« AnteriorContinuar »
on the right lines that emphasis should be laid upon the study of social problems as one of the great duties of modern Christians, but it must not end in mere academic study."... “Is it not possible to build up the new social order within the old one, the task being undertaken by those who have come so far as to see that this is the one confession of their faith in Christ's Lordship for which they must live or die? It is precisely this that the Gospel seems to indicate. Christ expected that His followers would start constructing an order of society on quite opposite lines to that which prevailed among the nations, a society where there would be no lording it over others, but only a struggle for the bottom place and an ambition to do the most humble tasks. Is it possible to work out what that would mean as an actual society, and to take steps toward establishing it?"
We are in danger of daring too little, and if there is any one thing on which we all agree as the supreme lesson that the war has taught the Christian Church, it is this-that it must be a different Church in the coming age from the one that faced five years ago the supreme crisis of the world's history and must be willing and glad to be different. One finds on every side encouraging recognition of this discovery, but one finds also a good deal of vagueness about details. It is true that, when the great war was forced upon the world, there was no alternative for the free nations save to fight to the death for their existence, but we must not fix our thoughts on this so exclusively that we fail to see the underlying truth that the war came upon us because we did not try hard enough to apply our Christianity to the whole life of man. The assertion that the Church has failed has been widely made, and is not in the deepest sense true. The Church has not broken down nor come to disaster, as some men say. The gates of hell have not prevailed against it. The army of Christ's soldiers and servants is not a defeated army, but it is a divided and an unready army, in which great numbers of soldiers do not yet understand clearly the end for which they are fighting. If this be failure, we confess it. There is no disloyalty to the Head of the Church
in such a confession of failure, and no lack of faith in Him and His ultimate triumph. "He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet," but we "see not yet all things put under Him." The confession of failure should come under two counts: we have failed to keep unity and so have weakened the power of Christianity, and we have hesitated to oppose with courageous efficiency those disintegrating and demoralizing ing forces in our social life which long threatened the peace of the world, eventually brought about the great world war, and still hang menacing upon the horizon.
We are all the more bound now to understand and make clear that war and the social conditions out of which war comes are not only unchristian, but the active enemies of Christianity. By and by, when the statesmen at Paris have signed the articles of peace, we shall be confronted by the question whether or not we are willing to aspire to the beatitude "Blessed are the peacemakers." Peacemakers are not simply people who talk about peace as a desirable thing, they are people who create the conditions of peace. We may be quite sure that there will be plenty of men left in the world who will make it their business to work for war. Wars are immensely profitable for the schemers who know how to make profit out of them; and for great numbers of the thoughtless they have a fascination born partly of the false glamour which historians have thrown about them and the pageantries of military spectacles produce, and partly from mere love of excitement and change. There is a gruesome pleasure in tales of battle not wholly unlike the pleasure which spectators on the benches derive from a great football match. We love to cheer "our boys," to be thrilled by their achievements, to feel that in some vicarious way glory is reflected on us when they do heroic deeds and win hard-earned victories. We may be reluctant to admit it, but most of us must own that, when the armistice was signed, there was in all our minds, mingled with joyous relief, a certain element of regret because life would be in future rather tame and flat in comparison with the great hours through which we have lived. More or less
consciously, we contrast the days when the newspaper every morning had some new sensation of world-wide importance and interest to report with the time to come when there will be nothing more enlivening on the front page than the election of a congressman or a sordid murder in a slum. There are many persons also, who still cling to the delusion that human nature cannot be changed. "There always have been wars, they say; "there always will be wars. Man is a fighting animal." But of all futile errors, this certainly has been proved the most senseless by the war itself. We have learned that human nature is capable of the most revolutionary changes,that duchesses can get down and scrub hospital floors and lighthearted and careless college boys can develop amazing qualities of leadership and responsibility, that men and women of ordinary capacity, such as most of us are, can put our many littles together and achieve the impossible in incredible ways. The word impossible has been blotted out of the dictionary. We can do anything we want to do if we really want to do it. There is nothing too much to attempt.
Now, the Christian Church is challenged by this situation as it has not been in generations. Nothing matters so much, among all the many questions that engage our attention, as this supreme and startling demand that we be consistent or quit. Did "God make of one blood all nations of men," and send "His blessed Son to preach peace to them that are far off and them that are nigh"? Why, then, does the Church organize things and live and work as though there were different sorts of blood; as if there were nations intended to prosper and nations destined to be exploited and victimized? Why does the Church acquiesce tamely in an organization of society that is so palpably unfair to the poor, so full of temptation for the misuse of power, so scornful of spiritual goods, so subservient to commercial standards, so solicitous of material comforts and gain as the present order of things?
This article is written to ask, not to answer that question. Yet this may be said, that for many Christians the old phrase,
"the conversion of the world to Christ," is taking on a new meaning today. It means not simply winning individuals to membership in some Christian communion (and perhaps incidentally indoctrinating them with prejudices and hatreds that accentuate division among Christians) but rather the transformation of the whole order of the world into a new and finer thing, more just, more generous, more Christlike, leaving nothing out! In those three words is the point to be pressed. Leaving nothing out-is not the weakness of our church life in the past just there? We extended Christian justice and charity and brotherhood just a little way; and then we came up against some barrier of race or nation or class or creed or opinion, and there we stopped, leaving outside the circle wide areas of life which we dared not include, or possibly did not know how to include. Shall we dare to learn now? Shall the Church be great enough to demand all life for her field of influence?
There are many three-year-old boys and girls, and boys and girls of every other age playing in the streets of our cities, who (though they do not dream it) shall live or die according
as we answer.
BY THE REV. CHARLES CARROLL EDMUNDS, D.D.
OU smile at the absurdity of the question? So every believer, every sane student of the New Testament, would have smiled a few years ago. Today many critics, German, English and American, will be found to deny that Jesus had any historical existence whatever. Curiously enough, the "liberal" Protestant group, who all their lives have been attacking the faith of Catholic Christendom, are now vigorously and even bitterly defending the fact of the actual existence of our Lord against these new radicals!
It is a controversy which has its humorous, as well as its serious, aspect, and one is tempted to survey the contest with something of the impartial spirit of the backwoodsman in the story, who, finding his termagant wife in a desperate fight with a bear, refrained from interference and contented himself with shouting, during the fluctuations of the conflict, "Go it, woman! Go it, bear!" Nevertheless, there is instruction as well as interest in the debate, and it may be worth while to point it out.
For many years the "liberal" movement has been the dominant one among German theologians and by consequence, because from the beginning Protestantism has been "made in Germany," among Protestants throughout the world. On the critical side it has given itself to the analysis of the books of the New Testament. It began with wide skepticism as to their authenticity and with a tendency to assign them to a late dateputting some even in the third century of the Christian era. It accepted as a primary canon the famous dictum "miracles do not happen," and unhesitatingly set aside the supernatural element in the Gospels as incredible, accounting for its presence in various ways, chiefly by the growth of legend. It believed it discovered behind the mass of myth and fable the form of Jesus of Nazareth as He actually lived and preached. In its view, He had not been born of a virgin, nor had He risen from