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vation apply to the life and teaching of Christ, overlaid by the mass of Catholic thought within the gospel itself?
What the critics are guided by in searching the Scriptures of the New Testament, especially in searching the Synoptics, is subjective considerations. That is, they are searching for the kind of Christ that they wish to find. Unfortunately for them this Christ can only be found by the most arbitrary measures. The Protestantism of today is the religion of a civilization that is tolerant, democratic, plutocratic and socialistic. There is imbedded in the oldest tradition of the Church and in the ethical heart of the Gospel a broad deposit of intolerance, humility, poverty, and asceticism. In some respects, this monastic tendency, if we may so say, because the monastic orders in later times especially emphasize these teachings, is clearer in the Synoptics than it is in the ecclesiastic and theological writings of St. Paul and St. John. The blessing on poverty is just as abhorrent to Socialism as to Plutocracy. So is the stress laid on asceticism and a very narrow aspect of sexual purity. The tolerance of the critics causes them to cut out the cursing of the fig tree. The reverence for vested interests removes the story of the Gadarene demoniac and the swine destroyed without the owners' permission. No amount of criticism, however, could possibly adapt the Sermon on the Mount to any influential Protestant congregation. Asceticism, poverty, intolerance, lowliness, a narrow code of sexual morality, these things will not fit into modern civilization with its worldliness, pride, tolerance, prosperity, and its broad views on the relations of the sexes. Plutocracy and Socialism stand equally condemned before the bar of the Synoptic Gospels.
So here is the trouble with the Protestant search for a Christ behind the New Testament. Nowhere is the Christ they wish for. He is a construction of their subjective and cultural demands. No radicalism of criticism will ever find him. Most of the New Testament exhibits the Christ of Catholic theology. The rest of the New Testament exhibits the Christ of Catholic ethics. The Modernist Christ, if He ever existed, is as surely vanished as the religious leaders who guided the hand that painted the processions of mammoths in the caverns of Font-de-Gaume.
Hence every attempt to formulate a Protestant theology and a Protestant ethic upon a Christian basis is a failure. Protestantism is not found in the historic Church or even in the early
heresies. Protestantism is not found in the New Testament as a whole or even in the Synoptic Gospels. Protestantism may be the religion of the future, but it never was the religion of the past; not even of the Protestantism past, for that was Calvinism. Protestantism cannot be erected on any Christian foundation whatever, but the special conditions of Protestantism forbid it to seek any other foundation. So the religion and morality of Protestantism has collapsed. Protestantism is no longer a religion. Completely secularized, it is like the old Roman Paganism in the days of the Antonines, a mere reflection of the current thought of the world. It is an ecclesiastical expression sometimes of Plutocracy, sometimes of Socialism. As a religion or an ethic it has failed.
Poet, What Seest Thou?
A. P. MCMAHON, PH.D.
IKE any other child brought up in the Anglican communion, certain thundering phrases of the oft-repeated ceremonial words produced in me at an early age an impression so profound that they spontaneously echo in memory now, like the chimes of a familiar hymn, often ringing of their own accord, with no particular cause. St. Paul's subtle arguments were far too deep for me, and I could have but an imperfect impression of the myriad traditions and hopes that formed the stuff of the rabbinical appeal of the Epistle to the Hebrews, when the reverberations of these majestic syllables first began.
Not least of such familiar sentences was one which has since seemed to me peculiarly applicable to those who speak to us with an intuitive authority, the men whom we today designate with the simple name of poets. I mean that cryptic charge of the Psalmist, which comes so often to my mind: "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
To know how God had blessed Abraham, the King of Salem must indeed have possessed the gift of prophecy, and that strange figure appearing with dramatic suddenness, a veritable type of the Redeemer, shadowing forth a priesthood unknown to the Law but abiding forever, is a tremendous example of the seer, the tensely sensitive spirit, the prophet or the poet.
Remote from the incomprehensible eminence of the King of Salem was that herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees who asserted that he was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. Yet upon Amos also came the overwhelming impulse to prophesy. Obeying a command which he could not deny when God took him from following the flock, he uttered fierce protest against entrenched power, angry and bitter denunciations. He was a prophet in the most literal sense when he anticipated an earthquake; but he was a prophet of eternal things, a seer, when he declaimed his rhapsody of the judgment impending over Israel, giving rhythmic voice to the vision of a poet.
For, as St. Peter tells us, "no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit." And an election of sensitive minds, discerning vividly and at first hand the heart of times in which they live and of times to come, has ever been inspired by a will imperious and inscrutable. The abuse of such powers does not impair the sanctity of the office, and of each poet God exacts an answer to the same question which he addressed to the vituperative herdsman: "Amos, what seest thou?"
