Sunday, June 27, 2010

Somewhere Between Easter And Pentecost: A Word From E. Stanley Jones

E. Stanley Jones is a name not as well known as it should be among modern day followers of John Wesley.  Jones was one of Asbury College's most illustrious graduates.  He served as a missionary to India for over 60 years.  He wrote several books that will be featured on this blog in the future.  The following passages are from the first 100 pages of Jones' book "The Christ of Every Road: A Study in Pentecost" published in 1930:

"...we can see at a glance that the center of that situation is a demand for experience.  If that be true, then it heads us straight toward Pentecost, where experience becomes immediate, living, morally and spiritually transforming, God-filled, aflame and adequate to meet life.  At Pentecost, Jesus' announcement of the central purpose of his coming was fulfilled: 'I am come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.'  They had life and they had it abundantly.  And life is the one thing a seemingly living world needs...

"The first Hindu youth I talked to after my return to India said very thoughtfully: 'India has everything but life.  You Christians have it.'  But have we?  Potentially, yes.  Actually, I question.

"At Pentecost potential life and actual life were fused into a living whole...I believe that to be the dominant need of our age...Pentecost, the meeting and fusing of potential and actual life.

"If the whole demand for experience leads us straight toward Pentecost, candor compels me to say that the Church is not living in Pentecost.  It is living between Easter and Pentecost.  Easter stands for the life wrought out, offered; Pentecost stands for life appropriated, lived to its full, unafraid and clearly and powerfully witnessing to an adequate way of human living.  The Church stands hesitant between the two.  Hesitant hence comparitively impotent.  Something big has dawned on its thinking--Christ has lived, taught, died and risen again and has commisioned the Church with the amazing Good News.  But something big has yet to dawn in the very structure, makeup, and temper of the life of the Church--Pentecost.  Easter has dawned: Pentecost has not.  If the Church would move up from that between-state to Pentecost, nothing could stop it--nothing!!

"Imagine the early Church with Pentecost eliminated.  Imagine those men going out to interpret that wonderful message, but themselves not inwardly corresponding with the message!  That hiatus would have been their paralysis.  It is ours.  Pentecost made the man and the message one, hence their power.  We cannot imagine the Church with Pentecost eliminated.  For there would have been no Church.  Here the Church was born.  True, there had been a period of gestation, for this holy thing lay within the womb of the purpose of God and was nourished by the life and teachings of Christ; the Cross was the birth-pain; Easter heralded the coming birth, but Pentecost was the birthday.  On that day was born a New Humanity.  A new type of human being came into existence as different from ordinary humanity as ordinary humanity is different from the animal.

"...It was evening on that day, 'the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.'  A Church behind closed doors!  A Church living between Easter and Pentecost is always behind closed doors.  They had ringing in their ear the most gracious word that ever broke into human life--the gospel; they had seen the most perfect exhibition of living that this planet has known--His life; they had witnessed earth's most terrific and decisive moral struggle--his death; they had found their sadness turned into joy over the most transforming and astonishing fact in history--his resurrection; they had seen wounds that would heal wounds, a death that would banish death, a resurrection that would raise a new world to life; they had looked into that face, so tender, so triumphant, and had heard him commission them to go share this with the world, and what had they done?  With all this back of them, what had they done?  They had shut themselves behind closed doors for fear.  They had the message the world needed and awaited, the one message that would heal the sin-hurt world, and yet that message was shut-up behind closed doors.  The only power that could and did get them out from behind closed doors and loose them and their message upon the world was Pentecost.  It was not enough for them to see Him and hear him say, 'Peace be with you: As my Father sent me, even so I send you.'  His presence and his commission did not get them out.  Only Pentecost got them out.  For up to Pentecost the whole thing was on the outside of them, objective, something spoken, acted before them.  It wasn't in them.  At Pentecost this gospel came within them, became identical with them, --what they had heard and seen and what they were became one, hence they became irresistable apostles of a mighty passion.  The Church today is behind closed doors for fear.  Pentecost has not closed the hiatus between its message and what it is, so with resources too inadequate to face life it closes the doors for fear.

"How few in the Church share their personal spiritual experience with others!  And yet that was the basis upon which the whole method of evangelism was founded in the early Church.  'There is no doubt,' says Harnack, 'that the early Church won all its victories by informal missionaries...

