Saturday, November 02, 2013

Moral and not official

The sixth of six summings-up that P T Forsyth gives in the sixth chapter of his book, The Work of Christ (pages 151/2). There is a seventh, much longer, point, which I won't include here. 

Another thing may perhaps be taken as recognised in some form by the main line of judicious advance in our subject. The work of Christ was moral and not official.  It was the energy and victory of his own moral personality, and not simply the filling of a position, the discharge of an office he held. His victory was not due to his rank, but to his will and conscience. It lay in his faithfulness to the uttermost amid temptations morally real and psychologically relevant to what he was. It was a work that drew on his whole personality as a moral necessity of it. What he did he did not simply in the room and stead of others. He did it as a necessity of his own person also - though its effect for them was not what it was for him. He fulfilled an obligation under which his own personality lay; he did not simply pay the debts of other people. He fulfilled a personal vocation. 
And his faithfulness was not only to a vocation. It was to a special vocation, that of redeemer, not merely a saint. The immediate source of his suffering was not the sight of human sin, and it was not a general holiness in him. It was not the quivering of the saint's purity at the touch of evil. But it was the suffering of one who touched sin as the redeemer. He would not have suffered for sin as he did, had he not faced it as its destroyer. Not only was this his vocation as a moral hero, but his special vocation as Saviour. It was the work of a moral personality at the heart of the race, of one who concentrated on a special yet universal task - that of redemption. 
His perfection was not that of a paragon, one who could do better what every soul and genius of the race could do well. He was not all the powers and excellencies of mankind rolled into one superman. But his perfection was that of the race's redeemer. It was inferior to all other powers and achievements.It was central both for God and man. He made man's centre and God's coincide. He took mankind at its centre and laid it on the centre of God. His identification with man was not extensive but intensive, it was not discursive and parallel, so to say. It was morally central and creative. He was not humanity on its divine side; he was its new life from the inside. The problem he had to solve was the supreme and central moral problem of guilt; and the work could only be done by the native action of a personality moral in its nature and methods, moral to the pitch of the Holy.
It is an immense gain thus to construe Christs' work as that of a moral personality instead of a heavenly functionary. It brings it into line with the modern mind and into organic union with the moral problem of the race. It enables us to realise that every step of the moral victory in his life was a step also in the redemption of the whole human conscience. And we grasp with a new power the idea that his crowning victory of the Cross was the victory in principle of the whole race in him - that justification is really one with reconciliation, and what he did before God contained all he was to do on man. It makes possible for us what my last lecture will attempt to indicate - a unitary view of his whole work and person. 

Graphic courtesy of Jeanie Rhoades/Thought Collage.

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