Accordingly, prophets under the Law reported their visions, speaking as the conscience of the nation, and fostered the idealism of the race, balancing the conservative and passive attitude of the sacerdotal caste. Distinctive of Israel's tortured pilgrimage was their perception of final truths which have had an incalculable effect upon the modern world. The acceptance of these truths today really seems to constitute the fundamental difference in outlook between the old pagan days and our own.
These insights, so painfully achieved, were expounded with reference to the Messiah, but they have dominated Christian biography, too. Contrary to the political expectations of the mob, Isaiah declared that He was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Opposed to the calm equilibrium sought by Marcus Aurelius and the noblest characters of pagan antiquity was the inward change seen by Ezekiel to be an essential preliminary of unending life. "A new heart also will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." And confounding the narrow exclusiveness of a sect was the forecast of Zechariah: "In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men
shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."
So, distastefully perhaps to many of their fellows, poets have recorded what their penetrating eyes have seen, leaving an enduring memorial of their attitude and the attitude of their age on the persistent uncertainties of mankind, the questions which trouble again every new-born generation. During the past ten years the vision of the English-speaking poets has become suddenly clarified, they have spoken keenly and unflinchingly, and while an intolerant antagonism has developed toward the novel technique employed by many of them, they and their audiences have both increased greatly, with corresponding interest for English literature as well as for life itself wherever English is the common tongue and the word is heard.
This new birth of lyric power is something going on in our midst, and when the stream has again shrunk to a narrow rill, men will look back and envy us. But these gifts must not be welcomed indiscriminately. There is, mixed up with it, to our frequent vexation and disappointment, not a little vain posturing and idle, soul-sick futility, straining and wrenching of fantastic thoughts, snapping the veins of language. Yet there is a vision clear there also. Strength with power, beauty with truth. We may by reading the poets attentively find the answer of this generation to the recurrent question: Poet, what seest thou?
As Pater once declared, the way to perfection lies through a series of disgusts, and I believe that Puvis de Chavannes gave the same negative reason for his artistic faith. It is therefore but natural that reaction from accepted thoughts and conventions should seek new forms of expression, and the high points of cultural development in the past have been opulent in technical discoveries in the art of verse. In subject, too, new topics are adopted or thoughts resurrected after so long an oblivion that they seem like creatures sprung wholly new from the creative powers of the poet. The pastoral, as a literary convention and form of verse, was revived and made to delight men and women again, recovered from the Alexandrine and Augustan poets.
In such movements, at least in their initial stages, the substance of the poetry and the form are strangely new, repulsive to the uninitiated; and sometimes never permeating society beyond
a relatively narrow circle. But the prophetic function is fulfilled nevertheless in poets who plumb the depths over which the multitude rush unseeing; they are the authentic heralds of their times. And they remain as unimpeachable witnesses.
What, then, will be the testimony which a century hence will receive from poets now living? That, indeed, is bringing the question down to a challenge which not even the most voracious reader of poetry would dare to answer with final certitude, but which may, nevertheless, be attempted if the inquiry is still further limited. Let us, for the sake of this study, presented only in the hope that other more profound and thorough students will carry it to completion, require a single test of these poets.
Shall it be the all-absorbing topic of love? Shall we search the poets for their ideals and descriptions of love, particularly the modern romantic view of love, which for many otherwise skeptical thinkers seems to take the place of authentic religion? What is the poets' vision of the god whom alone many of them praise? This would not afford a means of comparison with poets who existed before the poets of Provence who appear to have invented the whole theory of courtly love. Surely in selecting the essential topic by which we can readily weigh our poets, we should listen to Rupert Brooke, for only too often these singers deserve his characterization, as
half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary
And all the little emptiness of love!"
Rather may we suggest a subject brought into special prominence during the last few years, one to which recent poets have given their best and closest thought, as they have in every age since men first learned to sing. Let us inquire what the poets think of that reality which no intensest passion can delay or disguise, because there is a tang of mouldy soil, enriched with the bones of men, in every breath we draw.
To facilitate somewhat an indication of where such an approach would lead us, we may take one of the various excellent anthologies lately compiled-that put together by Wilkinson, or by Untermeyer, or, best of all, the collection entitled "The New Poetry," by two well-qualified judges, Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson.
Conrad Aiken contrasts the foulness of a mummy with the sweet, clean earth where he hopes to lie, in "Dead Cleopatra."