Adapted for serial use in the Missions Banner from a sermon of the same title delivered at Tacoma Bible Presbyterian Church, September 9, 2018. Rev. Fisher is a member of the Presbyterian Missionary Union Council. The text was 1 Peter 1:23-25. Used with permission.
Most people are familiar with Mark Twain’s famous comment about his death. Over the years, however, the statement has been somewhat distorted. Twain’s remark was part of a letter sent by him to a reporter from the New York Journal, and printed by that newspaper in an article about Twain’s visit to London. The article said…
Mark Twain … said: “I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration. (http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2010/06/reports-of-my-death-are-greatly.html)
Another Exaggerated Report
I mention this incident because through the years, Christianity, and particularly the Gospel as presented in the Word of God, has been the victim of the same sort of exaggeration. Take for example this observation of Dr. G. Stanley Hall:
… the world is in sad need of a renovated Christianity. At present this religion is out of keeping with the spirit of the times. It has undergone the mutations of periods of theological, speculative, and historical-philological rethinking, each mode transmuting it to its own form. To-day these modes are outgrown: the dominant interest of the times is psychological…. Experience teaches us that Jesus is a symbol, that Christianity is a symbol. The meaning of the symbol changes with the time, the place, and the condition, but it always designates more or less adequately the innermost wishes and hopes of men (The Dial, 1917 – Volume 63 – Page 70).
Dr. Hall was touting this critical need to re-examine Christianity and the Gospel before anyone in this room was born. Hall was convinced more than a hundred years ago that Christianity was in peril and on the verge of extinction. He believed that its only hope was to abandon the Word and conform to the world.
In contrast, David says, “The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” Consequently, despite Hall’s predictions, it remains the largest religious affiliation in the world, with about one-third of the world’s population committed to some form of Christianity or another.
We realize, of course, that this involves many groups whose theology would be repugnant to us, and which departs widely from that which you find in the Bible; nevertheless, orthodox, biblically-based Christian faith continues to be embraced around the world, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as preached by the Apostles, continues to be used by Him to save lost souls and to change lives. (To be continued in the next Banner)
Rev. G. W. Fisher is the Pastor of Tacoma Bible Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, WA