Fundamentals of the Faith
By William Dudley Nowlin, D.D., LL.D.
JESUS CHRIST THE GOD-MAN
Jesus Christ the God-Man, Born of a woman, Died on the Cross, was Buried and
Rose from the Dead;
by Which Death He Satisfied the Demands of the Divine Law, and thus Provided a Plan of Salvation
Sufficient for All, (and so Offers Salvation to All on the Terms of the Gospel), but Efficient for Believers Only.
If Catholics could succeed in their attempt to make Mary a divine being they would at the same time destroy the HUMANITY of Jesus, for it is from Mary he gets his humanity.
JESUS BORN OF A WOMAN
Here is the account as given by Matthew (1:18- 25), which is as simple as could be made: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his Mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, be fore they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying: Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that
which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shall call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son; and he called his name JESUS.”
CHRIST THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD
The two main points of attack for the critics, skeptics and infidels, are the l)eity of Jesus Christ and the Inspiration and Inerrancy of the Bible. Many other heresies grow out of these two—rejection of the Divinity of Christ, and the Inspiration and Inerrancy of the Scriptures. If Christ is not the Son of God, and equal with God as the Scriptures teach, he can in no sense be a Savior of man. “What think ye of Christ?” has been the question of the ages.
There are three answers to this question, and, perhaps, will never be more than three. The first is the answer of natural reason, “a mere man.” This is the answer given by his neighbors and own countrymen. They said, “He is a man, the son of Joseph, the carpenter. We know his father, mother, brothers, giving them by name, and his sisters. He can’t be anything more than a man; and any claims to more is blasphemy.” This is the answer of natural reason. This answer leaves man without a Savior, and Jesus Christ in the attitude of a deceiver and a falsifier, for he claimed to be the Son of God.
We do not agree with Richard Watson Gilder, an American poet and editor, who said:
“If Jesus Christ is a man,
And only man, I say
That of all mankind I cleave to Him
And to Him I will cleave alway.’’
If Jesus was man, and only man, he was the greatest and guiltiest impostor the world ever saw. Jesus was either God manifest in the flesh, or a bad man.
The second answer is the answer of scientific research— “a super-man.” Scientific research says we must take into consideration all the facts, and when this is done we must admit that he is more than a man, for he did things a mere man cannot do, so he must be a super-man. This class, however, while denying his divinity and discounting his authority, have admired and eulogized Christ as ‘‘a good man,’’ paying him a certain sort of homage. The German atheist, Fichte, wrote of him: “Till the end of time all the sensible will bow low before this Jesus of Nazareth, and all will humbly acknowledge the exceeding glory of this great phenomenon. His followers are nations and generations.”
Richter, the Pantheist, calls him: “The purest of the mighty, the mightiest of the pure, who with his pierced hands razed empires from their foundations, turned the stream of history from its old channels, and still continues to rule and guide the ages.”
Hegel, the philosopher, wrote: “Among the improvers of ideal humanity he stands in the very first class, and remains the highest model of religion within the reach of our thought; and no perfect pity is possible without his presence in the heart.”
The French infidel, Rousseau, wrote: “What a difference between the son of Sophroniscus and the Son of Mary! Socrates dies with honor, surrounded by his disciples, listening to the most tender words—the easiest death one could wish to die. Jesus dies in pain, dishonored, mocked, the object of universal cursing—the most horrible death one could fear. At the receipt of the cup of poison, Socrates blesses him who could not give it to him without tears. Jesus, while suffering the sharpest pains, prays for his most bitter enemies. If Socrates lived and died like a philosopher, Jesus lived and died like a God.”
Renan, the French rationalist, said: “Jesus is unique in everything, and nothing can compare with him. He is a man of colossal dimensions, the incomparable Man. The Adorable One, who shall preside over the destinies, to whom the universal conscience has decreed the title of Son of God. Whatever may be the surprises of the future, Jesus will never be surpassed. his worship shall grow young without ceasing; his legend will call forth tears without end! Ills sufferings will melt the noblest hearts; all ages will proclaim that among the sons of men there is none born greater than Jesus.”
