should never remain silent on principle. Bonhoeffer seems to imply that in this present postwar period we must not go beyond the Word (as in mysticism) but prepare ourselves to hear the Word when God speaks it again in all its truth and power. We believe that God is speaking now, though only those with the eyes and ears of faith can hear and understand. But it is incumbent on those who hear to declare it to others.

We also have questions about Bonhoeffer's insistence on speaking the Word in a new language of a nonconfessional and nonreligious character. We agree with Barth that there can be no substitute for the

Page 83

language of Zion or Canaan, the language of the Bible. To be sure, we must utilize new imagery in clarifying and illuminating biblical concepts, but we can never abandon the uniquely inspired language of Canaan. Nor can we ever lightly forego the confessional language of the church tradition. Paul Tillich, who has tried to translate the biblical concepts into modern parlance, has acknowledged that none of the new expressions can ever contain the richness and depth of meaning that are included in such original words of the religious tradition as "grace" and "sin."40 Bonhoeffer's plea for a new language is not made in the interest of apologetics (as is the case with Bultmann and Tillich) but rather with the intention of clarifying the meaning of the kerygma, which will forever be a stumbling block and folly to the cultured despisers of religion. Like Barth, Bonhoeffer accepts the Anselmian methodology of faith seeking understanding as opposed to the understanding preparing the way for faith (as in Thomas Aquinas). He rightly sees that faith is free to employ new thought-forms and imagery to illumine its object, the Word of God, but he goes too far when he suggests that the religious language of the Bible and the church tradition is thereby superseded.

Preaching the Whole Counsel of God

It is imperative that in our preaching we proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and this includes the Law of God as well as the Gospel, sin as well as salvation, hell as well as heaven. We should go on to add obedience as well as faith, though not as the condition for salvation but as a practical demonstration of our salvation.

The idea is prevalent in neo-Protestantism as well as neo-Catholicism that the purpose of preaching is not to convict people of sin but simply to assure them of divine forgiveness and acceptance. It is said that everyone is accepted irrespective of belilef, conduct, or character. Insofar as God's grace comes to us while we are still in our sins, this is a true statement, but it neglects the complementary truth that though God accepts us as we are, he does not continue to accept us if we remain as we are. He pronounces uf righteous for the purpose of making us righteous. He transfers us from the dominion of darkness to that of light (Col. 1:13) so that we might walk in the light. And if we do not earnestly pursue his righteousness, he will spew us out of his mouth (Rev. 3:16).

The Gospel is not only an announcement of unfathomable grace but

Page 84

an invitation to surrender in faith and repentance. It also includes a call to ethical obedience. Barth's emphasis has been on the first, while the Pietist concern has been with the second and third. All these facets are evident in Isaiah 44:22: "I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you" (cf. Isaiah 45:22).

It is interesting to compare Barth and Edwards in this area. Barth believes that the preaching of the Gospel "does not imply that the hearer is called to make a decision. A decision, if it is made, is a matter between the individual and God alone and is not a necessary element in preaching."41 We should call upon our hearers to acknowledge the salvation that has already been procured for them by Christ and then to live as liberated people. We do not ask them, however, to accept the offer of salvation so that they might be truly saved. Jonathan Edwards, on the other hand, contends that because of the moral inability of the natural man, he is unable to make a bona fide decision for Christ. We should therefore call upon him to seek for salvation, since he can do this through his own power, though not without the aid of the Holy Spirit.

Our position is that through the preaching of the Gospel a new freedom is given which enables the person in sin to repent and cleave to the grace and mercy of Christ. The hearer can make a decision for Christ, though not on the basis of his own power or wisdom. The Holy Spirit is poured ouot on all who hear the good news of what God has done for us in Christ, but the Spirit can be quenched and grieved by those who taste of His power and then reject the Gospel (cf. Matthew 13:5-7). Those who hear the Gospel and refuse to heed its call damn themselves, for they had the opportunity but squandered it. If they accept, of course, the credit goes to the grace of God, since it was the Spirit who enabled them to accept. On the other hand, if they refuse, the blame is on them, since their hardness of heart did not allow the Spirit to have full sway in their lives. Therefore, the Gospel is to one a "savour of death unto death" but to another a "savour of life unto life" (2 Cor. 2:16 KJ).

We must preach not only the good news of God's mercy and love but also the bad news of his wrath and judgment on sin. Apart from the preaching of God's holiness and wrath his love is misunderstood as a sentimental love that only soothes instead of the holy love that purifies and redeems. The Gospel apart from the Law becomes a pill that tranquilizes, not a medicine that stings but also heals. The goal of preaching is indeed to make known "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8),

Page 85

but this is only possible when our sins have been exposed by the searchlight of his law.

Norval Geldenhuys expresses our own attitude on this matter:

This preaching of repentance must always be an inherent element in the Gospel-preaching of the church. Firstly, the sinfulness of sin should be pointed out, as well as God's wrath against it, followed by the inexorable demand for true repentance, and then there should be a summons to have faith in Jesus, the Savior. Without the preaching of the need for repentance the message of the church would degenerate into sentiment.42

To preach Christ's love and to be silent regarding his holiness and wrath is to misconstrue him as a divine Helper rather than a mighty Savior. His cross is wrongly understood as only a symbol of creative love rather than an atonement for sin. We would do well to heed these perceptive remarks of John Wesley: "To preach Christ, is to preach what He haas revealed, either in the Old or New Testament; so that you are then as really preaching Christ, when you are saying, 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God,' as when you are saying, 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!' "43

When we urge the preaching of the Law of God as well as the Gospel we mean the Law not only as a mirror of man in his sin (its first use) but also the Law as a guide to the Christian life (its third use). Consequently, the preaching of the whole counsel of God entails ethical instruction and admonition as well as the exposure of sin and the offer of salvation. To preach the Law only as a guide for Christian living, however, is to fall into the abyss of moralism, since we then lose sight of the biblical truth that the Law condemns even those who aspire to righteous living and that man's only hope is the free grace of God revealed and enacted in Jesus Christ.

We should also bear in mind that when we warn of God's coming judgment in our preaching of the Law and Gospel, we must never ignore the complementary truth that God is also gracious and that his mercy is everlasting. Nor should the person in sin be depicted as only a despicable worm or spider (as in Edwards' preaching), but he should be told that he is created in the image of God and that he stands under the sign of God's gracious election and infinite compassion. Francis Schaeffer reminds us that man is not nothing but something; indeed, he is a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5), and this is why God's love pursues him. Luther advised: "Sinners should not be upbraided in such a way that they are only wounded and driven to despair; but they

Page 86

should be cherished again, so that they are encouraged to be obedient. But this will happen if they are never reproved without mixingi in some praise of them."44

When we preach about sin in the light of God's law, we should not remain with sin in the abstract but also include a condemnation of specific sins. We are thinking of social sins as well as individual sins, for only in this way does our preaching become prophetic. We must indeed censure the more obvious sins of adultery, stealing, murder, alcoholism, and drug addition, but we must go on to bring under the scrutiny of God's judgment the social maladies of air and water pollution, nuclear and germ warfare, indiscriminate abortion, racial and sex discrimination, and the exploitation of the poor by slum landlords and ruthless business concerns. Karl Barth is right that all sermons will have political overtones, though we should not preach politics as such. The bane of so much conservataive evangelical preaching today is that sin in its social and political dimensions is scarcely touched upon, while personal transgressions of the moral code of the culture are sometimes given undue attention. This, of course, is simply another kind of capitulation to the culture, since law-abiding and respectable citizens are left secure in their sins, while only the weak are condemned.45

Evangelicals profess to accept the whole of Scripture and criticize liberals for accepting only what is congenial in Scripture. John Warwick Montgomery scores evangelicals for their lack of consistency: "But why don't we follow our own advice? The liberals use the visible scissors and paste of destructive biblical criticism while we employ the invisible scissors and paste of selective hermeneutics: we preach only those texts that do not make us socially uncomfortable."46

To preach the whole counsel of God means to apply the Gospel and Law to the whole of life. The preaching that concentrates solely on the concern for personal salvation is termed by Berkouwer a "salvation-egotism." It can also be described as a simple Gospel reductionism, which was already attacked by Wesley, since it neglected the call to social as well as personal holiness. To preach only sin and salvation is also to ignore the truth that the Gospel answers not only the problem of sin and guilt but also the problem of meaninglessness, which is particularly acute in our time.

The task of the church is to afflict the comfortable by the preaching of the Law and to comfort the afflicted by the preaching of the Gospel. The comfortable are not really afflicted unless the Law is directed to them personally, not only to their individual transgressions but also to their complicity in social and political sin. Yet the word of condemnation

Page 87

must never be the last word in the sermon. Every sermon that claims to be biblical should contain the message of salvation, the glad tidings that a Mediator has identified himself with us and intercedes for us. Every sermon should be a heralding of the good news of God's grace revealed in Jesus Christ, for otherwise the person in sin is left in disillusionment and despair. Indeed, unless his sins are exposed in the light of God's grace and love as well as God's law, man will never really know himself as a sinner in need of redemption. The Law by itself can provoke feelings of guilt, but only the Law in conjunction with the Gospel can produce conviction of sin as well as the hope of redemption.

In our proclamation of God's law against sin we as preachers must not exempt ourselves from the judgment of this law, as Reinhold Niebuhr reminds us: "A preacher is the mediator of God's judgment and also of his mercy. He may claim to preach with great courage; but he also must recognize how he is himself involved in the sins against which he is preaching. Mercy, humility, and charity must come out of this recognition."47

Finally, the afflicted should not only be comforted but they should also be challenged to decision and obedience. They should not only be given the promise of the Gospel but also the imperative of the Gospel (the Law in its third use). We should make clear that salvation is assured not only by the work of Christ but also by the decision of faith made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Salvation turns into damnation if it is spurned and rejected (cf. Hebrews 12:25). But it becomes the wellspring of peace and joy, the balm of Gilead, when it is accepted and appropriated in repentance and faith.

Reformed Worship

Reformed worship is centered about the preaching and hearing of the Word of God. We are here using the word Reformed in its widest sense to include the whole of evangelical Protestantism, the hallmark of which is the appeal to the authority of the Bible over the church tradition and mystical experience. This kind of spirituality was most clearly identifiable in the Reformation and in early Calvinism and Puritanism. Reformed motifs were rediscovered in the neo-orthodoxy associated with Barth, Brunner, the Niebuhrs, and Bonhoeffer. One can even speak of a Reformed Catholicism (in the style of Kung and Kilian McDonnell). Reformed theology sees the church under the Word and not as the master of the Word or even its guardian. Bonhoeffer

Page 88

cogently expresses the relationship between Word and church from a biblical perspective:

The Word of God ... enters the Church by its own self-initiated movement. It is wrong to suppose that there is so to speak a Word on the one hand and a Church on the other, and that it is the task of the preacher to take that Word into his hands and move it so as to bring it into the Church and apply it to the Church's needs. On the contrary, the Word moves of its own accord, and all the preacher has to do is to assist that movement and try to put no obstacles in its path.48

It is not the visual but the aural that is given paramount attention in Reformed worship. For Barth, " 'liturgy' means the proclamation of the mighy acts of God by which the congregation is established and in the celebration of which it permits itself to be established anew, again and again."49 "In the sermon," says Heiko Oberman, "the Word of God meets the faithful with authority. There the apocalyptic event takes place wherein the real dimensions of the created world are revealed."50 Bultmann here speaks for Calvinists as well as Lutherans: "It is not the consecration of the priest but the proclaimed word which makes holy the house of God."51 According to Bultmann it is the Greeks and not the Hebrews who stressed sight over hearing. To see God is to make an object of him and so "to be able to stand upright in his presence."52 On the other hand, "hearing is a sense of being encountered, of the distance being bridged, the acknowledgment of a speaker's claim on us."

At the same time we should bear in mind that preaching is not the whole of worship. Forsyth rightly observes: "Preaching is the Church's supreme appeal to the world, but it has lost power because it has been made the chief or only function of the Church, which is really to worship. Preaching is a form of worship, worship is not a form of preaching."53 For Calvin the culmination of the worship service is intercessory prayer, not the sermon. Both Luther and Calvin regarded the blessed sacrament of the Eucharist as the high point of a service of worship, whough this is always the sacrament in the context of the Word. Moreover, only the Word is necessary for corporate worship.54 The Pietists saw free prayer, the singing of hymns, and testimonies as also significant and highly beneficial in the service of worship.

In modern evangelicalism preaching has come to preempt worship to such an extent that the personality and gifts of the preacher are deemed more important than the praise and adoration of God. Robert Webber voices this complaint: "Part of the problem is that we have made our churches into centers of evangelism and instruction.

Page 89

The focus of our services is on man and his needs instead of God and His glory."55

We need to recall that it is not only the preached Word but also the celebration of the sacraments that creates and sustains the fellowship of Christ. Bonhoeffer remarks: "The word of preaching is insufficient to make us members of Christ's Body; the sacraments also have to be added. Baptism incorporates us into the unity of the Body of Christ, and the Lord's Supper fosters and sustains our fellowship and communion ... in that Body."56 Forsyth advises: "Our idolatry of the popular preacher needs to be balanced by more stress on the Sacraments. There the common gift comes out, the administrant fades away."57 The sacraments were ordained by Jesus Christ as channels and bearers of his Word. They are described by Emil Brunner as "the divinely given flying buttresses which save the Church from collapse."58

The sacraments are the visible Word or the visible form of the Word. Yet this very manner of speaking points to the fact that there can be no sacrament apart from the proclaimed and read word of Scripture. The sacrament is a supplement to the Word but not a substitute for it. While the sacraments are supremely helpful in the application of the fruits of our salvation, the Word alone is indispensable for salvation. There is no fullness of the Church without the sacraments, but there can be true fellowships of believers apart from the sacraments.

Catholic theology has traditionally emphasized the Mass over the sermon as the focal point of the service, but evangelical voices in that communioin have continued to make themselves heard. Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444) recommended: "If thou canst do only one of these two things, hear the Mass, or hear a sermon, thou shouldst rather leave the Mass than the preaching."59 Bernard of Clairvaux averred, "It is not the absence but the contempt of the sacrament that damns."60 Augustine stoutly affirmed that the celebration of the Eucharist should always be accompanied by the preaching of the Word. In our day Kilian McDonnell is one who regards the preaching of the Gospel as primary, though he sees the Eucharistic celebration as part of that proclamation.61 Hans Kung maintains that in the Lord's Supper Christ becomes present not through the ritual or elements but through the word that is preached. As he puts it, "The word here has not primarily the function of consecrating and transforming, but of proclaiming and testifying."62

Both the mainline Reformers had a high view of the sacraments, but they also insisted on the priority of the proclaimed Word. Luther asserted: "For the word can exist without the sacrament, but the sacrament

Page 90

cannot exist without the word. And in case of necessity, a man can be saved without the sacrament, but not without the word; this is true of those who desire baptism but die before they can receive it."63

Calvin was adamant that Christ is really present by his Spirit in the sacraments which he ordained. Yet they must never preempt the place of the Gospel: "I do not, indeed, deny that the grace of Christ is applied to us in the sacraments, and that our reconciliation with God is then confirmed in our consciences; but, as the testimony of the Gospel is engraven upon the sacraments, they are not to be judged of separately by themselves, but must be taken in connection with the Gospel, of which they are appendages."64 For sacraments "to beget faith," they must be united with the preaching of the Gospel.65

Despite his sacramental bent Beonhoeffer nevertheless looked with reserve on the liturgical movement which sought to restore litanies, the weekly Eucharist, pericopes, and symbols. "With cultic endeavors," he warned, "we are in danger of wanting to add something to the preached word, of attempting to lend a particular style of expression to it. But it may not be and does not need to be so undergirded."66

A similar distrust of the liturgical movement is reflected in Reformed theologian Hans-Joachin Kraus: "Orders of worship are good and necessary, but more and more their liturgical formalism solidifies a ritualistic procedure in which only one person presides -- the priestlike pastor .... Where the authority of preaching declines, the attempts to make worship liturgical and formal increase."67 Kraus advocates a rediscovery of charismatic gifts in trying to break through liturgical ossification, but (at least in this particular discussion) he makes no attempt to relate thses to the sacraments.

In our reservations concerning formalistic and sacramental worship, we must not deny the sacraments their rightful place. The Word and the sacrament are complementary, even though the second is more or less dependent on the first. The Word needs the sacrament in order to become concrete in the life of the congregation. The sacrament needs the Word in order to give meaning and direction to the congregation. On the road to Emmaus the two men who accompanied Jesus heard his message and also broke bread with him. Their eyes were opened to his identity in the breaking of the bread, but previous to that their hearts burned within them while he talked with them on the road and opened to them the Scriptures (Luke 24:30-32). Their conversion was not fulfilled until the time of their sacramental eating.

In his controversy with his Catholic and sectarian opponents Luther was compelled to place perhaps undue emphasis on the Word. He could

Page 91

even say: "Where God's Word is not preached, it were better if people did not sing, read, or assemble at all."68 The sacrament should generally not be celebrated apart from the proclaimed word, but certainly people can join together in fellowship singing, Bible study, and prayer apart from any formal preaching. Preaching is indispensable for complete worship, but only prayer (in sung or spoken words) is absolultely essential for worship itself.

A sanctuary in a truly Reformed church will be based on the principle of the congregation gathered to hear and adore the Word of God. A divided chancel is not true to the peculiar emphases of either Luther or Calvin, though its demise was effected only in Reformed Christendom. The early Calvinists and Puritans believed that the preached Word should never be separated from the Word read from Scripture. Instead, the sermon should never be separated from the Word read from Scripture. Instead, the sermon should be an exposition of what has been previously read. In a Reformed church the pulpit will be in a prominent position not remote from the people; ideally it will be in the center and slightly raised. Below the pulpit facing the congregation will be the communion table (or table altar).69 This arrangement points to the biblical and Reformed truth that the sacrament is dependent on the Word for its reallity and efficacy.

The blessed sacrament should be celebrated frequently, but not too frequently, since sacramental participation in the mystery of Christ's passion and death must be preceded by self-examination and confession of sins. There is also the danger of the sacrament becoming too commonplace if it is celebrated too often.70 The sacrament must not be reduced to a fellowship or agape meal, for it signifies a real participation in the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16). Here people are confronted by the living Christ, who makes himself present in a way even more intimate and awe-inspiring than in the hearing or reading of the Word.

Reformed worship should not be overstructured, thus allowing for the freedom of the Spirit to change and redesign worship. It will generally include, in addition to the preaching and hearing of the Word of God, the reading from the Old Testament as well as the New, prayers of praise and thanksgiving, confession of sins and assurance of pardon, intercessory prayer, and the singing of hymns to the glory of God. For the pastor to face the altar in prayer is decidedly un-Reformed, since this betrays a hidden belief in the localized presence of Christ. (Such a practice is also very bad acoustically.) Choirs, testimonials, and invitationals are not integral to Reformed worship, though they may enhance it on occasion. The stress in Reformed Christianity is on the

Page 92

congregation praying and singing in unison as well as hearing the Word of God as a corporate body.

Reformed worship will also be characterized by a sense of the numinous. Worship is not a social get-together but a state of being grasped by the holy God. We worship not for the sake of mutual edification but to give glory and honor to God. Yet in addition to the sense of the awesome presence of God, Reformed worship has a certain joyous spontaneity. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, confidence, and joy. Bonhoeffer declares: "The Word of God demands a great deal of reserve and awe, but it demands an even greater confidence and joyfulness in its power and might."71 We would add that the Word of God also creates a sense of expectation, since where God's Word is truly preached and heard, there people are converted, reconciled, and renewed in their faith.

Biblical Versus Cultural Preaching

There is no doubt that cultural preaching has largely supplanted biblical preaching, at least on the American scene, and this holds true in conservative as well as liberal churches. While studying in New York City, Bonhoeffer was dismayed to find that preaching had been "degraded to marginal ecclesiastical observations about events of the day," with "the quoting of edifying instances ... willing descriptions of one's own religious experiences, to which of course no binding character is attributed in practice."72 Daniel Jenkins has labeled American preaching as "anecdotal" and "trivial." At its best such preaching provides an emotional uplift, but very rarely does it result in spiritual rebirth.

There is much preaching, to be sure, that "sticks to the Gospel" outwardly but makes no attempt to relate the Gospel to the concrete situation where people find themselves. Forsyth's advice was to "refuse to bow to the spirit of the age," but "at least to speak the language of that age, and address it from the Cross in the tone of its too familiar sorrow."73

Gospel preaching should be biblical as opposed to sectarian. It should concern itself with the whole counsel of God and not with the party line of the denomination. It should be a faithful exposition of the text and not an unco9nvincing appeal to the text in support of preconceived opinions.74 It should be both evangelical in content and ecumenical in outreach: it should seek to bring the whole world into submission to Christ.

Page 93

Sectarian preaching is present when an emphasis on predestination makes superfluous a call to conversion or when eternal security is upheld in such a way as to make people secure in their sin. A sectarian gospel is also evident when free grace is preached to the exclusion of the call to holiness. Another kind of imbalance is apparent where sanctification is magnified over justification. It is by no means time-worn formulas that will satisfy the spiritual yearnings of our people but a fresh word from God which judges all human constructs and systems. Our commission is to preach not Calvinism or Lutheranism or Wesleyanism but the biblical Gospel in all its breadth, depth, and power.

At the same time the biblical preacher will not neglect doctrine for religious experience or ethics. He will eschew doctrinal complexities but will try to make clear the doctrinal complexities but will try to make clear the doctrinal distinctives of biblical faith. He will not seek to fathom mysteries unknown but declare mysteries revealed. As Luther put it: "Doctrinal truth should be preached always, openly, without compromise, and never dissembled or concealed."75 Luther was particularly emphatic that preaching should include a defense of salvation by grace and justification by faith alone. "Preaching must faithfully adhere to doctrine," said Barth, "that is, to the Confession of our faith, which is not a summary of the religious ideas drawn from our own inner consciousness but a statement of what we believe and confess because we have received it and have heard the Word of Revelation."76 James Boice rightly urges that we should "preach the great doctrines of Scripture and not withhold them in the mistaken notion that they are too deep or too 'theological' for our people."77 Furthermore, we should also expose all subjective, untrue thought systems in the light of the Word (Bonhoeffer).

An anti-intellectualism pervades modern evangelicalism, which gives preaching an experiential rather than a doctrinal or biblical cast. Calvin contended that "none will ever be a good minister of the Word of God, unless he is first of all a scholar."78 The right preparation for preaching is not only prayer but also study, and study not just of the Bible but of the theology of the Church through the ages. To be sure, we are to preach Christ and not theology, but we are to present the right understanding of Christ, adn this entails theology. Our preaching must be grounded in a personal encounter with the living Christ, but it must be informed by biblical and theological study. We must speak in the power of the Spirit, but we must think theologically if we are truly to preach the biblical Christ. Dogma is not the aim of our preaching, but it is a condition for it (Bonhoeffer).

Page 94

Again, biblical preaching will carry the ring of authority. According to Emil Brunner, "soundness of doctrine is only one point of view from which the preaching of the Church may be judged; the other is that of sincerity, 'power,' and authority."79 So much preaching today is eclectic rather than exclusivistic; it is characterized by an uncritical openness to the spirit of the age rather than an urgency to bring the good news of redemption to lost sinners. More often than not it takes the form of an edifying discourse on spiriutal or moral themes in contrast to a definitive pronouncement concerning God's act of salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself preached with authority (Luke 4:32, 36), and so must his followers through the ages. Kierkegaard's complaint is still valid: "Authority is a specific quality either of an Apostolic calling or of ordination. To preach simply means to use authority; and that is exactly what is completely and utterly forgotten in these times."80 In a similar vein Karl Barth laments: "Is not the very fact that so wretchedly little binding address is heard in the Church accountable for a goodly share of her misery -- is it not perhaps the misery?"81

It should be borne in mind that the authority in preaching should center not on the personality or talents or wisdom of the minister but on the Word. Bonhoeffer warns against a temptation that seems particularly prevalent in current evangelism: "Every cult of personality that emphasizes the distinguished qualities, viertues, and talents of another person, even though these be of an altogether spiritual nature, is worldly and has no place in the Christian community; indeed, it poisons the Christian community."82

Biblical preaching will aslo be kerygmatic rather than apologetic in nature. It will not seek to defend the validity of the claims of the Christian religion but instead herald the good news of reconciliation and redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our task is simply to let down the net (the Gospel), and Christ will bring in the fish (Luke 5:1-10). Christ, said Luther, "should and must be preached in such a way that, in both you and me, faith grows out of and is received from, the preaching. And that faith is received and grows when I am told why Christ came, how men can use and enjoy Him, and what He has brought and given me."83 We do not need to prove Scripture but to expound Scripture in the light of its goal and content -- the cross of Christ. We are not called to discover a point of contact with our hearers, since the Word of God creates its own response. God sends forth his Word, and it does not return to him void (Isaiah 55:11). Neither should we seek to correlate the Gospel message with the questions of our hearers (as Tillich and Brunner advise);

Page 95

rather we should so confront them with the Gospel that they are moved to ask the right questions. We are to begin wtih the Word of God in Scriputre and then relate it to the cultural situation; we do not begin with man's existential predicament and then try to discover whether Scripture throws any light upon it.

Kerygmatic preaching is based not on topics of current interest but on the Scriptural message, which has abiding relevance. Consequently, it takes the form of an elucidation of this message rather than a discourse on character or conduct. Kerygmatic preaching is sacramental rather than ethical because through this preaching sins are forgiven and hearts and minds transformed.

Biblical preaching will likewise be evangelical as opposed to moralistic. It will be based on the principle of the sovereignty and all-sufficiency of grace rather than the possibilities for righteousness inherent within man. This means that fidelity to the Word of God is more important than an appeal to the understanding or emotions of our hearers. If man's conversion has its source in divine grace instead of the freedom of the will, the hope of success lies in the action of the Holy Spirit, not in the persuasive powers of the preacher. Augustine wisely observed: "To will is of ourselves, but to will well, both partly and wholly is of grace."84

Regrettably, much current revivalistic preaching is Pelagian or semi-:elagian rather than Augustinian. The desired audience effect hangs not on the preaching but on the total package, which includes awesome settings, dramatic music, careful psychological timing, and altar calls. The altar call as a revival technique did not become fashionable until the first part of the nineteenth century, when it was adopted by Charles Finney; it was singularly absent from the earlier awakenings associated with Wesley, Whitefield, and Edwards, all of whom stressed the priority and all-sufficiency of grace. This is not to deny any place whatever for an altar call, particularly in evangelistic meetings, but preaching itself should contain the invitation. The invitational after the sermon, if it is to be held at all, should be to profess Christ publicly on the part of those who have received him inwardly.85 There may be times when a special act of dedication and surrender is called for at the close of the service, but Holy Communion should generally be the occasion for this. The loss of the penitential and decision-character of the blessed sacrament partially accounts for the rise and popularity of the altar call.

As has been implied, evangelical preaching stands in contrast not only to moralistic but to psychological preaching as well. The last is indeed a manifestation of a moralistic mentality. The focus is upon

Page 96

sharing one's own experience of conversion or inducing such an experience in others. Paul indicted this general approach when he declared: "For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord" (2 Cor. 4:5). And, as James Denney has trenchantly observed, "No man can at the same time call attention to himself and to Christ."86. Bonhoeffer also warns against this pitfall: "I am not expected primarily to testify emphatically to my salvation but to the Savior. I cannot save anybody with my human experience."87 Forsyth was especially critical of what he termed "impressionistic" preaching, by which the minister tries to make an impression upon his hearers rather than to uphold God's Word, even if this arouses displeassure and opposition.

Again, biblical preaching will be charismatic as opposed to formalistic. The preacher will seek to be led by the Spirit even as he speaks (Romans 15:18-19). Watchman Nee declares: "A minister of the word ministers with Spirit-taught words. Not only does the Holy Spirit speak words of wisdom with my lips; He teaches me how to speak."88 This does not deny the necessity for extensive preparation, but, after having prepared, the preacher should rely not on hisd notes or manuscript but upont he power of the Spirit. Luther makes this poignant observation: "Preachers often go astray in their notes so that they can't go on with what they have begun. It has often happened to me that my best outline came undone. On the other hand, when I was least prepared my words flowed during the sermon."89 Luther is not arguing agaisnt careful preparation but agaisnt dependence on one's own resources and wisdom.

Preaching on pericopes or texts selected by the church to fit in with the church year can be a means of quenching the Spirit. Pericopes can be useful as a general guide, but on should be open to the movement of the Spirit even in the selection of the text. We here agree with Paul Holmer:

Surely the pericopes are old and tried, and they probably do not utterly fail the purpose of our faith. But, they also omit a lot, and they tend to make the Bible fit the church practises and the rather demure way that most worshipers have of being domesticated to churchly life.90

Charismatic preaching does not necessarily involve a display of emotion on the part of either the preacher or the congregation. Ouor appeal is not to the feelings of people but to the power of the Holy Spirit. Bonhoeffer rightly criticized "senseless shouting and emotional excitement in preaching and worship. We are witnesses, not the trumpeters of the Last Judgment. That does not, however, exclude from our witness the utmost zeal but rather includes it."91

Page 97

Finally, biblical preaching will be prophetic as well as evangelical and kerygmatic. This is to say it will include the application of the Law to the sins of society. Evangelical power stems from the preaching of the kerygma, but social relevance comes through the preaching of the Law. Those who are claled to the ministry of the Word must not be intimidated in the face of public opinion. They must be bold in declaring God's displeasure with social as well as individual sin. Too often, however, prophetic preaching becomes ideological, and what is proclaimed is no longer the divine Word that stands above the polarities in social conflict but the social philosophies of power groups within society. We see this especially in liberal preaching of the social gospel type which is often allied with left-wing causes, but it is also apparent in much conservative preaching which may be biblical in form but ideological in content. In holding up Christ as the direct answer to social problems, conservative preachers often encourage acquiescence to the political status quo, thereby betraying their alliance with the political and economic establishment from which they derive their financial support.

The recent fascination with dialogue preaching, in which two ministers share opinions on some social or theological issue, signifies an evasion of our prophetic mandate. It also indicates an abdication of evangelical preaching, since the focus is on seeking the truth in openness rather than proclaiming it with conviction and certainty. The real dialogue should be between Jesus Christ and the worshipper -- Christ speaking through the preacher and the Scripture, and man responding in prayers and hymns of praise.

