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Title: Christianity and Progress
Author: Fosdick, Harry Emerson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  The Cole Lectures for 1922
  delivered before Vanderbilt University

Christianity and Progress



  _Professor of Practical Theology in the
  Union Theological Seminary;
  Preacher at the First Presbyterian Church,
  New York_


Fleming H. Revell Company


Copyright, 1922, by


  New York: 158 Fifth Avenue
  Chicago: 17 North Wabash Ave.
  London: 21 Paternoster Square
  Edinburgh: 75 Princes Street


The late Colonel E. W. Cole of Nashville, Tennessee, donated to
Vanderbilt University the sum of five thousand dollars, afterwards
increased by Mrs. E. W. Cole to ten thousand, the design and conditions
of which gift are stated as follows:

"The Object of this fund is to establish a foundation for a perpetual
Lectureship in connection with the School of Religion of the
University, to be restricted in its scope to a defense and advocacy of
the Christian religion.  The lectures shall be delivered at such
intervals, from time to time, as shall be deemed best by the Board of
Trust; and the particular theme and lecturer will be determined by the
Theological Faculty.  Said lecture shall always be reduced to writing
in full, and the manuscript of the same shall be the property of the
University, to be published or disposed of by the Board of Trust at its
discretion, the net proceeds arising therefrom to be added to the
foundation fund, or otherwise used for the benefit of the School of


No one who ever has delivered the Cole Lectures will fail to associate
them, in his grateful memory, with the hospitable fellowship of the
elect at Vanderbilt University.  My first expression of thanks is due
to the many professors and students there, lately strangers and now
friends, who, after the burdensome preparation of these lectures, made
their delivery a happy and rewarding experience for the lecturer.  I am
hoping now that even though prepared for spoken address the lectures
may be serviceable to others who will read instead of hear them.  At
any rate, it seemed best to publish them without change in
form--addresses intended for public delivery and bearing, I doubt not,
many marks of the spoken style.

I have tried to make a sally into a field of inquiry where, within the
next few years, an increasing company of investigators is sure to go.
The idea of progress was abroad in the world long before men became
conscious of it; and men became conscious of it in its practical
effects long before they stopped to study its transforming consequences
in their philosophy and their religion.  No longer, however, can we
avoid the intellectual issue which is involved in our new outlook upon
a dynamic, mobile, progressive world.  Hardly a better description
could be given of the intellectual advance which has marked the last
century than that which Renan wrote years ago: "the substitution of the
category of _becoming_ for _being_, of the conception of relativity for
that of the absolute, of movement for immobility." [1]  Underneath all
other problems which the Christian Gospel faces is the task of choosing
what her attitude shall be toward this new and powerful force, the idea
of progress, which in every realm is remaking man's thinking.

I have endeavoured in detail to indicate my indebtedness to the many
books by whose light I have been helped to see my way.  In addition I
wish to express especial thanks to my friend and colleague, Professor
Eugene W. Lyman, who read the entire manuscript to my great profit;
and, as well, to my secretary, Miss Margaret Renton, whose efficient
service has been an invaluable help.

H. E. F.

New York

[1] Renan: Averroès et L'Averroisme, p. vii.











The supposition that fish do not recognize the existence of water nor
birds the existence of air often has been used to illustrate the
insensitive unawareness of which we all are capable in the presence of
some encompassing medium of our lives.  The illustration aptly fits the
minds of multitudes in this generation, who live, as we all do, in the
atmosphere of progressive hopes and yet are not intelligently aware of it
nor conscious of its newness, its strangeness and its penetrating
influence.  We read as a matter of course such characteristic lines as
these from Tennyson:

  "Yet I doubt not thro' the ages one increasing purpose runs,
  And the thoughts of men are widen'd with the process of the suns."

Such lines, however, are not to be taken as a matter of course; until
comparatively recent generations such an idea as that never had dawned on
anybody's mind, and the story of the achievement of that progressive
interpretation of history is one of the most fascinating narratives in
the long record of man's mental Odyssey.  In particular, the Christian
who desires to understand the influences, both intellectual and
practical, which are playing with transforming power upon Christianity
today, upon its doctrines, its purposes, its institutions, and its social
applications, must first of all understand the idea of progress.  For
like a changed climate, which in time alters the fauna and flora of a
continent beyond the power of human conservatism to resist, this
progressive conception of life is affecting every thought and purpose of
man, and no attempted segregation of religion from its influence is
likely to succeed.

The significance of this judgment becomes the more clear when we note the
fact that the idea of progress in our modern sense is not to be found
before the sixteenth century.  Men before that time had lived without
progressive hopes just as before Copernicus they had lived upon a
stationary earth.  Man's life was not thought of as a growth; gradual
change for the better was not supposed to be God's method with mankind;
the future was not conceived in terms of possible progress; and man's
estate on earth was not looked upon as capable of indefinite
perfectibility.  All these ideas, so familiar to us, were undreamed of in
the ancient and medieval world.  The new astronomy is not a more complete
break from the old geocentric system with its stationary earth than is
our modern progressive way of thinking from our fathers' static
conception of human life and history.


It will be worth our while at the beginning of our study to review in
outline this development of the idea of progress, that we may better
understand the reasons for its emergence and may more truly estimate its
revolutionary effects.  In the ancient world the Greeks, with all their
far-flung speculations, never hit upon the idea of progress.  To be sure,
clear intimations, scattered here and there in Greek literature, indicate
faith that man in the past had improved his lot.  Aeschylus saw men
lifted from their hazardous lives in sunless caves by the intervention of
Prometheus and his sacrificial teaching of the arts of peace; Euripides
contrasted the primitive barbarism in which man began with the civilized
estate which in Greece he had achieved--but this perceived advance never
was erected into a progressive idea of human life as a whole.  Rather,
the original barbarism, from which the arts of civilization had for a
little lifted men, was itself a degeneration from a previous ideal
estate, and human history as a whole was a cyclic and repetitious story
of never-ending rise and fall.  Plato's philosophy of history was
typical: the course of cosmic life is divided into cycles, each
seventy-two thousand solar years in length; during the first half of each
cycle, when creation newly comes from the hands of Deity, mankind's
estate is happily ideal, but then decay begins and each cycle's latter
half sinks from bad to worse until Deity once more must take a hand and
make all things new again.  Indeed, so far from reaching the idea of
progress, the ancient Greeks at the very center of their thinking were
incapacitated for such an achievement by their suspiciousness of change.
They were artists and to them the perfect was finished, like the
Parthenon, and therefore was incapable of being improved by change.
Change, so far from meaning, as it does with us, the possibility of
betterment, meant with them the certainty of decay; no changes upon earth
in the long run were good; all change was the sure sign that the period
of degeneration had set in from which only divine intervention could
redeem mankind.  Paul on Mars Hill quoted the Greek poet Aratus
concerning the sonship of all mankind to God, but Aratus's philosophy of
history is not so pleasantly quotable:

  "How base a progeny sprang from golden sires!
  And viler shall they be whom ye beget." [1]

Such, in general, was the non-progressive outlook of the ancient Greeks.

Nor did the Romans hit upon the idea of progress in any form remotely
approaching our modern meaning.  The casual reader, to be sure, will find
occasional flares of expectancy about the future or of pride in the
advance of the past which at first suggest progressive interpretations of
history.  So Seneca, rejoicing because he thought he knew the explanation
of the moon's eclipses, wrote: "The days will come when those things
which now lie hidden time and human diligence will bring to light. . . .
The days will come when our posterity will marvel that we were ignorant
of truths so obvious." [2]  So, too, the Epicureans, like the Greek
tragedians before them, believed that human knowledge and effort had
lifted mankind out of primitive barbarism and Lucretius described how man
by the development of agriculture and navigation, the building of cities
and the establishment of laws, the manufacture of physical conveniences
and the creation of artistic beauty, had risen, "gradually progressing,"
to his present height.[3] Such hopeful changes in the past, however, were
not the prophecies of continuous advance; they were but incidental
fluctuations in a historic process which knew no progress as a whole.
Even the Stoics saw in history only a recurrent rise and fall in endless
repetition so that all apparent change for good or evil was but the
influx or the ebbing of the tide in an essentially unchanging sea.  The
words of Marcus Aurelius are typical: "The periodic movements of the
universe are the same, up and down from age to age"; "He who has seen
present things has seen all, both everything which has taken place from
all eternity and everything which will be for time without end; for all
are of one kin and of one form"; "He who is forty years old, if he has
any understanding at all, has, by virtue of the uniformity that prevails,
seen all things which have been and all that will be." [4]

When with these Greek and Roman ideas the Hebrew-Christian influences
blended, no conception of progress in the modern sense was added by the
Church's contribution.  To be sure, the Christians' uncompromising faith
in personality as the object of divine redemption and their vigorous hope
about the future of God's people in the next world, if not in this,
calcined some elements in the classical tradition.  Belief in cycles,
endlessly repeating themselves through cosmic ages, went by the board.
This earth became the theatre of a unique experiment made once for all;
in place of the ebb and flow of tides in a changeless sea, mankind's
story became a drama moving toward a climactic denouement that would
shake heaven and earth together in a divine cataclysm.  But this
consummation of all history was not a goal progressively to be achieved;
it was a divine invasion of the world expectantly to be awaited, when the
victorious Christ would return and the Day of Judgment dawn.

The development of this apocalyptic phrasing of hope has been traced too
often to require long rehearsal here.  If the Greeks were essentially
philosophers and welcomed congenially ideas like endless cosmic cycles,
the Hebrews were essentially practical and dramatic in their thinking and
they welcomed a picture of God's victory capable of being visualized by
the imagination.  At first their national hopes had been set on the
restoration of the Davidic kingdom; then the Davidic king himself had
grown in their imagination until, as Messiah in a proper sense, he
gathered to himself supernal attributes; then, as a child of their
desperate national circumstances, the hope was born of their Messiah's
sudden coming on the clouds of heaven for their help.  Between the
Testaments this expectation expanded and robed itself with pomp and
glory, so that when the Christians came they found awaiting them a
phrasing of hope which they accepted to body forth their certainty of
God's coming sovereignty over all the earth.  This expectation of coming
triumph was not progressive; it was cataclysmic.  It did not offer the
prospect of great gains to be worked for over long periods of time; it
offered a divine invasion of history immediately at hand.  It was
pictured, not in terms of human betterment to be achieved, but of divine
action to be awaited.  The victory would suddenly come like the flood in
Noah's day, like the lightning flashing from one end of the heaven to the
other, like a thief in the night.

To be sure, this eager expectation of a heavenly kingdom immediately to
arrive on earth soon grew dim among the Christians, and the reasons are
obvious.  For one thing, the Church herself, moving out from days of
hardship to days of preferment and prosperity, began to allure with her
inviting prospects of growing power the enthusiasms and hopes of the
people, until not the suddenly appearing kingdom from the heavens, but
the expanding Church on earth became the center of Christian interest.
For another thing, Christ meant more to Christians than the inaugurator
of a postponed kingdom which, long awaited with ardent expectation, still
did not arrive; Christ was the giver of eternal life now.  More and more
the emphasis shifted from what Christ would do for his people when he
came upon the clouds of heaven to what he was doing for them through his
spiritual presence with them.  Even in the Fourth Gospel one finds this
good news that Christ had already come again in the hearts of his people
insisted on in evident contrast with the apocalyptic hope literally
conceived.  For another thing, dramatic hopes of a sudden invasion of the
world are always the offspring of desperate conditions.  Only when people
are hard put to it do they want history catastrophically stopped in the
midst of its course.  The Book of Daniel must be explained by the
tyrannies of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Book of Revelation by the
persecutions of Domitian, the present recrudescence of pre-millennialism
by the tragedy of the Great War.  But when the persecution of the Church
by the State gave way to the running of the State by the Church; when to
be a Christian was no longer a road to the lions but the sine qua non of
preferment and power; when the souls under the altar ceased crying, "How
long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our
blood on them that dwell on the earth?" then the apocalyptic hopes grew
dim and the old desire for a kingdom immediately to come was subdued to
an expectation, no longer imperative and urgent, that sometime the course
of history would stop on Judgment Day.

In all these Greek and Roman, Hebrew and Christian contributions, which
flowed together and then flowed out into the medieval age, there was no
suggestion of a modern idea of progress, and in the medieval age itself
there was nothing to create a fresh phrasing of expectancy.  Men were
aware of the darkness of the days that had fallen on the earth; even when
they began to rouse themselves from their lethargy, their thoughts of
greatness did not reach forward toward a golden age ahead but harked back

  "To the glory that was Greece
  And the grandeur that was Rome,"

and their intellectual life, instead of being an adventurous search for
new truth, was a laborious endeavour to stabilize the truth already
formulated in the great days of the early Church.  Indeed, the Church's
specific contribution of a vividly imagined faith in a future world, as
the goal of the most absorbing hopes and fears of men, tended rather to
confirm than to dissipate the static conception of earthly life and
history.  With an urgency that the ancient world had never known the
Christian world believed in immortality and visualized the circumstances
of the life to come so concretely that in a medieval catechism the lurid
colour of the setting sun was ascribed to the supposition that "he
looketh down upon hell." [5]  Nothing in this life had any importance
save as it prepared the souls of men for life to come.  Even Roger Bacon,
his mind flashing like a beacon from below the sky-line of the modern
world, was sure that all man's knowledge of nature was useful only in
preparing his soul to await the coming of Antichrist and the Day of
Judgment.  There was no idea of progress, then, in the medieval age.
Human life and history were static and the only change to be anticipated
was the climactic event

  "When earth breaks up and heaven expands."


The emergence of modern progressive hopes out of this static medievalism
is one of the epic occurrences of history.  The causes which furthered
the movement seem now in retrospect to be woven into a fabric so tightly
meshed as to resist unraveling.  Nevertheless, it is not difficult to see
at least some of the major factors which furthered this revolutionary
change from a static to a progressive world.

Among the first, scientific invention is surely to be noted.  Even Roger
Bacon, prophecying with clairvoyant insight far in advance of the event,
foresaw one of the determining factors of the modern age: "Machines for
navigating can be made so that without rowers great ships can be guided
by one pilot on river or sea more swiftly than if they were full of
oarsmen.  Likewise vehicles are possible which without draught-animals
can be propelled with incredible speed, like the scythed chariots, as we
picture them, in which antiquity fought.  Likewise a flying machine is
possible in the middle of which a man may sit, using some ingenious
device by which artificial wings will beat the air like those of a flying
bird.  Also machines, small in size, can be constructed to lift and move
unlimited weights, than which in an emergency nothing is more useful."
[6]  So dreamed the great friar in the thirteenth century.  When, then,
we find the minds of men first throwing off their intellectual vassalage
to antiquity and beginning to believe in themselves, their present powers
and their future prospects, it is this new-found mastery over nature's
latent resources which is the spring and fountain of their confidence.
Cardan, in the sixteenth century, marveling at the then modern inventions
of the compass, the printing press, and gunpowder, cried, "All antiquity
has nothing comparable to these three things." [7]  Every year from that
day to this has deepened the impression made upon the minds of men by the
marvelous prospect of harnessing the resources of the universe.  The last
one hundred and twenty-five years have seen the invention of the
locomotive, the steamship, the telegraph, the sewing machine, the camera,
the telephone, the gasoline engine, wireless telegraphy and telephony,
and the many other applications of electricity.  As one by one new areas
of power have thus come under the control of man, with every conquest
suggesting many more not yet achieved but brought within range of
possibility, old theories of cosmic degeneration and circular futility
have gone to pieces, the glamour of antiquity has lost its allurement,
the great days of humanity upon the earth have been projected into the
future, and the gradual achievement of human progress has become the hope
of man.

