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God Our Contemporary by J.B. Phillips


Born in London in 1906, J.B. Phillips was ordained in 1930. In 1940 he became Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd, London. He is noted for his work in the field of Biblical translation, and in particular for two books: Letters to Young Churches and Your God is Too Small. Published by The Macmillan Company, New York. Copyright by J.B. Phillips, 1960. Fifth printing 1966. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


Personal Foreword
Our society is marked by no accepted standard of values beyond the purely material, the false god of success, the lure of glamorized sex, the love of money and the "rat-race" of business or social competition. When the true God is unknown, that combination of awe, love, respect, admiration and wonder, which we call worship, becomes diverted toward human beings who exhibit unusual gifts in the public eye. Without the Spirit of the living God the public conscience is capricious and ill-informed.

Chapter 1: The Time in Which We Live
While achievements in practical and scientific matters has progressed by leaps and bounds, the presentation of the Christian religion is still frequently made in an atmosphere at once stuffy and old-fashioned.

Chapter 2: Faith and Unfaith
The complexities of the modern human scene baffle and bewilder many men and women. They fail to see sense or purpose and are frightened at the new vistas of humna knowledge and power which are continually opening up in a multitude of fields. To them, the church seems almost totally irrelevant, an icon of a bygone age.

Chapter 3: A Plea for Understanding
It is not farfetched to suggest that the depletion of spiritual capital accounts for the breakdown of moral standards in our society. For moral standards ultimately depend upon something transcending the human scene.

Chapter 4: The Inadequacy of Humanism
Science has very little to offer in solving problems of human relationships, even though these are the problems which most need to be solved.

Chapter 5: The Limitations of Science
We all owe an incalculable debt to the science which is applied to our common life. But there are ways of apprehending some kinds of truth which are quite independent of the scientific method. Sometimes these are intuitive and sometimes they are developed by long practice, and of course sometimes they are both.

Chapter 6: The Beginning of Wisdom
There may be suprahuman wisdom, and we might well assume an attitude of wholesome humility when we reflect upon our relative insignificance. Can we not accept the suggestion that there are facts, even "scientific" facts, which we can never know because we are incapable of understanding them?

Chapter 7: The Necessity for True Religion
Too many have allowed themselves to be put off by the hypocrites, the obscurantists and the lovers of power, who exist in any religious system -- as they do elsewhere. The man who possesses a strong religious faith knows very well that there are hundreds of questions which are likely to remain unanswered. But he is in possession of a strong clue to reality and a conviction that he is cooperating with a purpose transcending present observed material phenomena.

Chapter 8: Religion and Modern Knowledge
As modern knowledge advances and hitherto insoluble problems are solved, a good deal of religion will be seen to be based on false premises, to be inadequate for modern conceptions of the universe, or to be little more than a collection of superstitious taboos.

Chapter 9: A New Look at Christianity
It is extraordinary that men and women of unusual ability in their respective spheres have rarely taken the trouble to give their adult attention to such a unique way of life as that proposed by Jesus Christ. Each one of us must eventually face the real issue, which is quite simply: do I believe after adult examination of the evidence that Jesus Christ was what he claimed to be, or am I prepared to assert quite definitely that he was wrong in his major claims and that, though much of his teaching is beautiful, he himself was a self-deceived fanatic?

Chapter 10: The Question of Probability
All turns upon whether the "resurrection" really and objectively occurred. The claims of Jesus to represent the character of God, his claim to be the master of men and of their ultimate destiny, and his claim to be sent by God to effect the reconciliation between man and God would remain as the lunatic arrogance of a disordered mind if everything ended in the judicial murder of a field-preacher on a Roman Cross.

Chapter 11: The Crucial Issue
Unless we are prepared to deny the historical evidence altogether, all of Jesus' qualities spring from one unforgettable demonstration -- that after a public execution Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. To the early Church this well attested fact proved his claims to the hilt.

Chapter 12: Returning to the Source
Since modern man, for various reasons, is almost completely out of touch with the life and activity of the alert contemporary Church, he must be urged to go back and consider the act of divine initiative on which all Christian conceptions finally rest, before he can fairly observe any contemporary Church.

Chapter 13: Christian Revelation
For Christianity, although it is a religion in the sense that it links the life of man with the Life of God, it is far more than one of the world’s great faiths. It is the revelation of the way of true living.

Chapter 14: Some Criticisms of Christianity (1)
There are those who are filled with admiration for Christ’s demonstrated way of self-giving love, and of his personal non-resistance to the forces of evil. But in practice they may have serious doubts about the efficacy of such methods.

Chapter 15: Some Criticisms of Christianity (2)
The Christian Faith is sometimes criticized because it depends entirely upon an old-fashioned conception of God and upon the assumption that this little planet is the center of the whole universe.

Chapter 16: Problems of Suffering and Evil (1)
Evil is inherent in the risky gift of free will. There is an apparent flagrant injustice in the distribution of suffering. The man who has the attitude of mind which is rooted in eternity is neither deceived by the illusive glamours of this world nor unduly cast down by the unexplained suffering and the unsolved problems which confront him on all sides.

Chapter 17: Problems of Suffering and Evil (2)
To connect human disease with human sin is misleading. This question of the physical evil in the world leads us naturally on to the question of moral evil, which poses at least as difficult a question, even though it is sometimes argued that they are but different manifestations of the same thing. It seems to have been proved within out time that the problem of human evil is not much affected by better education, better housing, higher wages, and holidays with pay -- desirable as all these things may be for other good reasons.

Chapter 17: Problems of Suffering and Evil (2)
To connect human disease with human sin is misleading. This question of the physical evil in the world leads us naturally on to the question of moral evil, which poses at least as difficult a question, even though it is sometimes argued that they are but different manifestations of the same thing. It seems to have been proved within out time that the problem of human evil is not much affected by better education, better housing, higher wages, and holidays with pay -- desirable as all these things may be for other good reasons.

Chapter 18: The Challenge to Living
If we take Christ seriously we cannot avoid the conclusion that our status in the next stage of existence will be largely determined by our behavior in this one. Yet Christ nowhere suggests that we should be "good," unselfish and loving merely because we shall thereby win a heavenly reward. Nor does he suggest that we should avoid evil merely because we shall otherwise suffer for it hereafter. No one who has seriously put his faith in Christ’s revelation ever wants to go back to a blind and purposeless existence.

Chapter 19: The Missing Dimension
Christianity is an invitation to true living, and its truth is endorsed only by actual experience. When a man becomes a committed Christian he sooner or later sees the falsity, the illusions, and the limitations of the humanist geocentric way of thinking.

Chapter 20: Re-presenting Christianity
We must seize every modern means of communication for re-presenting Christianity. The pressing task is quite simply to tell people what the basic content of Christianity is, and to give them some information of what the Christian Church is achieving in the face of ignorance, fear, disease and sheer physical human need in many parts of the world.

Chapter 21: Christ and the Church
Accepting the divine entry of God into human history through the man Jesus Christ explains the extraordinary strength and resilience of the Christian Church, and also why it is a mistake to regard it as a purely human organization of those who happen to share the same religious views.

Conclusion
The trend of modern thought, with its concentration upon making the most of this present life and the tacit assumption that death means extinction, makes it particularly easy for people to disbelieve in, or to ridicule, life after death. But historically, it is the conviction of unseen realities which has given men and women invincible strength.

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