Much is being said about making the Gospel relevant to the present world situation, particularly so that it will appeal to college and university students. One is led to infer that New Testament Christianity is so far removed from the atomic age that a new gospel must be devised, one which speaks to current needs and problems as the “obsolete” concept of God and man can never do.

One of the most frequently mentioned opinions is that students must be confronted with a Christianity geared to human need.

Furthermore, living in this scientific age we must have a gospel which “appeals to” the restless and seeking students of today.

The implication that the biblical revelation is neither adequate nor relevant for a sophisticated and technically alert new generation needs careful analysis. Should a philosophy of the Christian faith be based on this false premise, the end result can be disastrous.

Probably there should be established first of all a realization that the foundation of Christianity rests in a new and personal relationship with God through his Son. Without this there is no such thing as Christianity. Furthermore, a gospel which centers on secondary matters before the primary one is settled is itself a blind alley.

To be specific: we all recognize that we live in a world of turmoil, one in which injustice and need are found everywhere. But imagine the complete elimination of injustice, hunger, sickness, and suffering without reference to the needs of the human soul, and what have you? Humanism, not Christianity.

Christ put this difference in clear perspective when he said, “For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

It is a disturbing fact that much which passes for “Christianity” today is humanism, not Christianity, for it is geared solely to secular and material need and not to the needs of the soul.

Furthermore, it is so much easier to challenge young people to mount the white charger of reformation than to confront them with the deep, sobering need which is theirs for personal redemption.

While it is true that if students sense in Christians a lack of concern for the suffering and needy, they can well turn away in disgust and disillusionment, still it is our observation that those most concerned about the proclamation of the good news are the very ones who maintain services for human need and carry these to the ends of the earth even as they preach Christ and him crucified.

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The relevance of the Gospel centers in God’s provision for man’s greatest need. Nor has this need changed with the splitting of the atom or the conquest of a fraction of space.

Let any student stop and think of those basic problems with which he finds himself confronted. Is he no longer tempted to lie and cheat? Is impurity of thought and action no problem—does lust recede as science advances? Or, has the moral code of Christ been superseded by a new concept of inter-personal relationships between the sexes?

Does the “restless and seeking student” of 1963 find himself freed from those appalling claims of nature: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”?

Are these wonderful young people being confronted with the claims of God and his Christ on their personal allegiance and devotion?

It is easy to let the change, scientific advances, and general sophistication of our age blind us to the spiritual need which confronts every man.

Relevant? What could be more relevant than a Gospel which confronts us first of all with our own sinfulness and our need of the redemption which is in Christ?

This can, of course, be rationalized away. The fact of sin can be minimized. The offense of sin to a holy God can be ignored. The need of personal cleansing and salvation can be shrugged off in a concept of man which claims he is already redeemed—he just does not know it.

The righteous judgment of God can be brushed aside as we look only at one facet of his Being.

Human injustice and misery and need can so overwhelm us that we go out to change inter-personal relationships without reference to man-God relationships.

Probably most disturbing of all, we might work to eliminate the corporate sins of society, to bring about a world of peace, justice, and plenty—only to find that the desired Utopia is a hell on earth because God and his Christ have been ignored or given some secondary place.

As much as we might like it otherwise, the corporate sins of society must be solved at the personal level or they will never be solved.

Young people need to be confronted with a Gospel which places man and God in their right perspective. Thousands may be enlisted to go out and make this a better world in which to live, but only those taught and led by the Holy Spirit can approach the task as God requires.

The magnitude of that which God has done for man at the personal level needs to be stressed. In fact, unless the significance and implications of the Son’s coming into the world—his death and resurrection, his Kingship and Lordship—are made plain, young people have been cheated out of the Gospel message, and in its stead “another gospel” has been foisted upon them.

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Of course we live in a needy world. On every hand there is injustice, inhumanity, hunger, squalor, sickness—misery of every kind. And the Christian is obligated to go out and feed, heal, and comfort in every way possible. But never forget—the human race has also a soul-sickness, sin, an estrangement from God; the cup of cold water in one hand must be accompanied by the Gospel of God’s redeeming love in the other.

Yes, young people need to be challenged with a “relevant” Gospel, but the Gospel of the first century is just as relevant in the twentieth as it ever was.

We all need to be aware of confusing and misleading the students of today. Deep in their hearts there is spiritual hunger and need. They must be confronted by the One who has come to meet that need. Not for nought did the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews say: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein” (Heb. 13:8, 9).

The problem is not that young people shall be challenged by a gospel which appeals to their sense of world need. Rather, they must be confronted with their own personal need of Christ.

Only then have they been challenged by a relevant Gospel.

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