Another element in the emergence of the modern progressive outlook upon
life is immediately consequent upon the first: world-wide discovery,
exploration and intercommunication.  Great as the practical results have
been which trace their source to the adventurers who, from Columbus down,
pioneered unknown seas to unknown lands, the psychological effects have
been greater still.  Who could longer live cooped up in a static world,
when the old barriers were so being overpassed and new continents were
inviting adventure, settlement, and social experiment hitherto untried?
The theological progressiveness of the Pilgrim Fathers, starting out from
Leyden for a new world, was not primarily a matter of speculation; it was
even more a matter of an adventurous spirit, which, once admitted into
life, could not be kept out of religious thought as well.  In Edward
Winslow's account of Pastor Robinson's last sermon before the little
company of pioneers left Leyden, we read that Robinson "took occasion
also miserably to bewaile the state and condition of the Reformed
Churches, who were come to a period in Religion, and would goe no further
than the instruments of their Reformation: As for example, the
_Lutherans_ they could not be drawne to goe beyond what _Luther_ saw, for
whatever part of God's will he had further imparted and revealed to
_Calvin_, they will die rather than embrace it.  And so also, saith he,
you see the _Calvinists_, they stick where he left them: a misery much to
bee lamented; For though they were precious shining lights in their
times, yet God hath not revealed his whole will to them: And were they
now living, saith hee, they would bee as ready and willing to embrace
further light, as that they had received." [8]  Static methods of
thinking are here evidently going to pieces before the impact of a
distinctly unstatic world.  They were looking for "more truth and light
yet to breake forth out of his holy Word" [9] because they lived in a
time when new things had been happening at an exhilarating rate and when
pioneering adventure and general travel in a world of open avenues were
already beginning to have that liberating effect which has increased with
every passing century.

Closely allied with the two elements already noted is a third: the
increase of knowledge, which, as in the case of astronomy, threw
discredit upon the superior claims of antiquity and made modern men seem
wiser than their sires.  For ages the conviction had held the ground that
the ancients were the wisest men who ever lived and that we, their
children, were but infants in comparison.  When, therefore, the
Copernican astronomy proved true, when the first terrific shock of it had
passed through resultant anger into wonder and from wonder into stupefied
acceptance, and from that at last into amazed exultation at the vast, new
universe unveiled, the credit of antiquity received a stunning blow.  So
far was Aristotle from being "the master of those who know" whom the
medievalists had revered, that he had not even known the shape and motion
of the earth or its relation with the sun.  For the first time in history
the idea emerged that humanity accumulates knowledge, that the ancients
were the infants, that the moderns represent the age and wisdom of the
race.  Consider the significance of those words of Pascal in the
seventeenth century: "Those whom we call ancient were really new in all
things, and properly constituted the infancy of mankind; and as we have
joined to their knowledge the experience of the centuries which have
followed them, it is in ourselves that we should find this antiquity that
we revere in others." [10]  For the first time in history men turned
their faces, in their search for knowledge, not backward but forward, and
began to experience that attitude which with us is habitual--standing on
tip-toe in eager expectancy, sure that tomorrow some new and unheard of
truth will be revealed.

New inventions, new discoveries, new knowledge--even before the
eighteenth century all these factors were under way.  Then a new factor
entered which has played a powerful part in substituting a progressive
for a static world: new social hopes.  The medieval age had no
expectation of a better social life on earth.  Charity was common but it
was purely individual and remedial; it did not seek to understand or to
cure the causes of social maladjustment; it was sustained by no
expectation of better conditions among men; it was valued because of the
giver's unselfishness rather than because of the recipient's gain, and in
consequence it was for the most part unregulated alms-giving, piously
motived but inefficiently managed.  In the eighteenth century a new
outlook and hope emerged.  If man could pioneer new lands, learn new
truth and make new inventions, why could he not devise new social systems
where human life would be freed from the miseries of misgovernment and
oppression?  With that question at last definitely rising, the long line
of social reformers began which stretched from Abbé de Saint-Pierre to
the latest believer in the possibility of a more decent and salutary
social life for human-kind.  The coming of democracy in government
incalculably stimulated the influence of this social hope, for with the
old static forms of absolute autocracy now broken up, with power in the
hands of the people to seek as they would "life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness," who could put limits to the possibilities?  The medieval
age was gone; the modern age had come, and its distinctive note was
progress, with new inventions, new discoveries, new knowledge and new
social hope.

It would be a fascinating task to watch these interweaving factors at
their work and to trace their commingled influence as slowly their
involved significance became clear, now to this man and now to that.  The
best narrative that has been written yet of this epochal movement is
contained in Professor Bury's volume on "The Idea of Progress." There one
sees the stream of this progressive conception of life pushing its way
out as through a delta by way of many minds, often far separated yet
flowing with the same water.  Some men attacked the ancients and by
comparison praised the modern time as Perrault did with "The Age of Louis
the Great"; some men foresaw so clearly the possibility of man's control
over nature that they dreamed of terrestrial Utopias as Francis Bacon did
in "New Atlantis"; some men, like Descartes, sought to grasp the
intellectual conditions of human improvement; and others, like Condorcet,
became the fervid prophets of human perfectibility; some, like Turgot,
re-examined history in terms of the new ideas; and some, like Saint Simon
and Comte, sought to discover the law by which all progress moves.  This
new idea of life and history came "by divers portions and in divers
manners," but no one can doubt its arrival.  The life of man upon this
earth was no longer conceived as static; it was progressive and the
possibilities that lay ahead made all the achievements of the past seem
like the play of childhood.

At last, in the nineteenth century, the climactic factor was added which
gathered up all the rest and embraced them in a comprehensive philosophy
of life.  Evolution became a credible truth.  No longer a dim conjecture,
it was established in biology, and then it spread its influence out into
every area of human thought until all history was conceived in genetic
terms and all the sciences were founded upon the evolutionary idea.
Growth became recognized as the fundamental law of life.  Nothing in the
universe without, or in man's life within, could longer be conceived as
having sprung full-statured, like Minerva from the head of Jove.  All
things achieved maturity by gradual processes.  The world itself had thus
come into being, not artificially nailed together like a box, but growing
like a tree, putting forth ever new branches and new leaves.  When this
idea had firmly grasped the human mind, the modern age had come indeed,
and progress was its distinctive category of understanding and its
exhilarating phrasing of human hope.  Then came the days of mid-Victorian
optimism with songs like this upon men's lips:

  "Every tiger madness muzzled, every serpent passion kill'd,
  Every grim ravine a garden, every blazing desert till'd,

  "Robed in universal harvest up to either pole she smiles,
  Universal ocean softly washing all her warless isles." [11]


Any one, however, who has lived with discerning thought through the
opening years of the twentieth century, must be aware that something has
happened to chasten and subdue these wildly enthusiastic hopes of the
mid-Victorian age.  Others beside the "gloomy dean" of St. Paul's,
whether through well-considered thought or through the psychological
shock of the Great War, have come to look upon this rash, unmitigated
enthusiasm about the earth's future as a fool's paradise.  At any rate,
no treatment of the idea of progress would be complete which did not
dwell upon the limitations to that idea, now definitely obvious to
thoughtful men.

As early as 1879, in Saporta's "Le Monde des Plantes," we run upon one
serious setback to unqualified expectations of progress.  Men began to
take into account the fact that this earth is not a permanent affair.
"We recognize from this point of view as from others," wrote Saporta,
"that the world was once young; then adolescent; that it has even passed
the age of maturity; man has come late, when a beginning of physical
decadence had struck the globe, his domain." [12]  Here is a fact to give
enthusiasm over earthly progress serious pause.  This earth, once
uninhabitable, will be uninhabitable again.  If not by wholesale
catastrophe, then by the slow wearing down of the sun's heat, already
passed its climacteric, this planet, the transient theatre of the human
drama, will be no longer the scene of man's activity, but as cold as the
moon, or as hot as colliding stars in heaven, will be able to sustain
human life no more.  "The grandest material works of the human race,"
wrote Faye in 1884, "will have to be effaced by degrees under the action
of a few physical forces which will survive man for a time.  Nothing will
remain, not even the ruins." [13]

Every suggested clew to a possible escape from the grimness of the
planet's dissolution has been followed up with careful search.  The
discovery of radioactivity seemed to promise endlessly extended life to
our sun, but Sir E. Rutherford, before the Royal Astronomical Society,
has roundly denied that the discovery materially lengthens our estimate
of the sun's tenure of life and has said that if the sun were made of
uranium it would not because of that last five years the longer as a
giver of heat.[14]  Whether we will or not, we have no choice except to
face the tremendous fact, calmly set down by von Hartmann in 1904: "The
only question is whether . . . the world-process will work itself out
slowly in prodigious lapse of time, according to purely physical laws; or
whether it will find its end by means of some metaphysical resource when
it has reached its culminating point.  Only in the last case would its
end coincide with the fulfilment of a purpose or object; in the first
case, a long period of purposeless existence would follow after the
culmination of life." [15]

In a word, men delighted at the prospect of human progress on this planet
have made an idol of it, only to discover that on a transient earth it
leads nowhere without God and immortality.  One disciple of naturalism
recently denied his desire to believe in God because he wanted a risky
universe.  But the universe without God is not risky; it is a foregone
conclusion; the dice are all loaded.  After the lapse of millions of
years which, however long they be stretched out, will ultimately end, our
solar system will be gone, without even a memory left of anything that
ever was dreamed or done within it.  That is the inevitable issue of such
a "risky" universe.  When scientifically-minded men, therefore, now take
a long look ahead, the Utopian visions of the mid-Victorian age are not
foremost in their thought.  Rather, as one of them recently wrote:

"One is tempted to imagine this race of supermen, of some millions of
years hence, grimly confronting the issue of extinction.  Probably long
before that time science will have perfectly mastered the problem of the
sun's heat, and will be able to state precisely at what period the
radiation will sink to a level which would normally be fatal to the
living inhabitants of the planets.  Then will begin the greatest of
cosmic events: a drama that has doubtless been played numbers of times
already on the stage of the universe: the last stand of the wonderful
microcosm against the brute force of the macrocosm. . . . .

"One conceives that our supermen will face the end philosophically.
Death is losing its terrors.  The race will genially say, as we
individuals do to-day, that it has had a long run.  But it will
none-the-less make a grim fight.  Life will be worth living, for
everybody, long before that consummation is in sight.  The hovering demon
of cold and darkness will be combatted by scientific means of which we
have not the germ of a conception." [16]

If ever a river ran out into a desert, the river of progressive hopes,
fed only from springs of materialistic philosophy, has done so here.  At
least the Greeks had their immortality and the Hebrews their coming
Kingdom of God, but a modern materialist, with all his talk of progress,
has neither the one nor the other, nor anything to take their place as an
ultimate for hope.  Whatever else may be true, progress on a transient
planet has not done away with the need of God and life eternal.

Moreover, not only have our twentieth century thought and experience
seriously qualified the meaning of progress on this earth by the limiting
of the earth's duration; men have come also to distrust, as a quite
unjustified flourish of sentimentality, the mid-Victorian confidence in
an automatic evolution which willy-nilly lifts humanity to higher levels.
Said Herbert Spencer, "Progress is not an accident, not a thing within
human control, but a beneficent necessity."  "This advancement is due to
the working of a universal law; . . . in virtue of that law it must
continue until the state we call perfection is reached. . . .  Thus the
ultimate development of the ideal man is logically certain--as certain as
any conclusion in which we place the most implicit faith; . . . so surely
must the things we call evil and immorality disappear; so surely must man
become perfect." [17]  There is no scientific basis whatever for such a
judgment.  Evolution is not an escalator which, whether or not man run in
addition to its lift, will inevitably raise humanity to a heaven on
earth.  Potatoes in the cellar shooting out long white eyes in search of
light are evolving, but they are evolving worse.  Upon the basis of a
scientific doctrine of evolution, no idolatrous superstition could be
much more lacking in intellectual support than Spencer's confidence in a
universal, mechanical, irresistible movement toward perfection.  The
plain fact is that human history is a strange blend of progress and
regress; it is the story of the rhythmic rise and fall of civilizations
and empires, of gains made only to be lost and lost only to be fought for
once again.  Even when advance has come, it has come by mingled progress
and cataclysm as water passes, through gradual increase of warmth, from
ice suddenly to liquid and from liquid suddenly to vapour.  Our
nineteenth century ideas of evolution tended to create in us the
impression that humanity had made a smooth and even ascent.  We
artificially graded the ascending track of human history, leveled and
macadamized it, and talked of inevitable progress.  Such sentimental
optimism has ceased even to be comforting, so utterly untenable has it
become to every well-instructed mind.

To such unfounded faith in automatic progress a valuable counterweight is
acquaintance with the life of a man like St. Augustine.  As one reads
Augustine's sermons one can hear in the background the collapse of a
great civilization.  One can tell from his discourses when the barbarians
began to move on Rome.  One can hear the crash when Alaric and his hordes
sacked the Eternal City.  One can catch the accent of horror at the tidal
waves of anarchy that everywhere swept in to engulf the falling empire.
"Horrible things," said Augustine, "have been told us.  There have been
ruins, and fires, and rapine, and murder, and torture.  That is true; we
have heard it many times; we have shuddered at all this disaster; we have
often wept, and we have hardly been able to console ourselves." [18]  At
last, the empire in ruins, the old civilization tottering to its
collapse, Augustine died in his episcopal city of Hippo, while the
barbarians were hammering at the city gates.  Through such scenes this
generation too has lived and has had to learn again, what we never should
have forgotten, that human history is not a smooth and well-rolled lawn
of soft ascents; that it is mountainous, precipitous, terrific--a country
where all progress must be won by dint of intelligence and toil, and
where it is as easy to lose the gains of civilization as it is to fall
over a cliff or to surrender a wheat field to the weeds.  An archeologist
in Mesopotamia talked with an Arab lad who neither read, himself, nor
knew any one who did; yet the lad, when he acknowledged this, stood
within a stone's throw of the site where milleniums ago was one of the
greatest universities of the ancient world and where still, amid the
desolation, one could dig and find the old clay tablets on which the
children of that ancient time had learned to write.  Progress?  Regress!
While history as a whole, from the Cro-Magnon man to the twentieth
century, does certainly suggest a great ascent, it has not been an
automatic levitation.  It has been a fight, tragic and ceaseless, against
destructive forces.  This world needs something more than a soft gospel
of inevitable progress.  It needs salvation from its ignorance, its sin,
its inefficiency, its apathy, its silly optimisms and its appalling


Nevertheless, though it is true that our modern ideas of progress on this
earth never in themselves can supply an adequate philosophy of life, and
though it is true that they do not dispense with, but rather emphasize,
our need of God and immortality and the saving powers which Christians
find in Christ, yet those ideas have in them a permanent contribution to
the life of man from whose influence the race cannot escape.  When we
have granted the limitations which disillusioned thoughtfulness suggests
concerning progress upon this earth, it still remains true that, in our
new scientific control over the latent resources of the earth without and
over our own mental and moral processes within, we have a machinery for
producing change that opens up exciting prospects before humanity.  Never
in our outlook upon man's earthly future can we go back to the endless
cosmic cycles of the Greeks or the apocalyptic expectations of the
Hebrews.  We are committed to the hope of making progress, and the
central problem which Christianity faces in adjusting her thought and
practice to the modern age is the problem of coming to intelligent terms
with this dominant idea.

