Wayne Ferguson has offered to share with us several posts from the blog Getting to Know Jesus in the 21st Century. In the introduction to the blog, he writes:
The purpose of this blog, and the little book after which it is named, is to point— more or less directly, by means of traditional modes of Christian discourse —to the “I Am” presence which is Christ-in-you, while sidestepping, insofar as possible, both dogmatic beliefs and skeptical critiques, each of which have their place, but both of which can be very distracting.
All that is necessary, at this point, is to simply feel the “I Am” presence in the stillness of the present moment—in the space between the out-breath and in-breath, for example, or in the silence between each heartbeat. “Be still and know that I Am God” (Psalms 46:10).
The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).
Clearly, the worship described by Jesus in these verses suggests an authentic, living faith that is truly universal. By its very nature it reaches across cultures and transcends ethnic and sectarian divisions. But what are we to think of those who lived before Jesus or who have never heard the name of Christ? Are they excluded from salvation history? Have they no access to the truth? Have they no spiritual inheritance to claim?
While the advent of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth is a clear and world-historic revelation, it can be seen, with just a bit of reflection, that the truth of Christ and the gift of God in Christ is not confined to Christendom or to the Christian era, but is universally accessible in that hour which, as we shall show, is always coming, here and now. Indeed, the universality of this truth is illustrated, in part, by these various remarks by Jesus concerning Abraham and the resurrection:
Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I Am.” (John 8:56-58)….
In short, Jesus IS and those of any era who, like Abraham, truly believe God can be said to see His day and to have eternal life in Him….
Still, for the truth of Christ to be truly universal, it would seem that the grace of God that is found in Christ must, in some sense, appear to all human beings, whether or not they ever hear the story of Jesus, per se (cf. Titus 2:11), and whether or not they, through the eyes of faith, actually see His day, as Abraham did.
And, indeed—with all due respect to the profound significance and inestimable value of the New Testament teachings and the Christian culture that grew out of them—the true universality of the story of Jesus is borne out by its inner truth (or archetypical significance). For there is a sense in which the gospel is true even if Jesus of Nazareth had never existed.
That is—just as 2 + 2 = 4, whether or not we ever see it WRIT LARGE, so to speak—there is a sense in which it can be said at all times and in all places that:
[Christ] was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name: Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:10-13).
The passion of Jesus, as represented in the New Testament, is this universal truth WRIT LARGE. But the purpose of the written word is to point to the living Word. And, as we have shown elsewhere…, our point of contact with the living Word is the “I Am” presence within us — that Divine presence which is truly universal — the light that lights everyone who comes into the world (John 1:2, 9).
As such, whoever we are—and whenever or wherever we may have been born—if we remain ignorant of the truth about our origin and our destiny, it is only because we neglect or reject the One in whom we live and move and have our being:
Indeed he is not far from each one of us. . . . as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring” (Acts 17:27-28).
Indeed, there is to be found in every culture and among every people some recognition of this truth. And just as it is written in our scriptures that God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4), not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance (II Peter 3:9), it is also clear— from a wide variety of pre-Christian and non-Christian traditions —that by virtue of our very existence as human beings, we have a Divine calling and that, in fact, whosoever will may come (see Interfaith Accents).
As it is written,
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me (Revelation 3:20; cf. 22:17).
“Refiner’s fire” from “Is it Time to Strip Quakerism Naked?,” by Jon Watts.