After reading such eulogies as the above, we are made to exclaim with Mary, “they have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid him.” In the above we see Jesus adorned with flowers of rhetoric, but stripped of his deity. If Jesus is not the Christ, the Son of God, he is the worst of men; a falsifier, a base deceiver— the most stupendous fraud the world has ever seen—for he claimed to be the Son of God, the Savior of men. Either these claims are true or Jesus is a bad man.
What the critics have left us of the Christ, as Dr. Orr has said, is—”That a young Galilean peasant, by name Jesus, a son o Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, starting as a disciple of John the Baptist, became, about his thirtieth year, the originator of a remarkable religious movement in Galilee, which brought him into collision with the Pharisees and ecclesiastical heads of the nation, and led, after, perhaps, a year’s activity, to his being arrested at Jerusalem at the Passover, and after trial by the Sanhedrin and before Pontius Pilate, put to death by crucifixion as a blasphemer. Whether, as the Gospels say, he claimed for him self the title Messiah, is a moot question. Wrede contends that he did not; whether he spoke the Apocalyptic discourses attributed to him is held to be even more doubtful. Probably, as most allow, he did both, and to that extent, as in so many other particulars in his thinking—his views, e. g., of God in heaven, angels, demons, Paradise, etc.—was a victim of illusions, or shared the erroneous beliefs of his age. But his soul was one of singular purity—not ‘sinless,’ for the modern mind dare not use so absolute a word. his religious and ethical ideals were the most spiritual yet given to mankind; while the final confidence he exercised in the Father, his perfect love arid sympathy with men, and the continual polemic which cost him his life against the merely outward ceremonial, and legal in religion, in favor of a spiritual worship, and an inward morality of the heart, made him, in another sense than the theological, the true Founder of a Kingdom of God on earth. He gave up his life in fidelity to his convictions on the cross, but, it need not be said, according to the new version of the gospel, did not rise again. Yet it is allowed that his disciples believed he did, and even that they had seen him, and that it was by their energetic preaching of a Risen Lord that the Christian church was founded among men. These dreams, we are told, are gone, and the church of the future will have to content itself with a Jesus on whose grave, as Mr. Arnold says, the Syrian stars still look down.”
Strange as it may seem, and sad as it is, many Christian people accept and teach these humanitarian views of Christ with but slight change, while others meet in a timid and half-hearted way these attacks upon the very citadel of our faith. This teaching is far removed from that simple faith of the apostle who said, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Shall we accept and stand by the unchangeable truths of God’s Word, or shall we accept the “assured results” (?) of the critics which are modified and changed almost every moon
There is yet another class of critics, however, which is far more subtle and dangerous to my mind, than the class which attacks outright the doctrines of the Bible, and that is the class which says, “Accept nothing as finally settled, but keep an open mind ready to accept the new truth on all subjects.’’ We are told by these ‘‘liberals’’ (?) that whenever a man holds anything as definitely settled, that is with him an end of all progress. Only as he keeps his mind open on any subject can he make any advance in knowledge.
But why keep the mind open to new truth if you can’t accept it when it is presented? And if you should accept it, or come to any conclusion, your mind is shut up to the NEWER truth which might come along The only safe plan is to know absolutely nothing. You are then without prejudice and fully prepared to accept the “newest truth” (!) No, no, that would ruin the theory; you are then fully prepared to know more of nothing.
Suppose, however, you conclude to keep an open mind on all subjects, reach no conclusions, then you will have reached a conclusion, and one which is far-reaching in its results. To decide to reach no COIIC is itself reaching a conclusion.
Thus we see how the notion that we are to keep our minds open on all points works. Surely it must be obvious to everyone who will think for a minute that progress is possible only for those who reach conclusions and then assuming them to be true, pass on to other questions. Unless a man has a firm place to plant his feet he can make no progress. All advance in knowledge is from the known to the unknown.