These lectures are an excursion to spy out this land and to see, if we
may, what the idea of progress through the scientific control of life is
likely to mean and ought to mean to Christianity.  If this modern idea is
not intelligently guided in its effect upon our faith and practice, it
will none the less have its effect in haphazard, accidental, unguided,
and probably ruinous ways.  If one listens, for example, to the preaching
of liberal ministers, one sees that every accent of their teaching has
been affected by this prevalent and permeating thought.  The God they
preach no longer sits afar like Dante's deity in the stationary empyrean
beyond all reach of change; their God is here in the midst of the human
struggle, "their Captain in the well-fought fight."  H. G. Wells may be a
poor theologian but he is one of our best interpreters of popular thought
and his idea of God, marching through the world "like fifes and drums,"
calling the people to a progressive crusade for righteousness, is one
which modern folk find it most easy to accept.  He is a God of progress
who undergirds our endeavours for justice in the earth with his power;
who fights in and for and with us against the hosts of evil; whose
presence is a guarantee of ultimate victory; and whose effect upon us is
to send us out to war against ancient human curses, assured that what
ought to be done can be done.

As men's thought of God has thus been molded by the idea of progress on
the earth, so, too, the Christ they preach is not primarily, as of old,
the victim by whose substitutionary sacrifice the race of men has found
an open door from the bottomless pit of endless woe to a blessed
immortality in Paradise.  The modern emphasis is all another way.  Christ
is the divine revealer whose spirit alone can transform individuals and
save society.  The sort of character he was, the life he lived, the ideas
he promulgated, are the salt that can preserve human life, the light that
can illumine the way to a kingdom of righteousness on earth.  He himself
is the leader in the fight for that kingdom, his sacrifice part of the
price it costs, his spirit the quality of life that is indispensable to
its coming, and when we think of him we sing,

  "The Son of God goes forth to war. . . .
  Who follows in his train?"

So, too, the Church, as presented by typical modern preachers, is no
longer an ark to which, from the flood of wrath divine, the few may flee
for safety.  If men tried to preach in that way, the message would stick
in their throats.  The Church is primarily an instrument in God's hands
to bring personal and social righteousness upon the earth.  When her
massed influence overcomes a public evil or establishes a public good,
men find the justification of her existence and a first-rate weapon of
apologetic argument in her behalf.  When wars come, the Church is blamed
because she did not prevent them; when wars are over, she takes counsel
how she may prove the validity of her message by making their recurrence
impossible; and the pitiful dismemberment of the Church by sects and
schisms is hated and deplored, not so much because of economic waste or
theological folly, as because these insane divisions prevent social
effectiveness in bringing the message of Christ to bear influentially on
modern life.

Likewise, hope, deeply affected by modern ideas of earthly progress, is
not primarily post-mortem, as it used to be.  Men believe in immortality,
but it seems so naturally the continuance of this present life that their
responsible concern is chiefly centered here.  The hopes which waken
immediate enthusiasm and stir spontaneous response are hopes of
righteousness victorious upon the earth.  Because men believe in God,
they believe that he has great purposes for humankind.  The course of
human history is like a river: sometimes it flows so slowly that one
would hardly know it moved at all; sometimes bends come in its channel so
that one can hardly see in what direction it intends to go; sometimes
there are back-eddies so that it seems to be retreating on itself.  If a
man has no spiritual interpretation of life, if he does not believe in
God, he may well give up hope and conclude that the human river is
flowing all awry or has altogether ceased to move.  A Christian, however,
has a spiritual interpretation of life.  He knows that human history is a
river--not a whirlpool, nor a pond, but a river flowing to its end.  Just
as, far inland, we can tell that the Hudson is flowing to the sea,
because the waters, when the tide comes in, are tinctured with the
ocean's quality, so now, we believe that we can tell that the river of
human history is flowing out toward the kingdom of our God.  Already the
setback of the divine ocean is felt among us in ideals of better life,
personal, social, economic, national.  That it is Christianity's function
to believe in these ideals, to have faith in the possibility of their
realization, to supply motives for their achievement, and to work for
them with courage and sacrifice, is the familiar note of modern Christian

The modern apologetic also is tinctured with this same quality.  Not as
of old is it a laboured working out of metaphysical propositions.
Rather, a modern Christian preacher's defense of the Gospel may be
paraphrased in some such strain as this: You never can achieve a decent
human life upon this planet apart from the Christian Gospel.  Neither
outward economic comfort nor international treaties of peace can save the
day for humanity.  Not even when our present situation is described as "a
race between education and catastrophe" has the case been adequately
stated.  What kind of education is meant?  If every man and woman on
earth were a Ph. D., would that solve the human problem?  Aaron Burr had
a far keener intellect than George Washington.  So far as swiftness and
agility of intelligence were concerned, Burr far out-distanced the
slow-pacing mind of Washington.  But, for all that, as you watch Burr's
life, and many another's like him, you understand what Macaulay meant
when he exclaimed: "as if history were not made up of the bad actions of
extraordinary men, as if all the most noted destroyers and deceivers of
our species, all the founders of arbitrary governments and false
religions, had not been extraordinary men, as if nine tenths of the
calamities which have befallen the human race had any other origin than
the union of high intelligence with low desires." Was Nebuchadnezzar of
Babylon unintelligent?  Caesar and Napoleon--were they unintelligent?
Has the most monumental and destructive selfishness in human history been
associated with poor minds?  No, with great minds, which, if the world
was to be saved their devastation, needed to be reborn into a new spirit.
The transforming gospel which religion brings is indispensable to a
building of the kingdom of righteousness upon the earth.

Wherever one listens, then, to the typical teaching of modern Christians,
he finds himself in the atmosphere of the idea of progress.  Men's
thoughts of God, of Christ, of the Church, of hope, their methods of
apologetic, are shaped to that mold--are often thinned out and flattened
down and made cheap and unconvincing by being shaped to that mold--so
that an endeavour to achieve an intelligent understanding of
Christianity's relationship with the idea of progress is in part a
defensive measure to save the Gospel from being unintelligently mauled
and mishandled by it.  Marcus Dods, when he was an old man, said: "I do
not envy those who have to fight the battle of Christianity in the
twentieth century."  Then, after a moment, he added, "Yes, perhaps I do,
but it will be a stiff fight."  It is a stiff fight, and for this reason
if for no other, that before we can get on much further in a progressive
world we must achieve with wisdom and courage some fundamental
reconstructions in our Christian thinking.

[1] Aratus of Soli: Phaenomena, lines 122-3.

[2] Lucius Annaeus Seneca: Naturalium Quaestionum, Liber VII, 25.

[3] T. Lucretius Carus: De Rerum Natura, Lib. V, 1455--"Paullatim docuit
pedetentim progredienteis."

[4] Marcus Aurelius Antoninus: Meditations, IX, 28; VI, 37; XI, 1.

[5] Andrew D. White: A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in
Christendom, Vol. I, p. 97.

[6] Roger Bacon: Epistola de Secretis Operibus Artis et Naturae, et de
Nullitate Magiae, Caput IV, in Opera Quaedam Hactenus Inedita, edited by
J. S. Brewer, p. 533.

[7] Jerome Cardan: De Subtilitate, Liber Decimusseptimus: De artibus,
artificiosisque rebus.

[8] Edward Winslow: Hypocrisie Unmasked, p. 97.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Blaise Pascal: Opuscules, Preface to the Treatise on Vacuum, in The
Thoughts, Letters and Opuscules of Blaise Pascal, Translated by O.  W.
Wight, p. 550.

[11] Alfred Tennyson: Locksley Hall Sixty Years After.

[12] Comte de Saporta: Le Monde des Plantes avant L'Apparition de
L'Homme, p. 109.

[13] H. Faye: Sur L'Origine du Monde, Chapitre XI, p. 256-7.

[14] Joseph McCabe: The End of the World, p. 112.

[15] Eduard von Hartmann: Ausgewählte Werke, viii, pp. 572-3 (Leipzig,

[16] Joseph McCabe: The End of the World, pp. 116-117.

[17] Herbert Spencer: Illustrations of Universal Progress, Chapter I,
Progress: Its Law and Cause, p. 58; Social Statics, Part I, Chapter II,
The Evanescence of Evil, Sec. 4, p. 78 ff.

[18] Louis Bertrand: Saint Augustin, p. 342.




One of the first effects of the idea of progress, whose development our
last lecture traced, has been to increase immeasurably man's self
reliance and to make him confident of humanity's power to take care of
itself.  At the heart of the idea of progress is man's new scientific
control over life, and this new mastery, whereby the world seems ready
to serve the purposes of those who will learn the laws, is the dominant
influence in both the intellectual and practical activities of our age.
That religion, in consequence, should seem to many of minor import, if
not quite negligible, and that men, trusting themselves, their
knowledge of law, their use of law-abiding forces, their power to
produce change and to improve conditions, should find less need of
trusting any one except themselves, was inevitable, but for all that it
is fallacious.  Already we have seen that a stumbling and uneven
progress, precarious and easily frustrated, taking place upon a
transient planet, goes but a little way to meet those elemental human
needs with which religious faith has dealt.  In our present lecture we
propose a more specific consideration of this abiding necessity of
religion in a progressive world.

How difficult it is to go back in imagination to the days before men
grasped the meaning of natural law!  We take gravitation for granted
but, when Newton first proclaimed its law, the artillery of orthodox
pulpits was leveled against him in angry consternation.  Said one
preacher, Newton "took from God that direct action on his works so
constantly ascribed to him in Scripture and transferred it to material
mechanism" and he "substituted gravitation for Providence." [1]  That
preacher saw truly that the discovery of natural law was going to make
a profound difference to religion.  For ages men had been accustomed to
look for the revelation of supernatural power in realms where they did
not know the laws.  And as men were tempted to look for the presence of
God in realms where they did not know the laws, so in those realms they
trusted God to do for them what they did not know how to do for

Then men began discovering natural laws, and every time they laid their
hands on a new natural law they laid their hands on a new law-abiding
force and began doing for themselves things of which their fathers had
never dreamed.  Stories of old-time miracles are overpassed in our
modern days.  Did Aladdin once rub a magic lamp and build a palace?
To-day, knowledge of engineering laws enables us to achieve results
that would put Aladdin quite to shame.  He never dreamed a Woolworth
Tower.  Did the Israelites once cross the Red Sea dry-shod?  One thing,
however, they never would have hoped to do: to cross under and over the
Hudson River day after day in multitudes, dry-shod.  Did an axe-head
float once when Elisha threw a stick into the water?  But something no
Elisha ever dreamed of seeing we see continually: iron ships navigating
the ocean as though it were their natural element.  Did Joshua once
prolong the day for battle by the staying of the sun?  Yet Joshua could
never have conceived an habitual lighting of the city's homes and
streets until by night they are more brilliant than by day.  Did
Jericho's walls once fall at the united shout of a besieging people?
Those childlike besiegers, however, never dreamed of guns that could
blast Jerichos to pieces from seventy miles away.  Huxley was right
when he said that our highly developed sciences have given us a command
over the course of non-human nature greater than that once attributed
to the magicians.

The consequence has been revolutionary.  Old cries of dependence upon
God grow unreal upon the lips of multitudes.  Sometimes without knowing
it, often without wanting it, men are drawn by the drift of modern
thought away from all confidence in God and all consciousness of
religious need.  Consider two pictures.  The first is an epidemic in
New England in the seventeenth century.  Everybody is thinking about
God; the churches are full and days are passed in fasting and agonizing
prayer.  Only one way of getting rid of such an epidemic is known: men
must gain new favour in the sight of God.  The second picture is an
epidemic in New England in the twentieth century.  The churches are not
full--they are closed by official order and popular consent to prevent
the spread of germs.  Comparatively few people are appealing to God;
almost everybody is appealing to the health commissioner.  Not many
people are relying upon religion; everybody is relying upon science.
As one faces the pregnant significance of that contrast, one sees that
in important sections of our modern life science has come to occupy the
place that God used to have in the reliance of our forefathers.  For
the dominant fact of our generation is power over the world which has
been put into our hands through the knowledge of laws, and the
consequence is that the scientific mastery of life seems man's
indispensable and sufficient resource.

The issue is not far to seek.  Such has been public confidence in the
efficacy and adequacy of this scientific control of life to meet all
human needs, that in multitudes of minds religion has been crowded to
the wall.  Why should we trust God or concern ourselves with the deep
secrets of religious faith, if all our need is met by learning laws,
blowing upon our hands, and going to work?  So even Christians come
secretly to look upon their Christianity as a frill, something gracious
but not indispensable, pleasant to live with but not impossible to live
without.  Christian preachers lose their ability, looking first upon
their spiritual message and then upon their fellow men, to feel how
desperately the two need each other.  Religion has become an "elective
in the university of life."  But religion cannot persist as a frill; it
either is central in its importance or else it is not true at all.  Its
great days come only when it is seen to be indispensable.  We may use
what artificial respiration we will upon the Church, the days of the
Church's full power will not come until the conviction lays hold upon
her that the endeavour to found civilization upon a materialistic
science is leading us to perdition; that man needs desperately the
ministry of religion, its insight into life's meanings, its control
over life's use, its inward power for life's moral purposes; that man
never needed this more than now, when the scientific control of life is
arming him with so great ability to achieve his aims.


As we try to discern wherein man's need of religion lies with reference
to the scientific control of life, let us start with the proposition
that, when we have all the facts which science can discover, we still
need a spiritual interpretation of the facts.  All our experiences are
made up of two elements: first, the outward circumstance, and second,
the inward interpretation.  On the one side is our environment, the
world we live in, the things that befall us, the kaleidoscopic changes
of fortune in the scenery of which our lives are set.  On the other
side are the inward interpretations that we give to this outward
circumstance.  Experience is compounded of these two elements.

This clearly is true in ordinary living.  Two men, let us say, go to
their physicians and are told that they have only a few months to live.
This is the fact which faces both of them.  As we watch them, however,
we are at once aware that this fact is not the whole of their
experience.  One of the men crumples up; he "collapses into a yielding
mass of plaintiveness and fear."  Thinking of the event which he is
facing, he sees nothing there but horror.  That is his interpretation
of it.  The other man so looks upon the event which is coming that his
family, far from having to support his spirit, are supported by him.
He buoys them up; he carries them along; his faith and courage are
contagious; and when he thinks of his death it appears in his eyes a
great adventure concerning which the old hymn told the truth:

  "It were a well-spent journey
  Though seven deaths lay between."

That is his interpretation.  As we regard the finished experiences of
these two men, we see clearly that, while the same fact lay at the
basis of both, it was the inward interpretation that determined the
quality of the experience.

This power to transform facts so that they will be no longer merely
facts, but facts plus an interpretation, is one of the most distinctive
and significant elements in human life.  The animals do not possess it.
An event befalls a dog and, when the dog is through with it, the event
is what it was before.  The dog has done nothing to it.  But the same
event befalls a man and at once something begins to happen to it.  It
is clothed in the man's thought about it; it is dressed in his
appreciation and understanding; it is transformed by his
interpretations.  The event comes out of that man's life something
altogether different from what it was when it went in.  The man can do
almost anything with that event.  For our experiences do not fall into
our lives in single lumps, like meteors from a distant sky of fate; our
experiences always are made up of the fortunes that befall us and the
interpretations that we give to them.

