Signs of the Times

[From "The Proposed Creedal Basis of Christian Reunion," by C. J. Cadoux, Yorkshire United Independent College, Bradford, England, in The Journal of Religion]

The analogy drawn between the church and an ordinary human association is misleading. What is true of the tennis club is not necessarily true of the church. For the church is universal and divine; and the conditions of its life are inward and spiritual, and therefore not such as can be judged and tested by others in a final way like the payment of a subscription. But Dr. Headlam does not touch the true basis of the non-creedal position. This position is not, "The Bible, and the Bible only, and therefore not the Creed," but, "Neither the Bible nor the Creed as an ultimate authority, but both the Bible and the Creed as valuable 'sources' to be studied by the light of God's Spirit operating within us." This raises the question of the nature of ultimate authority in religion.

Owing to a natural craving for infallible and objective standards, and a horror of being too individualistic and too subjective, we often fail to see that the real foundation of religious authority is an inward and personal one, planted in that one region where God and ourselves come into immediate contact, the testimony of His Spirit in our own hearts. Why do we value the Bible above other books? Not because others do so, for on that ground we might equally well follow the Koran. Surely only because God's Spirit within us enables us to recognize the divine finger-print in so many parts of the Bible. Why do we extol Christ Jesus above all others? Not because high claims have been made by him and for him, for the same could be said of Bar-kokba and Buddha; but because the divine in us reechoes, tallies with, and testifies to, the divine in him. And why do we believe in a creed? Not because it was carried unanimously at some early Christian synod, assembled under the shadow of an emperor's palace, and was then bolstered into general acceptance by the violent arm of the law; but only because or in so far as the divine Spirit, operating within us, prompts us to recognize and accept that statement as true. When, therefore, it is said, by the Lambeth Conference, that the Scriptures are the ultimate standard of faith, the statement is inexact; for if a standard is really ultimate, you have no right to pronounce one part of it more important or authoritative than another. We all do that with Scripture, whatever our theory of inspiration. But whoever does it introduces at once a more ultimate standard than Scripture itself; he introduces, that is, his own power—the gift of the Holy Spirit—of discerning divine truth in what is external and objective. Thus he who reproaches others with "picking and choosing what suits them" is in grave danger of being hoist with his own petard. Therefore "The Bible only, and not the Creed" is an error, because it ignores the real foundation of authority. But, for precisely the same reason, to make a written creed the final court of appeal is also an error....

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January 21, 1922

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