True biblical preaching is discernible by its fruits. One sign of its authenticity is the experience of conviction of sin and repentance. Another is the creation of a fellowship of love (koinonia) and the willingness to enter into costly discipleship. Yet another is the urgency of mission, the desire to bring others into the fold of the saints.

A less welcome but no less inevitable test of biblical preaching is the opposition that it arouses. Such preaching not only disturbs sinners who prefer to be content in their sin but also antagonizes the spiritual powers of darkness which it exposes and overthrows. It was Luther's experience that, "as soon as the Word is preached and as soon as there are people that accept and confess it, the devil quickly appears with all his angels and arouses the world with all its might against this Word, to stifle it and completely destroy those that have and confess it."92 One should not confuse the opposition of the powers of evil to the Gospel with the understandable resistance of godfearing people to tactlessness, lovelessness, dictatorial methods, or slothfulness on the part

Page 98

of the pastor, all traits which signify infidelity to the Word of God.

Finally, we should not that an awakened and converted congregatoin will honor the office of preaching. As Bonhoeffer put it: "The congregation which is being awakened by the proclamation of the Word of God will demonstrate the genuineness of its faith by honouring the office of preaching in its unique glory and by serving it with all its powers; it will not rely on its own faith or on the universal priesthood of all believers in order to depreciate the office of preaching, to place obstacles in its way, or even to try to make it subordinate to itself."93 For the later Bonhoeffer the office of the pastor deriveds its legitimation from Jesus Christ himself and not from the will of the congregation. A cultural church will be held together by the impact of the personality of the minister. A biblical church, on the other hand, will be sustained by the power and authority of the Word of God and the respect and honor given to the office of preaching. Whereas the spirit of camaraderie will be promoted in a cultural church, the expectation of hope and outgoing love will characterize a biblical church, one that is nurtured and enlivened by the preaching and hearing of the Word of God.



1. These words are from Barth's The Preaching of the Gospel, trans. B.E. Hooke (Philadelphi: Westminster Press, 1963), which still reflects a sacramental view of preaching. The later Barth was emphatic that preaching is a human response to the divine event of reconciliation and redemption in Jesus Christ and can only attest but not communicate this event, which is ever continuing and living.

2. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Vol. 14, trans. Fathers of the Engllish Dominican Province (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1934) pp. 274-275.

3. In his preaching Savonarola was noted for his condemnation of the luxury of the Roman church of his day and its indifference to the poor. The Gospel remphasis is more clearly discernible in his spiritual writings though it is certainly obvious in many of his sermons. One biographer remarks: "The most powerful impressions made by his preaching were not through his impassioned denunciations of vice and evil-doing, but in his touching and beautiful descriptions of the mercy of God and his love, andin his tender and earnest pleadings with the people to bring their lives into harmony with the divine life of Jesus Christ." In William H. Crawford, Girolamo Savonarola (Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham, 1907), p. 95. Another interpreter comments: "His theology was in accord with the Catholic

Page 99

orthodoxy of his age, having been chiefly formed by Aquinas. But his knowledge of Scripture and his reforming soul encouraged the entrance of many evangelical opinions into his sermons ... Besides the scholastic traces, and in spite of the struggle of his better knowledge of Scripture, the allegorical method of interpretation too much prevails and mars the force of his sermons." Edwin Charles Dargan, A History of Preaching, vol. 1, reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), p. 358.

4. Quoted in Domenico Grasso, Proclaiming God's Messeage (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1965), p. 33.

5. Dargan, A History of Preaching, vol. 1, pp. 229, 230.

6. Walter M. Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press, 1966), pp. 149, 150.

7. Cited in The Reformed Journal, vol. 25, no. 6 (July-August 1975), p. 31.

8. Luther, W.A. 10 I, 1, 17.

9. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, vol. 22 (St. Louis; Concordia, 1956), p. 55.

10. Luther, W.A. 17 II, 262-263.

11. Thomas S. Kepler, ed., The Table Talk of Martin Luther, (Cleveland: World, 1952), p. 236.

12. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, 15, 4, Ed. and trans. John Allen (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1936), p. 585.

13. John Calvin, Commentary on Isaiah 55:11. Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera 37:291.

14. cf: "The Gospel is not preached that it may only be heard by us, but that it may as a seed of immortal life, altogether reform our hearts." Commentary on 1 Peter 1:23. Corpus Reformatorum Calv. Op., 55:229.

15. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, trans. and ed. John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1849), ch. 10.16, pp. 400-401.

16. John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, III, 35, 4, trans. William Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1852), p. 65.

17. "He also convinced them without the word, for we know how powerful are the secret instincts of the Spirit." Commentary on Matthew 15:23, Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera, 45:457. For Calvin, however, this is the exception and not the rule.

18. Arthur C. Cochrane, ed., Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century (Philadelphia: Westminster Press), p. 225.

19. Ibid.

20. George Whitefield: "It is not the business of the ministers of the gospel ... to entertain people with harangues of dry morality, and leave out Jesus Christ." D. Macfarlane, Revivals of the Eighteenth Century (Edinburgh, n.d.), p. 32.

21. Irvonwy Morgan, Puritan Spirituality, p. 14.

22. John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (Chicago: Moody Press, 1959), p. 94.

23. Ibid., p. 97.

24. Ibid., p. 100.

25. Ibid.

Page 100

26. Cited in Marie E. Richard, Philip Jacob Spener and His Work (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1897), p. 20.

27. He declares: "Whether edification takes place in Christian worship largely depends upon the process by which religious self-consciousness comes to be thought and then communicated." Friedrich Schleiermacher, Brief Outline on the Study of Theology, trans. Terrence N. Tice (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1966), p. 98.

28. P.T. Forsyth, Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind (London: Independent Press, 1953), p. 254.

29. Ibid.

30. Harry Escott, ed., The Cure of Souls: An Anthology of P.T. Forsyth's Practical Writings (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 133.

31. Ibid.

32. Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man, trans. Douglas Horton (New York: harper & Row, 1957), pp. 183-217.

33. Barth, The Preaching of the Gospel, p. 17.

34. In his earlier phase Barth was not averse to speaking of reconciliation as being effected through preaching, though he meant the fruits of reconciliation. See The Preaching of the Gospel, p. 22. As he matured in his thought, he ever more distinguished the reconciling work of Christ and the revealing work of the Spirit. The Spirit discloses in preaching what has already been enacted and effected for all mankind in the cross and resurrection of Christ.

35. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, rev. ed. Eberhard Bethge (New York: Macmillan, 1967), p. xiii.

36. Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, trans. Eric Mosbacher et al. (London: Collins, 1970), p. 361.

37. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), p. 108.

38. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 188.

39. Bonheoffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, ed. Eberhard Bethge (New York: Macmillan, 1972), pp. 280-282, 299-300, 327. Also see his Ethics, ed. Eberhard Bethge, trans. Neville Horton Smith (New York: Macmillan, 1962), pp. 84 ff.

40. See Paul Tillich, The Interpretation of History, trans. N.A. Rasetzki and Elsa L Talmey (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936), pp. 46, 47; and his The Shaking of the Foundations (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952), pp. 153 ff.

41. Barth, The Preaching of the Gospel, p. 10.

42. Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), pp. 141-142.

43. John Wesley's Forty-Four Sermons, 12th ed. (London: Epworth Press, 1975), p. 400.

44. Luther's Works, vol. 29, p. 184.

45. Evangelicals would do well to remember that Jonathan Edwards spoke out against unethical business practices, rebuking parishioners for denying grazing rights to the poor and for raising the price of their grain in times of poor harvest (A.D. magazine, vol. 5, no. 9 [September 1976], p. 28). He also

Page 101

defended Indian land rights against members of his own congregation and his own relatives (while serving at the frontier Indian mission at Stockbridge after his dismissal from his congregation at Northampton in 1750). We should also bear in mind the politically incendiary preaching of the Scottish Reformer John Knox. Though his sermons were theological in substance, they had far-reaching pollitical and social consequences.

46. Gary R. Collins, ed., Ouor Society in Turmoil (Carol Stream, Ill.: Creation House, 1970), p. 22.

47. Reinhold Niebuhr, Justice and Mercy (New YOrk: Harper & Row, 1974), p. 134.

48. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 225.

49. Karl Barth, God Here and Now, trans. Paul M. Van Buren (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964), p. 78.

50. Daniel Callahan, Heiko Oberman, and Daniel J. O'Hanlon, eds., Christianity Divided (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1961), p. 235.

51. Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958), pp. 84-85.

52. Rudolf Bultmann, Primitive Christianity in Its Contemporary Setting, trans. R.H. Fuller (London: Thames & Hudson, 1956), p. 23.

53. P.T. Forsyth, Congregationalism and Reunion. (London: Independent Press, 1952), p. 78.

54. Zwingli, unlike Luther and Calvin, restricted the Eucharist to four times a year and saw the worship service oriented about the sermon. He set the pace for the rationalizing of Protestant worship whereby the mystical and sacramental aspects of worship faded into the background.

55. Robert Webber, "Agenda for the Church 1976-2000," Eternity, vol. 27, no. 1 (January 1976), pp. 15 ff.

56. Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 215.

57. P.T. Forsyth, The Church and the Sacraments, 2nd ed. (London: Independent Press, 1947), p. 232.

58. Emil Brunner, Our Faith, trans. John W. Rilling (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1954), pp. 127, 128.

59. Quoted in Samuel M. Shoemaker, By the Power of God (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), p. 128.

60. Cited in Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), p. 350.

61. In a personal letter dated February 25, 1976. For McDonnell worship should be seen as the context for the Word.

62. Hans Kung, The Church, trans. Ray Ockenden and Rosaleen Ockenden (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1967), p. 219.

63. Luther, W.A. 38, 231.

64. John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, II, 5, 19, trans. John Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1849), p. 239.

65. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, 14, 4, ed. John T. McNeill, p. 1279.

66. Clyde E. Fant, Bonhoeffer: Worldly Preaching (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1975), pp. 129-130.

Page 102

67. Hans-Joachim Kraus, The Threat and the Poser, trans. Keith Crim (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1971), p. 73.

68. Martin Luther, Von Ordnung Gottesdiensts, W.A. 12, 35.

69. We affirm that both symbols -- table and altar -- have a place in Reformed Christianity, since the Eucharist is both a fellowship meal and a representation and proclamation of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. The Mercersburg movement in the German Reformed church in nineteenth-century America recovered the sacrificial dimension of Eucharistic worship.

70. See Frederick W. Schroeder, Worship in the Reformed Tradition (Philadelphia: United Church Press, 1966), pp. 139-147. Our own recommendation is for a monthly observance of the sacrament.

71. Fant, Bonhoeffer: Worldly Preaching, p. 173.

72. Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 175.

73. P.T. Forsyth, God the Holy Father (London: Independent Press Ltd., 1957), p. 61.

74. Cf. Donald G. Miller: "Unless our messsage is an unfolding of the meaning of the Scriptures, we are orators and not preacher. And the world will never be saved by oratory -- only by God!" In his Fire in Thy Mouth (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1954), p. 109.

75. Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.E. Packer and O.R. Johnston (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), p. 95.

76. Barth, The Preaching of the Gospel, p. 30.

77. James Montgomery Boice, "The Great Need for Great Preaching," Christianity Today, vol. 19, no. 6 (December 20, 1974), p. 9.

78. Sermon on Deuteronomy 5:23-27. Corpus Reformatorum, Calvini Opera, 26:406.

79. Emil Brunner, Revelation and Reason, trans. Olive Wyon (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1946), p. 157.

80. Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age, trans. Alexander Dru (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 97 n.

81. Karl Barth, The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1939), p. 83.

82. Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 108.

83. Bertram Lee Woolf, ed., Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 1 (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), p. 368.

84. Quoted in Morgan, Puritan Spirituality, p. 33.

85. The invitational, to be sure, can be the occasion for the decision of faith itself, and therefore our recommendation should be taken only as a general principle. We urge, however, that people be encouraged to surrender to Christ and forsake their sins in the situation of the preaching and hearing of the Word, for otherwise preaching is simply a preparation for an extrabiblical devotional practice viewed as the climax of the service.

86. Cited in James McGraw, Great Evangelical Preachers of Yesterday (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1961), p. 8.

87. Fant, Bonhoeffer, Worldly Preaching, p. 167.

88. Watchman Nee, The ministry of God's Word (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1971), p. 187.

89. Luther's Works, vol. 54, p. 213.

Page 103

90. Paul Holmer, "Contemporary Evangelical Faith: An Assessment and Critique." In The Evangelicals, eds. David F. Wells and John D. Woodbridge (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1975) [pp. 68-95], pp. 73-74.

91. Fant, Bonhoeffer, Worldly Preaching, pp. 172-173.

92. Luther's Works, vol. 12, p. 167.

93. Bonhoeffer, Ethics. p. 260.

V. The Priesthood of All Believers

Sin lurks deep

The Grandeur and Misery of Mankind

   The Bible

The Priesthood of All Believers

As you come to him, the living Stone ... you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5

And you have gathered them into a kingdom and made them priests of our God; they shall reign upon the earth. Revelation 5:10

Since he is a priest and we are his brethren, all Christians have the power and must fulfill the commandments to preach and to come before God with our intercessions for one another and to sacrifice ourselves to God. Martin Luther

Not only ministers but all Christians are made priests by their Savior, are anointed by the Holy Spirit, and are dedicated to perform spiritual-priestly acts. Philip Spener

The abolition of a special priestly caste and its replacement by the priesthood of the one new and eternal high priest has as its strange and yet logical consequence the fact that all believers share in a universal priesthood. Hans Kung


Priesthood in the Bible

It is commonly believed that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers has its basis in the New Testament rather than the Old and that the Old Testament conception of priesthood is superseded and annulled. Yet a careful examination of the Old Testament discloses that the New Testament doctrine is indeed anticipated in the Old. Under the Mosaic covenant the whole nation is to be a "kingdom of priests" and hence a holy people (Exodus 19:6; Lev. 11:44ff.; Numbers 15:40).

Page 105

The sanctity required of the whole people is, however, symbolized in a special priesthood drawn from the tribe of Levi which functioned as a mediator of the covenant. This Levitical priesthood had a representative character. Its members discharged their duties on behalf of the community as a whole. Through their ministrations the true requirements for serving God were continually kept before the eyes of the covenant people. The covenant relationship with God was vicariously maintained by this priesthood in the name of the whole nation. In this way a purified and sactified Israel was able to serve God and receive his blessing (Zechariah 3:1-5).

In the earliest known social pattern of Israel, however, priests as a class did not exist. Any Israelite man could present offereings to God: this was usually the tribal leader or eldest son, for instance, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Manoah, and Gideon. Samuel, generally thought of as a prophet, nevertheless fulfilled all the functions of a priest (1 Samuel 2:18; 3:1; 9:13-25). During the early monarchy kings sometimes exercised priestly prerogatives, for example, David (2 Samuel 6:12-19; 24:25) and Solomon (1 Kings 3:15). In Israelite tradition the special priesthood originated at Sinai, with the consecration of Aaron and his sons. At the same time, as we have seen, prophets, judges, and kings also assumed priestly roles on various occasions.

As Israelite religion developed the preistly role was eve more restricted to a special caste. Whe the temple became a national institution under the kings, the priesthood was given additional prestige. After the return form the exile it assumed an even more important role, since it was religion that now gave Israel is governors, it's institutions and meaning, the reason for its being. As the priesthood was increasingly elevated in Hebrew society, the tensions between prophet and priest became steadily more pronounced. The ritual sacrifices of the priests were regarded by prophetic figures as of considerably less value than acts of justice and mercy (Micah 6:6-8; Amos 5: 21-24). It was the sacrifice of a broken heart that was deemed most acceptable before God (Psalm 51:17). The priesthood of the whole people of God was reaffirmed in the messianic prediction of Isaiah: "You shall be called the priests of the Lord, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God" (Isaiah 61:6; cf. Joel 2:28-29).

By the time of Jesus the authority of the priestly caste had become intolerably oppressive.1 Beginning in 400 B.C., when the Jews accepted the Torah as their canonical guidebood, the high priest at Jerusalem not only receiveed tithes as an offering but demanded them as a legal requirement. The aristocratic priestly party, the Sadducees, saw in

Page 106

Jesus a special threat, since he assumed the role of the perfect and great high priest. Jesus did not repudiate the Jewish priesthood not the sacrifical system of the Temple, but he made clear that the kingdom of God transcends the restrictions of cultus and sacrifice and that the spirit of worship, not the place of worship, is of utmost significance (John 4:23). He also pointed to himself as the true temple of God and thereby incurred the wrath of the high priest Caiaphas (Matthew 26:61; cf. John 2:19-21).

The New Testament is unequivocal that the sacrifices and burnt offerings of the Old Testament priesthoos are both superseded and fulfilled in the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Whereas the sacrifices of the priesthood under the old covenant were offered repeatedly and could never take away sin, Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sin that effects salvation (Romans 3:25; 8:3; Hebrews 10:11-12). The believer can now enter the sanctuary of God's presence through the blood of Christ and no longer needs the special mediation of a priestly caste. All that is necessary is that we come to God with the full assurance of faith and hope in the promises of Christ (Hebrews 10:22-23).

The priesthood of Jesus finds its type and pattern in the legendary figure of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18; Psalm 110:4), who "is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life' (Hebrews 7:3). Christ's priesthood is eternal, for he continues to interced for us at the right hand of God (Hebrews 7:24-25). Human mediators are no longer necessary, since his Spirit dwells within those who believe. We now have direct accesss to God through him who dies for us and rose again and lives within us by his Spirit.

In Judaism priesthood was hereditary in the tribe of Levi. The priest was a mediator between the divine and human by virtue of his superior knowledge of the supernatural. He was the director and performer of sacrifices offered to the diety.

In the New Testament church, on the other hand, one becomes a priest by being united through faith in the one Mediator, Jesus Christ. Because we are his brethren, we share in his priestly role by offering spiruital sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2:5). By his Spirit we are enabled to intercede, sacrifice, and counsel on behalf of others. Christ brings our sacrifices and intercessions before the Father and thus renders them acceptable and effectual (1Peter 2:5; Hebrews 7:25). Christians share in the kingly rule of Christ as well as in his priestly intercession (Rev. 1:6) and therefore fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of the New Israel as a holy nation and royal priesthood (Exod. 19:6; Isaiah 42:6; 61:6). The church is indeed

Page 107

estabished as a "kingdom of priests" (Rev. 1:6: 5:10; 20:6) who are empowered to preach, sacrifice, and intercede for the world. All its members have been anointed by the Spirit to be witnesses and ambassadors of Christ (cf. Act 2:17-18).

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The priesthood of believers, as the New Testament understands this, cannot be adequately understood apart from the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All Christians are called to exercise their priesthood but in different ways, depending on the gifts that have been allotted to them. Calling, indeed, is correlative with charism. The way we serve in the body of Christ is conditional on how we use the charisms that are bestowed on us in faith and baptism (cf. 1 Cor. 7:17).

Paul was conscious that his own ministry was grounded in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrough through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of sings and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit: "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:18-19). His preaching is here depicted as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in and through h im. In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is declared that the message was spoken first by the Lord and then attested by the apostles "while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit diestributed according to his own will" (Heb. 2:3-4).

The charisms of the Spirit do not refer to innate talents or powers but to potentialities that are created, aroused, and appealed to by the Holy Spirit (Kung). They are wholly dependent on the empowering and renewing activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the members of the church. This is why they can be spoken of as manifestations of the Holy Spirit, though they are exercised and applied by the individual Christian.

Charisms are given to all Christians for the purpose of the upguilding and extension of the body of Christ. Even the gift of tongues, which is for personal edification, nonetheless contributes to the well-being and upbuilding of the church indirectly. When it is united with the gift of interpretation, it serves to edify and instruct others. The charisms are "not special marks of disctinction belonging to the few" but "a distinguishing mark of the whole church" (Kung).

However significant the charisms may be in the fulfilling of the mission of the church, they are not the hallmark of being a Christian.

Page 108

Extraordinary gifts appear among unbelievers as well, and this is why Paul declared that the evidence of true faith is the confession of Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12:2-3) Miracles of healing were evident among the Pharisees as well as among the disciples of Jesus (Matthew 12:27). Caiaphas, the high priest of the Jews, who was not himself a follower of Christ, nonetheless prophesized that Jesus would die not only for the nation but for the whole people of God (John 11:49-52). Jesus cautioned his disciples that they should rejoice not in their ability to do great things for God, in their powers of exorcicism and healing, but in their election by God for salvation (Luke 10:17-20).

The gifts of the Spirit are distributed to the whole community of believers, but not everyone receives the very same gift. The Spirit chooses to work through some members of the body of Christ in a different way than through others. The charisms are not uniform but multiform, and therefore there is a diversity in ministry even though there is a oneness in mission. In order to combat anarchic and illuministic tendencies Paul reminds the Corinthians that God has instituted a variety of ministries and orders (1 Cor. 12:28-30). Some persons are called to exercise the public ministries of teaching, preaching, and evangelization. Other charisms, such as admonishing, consoling, wisdom, knowledge, and the discerning of spirits are private endowments given by God for the service of others to be used as the occasion demands. It is incumbent upon all Christians to witness to the faith, but not all are called to witness publicly in the role of apostels, pastors, and evangelists. Jesus appointed the seventy to preach and heal, but whene one who was healed asked to serve him as a disciple, he replied that he should instead return to his home community and share the good news iwth his family and friends (Mark 5:18-19). In Acts 6:1-4 we read that deacons were appointed to help in the distribution of food to the needy so that the apostles could devote themselves to the ministry of the word. Peter declares that we should use whatever gift is given to us to "serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms" (1 Peter 4:10).

All members of the church have their special call and their personal ministry, even though all do not share in the pastoral ministry. A charism for the exercise of a special ministry can be prayed for (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6), but one must be willing to make the sacrifice that the gift requires. Paul urged his hearers to earnestly desire the higher gifts (1 Cor. 12:31), such as prophecy, teaching, and preaching, though he did not denigrate the gift of tongues and regarded it as a salutary aie in prayer and personal communion with God. It is highly probable that

Page 109

Paul himself spoke in tongues (cf. 1 Cor. 14:18; 2 Cor. 5: 13), though he resisted the notion that this is the evidence or sign of having the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:2-3).

It is not our intention here to give an in-depth examination of the various charisms of the Holy Spirit, but at least twenty are mentioned in the New Testament. What is important to recognize is that all believers share in the ministry and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ through the charisms that they have received. All ministries, including, including those exercised by a special commission (E.g., pastor, teacher) are charismatic. Gifts that are not used will atrophy, and this is what happened when sacerdotalism replaced the priesthood of all believers, and formalism usurped the charismatic fellowship of love (koinonia) that characterized New Testament Christianity at its best. This, of course, accounts for the Monanist reaction in the second and third centuries, when an attempt was made to regain the free exercise of the gifts of the Spirit.

We need to be reminded that every Christian as a priest and king is directed to some special calling and ministry within the one ministry of Christ. Some are called to be evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Others are appointed to be healers and workers of miracles. Other are given the charisms of knowledge, wisdom, wonder-working faith, exorcism, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Still others are equipped by the Spirit to serve in an extraordinary way, to admonish and to administer. Some people may be endowed with many of these charisms and others with only a few. All may appear in the lives of a few Christians, since the Spirit acts and moves as he wills, but it seems that every Christian is directed to a particular form of service within the one body, and this means that he will be endowed with particular gifts that will enable him to fulfill this calling. A church where the charismatic gifts in all their variety and wonder are not in evidence is something less than the church founded at Pentecost. A church where the priestly role is restricted to the office of the pastor or bishop is a church where the Spirit has been quenched and grieved. All believers are called to be priests and kings with Christ, and this means all are given the privilege of interceding and sacrificing for their brethren; yet the way in which we exercise this ministry will vary depending on how the Spirit chooses to manifest himself in and through us.

Page 110

Historical Development

For the purposes of order and propriety the early church was compelled to stsructure itself, and special offices of pastors and deacons were created. Kung maintains that there is no evidence of a monarachical episcopate in the Pauline communities, though bishops, however, were equivalent to pastors or presbyters,a dn their funciotn was basically administrative and pastoral. The bishops and deacons at Philippi (Phil. 1:1) seem to be comparable to the teachers at Corinth and the "presbyter-bishops" of Ephesus. In 1 Peter (2:25) the chief Shepherd alone is given the title of episkopos (bishop), but in Titus the idea of presbyter is replaced by that of episkopos (1:7).

By the beginning of the third century the role of bishop became more liturgical in character. The titles "priest" and "high priest" were now applied to the minstry of the bishop, a practice which had earlier been strictly avoided. The first Christian writers to use the words priest and high priest of the church's ministers were Tertullian and Hippolytus. Kung makes this astute observation: "A genuine sacralizing and ritualizing took effect, especially from the fifth and sixth centuries on: fading of the ministry of the word into the background, the cultic-ritual activity of the minister as the real priestly work, reification of liturgical authority, a special holiness and dignity proper to the office holder."2 The recognition of the universal priesthood of belilevers was not wholly lost sight of, however, even though it was not effectively put into practice. Ambrose, who emphasized the sacramental character of the church, could nevertheless affirm: "Everyone is anointed into the priesthood, is anointed into the kingdom, but the spiritual kingdom is also the spiritual priesthood."3

In the high middle ages the juridical model of the church reigned supreme, and, except for the protests of charismatic and mystical movements like the Spiritual Franciscans and the Friends of God, it was not adequately challenged. Avery Dulles describes the role of the clergy in this model:

All the functions of the bishop or priest are juridicized. When he teaches, people are obliged to accept his doctrine not because of his knowledge or personal gifts but because of the office he holds. When he celebrates the sacraments, the priest exercises sacred powers that others do not have. According to some theories the priest's "power of the keys" enables him at his discretion to supply or withhold the means of grace, and thus to confer or deny what is needed for salvation -- a truly terrifying power over the faithful.4

Page 111

According to Bonaventure the priestly office has a sevenfold function: to instruct in matters of faith, develop virtues, give an example of holiness, intercede through prayers, heal injuries inflicted by enemies. warn against imminent dangers, and repel demonic assaults.5 He likened the priest to a trustee of the treasures of the faith, a leader and shepherd of the faithful, and a watchman who guards the souls of his people.

The Council of Trent decided that sermons in the strict sense should be reserved for bishops and their assistants. A general ban on lay preaching was officially incorporated in the Codex Iuris Coninici (1918), though a layman (Ladovico Nogorola) preached at the Council of Trent itself. Hans Kung argues that, with the change of theological climate in the Catholic Church inaugurated by the Second Vatican Council, the time might be propitious for a restoration of lay preaching.6

In its "Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity" the Second Vatican Council sought to make a place for the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of believers by maintaining that all Christians are sharers in the priestly, kingly, and prophetic role of Christ (Chapter III). It asserted that the laity "should above all make missionary activity their own by giving material or even personal assistance, for it is a duty and honor for Christians to return to God a part of the good things they receive from Him."7

At the same time, the idea of the special hierarchical priesthood was stoutly reaffirmed in the Council. It was claimed that our Lord appointed certain individuals who "would be able by the sacred power of their order to offer sacrifice and to remit sins."8 Such persons "shoulder the sacred task of the gospel, so that the offering of the people can be made acceptable through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit."9 Because of the sacrament of orders, "priests of the New Testament exercise the most excellent and necessary office of father and teacher among the People of God and for them."10

More recently Hans Kung has valiantly labored to recover the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and has definitely gone beyond the Council at various points. Kung vigorously opposes the sacralization of the Church's ministry which sets its holder as a sacred person apart from others and raises him above ordinary Christians to be a mediator with God. "From the dissolution of the special priesthood by the priesthood of the one, new and eternal high priest," he explains, "there follows .... the universal priesthood of all believers, which has as its concrete content the immediate access of everyone to God,

Page 112

spiritual sacrifices, the proclamation of the word, the carerying out of baptism, the Eucharist, and the forgiveness of sins, and mutual intercession for one another."11 According to Kung every faithful believer may preach, intercede in prayer, baptize, and administer the elements at the Lord's Supper. He even claims that, because the whole Church has the power to forgive sins, "every Christian is fundamentally empowered to take an active part in the forgiving of sins."12 The power of the keys to bind and loose (John 20:23) is, therefore, not the exclusive prerogative of the clergy. Yet he recognizes that for purposes of church order some of these rights can be limited by the community. He is unwilling to disavow the special role of the pastor in the governance of the church and the special gifts that this role entails. At the same time he allows that, in extraordinary circumstances where no duly ordained pastor is available, a layman may then preside at the Eucharist and even be ordained by fellow laymen for the purpose of baptizing and presiding at the Eucharist. Not surprisingly, Kung's radical departure from the Roman Catholic tradition in this area has elicited some negative reaction in conservative Catholic circles.

The universal priesthood of believers was given special prominence in the Protestant Reformation, particularly by Martin Luther. For Luther, "all Christians are priests, and all priests are Christians. Worthy of anathema is any assertion that a priest is anything else than a Christian."13 Since Christ is the one high priest, and we are his brethren, "all Christians have the power and must fulfill the commandment to preach and to come before God with our intercessions for one another and to sacrifice ourselves to God."14 Luther went so far as to avow that any Christian may, in principle, bestow baptism and preside at Communion. He also maintained that "there is no other kind of sin than that which any Christian can bind or loose. There is no other sacrifice than of the body of every Christian."15 At the same time, just as vigorously insistend that the public preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments be properly done by ministers, who become such by a special calling. In his battle with the enthusiasts he was compelled to reassert the special office of the clergy for the purpose of maintaining church order and discipline. Yet he steadfastly contended for the priesthood of believers not as a substitute for the ministry of the word but as its supplement. In Luther's perspective all Christians are priests by virtue of their baptism, but only a few are ministers through public ordination. The holy priesthood of believers does not exclude the ministry of the word but constitutes its basis and goal. It is the priesthood that designates who are to be ministers and

Page 113

not vice versa.16 He could even say that priests are "thus greater than mere kings, the reason being that priesthood makes us worthy to stand before God, and to pray for others. For to stand and pray before God's face is the prerogative of none except priests."17

For Luther the pastoral ministry is subordinated to the priesthood even in the practice of the private confession of sins. He rejected the ecclesiastical rule that required confession, but yet he saw confession as an indispensable form of the Gospel. When we go to the pastor to confess sins, we should see him first of all as a brother and a Christian and then as a clergyman.18 Indeed, hearing confession is a priestly service which one may receive from any brother.