So far as the relative importance of these two factors is concerned, we
may see the truth in the application of our thought to happiness.  If
there is any area in human experience where the outward circumstance
might be supposed to control the results, it is the realm of happiness;
yet probably nine-tenths of the problem of happiness lies, not in the
outward event, but in the inward interpretation.  If we could describe
those conditions in which the happiest people whom we have known have
lived, can any one imagine the diversity of environment that would be
represented in our accounts?  Let them move in procession before the
eyes of our imagination, those happy folk whose friendship has been the
benediction of our lives!  What a motley company they are!  For some
are blind, and some are crippled, and some are invalid; not many are
rich and fortunate; many are poor--a company of handicapped but radiant
spirits whose victorious lives, like the burning bush which Moses saw,
have made in a desert a spot of holy ground.  If, now, we ask why it is
that happiness can be so amazingly independent of outward circumstance,
this is the answer: every experience has two factors, the fortune that
befalls and the inward interpretation of it; and, while we often cannot
control the fortune, we always can help with the interpretation.  That
is in our power.  That is the throne of our sovereignty over our lives.


The deep need of a worthy interpretation of life is just as urgent in a
world where the idea of progress reigns as in any other, and to supply
that need is one of the major functions of religion.  For religion is
something more than all the creeds that have endeavoured to express its
thought.  Religion is something more than all the organizations that
have tried to incarnate its purposes.  Religion is the human spirit, by
the grace of God, seeking and finding an interpretation of experience
that puts sense and worth, dignity, elevation, joy, and hope into life.

A body of students recently requested an address upon the subject:
"What is the use of religion anyway?"  The group of ideas behind the
question is not hard to guess: that science gives us all the facts,
that facts and their laws are all we need, that the scientific control
of life guarantees progress, and that religion therefore is
superfluous.  But in such a statement one towering interrogation has
been neglected: what about the interpretation of the very facts which
science does present?  Could not one address himself to the question of
those students in some such way as this?  You say that science has
disclosed to us the leisureliness of the evolving universe.  Come back,
then, on the long road to the rear on which Bishop Usher's old date of
creation is a way station an infinitesimal distance behind us; come
back until together we stand at the universe's postern gate and look
out into the mystery whence all things came, where no scientific
investigation can ever go, where no one knows the facts.  What do you
make of it?  Two voices rise in answer.  One calls the world "a
mechanical process, in which we may discover no aim or purpose
whatever." [2]  And another voice says:

  "The heavens declare the glory of God;
  And the firmament showeth his handiwork." [3]

That is not a difference in facts, upon which we can get our hands.
That is a difference in the interpretation of the facts.

Or come forward together to look into that mystery ahead, toward which
this universe and we within it are so prodigiously plunging on.  Do we
not often feel, upon this earth whirling through space, like men and
women who by some weird chance have found themselves upon a ship,
ignorant of their point of departure and of their destination?  For all
the busyness with which we engage in many tasks, we cannot keep
ourselves from slipping back at times to the ship's stern to look out
along its wake and wonder whence we came, or from going at times also
to its prow to wonder whither we are headed.  What do you make of it?
Toward what sort of haven is this good ship earth sailing--a port
fortunate or ill?  Or may it be there is no haven, only endless sailing
on an endless sea by a ship that never will arrive?  So questioning, we
listen to conflicting voices.  One says there is no future except
ultimate annihilation, and another voice sings:

  "All we have willed or hoped or dreamed
    of good, shall exist."

That is not a difference in the facts, that eyes can see and hands
handle; that is a difference in the interpretation of the facts.

Or from such large considerations come down into some familiar
experience of daily life.  Here is a man having a hard battle between
right and wrong.  There is no more impressive sight on earth to one who
looks at it with understanding eyes.  What do you make of this
mysterious sense of duty which lays its magisterial hand upon us and
will not be denied?  At once various voices rise.  Haeckel says the
sense of duty is a "long series of phyletic modifications of the
phronema of the cortex." [4]  That is his interpretation.  And

  "Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!
  O Duty!"

This sharp contrast is not a difference between facts, which can be
pinned down as the Lilliputians pinned down Gulliver; it is a
difference in the interpretation of the facts.

Or let us go together up some high hill from which we can look out upon
the strange history of humankind.  We see its agonies and wars, its
rising empires followed by their ruinous collapse, and yet a mysterious
advance, too, as though mankind, swinging up a spiral, met old
questions upon a higher level, so that looking back to the Stone Age,
for all the misery of this present time, we would be rather here than
there.  What can we make of it?  Hauptmann's Michael Kramer says "All
this life is the shuddering of a fever."  And Paul says, "the eternal
purpose which he purposed in Christ."  That is not a difference in the
facts.  It is a difference in the interpretation of the facts.

Yet once more, come into the presence of death.  The facts that human
eyes can see are plain enough, but what can we make of it--this
standing on the shore, waving farewell to a friendly ship that loses
itself over the rim of the world?  Says Thomson of the world's
treatment of man,

  "It grinds him some slow years of bitter breath,
  Then grinds him back into eternal death."

And Paul says: "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this
mortal must put on immortality.  But when this corruptible shall have
put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality,
then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed
up in victory."  That is not a contrast between facts; that is a
contrast between interpretations of facts.

Is it not plain why religion has such an unbreakable hold upon the
human mind?  The funeral of Christianity has been predicted many times
but each time the deceased has proved too lively for the obsequies.  In
the middle of the eighteenth century they said that Christianity had
one foot in the grave, but then came the amazing revival of religious
life under the Wesleys.  In the middle of the last century one wiseacre
said, "In fifty years your Christianity will have died out"; yet, for
all our failures, probably Christianity in all its history has never
made more progress than in the last half century.  If you ask why, one
reason is clear: man cannot live in a universe of uninterpreted facts.
The scientific approach to life is not enough.  It does not cover all
the ground.  Men want to know what life spiritually means and they want
to know that it "means intensely, and means good."  Facts alone are
like pieces of irritating grit that get into the oyster shell; the
pearl of life is created by the interpretations which the facts educe.

In this difference between the facts of experience and their
interpretations lies the secret of the contrast between our two words
_existence_ and _life_.  Even before we define the difference, we feel
it.  To exist is one thing; to live is another.  Existence is comprised
of the bare facts of life alone--the universe in which we live, our
heritage and birth, our desires and their satisfactions, growth, age
and death.  All the facts that science can display before us comprise
existence.  But life is something more.  Life is existence clothed in
spiritual meanings; existence seen with a worthy purpose at the heart
of it and hope ahead, existence informed by the spirit's insights and
understandings, transfigured and glorified by the spirit's faiths and
hopes.  It follows, therefore, that while existence is given us to
start with, life is a spiritual achievement.  A man must take the facts
of his existence whether he wants to or not, but he makes his life by
the activity of his soul.  The facts of existence are like so much
loose type, which can be set up to many meanings.  One man leaves those
facts in chaotic disarrangement or sets them up into cynical
affirmations, and he exists.  But another man takes the same facts and
by spiritual insight makes them mean gloriously, and he lives indeed.
To suppose that mankind ever can be satisfied with existence only and
can be called off from the endeavour to achieve this more abundant
life, is utterly to misconceive the basic facts of human nature.  And
this profound need for a spiritual interpretation of life is not
satisfied by an idea of temporal progress, stimulated by a few
circumstances which predispose our minds to immediate expectancy.


When, therefore, any one asserts the adequacy of the scientific
approach to life, one answer stands ready to our hand: science deals
primarily with facts and their laws, not with their spiritual
interpretations.  To put the same truth in another way, science deals
with one specially abstracted aspect of the facts; it drains them of
their qualitative elements and, reducing them to their quantitative
elements, it proceeds to weigh and measure them and state their laws.
It moves in the realm of actualities and not in the realm of values.
One science, for example, takes a gorgeous sunset and reduces it to the
constituent ether waves that cause the colour.  What it says about the
sunset is true, but it is not the whole truth.  Ask anybody who has
ever seen the sun riding like a golden galleon down the western sea!
Another science takes a boy and reduces him to his Bertillon
measurements and at the top of the statistics writes his name, "John
Smith."  That is the truth about John Smith, but it is not the whole
truth.  Ask his mother and see!  Another science takes our varied and
vibrant mental life and reduces it to its physical basis and states its
laws.  That is the truth about our mental life, but it is not the whole
truth.  What is more, it is not that part of the truth by which men
really live.  For men live by love and joy and hope and faith and
spiritual insight.  When these things vanish life is

        "a tale
  Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
  Signifying nothing."

When a man takes that quantitative aspect of reality, which is the
special province of natural science, as though it were the whole of
reality, he finds himself in a world where the physical forces are in
control.  We, ourselves, according to this aspect of life, are the
product of physical forces--marionettes, dancing awhile because
physical forces are pulling on the strings.  In a word, when a man
takes that quantitative aspect of reality, which natural science
presents, as though it were the whole of reality, he becomes a
materialistic fatalist, and on that basis we cannot permanently build
either personal character or a stable civilization.  It is not
difficult, then, to see one vital significance of Jesus Christ: he has
given us the most glorious interpretation of life's meaning that the
sons of men have ever had.  The fatherhood of God, the friendship of
the Spirit, the sovereignty of righteousness, the law of love, the
glory of service, the coming of the Kingdom, the eternal hope--there
never was an interpretation of life to compare with that.  If life
often looks as though his interpretation were too good to be true, we
need not be surprised.  Few things in the universe _are_ as
superficially they _look_.  The earth looks flat and, as long as we
gaze on it, it never will look any other way, but it is spherical for
all that.  The earth looks stationary and if we live to be as old as
Methuselah we never will see it move, but it is moving--seventy-five
times faster than a cannon ball!  The sun looks as though it rose in
the east and set in the west, and we never can make it look any other
way, but it does not rise nor set at all.  So far as this earth is
concerned, the sun is standing still enough.  We look as though we
walked with our heads up and our feet down, and we never can make
ourselves look otherwise, but someone finding a safe stance outside
this whirling sphere would see us half the time walking with our heads
down and our feet up.  Few things are ever the way they look, and the
end of all scientific research, as of all spiritual insight, is to get
behind the way things look to the way things are.  Walter Pater has a
rememberable phrase, "the hiddenness of perfect things."  One meaning,
therefore, which Christ has for Christians lies in the realm of
spiritual interpretation.  He has done for us there what Copernicus and
Galileo did in astronomy: he has moved us out from our flat earth into
his meaningful universe, full of moral worth and hope.  He has become
to us in this, our inner need, what the luminous phrase of the Book of
Job describes, "An interpreter, one among a thousand."  And in spite of
all our immediate expectancy, born out of our scientific control of
life, mankind never needed that service more than now.


There is a second proposition to which we should attend as we endeavour
to define the need for religion with reference to the scientific
mastery of life.  Consider why so often men are tempted to suppose that
science is adequate for human purposes.  Is it not because science
supplies men with power?  Steam, electricity, petroleum, radium--with
what progressive mastery over the latent resources of the universe does
science move from one area of energy to another, until in the
imagination of recent generations she has seemed to stand saying: all
power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  With such power to
bestow, is she not our rightful mistress?  But who that has walked with
discerning eyes through these last few years can any longer be beguiled
by that fallacious vision?  Look at what we are doing with this new
power that science has given us!  The business to which steel and steam
and electricity, explosives and poisons have recently been put does not
indicate that humanity's problem is solved when new power is put into
our hands.  Even the power of wide-spread communication can so be used
that a war which began in Serajevo will end with lads from Kamchatka
and Bombay blasted to pieces by the same shell on a French battlefield.
Even the power of modern finance can be so used that nations will
exhaust the credit of generations yet unborn in waging war.  How some
folk keep their cheap and easy optimism about humanity's use of its new
energies is a mystery.  We have come pretty near to ruining ourselves
with them already.  If we do not achieve more spiritual control over
them than we have yet exhibited we will ruin ourselves with them
altogether.  Once more in history a whole civilization will commit
suicide like Saul falling on his own sword.

The scientific control of life, by itself, creates more problems than
it solves.  The problem of international disarmament, for example, has
been forced on us by the fear of that perdition to the suburbs of which
our race has manifestly come through the misuse of scientific
knowledge.  Humanity is disturbed about itself because it has
discovered that it is in possession of power enough to wreck the world.
Never before did mankind have so much energy to handle.  Multitudes of
people, dubious as to whether disarmament is practical, are driven like
shuttles back and forth between that doubt, upon the one side, and the
certainty, upon the other, that armament is even less practical.  The
statisticians have been at work upon this last war and their figures,
like the measurements of the astronomers, grow to a size so colossal
that the tentacles of our imaginations slip off them when we try to
grasp their size.  The direct costs of this last war, which left us
with more and harder difficulties than we had at the beginning, were
about $186,000,000,000.  Is that practical?  At the beginning of 1922
almost all the nations in Europe, although by taxation they were
breaking their people's financial backs, were spending far more than
their income, and in the United States, far and away the richest nation
on the planet, we faced an enormous deficit.  Is that practical?  In
this situation, with millions of people unemployed, with starvation
rampant, with social revolution stirring in every country--not because
people are bad, not because they impatiently love violence, but because
they cannot stand forever the social strain and economic consequence of
war--what were we doing?  We were launching battleships which cost
$42,000,000 to build, which cost $2,000,000 a year to maintain and
which, in a few years, would be towed out to sea to be used as an
experimental target to try out some new armour-piercing shell.  I
wonder if our children's children will look back on that spectacle and
call it practical.  In 1912 the naval expenses of this country were
about $136,000,000.  In 1921 our naval expenses were about
$641,000,000--approximately five times greater in nine years.  So over
all the earth war preparations were pyramiding with an ever
accelerating momentum.  And because any man can see that we must stop
sometime, we have been trying desperately to stop now; to turn our
backs upon this mad endeavour to build civilization upon a
materialistic basis, bulwarked by physical force; to turn our faces
toward spiritual forces, fair play, reasonable conference, good-will,
service and co-operation.

Yet how hard it is to make the change effective!  Long ages ago in the
primeval jungle, the dogs' ancestors used to turn around three times in
the thicket before they lay down, that they might make a comfortable
spot to nestle in, and now your highbred Pekingese will turn around
three times upon his silken cushion although there is no earthly reason
why he should.  So difficult is it to breed beasts and men out of their
inveterate habits.  So hard is it going to be to make men give up the
idea that force is a secure foundation for international relationships.
Yet somehow that change must be made.  They are having trouble with the
housing problem in Tokyo and the reason is simple.  Tokyo is built on
earthquake ground and it is insecure.  You cannot put great houses on
unstable foundations.  One story, two stories, three stories--that is
about as high as they dare go.  But in New York City one sees the
skyscrapers reaching up their sixty stories into the air.  The
explanation is not difficult: Manhattan Island is solid rock.  If you
are going to build great structures you must have great foundations.
And civilization is a vast and complicated structure.  We cannot build
it on physical force.  That is too shaky.  We must build it upon
spiritual foundations.