"But today we find it easier to pay the minister to be our proxy.  It is easier--and more deadly.  The Church becomes a field instead of a force for evangelism.  And that field soon becomes dry and dead, for it is a law of the mind that that which is not expressed dies.  All expression deepens impression.  As someone has put it, 'Impression minus expresion equals depression.'  Our Churches are filled with spiritual depression because there is little spiritual expression.  'No virtue is safe that is not enthusiastic, no heart is pure that is not passionate,' no Christianity is Christian that is not Christianizing.

" 'I was afraid, and went and hid my talent,' said the man in the parable.  Fear had paralyzed him.  He remained an undeveloped spiritual being because his spiritual life was unshared.  Our Churches are filled with spiritual dwarfs for the same reason.  We call it reticence; its real name is barreness.  We need nothing so much as we need a passionate personal evangelism that will take men out from behind closed doors and impel 'each one to reach one.'

"Nothing will be more tragic to the Church and to the world than for the Church to close itself up, encase itself in its own interior activities, while the great stream of the world's life flows past it and the Church is not at its center.  Our one problem is to loose our gospel upon the world.

"I see nothing, absolutely nothing, that will get the Church of today from behind closed doors except it be this one thing--Pentecost.  Increase the ornateness of its ritual as you will, improve the quality and quantity of its religious education as you may, raise the standards of qualifications of the ministry as high as you can, pour money without stint into the coffers of the Church--give it everything--except this one thing that Pentecost gave, and you are merely ornamenting the dead.  Until this sacred Fact takes place, preaching is only lecturing, praying is only repeating formulas, services cease to be service--it all remains earthbound, circumscribed, inadequate, dead.  Those penetrating words are true: 'When the Holy Ghost departs from any set of opinions, or form of character, they wither like a sapless tree.'

"...Pentecostalism has hurt Pentecost very badly.  The queer have 'queered' Pentecost for us.  So much so that one is tempted to leave out the word altogether.  But words as well as people need to be redeemed.  The Church is largely responsible for this situation, for in neglecting this most essential part of the gospel the hungry-hearted have gone off into irresponsible groups.  Hence rampant emotionalism has often been identified with Pentecost.  And the thinking mind of this age is rather hard on religion as rampant emotionalism.  They ask the searching questions, 'What is the emotion worth?' 'How does it issue in character?' The tragedy of all this is that we cannot do without emotion in religion.  Emotion is the wind that fills the sails of the soul and drives it to its destination.  I am not afraid of the winds of heaven filling the sails of my soul, provided there is a Hand on the rudder--provided He has my will and my intelligence as well as my emotion.  But an over emphasis on emotion in these groups has made the Church react against religion in terms of emotion.  This reaction has brought on an appalling sterility and spiritual deadness in the Church.  Spiritual anaemia has set in.

"Did Jesus ever speak in tongues?  Did he ever go off into any visions or dreams?  Did he ever traffic in the merely mysterious or occult?  Was there anything psycopathic about him?  Was he not always poised, always balanced, always sane?  Was he not always for the essential, the worthwhile?  Was he ever misled by a subordinate issue or did he ever take a bypath?  Was there about him any rampant emotionalism?  He was indeed tremendously emotional, but was it not restrained and directed emotion--directed toward human need?  To ask these questions is to answer them.  Then why is it that, with Christ as the essence of poise and balance and with the Spirit as a Christlike Spirit, we have the fear that to be filled with the spirit is to border on the queer?"

E. Stanley Jones is a favorite author of one of my Wesley Biblical Seminary professors, Matt FriedemanHere are some quotes from Jones in articles appearing on Dr. Friedeman's blog.    

2 comments:

Robert said...

Hi Rev. Guthrie,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments regarding my post at the FRC Blog on the late Sen. Byrd. I appreciate your interaction and certainly agree that Democrats have no corner on "pork" - as you note, Trent Lott (and Bob Dole) prove that. Please let me know if I might ever be of assistance, and thank you for your faithful work for our Lord and His kingdom. Warmly in Christ, Rob Schwarzwalder

Mr. Guthrie said...

Rob, thanks for responding to my post.