The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is not nearly so pronounced in the theologies of Calvin and Zwingli. For Calvin Christ's priestly work is finished and can in no way be supplemented or repeated by priests of the church. He maintained that Christ never entrusted the function of sacrificing to the apostles nor wished it to be undertaken by any of their successors. Yet he recognized that all Christians must offer spiritual sacrifices to God; first they offer themselves and then they intercede for their brethren.19 Calvin acknowldged four ministries in the church: pastors, doctors, elders, and deacons. Outside of these official functions, he did not see any special ministries available for believers in fulfilling the greate commission. Charismatic ministries such as healing and prophecy were relegated to the apostolic age.

Zwingli explained that the "royal priesthood" of 1 Peter 2 meant that "the Lord Jesus Christ has called all Christians to kingly honour and to the priesthood, so that they do not need a sacrificing priest to offer on their behalf, for they are all priests, offering spiritual gifts, that is, dedicating themselves wholly to God."20 In Zwingli's discussion of the holy priesthood the Christian as priest offers himself to God, but nothing is said of the ministry of intercession and service to one's neighbor.21

The Belgic Confession is typical of the Reformation confessions in elevating the ministry of the Word while slighting or ignoring the priesthood of all believers. Article XXX declares:

We believe that this true Church must be governed by the spiritual policy which our Lord has taught us in his Word -- namely, that there must be Ministers or Pastors to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Sacraments: also elders and deacons, who together with the pastors, form the council of the Church; that by these means the true religion may be preserved.22

Page 114

Surprisingly, the priesthood of believers is also absent from the Augsburg Confession as well as other Lutheran creeds.23

It remained for Evangelical Pietism to give the biblical doctrine of the holy priesthood of believers the attention it deserves. Whereas this doctrine received theoretical recognition from Luther and his colleagues, the Pietists gave it tangible expression. Indeed, one of their salient emphases was the priesthood of all believers over the exclusive priesthood of the clergy. Since they attached more importance to the spiritual illumination than to education and even ordination, impetus was thereby given to the ministry of the laity.

Philip Spener's contribution to the development of this doctrine is especially significant:

Everybody imagines that just as he was himself called to his office, business, or trade and the minister was neither called to such an occupation nor works in it, so the minister alone is called to perform spiritual acts, occupy himself with the Word of God, pray, study, teach, admonish, comfort, chastise, etc., while others should not trouble themselves with such things and, in fact, would be meddling in the minister's business if they had anything to do with them.24

On the contrary, said Spener, "not only ministers but all Christians are made priests by their Savior, are anointed by the Holy Spirit, and are dedicated to perform spiritual-priestly acts."25 He was convinced that the spiritual priesthood consists in the threefold office of sacrifice, prayer, and the use of God's Word. Any Christian, therefore, may celebrate the sacraments in cases of necessity, espeically baptism. In the absence of an ordained preacher the Lord's Supper may also be celebrated, though care should be taken that the one who presides is solid in the faith. Like Luther Spener attacked the idea that without private confession to a priest there is no forgiveness of sins. He criticized the confessional as it was then practiced in some Lutheran circles as a requirement for Holy Communion. Any Christian may confess to a fellow believer and in this way receive absolution.

As a complement to the traditional service of worship, Spener advocated the formation of special assemblies where laypeople could come together for the purpose of mutual consolation and edification. In such an assembly, "one person would not rise to preach ... but others who have been blessed with gifts and knowledge would also speak and present their pious opinions on the proposed subject to the judgment of the rest, doing all this in such a way as to avoid disorder and strife."26 Women, too, were permitted to give testimonies and prayers at such meetings, and this particularly disturbed those who were rigidly traditionalist

Page 115

or orthodox. In Spener's view every Christian is given the privilege of teaching others, of chastising, exhorting, and converting. Every believer should be concerned about the personal salvation of his fellow human beings and should devote himself to prayer on their behalf.

Yet Spener, like Luther before him, recognized that, though all Christians are called to exercise spiritual functions, not all are called to the public exercise of them. All Christians by virtue of being anointed by the Holy Ghost stand in the spiritual office and in case of need may administer its duties. Yet every Christian will respect and honor those who have been publicly commissioned to the task of shepherding and preaching. The spiriutal priesthood does not encroach on the office of the pastor but is tis necessary supplement.

The priesthood of all believers was given additional impetus in the Wesleyan movement. Wesley was unwilling to discard the notion of a separated ministry, but he was adamant that the laity too must participate in the evangelistic mandate of the church through personal witnessing, intercession, Bible study, and deeds of mercy. In his perspective it seems that we are all priests by regeneration, not by baptism. The vision of the holy priesthood is epitomized in Annie Matheson's missionary hymn:

Tell every man on earth,

The greatest and the least,

Love called him from his birth,

To be a king and priest.27

The charismatic gifts, especially the so-called extraordinary gifts, were more in evidence among the Anabaptists and radical Pietists than in the mainstream evangelical movement. Prophecy, healing, discerning of spirits, miracles, and glossolalia were present in some Anabaptist circles, though the emphasis was always upon a life of contrition and penitential suffering. The baptism of martyrdom and blood was regarded more highly than an ecstatic baptism of the Spirit.

Johann Christoph Blumhardt, nineteenth-century German revival preacher, became noted for his ministry of deliverance, which entailed the exorcism of demons. His motto "Jesus is Victor" was later adopted by Karl Barth as the salient theme of his theology.28 Through his Christ-centered emphasis Blumhardt succeeded in overcoming the subjectivism that marred much latter-day Pietism.29

Radical Pietism, which gave birth to religious communities and new sects, stressed the need for a continual openness to the movement of

Page 116

the Spirit. The Community of True Inspiration (Amana Society) accorded special recognition to divinely attuned individuals (Werzeugue) who fell into trance-like states and uttered prophecies with authority. New revelations and spiritual healings have figured prominently in the Catholic Apostolic church (Irvingites), the Christian Catholic church (Doweyites), and teh New Apostolic church. Among the Plymouth Brethren the idea of a separated clergy is wholly rejected, and any layman illumined by the Spirit can give a special address at mettings or officiate at the Lord's Supper. While speaking much of the gifts of the Spirit, the Brethren have emphasized preaching, evangelism, and prayer and not the more spectacular gifts.

In original Quakerism, too, there was no ordained clergy, and every follower of Christ was believed free "to speak or prophesy by the Spirit" (Robert Barclay). George Fox averred that Christians receive a part of the ministry through "the exercise of their spiritual gifts in the church."30 The sacraments were regarded as being mainly relics of primitive magic. Prophecy, healings, and new revelations were not uncommon in the early history of Quakerism.

The gifts of the Spirit have been especially pronounced in the Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal movements, with particular emphasis on glossalalia and spiriutal healing. Glossalalia is generally considered the evidence of the baptism or infilling of the HOly Spirit, and experience thought to be subsequent to conversion. Yet other gifts are also given prominent attention, gifts which have been minimized or ignored in mainline Protestantism: the working of miracles, discerning of spirits, prophecy, and the word of knowledge. Regrettably, not as much importance is attached to the less spectacular gifts of teaching, administration, and lowly service, though these gifts are not neglected. While preaching is still highly regarded in the mainstream of Pentecostalism, in some sects preaching is seen as less significant than personal testimonies and healing ceremonies. David du Plessis, an ecumenical Pentecostal, voices this complaint: "I have seen too many shouting Christians go to sleep when the Word is preached. They live on 'milk' and choke on the 'meat' of the Word."31 In the Catholic Apostolic church, which combines charisma and liturgy, preaching has generally been restricted to ten minutes, and ritual is given precedence. The openness of many Pentecostals to new revelations reflects a spiritualistic orientation in which God's direct guidance to an indivivdual takes precedence over the Bible.

Nonetheless, those of us in the Reformed tradition should recognize that Pentecostalism at its best has recovered the charasmatic dimension

Page 117

of New Testament Christianity. The spirit of prophecy is still alive in the charismatic churches, though admittedly it has led to certain excesses. Moreover, the priesthood of all belilevers is a vibrant reality in these churches. Because of the recognition of the gifts of the Spirit many doors have been opened to spiritually sensitive laymen to engage in a priestly and evangelical ministry. Women too have found a ministry even in the pulpits of Pentecostal churches, and this has been generally denied to them in historical Protestantism.

In Protestant liberal theology the priesthood of believers has been affirmed in such a way as to undercut the idea of a special ministry of the word and sacraments. Theologians who were markedly influenced by the Enlightenment sought to overcome the distinctions between clergy and laity. The pastor was no longer a father figure who speaks God's authoritative word but a fellow-traveler on life's journey who shares the insights and wisdom that he has accumulated on the way. In Schleiermacher's words: "Let there be an assembly before him and not a congregation. Let him be a speaker for all who will hear, but not a shepherd of a definite flock."32 In the view of this theologian, "every man is a priest, in so far as he draws others to himself in the field he has made his own and can show himself master in; every man is a layman, in so far as he follows the skill and direction of another in the religious matters with which he is less familiar."33 For Schleiermacher the priestly capacity is something to be gained through the cultivation of religious feeling. Because he recognized a diversity of gifts, he came to accept the place for an ordered ministry but not as a special class removed from the laity. The task of those who develop their religious sensibilities is not to absolve from sin or intercede in prayer but to share religious insights and experiences and guide their fellow human beings in the quest for meaning and reality.

Despite the attack of liberals upon a special ministry under the Word, they developed their own sacerdotalism, but it was based on cultural rather than religious considerations. The Puritans in England and America complained that the liberal clergy sought preeminence over their brethren by virtue of educaiton and worldly honors.34 It was the Puritans who criticized the preoccupation of the liberal clergy with a guaranteed annual income and job security. In Puritan religion the pastors should be essentially concerned with upholding the faith and shepherding and nurturing the flock that is their charge.

The biblical doctrine of the priesthood of believers is conspicuously apparent in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who maintained that all Christians must intercede, witness, exhort and reprove, and give counsel. In order

Page 118

to unburden oneself of guilt one need not go to an ecclesiastical superior or trained counselor but should feel free to approach a Christian brother or sister, since it is this person who now stands in Christ's stead. For Bonhoeffer, "the most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus ... In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner."35 Bonhoeffer did not deny the need for an overseer or pastor so long as the pastoral ministry was one of service rather than of domination: "Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, who himself is a brother among brothers submitted to the authority of the pastor derived from the congregation, he later regarded it as originating from Christ himself.37

The Ministry of the Word and Sacraments

In the light of this brief historical survey it is now appropriate to examine the precise relation between the priesthood of believers, in which all Christians share, and the special ministry of the Word and sacraments. This special ministry is not separate from the priesthood of believers but the pivotal ministry within it. In the Old Testament we read that the people of Israel were called to the service of the glory of God (Isaiah 42:6), but also special persons, prophets, were directed to particular tasks (Isaish 6: 8-9; 50:2). Every believer was commissioned to a holy vocation, but some were appointed shepherds and guardians of the faith (Jer. 23:1-4; Isaiah 63:11; Ezek. 3:17 ff.; 33:7). The priesthood as a special caste was abolished by Jesus Christ, but the concept of a special pastoral ministry remained. This special ministry was anticipated by the prophet Malachi when he declared: "The lips of a priest should guard knowldge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger ofd the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 2:5-7). Here the priest is seen not as one who offers sacrifices but as one who gives guidance and direction in the faith.

The ministry of the Word has its basis not only in the priesthood of believers but also in the messianic commissioning of the apostles by Christ. Only some were commissioned by our Lord to preach the Word to the nations. This is to say that the ministry of the Word, like some of the other special ministries of the church (evangelist, deacon, elder),

Page 119

is a divine office. It is at the same time a charismatic ministry, since it is made possible by spiritual gifts which accompany the divine calling. Paul makes clear that this office is of divine institution: "I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known" (Col. 1:25; cf. Romans 15:15-16). In his address to the elders of Ephesus he points out that this office is one of shepherding and preaching: "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood" (Acts 20:28; cf. 2 Timothy 4:1-4; Titus 1:7-9). He also affirms that this ministry is based on a special charismatic endowment: "Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace which was given me by the working of his power" (Ephesians 3:7).

The rite of ordination was already present in the New Testament church, though the idea was probably taken from Judaism. We read that Moses laid his hands on Joshua, imparting to him the spirit of wisdom needed for his work (Deut. 34:9). In the New Testament the ritual probably took the form of the laying on of hands with intercessory prayers, as described in the commissioning of the Seven (Acts 6:3-6; cf. 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). We concur with Kung that ordination is not a sacrament in the New Testament sense of being instituted by Christ. Nonetheless, it is a spiritual event where the Spirit is active through the laying on of hands. Ordination is a sign of the special apostolate of the ministries of leadership It is a ratification of charism but not its precondition. It signifies "the public calling of a believer to the ministry of leadership, in which the Church recognizes and confirms God's calling."38

Hans Kung's efforts to recover the priesthood of all believers for the church have not prevented him from acknowleding the special ministry of the Word and sacraments. "All Christians," he says, "have authority to preach the word, to witness to their faith in the Church and in the world, to 'missionize.' But only pastors with a special calling, or those commissioned by them, have the particular authority to preach in the meetings of the community."39 In Kung's view the pastor is "a special person in the community, since he is authorized as one with speical powers to exercise a specail ministry in the public life of the community."40 He has the authority to found and govern communities, to unite and build up communities, to preach the word in the public assembly, to baptize and celebrate the Lord's Supper, and to bind and to loose from the bondage of sin. "His authority is guaranteed by the gift of the Spirit, which was called down on him by his vocation and

Page 120

through the laying-on of hands and the praying over him; and this vocation must constantly be renewed, the gift of the Spirit must constantly be revived."41 For Kung the fundamental apostolic succession is that of the Church itself and of every Christian and consists of an objective keeping of the faith of the apostles, which must be concretely realized ever again. At the same time he affirms a special apostolic succession of the ministries of leadership. Reformed Christianity would heartily concur in his view that those preachers who remain faithful to the apostolic message stand in the apostolic succession.42

In some respects Kung's position is closer to Luther's than to traditional Roman Catholicism. Luther affirmed the priesthood of all believers, but he also contended for the special ministry of the Word and sacraments. "For although we are all equally priests," he declared, "still not all of us can serve and minister and preach."43 This ministry, in his judgment, is divinely instituted by Christ but is also certified and authorized by the congregation of believers. Luther saw no contradiction between these two derivations of the ministry -- one from above and the other from below, that is, from the priesthood of believers. In both cases the office is willed by God, though it is willed indirectly through the universal priesthood.

Luther was adamant that there must be a divine or inward call as well as the outward call from the congregation before one could become a minister of the Word. Because this ministry is ultimately based on the divine calling, it carries a heavy responsibility but also the assurance that the minister of the Word can prevail agaisnt the forces of sin and darkness through the power of the Spirit: "We who are in the ministry of the Word have this comfort, that we have a heavenly and holy office; being legitimately called to this, we prevail over all the gates of hell."44

What Luther did not sufficiently recognize is that there are other special ministries that might also require special rites of commissioning, for instnace, evangelists, healers, deacons and deaconesses, sisters and brothers of mercy, and so on. At the same time, these should be regarded as auxiliary ministries to the ministry of the Word, since the latter is a ministry of apostolic leadership.

One danger in holding to a special ministry of the Word is sacerdotalism. This means that the minister comes to be viewed as a mediator between man and God. His office is seen as necessary for people to make contact with God. He is also regarded as more holy than other Christians by virtue of being nearer to God. Sometimes in the circles of sacerdotalism the priest or pastor is likened to the

Page 121

neck and Christ to the head. The laypeople represent the lower parts of the body and cannot reach the head apart from the mediation of the priest. Sacerdotalism is present not only in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity but also in the New Apostolic church, the Catholic Apostolic church, and the Church of the Latter Day Saints, all of which maintain a special apostolic or priestly order. Admittedly, such tendencies can also be detected in the churches of the Reformation.

Luther sought to guard against sacerdotalism by maintaining that the pastor is not elevated above the congregation but is responsible to the congregation as its shepherd and overseer. His primacy is one of service, not moral superiority. His representative activity does not exclude but instead includes the cooperation of the community. Paul Althaus gives this interpretation of Luther's position:

The call to an office in the church does not convey a special Christian status but only the special ministry of word and sacrament to the community. There is no indelible character. There is a distinction between the called clergyman and the layman only because of the office; not because of what they are but because of what they do.45

A quite different peril that can subvert the ministry of the Word is secularlism. Here the minister is no longer shepherd and herald but facilitator and counselor. His role is to build up the autonomous powers of the people who come to him for help, not to speak to them an authoritative Word from God. Langdon Gilkey, in advocating a new role for the pastor-priest, sees him as a peer rather than an authority figure. He is at best "an advisor and counselor in man's personal quest for fulfillment."46 The counselee himself replaces the priest "as the final judge with regard to his own spiritual health, i.e., as to what law applies and as to whether the law and its rule really help in this case."47 In th is new concept of priesthood there is "little authority and practically no moral objectivity but possibly new and greater opportunities for real ministry."48

In some circles today, both Catholic and Protestant, the gifts that are most prized in a minister are personnel management and skills in human relations.49 Under the pervasive influence of the business mentality, efficiency in administrative and financial matters is given more weight than biblical fidelity. The rules of the ministerial game are being proficient and being friendly but avoiding any show of religious particularity or dogmatism. Ivan Illich makes this caustic comment: "Clerical technocracy is even further

Page 122

from the gospel than priestly aristocracy. And we may come to recognize that efficiency corrupts Christian testimony more subtly than power."50

Thomas Torrance sees a new Protestant sacerdotalism emerging that replaces the humanity of Christ by the humanity of the minister and obscures the Person of Christ by the personality of the minister.51 It is the dynamism of the minister that mediates the Word of God to man and mediates the worship of oman to God. The sermon is no longer an exposition of the Word of God but a presentation of the opinions of the minister. What we find, Torrance observes, are psychological priests. The therapeutic counseling of the minister has displaced the pastoral ministry of Christ.

Our position is that the pastor is an authority figure and a servant figure at the same time. He has been placed in his role by Christ himself through the inward calling of the Holy Spirit, though the congregation must recognize and ratify what Christ has done. The pastor must not lord it over the congregation but be an example of patience and humility. He must give guidance and direction when necessary. He is a resource person to be sure, but even more he is a spiritual director and confessor. He must not be detached from his people but must identify himself with their trials and sufferings. He must intercede for them daily in prayer. He must preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), and this entails exposing false teaching as well as expounding the truth (Titus 1:10-14). He must be a model of holiness in keeping with his greater responsibility (Titus 2:7). He must "exhort and reprove with all authority" (Titus 2:15), though he must speak the truth always in the spirit of love (1 Cor. 16:14; 1 John 3:18). He must seek to please God above all and not his congregation, but he must place no unnessary stumbling blocks before his people that might prevent them from accepting and following the Gospel. He will be willing to share authority with gifted laypersons of the congregation, who are also preists, but he will not abdicate authority by simply parroting the prejudices of his people. His aim is not to help people adjust to their social and cultural environment but to direct them to God so that they will then be inspired to change their environment. He will see his role as a shepherd rather than a fellow seeker, since he has been entrusted with a commission to make known the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:17, 18). At the same time he will also see himself as a servant who will subordinate himself to his people as an ambassador of Christ and an agente of reconciliation.

Page 123

Such a pastor will inspire those in his care also to be priests, to be intercessors and witnesses to the truth at home and at work. He will welcome reproof from his fellow Christians so long as it is done in charity and is based on Scripture. A church directed by such a pastor will indeed be a holy priesthood where all share in some way in the priestly and kingly and prophetic ministry of Christ. The gifts of the Holy Spirit will be in evidence not only in the pupit but in Sunday school classes, youth groups, and prayer and Bible study groups. The laity will be the missionary arm of the church, for it is through their outreach in the community that the spiritually lost will hear the good news and will be brought into the worship and life of the church.

Toward a Catholic Balance

In offering a constructive statement of the doctrine of the church and its ministry we must do justice to both cultic and charismatic dimensions if we are to remain true to our biblical and catholic heritage. In Protestantism there has been a noticeable tendency to downplay the institutional side of the church in favor of charisma and koinonia.

The Lutheran church historian Rudolf Sohm propounded a typology of religious association which graphically depicts how the original religious enthusiasm of the church was eroded by a creeping ritualism and formalism. While New Testament Christianity was characterized by a dominance of spirit (charisma), in early Catholicism charisma was transferred to the office of the hierarchy. Then later we see the extension and transfer of charisma from office to thing (sacrament). Whereas in the New Testament church the Spirit was a moving reality in the life and experience of believers, it finally became objectified in the sacraments.

Contrasting the church as an institution with the ecclesia, a communion of persons, Emil Brunner declares that the ecclesia alone is the body of Christ and that it alone was given "the promise of invincibility and eternal durability."52 The church ideally should be the vessel of the ecclesia, but too often it presents an obstacle to the growth of the ecclesia through sacramentalism and sacerdotalism.

James Dunn too emphasizes the charismatic over the cultic and institutional aspects of the church: "Christian community is not primarily sacramental in character; baptism and the Lord's Supper express community and thereby consolidate community, but they neither create it nor do they form its basis; as all Christians as members of a Christian assembly are charismatics, so all have immediate access to grace, all may be the channel and instrument of grace to others."53 He maintains that Paul conceives of authority in dynamic terms, not in terms of office or fixed form.

While there is much truth in the traditional Protestant criticism of ecclesiasticism, we must nevertheless recognize that the church is an institution as well as a communion of persons, that it entails structure and cultus as well as charisma. It is not historically accurate to portray the New Testament church as simply a spontaneous fellowship of love directed by charasmatic leaders. Jesus Himself instituted an apostolic office through his commissioning of the twelve, adn Paul upheld permanent ministries of apostles, pastors, evangelists, and teachers, though he also saw these ministries as gifts or charisms and not simply as offices (Ephesians 4:11). In the pastoral epistles it is quite evident that the ministry is regarded as a special office in the church, though again the charismatic dimension is not denied. We cannot go along with Ernst Kasemann's contention that Paul's theor5y of order does not rest on "offices, institutions, ranks and dignities." Kasemann maintains that, in the Pauline view, "authority resides only within the concrete act of ministry as it occurs."54 But this overlooks the fact that Paul considered his own ministry a divine office (Romans 1:1-5; Col. 1:25; 2 Tim. 1:11) and that his polemic against the Corinthian church was intended to bring religious enthusiasm under the direction of apostolic and ecclesiastical authority.

Hans Kung in his book "Why Priests? is more Protestant than Catholic in his critique of ecclesiasticism. He maintains that "there can be no office among the followers of Jesus that is constituted simply through law and power corresponding to the office of state potentates; nor can there be an office that is constituted simply through knowledge and dignity corresponding to the office of the scribes."55 Yet Jesus himself likened his ministers to scribes who have trained for the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 13:52). He also declared: "I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify ..." (Matthew 23:34).

Thomas Torrance presents a quite different view. Far from thinking that the priesthood of the church is dissolved in the general body of believers, he holds with Calvin that the priesthood of the church is "imaged in the midst of the community of believers in the form of a divinely instituted ministry, an episcopate held in a capacity by

Page 125

those called and ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacraments."56 This episcopal order is "placed within the Body and partakes of its inner cohesion in mutual service and love, but at the same time it involves diversities of function and distinctions in order, through which Christ exhibits Himself as actually present in the Church as its only Bishop and Master."57

Von Allmen insists that there is only one authentic ministry, namely, that of the Word and sacraments, and this has its basis not in the priesthood of believers but in the Messianic commissioning of the apostles.58 The ministry, he contends, is based on a special grace or calling and is not merely a matter of how the church organizes itself. This contrasts with the view of many Catholic scholars today who are thinking of the pastoral office no longer in terms of its sacral-consecratory function but of its socio-ecclesial function. The role of the preist is to coordinate and integrate the various charisms in such a way as to build up the community of faith.

Avery Dulles is critical of this tendency to see the special priesthood as simply a mode of service in the church rather than a sacramental of ecclesiastical office.59 Yet he is also cognizant of the dangers in the sacral concept of the priesthood which "can lead to a superstitious exaltation of the priest as a person possessed of divine or magical powers." Such a person, he recognizes, can "become removed from the rest of the community and surrounded with an aura of cultic holiness more redolent of paganism than of Christianity."60

We believe that Luther has preserved the right catholic balance in seeing the pastoral office as derived both from its divine institution by Christ and from the priesthood of believers. We cannot go along with Von Allmen and Torrance in regarding ministerial representation as issuing only from above downward and not also from below upward. In our view the ministry is a mode of service within the priesthood of believers, but it is at the same time a service that entails authority and responsibility over the whole community of faith. It derives its authority from God himself and yet through the priesthood of believers. The ministry of the Word and sacraments must not be downgraded (as in a spiritualistic egalitarianism), but it must also not be unduly elevated (as in sacerdotalism).

We see the church as a sacramental and ecclesiastical institution as well as a charismatic fellowship of love. Charisma must be directed and channeled by the pastoral or ecclesiastical office, though we recognize that too often the clerics extinguish rather than fan the flame of the Holy Spirit.

Page 126

An authentically catholic church is ia church under the Word, and this means that the clerical office is also under the Word. Every Christian layman as a fellow priest has the right and obligation to challenge his ecclesiastical superiors if they stray from the clear teaching of the Word to bear on the life of the church. The gifts of the Spirit are bestowed in order to draw us closer to the Word and not to go our independent ways.

Too often the priesthood of all believers has been geared to the interest of religious individualism rather than to the service of the corporate missionary witness of the church. We need to recover the biblical and catholic doctrine of the royal priesthood of the church, and Luther can here be a sure and safe guide. Paul Althaus contrasts Luther's position with that of later individualistic Protestantism:

Luther never understands the priesthood of all believers merely in the "Protestant" sense of the Christian's freedom to stand in a direct relationship to God without a human mediator. Rather he constantly emphasizes the Christian's evangelical authority to come before God on behalf of the brethren and also of the world. The universal priesthood expresses not religious individualism but its exact opposite, the reality of the congregation as a community.61

The priesthood of all believers is based on the sovereign authority of Jesus Christ as the sole head and ruler of the church, not on the consensus of the people. Mark Noll rightly points out that Luther "replaced the role of the oligarchical few, not, as we in America are inclined to believe, with the rule of the democratic many, but with the rule of the eternal Son of God who was active in all true members."62 The current practice in Protestant denominations of running the church through committees genearlly leaves out the one thing needful, the subjection of group consensus to the authority of the Word of God as revealed in Holy Scripture. One consecrated believer who truly wrestles with the Scripture in order to discover God's will may indeed be closer to the truth than his peers who are more concerned with the survival and advancement of the church as an institution. The priesthood of all believers does not necessarily mean majority rule but obedience to the sovereign rule of the one high preist, Jesus Christ. Democratic methods may indeed be preferable to oligarchical dictation in determining the will of God, but these methods themselves must be subjected to the judgment of a still higher criterion, the voice of the living Christ speaking in Scripture.

The keys of binding and loosing (Matthew 16:19) have been given to the

Page 127

whole church to be exercised first of all and especially by those in the office of pastoral leadership. Yet every Christian as a priest has access to these keys. Every Christian can hear confession of sin and grant absolution on the basis of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ in all the members of his body.

While the priesthood "is common to all Christians, not so is the ministry," declares the Second Helvetic Confession, rightly reminding us that the priesthood and the ministry of the Word are not the same.63 And yet it goes too far when it affirms that the two are "very different from one another" (italics added).64 All Christians are called to the apostolate and not just those who are commissioned to oversee congregations and preach the Word publicly. All Christians are summoned to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the world and the advancement of the kingdom of God in the world. Every Christian should be an evangelist, in the sense that he is placed under the divine obligation to give testimony to his faith before the world.

The creeds of the Reformation were accustomed to say that the two hallmarks of the church are the preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments. But even more fundamental is the urgency of omission, and this should entail not simply correct preaching but preaching with a zeal for souls. In this perspective baptism is conceived not simply as entrance into the body of the church but as dedication to the conversion of the world. Confirmation then becomes not merely a renewal of baptismal vows but the ordination of the laity to the apostolate. The Lord's Supper is not just a memorial of Christ's past sacrifice but a participation in his present intercession for the sins of the world. Charismatic gifts are to be accepted not only because of their aid in personal and mutual edification but also, and above all, because of their indispensability in fulfilling the great commission.65 By these gifts the Holy Spirit empowers us for mission, and this indeed is the vocation of the holy priesthood of believers. The priesthood of believers cannot make reparation for sin, for this has been taken care of by Christ, but it can and must bear witness to the once for all atonement for sin. And it does this through intercessory prayer, sacrificial deeds of kindness and mercy, bringing assurance of pardon for sin, and missionary preaching. Through the charismatic gifts available to us may we rededicate ourselves to this high and holy calling.



1. In the words of Henri Daniel-Rops: "The priesthood had thus come to form an exclusive caste, very conscious of itself and full of contempt for others, a caste to which one had to belong .... before one could pride oneself ... on one's noble lineage -- a caste, furthermore, that was often hated by the common people and the lower clergy." In Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, trans. Patrick O'Brian (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1962), p. 422.

2. Hans Kung, Why Priests? trans. Robert C. Collins (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972), p. 54.

3. Roy J. Defarrari, trans. Saint Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1963), p. 298.

4. Avery Dulles, Models of the Church (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974), p. 153.

5. Works of Bonaventure, IV, trans. Jose de Vinck, (Paterson, N.J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1966), p. 256.

6. Hans Kung, The Church, p. 378.

7. Walter M. Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press, 1966), p. 502.

8. Ibid. ("Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests" Ch. I, Art. 2), p. 534.

9. Ibid., p. 535.

10. "Decree on the Ministry," ch. II, art. 9, p. 552.

11. Kung, Why Priests? pp. 41, 42.

12. Kung, The Church, p. 380.

13. Luther's Works, vol. 40, (St. Louis: Concordia, 1958), p. 19.

14. Martin Luther, W.A. 12, 308.

15. Luther's Works, vol. 40, pp. 34-35.

16. Cyril Eastwood states Luther's view in this way: "The Christian is a member of the universal priesthood by baptism, but he is given a special task within that priesthood by the call of God which is confirmed by the congregation." Note that the call to the ministry comes directly from God, but it takes effect only in the priesthood. It is authorized first by God but then also by the priesthood in that the latter must ratify and confirm the divine call. Cyril Eastwood, The Priesthood of All Believers (MInneapolis: Augsburg, 1960), p. 44.