There are those who suppose that this can be done by progress through
the scientific control of life, and who treat religion as a negligible
element.  Such folk forget that while a cat will lap her milk
contentedly from a saucer made of Wedgwood or china, porcelain or
earthenware, and will feel no curiosity about the nature of the
receptacle from which she drinks, human beings are not animals who thus
can take their food and ask no questions about the universe in which it
is served to them.  We want to know about life's origin and meaning and
destiny.  We cannot keep our questions at home.  We cannot stop
thinking.  If this universe is fundamentally physical, if the only
spark of spiritual life which it ever knew is the fitful flame of our
own unsteady souls, if it came from dust and to dust will return,
leaving behind no recollection of the human labour, sacrifice and
aspiration which for a little time it unconsciously enshrined, that
outlook makes an incalculable difference to our present lives.  For
then our very minds themselves, which have developed here by accident
upon this wandering island in the skies, represent the only kind of
mind there is, and what we do not know never was thought about or cared
for or purposed by anyone, and we, alone in knowing, are ourselves

The consequence of this sort of thinking, which is the essence of
irreligion, is to be seen on every side of us in folk who, having thus
lost all confidence in God and the reality of the spiritual world,
still try to labour for the good of men.  They have kept one part of
Christianity, its ideals of character and service; they have lost the
other part, which assures them about God.  In a word, they are trying
to build an idealistic and serviceable life upon a godless basis.  Now,
the difficulty with this attitude toward life lies here: it demands a
quality of spirit for which it cannot supply the motive.  It demands
social hope, confidence, enthusiasm and sacrifice, and all the while it
cuts their nerves.  It tells men that the universe is fundamentally a
moral desert, that it never was intended even to have an oasis of
civilization in it, that if we make one grow it will be by dint of our
own effort against the deadset of the universe's apathy, that if, by
our toil, an oasis is achieved, it will have precarious tenure in such
alien and inhospitable soil, and that in the end it will disappear
before the onslaught of the cosmic forces; yet in the same breath it
tells men to work for that oasis with hope, confidence, joy and
enthusiastic sacrifice.  This is a world view which asks of men a
valorous and expensive service for which it cannot supply the driving
power.  Yet many of our universities are presenting just that outlook
upon life to our young men and women.  The youth are being urged to
fight courageously and sacrificially for righteousness upon the earth,
and at the same time they are presented with a view of the background
and destiny of human life similar to that which Schopenhauer expressed:
"Truly optimism cuts so sorry a figure in this theatre of sin,
suffering, and death that we should have to regard it as a piece of
sarcasm, if Hume had not explained its origin--insincere flattery of
God in the arrogant expectation of gain." [5]

What this generation, which so disparages religion and like the ancient
Sadducee calls its good right arm its god, will ultimately discover is
that the fight for righteousness in character and in society is a long
and arduous campaign.  The Bible says that a thousand years in God's
sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the
night.  It certainly seems that way.  It is a long and roundabout
journey to the Promised Land.  Generations die and fall by the way.
The road is white with the bones of pilgrims who attained not the
promises but saw them and greeted them from afar.  Some Giordano Bruno,
who gives himself to the achievement of mankind's high aims, is burned
at the stake; centuries pass and on the very spot where he was martyred
a monument is built with this inscription on it: "Raised to Giordano
Bruno by the generation which he foresaw."  This is exhilarating when
the story is finished, but in the meantime it is hard work being
Giordano Bruno and sacrificially labouring for a cause which you care
enough for and believe enough in and are sure enough about so that you
will die for it.  When such faith and hope and sacrifice are demanded
one cannot get them by exhortation, by waving a wand of words to
conjure his enthusiasm up.  Nothing will do but a world-view adequate
to supply motives for the service it demands.  Nothing will do but

One wonders why the preachers do not feel this more and so recover
their consciousness of an indispensable mission.  One wonders that the
churches can be so timid and dull and negative, that our sermons can be
so pallid and inconsequential.  One wonders why in the pulpit we have
so many flutes and so few trumpets.  For here is a world with the
accumulating energies of the new science in its hands, living in the
purlieus of hell because it cannot gain spiritual mastery over the very
power in which it glories.  Here is a world which must build its
civilization on spiritual bases or else collapse into abysmal ruin and
which cannot achieve the task though all the motives of
self-preservation cry out to have it done, because men lack the very
elements of faith and character which it is the business of religion to


We have said that when science has given us all its facts we still need
a spiritual interpretation of the facts; that when science has put all
its energies into our hands we still need spiritual mastery over their
use.  Let us say in conclusion that, when science has given us all its
power, we still need another kind of power which it is not the business
of science to supply.  Long ago somebody who knew the inner meaning of
religion wrote:

  "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
  He leadeth me beside still waters.
  He restoreth my soul."

That last phrase sums up one of the deepest needs of human life.  We
are in constant want of spiritual repair; we are lost without a fresh
influx of inward power; we desperately need to have our souls restored.
A young British soldier once came in from the trenches where his
aggressive powers had been in full employ and, having heard one of the
finest concert companies that London could send out, he wrote in a
letter to his family: "I have just come down from the trenches, and
have been listening to one of the best concerts I ever attended.  It
makes one feel that perhaps there is a good God after all."  The two
aspects of life which that soldier discovered in himself all men
possess.  One takes us to life's trenches; the other throws us back on
some revelation of grace and beauty that we may be sure of God.  With
one we seek aggressively to master life; with the other we seek
receptively to be inspired.  Every normal man needs these two kinds of
influence: one to send him informed and alert to his tasks, the other
to float his soul off its sandbars on the rising tide of spiritual
reassurance and power.  Every normal man needs two attitudes: one when
he goes into action determined to do his work and to do it well, and
the other when he subdues his spirit to receptivity and with the
Psalmist cries,

  "My soul, wait thou in silence for God only;
  For my expectation is from him."

When science has given us all the power it can, we still need another
kind of power which science cannot give.

Whatever else the scientific control of life may have accomplished, it
has not saved mankind from the old and devastating problems of trouble
and sin.  So far as individual experience of these is concerned, there
is little discernable difference between two thousand years before
Christ and two thousand years afterward.  Still disasters fall upon our
lives, sometimes as swift in their assault as wild beasts leaping from
an unsuspected ambush.  Still troubles come, long drawn out and
wearying, like the monotonous dripping of water with which old
torturers used to drive their victims mad.  Still sins bring shame to
the conscience and tragic consequence to the life, and tiresome work,
losing the buoyancy of its first inspiration, drags itself out into
purposeless effort and bores us with its futility.  Folk now, as much
as ever in all history, need to have their souls restored.  The
scientific control of life, however, is not adequate for that.
Electricity and subways and motor cars do not restore the soul; and to
know that there are millions upon millions of solar systems, like our
own, scattered through space does not restore the soul; and to delve in
the sea or to fly in the air or to fling our words through the ether
does not restore the soul.  The need of religion is perennial and would
be though our scientific control over life were extended infinitely
beyond our present hope, for the innermost ministry of religion to
human life is the restoration of the soul.

In this fact lies the failure of that type of naturalism which
endeavours to keep religion as a subjective experience and denies the
reality of an objective God.  If we are not already familiar with this
attempted substitution we soon shall be, for our young people are being
taught it in many a classroom now.  One of the basic principles of this
new teaching is belief in the spiritual life but, when one inquires
where the spiritual life is, he discovers that it is altogether within
ourselves--there is no original, creative and abiding Spiritual Life
from whom we come, by whom we are sustained, in whom we live.  Rather,
as flowers reveal in their fragrance a beauty which is not in the earth
where they grow nor in the roots on which they depend, so our spiritual
life is the mysterious refinement of the material out of which we are
constructed, and it has nothing to correspond with it in the source
from which we sprang.  Nevertheless, the new naturalism exalts this
spiritual life within us, calls it our crown and glory, bids us
cultivate and diffuse it, says about it nearly everything a Christian
says except that it is a revelation of eternal reality.  Moreover, it
is difficult to differentiate from this outspoken group of professed
naturalists another group of humanists who do retain the idea of God,
but merely as the sum total of man's idealistic life.  "God," says one
exponent, "is the farthest outreach of our human ideals."  That is to
say, our spiritual lives created God, not God our spiritual lives.
God, as one enthusiastic devotee of this new cult has put it, is a sort
of Uncle Sam, the pooling of the idealistic imaginations of multitudes.
Of course he does not exist, yet in a sense he is real; he is the
projection of our loyalties, affections, hopes.

It should go without saying that this idea of God has about as much
intellectual validity as belief in Santa Claus and is even more
sentimental, in that it is a deliberate attempt to disguise in pleasant
and familiar terms a fundamentally materialistic interpretation of
reality.  The vital failure of this spiritualized naturalism, however,
lies in the inability of its Uncle Sam to meet the deepest needs on
account of which men at their best have been religious.  This deified
projection of our ideals we made up ourselves and so we cannot really
pray to him; he does not objectively exist and so has no unifying
meaning which puts purposefulness into creation and hope ahead of it;
he does not care for any one or anything and so we may not trust him;
and neither in sin can he forgive, cleanse, restore, empower, nor in
sorrow comfort and sustain.  A god who functions so poorly is not much
of a god.  Once more, therefore, one wonders why in a generation when,
not less, but more, because of all our scientific mastery the souls of
men are starved and tired, the Church is not captured by a new sense of
mission.  It is precisely in a day when the active and pugnacious
energies of men are most involved in the conquest of the world that the
spirit becomes most worn for lack of sustenance.  To be assured of the
nearness and reality and availability of the spiritual world is a
matter of life and death to multitudes of folk to-day.  There could
hardly be a more alluring time in which to make the Holy Spirit real to
the world.  For the supreme moral asset in any man's life is not his
aggressiveness nor his pugnacity, but his capacity to be inspired--to
be inspired by great books, great music, by love and friendship; to be
inspired by great faiths, great hopes, great ideals; to be inspired
supremely by the Spirit of God.  For so we are lifted until the things
we tried to see and could not we now can see because of the altitude at
which we stand, and the things we tried to do and could not we now can
do because of the fellowship in which we live.  To one asserting the
adequacy of the scientific control of life, therefore, the Christian's
third answer is clear: man's deepest need is spiritual power, and
spiritual power comes out of the soul's deep fellowships with the
living God.

Such, then, is the abiding need of religion in a scientific age.  To be
scientifically minded is one of the supreme achievements of mankind.
To love truth, as science loves it, to seek truth tirelessly, as
science seeks it, to reveal the latent resources of the universe in
hope that men will use them for good and not for evil, as science does,
is one of the chief glories of our race.  When, however, we have taken
everything that science gives, it is not enough for life.  When we have
facts, we still need a spiritual interpretation of facts; when we have
all the scientific forces that we can get our hands upon, we still need
spiritual mastery over their use; and, beyond all the power that
science gives, we need that inward power which comes from spiritual
fellowships alone.  Religion is indispensable.  To build human life
upon another basis is to erect civilization upon sand, where the rain
descends and the floods come and the winds blow and beat upon the house
and it falls and great is the fall thereof.

[1] Andrew D. White: A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology
in Christendom, Vol. II, p. 16.

[2] Quoted in the Hibbert Journal, Vol. III, January 1905, p. 296.

[3] Psalm 19:1.

[4] Ernst Haeckel: The Wonders of Life, p. 413.

[5] Arthur Schopenhauer: Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Zweiter
Band, Kapital 46, Von der Nichtigkeit und dem Leiden des Lebens, p. 669.




Our last lecture started with the proposition that the dominant
influence in the intellectual and practical activity of the modern age
is man's scientific mastery over life.  This present lecture considers
one of the consequences of this primary fact: namely, the humanitarian
desire to take advantage of this scientific control of life so to
change social conditions that mankind may be relieved from crushing
handicaps which now oppress it.  For the growth of scientific knowledge
and control has been coincident with a growth of humanitarian
sentiment.  This movement for human relief and social reform, in the
midst of which we live, is one of the chief influences of our time.  It
has claimed the allegiance of many of the noblest folk among us.  Its
idealism, its call to sacrifice, the concreteness of the tasks which it
undertakes and of the gains which it achieves, have attracted alike the
fine spirits and the practical abilities of our generation.  What
attitude shall the Christian Church take toward this challenging
endeavour to save society?  How shall she regard this passionate belief
in the possibility of social betterment and this enthusiastic
determination to achieve it?  The question is one of crucial importance
and the Church is far from united on its answer.  Some Christians claim
the whole movement as the child of the Church, born of her spirit and
expressing her central purpose; others disclaim the whole movement as
evil and teach that the world must grow increasingly worse until some
divine cataclysm shall bring its hopeless corruption to an end; others
treat the movement as useful but of minor import, while they try to
save men by belief in dogmatic creeds or by carefully engineered
emotional experiences.  Meanwhile, no words can exaggerate the
fidelity, the vigour, the hopefulness, and the elevated spirit with
which many of our best young men and women throw themselves into this
campaign for better conditions of living.  Surely, the intelligent
portion of the Church would better think as clearly as possible about a
matter of such crucial import.

At first sight, the devotee of social Christianity is inclined
impatiently to brush aside as mere ignorant bigotry on the Church's
part all cautious suspicion of the social movement.  But there is one
real difficulty which the thoughtful Christian must perceive when he
compares the characteristic approach to the human problem made by the
social campaign, on the one side, and by religion, on the other.  Much
of the modern social movement seems to proceed upon the supposition
that we can save mankind by the manipulation of outward circumstance.
There are societies to change everything that can be changed and,
because the most obvious and easy subjects of transformation are the
external arrangements of human life, men set themselves first and
chiefly to change those.  We are always trying to improve the play by
shifting the scenery.  But no person of insight ever believed that the
manipulation of circumstance alone can solve man's problems.  Said
Emerson, "No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character."
Said Herbert Spencer, "No philosopher's stone of a constitution can
produce golden conduct from leaden instincts."  Said James Anthony
Froude, "Human improvement is from within outwards."  Said Carlyle,
"Fool! the Ideal is in thyself, the impediment too is in thyself: thy
Condition is but the stuff thou art to shape that same Ideal out of."
Said Mrs. Browning:

           "It takes a soul,
  To move a body: it takes a high-souled man
  To move the masses even to a cleaner stye:
  .....    Ah, your Fouriers failed,
  Because not poets enough to understand
  That life develops from within."

Now, religion's characteristic approach to the human problem is
represented by this conviction that "life develops from within."  So
far from expecting to save mankind by the manipulation of outward
circumstance, it habitually has treated outward circumstance as of
inferior moment in comparison with the inner attitudes and resources of
the spirit.  Economic affluence, for example, has not seemed to
Christianity in any of its historic forms indispensable to man's
well-being; rather, economic affluence has been regarded as a danger to
be escaped or else to be resolutely handled as one would handle
fire--useful if well managed but desperately perilous if uncontrolled.
Nor can it be said that Christianity has consistently maintained this
attitude without having in actual experience much ground for holding
it.  The possession of economic comfort has never yet guaranteed a
decent life, much less a spiritually satisfactory one.  The morals of
Fifth Avenue are not such that it can look down on Third Avenue, nor is
it possible anywhere to discern gradation of character on the basis of
relative economic standing.  It is undoubtedly true that folks and
families often have their moral stamina weakened and their
personalities debauched by sinking into discouraging poverty, but it is
an open question whether more folks and families have not lost their
souls by rising into wealth.  Still, after all these centuries, the
"rich fool," with his overflowing barns and his soul that sought to
feed itself on corn, is a familiar figure; still it is as easy for a
camel to go through a needle's eye as for a rich man to enter the
Kingdom of Heaven.  When, therefore, the Christian, approaching the
human problem, not from without in, but from within out, runs upon this
modern social movement endeavouring to save mankind by the manipulation
of outward circumstance, his cautious and qualified consent may be
neither so ignorant nor so unreasonable as it at first appears.

As an example of manipulated circumstance in which we are asked to
trust, consider the new international arrangements upon which the world
leans so heavily for its hopes of peace.  Surely, he would be a poor
Christian who did not rejoice in every reasonable expectation which new
forms of co-operative organization can fulfil.  But he would be a
thoughtless Christian, too, if he did not see that all good forms of
international organization are trellises to give the vines of human
relationship a fairer chance to grow; but if the vines themselves
maintain their old acid quality, bringing out of their own inward
nature from roots of bitterness grapes that set the people's teeth on
edge, then no external trellises will solve the problem.  It is this
Christian approach to life, from within out, which causes the common
misunderstanding between the social movement and the Church.  The first
thinks mainly of the importance of the trellis; the second thinks
chiefly about the quality of the vine.

