Merry Christmas! The holidays are a time of family gatherings, and we often share memories with those we see too seldom. It is a time when we often reflect on our lives, both in the year just ending and over the more distant past. In that vein, I thought it appropriate to reflect on Chalcedon's purpose and message for this magazine and other ministries.
At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of eternal God in human flesh. The Chalcedon Foundation and this magazine are named after the church council of A.D. 451 which clearly defined Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man. He is thus the only mediator between God and man. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and eternal Lord of heaven and earth. We cannot limit His Lordship or we limit His divinity and His salvation. We believe that the earth is the Lord's, the Lord Jesus Christ's, and the fullness thereof. Every area of life and thought are His rightful realm. Thus, part of our masthead always proclaims our view of Christianity as "faith for all of life."
When man fell, he chose to "be as gods, knowing (i.e., determining for himself) good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). The first sin of man was thus playing god. Though we deserve judgment, God showed us mercy. God Himself became man to atone for our sins on Calvary, so that Easter has always been the primary Christian holy day (each Sunday also commemorates the resurrection). But what is called Christ's humiliation began with His conception and subsequent birth in Bethlehem. The physical entrance of the Messiah onto the center stage of human history was itself an act of mercy and grace worthy of celebration. His first advent was and is cause for rejoicing because it was the beginning of the literal accomplishment of man's salvation. The salvation promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15 was now to be a reality in Jesus Christ. The promise of a messiah was now a reality in the person of the Messiah. God's promised redemption was soon to be accomplished redemption.
Jesus Christ came to save sinners from the consequences of their own rebellion and its lust to repeat the first sin of playing god. Christ thus reverses the fall, a process not to be completed until the resurrection when the "last enemy," death, is destroyed. But God saves men from sin and guilt, not from life. The redeemed man is saved to live his life in terms of this faith. The church has used two very Biblical words to describe this. Justification is an act, a one-time divine declaration that we are righteous because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We receive this unmerited justification by God's grace through faith alone. Sanctification is the on-going work of God's Holy Spirit in us that causes us to increasingly hate sin and love righteousness. Sanctification is our Christian growth in grace that is evidenced by our increased faithfulness to the Word of God. It has been the purpose of Chalcedon, since 1965, to encourage the church in the edification of believers for their sanctification, to teach them that ours is a "faith for all of life."
Believers must "name the name" of Jesus Christ. They must self-consciously see themselves as defined by their faith. They must see themselves as believers in Jesus Christ, as members of His church, as citizens of His kingdom. This need not preclude other responsibilities, identifications, or loyalties, only their subordination to the priority of Christ and His demands. The believer must first personally submit himself to Christ and the Word and then seek to understand his responsibilities, his vocation, his arts, his science and all things within the same context of faithfulness. It is Chalcedon's view that sanctification, growth in grace, is characterized by this enlarged view of the faith as "for all of life."
Man, the rebellious sinner, still playing god, wants to believe he is a being of reason or emotion or, perhaps, biological process. The believer sees these as aspects of man's creaturehood, but sees himself as a creature of faith. This faith is not limited to merely spiritual matters, for the incarnate Messiah leaves us to grow in grace in a sometimes painfully real, physical world. The incarnate God who will raise our bodies on the day of judgment does not limit His claim on us or the world to the spiritual; His claims must not be so arbitrarily limited. Man claimed the role of deity in Eden; believers have given up such a pretense. The church, as a body of believers living and dead, has as its head, its deity, Jesus Christ. The church must point to Jesus Christ as its Shiloh, "He whose right it is." Christ's right is total, it is over all heaven and earth. It is not limited to the spiritual realm.
Because Jesus Christ is Lord, all competing claims are wicked pretense. All men are limited in authority because Jesus Christ is God and man. No other man or institution has any right to claim that role or its authority. Even the church has limited authority. The head of the church, Jesus Christ, is Lord, not the church itself or any particular manifestation of its organization. The church preaches a Lord and Savior whose authority is total, but leaves men at liberty before God in areas not under its authority. Likewise we must call the state to a limited role, for the power of the sword combined with man's natural inclination to play god has frequently led the state arrogantly to assume the role of an all-knowing, all-wise god rather than that of an (ad)minister of justice.
Liberty is an important element of the Christian message. The gospel of Jesus Christ gives men their essential freedom from the curse of sin and guilt. Believers are freed in this way by the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, "He whose right it is." Because Jesus Christ the Lord frees men, and Christians see unlimited human power as a repetition of the first sin of playing god, the rise of Christianity saw the rise of limited constitutional authority. When men see Christ as Lord, liberty under law is possible.
The Christian believes in liberty because he believes in the rule of God and he believes that man is primarily responsible to Him, not other men. The basic government of the Christian is thus self-government. Church, state, family, and other law spheres have very real responsibilities and authority, because in their respective spheres they are responsible to God for their ministry of righteousness. No sphere has total authority, however, because that right is God's alone. The family and church are, in different ways, to encourage personal growth in grace of the individual, and the state is to be a ministry of justice so that man can serve God in a context of liberty. Chalcedon has thus sought to encourage various spheres in developing a self-conscious understanding of their role in advancing the kingdom of Christ the Lord. Many churches today are strong advocates of this dominion theology; the Christian day and home-school movements are perhaps the greatest areas of Christian cultural advance of the last generation; there is even a powerful, though small, force in the political area that stands for justice and righteousness and which seeks to further the Christian heritage of individual liberty.
The message that Chalcedon has set forth is not easily defined in a "mission statement." Because we believe in a sovereign God and a victorious Savior "whose right it is" in a time when the faith seems in retreat, the challenge before us, before the entire church of Jesus Christ, is real. It is also a rare and exciting opportunity to serve.
Chalcedon belongs to the long tradition of Christian orthodoxy. We advocate precise theology, not as scholarly penchant, but in faithfulness to God. Man's word tends to muddle God's Word. Precise theology, however, must never be a narrow academic exercise because we view our faith as an all-encompassing one. We are thus not past-bound, except to honor the faithful saints and their work that has gone before us. We are future-oriented, in part because of our optimistic eschatology, but also because the Christian life must be one of growth and faithfulness. Chalcedon's ministry focuses on the sanctification of believers, but in a much broader development than the pietistic tradition. We believe Christians are not here just to be blessed, but to work and grow in grace. We are called, even like Adam before the Fall, to work; many of our Lord's parables were about the duties of servants to work and advance their master's interests in His absence.
We believe that the future is in God's hands. As His children we have been promised a share in His inevitable victory. No rebellion will, in the end, remain. Our duty, then, is personal faithfulness and to use our energies and resources to encourage such in our homes, churches, social relationships, communities, and culture.
This is Chalcedon's message. We work not because we see victory as imminently ours; we work because we see victory as assuredly Christ's.