17. Bertram Lee Woolf, Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, Vol. I, p. 366.

18. See Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), pp. 316-318.

19. "We can offer nothing, until we offer to him ourselves as a sacrifice; which is done by denying ourselves. Then, afterwards follow prayers, thanksgiving, almsdeeds, and all the duties of religion." Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. and ed. John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1855), p. 65.

20. Ulrich Zwingli, Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God, trans. G.W. Bromiley. In Library of Christian Classics, vol. 24 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), p. 88.

21. See T.W. Manson, Ministry and Priesthood: Christ's and Ours (Richmond, Va." John Knox Press, 1958), p. 37.

Page 129

22. Philip Schaff, ed., The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3 (New York: Harper, 1919), p. 421.

23. There is only a scant reference to "the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren" in the Smalcald Articles (1537), and this hardly does justice to the biblical concept of the priesthood of all believers. See Theodore G. Tappert, trans. & ed. The Book of Concord (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), p. 310.

24. Philip Spener, Pia Desideria, p. 94.

25. Ibid., p. 92.

26. Ibid., p. 89.

27. Cited in Eastwood, The Priesthood of All Believers, p. 214.

28. See Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV, 3, a, pp. 165-274.

29. Karl Barth, Protestant Theology int he Nineteenth Century (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1973), pp. 643 ff.

30. In D. Elton Trueblood, The People Called Quakers (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 110.

31. David du Plessis, The Spirit Bade Me Go (Plainfield, N.J. : Logos, 1970), p. 106.

32. Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, trans. John Oman (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), p. 175.

33. Ibid., p. 153.

34. In Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968), pp. 159 ff.

35. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 118-119.

36. Ibid., p. 109.

37. He declares that the preaching office "is established in the congregation and not by the congregation, and at the same time it is with the congregation." Bonhoeffer, Ethics, ed. Eberhard Bethge, trans. Neville Horton Smith (New York: Macmillan, 1963) p. 294.

38. Kung, Why Priests?, p. 90.

39. Kung, The Church, p. 439.

40. Ibid., p. 440.

41. Ibid.

42. "The apostolic succession of pastors is not something that occurs automatically or omechanically through the laying-on of hands. Faith is a prerequisite and a condition; it must be active in the spirit of the apostles. This succession does not exclude the possibility of error or failure, and so must be tested by the faithful as a whole." Kung, The Church, p. 442.

43. Bertram Lee Woolf, ed. Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, Vol. 1, p. 367. Cf.: "Certainly all Christians are priests. But not all are pastors, for beyond the fact that a man is a Christian and a priest, he must also have an office and a parish that he has been commanded to serve." Luther, W.A. 31 I, 211.

44. Luther's Works, vol. 26, p. 20.

45. Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, p. 328.

46. Langdon Gilkey, Catholicism Confronts Modernity (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), p. 76.

47. Ibid.

Page 130

48. Ibid., p. 78.

49. One observer comments: "Priestly emphasis on mediating the Holy is giving way to models taken from education ('resource person'), science ('catalyst') medicine ('enabler') and sports ('team builder')." JOhn Conrad Wilkey, The Meaning of Ordination in the United Methodist Church as It Relates to the MInistry of the Laity, unpublished Doctor of Ministry thesis, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, 1977, p. 80.

50. Ivan Illich, Celebration of Awareness (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1970), p. 75.

51. Thomas Torrance, "Justification." In Christianity Divided, ed. Daniel J. Callahan et al. [pp. 283-305], p. 302.

52. Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding of the Church, trans. Harold Knight (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), p. 117.

53. James Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster Pres, 1975), p. 298.

54. Ernst Kasemann, Essays on New Testament Themes, trans. W. J. Montague (London: SCM Press, 1964), p. 83.

55. Kung, Why Priests?, p. 39.

56. Thomas Torrance, Royal Priesthood (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1955), p. 92.

57. Ibid.

58. From a lecture in Dubuque Theological Seminary Chapel, February 27, 1969. Cf. Jean-Jacques Van Allmen, Le Saint Ministere (Neuchatel: Editions Delachaux et Niestle, 1968), esp. pp. 55 ff.

59. Dulles, Models of the Church, p. 156.

60. Ibid., p. 158.

61. Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, p. 314.

62. Mark A. Noll, "Believer-Priests in the Church: Luther's View," Christianity Today, vol. 18, no. 2 (October 26, 1973), [pp. 4-8], p. 7.

63. Arthur C. Cochrane, ed., Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century, Second Helvetic Confession, ch. 18, p. 271.

64. Ibid.

65. While Paul, in his treatment of the charismatic gifts, emphasizes their value in building up the body of Christ, Luke is concerned with how they aid in the mission of the church to the world. The gift of tongues, for example, is associated by Luke with inner release and endowment for missionary service, whereas in Paul its purpose is said to be personal edification and thereby only indirectly building up the church. It should be notedm, however, that Paul also shows how the gifts relate to mission and evangelism (cf. 1 Cor. 14:24, 25; Romans 15:18, 19; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4; 2 Tim. 1: 6-8). In the fuller perspective of Paul's teaching it is necessary to build up the church so that the church can then give a united and effectual witness before the world.


Chapter VI

Two Kingdoms

He has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan's kingdom and brought us into the kingdom of his dear Son. Colossians 1:13

And if thou be not in the kingdom of Christ, it is certain that thou belongest to the kingdom of Satan, which is this evil world. Martin Luther

Goodness is a realm; and there is a realm of evil. Each is spiritually against the other. If the other world has a king, there is also a prince of this world; and there can be no peace except in a complete victory, so that such a war shall never be again. P.T. Forsyth

The fundamental biblical opposition is not between flesh and Spirit, creature and Creator, but between the Creator of the flesh and its destroyer, between God and the devil, Christ and Satan, the Holy Spirit and the Unholy. Philip S. Watson


The Biblical Testimony

Biblical religion speaks of two kingdoms in irrevocable conflict with one another -- the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world, also known as the kingdom of Satan. This dualistic vision runs throughout the Scriptures, though the two kingdoms go under many different names. This is not a metaphysical dualism, as in Zoroastrianism, since the devil is seen as a fallen angel, superior to man but greatly inferior to God. Yet it signifies a moral dualism which recognizes that evil is the antithesis to good and taht there can be no compromise between these two forces.1

In the Old Testament the two kingdoms antithesis is already evident in Genesis 1, where light is separated from darkness. Some medieval theologians see this as implying the separation of good and bad angels. In the Garden of Eden the serpent typifies the antigod force which is already active in the good creation and which provides man

Page 132

with the occasion for sin. It is prophesied that the Messiah will crush the head of the serpent; that is, he will overthrow its dominion, though not withiout being wounded in the struggle (Gen. 3:15; Isaiah 27:1; cf. Romans 16:20).

In ancient Hebraic tradition the source of evil was both the watery chaos and the personification of this chaos in the dragon called Leviathan We read that the chaos appeared at the beginning of the creation (Gen. 1:1-2) and was prior to the formation of the earth and life on the earth; yet this chaos or darkness was definitely not co-eternal with God and, indeed, did not exist apart from the will of God (cf. Isaiah 45:7). In the Genesis account the tehom (the deep) is the philological equivalent of Tiamat, the personified chaos monster in the Babylonian myth. Leviathan, derived from the Canaanite Lotan, was related to both the Babylonian Tiamat and the Greek Hydra. It was also associated with Behemoth, a spisrit of the desert, and even more closely with the sea monster Rahab as well as with that primal symbol of evil, the serpent (cf. Isaiah 27:1; Amos 9:3; Job 26: 13). In Hebraic throught the darkness and its personification in Leviathan signified not just recalcitrance and deficiency but destructive creativity (cf. Job 3:5, 6; Daniel 7:7). In Job 41: 33-34 Leviathan is pictured as the king of all the sons of pride.

It is difficult to pinpoint the precise time in Israel's theological history when Leviathan become identified with Satan, the angelic messenger of death who became God's adversary, but this identification is significant in the concept of the two kingdoms, since it indicates a rupture within the order of God's creation itself. It means that the powers of darkness contain within themselves the light of God's good creation, that they have a heavenly origin.2 In the Apocalypse of John the dragon, the serpent, the devil, and Satan are all equated (Rev. 12:9; 20:2; cf. 11:7; 13:1 ff.).

Israel was originally depicted in the Old Testament as the elect people of God called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod. 19:6). The adversary was portayed as the kingdoms of this world the "kingdoms of the idols" (Isaiah 10:10). Slowly but surely it dawned upon the prophets of Israel that God's kingdom is a spiritual one and that Israel, like every other nation, stands under the judgment of this kingdom. It was recognized that the kingdom of God is an "everlasting kingdom" (Daniel 4:3) and that it "rules over all" (Psalm 103:19). That Israel would indeed be taken up into this spiritual kingdom came to be an eschatological hope and promise. God will realize his purposes through the people of Israel, and when his work is fulfilled they chall be called "the city of righteousness, the faithful city" (Isaiah 1:26; cf. 9:7). This city

Page 133

will be one without walls: the Lord will be a wall of fire around her and the glory in her midst (Zech. 2:5).3

In Daniel's vision of the four beasts (Daniel 7), we witness the rise and fall of four empires and then the coming of a fifth kingdom typified by a human figure, the Son of Man. The beasts emerge out of the sea, the evil domain of chaos (Daniel 7:2-3). The fifth kingdom is the kingdom of God incorporated in the people of Israel. At the end time God will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed and that will break in pieces the kingdoms of this world, and it shall stand forever (Daniel 2:44).

In the developing theology of the Old Testament, it was recognized that behind the kingdoms of men is a strategy of evil, a dominion of darkness that directs the destiny of nations. Exodus 12:23 refers to an angelic destroyer who is nonetheless under God, the supreme power, and is used by God.4 Job spokes of a "king of terrors" who drives man from light into darkness (Job 18:14-18; 41:33-34). 5 Isaiah contrasts the "city of righteousness" (1:26) with a "city of chaos" (24:10)6 governed by the hosts of heaven (Isaiah 24:21). Daniel envisages angelic princes behind the kingdoms of this world: the good prince Michael is the protector of the Jews, whereas an evil angel is the defender of Persia (Daniel 10:13). While the immediate reference in Isaiah 14:12-14 is to the downfall of an earthly tyrant, we have an unmistakable allusion to Day Star or Lucifer, the fallen angel of Ugaritic mythology; though he aspires to be God, he shall finally be thrust down into the pit, and his power shall be taken from him (cf. Ezek. 28).7 The pseudepigraphal book of Enoch also speaks of the rebellion and overthrow of disobedient angels (10:4-6, 11-12; 54: 3-5; cf. Gen. 6:1-4; Jude 6; Rev. 9:1).

The idea of a kingdom of darkness led by an angelic adversary of God and man is very pronounced in the intertestamental and New Testament periods.8 God has set up his kingdom in the midst of a fallen world, but antigod powers, angels of violence, have tried to overthrow it by force (Matthew 11:12).9 In attacking the kingdom of Christ the demonic powers sealed their ultimate destruction. Yet where Christ is not acknowledged as King and Lord, these powers continue to hold sway over the world (1 John 5:19). Satan, indeed, is called the "god" and "prince" of this world (2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31). Through his cross and resurrection victory Jesus Christ "disarmed the principalities and powers" (Col. 2:15; cf. 1:13), but they still wield a modicum of power "through man's continuing sin), though now as usurpers. All their rights and privileges have been taken from them, but they continue to wage war, even though they have been defeated and dethroned. Paul confesses that our battle is not with flesh and blood but with "the world

Page 134

rulers of this present darkness ... the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). Jesus Christ, through his resurrection, has bound the prince of darkness so that he cannot prevent the missionary expansion of Christ's church (cf. Luke 11:21; Matthew 12:29), though he still possesses destructive power within his own domain, the sphere of unbelief. St. Augustine likened the devil to a mad dog which is chained: it can still instill fear through its barking, but it cannot harm those who are united with Jesus Christ and are thereby out of its reach (cf. Col. 2:20).

We are told that at the end of the age Satan will again be loosed to persecute

the saints and deceive the nations (Rev. 20:7-8; Ezek. 38-39), but his final attack will be to no avail, for his doom has already been assured. The "great city" of the world (Rev. 17:18; 18:18) will ultimately be overthrown, and the "beloved city," the city of God will be surrounded by the forces of wickedness (Rev. 20:9), but because God has made the cause of the saints his own, they shall persevere and gain the victory. The beast, the false prophet, and the devil will all finally be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 19, 20), and the kingdom of this world will become "the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ" (Rev. 11:15). The holy city, the new Jerusalem, will come down from heaven; night will be no more, for the Lord God will be the light for all his people (Rev. 21, 22).

It is important to recognize that Satan's rule in this world does not indicate a kind of ownership of creation. This indeed was a gnostic doctrine -- that the world legally belongs to Satan, and therefore it is bad and everything in it is evil. The Evil One's proper abode is not the earth but the deep, the abyss of darkness (cf. Job 41:31, 32; Rev. 9:1; Jude 6), though originally he dwelt in the heavens close to God. This world is neither the realm of light nor the realm of darkness but the battleground between light and darkness. The church is an island of light in a sea of darkness, but its light is spreading. The holy catholic church is not on the defensive but on the offensive. Through the word that it proclaims it evicts the demons from their strongholds (cf. Luke 11:20). Having overthrown the devil, Christ and his angelic armies pursue their severely wounded adversary (Rev. 19:11-16). The gates of hell10 will not be able to prevail agaisnt the advancing forces of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18), and the legions of darkness will finally be compelled to capitulate. While admittedly much of othis is figurative language, it nonetheless poionts to realities that form an integral part of the biblical vision. The Bible vividly, but also accurately, describes events in both superhistorical and historical time

Page 135

which have happened, are happening now, and will happen in the future.

The whole world already belongs to Jesus Christ, but large parts of it still remain mesmerized by the spell that the devil casts upon it. This world is both enemy-occupied territory and the theater of God's glory. It is in this light that we can understand these words of our Lord: "I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15). The call of the New Testament is not flight from the world but the conquest of the world by means of the Gospel.

Development in Catholic Thought

The biblical dualistic perspective was quite pronounced among the patristic fathers, both Greek and Latian. Ineed, they generally interpreted the atonement as the victory of Christ over the demonic powers of darkness. They understood the Christian life as a daily battle against these same powers.

It was Augustine who articulated the two kingdom theory in systematic fashion. In his well-known work The City of God he depicted world history in terms of an ongoing conflict between the city of God (civitas dei), which is composed of the regenerate, faithful remnant and is reflected in but not identical with the church, and the city of the world (civitas terrena), which is under the dominion of the powers of darkness. He traced the origins of the city of the world to the fall of the angels. The devil was sinful from his creation, since he did not abide in the truth from the beginning, though his nature was created good. The devils hold in bondage the worshippers of a plurality of gods, but they can never seduce the church. While Augustine did not identify the city of God with the church nor the city of the world with the state, the former was increasingly associated in his thinking with the church and the latter with the secular kingdom.

Augustine saw the state as a consequence of and remedy for sin. Here he broke with the classical understanding in which the state was said to be rooted in a "compact of justice" (Cicero). Though the state is very much penetrated by the city of the world, he nevertheless envisioned the possibility of a Christian state which would oppose the city of the world. Only Christian states have justice.

In Augustine's view the cleavage between the two cities continues into eternity: "After the resurrection, when the general judgment has

Page 136

been held and concluded, there will remain two cities, each with its own boundaries -- the one Christ's, the other the devil's; the one embracing the good, the other, the bad, with both consisting of angels and men."11 The community of faith has been predestined to eternal life, whereas the members of the earthly city have been predestined to eternal damnation.

For the most part, Augustine understood the church as the form or first fruits of the kingdom of God, though he sometimes practically equated them.12 Reinhold Niebuhr rightly criticizes him for assuming that the church as an historical institution can never become a vehicle of evil and never really stands under the judgment of God.13

The dualistic perspective continued in the thought of Thomas Aquinas, but the polarity that commanded his attention was that between nature and grace. These are not opposed to one another but complementary. Thomas sees the kingdom of nature as the portal to the kingdom of nature as the portal to the kingdom of grace. Just as reason is fulfilled by revelation, so nature is completed in supernature. Just as natural law is complemented by revealed law, so natural virtues are fulfilled by theological virtues.

Thomas did not develop a theology of the kingdom of God, but he sometimes virtually identifies this kingdom with the church. At other times the kingdom is viewed eschatologically as the court of heaven. The church as the community of the redeemed exists in tension with the secular order, which reflects both the goodness of creation and the ravages of sin.

On the whole, Thomas envisages the state in a positive light, just as he regards nature positively rather than negatively. Following Aristotle, he derives the idea of the state from the very nature of man. For Thomas even a non-Christian state is endowed with some positive value, whereas for Augustine the pagan state virtually embodies the civitas terrena. Just as spiritual power is ordained to the supernatural end of man, so temporal power is ordained to the natural good of society. While the norm for the state is natural law, the norm for the church is revealed law. Thomas holds that evil rulers must be resisted because the natural law is higher than the will of the state; politics is subordinate to ethics.

In Thomistic thought the church is both a mystical community and a structure of power. As the custodian of the divine law it assists in the ordering of the temporal life. The temporal power, moreover, is subject to the spiritual just as the body is subject to the soul. Because the divine law goes beyond the natural law, the state can and should receive guidance from the church.

Page 137

Thomas, more than Augustine, was willing to recognize the live possibility of a Christian state. In this case state and church must work in partnership. The difference is mainly in function, since both are under the kingship of Christ. Yet he always stressed the subordination of the temporal to the spiritual.

Did Thomas admit the reality of a kingdom of darkness arrayed against both chruch and state? This idea is certainly present in his writings, but it is not systematically developed. The devil and his hosts, he says, "are powerful and great, possessing an immense army agaisnt which we must fight."14 For Thomas the demons belong to the order of nature, not the order of grace. Though they were created in grace, they have fallen from their supernatural position. They are now deprived of grace, but they have not lost their natural gifts. They abuse their nature for evil, but they still have a nature that includes some aspects of the good.15 According to Thomas, while nature is perfected by grace, sin is annulled by grace.

Despite the occasional surge of biblical realism, the dichotomy between the city of God and the city of the world was, for the most part, downplayed in the mainstream of medieval thinking after Augustine. This is partly because of the pervading influence of neo-Platonism, which was present to a degree also in Augustine. In Anselm's Fall of the Devil Satan is no longer the furious mutineer who seeks to overthrow God's authority and replace it with his own but instead a misguided angelic figure who tries to increase his happiness in a disorderly way.16 In Thomas' theology Satan has a necessary place in the graded hierarchy of being. Sin is understood as privation and deficiency of knowledge, for evil cannot have a formal cause.17 According to Hall, Thomas "wishes to say that there is a sense in which the desire to be like God is good, and also that it was impossible for Satan to do what he knows is wrong (since to know the good is to do it)."18 In both Anselm and Thomas we see "the intellectual form of the unified medieval culture which suppresses chaos within its powerful will to order."19

The neo-Platonic subversion of the biblical concept of the demonic is strikingly illustrated by a magnificent miniature in a ninth-century manuscript copy of a work by Gregaory of Nazianzus.20 Satan is pictured as a nobly dressed, graceful youth whose angelic appearance is qualified only by a mauve coloration which contrasts with the pink glow of his fellow angels. Good and evil are no longer seen in terms of an antithesis between being and anti-being but as a difference in the degree of being. In this kind of thinking evil is not an invading force that seeks to overturn the good but, instead, the omission of good.

Page 138

In Meister Eckhart, whose mysticism also bears the incontestable stamp of neo-Platonism, the principal polarity is between nature and spirit rather than between God and an anti-god power. The primal sin is individuation, separation from the source or ground of being, and man's greatest need is reunion with this ground. Because "evil ... is nothing but a defect or shortcoming,"21 the answer to evil is to realize the presence of God within the soul. The way to become a Son of God is to "live according to reason, according to the spirit and not according to the flesh."22 For Eckhart membership in the kingdom of God lies not in outward ordinances of the church but in mystical union with the God within.23 In the thought of this theologian, it seems, the two kingdoms are the unity of the Godhead and the world of multiplicity.

Not that the reality of the devil was denied in the mystical tradition of the church; indeed, many of the great saints and mystics had graphic encounters iwth the devil. Yet those who tended toward pure mysticism viewed evil as only a fleeting shadow that does not really disturb reality in itself. The absolute opposition between a good and an evil power is overcome, since all distinctions are lost in God, all opposites are transcended.

Reformation and Post-Reformation Perspectives

The reality of two kingdoms in dire conflict was nowhere given more cogent expression than in the theology of Martin Luther. Luther perceived the demonic not merely as the absence of light but as an assault upon it. In this view the devil is a creative, dynamic power superior to man though inferior to God. His chief sin was to try to be like God, and this is why he was cast out of the heavens. His strategy is to bring humankind in subjection to his will, and if it were not for the cross of Christ he would indubitably have succeeded.

Luther sees a qualitative distinction between the two kingdoms. God's kingdom is one of grace and mercy, whereas the kingdom of the world is one of wrath and severity. Christ's kingdom is invisible and spiritual, and its weapons are spiritual: the preaching of the Gospel, prayer, and works of love. The devil's kingdom, on the other hand, is temporal and is ruled by strict laws enforced by the sword. Those who believe in Jesus Christ and are reborn by his Spirit belong to the kingdom of God. Those who still dwell in unbelief belong to the devil's kingdom, which is "a disordered chaos of darkness."24

Luther recognizes that these kingdoms are not equal. God exercises

Page 139

his sovereign power through the kingdom of darkness as well as through the kingdom of his Son, but in different ways. Through the devil God rules by his left hand, by his wrath. Through Christ God rules by his right hand, by his love and mercy. God uses the devil to accomplish his hidden purposes, to bring judgment upon the world. Luther could even speak of the great conquerors in history as the "demonic masks" of God. Occasionally he described the Turk as both "God's rod" and "the devil's servant."

In addition to the two kingdoms (Reichen), Luther also acknowledged two governments (Regimenten), church and state. Sometimes he referred to these as two kingdoms, but the context usually indicates that the state is then seen as being under the sway of the kingdom of the world.25 In his view Satan roams about in both governments. It is a great mistake to identify the state with the kingdom of the devil. He could even say that God has specifically instituted the secular government agaisnt the kingdom of the world, understood as the kingdom of Satan. It was Luther's belief that the secular government contributes to the preservation of earthly life. Blessings as well as judgment come through this government, though these are physical not spiritual blessings.

While in Luther's perspective the state is characterized by law and power, the church is distinguished by mercy and love. God rules over the state through the Lordship of Christ and the partial domination of the devil. Yet the devil can also penetrate into the visible church, and this accounts for the appearance of false prophets and antichrists. The invisible church, the kingdom of God, on the other hand, is impervious to the demonic assaults.

The connection between the two governments can be seen in the individual Christian as he lives out his vocation. He is a citizen of two realms, the temporal (state) and the spiritual (kingdom of God), and, therefore, he has different responsibilities and tasks. Yet the two realms are not separated but are held together in paradoxical tension. The secular tasks of the Christian must always be informed by a spiritual goal. The Christian is summoned to carry the Gospel into the structures of life.

In Luther's understanding Christ is Lord of both state and church. Jesus Christ rules over all peoples and nations as God or as a member of the Godhead, but in his humanity he reigns only in the Church, in the community of faith. He is ruler of all but Savior only of those who believe.

Calvin, too, perceived that against the kingdom of righteousness is

Page 140

arrayed "the empire of wickedness," the kingdom of the devil. He, too, affirmed two kingdoms engaged in irrevocable warfare. Following Augustine, he believed that the object of the devil's attack was both to injure God and to destroy man. Satan is not an independent and self-sustained lord of this world, as in Manichaeism, but he is called the prince of this world because "by God's permission, he exercises his tyranny over the world."26 Just as "the church and fellowship of the saints has Christ as Head, so the faction of the impious and impiety itself" have "their prince who holds supreme sway over them."27

Whereas Luther understood the kingdom of God as the hidden realm of faith, Calvin regarded it as the area in which God establishes his reign in Christ. Like Augustine he practically identified the kingdom of Christ with the church. He believed that this kingdom could be advanced by the exercise of power, both civil and spiritual. Luther, on the other hand, considered the renunciation of power as a hallmark of being in the kingdom. For Calvin the kingdom of God will be fulfilled in the renovation of the earth, not in its dissolution (as in Luther).

Calvin also spoke of two governments, church and state, but he did not see an antithesis between them, as did the early Luther. Instead, they complement one another, and this is why he could speak of a "twofold government." The difference between them is in function. Both serve the Word of God, and both employ coercion.28 The state protects public morality and promotes civil justice, whereas the church preaches the righteousness of the kingdom, which is properly the concern of the church as well as of the state. The church should give moral support to the state, and the state should give temporal support to the church.

While Luther emphasized the state as a dike against sin, Calvin saw the state as a means by which people show their calling to lives of servanthood. Calvin envisioned a positive role for the temporal government, just as he perceived the law of God in mainly positive terms. The law was understood not only as a restraint and as a taskmaster that drives people to the Gospel (as in Luther), but also and primarily as a guide for them in their Christian life as they seek to realize their vocation in secular society.

Unlike Luther, Calvin entertained the idea of a holy community in which both church and state are under the revealed law of God. This holy community was not the kingdom of God but a "corporate community that was neither purely religious nor purely secular, but a compound of both."29 The lines between church and state are still maintained,

Page 141

but because they cooperate in maintaining the social order, it is better to speak of a duality rather than a dualism in Calvin's thinking in this area.

Yet Calvin is as dualistic as Luther in his perception of the antithesis between the two kingdoms of Christ and the devil. In contrast to the milder scholastic view, Calvin believed that Satan's goal is to rob God of the government of the world and claim it for himself.30 Yet though his power over the reprobate is very real, his influence over the elect is lilmited and temporary. At the same time, Calvin assigned Satan a very exalted position among the enemies that enslave man. In his doctrine of the atonement Calvin brought together the patristic Christus victor motif, in which Christ redeems man from bondage to the devil, and the satisfaction theory of the Latin fathers.31

The moral dualism present in Luther and Calvin was even more pronounced in the left-wing Reformation among the Anabaptists. In the Anabaptist view the two kingdoms, that of Christ and that of Satan, are distinct from each other in every essential detail. In the words of one interpreter: "The kingdom of God is eternal and heavenly oriented, dominated by the spiritual, and submissive to the rule of God; but the kingdom of Satan is temporal, this-worldly oriented, dominated by the fallen flesh, proud, and disobedient to the rule of God."32 Such an understanding could indeed facilitate political quietism, but it also resulted among some of the radical Anabaptists in revolutionary activity designed to overthrow the kingdom of the devil and bring in the kingdom of God.

In the evangelical revivalism of the Pietists and Puritans the two kingdom idea figured very prominently, and as a consequence foreign missions were instituted to expel the devil from his controlling position in the pagan nations. In the Pietist vision the world was under the power of the Evi One, but through the preaching of the Gospel his power could be overthrown. Many of the Pietists and Puritans looked forward to a latter-day glory for the church in which there would be a worldwide harvest of souls. This would be a time when the demonic powers would be routed and the kingdom of God would everywhere be advancing. The Puritans envisaged holy commonwealths, religio-political communities governed by the revealed law of God, which would function as outposts the warfare against the powers of darkness could be carried forward to completion.

Unlike many of the Pietiests, who were influenced by Lutheranism, the Puritans generally affirmed the Calvinist doctrines of eternal security

Page 142

and predestination and therefore believed the cause of righteousness to be invincible and the doom of the adversary already sealed. Once one belongs to the "Kingdom of Grace," John Preston maintained, he can never be robbed of it. If one is not in this kingdom, then he is in the "Kingdom of Destruction" and predestined to hell for eternity.33

In the nineteenth century, with the rise of premillennialism and dispensationalism, evangelicals came to take a much more pessimistic view of human history. It was held that the church is now entering it twilight period, and Christ's kindgom, which signifies a restoration of the historic Davidic kingdom, will be inaugurated at his second coming. The kingdom of the world, which is under the domain of Satan, was believe to be present, while the kingdom of Christ, the millennial age, was depicted as future. The church, comprised of the remnant of true believers called out of the world, will be taken up by Christ into heaven before the great tribulation preceding the second coming. Yet the dispensationalists also contend that Christians will share in the rule of the kingdom.

Modern Discussion

With the rise of the Enlightenment in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a monistic orientation supplanted that of biblical dualism, and the whole world was viewed as the family of God. The devil was demythologized to beome the adverse consciousness rooted in ignorance and disregard of the divine law. For William Blake the good and evil angels are complementary rather than opposing forces. Love joined to Energy is the "marriage of Heaven and Hell." As Schleiermacher saw it, belief in a continuing kingdom of Satan would weaken joyful courage and be destructive of Christian love.

In the modern view the fundamental cleavage is not between God and the devil, heaven and hell, holiness and sin, but between nature and freedom or flesh and spirit. Kant envisioned an ethical commonwealth in which all people would come to live according to an enlightened conscience. Marx and Engels heralded a "kingdom of freedom," which they identified with the classless society. Troeltsch referred to a kingdom of freedom that was opposed to the determinism of nature.

Albrecht Ritschl was convinced that the whole world was progressing toward the kingdom of God, which he defined as "the organization of humanity inspired by love." Like Kant he conceived of this kingdom as an ethical ideal which can be partially attained through benevolent action.

Page 143

Both church and state should serve the kingdom of God by promoting and nurturing moral perfection. The principal dualism in Ritschl is between nature and spirit, the world and the kingdom. While he referred to a "realm of sin" opposed to the kingdom of God, he meant by sin a social contagion, bad influences emanating fraom our collective life. Sin is a failure to realize ethical values and gain mastery over instinctual drives. The vocation to which we are called is to establish moral dominion over nature and thereby prepare the way for the union of mankind in the kingdom of God.

The note of biblical dualism is more evident in Walter Rauschenbusch, though, like Ritschl, he rejected belief in demons and Satan. While Ritschl tended to see the kingdom of God as supramundane impinging on history, for Rauschenbusch it was a historical force now at work in humanity. In his understanding sin is a fellowship of worship, exists for the purpose of the kingdom, which is a fellowship of righteousness. Any advance in social righteousness is an advance of the kingdom of God and a part of redemption. The kingdom of God is "the Christian transfiguration of the social order."34 While Ritschl conceived of the kingdom as a transcendent ethical ideal, Rauschenbusch envisioned a kingdom of God would come not by peaceful development alone but through conflict with the kingdom of evil. "If we consent to the working principles of the kingdom of evil. "If we consent to the working principles of the Kingdom of Evil," he warned, "and do not counteract it with all our strength, but perhaps even fail to see its ruinous evil, then we are part of it and the salvation of Christ has not yet set us free."35 Rauschenbusch believed that in the battle for social justice the forces of evil would be uprooted, and the millennial hope would then be realized.