The more deep and transforming a man's own religious experience has
been, the more he will insist upon the importance of this inward
approach.  Here is a man who has had a profound evangelical experience.
He has gone down into the valley of the shadow with a deep sense of
spiritual need; he has found in Christ a Saviour who has lifted him up
into spiritual freedom and victory; he has gone out to live with a
sense of unpayable indebtedness to him.  He has had, in a word, a
typical religious experience at its best with three elements at the
heart of it: a great need, a great salvation, a great gratitude.  When
such a man considers the modern social movement, however beautiful its
spirit or admirable its concrete gains, it seems to him superficial if
it presents itself as a panacea.  It does not go deep enough to reach
the soul's real problems.  The continual misunderstanding between the
Church and the social movement has, then, this explanation: the
characteristic approach of the Christian Gospel to the human problem is
from within out; the characteristic approach of much of the modern
social movement is from without in.


If, therefore, the Christian Gospel is going to be true to itself, it
must carefully preserve amid the pressure of our modern social
enthusiasms certain fundamental emphases which are characteristic of
its genius.  It must stress the possibility and the necessity of the
inward transformation of the lives of men.  We know now that a thorny
cactus does not have to stay a thorny cactus; Burbank can change it.
We know that a crab-apple tree does not have to stay a crab-apple tree;
it can be grafted and become an astrakhan.  We know that a malarial
swamp does not have to stay a malarial swamp; it can be drained and
become a health resort.  We know that a desert does not have to stay a
desert; it can be irrigated and become a garden.  But while all these
possibilities of transformation are opening up in the world outside of
us, the most important in the series concerns the world within us.  The
primary question is whether human nature is thus transformable, so that
men can be turned about, hating what formerly they loved and loving
what once they hated.  Said Tolstoy, whose early life had been
confessedly vile: "Five years ago faith came to me; I believed in the
doctrine of Jesus, and my whole life underwent a sudden transformation.
What I had once wished for I wished for no longer, and I began to
desire what I had never desired before.  What had once appeared to me
right now became wrong, and the wrong of the past I beheld as right."

So indispensable to the welfare of the world is this experience, that
we Christians need to break loose from our too narrow conceptions of it
and to set it in a large horizon.  We have been too often tempted to
make of conversion a routine emotional experience.  Even Jonathan
Edwards was worried about himself in this regard.  He wrote once in his
diary: "The chief thing that now makes me in any measure question my
good estate is my not having experienced conversion in those particular
steps wherein the people of New England, and anciently the dissenters
of old England, used to experience it."  Poor Jonathan!  How many have
been so distraught!  But the supreme folly of any man's spiritual life
is to try thus to run himself into the mold of any other man's
experience.  There is no regular routine in spiritual transformation.
Some men come in on a high tide of feeling, like Billy Bray, the
drunken miner, who, released from his debasing slavery and reborn into
a vigorous life, cried, "If they were to put me into a barrel I would
shout glory out through the bunghole!  Praise the Lord!"  Some men come
in like Bushnell, the New England scholar and preacher, who, when he
was an unbelieving tutor at Yale, fell on his knees in the quiet of his
study and said, "O God, I believe there is an eternal difference
between right and wrong and I hereby give myself up to do the right and
to refrain from the wrong."  Some men break up into the new life
suddenly like the Oxford graduate who, having lived a dissolute life
until six years after his graduation from the university in 1880,
picked up in his room one day Drummond's "Natural Law in the Spiritual
World," and, lo! the light broke suddenly--"I rejoiced there and then
in a conversion so astounding that the whole village heard of it in
less than twenty-four hours."  Some come slowly, like old John
Livingstone, who said, "I do not remember any particular time of
conversion, or that I was much cast down or lift up."  Spiritual
transformation is infinitely various because it is so infinitely vital;
but behind all the special forms of experience stands the colossal fact
that men can be transformed by the Spirit of God.

That this experience of inward enlightenment and transformation should
ever be neglected or minimized or forgotten or crowded out is the more
strange because one keeps running on it outside religion as well as
within.  John Keats, when eighteen years old, was handed one day a copy
of Spenser's poems.  He never had known before what his life was meant
to be.  He found out that day.  Like a voice from heaven his call came
in the stately measures of Spenser's glorious verse.  He knew that he
was meant to be a poet.  Upon this master fact that men can be inwardly
transformed Christ laid his hand and put it at the very center of his
gospel.  All through the New Testament there is a throb of joy which,
traced back, brings one to the assurance that no man need stay the way
he is.  Among the gladdest, solemnest words in the records of our race
are such passages in the New Testament as this: Fornicators,
adulterers, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revelers, extortioners, such
were some of you; but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye
were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit
of our God.  One cannot find in the New Testament anything stiff and
stilted about this experience.  Paul's change came suddenly; Peter's
came slowly.  They did not even have, as we have come to have, a
settled word to describe the experience.  Ask James what it is and,
practical-minded man that he is, he calls it _conversion_--being turned
around.  Ask Peter what it is and, as he looks back upon his old
benighted condition, he cries that it is like _coming out of the
darkness into a marvelous light_.  Ask Paul what it is and, with his
love of superlative figures, he cries that it is like _being dead and
being raised again with a great resurrection_.  Ask John what it is
and, with his mystical spirit, he says that it is _being born again_.
See the variety that comes from vitality--no stiff methods, no stiff
routine of experience, but throbbing through the whole book the good
news of an illuminating, liberating, transforming experience that can
make men new!

It is the more strange that this central element in the Christian
Gospel should be neglected in the interests of social reformation
because it is so indispensable to social reformation.  Wherever a new
social hope allures the efforts of forward-looking men, there is one
argument against the hope which always rises.  You cannot do that--men
say--human nature is against it; human nature has always acted another
way; you cannot change human nature; your hope is folly.  As one
listens to such skepticism he sees that men mean by human nature a
static, unalterable thing, huge, inert, changeless, a dull mass that
resists all transformation.  The very man who says that may be an
engineer.  He may be speaking in the next breath with high enthusiasm
about a desert in Arizona where they are bringing down the water from
the hills and where in a few years there will be no desert, but orange
groves stretching as far as the eye can reach, and eucalyptus trees
making long avenues of shade, and roses running wild, as plenteous as
goldenrod in a New England field.  But while about physical nature he
is as hopeful of possible change as a prophet, for human nature he
thinks nothing can be done.

From the Christian point of view this idea of human nature is utterly
false.  So far from being stiff and set, human nature is the most
plastic, the most changeable thing with which we deal.  It can be
brutalized beneath the brutes; it can rise into companionship with
angels.  Our primitive forefathers, as our fairy tales still reveal,
believed that men and women could be changed into anything--into trees,
rocks, wolves, bears, kings and fairy sprites.  One of the most
prominent professors of sociology in America recently said that these
stories are a poetic portraiture of something which eternally is true.
Men can be transformed.  That is a basic fact, and it is one of the
central emphases of the Christian Gospel.  Of all days in which that
emphasis should be remembered, the chiefest is the day when men are
thinking about social reformation.


It is only a clear recognition of the crucial importance of man's
inward transformation which can prepare us for a proper appreciation of
the social movement's meaning.  For one point of contact between
religion's approach to the human problem from within out and
reformation's approach from without in lies here: to change social
environments which oppress and dwarf and defile the lives of men is one
way of giving the transforming Spirit a fair chance to reach and redeem
them.  All too slowly does the truth lay hold upon the Church that our
very personalities themselves are social products, that we are born out
of society and live in it and are molded by it, that without society we
should not be human at all, and that the influences which play upon our
lives, whether redeeming or degrading, are socially mediated.  A man
who says that he believes in the ineffable value of human personalities
and who professes to desire their transformation and yet who has no
desire to give them better homes, better cities, better family
relationships, better health, better economic resources, better
recreations, better books and better schools, is either an ignoramus
who does not see what these things mean in the growth of souls, or else
an unconscious hypocrite who does not really care so much about the
souls of men as he says he does.

An illuminating illustration of this fact is to be seen in the
expanding ideals of missionary work.  When the missionaries first went
to the ends of the earth they went to save souls one by one.  They went
out generally with a distinctly, often narrowly, individualistic
motive.  They were trying to gather into the ark a few redeemed spirits
out of the wreck of a perishing world; they were not thinking primarily
of building a kingdom of social righteousness in the earth.  Consider,
then, the fascinating story of the way the missionaries, whatever may
have been the motives with which they started, have become social
reformers.  If the missionaries were to take the Gospel to the people,
they had to get to the people.  So they became the explorers of the
world.  It was the missionaries who opened up Asia and Africa.  Was
there ever a more stirring story of adventure than is given us in the
life of David Livingstone?  Then when the missionaries had reached the
people to give them the Gospel, they had to give them the Bible.  So
they became the philologists and translators of the world.  They built
the lexicons and grammars.  They translated the Bible into more than a
hundred languages on the continent of Africa alone.  Carey and his
followers did the same for over a score of languages in India.  The
Bible to-day is available in over six hundred living languages.
Everywhere this prodigious literary labour has been breaking down the
barriers of speech and thought between the peoples.  If ever we do get
a decent internationalism, how much of it will rest back upon this
pioneer spade work of the missionaries, digging through the barricades
of language that separate the minds of men!  When, then, the
missionaries had books to give the people, the people had to learn to
read.  So the missionaries became educators, and wherever you find the
church you find the school.  But what is the use of educating people
who do not understand how to be sanitary, who live in filth and disease
and die needlessly, and how can you take away old superstitions and not
put new science in their places, or deprive the people of witch doctors
without offering them substitutes?  So the missionaries became
physicians, and one of the most beneficent enterprises that history
records is medical missions.  What is the use, however, of helping
people to get well when their economic condition is such, their
standards of life so low, that they continue to fall sick again in
spite of you?  So the missionaries are becoming industrial reformers,
agriculturalists, chemists, physicists, engineers, rebuilding wherever
they can the economic life and comfort of their people.  The missionary
cause itself has been compelled, whether it would or not, to grow
socially-minded.  As Dan Crawford says about the work in Africa: "Here,
then, is Africa's challenge to its Missionaries.  Will they allow a
whole continent to live like beasts in such hovels, millions of negroes
cribbed, cabined, and confined in dens of disease?  No doubt it is our
diurnal duty to preach that the soul of all improvement is the
improvement of the soul.  But God's equilateral triangle of body, soul,
and spirit must never be ignored.  Is not the body wholly _ensouled_,
and is not the soul wholly _embodied_? . . .  In other words, in Africa
the only true fulfilling of your heavenly calling is the doing of
earthly things in a heavenly manner." [2]

Indeed, if any one is tempted to espouse a narrowly individualistic
gospel of regeneration, let him go to the Far East and take note of
Buddhism.  Buddhism in wide areas of its life is doing precisely what
the individualists recommend.  It is a religion of personal comfort and
redemption.  It is not mastered by a vigorous hope of social
reformation.  In many ways it is extraordinarily like medieval
Christianity.  Consider this definition of his religion that was given
by one Buddhist teacher: "Religion," he said, "is a device to bring
peace of mind in the midst of conditions as they are."  Conditions as
they are--settle down in them; be comfortable about them; do not try to
change them; let no prayer for the Kingdom of God on earth disturb
them; and there seek for yourselves "peace of mind in the midst of
conditions as they are."  And the Buddhist teacher added, "My religion
is pure religion."  But is there any such thing as really caring about
the souls of men and not caring about social habits, moral conditions,
popular recreations, economic handicaps that in every way affect them?
Of all deplorable and degenerate conceptions of religion can anything
be worse than to think of it as a "device to bring peace of mind in the
midst of conditions as they are?"  Yet one finds plenty of Church
members in America whose idea of the "simple Gospel" comes perilously
near that Buddhist's idea of "pure religion."

The utter futility of endeavouring to care about the inward
transformation of men's lives while not caring about their social
environment is evident when one thinks of our international
relationships and their recurrent issue in war.  War surely cannot be
thought of any longer as a school for virtue.  We used to think it was.
We half believed the German war party when they told us about the
disciplinary value of their gigantic establishment, and when Lord
Roberts assured us that war was tonic for the souls of peoples we were
inclined to think that he was right.  When, in answer to our nation's
call, our men went out to fight and all our people were bound up in a
fellowship of devotion to a common cause, so stimulated were we that we
almost were convinced that out of such an experience there might come a
renaissance of spiritual quality and life.  Is there anybody who can
blind his eyes to the facts now?  Every competent witness in Europe and
America has had to say that we are on a far lower moral level than we
were before the war.  Crimes of sex, crimes of violence, have been
unprecedented.  Large areas of Europe are to-day in a chaos so complete
that not one man in a thousand in America even dimly imagines it, with
a break-down of all the normal, sustaining relationships and privileges
of civilized life, and with an accompanying collapse of character
unprecedented in Christendom since the days of the Black Plague.  If we
are wise we will never again go down into hell expecting to come up
with spirits redeemed.

To be sure, there are many individuals of such moral stamina that they
have come out of this experience personally the better, not the worse.
There are people who would build into the fiber of their character any
experience that earth could offer them.  But if we are thinking of the
moral stability and progress of mankind, surely there is nothing in the
processes of war, as we have seen them, or the results of war, as they
now lie about us, that would lead us to trust to them for help.  War
takes a splendid youth willing to serve the will of God in his
generation before he falls on sleep and teaches him the skilful trick
of twisting a bayonet into the abdomen of an enemy.  War takes a
loyal-spirited man who is not afraid of anything under heaven and
teaches him to drop bombs on undefended towns, to kill perchance the
baby suckled at her mother's breast.  The father of one of our young
men, back from France, finding that his son, like many others, would
not talk, rebuked him for his silence.  "Just one thing I will tell
you," the son answered.  "One night I was on patrol in No Man's Land,
and suddenly I came face to face with a German about my own age.  It
was a question of his life or mine.  We fought like wild beasts.  When
I came back that night I was covered from head to foot with the blood
and brains of that German.  We had nothing personally against each
other.  He did not want to kill me any more than I wanted to kill him.
That is war.  I did my duty in it, but for God's sake do not ask me to
talk about it!  I want to forget it."  That _is_ war, and no more
damning influence can be thrown around the characters of people in
general or around the victims of military discipline and experience in
particular than that supplied by war.  How then could inconsistency be
made more extreme than by saying that Christianity is concerned about
the souls of men but is not concerned about international good-will and
co-operation?  After all, the approaches to the human problem from
without in and from within out are not antithetical, but supplementary.
This tunnel must be dug from both ends and until the Church thoroughly
grasps that fact she will lead an incomplete and ineffectual life.


The purposes of Christianity involve social reform, not only, as we
have said, because we must accomplish environmental change if we are to
achieve widespread individual transformation, but also because we must
reorganize social life and the ideas that underlie it if we are to
maintain and get adequately expressed the individual's Christian spirit
when once he has been transformed.  Granted a man with an inwardly
remotived life, sincerely desirous of living Christianly, see what a
situation faces him in the present organization of our economic world!
Selfishness consists in facing any human relationship with the main
intent of getting from it for oneself all the pleasure and profit that
one can.  There are folk who use their families so.  They live like
parasites on the beautiful institution of family life, getting as much
as possible for as little as possible.  There are folk who use the
nation so.  To them their country is a gigantic grab-bag from which
their greedy hands may snatch civic security and commercial gain.  For
such we have hard and bitter names.  There is, however, one
relationship--business--where we take for granted this very attitude
which everywhere else we heartily condemn.  Multitudes of folk go up to
that central human relationship with the frank and unabashed confession
that their primary motive is to make out of it all that they can for
themselves.  They never have organized their motives around the idea
that the major meaning of business is public service.

