P. T. Forsyth is rousing my theological interest on a number of fronts at the moment. I am desperate to read his Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind, but only have a flaky copy on my computer, and that won’t do. Nevertheless, do not feel sorry for me. I found this paradigm changing comment Forsyth made in his book The Work of Christ, which is a more realistic antidote to the terrible Christian fetish in the western world with numbers, growth and success. Ian Stackhouse, a Baptist minister in Guildford, UK, specifically writes about this problem, in his excellent book The Gospel-Driven Church and to a certain extent his recent (and most excellent) Primitive Piety; and part of his response and solution is found in the sheer brilliance of the writings of P. T. Forsyth.
Anyway, below is a snippet that re-paradigms us as Christians who claim not only to ‘be transformed in the renewing of our minds’ but also to have ‘the mind of Christ’, and to consider a little less triumphantly, and a little more soberly, the actual reality of what it means for Christ to rule the human heart…..
“Christ, with the demand for saving obedience, arouses antagonism in the human heart. And so will the Church that is faithful to Him. You hear people saying, If only the Church had been true to Christ’s message it would have done wonders for the world. If only Christ were preached and practised in all His simplicity to the world, how fast Christianity would spread. Would it? Do you really find that the deeper you get into Christ and the meaning of His demands Christianity spreads faster in your heart? Is it not very much the other way?
When it comes to close quarters you have actually to be got down and broken, that the old man may be pulverised and the new man created from the dust. Therefore when we hear people abusing the Church and its history the first thing we have to say is, Yes, there is a great deal too much truth in what you say, but there is also a greater truth which you are not allowing for, and it is this. One reason why the Church has been so slow in its progress in mankind and its effect on human history is because it has been so faithful to Christ, so faithful to His Cross.
You have to subdue the most intractable, difficult, and slow thing in the world — man’s self-will. You cannot expect rapid successes if you truly preach the Cross whereon Christ died, and which He surmounted not simply by leaving it behind but by rising again, and converting the very Cross into a power and glory. Christ arouses antagonism in the human heart and heroism does not. Everybody welcomes a hero. The minority welcome Christ.”
P. T. Forsyth
The Work of Christ (1910)
Wipf & Stock, 1996, pp. 20-21