Today, we begin a series of sermons which aims to connect our faith in Christ with the fights of our times. Right up to the November presidential election, we will consider many of the vexed conflicts of our civilization around which no moral or political will exists for decision and solution of vast injustices. I do not aim to define “what Christians must believe” about the crises we face, but I do want to claim that your commitment to Christ must issue in a decisive way of seeing our situation . . .
In the Protestant tradition of the Christian faith, we do not teach that the sacraments “do anything” in heaven. God does not save the baptized child or ignore the unbaptized . . . Water brought from the Jordan River in a little bottle might be a nifty souvenir of your trip, but it won’t make a better baptism. The rituals of ordination don’t make the ordained more holy or important or powerful. It would be easier to say what religion is about if we believed in magic, but all that is dead and gone for those mature in the faith.
To be a Christian at Riverside, do you have to believe Jesus was born of a virgin? As many of you know, in the 1920s, some years before he began his ministry here, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick got himself and the Presbyterians into a marvelous snarl preaching No! You do not have to believe in the virgin birth.