The fact is, however, that all around us forms of business already have
developed where we count it shame for a man to be chiefly motived by a
desire for private gain.  If you thought that the preacher were in love
with his purse more than with his Gospel, you would not come again to
hear him, and you would be right; if you thought that the teacher of
your children cared for payday first and for teaching second, you would
find another teacher for them tomorrow, and you ought to; if you
thought that your physician cared more for his fees than he did for his
patients, you would discharge him to-night and seek for a man more
worthy of his high profession; if you had reason to suppose that the
judges of the Supreme Court in Washington cared more for their salary
than they did for justice, you could not easily measure your
indignation and your shame.  In the development of human life few
things are nobler than the growth of the professional spirit, where in
wide areas of enterprise, not private gain, but fine workmanship and
public service have become the major motives.  If one says that a sharp
line of distinction is to be drawn between what we call professions and
what we call business, he does not know history.  Nursing, as a gainful
calling, a hundred years ago was a mercenary affair into which
undesirable people went for what they could get out of it.  If nursing
to-day is a great profession, where pride of workmanship and love of
service increasingly are in control, it is because Florence
Nightingale, and a noble company after her, have insisted that nursing
essentially is service and that all nurses ought to organize their
motives around that idea.

What is the essential difference between professions and business?  Why
should the building of a schoolhouse be a carnival of private profit
for labourers and contractors alike, when the teaching in it is
expected to be full of the love of fine workmanship and the joy of
usefulness?  Why, when a war is on, must the making of munitions here
be a wild debauch of private profits, but the firing of them "over
there" be a matter of self-forgetful sacrifice?  Why, in selling a food
which is essential to health, should the head of a sugar corporation
say with impunity, "I think it is fair to get out of the consumers all
you can, consistent with the business proposition," when the physician
is expected to care for the undernourished with a devoted professional
spirit utterly different from the sugar magnate's words?  There is no
real answer to that "why."  The fact is that for multitudes of people
business is still in the unredeemed state in which nursing and teaching
and doctoring were at the beginning, and nothing can save us from the
personal and social consequence of this unhappy situation except the
clear vision of the basic meaning of business in terms of service, and
the courageous reorganization of personal motive and economic
institutions around that idea.

If, then, Christianity is sincerely interested in the quality of human
spirits, in the motives and ideals which dominate personality, she must
be interested in the economic and industrial problems of our day.  To
be sure, many ministers make fools of themselves when they pass
judgment on questions which they do not understand.  It is true that a
church is much more peaceable and undisturbing when it tries
experiments upon religious emotions with colored lights than when it
makes reports upon the steel trust.  Many are tempted, therefore, to
give in to irritation over misdirected ministerial energy or to a
desire for emotional comfort rather than an aroused conscience.  One
has only to listen where respectable folk most congregate to hear the
cry: let the Church keep her hands off!

Let me talk for a moment directly to that group.  If you mean, by your
distaste for the Church's interest in a fairer economic life, that most
ministers are unfitted by temperament and training to talk wisely on
economic policies and programs, you are right.  Do you suppose that we
ministers do not know how we must appear to you when we try to discuss
the details of business?  While, however, you are free to say anything
you wish about the ineptitude of ministers in economic affairs (and we,
from our inside information, will probably agree with you), yet as we
thus put ourselves in your places and try to see the situation through
your eyes, do you also put yourselves in our places and try to see it
through our eyes!

I speak, I am sure, in the name of thousands of Christian ministers in
this country endeavouring to do their duty in this trying time.  We did
not go into the ministry of Jesus Christ either for money or for fun.
If we had wanted either one primarily, we would have done something
else than preach.  We went in because we believed in Jesus Christ and
were assured that only he and his truth could medicine the sorry ills
of this sick world.  And now, ministers of Christ, with such a motive,
we see continually some of the dearest things we work for, some of the
fairest results that we achieve, going to pieces on the rocks of the
business world.

You wish us to preach against sin, but you forget that, as one of our
leading sociologists has said, the master iniquities of our time are
connected with money-making.  You wish us to imbue your boys and girls
with ideal standards of life, but all too often we see them, having
left our schools and colleges, full of the knightly chivalry of youth,
torn in the world of business between the ideal of Christlikeness and
the selfish rivalry of commercial conflict.  We watch them growing
sordid, disillusioned, mercenary, spoiled at last and bereft of their
youth's fine promise.  You wish us to preach human brotherhood in
Christ, and then we see that the one chief enemy of brotherhood between
men and nations is economic strife, the root of class consciousness and
war.  You send some of us as your representatives to the ends of the
earth to proclaim the Saviour, and then these missionaries send back
word that the non-Christian world knows all too well how far from
dominant in our business life our Christian ideals are and that the
non-Christian world delays accepting our Christ until we have better
proved that his principles will work.  Everywhere that the Christian
minister turns, he finds his dearest ideals and hopes entangled in the
economic life.  Do you ask us then under these conditions to keep our
hands off?  In God's name, you ask too much!

In the sixteenth century the great conflict in the world's life
centered in the Church.  The Reformation was on.  All the vital
questions of the day had there their spring.  In the eighteenth century
the great conflict of the world's life lay in politics.  The American
and French revolutions were afoot.  Democracy had struck its tents and
was on the march.  All the vital questions of that day had their origin
there.  In the twentieth century the great conflict in the world's life
is centered in economics.  The most vital questions with which we deal
are entangled with economic motives and institutions.  As in the
sixteenth and eighteenth centuries great changes were inevitable, so
now the economic world cannot possibly remain static.  The question is
not whether changes will occur, but how they will occur, under whose
aegis and superintendence, by whose guidance and direction, and how
much better the world will be when they are here.  Among all the
interests that are vitally concerned with the nature of these changes
none has more at stake than the Christian Church with her
responsibility for the cure of souls.


Still another point of contact exists between the Christian purpose and
social reform: the inevitable demand of religious ideals for social
application.  The ideal of human equality, for example, came into our
civilization from two main sources--the Stoic philosophy and the
Christian religion--and in both cases it was first of all a spiritual
insight, not a social program.  The Stoics and the early Christians
both believed it as a sentiment, but they had no idea of changing the
world to conform with it.  Paul repeatedly insisted upon the equality
of all men before God.  In his early ministry he wrote it to the
Galatians: "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither
bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man
in Christ Jesus."  Later he wrote it to the Corinthians: "For in one
Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks,
whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit."  In
his last imprisonment he wrote it to the Colossians: "There cannot be
Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian,
bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all."  Yet it never would
have occurred to Paul to disturb the social custom of slavery or to
question the divine institution of imperial government.

Nevertheless, while this idea of human equality did not at first
involve a social program, it meant something real.  If we are to
understand what the New Testament means by the equality of men before
God, we must look at men from the New Testament point of view.  Those
of us who have been up in an aeroplane know that the higher we fly the
less difference we see in the elevation of things upon the earth.  This
man's house is plainly higher than that man's when we are on the ground
but, two thousand feet up, small difference can we observe.  Now, the
New Testament flies high.  It frankly looks from a great altitude at
the distinctions that seem so important on the earth.  We say that
racial differences are very important--a great gulf between Jew and
Gentile.  We insist that cultural traditions make an immense
distinction--that to be a Scythian or to be barbarian is widely
separated from being Greek.  We are sure that the economic distinction
between bondman and freeman is enormous.  But all the while these
superiorities and inferiorities, which we magnify, seem from Paul's
vantage point not nearly so important or so real as we think they are.
He is sure about this central truth, that God asks no questions about
caste or colour or race or wealth or social station.  All men stand
alike in his presence and in the Christian fellowship must be regarded
from his point of view.

It was utterly impossible, however, to keep this spiritual insight from
getting ultimately into a social program.  It appealed to motives too
deep and powerful to make possible its segregation as a religious
sentiment.  For however impractical an ideal this thought of human
equality may seem in general, and however hard it may be to grant to
others in particular, it is never hard for us to claim for ourselves.
If ever we are condescended to, does any assertion rise more quickly in
our thought than the old cry of our boyhood, "I am as good as you are"?
The lad in school in ragged clothes, who sees himself outclassed by
richer boys, feels it hotly rising in his boyish heart: "I am as good
as you are."  The poor man who, with an anxiety he cannot subdue and
yet dares not disclose, is desperately trying to make both ends meet,
feels it as he sees more fortunate men in luxury: "I am as good as you
are."  The negro who has tried himself out with his white brethren, who
wears, it may be, an honour key from a great university, who is a
scholar and a gentleman, and yet who is continually denied the most
common courtesies of human intercourse--he says in his heart, although
the words may not pass his lips, "I am as good as you are."  Now, the
New Testament took that old cry of the human heart for equality and
turned it upside down.  It became no longer for the Christian a bitter
demand for one's rights, but a glad acknowledgment of one's duty.  It
did not clamour, "I am as good as you are"; it said, "You are as good
as I am."  The early Christians at their best went out into the world
with that cry upon their lips.  The Jewish Christians said it to the
Gentiles and the Gentiles to the Jews; the Scythians and barbarians
said it to the Greeks and the Greeks said it in return; the bond said
it to the free and the free said it to the bond.  The New Testament
Church in this regard was one of the most extraordinary upheavals in
history, and to-day the best hopes of the world depend upon that spirit
which still says to all men over all the differences of race and colour
and station, "You are as good as I am."

To be sure, before this equalitarian ideal could be embodied in a
social program it had to await the coming of the modern age with its
open doors, its freer movements of thought and life, its belief in
progress, its machinery of change.  But even in the stagnation of the
intervening centuries the old Stoic-Christian ideal never was utterly
forgotten.  Lactantius, a Christian writer of the fourth century, said
that God, who creates and inspires men, "willed that all should be
equal." [3]  Gregory the Great, at the end of the sixth century, said
that "By nature we are all equal." [4]  For ages this spiritual insight
remained dissociated from any social program, but now the inevitable
connection has been made.  Old caste systems and chattel slavery have
gone down before this ideal.  Aristotle argued that slavery ethically
was right because men were essentially and unchangeably masters or
slaves by nature.  Somehow that would not sound plausible to us, even
though the greatest mind of all antiquity did say it.  Whatever may be
the differences between men and races, they are not sufficient to
justify the ownership of one man by another.  The ideal of equality has
wrecked old aristocracies that seemed to have firm hold on permanence.
If one would feel again the thrill which men felt when first the old
distinctions lost their power, one should read once more the songs of
Robert Burns.  They often seem commonplaces to us now, but they were
not commonplaces then:

  "For a' that and a' that,
  Their dignities, and a' that;
  The pith o' sense and pride o' worth
  Are higher rank than a' that!"

This ideal has made equality before the law one of the maxims of our
civilized governments, failure in which wakens our apprehension and our
fear; it has made equal suffrage a fact, although practical people only
yesterday laughed at it as a dream; it has made equality in opportunity
for an education the underlying postulate of our public school systems,
although in New York State seventy-five years ago the debate was still
acute as to whether such a dream ever could come true; it is to-day
lifting races, long accounted inferior, to an eminence where
increasingly their equality is acknowledged.  One with difficulty
restrains his scorn for the intellectual impotence of so-called wise
men who think all idealists mere dreamers.  Who is the dreamer--the
despiser or the upholder of an ideal whose upheavals already have burst
through old caste systems, upset old slave systems, wrecked old
aristocracies, pushed obscure and forgotten masses of mankind up to
rough equality in court and election booth and school, and now are
rocking the foundations of old racial and international and economic
ideas?  The practical applications of this ideal, as, for example, to
the coloured problem in America, are so full of difficulty that no one
need be ashamed to confess that he does not see in detail how the
principle can be made to work.  Nevertheless, so deep in the essential
nature of things is the fact of mankind's fundamental unity, that only
God can foresee to what end the application of it yet may come.  At any
rate, it is clear that the Christian ideal of human equality before God
can no longer be kept out of a social program.


There is, then, no standing-ground left for a narrowly individualistic
Christianity.  To talk of redeeming personality while one is careless
of the social environments which ruin personality; to talk of building
Christlike character while one is complacent about an economic system
that is definitely organized about the idea of selfish profit; to
praise Christian ideals while one is blind to the inevitable urgency
with which they insist on getting themselves expressed in social
programs--all this is vanity.  It is deplorable, therefore, that the
Christian forces are tempted to draw apart, some running up the banner
of personal regeneration and some rallying around the flag of social
reformation.  The division is utterly needless.  Doubtless our own
individual ways of coming into the Christian life influence us deeply
here.  Some of us came into the Christian experience from a sense of
individual need alone.  We needed for ourselves sins forgiven, peace
restored, hope bestowed.  God meant to us first of all satisfaction for
our deepest personal wants.

  "Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
  Let me hide myself in Thee"--

such was our cry and such was our salvation.  If now we are socially
minded, if we are concerned for economic and international
righteousness, that is an enlargement of our Christian outlook which
has grown out of and still is rooted back in our individual need and
experience of God.

Some of us, however, did not come into fellowship with God by that
route at all.  We came in from the opposite direction.  The character
in the Old Testament who seems to me the worthiest exhibition of
personal religion before Jesus is the prophet Jeremiah, but Jeremiah
started his religious experience, not with a sense of individual need,
but with a burning, patriotic, social passion.  He was concerned for
Judah.  Her iniquities, long accumulating, were bringing upon her an
irretrievable disaster.  He laid his soul upon her soul and sought to
breathe into her the breath of life.  Then, when he saw the country he
adored, the civilization he cherished, crashing into ruin, he was
thrown back personally on God.  He started with social passion; he
ended with social passion plus personal religion.  Some of God's
greatest servants have come to know him so.

Henry Ward Beecher once said that a text is a small gate into a large
field where one can wander about as he pleases, and that the trouble
with most ministers is that they spend all their time swinging on the
gate.  That same figure applies to the entrance which many of us made
into the Christian experience.  Some of us came in by the gate of
personal religion, and we have been swinging on it ever since; and some
of us came in by the gate of social passion for the regeneration of the
world, and we have been swinging on that gate ever since.  We both are
wrong.  These are two gates into the same city, and it is the city of
our God.  It would be one of the greatest blessings to the Christian
church both at home and on the foreign field if we could come together
on this question where separation is so needless and so foolish.  If
some of us started with emphasis upon personal religion, we have no
business to stop until we understand the meaning of social
Christianity.  If some of us started with emphasis upon the social
campaign, we have no business to rest until we learn the deep secrets
of personal religion.  The redemption of personality is the great aim
of the Christian Gospel, and, therefore, to inspire the inner lives of
men and to lift outward burdens which impede their spiritual growth are
both alike Christian service to bring in the Kingdom.

[1] Leo M. Tolstoi: My Religion, Introduction, p. ix.

[2] D. Crawford: Thinking Black, pp. 444-445.

[3] L. C. F. Lactantius: The Divine Institutes, Book V, Chap. xv, xvi.

[4] Gregory the Great: Moralium Libri, Pars quarta, Lib. XXI, Caput
XV--"Omnes namque homines natura aequales sumus."




Hitherto in the development of our thought, we have been considering the
Christian Gospel as an entity set in the midst of a progressive world,
and we have been studying the new Christian attitudes which this
influential environment has been eliciting.  The Gospel has been in our
thought like an individual who, finding himself in novel circumstances,
reacts toward them in ways appropriate alike to them and to his own
character.  The influence of the idea of progress upon Christianity,
however, is more penetrating than such a figure can adequately portray.
For no one can long ponder the significance of our generation's
progressive ways of thinking without running straight upon this question:
is not Christianity itself progressive?  In the midst of a changing world
does not it also change, so that, reacting upon the new ideas of
progress, it not only assimilates and uses them, but is itself an
illustration of them?  Where everything else in man's life in its origin
and growth is conceived, not in terms of static and final creation or
revelation, but in terms of development, can religion be left out?
Instead of being a pond around which once for all a man can walk and take
its measure, a final and completed whole, is not Christianity a river
which, maintaining still reliance upon the historic springs from which it
flows, gathers in new tributaries on its course and is itself a changing,
growing and progressive movement?  The question is inevitable in any
study of the relationship between the Gospel and progress, and its
implications are so far-reaching that it deserves our careful thought.

