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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with J. Randolph Taylor, May 23, 1985. Interview C-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

How to embody Christian faith

In this beautifully phrased section, Taylor explains how his faith has informed his actions, including which battles he will and will not fight.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with J. Randolph Taylor, May 23, 1985. Interview C-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Let me turn to the question of theology and ask you if you could explain the cornerstones of your personal theological convictions.
Yes. This coming Sunday I'm preaching a third sermon of three saying goodbye to my congregation, and I've chosen to preach from the Apostolic Benediction in Second Corinthians, where the letter is concluded, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." And that sums up very succinctly the cornerstones of my faith. My faith begins with this man who lived 2,000 years ago and who was a man for others and whose life demonstrated a grace, demonstrated an outwardness toward others that informs the whole of our existence. And the church, thus, has got to be a church for others, not because we think that's a good idea but because we follow a man who lived his life and died for others. The second founding stone is that second phrase, "the love of God." Last Sunday I was sharing my ideas about that and shared with them my feeling that this is a very important understanding, because the truth is that we live largely in a time of practical secularism, that if God exists, it really doesn't matter. It doesn't affect the way we go about our life and so forth. What I think faith says to that is summarized in part by the little girl in Sunday school who was asked about who was Jesus. Her reply was, "Jesus is the best picture God ever had took." Now that's where my faith goes. In other words, I look at this man Jesus, and I sense that what he was constantly doing, he was never pointing at himself; he was always pointing beyond himself, pointing at a power beyond. So that I think a foundation stone has to do with the understanding that God is, and God cares, "the love of God." This coming Sunday I'm going to conclude with "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit," which basically is that God is alive and at work and that our task in the church is to be open to which way is He leading in the world, where is He going, and follow, even at the cost of a cross. "The fellowship of the Holy Spirit" is a very empowering kind of thing for a Christian community, which Presbyterians are a little hesitant to deal with, because you can't quite control that sort of thing. We like things done decently and in order, but I think it's a very important reality that faith has to be lived out in the present tense, and that's what the whole business of the Holy Spirit is. So in a nutshell, you see, I'm pretty orthodox. I mean, that's Trinitarian faith, is what that is. It comes at it a little differently, but that's what I believe.
What would you say your connection is to a view of scriptural perspectives on human nature and the other-worldliness of redemption?
The view of scripture I have is that it is ... Well, Luther said it well. "Scripture is the cradle in which Christ lies." The reason scripture is important is in part because there we see the story of how God has called into being a people in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and you don't find that anywhere else. I don't worry about scripture, and I don't worry about such things as the inerrancy of scripture and all that sort of thing, for the reason that the scripture is exactly what the church has historically said it is, and that is, it's an unfailing guide in faith and life, because there you find the story of Israel and of Jesus and of the church. People who worry about attacks on the scripture or try to defend it and argue for its inerrancy and all that sort of thing remind me of frogmen who are worried about the hull of an old ship, lest it have a leak in it or something, when all the time, on the bridge of the ship, our Lord is saying basically, "Don't worry. Be not afraid, men of little faith. It will not sink. I am in the ship." The scripture power is a power because of the story it tells. It's the Word that's within the words that is the power. I think one of the problems I see in emerging militant fundamentalism is this whole matter of Biblical inerrancy. That will simply not hold water. That is not the way to go at scripture. Your question was longer than that. Where did you go from Biblical ...
I was also interested in how your view of scripture had an impact on a scriptural perspective on human nature and the other-worldliness of redemption.
The Bible makes very clear that it's got no hangups about the fact that man or humankind is perfected at all. It's a very clear understanding that the human dilemma is very serious. The predicament of human nature is clearly delineated in the scripture. And of all the doctrines that the church holds, the one doctrine that is absolutely provable and demonstrated every day is the doctrine of original sin, that is, that down in the roots of our being, even when we try to do something real good, we mess it up because of who we are. I believe clearly the Biblical understanding of the predicament of human nature, and I think the whole matter of redemption from that is the work of the Gospel. In other words, it's grace. We live, then, not by what we are able to accomplish; we live by accepting the free gift which God gives of life itself and of meaning to life which comes, from my perspective, out of reorienting ourselves away from ourselves into a purpose that's higher than ours and that basically comes from beyond us, which is what it means to believe in the Gospel.