Unlike Ritschl and Rauschenbusch, Paul Tillich sees the demonic in cosmic and not merely sociological terms, though he, too, refuses to accept the idea of a supernatural demonic adversary to God and man. For Tillich the demonic has reference to a power of evil that precedes human sin and that perverts the good "into a mixture of form-creating and form-destroying energy in history."36 Against the Enlightenment view Tillich understands the demonic not as deficiency in goodness but as "perverse and powerful affirmation." It signifies the distortion of the sacred rather than its denial. In line with his Lutheran background Tillick perceives a continuous battle "going on between divine and demonic structures" in history.37 He speaks of a demonic kingdom opposed to the kingdom of God, but he understand this mainly in terms

Page 144

of an underground conspiracy against the will and purpose of God rather than a kingdom equal or analogous to that of God.

In addition to this Lutheran dualism, however, Tillich also shares the Enlightenment concern for unity and universality. He contends that the kingdom of God embraces all people and all movements, though in its transhistorical dimension it signifies the eschatological consummation and fulfillment of history. The kingdom of God is reflected in the Spiritual Community, which includes the church. All of these are vulnerable to penetration by the demonic, though the church is less open to such incursion than secular movements because it has the principle of resistance in itself. The manifest church is the visible body of believers , while the latent church, or the Spiritual Community in its latency, signifies the world that has not yet come to the realization of the victory of the kingdom of God without participating in the struggle of the inner-historical kingdom of God.

This same uneven mixture of Reformation and Enlightenment motifs can be discerned in Reinhold Niebuhr. For Niebuhr the kingdom of God is beyond history, not as a supernatural realm but as a transcendent ideal. The kingdom of God is the ideal world, one that cannot be perfectly attained within history. It's perfect realization means the end of the world as we see it in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ who embodied this ideal The two kingdoms are the heavenly and the earthly, the ideal and the actual, this world and the coming kingdom of God. "The kingdom of truth," Niebuhr says, is "not the kingdom of some other world. It is the picture of what this world ought to be."38 The real world moves toward the ideal world, but there is no automatic progress. As civilization advances, so the possibilities of retrogression and evil also increase. The kingdom always impinges on man's every decision and is involved in his every action. It is always coming, but it is never here. Its principal hallmark is suffering love, which is realized only at the edge of history. The attainable goal within history is mutual love or justice. The church is the community that heralds the coming of the kingdom, but this coming is always conceived eschatologically.

Niebuhr allows for the reality of the demonic, but in his thought the demonic is simply a symbol for the possession of the self by something less than the Spirit of God. It represents a force of evil that precedes human sin. But Niebuhr does not accept the idea of a personal angelic power who presides over a kingdom that seeks the overthrow of the kingdom of God.

Page 145

In Karl Barth, too, we witness a partial convergence of Enlightenment monism and Reformatino dualism.39 Barth understands evil as the Nothingness, a negative reality that is given a provisional existence by God in order to set it off from his good creation. It exists by God's not-willing rather than by his willing. It is the antithesis that is set apart from the thesis, but it is not included in any new synthesis, as in Hegel. The Nothingness was already marked for dissolultion and destruction at the creation, and its capability for injury was completely removed at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the same time, it continues to have a semblance of power because of its capability for deception. In itself it is powerless and nonexistent, but in the spell that it casts upon the creature it gains a pseudo-power, one that is given to it by man the sinner. Even though objectively it has been done away witih, it continues to mesmerize and beguile those who do not know or trust in Jesus Christ.

Although Barth occasionally speaks of a kingdom of Satan, he means by this not a kingdom arrayed against the kingdom of God but a kingdom that is already behind us and all people, a pseudo-kingdom that has been disarmed and defeated. While the Nothingness "still is in the world," he says, "it is in virtue of the blindness of our eyes and the cover which is still over us, obscuring the prospect of the kingdom of God already established as the only kingdom undisputed by evil."40 The kingdom of Christ signifies not just the community of faith, as in Augustine and Calvin, but the world of humanity in its totality. It is "greater than the sphere of Israel and the Church. But it is in this sphere, and in it alone, that it is believed and known that the kingdom of the world is His, and not the devil's."41 The world is no longer bewitched, but exorcised, for Christ's victory is complete and final. The church constitutes the "inner circle." The world is, in effect, the invisible church or, as Tillich would say, the church in its latency. With the coming of the kingdom, even against their will.42 Those who in themselves are disobedient "are claimed and absorbed by the act of His obedience."43 The kingdom cannot remain a merely external fact hanging over them: "They themselves have to be within it."44 For Barth the "righteousness of the kingdom" means "a real, the most real determination of human life; to wh ich every man willingly and wittingly or not, is subject."45 Yet only those can actively participate in it who take up their cross and follow Christ.

Page 146

Barth also distinguishes between the kingdom of grace, which now includes the whole world, and the kingdom of glory, which refers to the future of the world as redeemed. Glory signifies the fulfillment and revelation of grace, just as grace represents the restoration and renewal of nature. God's work of creation, reconciliation, and redemption comprises a unified unfolding of his redemptive purposes from all eternity. But this work excludes and negates the kingdom of the Nothingness, which has been shorn of any real, ontological power.

Bonhoeffer also mirrors this concern fo rthe unity of creation and redemption, which implies the ultimate harmony and reconciliation of the church and secular state. He attacks thinking in terms of two spheres -- the natural and supernatural, the temporal and the spiritual. He affirms two realms, church and state, but only one kingdom the reign of Christ which includes all of existence. "The kingdom of God," he says, "exists in our world exclusively in the duality of church and state."46

Yet at the same time, Bonhoeffer acknowledges the existence of a demonic power that penetrates into God's good creation as an alien force but that is dispelled by the preaching of the Gospel. His vision of the immediate future is not optimistic: "The older the world grows, the more heated becomes the conflict between Christ and antichrist, and the more thorough the efforts of the world to get rid of the Christians."47 At the same time, he is insistent that the world is not divided between Christ and the devil, since it completely belongs to the former: "Any static delimitation of a region which belongs to the devil and a region which belongs to Christ is a denial of the reality of God's having reconciled the whole world with Himself in Christ."48 The devil must serve Christ even against his will: "He desires evil, but over and over again he is compelled to do good."49 The "realm or space of the devil is always only beneath the feet of Jesus Christ."50 Bonhoeffer, therefore, will not speak of a world that is spiritually lost, separated from the redemption of Christ.

In modern neo-Catholicism the kingdom of God is depicted as all-pervasive and all-inclusive, though it is said that man can resist and deny the work of grace around and within him. For Karl Rahner it is possible to conceive of the " 'evolution' of the world towards Christ, and to show how there is a gradual ascent which reaches a peak in him."51 In his thought we live in a redeemed world and not merely a redeemable world. Thomas O'Meara sees the kingdom of God as "the deeper kingdom of history," which, in a sense, already includes all people, at least in intention, since all are "surrounded by presence."52 This new optimism is also mirrored in Tad Guzie:

Page 147

The world is God's family, before and apart from baptism .... It is not baptism that brings us into the world of grace. The grace and love of God is already here, it is freely given, it surrounds our existence, and we are in contact with it from the first moment of our life.53

Not surprisingly, the apostolic and patristic vision of two kingdoms of light and darkness has been kept very much alive within the fold of Eastern Orthodoxy. Evgeny Barabanov, a Russian Orthodox layman, perceives "not only an opposition between the Church ... and a totalitarian system, but also a more fundamental opposition, that between the Church and the world."54 He calls for active participation in the political and economic life of the world, but accompanied by a vigorous renunciation of its temptations and vanity. According to Thomas Hopko, American Orthodox theologian, "There is a cosmic battle going on between the children of light and the children of darkness -- and we must be bold enough enough to say that there are children of light who are not formal members of the Church, and children of darkness who are."55

Within contemporary Protestantism Jacques Ellul gives a strong reaffirmation of the idea of two diametrically opposed kingdoms. Contrary to the prevailing view, "Satan is still as such the prince of this world. It belongs to him ... Its power, riches, progress, and history are under his control. It is he who institutes capitalisms and imperialisms. It is he who establishes states and triggers revolutions."56

Though Ellul follows Barth in contending that the powers of darkness have been decisively defeated by Christ, he nonetheless acknowledges the reality of their continuing threat:

We must accept the fact that the power defeated by Christ are still at work, that they refuse to admit their defeat and are struggling more violently than ever. They do gain local victories, and their violence forces us to believe in their power (still real over us), whereas in thruth they are subject to Christ.57

A Theological Reappraisal

As we see it, the fundamental dichotomy is not between nature and grace, time and eternity, spirit and matter, but between sin and holiness, light and darkness, God and the devil. The devil's kingdom, the kingdom of darkness, is not equal with God's kingdom, but its goal is to injure God as well as to subjugate man. Nor is this kingdom a complement to the kingdom of light (as in William Blake) but instead its antithesis. The kingdom of the world is not simply one mode of the universal rule of God (as in much neo-Lutheranism and Barthianism) but an adversary to the kingdom of God. Both kingdoms are spiritual,

Page 148

and their warfare is essentially invisible, though it inevitably assumes visible expression.

The devil represents not the satanic principle of negation but perverse and powerful affirmation (Tillich), the assault upon goodness and not simply the absence of goodness. Evil is what builds, creates, animates, inspires -- as well as what destroys (Martin Buber). We accept the traditional or orthodox view of the devil and his hosts as fallen angels superior to man but inferior to God. The devil is not simply the chaos in its dynamic manifestation (as in Barth) but a superhuman intelligence with a strategy and purpose of his own; this is why man is unable to repel or escape from the power of evil by means of education or knowledge.

In addition to the two kingdoms there are two spheres or dimensions, the spiritual and the temporal, which are correlated with church and state. Much of the current criticism of Luther's two kingdom theory is directed to his idea of two governments which are distinct and yet integrally related to one another. The revolutionary implications in Luther's theology cannot be fully appreciated until we see behind the two governments of church and state the two kingdoms of light and darkness. It was Luther's conviction that the kingdom of the devil must be vigorously resisted wherever it intrudes, in the church as well as in the state. In modern thought Luther's doctrine of the devil is deemed mythological and, therefore, does not receive the attention it deserves.

This is not to deny that Luther's doctrine, which saw the purpose of the state as a dike against sin, played into the hands of those who were concerned primarily with upholding rather than changing the secular order. Yet when this doctrine is viewed in the wider perspective of the cosmic conflict between light and darkness, it can be a powerful impetus to cultural transformation, as is evidenced in Augustine and Calvin.

We see the two governments of church and state as two modes of the divine rule. While the state is instituted for the purpose of preservation, the church is established by Christ for the purpose of redemption. Material blessings derive from the state, spiritual blessings come through the church. Through common grace, which is everywhere at work, the state can arrive at civil righteousness, but the church is preeminently concerned with spiritual righteousness, which is given by the Holy Spirit in the new birth. The state is not a separate or autonomous kingdom in competition with the church, but a government community that strives for law, order, and justice. It is designed to serve man in the temporal and material side of his existence. It must never claim absolute homage and obedience, and when it does so, it becomes

Page 149

demonic and must consequently be resisted by God-fearing people. Because the temptation to arrogate unconditional power to itself is almost irresistible, particularly where there is no Christian contingent within its domain, the state often falls under the sway of the powers of darkness. We read in Revelation 17:18 that the woman of sin, the mother of harlots, gains dominion over the kings of the earth.

The kingdom of God is both a future reality beyond history and present now in the community of faith. It exists now in the midst of the faithful, though it is not to be equated with any visible institution. The church is the vessel or the instrument of the kingdom rather than the kingdom itself. The kingdom is basically future, but it is present now in the hearts of those who believe. It is mirrored and anticipated in the company of believers, but it will not be fulfilled until the end of the world.

Having been cast out of the heavenly realm, the devil and his legions have invaded the earthly realm, and he has thereby become the "prince of this world." Though he was mortally wounded by the cross and resurrection victory of Christ, he continues to fight on. Indeed, the demonic powers become more destructive and virulent as the kingdom of God advances.

Jesus Christ is Lord of both the church and the world, even that side of the world that has fallen under the sway of the powers of darkness. Yet he is Lord in a dirct and saving way only of the church. Luther declared that while "God is the Lord of all nations," he is not "the God of all nations. For he's not the God of those who don't have his Word."58 Christ exercises his saving work only in the community of faith, but he exercises his preserving and judging work everywhere.

We reject the Barthian idea of a Christocracy where Christ is portrayed as being in direct control of the structures and institutions of the secular order. Nor can we subscribe to Barth's view that the Gospel is the criteriono for the political order. We hwere agree with Brunner: "The State will never, never be governed by the Word -- in the sense of the Gospel -- but exclusively by the word of the Law, quite simply by the Decalogue, which is not the actual 'Word' of Christ."59 Christ exercises his Lordship indirectly through rebellious principalities and powers, but in the role of Judge, not Savior. He rules over the powers of darkness while at the same time negating and restraining them. The works of darkness are made to serve God's will, even though outwardly they are against his will.

When John refers to the kingdom of the world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev. 11:15), he has in mind the possessions and subjects of the devil, not the devil's government, which

Page 150

will be destroyed. G.B. Caird gives a proper translation: "The sovereignty of the world has passed to our Lord and to his Christ."60 The Living Bible version is: "the kingdom of this world now belongs to our Lord, and to his Christ."

As has already been indicated, the deepest meaning of the kingdom of the world is that it is a dominion of darkness" (Col. 1:13) that has deceived the nations and even, at times, confused the church. It refers not simply to the temporal government or civil jurisdiction but to this government as it is presently under the sway of the powers of darkness. The shadow that the anti-god power casts over the nations accounts for the tensions and discord between church and state.

Ideally, both church and state should be allied in the struggle against evil, and this ideal can be approximated where the state is infused with Christian values. While the sword of the state is physical force, the sword of the church is the Word of God. The state should seek not simply to preserve law and order (as in Luther), but also to serve the cause of justice. Its goal should be not so much a holy community as a just society. The rational ideal of justice must be united with the suprarational ideal of perfect love if creative justice is to become a reality. A holy community, in the older Calvinist sense, presupposes faith in Jesus Christ by the overwhelming majority of the constituency. It is questionable whether this particular vision can ever be realized in our modern pluralistic world, though it can be attained to a degree in smaller towns and villages.

The Christian should not be mesmerized or paralyzed by the evils in the world, since he has the certain knowledge that the principalities and powers have already been disarmed by Jesus Christ (Col. 2:15). One interpreter astutely comments: "It is with bare fists or broken swords that they rush around, while we are given the armour of God, and (so long as we put it on ...) we shall stand our ground."61 The demonic powers were irrevocably defeated by Jesus Christ on his cross, but they still exert power and influence where Christ is not acknowledged as Lord and Savior. Their weapons are rendered ineffectual against the power of faith, though even with their broken weapons they can still win minor victories against those who persist in unbelief. Despite the fact that nations rage against her, the city of God will remain secure, since the Lord dwells in her midst (Psalm 46: 4-5).

Until Christ comes again in glory, the church is engaged in an unceasing struggle with the dislodged powers of darkness. These powers can be vanquished only by the Word of God, not by the sword, though the chaos that they engender in society can be held in check by

Page 151

the sword. In the words of Torrance: "Until Christ comes the Church is engaged in warfare and her weapon is the Word of God, for it is through the majesty of the Word that disorder is subdued to order, and the deformed state of the Church is reformed to conformity with Christ."62 Though the devil vents his fury against the people of God because he knows his time is short, they will be able to withstand and emerge victorious by the power of the blood of the Lamb and the word of the Gospel (Rev. 12:11-12).

We, as the ambassadors of Christ, cannot build his kingdom, but we can serve it. We cannot bring in the kingdom, but we can prepare the way for it. The kingdom of Christ is presetnly hidden in the structures of history, but its revelation and consummation are still ahead of us in the absolute future of God. We can be instruments in its advance within present history, but we cannot determine this advance, since the wind of the Spirit blows where it wills (John 3:8). We cannot force the hand of God, but we can pray that his kingdom will come on earth as well as in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Moreover, our prayers as well as our spoken and lived witness are indeed used by the Spirit in extending and furthering the kingdom in this world.



1. Cf. Nathan Soderblom: "All attempts within Christianity to escape from or to overcome dualism have weakened the fearless sense of reality within the gospel or else have led to the incredible result of locating dualism in the very nature of God." Cited by Gustaf Aulen in "Nathan Soderbloom as Theologian," Una Sancta, vol. 24, no. 1 (1967), [pp. 15-30], p. 18.

2. In the Babylonian creation story Tiamat was not just a personified monster of the deep but a Babylonian goddess, mother of the gods of the pantheon.

3. We see this prediction fulfilled in the church, which is indeed an eschatological community, since it lives between the times of the two advents of Christ. The New Jerusalem from heaven will have walls, as is made clear in Revelation 21.

4. Origen, in his Contra Celsum 6. 43, identifies this destroyer with the devil, the agent of God's wrath agaisnt the Egyptians.

5. Marvin Pope identifies "the king of terrors" with the middle-eastern god Mot, the god of the netherworld and the chief of demons. See Marvin H. Pope, Job (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Anchor Bible, 1965), p. 126.

6. Edward J. Young makes these apposite comments on the city of chaos: "In this picture the city becomes in actual fact what it already was in nature.

Page 152

Through their sins its inhabitants had introduced desolation and confusion into the world, and so the place of their dwelling becomes a desolation like the beginning. The nature of the city was desolation; the destiny and final end of the city will also be desolation." In Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), p. 164.

7. Jewish apocalyptic writers generally interpreted the "bright morning star" (Lucifer) of Isaiah 14:12-15 as referring to the fall of one of the heavenly host. It was not uncommon in the Old Testament and in Jewish tradition to identify angels with stars. The banished angels in the Book of Enoch are likened to stars falling from heaven. See Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Devil (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp. 194-197.

8. This is expecially true of the intertestamental apocalyptic literature. The Assumption of Moses depicts the eternal kingdom of righteousness as being established by the direct intervention of God without any mediator. In 10:1 we read: "Then his kingdom shall appear throughout all His creation. And then Satan shall be no more, and sorrow shall depart with him."

9. For further elicidation see James Kallas, The Significance of the Synoptic Miracles (Greenwich, Conn.: Seabury Press, 1961), p. 73.

10. The "gates of hell" in Matthew 16:18 clearly referes to the city of darkness, not the realm of the dead, since the latter could not engage the church in mortal battle. See R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel (Columbus, Ohio: Wartburg Press, 1943), p. 628. See infra, p. 207, note 53.

11. Louis A. Arand, trans., St. Augustine: Faith,Hopoe and Charity 4th ed. (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1963), p. 104.

12. Cf. Augustine: "Therefore the Church even now is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven." The City of God, Bk. 20 ch. 9. In The Basic Writings of Saint Augustine vol. 2, ed. Whitney J. Oates (New York: Random House, 1948), p. 524.

13. Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, vol. 2 (N.Y.: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951), p. 139.

14. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Saint Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, trans. Matthew L. Lamb (Albany, N.Y.: Magi Books, 1966), p. 238.

15. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I.Q. CIX. In Basic Writings of Saint Thomas, vol. 1 ed. Anton G. Pegis (New York: Random House, 1945), pp. 1012, 1013.

16. One interpreter makes this astute comment: "He is assumed to know that his sin will not overthrow God's order and appears more like a small boy who is about to steal some of his mother's cookies." Charles Hall, With the Spirit's Sword (Richmond, VA.: John Knox Press, 1968), p. 57.

17. For Thomas evil has an imperfect form but not a single form that makes it a single unity. The angels sinned through pride, but pride is a defective act. It means falling short of the form that was proper to them.

18. Hall, With the Spirit's Sword, p. 58.

19. Ibid., p. 58.

20. Ibid., p. 56.

21. Meister Eckhart, Selected Treatises and Sermons, ed. and trans. James M. Clark and John V. Skinner (New York: Harper, 1958), p. 196.

Page 153

22. Raymond B. Blakney, ed. and trans. Meister Eckhart (New York: Harper, 1941), pp. 291-292.

23. Eckhart: "Some good people are hindered by being outwardly too zealous for the blessed sacrament of our Lord's body, so that they never receive it in reality. They expend too much diligence on superfluous things and are never joined to the truth -- for truth is to be found within and not in visible phenomena." Blakney, Meister Eckhart, p. 198.

24. Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston, p. 133.

25. See Paul Althaus, The Ethics of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972), pp. 51-53.

26. John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, vol. 2, trans. William Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), p. 104.

27. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I, xiv, 14, ed. John T. McNeill, p. 174.

28. For Calvin the juridical and moral coercion of the church must be clearly distinguished from the punishing sword of the state. Yet the church wields positive power when it corrects and admonishes its members by imposing discipline upon them. See Sheldon S. Wolin, Politics and Vision (Boston: Little, Brown, 1960), pp. 173-175.

29. Wolin, Politics and Vision, p. 168.

30. John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 4:8.

31. See Hall, With the Spirit's Sword, pp. 100-109.

32. Kenneth Ronald Davis, Anabaptism and Asceticism, (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1974), p. 141.

33. Irvonwy Morgan, Purtian Spirituality, pp. 10-11.

34. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (New York: Macmillan, 1917), p. 145.

35. Ibid., p. 92.

36. James Luther Adams, in Paul Tillich, The Protestant Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 304.

37. Tillich, The Protestant Era, p. xxi.

38. Reinhold Niebuhr, Beyond Tragedy (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937), p. 277.

39. There was no conscious attempt on the part of Barth to incorporate Enlightenment ideas into a Reformation perspective, but he was unwittingly influenced by the Enlightenment through his concentrated exposure to Shleiermacher and Kant in the period of his academic theological study. See Donald G. Bloesch, Jesus Is Victor!" Karl Barth's Doctrine of Salvation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976), pp. 72-103.

40. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, III, 3, ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1969), p. 367. (Italics added).

41. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II, 2, p. 571.

42. "Here on this earth and in time, and therefore in the immediate context of all human kingdoms both small and great, and in the sphere of Satan who rules and torments fallen man, God has irrevocably and indissolubly stet up the kingdom of His grace, the throne of His glory, the kingdom which as such is superior to all other powers, to which, in spite of

Page 154

their resistance, they belong, and which they cannot help but serve." Barth, Church Dogmatics, II, 2, p. 688.

43. Ibid., p. 693.

44. Ibid. The immediate context indicates those who are called to be Christians, though the wider context makes clear that this calling goes out to all. Only those who respond and obey actually enjoy the benefits of the kingdom and are members of this kingdom in the true and proper sense. While all are ordained for fellowship with God, only some actually enter into and enjoy this fellowship.

45. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II, 2, p. 690.

46. John D. Godsey, Preface to Bonhoeffer (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965), p. 40.

47. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 240.

48. Bonhoeffer, Ethics, (New York: Macmillan, 1965), p. 204.

49. Ibid.

50. Ibid.

51. Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, I, trans. Cornelius Ernst (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1965), p. 165.

52. Thomas O'Meara, Loose in the World (New York: Paulist Press, 1974), p. 119.

53. Tad Guzie, in National Catholic Reporter, vol. 13, no. 12 (January 14, 1977), p. 9.

54. Evgeny Barbanov, "The Schism Between the Church and the World." In From Under the Rubble, Alexander Solzhenitsyn et. al., trans. Michael Scammell (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974) [pp. 172-193], p. 181.

55. Thomas Hopko, The Spirit of God (Wilton, Conn.: Morehouse-Barlow, 1976), p. 120.

56. Jacques Ellul, The Ethics of Freedom, trans. & Ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 166.

58. Luther's Works, vol. 54, p. 57.

59. Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, trans. Olive Wyon (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1952), p. 318.

60. G.B. Caird, A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 141.

61. John Richards, But Deliver U from Evil (New York: Seabury Press, 1974), p. 90.

62. Thomas Torrance, Kingdom and Church, (Fair Lawn, N.J.: Essential Books, 1956), p. 136.

VI. Two Kingdoms

For to us a child      

The Struggle With Liberalism

   Evangelical theology

Chapter VII

And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables." Acts 6:2

We are interested, of course, in the amelioration of society; and much is gained for its emelioration that we are so. But what society radically needs is salvation; and it is salvation that the Church offers to all. P.T. Forsyth

It is not the primary .... task of the Church to create, to change, to improve the social order. The task of the Church lies beyond any social order, because its task is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God which transcends all social orders, the good and bad alike. Emil Brunner

This proclamation [the Gospel] cannot allow itself to be changed or transposed into any ... plan for saving men by the solution of political, economic or social problems. Karl Barth

The Church has at times become too much like the secular state to do justice to the spiritual mission of the Church and its connection with the mystery of Christ. Avery Dulles


The concept of the spiritual mission of the church has lent itself in the past to grave distortions, and this is why it must be carefully defined. Various southern denominations after the Civil War were accustomed to using the term spiritual mission because it served to assuage the guilt of the church on the issue of racial segregation and discrimination. Similarly some churches in our day have stressed the spiritual aspect of the church's mission in order to avoid coming to

Page 156

grips with controversial social questions that are at the same time moral questions.

We propose to show that the biblical understanding of the church's spiritual mission entails preaching the Law in its social dimension as well as the Gospel. At the same time, we must avoid the opposite error of politicalizing the Gospel, by which we lose sight of the spiritual mission of the church altogether.

The New Testament Perspective

While the Old Testament tended to conceive of the kingdom of God as a restored earth and the deliverance which God effects as political-social, the New TEstament gave a spiritual interpretation of salvation which did not deny its social implications but pointed beyond history to an eternal kingdom. This move away from a purely political conception of salvation is already discernible in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, especially the apocalyptic book of Daniel.

In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus declares:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

These words are drawn from Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6, where the context clearly indicates a social-political deliverance. But that Jesus is definitely not thinking of political liberation is made clear in Luke 7:22: "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the good news preached to them." Jesus came to offer deliverance from the power of sin and death rather than from political and economic bondage, though when one's heart is changed one will then be enabled to confront the ruling powers of the world with the proper wisdom and motivation. Nonetheless, inward emancipation from sin does not necessarily result in outward liberation from the adverse circumstances of life, though it does give one patience and contentment in the midst of adversity.

That Jesus conceived of salvation primarily in eschatological and spiritual terms accounts for the fact that his message was a stumbling block to the Jews. The Messiah that was expected by Israel was not the Messiah who appeared (Reinhold Niebuhr). The Zealots finally turned

Page 157

against Christ because he refused to accept the role that they assigned him -- that of a political Messiah.

Jesus rebuked the multitudes whom he had fed with the loaves and fishes because they did not recognize the sign in the miraculous meal, namely, the inbreaking of the eschatological kingdom of God (John 6:27; cf. 6:40). The work that he required of his hearers was not the building of a new social order but faith in the messenger of God (JOhn 6:29). Jesus called his disciples to the work of mission and evangelism: "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37, 38; cf. John 4:35). The great commission given by the risen Christ to the apostles was the proclamation of the remission of sins through his death and resurrection: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47; cf. Matthew 28:18-19; Mark 16:15). Because the apostles understood their mandate as the ministry of the Word, they appointed deacons to care for the material needs of the congregatoins so that they could devote all their time to the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 6:1-4).

Paul also understood his commission as the heralding of the Gospel, not as the improvement of human society. He declared that grace was given to him "to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things ..." (Ephesians 3:8-9). The preacher of the Gospel is to give single-minded devotion to his Commander in the holy warfare of the saints and should not become "entangled in civilian pursuits" (2 Tim. 2:3-4). Paul warned that "the kingdom of God does not omean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit ..." (Romans 14:17). In his view the purpose of the Gospel is not to provide people with happiness and security in this world but instead life with God in eternity.

At the same time, it should be recognized that in the mind of the New Testament this was a spiritual mission to lived out in the midst of this world and not in some other world (John 17:15). The vision of the New Testament was the spiritual in the secular, not divorced from the secular. Moreover, the kingdom of God was viewed not as an individualistic, private affair but as a new society in which the brethren in the faith would share their goods with one another (Acts 4:32-37) and open their homes as hospitality houses (Hebrews 13:1-2). The dichotomy is not between the spiritual and the social but between the

Page 158

spiritual and the profane. Kung astutely remarks: "Jesus had no directly political, but a thoroughgoing 'religious' message and mission, which of course later had incisive 'political' implications and consequences."1 The spiritual message of our Lord had far-reaching social implications because it brought to people a new set of values that promoted a yearning for a new social order. Though the kingdom of our Lord is not of this world (John 18:36; Heb. 13:14), it must be witnessed to and demonstrated in this world. We are not to remain within the confines of a spiritual ghetto but are summoned to go "outside the camp, bearing abuse" in his name (Heb. 13:13).

Witness of the Church Tradition

In the battle with Gnosticism the early church had to emphasize the goodness of creation and the Christian's responsibility in society. It also had to make clear that the spiriutality of the kingdom does not entail escape from the body but instead the resurrection of the body. At the same time, the church fathers fully concurred with the author of Hebrews that in this life "we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come" (Heb. 13:14). This world is a vale of tears whose temporary pleasures cannot be compared with the glory that is still to be revealed. Yet this world is also the battleground in which our eternal destiny is decided, and this means that it becomes more, not less, significant when related to the heavenly new Jerusalem.

St. Augustine perceived that the Christian community had an obligation not only to bring people to Christ and build them up in the faith but also to infuse the secular order with Christian values so that the heads of state might give indirect support to the church in its heavenly mission. He concluded that the pagan states had been ruined because of the worship of false gods and that idolatry contains the seeds of social anarchy. The mission of the church is to instill true piety, which is the genuine worship of the true God and which is also the foundation for personal and social righteousness. Without justice, he believed, there can be no society, but without piety there can be no justice.