We must know something in order to advance in knowledge. There must be a solid foundation upon which to build. We know of nothing more destructive to all progress in knowledge than to say that men must keep their minds open on all points and reach no conclusions. But such is the logic of the theory.
The answer of scientific research that “Christ is a super-man” is Tinitarianism, and may suit infidels and demons, but can not be accepted by a Christian. No man can deny the deity of Christ and be a Christian.
The third and only other answer to the question, “What think ye of Christ?” is the answer of divine revelation—”Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). We know this answer came not from human reason, nor scientific research, but from God, for Christ says “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17).
Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, is the dynamic of the Christian religion, and the foundation upon which he built his church. Rousseau and Renan may eulogize the man and deny his deity, Hegel and Fichte may admire his purity and deny his power, Hume may philosophize and Ingersoll orate, yea, “the heathen may rage,” but lost men, conscious of their guilt and sin, still find salvation and peace by believing in “Jesus Christ the Son of the living God.”
THE DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
It is accepted by all true Christians that the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ are fundamental facts of the Christian religion. However much the destructive critics may ridicule the death of Christ as “The theology of the butcher shop,” it remains true that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22), and we are “justified by his blood” (Rom. 5:9), “redemption through his blood” (Eph. 1:7).
It remains true, too, that when Christ was put to death, those who put him to death did exactly what God had decreed should come to pass (Acts 2:23), so his death was no “accident,” or mere “incident in his life.”
But the main attack of the critics is on the resurrection. This is perfectly natural, for they know if the disciples of Christ can establish his resurrection they establish his death and burial, for the resurrection presupposes death and burial.
WAS JESUS’ BODY STOLEN?
The only effort to overthrow the doctrine of the resurrection is made in the feeble and futile effort to prove that the body of Jesus was stolen. The evidence here is of such a character that it would not be admitted in any court. The wit nesses are testifying to an act which they say occurred while they slept. The following was written by W. E. Fendley, D. S. T., of Miss., and published in “The Western Recorder,” Dec. 9, 1920.
“This article was prompted by hearing a conversation a few days ago between two men on a railroad train, in which they were discussing the possibility of being deceived about the resurrection of Jesus.
“As one who has spent much time in the study of law, I want us to look at this matter for a few moments from the standpoint of a Roman citizen and as a lawyer would present the case.
“In the first place, I answer the suggestion with an emphatic no, that Jesus’ body was not stolen, and for three reasons:
“1. It was not a good time for stealing the body. Three Jewish feasts came at one time. At any one of these, the Feast of the Passover, the Feast of the First Fruits, and the Feast of the Full Moon, the Jews’ attendance was compulsory. Therefore, the streets of Jerusalem were thronged with watching Jews at the very time the body of Jesus would be stolen by his disciples. And do not forget that his enemies had heard that he was to rise, for they said to Pilate, ‘This deceiver said that on the third day he would rise. Command, therefore, that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day.’ Hence it would have been impossible to have deceived them, for they were especially guarding that very day. So, I say it was n a good time for stealing the body.
“2. There were five penalties of death attached to the stealing of that body, and not one of those penalties was imposed, or carried out.
