THE INCLUSIVE WISDOM IN THE CHURCH'S ORGANISATION
Let us look now to the Christian Church in the early time of her
Jesus Christ gave the largest possible scheme on which to work and the largest foundation to build upon. There is no other name in history upon which more has been constructed than upon His name. The primitive Church realised it from the beginning, and declared it. She was inclusive from the first, inclusive in her teaching and worship.
(a) Inclusive in Teaching.--Christ was put in the centre of the world's history. He represented what was the best and highest in Eastern and Western thought. The dream of Messias was the best and highest in the Jewish conception. Well, Jesus was the Messias.
The expectation of a second Adam, the redeemer of the first, sinful Adam, was common among the peoples in Palestine and Mesopotamia. Well, Jesus was the second Adam, the expected Redeemer, God's Messenger.
Egypt had an intuition into the mystery of the Divinity as a Trinity.
However rough may have been that idea, the Trinity being thought of as a human family of Father, Mother, and Son, still it existed very vividly in Egypt. And the people expected the coming of God's only Son, the third person of their Trinity, not an imaginary being like Horus, but the real son of Osiris in flesh and blood who would bring happiness to men. Well, Jesus of Nazareth was this Son of God, and He as Christ was
the eternal sharer of the Divine Trinity.
India was the cradle of the teaching of the Incarnation. The supreme God, Brahma, had already been incarnated in many persons since the dawn of history. But the highest incarnation of Him was still to come. Well, Jesus Christ was this highest incarnation of Brahma in human shape.
The cultivated polytheists did not like the idea of a monotonous theology of one solitary God. They liked rather a divine company upon Olympus. Well, Christianity with its Trinity-teaching presented to them a limited polytheism. God was not physically one, as in Judaism, nor many, as in Hellenism. He was a Trinitarian Plurality in Unity. He was
not a grim hermit, but He had the riches of an eternal life.
The intellectual Greeks and Hellenists climbed to the idea of one God and of Logos, the Mediator between God and the world, through whom God created whatever He created, and who may be incarnated for the salvation of the fallen, suffering creation. Well, Jesus Christ could include in
His person this wonderful doctrine of Neoplatonism.
The mountainous Asia under Caucasus and Ararat, plunged into the mystery of Mithras, which was born out of the Zoroastrian dualistic religion of light and darkness, of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Well now, Christ, the friend
of humanity, revealed Himself as the God of light struggling against Satan, the enemy of humanity.
Rome, politically ruling the world, was longing for a sacred King, for a Prince of Peace, who should come from the East and bring to the people some higher and truer happiness than that deceiving chimera of political bigness. Well, Christ should be this universal, sacred King, this Prince of Peace, and Messenger of a durable happiness. It is not true that
Christ had His prophets among the people of Israel only. His prophets existed in every race and every religion and philosophy of old. That is the reason why the whole world could claim Christ, and how He can be preached to everybody and accepted by everybody. Behold, He was at home everywhere!
(b) Inclusive in Worship.--Inclusive in doctrine, the primitive Church was wisely inclusive in worship too. It would be nonsense to speak of Christian worship as of something quite new and surprising. There was very little new and very little surprising in it indeed; almost nothing. The first Church met for prayer in the Jewish temple. Wherever the apostles came to preach the new Gospel they went to the old places of
prayer, to the temples of Jehovah. Their Christian spirit did not revolt against the old forms of worship. Later on the naked Christian spirit needed to be clothed, and it was clothed. But when Israel looked to Christian worship they recognised much--forms, signs, vestments and administration--to be like their own. And not only Israel, but even Egypt, India, Babylon and Persia, Greece and Rome, yea, the Pagans of North and South. If Nature could speak, it could say how much it lent of its own to Christian worship.
A student of ancient history one day asked me: "How can I recognise the Christian religion as the best of all, when I know how much it borrowed from the ancient religious forms of worship? How poor it looks without all that!"
I said: "Just this wonderful power of embracing and assimilating gives evidence of the vitality and universality of Christianity. It is too large in spirit to be clothed by one nation or one race only. It is too rich in spirit and destination to be expressed by one tongue, by one sign, or one symbol, or one form. In the same sense as Christian doctrine was prepared and prophesied by the religions and the philosophies before Christ, in the same sense Christian worship was prepared and prophesied as well. Whenever the Christian spirit is strong the Church is not afraid of worship being strange, and ample, and even grotesque. The weaker the Christian spirit, the greater exclusiveness in worship. Some people say: It is wicked to use pagan architecture for the Church, and incense and fire, and music, or dance, or bowing, or kneeling, or signs and symbols, in Christian worship, because it is pagan." Yes, all this is pagan indeed, but it is Christian too if we wish it to be. The Latin language was pagan, but now it is Christian too. The English language was a vehicle of Paganism as well, now it is a vehicle of Christianity. The human body was itself pagan too, but the Eternal Christ, God's Holy Wisdom, entered it and filled it with a new spirit, and it ceased to be pagan. We in the East sometimes use for our sacerdotal vestments Chinese silk made by pagan hands in China, or chalices and spoons and little bells and chains made by the Moslems, or precious stones gathered and scents prepared by the fire or stone-worshippers of Africa, and no one of us should be afraid to use them when worshipping Christ, as Christ Himself was not afraid to touch the most wretched human bodies or souls with His pure hands. Christianity cannot be defiled, using for its worship the works of pagan hands, but pagan people are hereby taking a share in Christian worship, physically and unconsciously, waiting for the moment when they will share in it spiritually and consciously as well. Every piece of Chinese silk in our vestments is a prophecy of the great Christian China. But this belongs to the following paragraph.