The morality of the religions of evolution drives men forward in the God quest by the motive power of fear. The religions of revelation allure men to seek for a God of love because they crave to become like him. But religion is not merely a passive feeling of “absolute dependence” and “surety of survival”; it is a living and dynamic experience of divinity attainment predicated on humanity service.
The great and immediate service of true religion is the establishment of an enduring unity in human experience, a lasting peace and a profound assurance. With primitive man, even polytheism is a relative unification of the evolving concept of Deity; polytheism is monotheism in the making. Sooner or later, God is destined to be comprehended as the reality of values, the substance of meanings, and the life of truth.
God is not only the determiner of destiny; he is man’s eternal destination. All nonreligious human activities seek to bend the universe to the distorting service of self; the truly religious individual seeks to identify the self with the universe and then to dedicate the activities of this unified self to the service of the universe family of fellow beings, human and superhuman.
The domains of philosophy and art intervene between the nonreligious and the religious activities of the human self. Through art and philosophy the material-minded man is inveigled into the contemplation of the spiritual realities and universe values of eternal meanings.
All religions teach the worship of Deity and some doctrine of human salvation. The Buddhist religion promises salvation from suffering, unending peace; the Jewish religion promises salvation from difficulties, prosperity predicated on righteousness; the Greek religion promised salvation from disharmony, ugliness, by the realization of beauty; Christianity promises salvation from sin, sanctity; Mohammedanism provides deliverance from the rigorous moral standards of Judaism and Christianity. The religion of Jesus is salvation from self, deliverance from the evils of creature isolation in time and in eternity.
The Hebrews based their religion on goodness; the Greeks on beauty; both religions sought truth. Jesus revealed a God of love, and love is all-embracing of truth, beauty, and goodness.
The Zoroastrians had a religion of morals; the Hindus a religion of metaphysics; the Confucianists a religion of ethics. Jesus lived a religion of service. All these religions are of value in that they are valid approaches to the religion of Jesus. Religion is destined to become the reality of the spiritual unification of all that is good, beautiful, and true in human experience.
The Greek religion had a watchword “Know yourself”; the Hebrews centered their teaching on “Know your God”; the Christians preach a gospel aimed at a “knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ”; Jesus proclaimed the good news of “knowing God, and yourself as a son of God.” These differing concepts of the purpose of religion determine the individual’s attitude in various life situations and foreshadow the depth of worship and the nature of his personal habits of prayer. The spiritual status of any religion may be determined by the nature of its prayers.
The concept of a semihuman and jealous God is an inevitable transition between polytheism and sublime monotheism. An exalted anthropomorphism is the highest attainment level of purely evolutionary religion. Christianity has elevated the concept of anthropomorphism from the ideal of the human to the transcendent and divine concept of the person of the glorified Christ. And this is the highest anthropomorphism that man can ever conceive.
The Christian concept of God is an attempt to combine three separate teachings:
1. The Hebrew concept—God as a vindicator of moral values, a righteous God.
2. The Greek concept—God as a unifier, a God of wisdom.
3. Jesus’ concept—God as a living friend, a loving Father, the divine presence.
It must therefore be evident that composite Christian theology encounters great difficulty in attaining consistency. This difficulty is further aggravated by the fact that the doctrines of early Christianity were generally based on the personal religious experience of three different persons: Philo of Alexandria, Jesus of Nazareth, and Paul of Tarsus.
In the study of the religious life of Jesus, view him positively. Think not so much of his sinlessness as of his righteousness, his loving service. Jesus upstepped the passive love disclosed in the Hebrew concept of the heavenly Father to the higher active and creature-loving affection of a God who is the Father of every individual, even of the wrongdoer.