‘‘First, allowing the seal to be broken, which was so placed that a part of it would be upon the sepulcher and a Pa1 on the round stone, the door of the sepulcher. The Human seal was the bust of Julius Caesar, so arranged that if the seal were broken, the head would be severed from the body. Now note, the Roman government said death is the penalty for breaking that seal. If that were broken under any circumstances it meant, according to their law, death to the man that broke it. You perhaps know that the penalty of the law in this country for breaking open an express package belonging to someone else is not so strenuous as was the Roman law. Rome said death. But someone says that Roman law did not amount to much. I do not pretend to know all about it, but I ought to know something about it, as I have made a study of that a specialty for sometime, and I know if there was one thing above another for which Rome did stand first, last, and all the time, that one thing was law. Each nation represents a particular national idea. For instance, England has stood for wealth; France for power; America for freedom; Greece for perfection; but Rome first, last and always for law. And if the Roman law said a man must die, death was the penalty. Second, for breaking the seal; third, for stealing the body; fourth, for allowing the body to be stolen; fifth, for going to sleep on duty. Were these penalties carried out? No. Was there any transgression of the law? Yes. Transgression of the law in five different instances. Yet no penalty. What is the reason? I will tell you. The point is this: Sixty-four Roman soldiers were placed there to watch that sepulcher. The law said to them, ‘It is your business to keep the body, not to allow any one to take it, not to go to sleep on duty.’ But something happened. The sepulcher was empty. The soldiers immediately ran and told the Sanhedrin that the angel came down and drove them away and broke the seal. As soon as the Sanhedrin heard that, they said, ‘Well, suppose that the angel did drive you away, suppose they did break the seal, don’t you see that you must die’? The seal is broken, the body is gone; therefore, death is your penalty. But listen to us. If you will say that you went to sleep on duty, and that while you slept the disciples came and stole the body, we will secure you from penalty.’ ‘But,’ said the soldiers, Death is the penalty for going to sleep on duty, hence we must die anyway.’ ‘But,’ said the court, ‘if you will tell that you won’t have to die, but if you will not say that, then death is certain.’ So it simply meant to lie or die. Think of it, sixty-four big Roman soldiers telling sixty-four big lies to save their lives. If that is not the truth in the case, I challenge any man on earth to tell me the truth in the case.
“3. I deny this allegation again on the ground of premeditated and unpremeditated testimony. Go with me to that courtroom yonder, and see the lawyers as they cross-question the witness. One lawyer fires questions at him and they are answered as fast as they are asked; then another lawyer takes the witness in hand for a cross- question. The answers are not the same. The first was unpremeditated, the second are pre meditated. Now when the judge instructs the jury, will he tell them to accept the premeditated, or the unpremeditated testimony? Every person understands that the value of unpremeditated testimony is far better. As soon as the angel came, the soldiers scattered. They ran to the scribes and Pharisees and told them what had happened; this was their unpremeditated testimony. The Sanhedrin said, ‘If you tell that, you must die; say his disciples stole him away while we slept, then we will persuade the governor and secure you.’ So to save their lives, they change the story, and give their premeditated testimony. Now for these three reasons, I affirm that the body of Jesus was not stolen.
“We have already studied this question from the standpoint of a lawyer, in the light of Roman law. Now we want to notice five things that one must believe, in order to believe that the body of Christ was stolen. These people affirm nothing, but deny everything. They are not constructive, but destructive. They must believe all that the negative of this case implies.
“1. They must believe sixty-four Roman soldiers under the penalty of death all slept at once. You cannot make any man on earth out side of a lunatic asylum believe that. Suppose death is the penalty for going to sleep on duty. Suppose twenty of them go to sleep. Will the other forty-four let them sleep right on? Suppose that sixty-three of them go to sleep. Will the other one who loves these men as he does himself, and who understands that if a sentinel comes around and discovers them, that those men must all die, will he let them sleep on? You cannot make anyone believe that sixty-four Roman soldiers, under penalty of death, watching only six hours at a time, would all go to sleep at once.
“2. They must accept the testimony of the sleepers. Suppose that my watch was stolen from my room last night, and I should go before the officers and declare that twelve certain men took it? They would ask me if I saw them, and I would have to say, ‘No, I did not.’ ‘Well, then, how do you know that they took your watch?’ ‘Well, they wanted it, and they came and took it while I was sleeping.’ ‘Which one of those men opened the door? And which of them picked up your watch? And where is the watch now?’ ‘I don’t know; you see, I was asleep.’ And those Roman soldiers: ‘Did you see those disciples when they stole that body? Which one of them broke the Roman seal?’ There was penalty of death for that. ‘You see, we can’t tell, because f they did it while we were asleep.’ If those disciples had broken that seal and taken the body, they would have suffered for it in that blood thirsty city. There is no court, on earth that would accept the testimony of those sleepers, yet so-called infidels claim to believe it.