Churchly involvement in the secular order can, of course, be abused. Luther's protest was directed in part against the medieval church's temptation to clericalism, by which it sought the power and goods of this world. The mission of the church, he insisted, was not to expand either its temporal or spiritual power but to give glory to God by upholding his Word. Luther sought to substitute evangelism for ecclesiastical imperialism and proselytism:

Page 159

Evangelism means nothing other than preaching, the speaking forth of God's grace and mercy, which the Lord Jesus Christ has earned and acquired through his death ... It is a vocal preaching, a living Word, a voice which can be heard throughout the whole world, a message that is publicly proclaimed so that men can hear it everywhere.2

The Christian community is also summoned to obedience by demonstrating the love of God before the world. Yet the final goal of our works of love is that the heathen might "hear our doctrine, and then be converted."3

Despite Calvin's impassionsed concern with building a holy community in this world, he, too, emphasized the spiriutal mission of the church. If Christ had permitted himself to be made king, he said, "his spiritual kingdom would have been ruined, the Gospel would have been stamped with everlasting infamy, and the hope of salvation would have been utterly destroyed."4 For Calvin, "Christ's spiriutal kingdom and the civil jurisdiction are things completely distinct,"5 though the latter must always be informed by the values of the former. The pastor must always remember why he has been ordained, that he is the ambassador of God to declare the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, "that he is sent to procure the salvation of souls."6 This missionary mandate of the church, however, is not just the prerogative of the clerics, but of all members of Christ's body. Torrance puts his finger on the tremendous missionary impetus in Calvin's theology: "Those who do not endeavour to bring their neighbours and unbelievers to the way of salvation plainly show that they make no account of God's honor, and that they try to diminish the mighy power of His empire."7

Standing in the Reformed tradition is P.T. Forsyth, who wrote at a time when the social gospel was penetrating English theology and church life. In opposition to a merely social Christianity he argued that the "largest and deepest reference of the Gospel, is not to the world or its social problems, but to Eternity and its social obligations." While acknowledging that the Gospel carries with it the incentive for social reform, he was also keenly aware that a concern for social reform does not necessarily carry with it the Gospel. "The Church has been at its best," he concluded, "when it did not mix with political transactions in the way of ruling prerogataive or direct control. Its true influence is that of its apostolic Word and its moral character."8 He was adamant that the mission of the church not be confused with humanitarianism: "Mere fraternal service to the world does not yet secure Christ's purpose with the world. Christ the Helper is not yet Christ the Saviouir. Merely to help and bless the world is not yet to secure it for the

Page 160

Kingdom of God."9 He perceived that the "cchief danger today is not the ceremonial ritual, but the moral and social ritual,"10 which stems from the idea that people "are to be saved by welldoing, by integrity, by purity, by generosity, by philanthropy, by doing as Christ did rather than trusting what Christ did, by loving instead of trusting love."11

Forsyth made his witness in a period when some theologians were saying that the essence of the Gospel lies in the brotherhood of oman under the fatherhood of God. The mission of the church was thereby misconstrued as building the kingdom of God on earth. Forsyth's aim was to recall the church to its apostolic mission -- the proclamation of God's grace revealed in Jesus Christ:

The greatest product of the Church is not brotherly love but divine worship. And we shall never worship right nor serve right till we are more engrossed with our God than even with our worship, with His reality than our piety, with his Cross than with our service. It is well to dream and to talk much of brotherly love. But the brethren who love best and teh love that loves longest are made by the Gospel.12

Perhaps no theologian in recent years has wrestled with the meaning of the church's mission more assiduously than Karl Barth. As a pastor in Safenwil, Switzerland, before his teaching career, he came to know and identify with the needs of the working people in his region. Very early in his ministry he gave wholehearted support to the Social Democratic Party, and it has even been suggested that his theology is best understood as a rationale for his commitment to socialism.13 This is a grave misinterpretation of Barth's position, however, since even at Safenwil he protested against the identification of any social ideology with the kingdom of God. As he put it: "Pacifism and social democracy do not represent the kingdom of God, but the old kingdom of man in new forms."14 The enlightened Christian will be sensitive to the crying needs in the secular community, and he wil worek to meet these needs, but this does not mean that the Gospel itself should be understood as a political manifesto. In no uncertain terms he declared: "I regard the 'political pastor' in any form as a mistake, even if he is a socialist. But as a man and a citizen ... I take the side of the Social Democrats."15 The Gospel itself transcends "all morality and politics and ethics," which have no saving power in themselves, and this is true "even of so-called Christian morality and so-called socialist politics."16

Barth broke with many of his friends in the religious socialist movement in his conviction that humanity cannot build the kingdom of God on earth but can only wait for God to act in his own time and way,

Page 161

though it can set up signs and parables of the coming of the kingdom. He insisted that the Gospel "cannot allow itself to be changed or transposed .... into any plan for saving men by the solution of political economic or social problems."17 This is his subtle rejoinder to those who would confuse the heavenly and earthly kingdoms: "Clever enough is the paradox that the service of God is or must become the service of man; but that is not the same as saying that our precipitate service of man, even when it is undertaken in the name of the purest love, becomes by that happy fact the service of God."18

Barth has no intention of excluding the concern for social justice and reform from the Christian mission, but his position is that in our preaching we should endeavor to transcend partisan politics. All social ideologies stand under the jugment of the Word of God, though this does not mean that one is not preferable to another in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves. Barth can even speak of the "political mission" and "political responsibility" of the church,19 but here he means that the church must be willing, in its proclamation, to speak out against social evils without necessarily aligning itself with any political or social platform.20 During the church conflict in Germany he himself preached sermons that bordered on the incendiary because of their political overtones, though their basic emphasis was on upholding Jesus Christ as the one and only Lord. While seeking to underline the unity between theology and praxis,21 Barth stoutly contended that theology must not be politicalized nor politics theologized.

The primary content of the church's preaching should be the Gospel of reconciliation and redemption which involves the announcement of judgment as well as grace manifested in Jesus Christ. Barth can perhaps be criticized for his view that the Gospel proclamation is simply an announcement of a redemptive event in the past and that the purpose of our preaching is to give people knowledge of this event by which they are already saved. Yet it must not be forgotten that for Barth the knowledge that is communicated through our preaching is not merely intellectual knowledge but creative power which effects the conversion of those who receive and hear. In this light we can understand these words of his: "There can be no doubt ... that in the delivering of the Christian message it is also a matter of saving souls, of inviting and helping men to personal being, possession and capacity in the kingdom of grace and salvation, and therefore to participation in the supreme good and all the other goods which it includes."22

While he recognizes the political thrust and implications of the

Page 162

preaching of the Gospel, Barth stands with Forsyth in resisting any attempt to equate the Gospel with humanitarianism or politics:

The Church must remain the Church. It must remain the inner circle of the Kingdom of Christ. The Christian community has a task of which the civil community can never relieve it and which it can never pursue in the forms peculiar to the civil community. It would not redound to the welfare of the civil community of the Christian community were to be absorbed by it ... and were therefore to neglect the special task which it has received a categorical order to undertake. It proclaims the rule of Jesus Christ and the hope of the Kingdom of God.23

Emil Brunner also voiced misgivings at the confusion of humanitarianism and social welfare programs with the Gospel. Emphasizing, like Barth, the transcendental and eschatological nature of the Gospel, he agreed that a church which is not, as such, an evangelizing church is either not yet or no longer the church. The primary or essential task of the church is not to change or improve the social order but rather "to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God which transcends all social orders, the good and bad alike."24 Brunner recognized that we need to sound the prophetic note of judgment in our proclamation, but it must be aimed finally at the man in sin and not simply at the symptoms of sin. "Religion," he said, "does not merely criticise one form of civilization or another but casts doubt upon civilization itslef and upon humanity, because it casts doubt upon man."25

For Brunner "Christian action in the world is not one of progressive building up," as in liberal social gospel theology. Instead, "it resembles a sortie from a fortress more than a campaign of conquest, which goes forward from stage to stage." Christian action needs always "to return to the starting-point ... in order that it may not become something different, or soemthing wrong."26 The lines between the church and world will remain intact until the end of history.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer brings into the picture something new in that the main thrust of his witness is to deplore the spiritualization of the church's mission by which the Gospoel is removed from the cares of the world, and the kingdom becomes other-worldly. Bonhoeffer saw that the Christian community must be concerned with social justice and material need as well as the righteousness of the kingdom. Sometimes the church must address itself to the penultimate -- the area of temporal concerns -- before it addresses itself to the ultimate -- the issues that concern one's eternal destiny. "To give bread to the hungry man," he said, "is not the same as to proclaim the grace of God and justification to him,

Page 163

and to have received bread is not the same as to have faith. Yet for him who does these things for the sake of the ultimate, and in the knowledge of the ultimate, this penultimate does bear a relation to the ultimate."27 Bondoeffer found the supernatural only in the natural, the holy only in the profane, the revelational only in the rational. At the same time, "what is Christian is not identical with what is of the world. The natural is not identical with the supernatural or the revelational with the rational."28

Bonhoeffer, too, was opposed to the politicalizing or secularizing of the Gospel, despite the fact that some of his interpreters have been led to embrace a secular Christianity. In his view, "the realm of the spiritual office" must never be confused with "the realm of secular government."29 The mission of the church is to preach the message of redemption but always with the understanding that this redemption has implications in every area of man's existence: "Instead of the solution of problems, Jesus brings the redemption of men, and yet for that very reason He does really bring the solultion of all human problems as well ... but from quite a different plane."30 The Church must not be confused with a "national community like the old Israel," since Christ's word of nonresistance "removes the Church from the sphere of politics and law." Yet the church, nonetheless, has a "political character" in its doctrine of sanctification. "The world is the world and the Church the Church, and yet the Word of God must go forth from the Church into all the world, proclaiming that the earth is the Lord's and all that therein is."31

At the Second Vatican Council the spiritual character of the mission of the church was reaffirmed, as we see in the "Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity": "For this the Church was founded: that by spreading the kingdom of Christ everywhere for the glory of God the Father, she might bring all men to share in Christ's saving redemption."32 It declares that the "mission of the Church concerns the salvation of men, which is to be achieved by belief in Christ and by His grace. Hence the apostolate of the Church and of all her members is primarily designed to manifest Christ's message by words and deepds and to communicate His grace to the world."33

Avery Dulles reflects the apostolic concern of the Council when he laments: "The Church has at times become too much like the secular state to do justice to the spiritual mission of the Church and its connection with the mystery of Christ"34 He is insistent that the church "must constantly preach that human salvation consists principally in a life beyond our earthly experience."35 Dulles here opposes the secularizing

Page 164

trends present in the new Catholicism as well as in current Protestantism, where biblical theology has been largely supplanted by political theology.

Reinterpreting the Church's Mission

In recent years the church's task has been reinterpreted to mean something other than the great commission given by Jesus to his apostles. Some have sought to politicalize the Gospel to that it now is seen as a message of political liberation. The women's liberation movement understands the Gospel as a manifesto for social egalitarianism (Rosemary Ruether, Mary Daly). Then there are those who psychologize the Gospel by reducing its content to an interior state of consciousness. Some have even sexualized the Gospel so that it comes to signify deliverance from sexual frustration and repression (D.H. Lawrence, Wilhelm Reich). We also have those who religionize or spiritualize the Gospel so that it is portrayed as a style of piety or a quest for a higher righteousness. Closely related to this group are those who privatize the Gospel so that it is made to apply only to the religious or personal side of one's life. This is the perennial gnostic temptation which bifurcates life into outer and inner realms, with the latter alone having genuine significance. The battle today is not so much for the Bible as for the Gospel, since the innermost content of the church's proclamation and mission is being altered.

Special attention should be given to the politicalization of the Gospel, which seems to be the principal challenge to the evangelical church in our time. This misunderstanding was already evident in the old social gospel movement (e.g. Walter Rauschenbusch), where the mission of the church was perceived as the creation of a new social order characterized by freedom and justice. In our day Gustavo Gutierrez contends that to build the human community is also to save. Social revolution, even violent revolution, for the sake of liberation from political and economic oppression "is a salvific event .... It is the historical realization of the Kingdom."36 Similarly, Langdon Gilkey maintains that "the task of the church is that of liberating and humanizing God's world."37 Rubem Alves champions a political humanism which he understands as "a new type of messianism which believes that men can be free by the powers of man alone."38 According to Jurgen Moltmann the mission of the church is not to convert people to the Christian religion but to plant the seeds of liberation in the hearts and minds of the oppressed.39

Page 165

A World Council of Churches document, "The Church for Others, advocates not "Christianization, bringing man to God through Christ and his church," but instead "humanization," in which conversion is now thought of on the corporate level, "in the form of social change."40 Andre Bieler asserts that the mission of the church is "perpetually to present to the world the goals of peace, non-violence, liberty, solidarity, disarmament, classless society, global society, etc., and to work for their political realization."41 In this kind of thinking the self-development of the oppressed peoples of the Third World, in effect, supplants the call to evangelize the heathen. Many of the liberation theologians refer to themselves as Christian Marxists because they see Marx as the outstanding social prophet of the modern industrial era.

In the human potential and pastoral psychology movements, the Gospel is reconceived as a call to realize human possibilities and discover one's identity in a chaotic world.42 The aim is no longer to awaken people to Christ's great work of remitting sin and guilt through his death and resurrection but to relieve people of guilt feelings. O. Hobart Mowrer contends that most pastoral counseling today is patterned after secular psychotherapy, the aim of which is not repentance and restitution but insight into one's self.43 Philip Rieff points to the secularlizing influences in group therapy:

Group psychotherapy follows the form ot commitment therapy without its doctrinal content. It is as if Wesley's famous classes continued to meet, for intense supportive discussions, without the basic conceptual scheme expressed in the theology, merely reaching out for temporary relief from the dialectic of despair and hope generated by the traditional culture.44

There is no doubt that salvation and mental health are integrally related and that the gift of salvation will bring identity and meaning into a person's life and thereby impart a certain degree of stability. At the same time, the call to obedience which comes from the cross entails the disciplining of one's passions and feelings and a willingness to stand against the predominating values of the surrounding culture. The cross liberates one from the anxiety of meaninglessness, but it does not exempt one from conflict with one's fellow human beings and the threat of persecution by the powers of the world. The believer may well be placed under a more severe emotional stress than the unbeliever, and his only comfort is that he is upheld by one whose peace remains after peace with the world has dissipated and whose joy is not dependent on the changing circumstances of life (as is the case with a purely human happiness).

Page 166

A syncretistic or universalistic outlook also characterizes avant garde theology. John B. Cobb, Jr., claims that Jesus is important as the historical personification of liberating love but that other Christ-Figures likewise attest the movement of the divine within man.45 For Robert McAfee Brown the church's mission is no longer to bring Christ to the lost of the world but to find Christ already among them.46 The reason for mission is that Christianity brings us into contact with love and creativity and offers a sense of joy in a world of fear. Fred Brown argues in his Secular Evangelism that the task of evangelilsm is not to evangelize per se but "to help people to understand their unconscious spirituality; to perceive the nature of God's presence and activity in the world; to find a greater measure of true fulfillment by consciously cooperating with God whom ... they already know by some other name."47 John Macquarrie upholds a "global ecumenism," which rules out missionary effort to convert pagans and instead enlists enlightened people of every world religion to minister to the loveless and unloved masses of humanity.48

Not surprisingly, voices have been raised in protest against these perversions of the Gospel. Catholic lay theologian Ralph Martin sounds this note of caution: "An apostolate which deals only with the material and psychic needs of man is seriously truncated; only when the spiritual situation is changed through repentance, faith, baptism for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit has the specifically Christian mission been fulfilled."49 Torrance suggests that evangelical convictions are being submerged "by consciously meritorious involvement in socio-political issues, which is associated with a serious degeneration of genuine ethical substance and indeed a widespread moral laxity of the individual in our society."50 Julius Lester, a black theologian associated with Katallagete magazine, laments the fact that modern Protestantism has become a "politicized Christianity."51 "As long as the Church thinks that it should and can change to world, the Church will be a caucus group within the Democratic Party." Despite his genuine concern with the social implications of the Gospel, John R.W. Stott warns:

The kind of ecumenism which concentrates exclusively on questions of social justice .... on eliminating racial discrimination, hunger, poverty and war, forgets the Christian saying which is "sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," and forgets also His plain commission to the church to proclaim repentance and forgiveness to all nations.52

Page 167

Probably the foremost critic of the new theology is Jacques Ellul, lay theologian in the Reformed church in France. Though a lawyer by profession and intimately involved in the political process, he makes clear that politics can at most put bandages on the wound; it cannot eradicate the source of man's affliction. Ellul concludes that, for all the current emphasis on social Christianity, "an unbiased and unprejudiced reading of the Bible shows that converting men to their Lord is the work Christians are called to do."53 The conversion that we should aim for is not to any particular political philosophy but to a whole new orientation toward life, the world, and God. "If this conversion fails to take place," he says, "all the constitutional devices, all studies on economic democracy, and all reassuring sociological inquiries on man and society are vain efforts at justification."54

Interestingly enough, Hans Kung, despite his openness to the theology of liberation and his concern for social justice for the oppressed, draws a sharp line of distinction between redemption and emancipation (in the political sense). Redemption "means liberation of man by God, not any self-redemption on man's part."55 Emancipation, on the other hand, means the "liberation of man by man, it means man's self-liberation." Emancipation should grow out of redemption, but it must never be confused with the latter, for otherwise we are again in the morass of Pelagianism.

Evangelism and Social Concern

The two dangers that confront the church today are divorcing the kingdom of God from politics and economics and maintaining that the kingdom is realized through politics and economics. While a privatistic evangelicalism and anacculturated liberalism (where the Gospel is psychologized) are guilty of the first error, the liberation theologies often fall into the second error. Robert Bellah voices our own sentiments: "Relilgion and morallity and politics are not the same things, and confusing them can lead to even worse distortions."56

The apostolic mandate is to preach the Gospel, not a political program, but this Gospel has tremendous social and political repercussions. Moreover, this mandate includes teaching the new converts to be disciples, and one dimension of discipleship is social service. True evangelism "will show that no single aspect of human life and human suffering lies outside the concern of Christ and his Church."57 Carl Henry

Page 168

indicts those who would limit the demands of the Gospel to the decision of faith: "The Gospel of Christ contains more than the assurance of divine forgiveness and new life; it includes also the seed of human dignity and freedom. To obscure this essential fact is no less to imperil the human soul than to neglect personal evangelism."58 To his discredit Charles Hodge concluded that "both political despotism and domestic slavery, belong in morals to the adiaphora, to things indifferent."59

Embracing the Gospel means being willing to give a public testimony to the freedom of Christ and the law of grace in the face of the political religions of nations, races, and classes (Moltmann). It entails not only taking up the cross in service to the unfortunate in society but also engaging in political programs for social change. Though morality cannot be legislated, social justice can be, and this is the cultural mandate of the church, which is fulfilled indirectly by its members working as a transforming leaven in the secular stations of life. The injunction in Proverbs 31:8 is: "Speakk up for people who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless." Martin Luther King acknowledged that the force of civil law could not make whites love blacks as brothers, but it could protect blacks from whites who regard them as less than brothers.

Social service (diakonia) sometimes takes chronological priority over the preaching of the Gospel since, if our hearers are in dire physical distress or material need, they will not listen to our message until these immediate converns are dealt with. Everett Harrison makes this trenchant observation: "Missionaries who would prefer to spend most of their time in spreading the good news are drawn into the task of food distribution because they find that people in a near starving condition are so benumbed by their plight that they cannot concentrate on their spiritual need and are literally unable to take in the message of salvation."60 Peter Claver, a Catholic missionary to African slaves, remarked: "We must speak to them with our hands, before we try to speak to them with our lips." He understood that concrete service like the distributing of medicine, food, or brnady to black slaves could also prove to be a potent witness to the love of Christ and would probably make his hearers more receptive to the message of salvation. Social service in this sense is pre-evangelism, which is also necessary in fulfilling the great commission. Prayer, of course, is another form of the ministry of pre-evangelism (cf. Col. 4:3).

Social service, which in this context includes social action, should also be regarded as a fruit and evidence of the Gospel. It should follow

Page 169

the Gospel proclamation as a demonstration of our gratefulness for the redemption purchased for us by Christ. When Martin Luther King walked across the forbidden park in Birmingham or up the road form Selma, it was after such holy observances as a black gospel service.61

The way to regain social relevance in our preaching is to rediscover the social imperatives of the law of God, which certainly form a part of God's Word. We need to address ourselves to social as well as personal evils in society when we preach against sin. We must not only herald the good news of God's grace but also warn of God's impending judgment on a disobedient people. It is not up to the church to implement the law -- this is the task of the state -- but the church must preach the law as well as offer guidelines to government officials through its public pronouncements. Political decisions should always be informed or shaped by theology, and this goal can be realized not only by Christian officials in government reflecting on their faith but also by formal counsel given by the church to the government.

However important the cultural mandate of the church, we must continue to maintain the theological priority of evangelism and conversion. Jacques Ellul, in his exposition of the Book of Jonah, avers:

Here we have the entire answer to social sin. Not reforms first. Nineveh will not, for example, acquire new social structures or a new government. Neither is it because men will individually repent and begin leading a righteous, prious, holy life. It is rather the event that seems impossible to us: the conversoin of an entire population and its government.62

Moral counsel, Rienhold Niebuhr reminds us, is one of the tests of true prophecy. In addition to pronouncing woe upon injustice wherever it may be found, the truly prophetic church will reveal the way of God more perfectly by suggesting alternatives to specific sinful practices. In this way the prophetic admonition is not exclusively negative but also holds out hope for a better life. Despite his indictment of popular American revivalism, with its concern for individual conversions, Reinhold Niebuhr acknowledges that "social sensitivity can be derived from the conscience of our individual religious life."63 Alan Heimert has documented the thesis that Calvinist or evangelical religion in the eighteenth century planted the seeds of the American Revolution, with its democratic and egaliltarian impulses derived from the Gospel. Liberal or rational religion, on the other hand, sought to maintain the cultural and political status quo.64

The Gospel itslef is a stick of dynamite in the social structure, and this is why both communist and fascist dictatorships almost invariably

Page 170

place a restriction on its heralds and ambassadors. The Gospel has politically revolutionary implications because it desacralizes the holy places of culture-religion; it demythologizes the myths which society has created for itself and by which it is enabled to survive; and it calls into radical question the current absolutes that entrall the political and academic establishments and that have their source in man's idolatrous imagination. In short, the Gospel is a direct threat to the pantheon of the gods, whether these go under the names of science, sex, the national heritage, the racial consciousness, the proletarian utopia, or any other. The Gospel poses an unmistakable challenge to every kind of political totaliltarianism which demands from its subjects unconditional allegiance, even it if should use the cloak of Christianity to broaden its appeal.

Our chief motivation for spreading the Gospel, however, is not to overturn oppressive social structures or disturb the existing social order but instead to witness to God's incomparable grace in Jesus Christ and thereby save souls from sin, death, and hell. It is a matter of eternal salvation tht people be brought into the kingdom of Christ, and this in itself should furnish the incentive to preach and witness to the truth of the Gospel. We wholeheartedly concur with this admonition of Noval Geldnhuys: "In spite of all failures in the past, the church of Christ must again and again renew its energetic attempts under His guidance to gather in souls for His kingdom, and must do this not merely in the 'shallow waters' but in the 'deep water' -- not only in the vicinity of settled ecclesiastical life, but also among the great masses of people where the need is so great."65

Bonhoeffer, in his Cost of Discipleship, where his evangellical stance is most noticeable, warns that

nothing could be more ruthless than to make men think there is still plenty of time to mend their ways. To tell men that the cause is urgent, and that the kingdom of God is at hand is the most charitable and merciful act we can perform, the most joyous news we can bring. The messenger cannot wait and repeat it to every man in his own language. God's language is clear enough. It is not for the messenger to decide who will hear and who will not, for only God knows who is "worthy"; and those who are worthy will hear the Word when the disciple proclaims it.66

A recent survey reported in U.S. Catholic revealed that in Catholic France only 11 percent of the people regard the preaching of the Gospel as the foremost task of the church, and 75 percent see the continuing existence of the church more as a social institution than as a specifically

Page 171

Christian institution.67 The statistics from America would be somewhat different, but in the mainline denominations evangelism understood as winning people to Christ and thereby saving them from eternal death would definitely be considered a secondary task of the church, and in many circles it would be dissociated completely from the church's mission. It is indeed imperative that we recover the evangelistic zeal and urgency of the first-century church and carry the flag of the Gospel into the pagan world of our time, seeking to bring all peoples into submission to the one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


1. Hans Kung, On Being a Christian, trans. Edward Quinn (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976), p. 338.

2. Martin Luther, W.A. 12, 259

3. Luther's Works, vol. 29, p. 57.

4. John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, I, 6, 15, trans. William Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), p. 234. (Italics added).

5. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, 20, 1, ed. John T. McNeill, p. 1486.

6. John Calvin, Corpus Reformatorum, Calv. op. LIII, p. 235.

7. Thomas Torrance, Kingdom and Church, p. 162.

8. P.T. Forsyth, The Church and the Sacraments (London: Independent Press, 1947), p. 78.

9. Ibid., p. 120.

10. P.T. Forsyth, God the Holy Father (London: Independent Press, 1957), p. 128.

11. Ibid.

12. Forsyth, The Church and the Sacraments, p. 25.

13. See Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt, Theologie und Sozialismus (Munchen: Chr Kaiser Verlag, 1972).

14. Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth, trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), p. 101.

15. Ibid., p. 88.

16. Ibid., p. 84.

17. John Baillie and Hugh Martin, eds., Revelation (London: Faber & Faber, 1937), p. 81.

18. Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man, p. 276.

19. Karl Barth, Against the Stream, ed. Ronald Gregor Smith (London: SCM Press, 1954), p. 151.

20. Ibid., pp. 22-23.

21. Barth criticized the German Confessing Church, which he had helped found, for fighting only for itself, for the freedom and purity of its proclamation

Page 172

and keeping silent over the persecution of the Jews, the horrendous treatment of political opponents of the Third Reich, and the suppression of the press by the government. Busch, Karl Barth, p. 273.

22. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV, 3 b. p. 563.

23. Barth, Against the Stream, p. 22.

24. Emil Brunner, The Church in the New Social Order (London: SCM Press, 1952), p. 7.

25. Cited in The British Weekly Vol. XCV, No. 4290 (May 8, 1969), p. 9.

26. Emil Brunner, The Mediator, trans. Olive Wyon (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1947), p. 616.

27. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (New Yor: Macmillan, 1965), p. 137.

28. Ibid., p. 199.

29. Ibid., p. 95.

30. Ibid., p. 355.

31. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 252.

32. Walter M. Abbott, The Documents of Vatican II (New York: America Press, 1966), p. 491.

33. Ibid., p. 496.

34. Avery Dulles, Models of the Church (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974) pp. 153-154.

35. Avery Dulles, The Resilient Church (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977), p. 23.

36. Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, trans. Sister Caridad Inda and John Eagleson (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1973), p. 177.

37. Langdon Gilkey, Catholicism Confronts Modernity (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), p. 199.

38. Rubem Alves, A Theology of Human Hope (Washington: Corpus Books, 1969), p. 17

39. Jurgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, trans. Margaret Kohl (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), pp. 83ff., 150ff.

40. The Church for Others (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1968), pp. 76ff.

41. Andre Bieler, The Politics of Hope, trans. Dennis Pardee. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), p. 118.

42. For a damning indictment of humanistic psychology in and outside the church today, see Paul C. Vitz, Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977). Vitz gives special attention to the deleterious influence of Carl Rogers on the pastoral care movement today.

43. O. Hobart Mowrer, The Crisis in Pscyhiatry and Religion (Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand, 1961).

44. Philip Rieff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), pp. 77-78.

45. John B. Cobb, Jr., Liberal Christianity at the Crossroads (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973), pp. 108-116.

46. Robert McAfee Brown, Frontiers For the Church Today (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 43.

47. Fred Brown, Secular Evangelism (London: SCM Press, 1970), p. 20.

48. John Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1966), pp. 394-395.

Page 173

49. Ralph Martin, Unless the Lord Build the House (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1972), p. 40.

50. Thomas Torrance, Theology in Reconciliation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 277.

51. Julius Lester, "Come, Come, Ye Saints All Is Well" in Katallagete, vol. 5, no. 1 (Spring 1974), pp. 12-13.

52. John R.W. Stott, Christ the Controversialist (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1972), p. 188.

53. Jacques Ellul, Violence, trans. Cecelia Gaul Kings (New York: Seabury Press, 1969), p. 149.

54. Jacques Ellul, The Political Illusion, trans. Konrad Kellen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967), p. 234.

55. Hans Kung, On Being a Christian, p. 430.

56. Robert Bellah, "American Civil Relilgion in the 1970's" in Anglican Theological Review (July 1973), (Supplementary Series) [pp.8-20], p. 20.

57. Peter Beyerhaus, in Christianity Today, vol. 18, no. 13 (March 29, 1974), p. 49.

58. Carl Henry in Christianity Today, vol. 19, no. 20 (July 4, 1975), p. 65.

59. Cited in Donald Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), p. 129.

60. Everett F. Harrison, "The One Ministry of Our Lord: Proclaiming the Good News/Healing the Body." In World Vision, vol. 19, no. 6, (June, 1975) [pp. 9-11], p. 11.

61. See Henry H. Mitchell, Black Preaching (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincot, 1970), p. 217.

62. Jacques Ellul, The Meaning fo the City, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 69.

63. Reinhold Niebuhr, Justice and Mercy (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), p. 110.

64. Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966).

65. Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 6th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), p. 183.

66. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 188.

67. U.S. Catholic, vol. 40, no. 6 (Joune 1975), p. 20.


Chapter 8

The Personal Return of Christ

Hark, your watchmen lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Isaiah 52:8


Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28


From the Scriptures you will learn also of His second manifestation to us, glorious and divine indeed, when He shall come not in lowlilness but in His proper glory, no longer in humiliation but in majesty. Athanasius


To all He will appear in the effable glory of His kingdom, in the radiance of eternity, and in the boundless might of divine majesty accompanied by the army of angels. John Calvin


Redemption does not mean that the world and we ourselves within it evolve in this or that direction. It means that Jesus Christ is coming again. Karl Barth


Current Issues In Eschatology

Perhaps the foremost issue in current eschatology is the nature of the kingdom of God. Did Jesus preach an inbreaking of a supernatural kingdom in the imminent future, or did he see the kingdom realized in his own ministry and teachings? Should the church preach an eschatological kingdom or one that is present now in the fellowship of believers?

According to Albert Schweitzer Jesus definitely thought within the framework of apocalyptic and therefore envisioned the imminent, catasrophic establishment of a new age of righteousness completely different from the present age.1 Yet Schweitzer maintained that Jesus was mistaken in his expectations and that the kingdom "must be understood

Page 175

as something ethical and spiritual, rather than supernatural, as something realized rather than expected."2

C.H. Dodd champions what he calls "realized eschatology," which means that the kingdom came to be known as an experienced reality in the life of Jesus and in his resurrection.3 Jesus' eschatological imagery only symbolizes the abiding truths of a moral universe. Eternal life is a present reality for the community of faith. The kingdom is not a future time when the world will be recreated but a timeless eterntiy, a state of inner communion with God.

