Is world flight the answer to the Christian’s life in the midst of a world of sin and wickedness? We have found that it is not.
There is another solution to this problem that has been proposed. This solution speaks of the view which a Christian must take of the world and life as being the attempt on his part to make a Christian world. And now I do not refer particularly to the position of Post-millennialism which speaks of making this world the kingdom of Christ, but rather I refer to the erroneous notion that we must make Christian things in the world. In distinction from wicked men, we must make Christian automobiles, Christian television sets, Christian radios and Christian houses.
This is, of course impossible. Sin is not in things as such, but neither is grace. To quote again from “The Christian and Culture,” “I do not have to call special attention to the fact that grace does not change this situation as long as we are in the world. The Christian lives in the same world as the ungodly, and he must work with the same material. Even as sin could not and did not fundamentally and essentially change the world, so grace does not renew and regenerate it. What is changed in the Christian is his heart…The Christian is therefore not of this world, though he is in the world. But this is true only in spiritual principle and through faith in Jesus Christ. All other things remain the same. The Christian, as long as he is in this world, still has (his) old nature, in which are the motions of sin and that is subject to death and corruption. And who can see that there is any difference between the righteous and the unrighteous? The grave is the earthly end of them both. Both are subject to the same vanity. And the Christian lives and moves and labors in the same old world, upon which rests the curse of God and that is the bondage of corruption. And he also must work with the materials at hand. He does not go out of the world. There is no antithesis between nature and grace, even though we remember that nature bears the curse and is in the bondage of corruption… In the formal sense of the word it would be as absurd to speak of a specific Christian culture as it would be to speak of Christian digestive organs, Christian octaves in music, Christian organs and pianos, Christian colors and perspective in painting, Christian equations or triangles in mathematics, etc. In the same world and with the same means does the Christian live and work with the ungodly.” pp. 13, 14.
AN ELEMENT OF TRUTH
But nevertheless, in this view there is an element of truth. I would like to mention two things in particular which concern as at this point. In the first place, it is certainly true that the automobile made by an ungodly man is identical in every respect to the automobile made by a Christian man. And perhaps this can be said about all that a man does with his hands. With the power with which he has been endowed he makes all kinds of things in the world which whether made by a believer or an unbeliever are identical in every respect. But just as soon as we speak of things by which he expresses the thoughts and feelings, the desires and emotions that live within his heart, we have quite a different thing. When he writes a novel, composes a poem, creates a symphony, draws the plans for some piece of sculpture or architecture, then he expresses in these various works of art thoughts and impulses that live within himself. And when he does this, he always expresses nothing but sin. There is most emphatically room for Christian literature, Christian music, Christian architecture, Christian painting. Would that our own people who have received from their god the gifts to be productive I these fields would do so. The so-called Christian novels that flow in a never ending stream from the publishing houses of the nation are for the most part nothing but sentimental trash, neither novels nor Christian. The church in the past has given us a considerable heritage of Christian music, but there is no reason why we cannot add to it rather than fall into the danger of taking part of many wicked hymns as our heritage to be sung and taught to our children.
In the second place, however, this is not to say even then that there are Christian rules for writing novels, Christian principles of music in the formal sense of the word. It seems necessary at this point to make some distinction. It is perhaps somewhat difficult to describe and name the distinction that I have in mind, but it must certainly be remembered that the knowledge which the world accumulates is in some fundamental way principally different from the knowledge that the church considers her legitimate heritage. Sometimes the distinction is called the difference between “brute fact” and “Truth”. Again the distinction is made between knowledge in the “formal “sense and knowledge in the “material” sense. Whatever terminology is used – and perhaps we ought to settle on some correct words – the distinction is a patent fact. The world steeped in sins and iniquity is capable of positing certain correct ideas which are correct in a formal sense of the word. The geometric axiom that a straight line is the distance between two points is formally correct for the unbeliever and for the believer. The law of the conservation of energy and matter is as true for the infidel as for the righteous in this formal sense of the word. The equations of algebra and trigonometry are not changed when they pass from the hands of a sinner to the hands of a saint.
But this does not mean that when the unbeliever discovers these formally correct principals that he has yet arrived at truth. God alone is truth. And all truth whether in Scripture or creation is the revelation of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no truth apart from Christ. And although in a formal sense these laws and equations these principles and theorems may be correct, they are not true until they are related to God and His revelation. The world principally does nothing but lie. They tell lies, they speak lies they only corrupt the truth and destroy it. It is only when these formally correct statements are taken over by the child of God and integrated with the truth as it is revealed on the pages of Holy Writ that they can really be called truth. This is important to remember, and follow from all that have said. Truth is the possession of the Christian alone who has the truth in his heart, by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
CHRISTIAN OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
What then is our world and life view?
We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. This means that we are the people of God who are chosen to be God’s elect from before the foundation of the world: that we are redeemed with the blood of the cross of Calvary; that we are called by the power of the Spirit through divine grace to a new and heavenly life; that we are made to be citizens of another kingdom which will never be realized on this earth, but which will finally be established when Christ appears in power and glory.
As citizens of this kingdom, we are pilgrims and strangers here below. We have no abiding city here in this world. Each morning when we arise from our beds, we pull up the stakes of our pilgrim’s tents to move another few miles along the road that leads to heaven. Heaven is our goal; the shores of eternity are our destination. Because we are citizens of this kingdom and believe firmly in its triumph, we know that all the world and everything in it will eventually be destroyed. Nothing shall remain of all the works of men. The grave and death, destruction and a horrible conflagration await all men and all things. Nothing here below shall be carried into the new creation. It is all less than vanity and not worthy of a place in the kingdom of our Father. All things shall be made new; nothing shall remain. That alone which shall be preserved and translated into that glorious kingdom of light is the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the people of God.
For that reason too, we seek the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness. This is our only calling. Our concern, our love, our talents, our strength, our resources, our abilities, must be exclusively devoted to the kingdom of heaven. Scripture itself abounds with such admonitions. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3: 1, 2. This is our sole calling in life. We have no other interest at heart than the interest of the kingdom of heaven. We have no other desire than to enter into that kingdom. And in proportion to our interest in these spiritual and heavenly things of that kingdom, we fulfill our calling in the midst of the world.