Christianity Without Christ
by Charles Hodge
Originally published in the Princeton Review, April 1876 (Vol. 5, Issue 18).
In one sense of the word, Christianity is the system of truth taught by Christ and his apostles. In this sense the question, what is Christianity? is simply a historical one. It may be answered intelligently and correctly by a man who does not profess to be a Christian, just as he may answer the question, what is Brahmism? or, what is Buddhism?
In another sense, Christianity is that state of one's mind produced by faith in the truths revealed concerning Christ. In this sense, Christianity without Christ is an impossibility. It would be an effect without its proximate cause. Nevertheless, there is a form of religion, widespread and influential, which is called Christianity, in which Christ fails to occupy the position assigned to him in the Bible.
The Bible teaches us, that the same divine person by whom God for whom the universe was created, is the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New. And as natural religion (in the subjective sense of the word) is that state of mind which is, or should be, produced by the revelation of God in the works of nature, and by our relation to him as his rational creatures; and as the religion of the devout Hebrew consisted in the state of mind produced by the revelation of the same God, made in the law and the prophets, and by their relation to him as their covenant God and Father; so Christianity is that state of mind produced by the knowledge of the same God, as manifest in the flesh, who loved us and gave himself for us, and by our relation to him as the subjects of his redemption.
Three things follow from this: first, as the same divine person is the Creator of heaven and Earth, the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New, there can be no inconsistency between the religion of nature, the religion of the Hebrews, and the religion of Christians. The one does not assume that to be true, which either of the others assumes to be false. The only difference is that which arises from increased knowledge of the object of worship, and the new relations which we sustain to him.
The Hebrews, in worshiping Jehovah, did not cease to worship the God of nature; and the Christian, in worshiping Christ, does not cease to worship the God of the Hebrews.
Second, it is impossible that the higher form of religion should be merged into a lower. It is impossible that the religion of a Hebrew should sink into natural religion. That would imply that he ceased to be a Hebrew, that he rejected the revelations of Moses and the prophets, and that he renounced his allegiance to Jehovah as the God of his fathers. In like manner, it is impossible that the religion of a Christian can sink into that of the Old Testament, or into that of nature. That would imply that he ceased to be a Christian; that he rejected or ignored all that the New Testament reveals concerning God and Christ. There could be no true religion in the mind of a Hebrew that was not determined by his relation to Jehovah as his covenant God; and there can be no true religion in the mind of a Christian that is not determined by his relation to Christ as God manifested in the flesh.
Third, the Christian, in worshiping Christ, does not cease to worship the Father and the Spirit. He does not fail to recognize and appreciate his relation to the Father, who loved the world and gave his Son for its redemption; nor does he fail to recognize his relation to the Holy Spirit, on whom he is absolutely dependent, and whose gracious office it is to apply to men the redemption purchased by Christ. In worshiping Christ, we worship the Father and the Spirit; for these three are one — one only living and true God, the same in substance and equal in power and glory. Christ says, I am in the Father and the Father in me. I and the Father are one. He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and therefore, he that worships the Son, worships the Father. Hence, it is written, "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father," but, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life." It is to be remembered, however, that in the mysterious constitution of the Godhead, the second person of the Trinity is the Logos, the Word, the Revealer. It is through him that God is known. He is the brightness of his glory, revealing what God is. We should not know that there is a sun in the firmament, if it were not for his (apaugasma). So we should not know that God is, or what he is, were it not for his Son. "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal him." In having Christ, therefore, we have God; for in him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead.