Our Faith by Emil Brunner
Emil Brunner is one of the great systematic theologians of the early twentieth century. Our Faith was translated by John W. Rilling, and published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1954. This book prepared for Religion Online by Paul Mobley.
Chapter 32: The Future
The Christian faith is distinguished from all other faiths in that it knows that God is coming. That God shall come to His people is the great theme of the Old Testament; and the first word of the New Testament hails Him, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." The whole long record closes with the beautiful prayer, "Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!" The proclamation of the coming reign of God is the Gospel, and the assurance of future salvation and eternal completion is the Christian faith.
The great human sorrow is hopelessness, and hopelessness reigns wherever men do not know that God is coming, for hopelessness muses, the world cannot be helped and I cannot be helped. To be sure people do hope, but they hope only for the "improvement" which comes with development. One hopes in the "healthy kernel" the "good forces operative in us" and the like. Such hope is no real hope. If we must rely solely upon our own potencies, on the powers latent in the world, we are lost. Development of our own strength or release of the energies of the universe cannot redeem us from the corruption that death and sin signify. If we are to rely solely upon ourselves, what is in us and in the world, then everything still ends in one great bankruptcy.
The Bible tells us we are not thrown upon our own resources. The world is not "closed" but open to God. You are not isolated, but open in God's direction; or rather, God relieves your isolation. God breaks into the world. He breaks open the dungeon to release the languishing prisoners and bring them to the light of day. He comes to His corrupt creation to restore its original goodness and to perfect it. God comes to you to save you! When we hear that proclamation two questions arise, How does this happen, and how does one know it is so? Both questions have one answer, Jesus Christ. Because we know Jesus Christ, we know what is meant by the coming of God, the new redemption. And because we know Jesus Christ we know that this redemption is really true. We are not speaking of theories or of heartening thoughts, but of something that has occurred. "The life was manifested and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us."
God has already come. "The Word became flesh and we beheld His glory." Jesus Christ has become real history, and in him the great new thing has come, a thing that the world does not have, and that you do not possess -- life from God, love, the love of God that forgives us our sin and heals our diseases.
With Jesus came the Kingdom of God. Something new is now in the world that was not previously here, fellowship with God by faith, the peace of God that passes all understanding, life in communion with God and man, a life in the Holy Spirit. There is now a Church of Christ in which he himself is the head and men are the members, head and members united with one another, a "communion of saints" -- men not holy in themselves and by themselves, but made holy by fellowship him. The Kingdom of God actually exists wherever living faith and living love grows out of communion with God.
This new life in God is something infinitely great and precious, this new joy, certainly of God, this new power, new will, new fellowship with one another. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold all things are become new."
This new life does not obliterate, but must abide in the old life. Hence it is a hidden new life, just as the glory of God and the reign of God in Jesus Christ were concealed under the humiliation of a Cross and the form of a servant. The new is in process of becoming, it struggles out of the old. As a clear strong shaft of light is broken and diffused in passing through a dark glass, so the new Christ-life, itself so clear and strong, must yet shine through "the old Adam." "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." We all are, and indeed remain sinners, those who have fellowship with God. We sigh under the burden of our own imperfection, we are shamed again and again by the corruption the old Adam ever holds between us and the new life. We long for perfection, but we know that we must die, and know also that death is simply the judgment upon the old Adam, the old nature we ever carry about with us. The Kingdom of God has not yet come in its fullness. We therefore look into the future, God's future. What we already have is just the pledge of what is to come. But what will come is not "something" but He Himself. Without the prospect of the future there remains only illusion or despair. Illusions that delude us about the frailty of our present possessions, despair that shuts out the hope for the future. Faith is not merely an uncertain longing, an indefinite expectation, but the soul's open window to the future, the glad assurance of that which is promised us in Christ. Such is the true Christian nature which is born of God; it "waits upon God."