Rudolf Bultmann propounds what might be termed a realizing eschatology, since the eschaton is said to be realized anew in the decision of faith. Seeking to demythologize the apocalyptic framework of Jesus' thinking, he arrives at the position that the kingdom signifies the power of grace and forgiveness experienced by man in the decision of faith and surrender. In his theology the kingdom is internalized; it is the "presence of eternity" in time. Tehre is no cosmic redemption, but Bultmann does affirm the reality of personal freedom through contact with the preaching of the kerygma. The kingdom of God is never established in history, since people are always sinners. The end of the world means the end to inauthentic existence in the crisis of repentance and faith.

Ernst Kasemann holds that it is not the message of the historical Jesus but the Christian kerygma that has an apocalyptic thrust. While taking for his point of departure the apocalyptic preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus preached the immediacy of a God who is near at hand. Apocalypticism originated not with Jesus but in the post-Easter enthusiasm of the primitive church. Kasemann does not simply wish to discard apocalyptic imagery but rather to reinterpret it in such a way that certain themes that seem integral to it are preserved -- for example, the realilzation of sonship and freedom through the forgiveness of sins.4 The kingdom of God is "the kingdom of freedom" exemplified and actualized in "the freedom of Jesus."5

Reflecting the tradition of Christian mysticism, Paul Tillich spiritualizes the kingdom, seeing it as the manifestation of the presence of God within history, though in its eternal fulfillment it stands above history. The accent in Tillich's thought is on eternal life rather than the second coming of Christ and the end of world history. In his view history will forever remain ambiguous and marked by conflict.

From a quite different perspective T.A. Kantonen seeks to make a prominent place for the realization of the promises of Christ on earth as well as in heaven and thereby upholds a millennial age prior to the

Page 176

second advent.6 He distinguishes between the kingdom of Christ, the present reign of Christ, adn the eternal kingdom of God, which is still to come. The kingdom of Christ includes the church but is not limited to it. The church in the millennium will still be the church militant; the demonic powers will be unleashed for a final stand at the end of the millennial age.

Also representing a futuristic eshatology is George Eldon Ladd, who contends that the kingdom involves two great moments: a fulfillment within history, which has taken place in the coming of Jesus Christ, and a consummation at the end of history. He draws a sharp distinction between the new order inaugurated by Christ and the eschaton, or age to come. The kingdom of the future will be realized in two stages: an interim millennial kingdom subsequent to the second advent and the final consummation, which "will introduce a redeemed order whose actual character transcends both historical experience and realistic imagination."7

Seeking to unite futuristic and realized motifs, Karl Barth posits three forms of the return of Jesus Christ.8 The first is the resurrection, which has already occurred and which is the basis of all other manifestations of Christ. The second is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which is a present reallity in the church. The third is the parouis, by which Christ reveals and confirms to the whole of creation what has already been accomplished for the salvation of the world through his death and resurrection. For Barth the first coming of Christ is inaugurated eschatology, whereas the second coming is consummated eschatology. The great events of the end of the world have already taken place in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, but they have still to take place in the history of the community of faith.

When we turn to the theologies of hope and liberation we are presented with a decidedly this-worldy rather than other-worldly emphasis. For Pannenberg the coming kingdom is not a supernatural intervention into history but the destiny of present society. In Gilkey's view, "hope is directed at a human well-being in the new historical world of the future."9 Moltmann speaks fo the fulfillment of history rather than a kingdom "beyond history."10 He is careful not to claim that man creates his own future but that he acts "in the light of the promised future that is to come." Christ's coming is not eternity breaking into history but "the opening up of history." The eschatological hope is seen as "the humanizing of man" and "the socializing of humanity."11

A present-day proponent within Catholicism of what might be termed intrahistorical fulfillment is Johannes Metz. He sees the future

Page 177

that the church hopes for "emerging" and "arising" in the here and now. In place of an otherworldly eschatology he proposes "a creative and militant eschatology" which seeks the overthrow of oppressive power structures in society. The this-worldly charactger of his theology of hope is apparent in this statement:

Our eschatological expectation does not look for the heavenly-earthly Jerusalem as that ready-made and existing, promised city of God. This heavenly city does not lie ahead of us as a distant and hidden goal, which only needs to be revealed. The eschatological City of God is now coming into existence, for our hopeful approach builds this city. We are workers building this future, and not just interpreters of this future. The power of God's promises for the future moves us to form this world into the eschatological city of God.12

This brings us to the relation between eschatology and futurology in current theological study. Metz argues that the Christian community needs to mobilize the "political" potentiality of its faith and hope by making the future the object of enlightened technological planning.13 While Moltmann does not wish to equate futurum, that which grows out of the present, with parousia, that which comes from the other side, the focus of his attention is on liberation from political and economic oppression. The new element that aplpears in the story of Christ, he says, is not merely the prospect of a once for all end of history or a lilfe after death but the humanizing of this present world.14 One critic offers these trenchant comments:

Moltmann moves so far awy from a one-sided emphasis on the so-called last things to a total eschatological outlook that he almost forgets to mention these last things. When he mentions them, however, they are generally described as earhtly, man-endeavored goals, such as peace for all creation and socializing of humanity.15

Teilhard de Chardin is an outstanding example of one who synthesizes eschatology and futurology so that the eschaton becomes the climax of an evolving process within the universe in which humanity plays a creative role. Through hominization man emerged from the animal world to the noosphere, and through christification the evolutionary process will come to fulfillment with everything being received into Christ. Teilhard understands evil as the negative aspects of disorder and failure which accompany every breakthrough into the future. The apocalyptic vision of an anti-god power that outwardly challenges God's supreme position and threatens man's well-being is completely absent from his thinking.

Page 178

From the evangelical side there have been attempts to do justice to the dimension of the Christian hope that concern man's historical future without confusing this with the eschatological hope. Paul Rees is sure that, "there is a future that is now for diseased people who need healing and impoverished people who need bread. No, this is not the millennial future or the eternal future, which is in God's hands. It is the less than perfect but available future that is in man's hands -- by God's ordering."16 What Rees and other progressive evangelicals are saying is that penultimate hopes can at least be partically realized through Christian social involvement, though the ultimate hope, the kingdom of God, is a gift for which we can only wait and pray.

The issue of life after death had been a perennial one in theology and continues to occupy the attention of theologians of all stripes. There are some who deny the reality or even the relevance of this subject in Christian eschatology. For Gordeon Kaufman the Christian hope pertains to this world only, to a reign of God under the conditions of historical existence. Schubert Ogden, writing from the perspective of process theology, declares: "What I must refuse to accept, precisely as a Christian theologian, is that belief in our continued subjective existence after death is in some way a necessary article of Christian belief."17 Bultmann has also expressed complete skepticism concerning a life hereafter.18

Oscar Cullmann argues for the resurrection of the body as opposed to the Greek idea of the inherent immortality of the soul.19 Yet he maintains that those who die in Christ are granted immortalilty as a gift. They are still in time, but it is an interim state of nakedness that looks forward to fulfillment at the second advent.

For Tillich there is no immortality in the sens of continued self-conscious existence beyond the grave. At the same time, he affirms a return of selfhood to Godhood with the self still maintaining its own identity. The power of love alone is immortal, but we participate in this love. In his view there is no intermediate state but the present reality of eternal life, a reality that is not eradicated at death.

Kantonen, on the other hand, vigorously upholds an intermediate state in which spirits with bodily form wait to be further clothed.20 There is no natural immortality, but there is the immortality of a personal relationship with Christ. He is clearly committed to the doctrine of the communion of saints understood as spritual solidarity between the living faithful and the dead who are in Christ.

In the theology of Karl Barth eternal life is not a second life beyond our present life but the reverse side of this life, which is still hidden from us.

Page 179

It should be understood as "this life in relationship to what God has done in Jesus Christ for the whole world and thus also for us."21 Eternal life means the life of the age to come, which we now have access to in faith. Our resurrection has already taken place in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in whocm we and all humankind are included. Yet there will be various manifestations of this: our life now in Christ is one manifestation of our resurrection, and our future life in the kingdom of God is another.

The principal tension in the history of theology in this area is between the mystical tradition, which has its roots in Platonism and neo-Platonism, and the biblical, personalist tradition. The former stresses the immortality of the soul and the redemption from the flesh. The latter emphasizes the resurrection of the body, the transformation of the material. While the mystics look forward to a timeless eternity, the prophets of biblical history speak of a new heaven and a new earth (cf. Isaiah 66:22; Rev. 21:1).

Still another issue that preoccupies current theology is the final consummation. Does history had a twofold outcome in which believers will be separated from nonbelievers for eternity, or is all of history directed to God and his kingdom? Here we see the tensions between an eschatological universallism and a moral dualism, both of which have biblical support. The dominant current in modern theology is universalistic, though other views are also evident. The chief problem is the reconciliation of God's justice and his love. Liberal theology (a la Ritschl) subsumes God's justice under his love; the idea of a wrathful God is regarded as primitive and outmoded. Other related issues are whether heaven and hell are states of mind or ontological realities and whether the idea of purgatory has any merit. All these questions will be deal with at length in the next chapter.

The Second Advent

In realized eschatology the second coming of Christ is dissolved to mean simply the return of the Holy Spirit at the day of Pentecost. This event is often interpreted by liberal theologians in a figurative way as referring to the gradual permeation of society by the ethical principles of Christ.

Our position seeks to do justice to the elements of truth in both realized and futuristic eschatology. The fulfillment of time (kairos) occurred in the incarnation of Christ (Mark 1:15), but the consummation

Page 180

of history is an event still to take place in the future. This consummation, however, will be ushered in by the personal, visible return of Jesus Christ to our present world. The day of deliverance (D-Day) has already happened in the cross and resurrection of Christ, but the day of total victory (V-Day) is still ahead of us.22 Both these times can be referred to as the "Day of the Lord" since they both involved the epiphany of the Son of God in human form.23

Jesus Christ has come, but he is coming again. Hebrews assures us that "Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him" (9:28; cf. 1 John 3:2). "Then he will send you Jesus, your long-heralded Christ," Peter declares, "although for the time he must remain in Heaven until that universal restoration of which God spoke in ancient times through all his holy prophets" (Acts 3:20, 21).

While Christ came in his first manifestation as the suffering servant, he shall come again the second time as the conquering king and judge. Mark depicts "the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26; Matt. 26:64; Jude 14-15). The Book of Revelation describes the heavesn opening and christ descending with armies of angels (Rev. 19:11 ff.). He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords, triumphing over the forces of evil (Rev. 19:11-16). He will come not int he body of his humiliation but in glory.

The parousia of Christ is portrayed as unexpected, like the coming of a thief in the night (1 Ghess. 5:2-3; Rev. 3:3; 16:15). The parables in Matthew 24 and 25 all deal with a Lord or bridegroom whom we will meet and whose coming we should anticipate with watchfulness. We should make certain that our lamps always contain the oil of faith in Christ, for otherwise we shall be left out in the cold (Matthew 25:1-13).

Moreover, it is made clear that the coming of Christ will be visible. Jesus himself maintained that all the tribes of the earth would see the Son of man coming in his glory (Matthew 24:30; 26:64). The two angels on Mount Olivet announced: "This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven: (Acts 1:11). In the words of St. John: "Every eye will see him, every one who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account on him" (Rev. 1:7).

Likewise, the apostolic testimony is that Jesus will appear in bodily form. It will not be simply the spirit of Christ but Jesus Christ in his

Page 181

glorified humanity who will confront humanity in the last days (cf. Acts 1:11; 3:20-21; Hebrews 9:28; Rev. 1:7). This is consonant with the biblical witness that Jesus rose in body and in spirit and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

The purpose of the second coming of Christ is to introduce the future age by inaugurating and completing two mighty events: the resurrection of the dead and the last judgment. Both the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected to appear before the judgment throne of Christ (cf. Matt. 12:36-37; 25:32; Romans 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). Although the righteous will not be exempt from the judgment (Matthew 13:30; 40-43; 47-50; 25:31-46), they have the certain confidence that the Judge is at the same time the Savior who purchased their redemption by the shedding of his blood. The demonic hosts, too, will be judged in "the great and terrible day of the Lord: (Matthew 8:29; 1 Cor. 6:3; 2 Peter 2:4). This juridical work of Christ will be shared by the angels (Matthew 13:41-42; 24:31; 25:31); he will be assisted also by the saints in glory (Psalm 149:5-9; 1 Cor. 6:2-3; Rev. 20:4). The last judgment will follow immediately after the resurrection of the dead (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20: 12-13).

Christ's coming signifies the end of the old aeon, and the beginning of the new heaven and the new earth. The old earth and heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire (2 Peter 3:10). This event is described as a "regeneration" of the whole of existence (Matthew 19:28). It will be cataclysmic and irreversible. We affirm not simply the dissolultion of the world (as in Luther) nor its renovation (as in Calvin) but its transfomration into a new heaven-earth on which all the biblical promises concerning the future glory of Jerusalem will be fulfilled. Yet this Jerusalem is no logner the earthly city but a heavenly city having the glory of God (Rev. 21:2, 10). The glory of the holy city far surpasses that of the lost paradise (Hendrikus Berkhof). It is not so much a restoration as a new creation.

The parousia signifies not merely the unveiling of what has already been accomplished in Christ but a new work of salvation. Yet it will not be entirely new, since it will ratify and crown the one great work accomplished on the cross. It signifies the execution and fulfillment of all preceding judgments. The purpose of reconciliation will be completed on the day of redemption when God will be all in all.

There is nothing that we can do to inqugurate the drama of the last things. But the knowledge of the coming victory of Christ should encourage us in steadfast devotion to the work of the Lord, confident that this work will not be in vain but will receive its reward (1 Cor. 15:58). We cannot build the kingdom of God, but we can herald its coming and

Page 182

call upon people to prepare themselves for it. We can set up parables of the coming kingdom by a concrete demonstration of Christian love and righteousness (K. Barth).

Though the parousia will be sudden and unexpected, the Bible nonetheless speaks of signs for those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. They are not empirical evidences or proofs but reminders to the faithful that his coming is ont he horizon. Among these signs are the appearance of antichrists (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7; Matthew 24:24); the coming of a world dictator (Rev. 13:7); the revival of the occult (1 John 2:18: 1 Timothy 4:1; Matthew 24); the ingathering and conversion of the Jews (Isaiah 11:11; Luke 21:24; Romans 11); the proclamation of the Gospel to all peoples (Matthew 24:14); the wholesale destruction of peoples and nations by fire (Joel 2:3; Rev. 8:7-8); great earthquakes and famines (Rev. 6:12: 18:8; Luke 21:10-11); a falling away from faith accompanied by false prophets with signs and wonders (Mattehw 24:10-11, 24; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Thess. 2:3, 9); the widespread persecution of belilevers (Daniel 11:44; Matthew 24:9-10; Mark 13:9, 12, 13; Luke 21:12-17); an unprecedented increase in lawlessness (Matthew 24:12; Luke 21:9); and remarkable eclipses of the heavenly bodies and their fall to earth (Isaiah 13:10; 24:23; Joel 2:30-31; Matthew 24:29; rev. 8:12). We concur in the judgment of Anthony Hoekema that many of these signs are present in every age to remind the faithful of the approaching end, but there will be an intensification of these signs before the final day.24

A subject much debated in conversative circles is whether we are int he last days now. For both Calvin and Barth the last days refers to all time between the resurrection of Christ and the last judgment; it signifies an interim period before the approaching end. This is the time when Christ destroys every rule and every authority and power before delivering the kingdom to the Father (1 Cior. 15:24). Yet though we are in the last days, we are not yet at the last day, the day of the parousia itself. The New Testament describes this day as near at hand, not that it will happen tomorrow but that it may happen within the lifetime of every believer.

Certainly the crisis of death is also a last day event in the spiritual sense. Christ meets us in the hour of death as well as at the time of the end of all things (cf. 1 Samuel 28:19; Luke 23:43; Acts 7:54-60). Scholars generally agree that the rich man in Luke 12:20, who is called to give an account of his stewardship, refers to a purely personal parousia. Winklhofer observes: "Whenever death occurs, there is a parousia of the Lord, a manifestation of his power and glory."25

It can also be argued that whenever the Gospel is preached, the day

Page 183

of judgment is imminent. Because the Gospel is a prolongation of the new age already inqugurated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this new age confronts people int he here and now, calling them to decision. An eternal Gospel was given to the angel to proclaim to all peoples: "Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come" (Rev. 14:7). Because the new age overlaps the old age, the eschaton can even now be anticipated in faith and repentance. The church is indeed an eschatological community ever waiting and looking forward to the consummation of a reality already experienced in its midst.

In this light we can appreciate Bonhoeffer's admonition to be constantly prepared for our Lord's imminent return:

The Church has never forgotten Christ's promise of his imminent return, and she has always believed that this promise is true. The exact manner of its fulfilment remains obscure, but that is not a problem for us to solve. This much is clear and all-important for us today that the return of Jesus will take place suddenly. That fact is more certain than that we shall be able to finish our work in his service, more certain than our own death.26

The eschaton signifies both the finis (chronilogical end) and telos (goal) of history. It is not the merely future in the sense of an extension of history but the absolute future. Quenstedt contends: "The resurrection will occur on the last or latest of all days, and will place an end to the vicissitude of worldly things, and therefore to time itself."27 Yet though time in the sense of chronos will then be at an end, time in the sense of kairos (fulfillment) will continue. Eternity must not be misunderstood as timelessness but as a new qualilty of time. Time is not dissolved or overcome (as in the Greek conception) but instead transformed and fulfilled. Likewise, eternity should not be misconstrued as spacelessness but as an intensified life with God in a new time-space dimension.

The Resurrection of the Dead

In the early history of Israel there was only a faint intimation of life after death. Sheol was the realm of the departed, and at first it was believed that there was no conscious existence in this state. Gradually Sheol came to be filled with more content, and a kind of conscious immortality was affirmed, though this was based on an inescapable relationship with God rather than inherent potentialities within the soul. Job rises to the sublime assurance that the living God whom he

Page 184

trusts will be his Vindicator and that after death, in at least one glorious moment of conscious existence, he will see his Maker face to face (Job 19:25). A similar sentiment is expressed in Psalm 17:15: "I shall see thy face, and be blest with a vision of thee when I awake."

It was in connection with the messianic hope of the nation that the idea of the resurrection of the body arose (cf. Isa. 26:14-19; Daniel 12:2; Ezekiel 37). By the intertestamental and New Testament periods the idea of resurrection was stoutly defended by many of the leaders within the Jewish community, especially among the Pharisees. Some Palestinian believers in the resurrection taught the restoration of exactly the same body that was laid away (cf. 2 Baruch 50:2).

In the New Testament the resurrection of God's people gains its meaning and purpose from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Elder Brother. Paul declares: If Christ has not been raised ... then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished" (1 Cor. 15:17-18). "But in fact," he continues, "Chrsit has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (verse 20). The resurrection does not involve getting rid of the body but the changing of "our lowly body to be like his glorious body" (Phil. 3:21). His bodily resurrection is a sign and guarantee of our future resurrection, whedn we shall be raised like him in a body incorruptible.

The resurrection cononotes not the resuscitation of the flesh but the renewal of the person. Soma can mean body in the earthly, physical sense (here it is identical with sarx), but it can also refer to "the self" or "breath," and it is in this latter usage that we can speak of the resurrection of the body. The resurrection entails both soul and body, but it negates the "flesh," which is the power of death. Soul and body should be distinguished (cf. Matt. 10:28; 1 Thes. 5:23), but soul always seeks some kind of bodily form. The body is necessary as a means of fellowship, communication, and identification. When the Bible affirms the resurrection of the body, it means the renewal and restoration of the whole person, soul and body. It means the raising up of man in the totality of his individual, personal existence.

In the early church there was a considerable difference of opinion concerning the composition of the resurrected body. Tertullian taught that the new body will not lack any of the elements of the body place in the grave. Origen, on the other hand, spiritualized the resurrection altogether so that, at the end of man's pilgrimage, there will be a complete destruction of the body.28 Paul's view is different from each of these positions. According to the apostle it is sown a natural body, but it is raised a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44). Just as the seed is buried

Page 185

in the ground and its material wraplping decomposes, so our fleshly body will die and decay. But just as there is a continuity between the seed and the new plant because the creative power of God gives a new form to the life which sprouts from the seed, so there will likewise be a continuity between our fleshly existence and our spiritual body. Some of the church fathers used the apt illustration of a caterpillar, cocoon, and butterfly to point out the change in the soma of the believer from sarx, whicih by its very essence decays, into doxa, the body in the state of glory.

This brings us to the question of whether the body of our risen Lord was also different from his earthly, physical body. It is ouro conviction that Jesus, too, was given a new body, since "he appeared in another form" (Mark 16:12). His apearance was indeed altered after his resurrection. Mary Magdalene, his disciples ont he seashore, and the two men on the road to Emmaus did not at first recognize him. Yet there was, at the same time, a perfect continuity between his resurrection body and the old body because he was sinless, and, therefore, his physical body was not subject to corruption. We believe in a substantial identity between the old and new bodies of Jesus, but even here there was no resuscitation (as with Lazarus) but a transformation or transifiguration. This must not be taken to mean that only the spirit of Christ rose from the dead, for as our Lord said, "A spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39). Yet his new body was at the same time spiritual, and some would contend that it steadily became more spiriutalized or, at least, invisible. His body passed through the grave clothes, leaving them undisturbed exceplt that they no longer contained anything. He ate food on the Emmaus road and also bread and fish with his disciples (John 21:13), but he could, at the same time, pass through closed doors (John 20:19, 26; Luke 24:33-37). He did not want to be touched, for he had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17). At the Ascension, when he was elevated into heaven, he was virtually invisible (Acts 1:9). On the Damascus Road, when he spoke to Paul and his companions, he was not visible to the naked eye (Acts 9:7). Yet this may legitimately be viewed as one of the postresurrection appearances of our Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 15:8).

The resurrection in the biblical perspective occurs in a serious of stages. The first resurrection of the dead is regeneration, when the dead in sin are raised to new life through faith in Jesus Christ. Our Lord declares: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, adn whoever lives and belives in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26; cf. 5:24; Romans 6:11; Ephesians 2:4-6; Col. 2:12; 1 John 3:14).

Page 186

Some theologians (e.g., Martensen) have speculated that the new resurrection body might already be in the making within the present mortal body and be ready for occupation at death. Luther intimates that this body itself undergoes an inward change by the work of "the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and awakens even the body to this new life, until it is completed in the life beyond."29

It is also possible to speak of the resurrection on the day of death, when the souls of believers are translated into paradise. Advocates of an amillennial position generally view the "first resurrection" referred to in Revelation 20:6 as the elevation into glory of those who have died in Christ.30 Just as Jesus was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18), so all the saints will experience the travail of death, but they will immediately be received into the presence of Christ (cf. Acts 7:54-60).31 In this light we can understand Paul's words that to live is Christ, but to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). That he has in mind the time of death is made abundantly clear in subsequent verses: (What I should like is to depart and be with Christ: that is better by far; but for your sake there is greater need for me to stay on in the body" (Phil. 1:23-24). In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus Jesus says: "The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom" (meaning paradise) (Luke 16:22). And he promised the repentant thief on the cross: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progess the passage throught the river of death leads immediately to the heavenly city.

Even unbelilevers are carried through death by virtue of their inescapable relationship to the living God (cf. Daniel 12:2; Acts 24:15). Yet this is not a resurrection unto life but a descent into the shadowy existence of hades, the nether world of spirits. This is not yet hell, since hell (gehenna), like heaven, is a reality in the ultimate future. Hades, like paradise, referes to the immediate hereafter, but it is the hereafter for the spiritually lost. Here the souls who do not know Christ or who have rejected him exist in a state of inner torment or lostness, waiting for the general resurrection and the last judgment (cf. Luke 16:19 ff.). It should nonetheless be pointed out that God is present in this so-called realm of the dead, and is in absolute control (cf. 1 Samueal 2:6; Job 26:6; Psalm 86:13; 139:8). This realm is not outside the compass of the Gospel, since our Lord preached to the spirits who were in prison (1 Peter 3:19-20).

It has been a matter of theological controversy whether the souls of the saints in the intermediate state of paradise are clothed in bodily form.

Page 187

In our judgment Cullmann errs by denying any continuity in bodily existence in the immediate hereafter. Even Samuel, who came back from the other side of the grave, was depicted as being wrapped in a robe and having the appearance of a god (1 Samuel 28:13-14). The saints on the Mount of Transfiguration were definitely in bodily form, for Peter even wished to make booths for them (Matthew 17:1-4; Mark 9:2-5). In the book of Revelation the saints in paradise are described as being "clothed in white robes" (Rev. 7:9; 6:11). The two witnesses in Revelation 11 are raised bodily into heaven. It was a common understanding in biblical times that the dead are clothed in some kind of body (1 Cor. 15:35). The inward man who persists after death incluldes the somatic as well as the psychic part of man.

Some sects have portrayed the souls after death as in a state of soul-sleep. Even Luther entertained this idea for a time.32 Yet such a view is a profound misunderstanding. The term sleep in the New Testament is a euphemism for death, a euphemism which indicates the manner of dying to some extent and also the meaing of death for the Christian. Those who die in Christ (1 Thess. 4:15-16) have the terror of death behind them; they are now at rest (rev. 14:13). Because Christ is risen, the dead in Christ do not perish in death (1 Cor. 15:17ff). The term sleep is therefore theological and eschatological, not anthropological. What Paul means by falling asleep in Christ corresponds to what Hebrews means by entering God's rest (see Heb. 4). Jeremias contends that the idea of soul-sleeping is foreign to the entire New Testament as well as to late Judaism.

The souls in the state of paradise already experience the glory of God (cf. Col. 1:12). Paradise is not a state of nakedness as is hades;33 it is not the underworld but the realm of glory. Indeed, we are said to be closer to God in paradise than in our earthly, bodily existence (2 Cor. 5:6-8). Yet because of their identification with the sufferings and tribulation of the church militant on earth, the saints in paradise are keenly aware that the perfection of all things is still in the future.34 Their state is one not only of beatitudo but also of expectatio, expectation and waiting (cf. Heb. 11:40; Rev. 6:11). though they have the vision of God, they await the general resurrection of the dead at the second advent of Christ. Though they have perfect love and perfect holiness, they still do not have perfect peace or perfect joy, since they intercede for their brethren on earth "under th altar" and cry "How long?" (Rev. 6:9 ff.; 8:3-4). As it is stated in Hebrews 11:40: "Apart from us they should not be made perfect." Pierre-Yves Emery maintains that the departed saints "will wait until the end of the world for us, the believers still on

Page 188

earth, to fulfill their ministry, their works, their crown, their joy."35 There is progress in their knowledge and in their mode of serviced, but they do not progress toward salvation, since they already have salvation through Christ's atonement. Christ is both our justification and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30), and his righteousness becomes our own through faith.

What is important to underscore is that the resurrection body is a new creation. There is no inherent immortality of the soul.36 The person who dies, even the one who dies in Christ, undergoes the death of both body and soul. Yet, as Thomas Aquinas said, though the soul experiences death as the form of the body, it lives on in a new form. The soul is not disembodied but is further clothed, putting on a heavenly dwelling (2 Cor. 5).37

We come now to the question of how the resurrection at death is related to the resurrection on the last day, to the consummation of all things that will be unshered in by Christ's second coming. The resurrection is not only an event but also a process that will be fulfilled only at the parousia (cf. John 5:25 ff.; 6:39; 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:14-18). In John 5 Jesus speaks of two resurrections within one short utterance (242-29). Revelation 20 also refers to two resurrections, though not quite in the same sense. The last day is not to be confused with the moment of death (cf. 2 Tim. 2:18; 4:6-8). Some believe that the parousia will be essentially an apocalypsis, that is, a revelation in bodily or earthly form of what we already are in Christe. We concur that the final resurrection will be a public revelation, yet not only this but also a transfiguration, a putting on of the incorruptible body that shall endure throughout eternity.

Church tradition generally holds that the disembodied spirit will be united with the natural body that died on earth. The truth in this conception is that nothing of signifance is really lost. The untruth is that this denies that the final body is a new creation rather than the mere restoration of what has been before. There is a substantial, but not an exact, material identiry between the final glorified body and the earthly body.

The general resurrection signifies the transfiguration of matter itself. The books of the prophets speak of a new heaven and a new earth. We shall witness the materialization or making visible of what is now invisible. In the words of Irenaeus: "Not only is matter susceptible of salvation but the salvation of man, the resurrection, implies the salvation of matter."38 Yet we affirm not the restoration of an earthly material existence but the transformation of matter into spirit. The eternal glory,

Page 189

of which paradise is an anticipation, shall then encompass the whole of the created order, for God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28:Eph. 1:10).

The Millennium

Apart from biblical inerrancy no doctrine has caused greater division in evangelical Christianity in the present day than the millennium. Though the biblical references to a millennial kingdom are minimal, they have given rise to elaborate theologies based on the reality of such a kingdom. Because the millennial hope has been a source of inspiration to Christians throughout the history of the church, impelling many toward a missionary vocation, it merits serious consideration. The polemical overtones of this doctrine make it especially significant for those who are concerned with the catholicity and unity of the church.

The key passage in the New Testament is Revelation 20:2-3:

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

Millenarians or chiliasts (from chilios, the 1,000 years) also appeal to 1 Cor. 15:23 ff. where Christ is depicted as delilvering the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and authority and power. It is said that he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet, and this reign is interpreted in some circles as referring to an interim messianic reign following his second coming but before the end of the world.39

There are, of course, many passages in the Old Testament that envision a restoration of the glory of Israel in which Jerusalem will become the pivotal center in a new world era characterized by peace and prosperity. Those who reject the chiliast position see these particular Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the church, the new Israel. The conception of an intermediate messianic kingdom before the age to come is found in some Jewish apocalypses from the period between Paul and Revelation (2 Baruch 30:1; 2 Esdras 7:26-30). There is no messianic reign in such typical apocalypses as Isaiah 24-27, Daniel, the Assumption of Moses, and the Apocalypse of Abraham.