“3. They must believe that the disciples who were so afraid, all at once became tremendously bold. Peter, the bravest of them all, stole away and denied Jesus three times when there was no special danger at all. The other disciples had deserted him, only John proving true to the end. Now, with all those soldiers armed to the teeth, watching for their approach, what is the result The infidel claims that they did become very suddenly bold. Inconsistent.
“4. Again, they must believe that these thieves took plenty of time to fold up the grave clothes, and place them neatly to one side. Is that the way thieves do things But infidelity must believe that those who stole the body of Jesus did just that way.
“5. They must also believe that those disciples would risk their lives for a dead impostor, when they would not for a living Savior. In other words, when they had a chance to rush forward and take Jesus from the mob that was gathering about him they did not do it, but as soon as Jesus was dead, and buried away, they jeopardize their lives to get his dead body. Infidels would have us believe that those disciples would risk more and attempt more for a dead impostor than they would for a living Redeemer.
“Those disciples were not at this time the kind of men that would run any risk with a Ro man guard.
“You will be safe in submitting the whole case upon this proposition: If those disciples did steal the body of Jesus, how did they put life into it? For Jesus was certainly alive after all this. I may not be constituted right; if not, it is my misfortune, but if I have a religion at all, I must see some reason in it.
“General Lew Wallace said, ‘After giving six years to the impartial investigation of Christianity, for the purpose of ascertaining its truth or falsity, I have come to this conclusion: Jesus is not only a Christ, but the Christ, and my risen Savior. When that fact was settled in my mind, I wrote Ben Hur.’ That kind of testimony ought to be worth something.
“Christian evidence is not filled up with dreams. The gospel of Christ is not made up of things that happened in the dark. It did not commence its progress in some remote corner of the earth, but what is acknowledged by all to be the most enlightened age of antiquity, the Augustinian age, and in the most populous and polished cities of that age, such as Antioch, Athens, Corinth, Damascus, Ephesus and Rome. The apostles traveled over classic ground and established Christian churches in the land of Cicero, Euclid and Pericles.
“There are many historical facts in the world that were not attended by one-tenth as many witnesses as was the resurrection o! Jesus Christ. As examples, I might speak of the birth of princes, the signing of treaties, the remarks of cabinet officers and the deeds of assassins. I say that these great events that men receive upon testimony and accept as facts, these have not had one-tenth the witnesses as had the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, I need not beg everybody’s pardon for what I believe. I believe with all my heart that Jesus the Christ is risen indeed. I believe that he was seen after his resurrection by 641 eye-witnesses. I believe that he was seen eleven different times by men of different vocations. During those forty days, Jesus appeared to different men under different circumstances at various places. He ate with them, walked with them, and talked with them. They positively could not have been deceived; such deception would have been beyond a parallel in history, and without an analogy in the annals of men, because they had been intimately acquainted with him be fore his crucifixion and death. Christ’s enemies became the charter members of his church in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Account for that fact if you deny the resurrection. The doctrine of the Resurrection is thoroughly established, and can never be overthrown.
CHRIST DIED FOR ALL, BUT SAVES BELIEVERS ONLY
The Scriptures clearly teach that Christ tasted death for every man, and that he was the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. This is taught in the following Scripture (Heb. 2:9), “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (1 John 2:2). “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
It will be observed that Christ in his death satisfied the demands of the divine law and made it possible for every man to be saved who will accept salvation on the terms of the gospel, and so offers salvation to all. He says, “whosoever will may come,” and “him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” says Jesus. Salvation is not universal, but the offer of salvation is universal. Jesus came “not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Yet only those who believe in Christ as Savior and Lord are saved. “He that believeth not shall be damned.” Christ in his death provided a plan of salvation sufficient for all, but efficient for believers only.