Warfield on “Christianity and Our Times”

Warfield on “Christianity and Our Times”

“Christianity is summed up in the phrase: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world with himself.” Where this great confession is contradicted or neglected, there is no Christianity.” The crisis in Warfield’s day was the reality that much of Christianity had jettisoned the gospel—for a host of reasons, and beyond the scope of Warfield’s answer to the two questions above. May we all be reminded in our increasingly hostile and pagan age, that the gospel our Lord has given us has not lost its power or its relevance.

In 1914, B. B. Warfield was invited to contribute an essay to the volume The Church, the People, and the Age, edited by Scott and Gilmore. There were 105 contributors, each of whom was asked to answer the following questions. 1). Why are so many people indifferent to the claims of Christianity? and 2). Would it be a step forward for the church (and presumably Christianity in general) if the only requirement for church membership was the desire to love God and our neighbor (which, ironically, was a suggestion from Abraham Lincoln fifty years prior). The contributors included Charles Augustus Briggs (who, at the time, was busy undermining the authority of Scripture), as well as German theologian and sycophant to Kaiser Wilhelm throughout the Great War, Adolf von Harnack. Scottish theologian James Orr also contributed a chapter.

The volume was compiled on the eve of the First World War which plunged all of Europe into chaos as “Christian” nations waged brutal war upon each other in the name of preserving Christian civilization. There was obviously a foreboding sense that Christian civilization was on the edge and the editors were seeking a format to discuss and offer solutions.

I’ve not seen the original volume, but my guess is that Warfield’s chapter suggests much different answers to both questions than the majority of contributors. As for the reason why people are indifferent to Christianity, Warfield points what should be obvious to anyone who has read the New Testament. Christianity is for sinners who know they need a Savior. People who sees themselves as capable of loving God and neighbor on their own will remain indifferent to Christ and his gospel.

Warfield writes,

When we are asked why it is that there are so many persons who are indifferent to the claims of the Church, no doubt the safest answer to give is that it is for reasons best known to themselves. It seems, however, only a voluntary humility to profess to be ignorant of the fundamental basis of this indifference; an indifference, let it be well borne in mind, which is in no sense “modern,” but has characterized ever greater numbers as we go back in the history of the Church to the very beginning. It lies in a weak sense of sin and the natural unconcern of men who do not feel themselves sinners with respect to salvation from sin. For Christianity addresses itself only to sinners.

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