In the history of the church three general positions have developed concern the millennium. The first, which is called premillennialism,

Page 190

understands the millennium as a messianic, interim kingdom inaugurated by the second coming of Christ, in which he will reign on earth for 1,000 years (or an indefinite period) before the last judgment and end of the world. This is chiliasm properly so-called. In the dispensational brand of premillennialism Christ is said to have two pariousias, one to the saints at the time of the rapture, when they are taken into heaven before the tribulation that will befall the world, and then a second, in which he sets up the millennial kingdom on earth after destroying the beast and false prophet (see Rev. 19). Extreme dispensationalists speak of two gospels, the gospel of grace and the gospel of the kingdom. The first is for the Gentiles and the second for the Jews. The kingdom gospel will be in effect during the time of the millennium. While classical premillennialists see the church enduring the tribulation prior to the millennial age, the dispensationalists see the true church as being exempt from this tribulation, and are therefore termed pretribulational, meaning that Christ will appear to his elect before the tribulation.

Premillennialism has a long and varied history. It was adopted by many theologians in the early church period, including Cerinthus, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Methodius, Tertullian, Montanus,40 Hippolytus, and Lactantius. Cerinthus depicted the future kingdom of Christ as providing sensual pleasures: eating, drinking, and marriage festivities. In the middle ages premillennialism virtually faded into oblivion, but it was revived among some of the Anabaptists in the sixteenth century. In the seventeenth century a view approaching premillennialsim gained ground in England, where it was especially evident among the Puritan Fifth Mondarchy Men, but then fell out of favor. In the nineteenth century it was revived by Edward Irving, founder of the Catholic Apostolic church, and John Nelson Darby, one of the founding fathers of the Plymouth Brethren.41 Thereafter premillennialism came to be associated ever more closely with dispensationalism, though dispensational ideas were already developed by the Dutch Pietist theologian Cocceius in the seventeenth century. Dispensational views were entertained by Henry Moorhouse, R.A. Torrey, and Dwight L. Moody (though Moody, in particular, was not dogmatic on this issue) and were given wide circulation in the Scofield Reference Bible, devised by C.I. Schofield.

Among contemporary advocates of premillennialism are George Eldon Ladd, Oscar Cullman, H. Bietenhard, G.R. Beasley-Murray,

Page 191

and Heinrich Quistorp. Those who defend a dispensational viewpoint include John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Hall Lindsey, Dwight Pentecost, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Armo C. Gaebeliein, and Rene Pache. For scholars like Cullmann, Bietenhard, and Quistorp, who reflect the concerns of the salvation-history school, the millennium is an end-historical category signifying the last period of the dominion of Christ over this age in which God closes off the history of the world. It is the "final act" of Christ's kingship, in which the church "will appear as part of the coming age." The millennium is "neither a purely spiritual nor a purely earthly kingdom, but an intermediate one which no longer belongs to this aeon -- but neither does it wholly belong to the new world-aeon of God."42

Chiliast ideas were opposed by both Origen in the Eastern church, who allegorized the millennium, and Augustine in the Western church, who identified the millennial kingdom with the church. For Augustine the binding of Satan has taken place int he resurrection of Jesus Christ, though this is only a relative binding, since the demonic powers are still active. This amillennial interpretation, already foreshadowed in the early church in Barnabas,43 Gaius of Rome, and Ticonius (d. 400), became the dominant view in the Roman Catholic church and the churches of the Reformation. In the modern period it has such noted representatives as Louis Berkhof, G.C. Berkouwer, Theodore Graebner, Emil Brunner, George L. Murry, Nelson B. Baker, Anthony Hoekema, Edmund J. Fortman, Hans Schwarz, Leon Morris, Floyd Hamilton, Thomas Torrance,44 and Michael Wilcock.45 Helmut Lamparter takes a position that combines elements of amillennialism and premillennialism.46

Amillennialists generally hold that the kingdom of God is now present in the world as the victorious Christ rules his people by the Word and Spirit. At the same time, they look forward to a future, glorious, perfect kingdom on the new earth in the life to come. They perceive the forces of evil gaining momentum as world history draws to an end and predict a time of persecution and tribulation for the church prior to the parousia. In his Church Dogmatics IV, 3 b Barth maintains that the "growing greatness of the Word of God" in the course of history also means a deepening of darkness and contradiction. Berkouwer echoes the position of many amillennialists in his assertion that the vision in Revelation 20 is "not a narrative account of a future earthly reign of peace at all, but is the apocalyptic unveiling of the reality of salvation in Christ as a backdrop to the reality of the suffering and martyrdom that still continue as long as the dominion of Christ

Page 192

remains hidden."47 Amillennialists see world history after the resurrection of Christ as both the gospel age and the age of the Spirit.

The third position, postmillennialism, envisions a millennial period within history prior to the parousia but not idential with the whole history of the church. In this conception there will be a golden age for the church in which the Gospel will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come (cf Matthew 24:14). The harvest of history will also see the conversion of the Jews to Christ or at least the restoration of a significant number of the descendents of Israel (cf. Isaiah 11:11ff.; Zech. 12:10; Romans 11:12). Postmillennialists generally make a place for the appearance of an antichrist toward the end of the millennium, but his time will be short since the parousia is then imminent. While premillennialists and amillennialists are inclined to view this present age with pessimism and to picture the church as a citidel of light in a world that is falling ever more into darkness, postmillennialists are optimists, believing that many of the promises of Christ will be realized within history and not simply in a life hereafter. Postmillennialists have often appealed to Ezekiel 36:27 ff. which proclaims the promise of the transformation of the external order of society through inner spiritual renewal. Psalm 102:16 has also figured in postmillennial speculation: "When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory." Likewise, Malachi 4:3 has been used in support of this credo: "And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts" (cf. Daniel 2:44).

Postmillennialism was already anticipated in the church father Eusebius of Caesarea, who interpreted the victory of the church during the reign of Constantine as the beginning of the "millennium." As has been indicated, a postmillennial strand was also evident in Montanism, though it was overshadowed by the premillennial emphasis.48 Postmillennialism experienced an upsurge in the middle ages, being reflected in utopian spiritualistic movements. Foremost of these was the Joachim movement, which divided history into three stages -- those of Father, Son, and Spirit. The first period, resting on the FAther, was said to be charactgerized by law and fear. The second, the time from the coming of Christ up to the thirteenth century, was the period of the Son, earmarked by grace and faith. The third and final period was believed to be inaugurated by St. Benedict and commencing in its fullness in 1260; this is the period of the Spirit, dominated by love and zeal. The age of the Spirit was to be an order of monks, just as the age of the Father was an order of the married and the age of the Son an order of priests. Joachim

Page 193

of Fiore, who devised this scheme, thought of himself as still belonging to the second period, though each of these periods overlaps somewhat. In contrast to Montanism nothing is said of the visible reign of Christ on earth after the dispensation of the Spirit.

Postmillennialism reappeared among some of the Anabaptists who spoke of the dawning of the "age of the Spirit" which would precede the eschaton. Melchoir Hoffman saw himself as one of the two witnesses foretold in Revelation who were appointed by God to prepare people for the final judgment. He also referred to the "time of grace," the interval of time between the appearance of the sitnesses of the last day and the coming of that day itself in which there would still be the possibility of a choice.

The real heyday of postmillennialism was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which witnessed the flowering of the evangelical movements of Pietism and Puritanism. In the early Evangelical vision the future of history belongs to Jesus Christ, and his kingdom will be manifested in power and glory before his coming again. The millennial age is a time characterized by the overflowing of the fulness of the Spirit, though Christians will still be in conflict with indwelling sin and will continue to face temptation and death. The church in the millennial age is still the ecclesia militans, not the ecclesia triumphans. Both Pietists and Puritans saw the millennial hope as the fulfillment of the great commission, and this accounts for their intense preoccupation with world mission and evangelism. Among the guiding lights of post-millennialism in early Evangelicalism were Philip Spener, Daniel Whitby, JOhn Owen, Samuel Rutherford, William a Brakel, John and Charles Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards. The expectation of the worldwide establishment of the kingdom of Christ is reflected in Isaac Watts' great hymn, "Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun." J.A. Bengel is claimed by both post- and premillennialists, though it seems that chiliasm gained ascendency in his thinking, since he expected the second advent of Christ to come in 1836. Among the later Pietists Johann Christoph Blumhardt (b. 1805) looked forward to a new age of grace prior to the parousia of Christ; this new age woiuld be characterized by an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In more recent times postmillennialism can count among its adherents Charles Hodge, Benjamin Warfield, A.H. Strong, and James Orr. Even Walter Rauschenbusch can be considered a postmillennialist in a qualified sense because of his expectation of a kingdom of God on earth. In our day classical postmillennialism, which might be called the chiliasm of the church, is defended by T.A. Kantonen, Iain Murray,

Page 194

Loraine Boettner, and Hendrikus Berkof. A more secularized form of postmillennialism, which envisions the golden age as one of justice and equality for all people, has been entertained by Johannes Metz, Rubem Alves, Harvey Cox, Jurgen Moltmann, and Martin Luther King. King was a postmillennialist of a sort in so far as he envisioned the "Beloved Community" being actualized within history. Moltmann seeks to establish some continuity with the older postmillennialism when he claims that Israel and the church have different callings and that the state of Israel "is a sign of the end of the dispersion and the beginning of Israel's homecoming."49

Among the cults and sectarian movements the Shakers, who took the name "the Millennial Church," affirmed what might be termed a realized millennium, since they saw the second coming occurring in the illumination of their founder, Mother Ann Lee.50 Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Worldwide Church of God are all premillennial in some sense. The Seventh-day Adventists, however, do not envision a reign of Christ on earth but instead, Christ reigning in heaven with his saints during the millennial period, when the earth will be divested of all human habitation.

Each of these three basic positions on the millennium has certain strengths and certain weaknesses. Premillennialism should be given credit for not spiritualizing away the prophecy in the Book of Revelation and for recognizing that some of God's promises will be realized on earth as well as in heaven. It has the additional merit of taking seriously the biblical promises to the people of Israel that they will at last see a restoration of the glory of Israel, though this glory is understood in nationalistic terms, and this we cannot accept. Premillennialism, and particularly the dispensational strand, has also kept alive the expectancy of the imminente return of Christ.

In delineating the weaknesses of premillennialism we have to confess that, at least in its traditional form, it cannot be regarded as a viable option from our standpoint. First, the premillennialists generally make the kingdom of God into an earthly and national kingdom, whereas the New Testament describes it as spiritual and universal. Again, while the Bible speaks of the resurrection of the just and unjust in a single breath (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15) and the resurrection of the righteous as occurring at the end of time (John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24), premillennialism separates the resurrection of the righteous from that of the wicked by a period of 1,000 years. It also divorces the last judgment from the second coming of Christ, though the inseparability of these events is testified to in Matthew 16:27; 25:31-32; Jude 14-15;

Page 195

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; and Revelation 22:12. The dispensational view of the rapture of the church before the great tribulation and the coming of the Son of Man for the destruction of the antichrist contradicts Matathew 24:29-31, which depicts the the Son of Man gathering his elect from the uttermost parts of the earth after the tribulation (cf. Mark 13:27). Dispensational premillennialism is based on the supposition that the Old Testament prophecies concerning the future of Israel must have a literal fulfillment, but this is entirely untenable in the light of the New Testament identification of the church as the true Israel. Since many premillennialists hold that the saints in resurrected bodies will join Christ in his reign on the new earth over persons who are still sinners in the flesh, we have the extraordinary picture of perfect saints in glorified bodies mingling with mortal creatures in a so-called millennial paradise. Does not this smack more of mythology than biblical eschatology? It should be noted that some of these objections do not apply to the premillennialism of Cullmann, Bietenhard, and Quistorp. George Eldon Ladd, too, has kept himself free from some of the extravagant speculation of chiliasm.51

Postmillennialism has more Scriptural support than is commonly realized. First, wherever the binding of Satan is referred to in the New Testament, it can be seen to be related to the work of Christian mission, and this is a salient postmillennial emphasis (cf. Luke 10:17-18; John 12:20-32). Satan's binding means his inability to deceive the nations, to prevent the Gospel from being proclaimed with power and efficacy to the nations (Rev. 20:3). Again, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days can be regarded as a latter-day glory for the church, even though the first outpouring occurred on Pentecost.52 Moreover, by upholding the effectual evangelization of the nations, postmillennial theology bids us take seriously the church's mandate to conquer the world for Jesus Christe. Our Lord's promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church (Matthew 16:18)53 presents a picture of a church that withstands and overcomes the principalities and powers of the old aeon (see Rev. 12:11). In postmillennialism the saved will be not a remnant called out of the church but a great multitude from every tribe, people, and tongue (cf. Rev. 7:9). The chief merit in this position is that it recaptures the note of optimism that characterized at least a large part of the apostolic church in its belief that the whole world belongs to Jesus Christ. Postmillennialists could never speak as dispensationalists do of a twilight of the church.

Nonetheless, there are certain serious objections to a postmillennial view, especially one that ignores or underplays the continuation of

Page 196

demonic power in the world and also in the church on this side of the parousia. First, the contention that the whole world will gradually be won for Christ and that the life of all nations will, in the course of time, be transformed by the Gospel is not in harmony with the New Testament picture of the end of the age. Many postmillennialists appeal to the parable of the leaven, which seems to anticipate a transformation of the whole creation by the Gospel (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:21), but nowhere is it stated that this transformation will take place wholly within earthly history. Those postmillennialists who see the present age passing almost imperceptibly into the coming age misunderstand the apocalyptic character of the Gospel message of Jesus, which envisions the kingdom coming by supernatural intervention. The modern idea that natural evolution and the efforts of man in the fields of education and social reform will gradually bring in the perfect reign of the Christian spirit conflicts with the New Testament affirmation that the kingdom is wholly a gift of God. This idea, of course, does not characterize classical postmillennialism tendency to interpret the first resurrection in Revelation 20:4-5 as the elevation of the martyrs for the purpose of reigning with Christ, as distinct from the general resurrection of the righteous, seems to call into question the fact that all Christians are enjoined to confess their faith under trial and persecution, and all Christians are enjoined to confess their faith under trial and persecution, and all Christians are destined to reign with Christ as preists and kings (1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 1:6, 9; 5:9-10).54 Finally, the expectancy of the imminence of Christ's return is definitely undermined by the postmillennial emphasis on the return of Christ only after a period of unparalleled prosperity for the church and also for the nations.

It might be supposed that we endorse amillennialism because of our difficulties with the other two positions. Yet this is not necessarily so, despite certain obvious strengths in amillennialism. Its chief merit, though it has this in common with many postmillennial views, is that it acknowledges that the New Testament represents the great events of redemption, namely, the second advent, the resurrection, the last judgment, and the end of the world, as occurring in roughly the same span of time.55 The only indication that any of these events are separated by 1,000 years is given in Revelation 20:4-10 which can lend itself to another interpretation. We are persuaded by such scholars as Hoekema and Wilcock that the events of Revelation 20 should not be conceived as chronologically following Revelation 19, which depicts the parousia. Revelation 20 is a flashback that recapitulates the triumph of Christ over the adversary from a slightly different angle; there are

Page 197

other examples of such flashbacks in the Book of Revelation.56 Again, amillennialism reminds us that the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 must be related to the binding of Satan in the Gospels, where it is described as taking place already in the ministry, death, and resurrection of our Lord (cf. Mark 3:27; Matthew 12:29; Luke 10:18-19; John 12:31-32).57 We also agree with the amillennialists' interpretation of the 1,000 years as symbolic, referring more to the quality than to the quantity of time.58 2 Thessalonians 2, which describes the end of the church age, bears a remarkable similarity to Revelation 20, which describes the end of the millennial age. In the former we find the man of lawlessness who is restrained but who will break out of this restraint just before the coming of our Lord in glory. But he will be destroyed when Christ comes again, just at the dragon in Revelation 20 will be destroyed.

Yet, for a number of reasons, we are not happy with amillennialism despite its strong exegetical foundations. First, it too easily falls into a church imperialism, especially where the kingdom of Christ is identified with the visible church (as in Augustine and Calvin).59 Second, there is a tendency, at least in some circles, to be overpessimistic concerning the course of world history: the church is viewed as a remnant in a world that is still wholly under the spell of the powers of darkness, despite the fact that Revelation 20 depicts Satan as being so bound that he cannot deceive the nations any further. Third, those who embrace an amillennial posture are inclined to spiritualize the kingdom and make it primarily other-worldly (the heavenly side of the church),60 whereas the kingdom of Christ as portrayed in the New Testament has strong this-worldly dimensions as well. Their focus of attention is usually on the life hereafter rather than the events of the last days, on immortality rather than the harvest of history, on the vision of God rather than the great commission to go into the world with the Gospel.

Finally, amillennialism tends to take away the expectancy of Christ's second coming by seeing this coming realized, at least in part, in the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. The view advanced by Calvin and Barth that we are already in the last days (since we are living in the period between Christ's resurrection and the second advent) is acceptable so long as a role is still given to the last day (as distinct from the last days) and so long as the biblical signs of the imminent appearing of Christ are not disregarded.61 It should be acknowledged that the churches of the Reformation have never recovered the eschatological consciousness characteristic of the New Testament church, and this

Page 198

accounts for the rise of chiliastic sects that have accentuated the cruciality and imminence of the second coming of Christ.62

In seeking to break through the impasse that presently besets the evangelical world on this question, we need to look more closely at Revelation 20, which supposedly describes the millennium. After a careful examination of this text we are persuaded that it is a description of the age of the church from the viewpoint of the millennial triumph experienced by the martyrs and confessors in heaven. The millennium signifies not just the church age but that side or aspect of the church age where the rule of the martyrs and confessors in heaven. The millennium signifies not just the church age but that side or aspect of the church age where the rule of the martyrs and confessors is manifest. Unlike the parallel passage in 2 Thessalonians 2, where the mystery of lawlessness is said to be at work even after the resurrection of Christ, here Satan is described as being in a shut or sealed pit. Before Christ Satan is completely powerless: this is the meaning of Satan being bound. Yet we also know that outside of Christ Satan can still cause injury and affliction. So long as we remain in Christ, we will participate in his kingly and priestly rule (Rev. 1:6), but once we turn away from Christ, the devil remains some of his power. The beast that was slain is revived (Rev. 13:3; 17:8) and can thereby cause more trouble, even for Christians. The devil has been likened to a mad dog that is chained (Augustine). He is powerless to harm us when we are outside his reach, but once we enter his circle we expose ourselves again to injury and harm.

Toward the end of the church or gospel age, when the church will face severe persecution and defection, Satan will regain some of his power over the nations (Rev. 20:7-8). The devil will seek to realize his ends through the figure of an antichrist. Evil will be embodied in a person or temporal power that will pose a direct threat to the existence of the church (cf. Daniel 7:25; 2 Thess. 2:4; 1 John 2:18, 22; Rev. 13:7-8). The antichrist will not be able to overthrow Christ's church, however, and will finally be deposed by Jesus Christ himself at the parousia.

It is possible to speak of a millennial dawn in every era of missionary outburst and expansion, since wherever the Gospel is proclaimed the utter defeat of Satan is further revealed and confirmed. In the light of Scripture one can affirm that a period in the temporal future before the end will be characterized by the messianic glory of Christ's conquering kingdom (cf. Ps. 108:5; Hab. 3:3ff.; Ezek. 37:26-28; Matthew 13:31-32, 47-50; 24:14).63 We see this glory as a prolepsis of the ultimate, promised future of the kingdom of God. Before the end the Gospel will be carried into every region of the earth, adn great remnants of the original Israel will be united with the church (Isaiah 11:11-16; Romans 11:12).

Page 199

This coming breakthrough in Christian mission is not the 1,000 year reign, since Christ is already enthroned, but a period associated with the end time when history is rapidly approaching its climax, a period that will be followed by the antichrist and great tribulation. It is even likely that the great missionary effort of the church will be accompanied by a rising tide of demonic opposition, though this opposition will not be truly effective until apostasy and defection take root within the church itself.

What is being proposed here is a postmillennialism within the framework of a modified amillennialism. The millennial glory is the glory of the church triumphant, the church in paradise, but this glory has been and will be manifest in the history of the church on earth, in those periods when the banner of the Gospel is carried forward into the centers of worldly power (Hab. 3:12-13). This does not mean that the church will be exempt from suffering and battle -- even in paradise, since the church triumphant identifies itself with the travail of the church militant. This is not a call to romantic optimism but, instead, a summons to confidence and courage in the knowledge that Christ has utterly defeated the powers of evil, and this defeat will become more and more manifest as the church fulfills the great commission.

We take isseu with the view prevalent in Barthian circles that the whole world is now the kingdom of Christ. With Paul we affirm that all things are not yet subjected to Christ de facto (1 Cor. 15:24-28). The kingdom of Christ counts in its membership only the community of faith, though it will be manifest throughout the world in this dispensation.64 Its power and glory will extend throughout history, even though large parts of humanity still remain mesmerized by the spell of the powers of darkness. The reach of its impact is far wider than the immediate boundaries of the church, though only those who steadfastly adhere to Christ effectively participate in its fellowship and mission. The millennium is best understood not as a condition already actualized in all its power and efficacy but as a drama that is being unfolded on the screen of history as the church penetrates the darkness of the world.

Calvin's picture of the kingdom continually advancing in the world does justice to both postmillennial and amillennial motifs. Though the kingdom of God has been inaugurated in Jesus Christ, he says, we should pray "that he assiduously increase and advance it, until it reach the summit of its power; which we hope for only at the last day, when God, having reduced all creatures to order, will alone be exalted and preeminent, and thus be all in all."65 A postmillennial note can also be

Page 200

detected in these words of Calvin's: "The light of the gospel must shine over the whole earth before God gives Satan a free hand .... I think I hear Paul speaking of the calling of all peoples and declaring that the grace of God must be offered to the whole earth so that the impiety of men should stand out clearly.66" That the parousia is to be connected with the triumph of the church rather than its demise is made evident in Psalm 102:15-16: "Then shall the nations revere thy name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory, when the Lord builds up Zion again and shows himself in his glory" (cf. Mal. 4:3).

Just as the church as a hole will experience the glory of the millennium, so every Christian may experience this glory if he will only seek and pray for it. This is the truth in the in the Holiness doctrine of the second blessing, which refers to personal renewal of faith and victory over temptation not in some other world but in this life. Paul asserted that "we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" and that nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37, 39). The eschaton can be anticipated and partially realized now through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but it will not be revealed in its full splendor and power until the parousia of Christ. The future world is already breaking into the present world, but this present world has still to be taken up into the future world. We thus seek to hold together the truths in both realized and futuristic eschatology.

We do not anticipate within history a pure church which is required to separate from the institutional church (as in dispensationalism). The church will remain a mixture of wheat and tares until the final judgment (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). Yet there will be a defection from the church and, therefore, a likely division within the church before the coming of Christ. But even the faithiful remnant cannot claim purity in the sight of God, since it, too, will be, at the most, a church of sinners that lives solely by the grace of God.

The truth in chiliasm is that the kingdom of Christ has this worldly as well as other-worldly dimensions, that the consummation will include a new earth as well as a new heaven. Chiliasm arose as a valild protest against spiritualizing and Platonizing tendencies in the early church. Yet chiliasm errs by seeking a heaven on earth in the here and now. It is not content to wait for the revelation of the glory of Christ at the end of time.

Yet we must avoid at all costs the opposite error of looking only to the eschatological or ultimate hope and not seeking to realize penultimate hopes for justice, peace, and brotherhood within human history.

Page 201

If we abandon the world to the devil, the devil who has been dethroned will seize the opportunity to regain his power, and this has happened ever again when Christians have been lulled to sleep by a false pietism, which is, in effect, quietism. We need to recover the robust and expectant faith of the original evangelicals, whose misisonary enthusiasm was accompanied by an outpouring of humanitarian concern and social reform.67 We need to recover the postmillennial vision of a church on the march, without succumbing to any kind of utopianism or false romanticism. Charles Wesley displayed this kind of faith when he wrote in 1749 in celebration of the revival:

Now it wins its widening way:

More and more it spreads and grows,

Ever mighty to prevail;

Sin's strongholds it now o'erthrows,

Shakes the trembling gates of hell.68

There is reason to look forward not only to persecution and tribulation for the church (as do the premillennialists and many amillennialists) but also to greater advances and triumphs of the church over the world. Yet the millennial hope, which is preeminently realized in the paradise of the blessed, is still a penultimate, not the ultimate, hope. The final hope of humanity rests in Jesus Christ himself -- not simply in what he is doing through his church in the here and now but in what he will do at the end of the age when he acts to bring in the eternal kingdom of God in his glorious second coming. This alone is the "blessed hope" (Tit. 2:13), which does not, however, cancel out legitimate this-worldly hopes but places them in the proper perspective. On the basis of this ultimate hope we can step into the future with courage, avoiding both a superficial optimism and a crippling pessimism. We can then sincerely pray that God's will might be done on earth as well as in heaven (Matthew 6:10), knowing that we ourselves can fully expect to see "the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13) and not only in the life to come.

In seeking to reinterpret the doctrine of the millennium, we have taken into account the valid insights of postmillennialism, though within the framework of a definitely modified amillennialism. Can premillennial motifs similarly be incorporated into this schema? We believe that there is an abiding truth in premillennialism that must not be lilghtly set aside if we are to do justice to the total biblical witness on this subject. With the premillennialists we affirm that the millennium is an eschatological category, though the glory of the eschaton

Page 202

has already appeared in history in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the great outpouring of his Spirit at Pentecost. Moreovere, there is a sense in which the millennium, understood as the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, is fulfilled in that stretch of time immediately following the second advent of Christ and leading to the new heaven-earth.

At his second coming Christ not only brings an end to the dark and tragic history of a sinful world but also consummates and perfects the millennial glory of an advancing church.69 The second advent of our Lord predates the millennium as fulfilled in the eschatological triumph over the powers and principalities of this world and the inauguration of the new world aeon of God.70 Christ, at his coming again, not only subdues the rebellious rulers of this world but also institutes the final judgment prior to the creation of the new heaven and new earth. We read that at the time of this judgment the old earth, the old heavens, and the sea still exist, though they are ebbing away (Rev. 20:11-13). The last great outburst of messianic glory will take place when Christ brings down the curtain on world history, for the durability and triumph of the church will then be made visible to all creation (Isaiah 66:18-19; Psalm 102:15-16). Christ's millennial reign will come to an end when he delivers the kingdom to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24), who will then bestow upon it the crowning splendor of his eternity. The realization of the universal and all-embracing lordship of Christ will be followed by the final consummation of the universe when God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).

These events at the time of the eschaton will take place in rapid succession, but there is, nonetheless, a sequence of happenings that precede the new heaven and new earth (cf. Isaiah 66:18-24; Matthew 13:40-43; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Rev. 19:11 ff.' 20:7-15).71 The old earth does not in and of itself prepare the way for the new earth, but it does experience the glory of the triumphant Christ subsequent to his second coming (Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27).

The millennium can therefore be seen to have four sides: the outpouring of the Spirit upon the church at Pentecost and continuing in all periods of missionary expansion; the paradise of the blessed, where the church triumphant intercedes for the church mililtant; the great harvest of souls as h istory moves toward a grand climax; and the final triumph over the adversaries of God and man on the great day of the Lord, inqugurated by his second coming.72 We have tried to understand the millennium in terms of the church's advancement already evident at Pentecost and culminating in the supernatural intervention of the reigning Christ into history. This advancement is discernible now in

Page 203

various places, but it will be manifest on a worldwide scale toward the end of the age. Even though the church will have to undergo unprecedented tribulation and persecution (Matthew 24:21), through the power of the Holy Spirit it will prove to be invincible and unshakable (cf. Daniel 2:44; Mal. 4:3; Romans 8:37-39; Rev. 12:11; 17:14; 20:9-10).

We as Christians can face the future with confidence and hope because we have the certain knowledge that Christ has already won the decisive victory over the powers of darkness and that the future belongs wholly to him and not to the devil, who is now dethroned and in virtual collapse. We can press forward under the banner of the Gospel, upheld by the promise that the meek shall indeed inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). There is the additional consolation that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), the saints in paradise, who may be aiding us by their supplications and intercessions.

While spurning the excesses of both chiliasm and postmillennialism, we have not discarded these options altogether. Our contention is that mainstream Protestantism has too cavalierly dismissed these positions, and the millennium has been spiritualized in the process. We do not wish to promote an artificial synthesis; instead, we have tried to incorporate the abiding insights of these positions in a vision that stands in continuity with the Reformed tradition. The universal realization of the messianic reign of Christ over the earth is still ahead of us in the future, inaugurated by his second advent; here we empathize with premillennialism. Yet parables and signs of this reign are manifest in the history leading to the end-time, the most potent being the conversion of great multitudes of the lost to Jesus Christ through the outpouring of the Spirit and the proclamation of the Word. Such signs are not simply a foretaste but a partial realization of the coming universal lordship of Christ. This is the abiding truth in postmillennialism.

Our intention has been to construct a doctrine of the millennium that includes the note of victory not only over the world powers at the end-time but also over the world powers within our present age. At the same time, we have tried to stay clear of a false church triumphalism that exempts the church from the judgment of God and from the cross of persecution. We have sought to avoid both a crippling pessimism that sees the church as only a tiny remnant beieged by the hordes of darkness and a too facile optimism that underestimates the continuing power of sin and death in the world. The messianic kingdom of Christ is already realized in the birth and life of the church, but it has yet to be consummated when the church is taken up into the eternal kingdom of God. The new age is present now, though hidden in the community of faith, but it will be manifest throughout all the earth when our Lord comes again in glory.


1. Apocalyptic is characterized by the belief in two totally distinct and different ages, one under the control of the prince of darkness, the other eternal and perfectly righteous. While prophecy "shows future things as coming forth from what already exists on earth," apocalyptic "shows these future things as coming down out of heaven without involving itself in the connection that these future things bear to the present." (Kuyper). In G.C. Berkouwer, The Return

VII. The Church's Spiritual Mission

For our sake

The Biblical Understanding

   Evangelical theology contends .

VIII. The Personal Return of Christ

No one can come

The Gift of Grace in Biblical Perspective

   The Scriptures are

IX. Heaven and Hell

And he believed

The Meaning of Faith

   The Scriptures make

X. How Distinctive Is Evangelicalism?

And he believed

The Meaning of Faith

   The Scriptures make

XI. Toward the Recovery of Biblical Faith

The Outlook for Evangelicalism

Essentials of Evangelical Theology : Volume Two is hosted online by

christian books online books