Certainly it is clear that already modern ideas of progress have had so
penetrating an influence upon Christianity as to affect, not its external
reactions and methods only, nor yet its intellectual formulations alone,
but deeper still its very mood and inward temper.  Whether or not
Christianity ought to be a changing movement in a changing world, it
certainly has been that and is so still, and the change can be seen going
on now in the very atmosphere in which it lives and moves and has its
being.  For example, consider the attitude of resignation to the will of
God, which was characteristic of medieval Christianity.  As we saw in our
first lecture, the medieval age did not think of human life upon this
earth in terms of progress.  The hopes of men did not revolve about any
Utopia to be expected here.  History was not even a glacier, moving
slowly toward the sunny meadows.  It did not move at all; it was not
intended to move; it was standing still.  To be sure, the thirteenth
century was one of the greatest in the annals of the race.  In it the
foremost European universities were founded, the sublimest Gothic
cathedrals were built, some of the world's finest works of handicraft
were made; in it Cimabue and Giotto painted, Dante wrote, St. Thomas
Aquinas philosophized, and St. Francis of Assisi lived.  The motives,
however, which originated and sustained this magnificent outburst of
creative energy were otherworldly--they were not concerned with
anticipations of a happier lot for humankind upon this earth.  The
medieval age did not believe that man's estate upon the earth ever would
be fundamentally improved, and in consequence took the only reasonable
attitude, resignation.  When famines came, God sent them; they were
punishment for sin; his will be done!  When wars came, they were the
flails of God to thresh his people; his will be done!  Men were resigned
to slavery on the ground that God had made men to be masters and slaves.
They were resigned to feudalism and absolute monarchy on the ground that
God had made men to be rulers and ruled.  Whatever was had been ordained
by the Divine or had been allowed by him in punishment for man's
iniquity.  To rebel was sin; to doubt was heresy; to submit was piety.
The Hebrew prophets had not been resigned, nor Jesus Christ, nor Paul.
The whole New Testament blazes with the hope of the kingdom of
righteousness coming upon earth.  But the medieval age was resigned.  Its
real expectations were post-mortem hopes.  So far as this earth was
concerned, men must submit.

To be sure, in those inner experiences where we must endure what we
cannot help, resignation will always characterize a deeply religious
life.  All life is not under our control, to be freely mastered by our
thought and toil.  There are areas where scientific knowledge gives us
power to do amazing things, but all around them are other areas which our
hands cannot regulate.  Orion and the Pleiades were not made for our
fingers to swing, and our engineering does not change sunrise or sunset
nor make the planets one whit less or more.  So, in the experiences of
our inward life, around the realm which we can control is that other
realm where move the mysterious providences of God, beyond our power to
understand and as uncontrollable by us as the tides are by the fish that
live in them.  Captain Scott found the South Pole, only to discover that
another man had been there first.  When, on his return from the
disappointing quest, the pitiless cold, the endless blizzards, the
failing food, had worn down the strength of the little company and in
their tent amid the boundless desolation they waited for the end while
the life flames burned low, Captain Scott wrote: "I do not regret this
journey. . . .  We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out
against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the
will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last." [1]
That is resignation at its noblest.

When, however, a modern Christian tries to do what the medieval
Christians did--make this attitude of resignation cover the whole field
of life, make it the dominant element in their religion, the proof of
their trust and the test of their piety--he finds himself separated from
the most characteristic and stirring elements in his generation.  We are
not resigned anywhere else.  Everywhere else we count it our pride and
glory to be unresigned.  We are not resigned even to a thorny cactus,
whose spiky exterior seems a convincing argument against its use for
food.  When we see a barren plain we do not say as our fathers did: God
made plains so in his inscrutable wisdom; his will be done!  We call for
irrigation and, when the fructifying waters flow, we say, Thy will be
done! in the way we think God wishes to have it said.  We do not
passively submit to God's will; we actively assert it.  The scientific
control of life at this point has deeply changed our religious mood.  We
are not resigned to pestilences and already have plans drawn up to make
the yellow fever germ "as extinct as the woolly rhinoceros."  We are not
even resigned to the absence of wireless telephony when once we have
imagined its presence, or to the inconvenience of slow methods of travel
when once we have invented swift ones.  Not to illiteracy nor to child
labour nor to the white plague nor to commercialized vice nor to
recurrent unemployment are we, at our best, resigned.

This change of mood did not come easily.  So strongly did the medieval
spirit of resignation, submissive in a static world, keep its grip upon
the Church that the Church often defiantly withstood the growth of this
unresigned attitude of which we have been speaking and in which we glory.
Lightning rods were vehemently denounced by many ministers as an
unwarranted interference with God's use of lightning.  When God hit a
house he meant to hit it; his will be done!  This attitude, thus absurdly
applied, had in more important realms a lamentable consequence.  The
campaign of Christian missions to foreign lands was bitterly fought in
wide areas of the Christian Church because if God intended to damn the
heathen he should be allowed to do so without interference from us; his
will be done!  As for slavery, the last defense which it had in this
country was on religious grounds: that God had ordained it and that it
was blasphemous to oppose his ordination.  In a word, this spirit of
passive resignation has been so deeply ingrained in religious thinking
that it has become oftentimes a serious reproach to Christian people.

Now, however, the mood of modern Christianity is decisively in contrast
with that medieval spirit.  Moreover, we think that we are close to the
Master in this attitude, for whatever difference in outward form of
expectation there may be between his day and ours, when he said: "Thy
kingdom come.  Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth," that was not
passive submission to God's will but an aggressive prayer for the victory
of God and righteousness; it was not lying down under the will of God as
something to be endured, but active loyalty to the will of God as
something to be achieved.  To be resigned to evil conditions on this
earth is in our eyes close to essential sin.  If any one who calls
himself a conservative Christian doubts his share in this anti-medieval
spirit, let him test himself and see.  In 1836 the Rev. Leonard Wood, D.
D., wrote down this interesting statement: "I remember when I could
reckon up among my acquaintances forty ministers, and none of them at a
great distance, who were either drunkards or far addicted to drinking.  I
could mention an ordination which took place about twenty years ago at
which I myself was ashamed and grieved to see two aged ministers
literally drunk, and a third indecently excited." [2]  Our forefathers
were resigned to that, but we are not.  The most conservative of us so
hates the colossal abomination of the liquor traffic, that we do not
propose to cease our fight until victory has been won.  We are
belligerently unresigned.  Or when militarism proves itself an
intolerable curse, we do not count it a divine punishment and prepare
ourselves to make the best of its continuance.  We propose to end it.
Militarism, which in days of peace cries, Build me vast armaments, spend
enough upon a single dreadnaught to remake the educational system of a
whole state; militarism, which in the days of war cries, Give me your
best youth to slay, leave the crippled and defective to propagate the
race, give me your best to slay; militarism, which lays its avaricious
hand on every new invention to make gregarious death more swift and
terrible, and when war is over makes the starved bodies of innumerable
children walk in its train for pageantry,--we are not resigned to that.
We count it our Christian duty to be tirelessly unresigned.

Here is a new mood in Christianity, born out of the scientific control of
life and the modern ideas of progress, and, however consonant it may be
with the spirit of the New Testament, it exhibits in the nature of its
regulative conceptions and in its earthly hopes a transformation within
Christianity which penetrates deep.  Progressive change is not simply an
environment to which Christianity conforms; it is a fact which
Christianity exhibits.


This idea that Christianity is itself a progressive movement instead of a
static finality involves some serious alterations in the historic
conceptions of the faith, as soon as it is applied to theology.  Very
early in Christian history the presence of conflicting heresies led the
church to define its faith in creeds and then to regard these as final
formulations of Christian doctrine, incapable of amendment or addition.
Tertullian, about 204 A. D., spoke of the creedal standard of his day as
"a rule of faith changeless and incapable of reformation." [3]  From that
day until our own, when a Roman Catholic Council has decreed that "the
definitions of the Roman Pontiff are unchangeable," [4] an unalterable
character has been ascribed to the dogmas of the Church of Rome.  Indeed,
Pius IX, in his Syllabus of Errors, specifically condemned the modern
idea that "Divine revelation is imperfect, and, therefore, subject to
continual and indefinite progress, which corresponds with the progress of
human reason." [5]  Nor did Protestantism, with all the reformation which
it wrought, attack this central Catholic conception of a changeless
content and formulation of faith.  Not what the Pope said, but what the
Bible said, was by Protestants unalterably to be received.  Change there
might be in the sense that unrealized potentialities involved in the
original deposit might be brought to light--a kind of development which
not only Protestants but Catholics like Cardinal Newman have willingly
allowed--but whatever had once been stated as the content of faith by the
received authorities was by both Catholics and Protestants regarded as
unalterably so.  In the one case, if the Pope had once defined a dogma,
it was changeless; in the other, if the Bible had once formulated a
pre-scientific cosmology, or used demoniacal possession as an explanation
of disease, or personified evil in a devil, all such mental categories
were changelessly to be received.  In its popular forms this conception
of Christianity assumes extreme rigidity--Christianity is a static system
finally formulated, a deposit to be accepted in toto if at all, not to be
added to, not to be subtracted from, not to be changed, its i's all
dotted and its t's all crossed.

The most crucial problem which we face in our religious thinking is
created by the fact that Christianity thus statically conceived now goes
out into a generation where no other aspect of life is conceived in
static terms at all.  The earth itself on which we live, not by fiat
suddenly enacted, but by long and gradual processes, became habitable,
and man upon it through uncounted ages grew out of an unknown past into
his present estate.  Everything within man's life has grown, is growing,
and apparently will grow.  Music developed from crude forms of rhythmic
noise until now, by way of Bach, Beethoven and Wagner, our modern music,
still developing, has grown to forms of harmony at first undreamed.
Painting developed from the rough outlines of the cavemen until now
possibilities of expression in line and colour have been achieved whose
full expansion we cannot guess.  Architecture evolved from the crude huts
of primitive man until now our cathedrals and our new business buildings
alike mark an incalculable advance and prophesy an unimaginable future.
One may refuse to call all development real progress, may insist upon
degeneration as well as betterment through change, but, even so, the
basic fact remains that all the elements which go to make man's life come
into being, are what they are, and pass out of what they are into
something different, through processes of continual growth.  Our business
methods change until the commercial wisdom of a few years ago may be the
folly of to-day; our moral ideals change until actions once respectable
become reprobate, and the heroes of one generation would be the convicts
of another; our science changes until ideas that men once were burned at
the stake for entertaining are now the commonplace axioms of every school
boy's thought; our economics change until schools of thought shaped to
old industrial conditions are as outmoded as a one-horse shay beside an
automobile; our philosophy changes like our science when Kant, for
example, starts a revolution in man's thinking, worthy, as he claimed, to
be called Copernican; our cultural habits change until marooned
communities in the Kentucky mountains, "our contemporary ancestors,"
having let the stream of human life flow around and past them, seem as
strange to us as a belated what-not in a modern parlour.  The perception
of this fact of progressive change is one of the regnant influences in
our modern life and, strangely enough, so far from disliking it, we glory
in it; in our expectancy we count on change; with our control of life we
seek to direct it.

Indeed no more remarkable difference distinguishes the modern world from
all that went before than its attitude toward change itself.  The
medieval world idealized changelessness.  Its very astronomy was the
apotheosis of the unalterable.  The earth, a globe full of mutation and
decay; around it eight transparent spheres carrying the heavenly bodies,
each outer sphere moving more slowly than its inner neighbour, while the
ninth, moving most slowly of all, moved all the rest; last of all, the
empyrean, blessed with changeless, motionless perfection, the abode of
God--such was the Ptolemaic astronomy as Dante knew it.  This
idealization of changelessness was the common property of all that by
gone world.  The Holy Roman Empire was the endeavour to perpetuate a
changeless idea of political theory and organization; the Holy Catholic
Church was the endeavour to perpetuate a changeless formulation of
religious dogma and hierarchy; the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas was the
endeavour to settle forever changeless paths for the human mind to walk
in.  To that ancient world as a whole the perfect was the finished, and
therefore it was immutable.

How different our modern attitude toward change has come to be!  We
believe in change, rely on it, hope for it, rejoice in it, are determined
to achieve it and control it.  Nowhere is this more evident than in our
thought of the meaning of knowledge.  In the medieval age knowledge was
spun as a spider spins his web.  Thinking simply made evident what
already was involved in an accepted proposition.  A premise was drawn out
into its filaments and then woven into a fabric of new form but of the
same old material.  Knowledge did not start from actual things; it did
not intend to change actual things; and the shelves of the libraries
groan with the burden of that endless and largely futile cogitation.
Then the new knowledge began from the observation of things as they
really are and from the use of that observation for the purposes of human
life.  Once a lad, seventeen years old, went into the cathedral at Pisa
to worship.  Soon he forgot the service and watched a chandelier,
swinging from the lofty roof.  He wondered whether, no matter how
changeable the length of its arc, its oscillations always consumed the
same time and, because he had no other means, he timed its motion by the
beating of his pulse.  That was one time when a boy went to church and
did well to forget the service.  He soon began to wonder whether he could
not make a pendulum which, swinging like the chandeliers, would do useful
business for men.  He soon began to discover, in what he had seen that
day, new light on the laws of planetary motion.  That was one of the
turning points in human history--the boy was Galileo.  The consequences
of this new method are all around us now.  The test of knowledge in
modern life is capacity to cause change.  If a man really knows
electricity he can cause change; he can illumine cities and drive cars.
If a man really knows engineering, he can cause change; he can tunnel
rivers and bridge gulfs.  It is for that purpose we wish knowledge.
Instead of being dreaded, controlled change has become the chief desire
of modern life.

When, therefore, in this generation with its perception of growth as the
universal law and with its dependence upon controlled change as the hope
of man, Christianity endeavours to glorify changelessness and to maintain
itself in unalterable formulations, it has outlawed itself from its own
age.  An Indian punkah-puller, urged by his mistress to better his
condition, replied: "Mem Sahib, my father pulled a punkah, my grandfather
pulled a punkah, all my ancestors for four million ages pulled punkahs,
and, before that, the god who founded our caste pulled a punkah over
Vishnu."  How utterly lost such a man would be in the dynamic movements
of our modern Western life!--yet not more lost than is a Christianity
which tries to remain static in a progressive world.


Among the influences which have forced well-instructed minds first to
accept and then to glory in the progressive nature of Christianity, the
first place must be given to the history of religion itself.  The study
of religion's ancient records in ritual, monument and book, and of
primitive faiths still existing among us in all stages of development,
has made clear the general course which man's religious life has traveled
from very childish beginnings until now.  From early animism in its
manifold expressions, through polytheism, kathenotheism, henotheism, to
monotheism, and so out into loftier possibilities of conceiving the
divine nature and purpose--the main road which man has traveled in his
religious development now is traceable.  Nor is there any place where it
is more easily traceable than in our own Hebrew-Christian tradition.  One
of the fine results of the historical study of the Scriptures is the
possibility which now exists of arranging the manuscripts of the Bible in
approximately chronological order and then tracing through them the
unfolding growth of the faiths and hopes which come to their flower in
the Gospel of Christ.  Consider, for example, the exhilarating story of
the developing conception of Jehovah's character from the time he was
worshiped as a mountain-god in the desert until he became known as the
"God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

We are explicitly told that the history of Jehovah's relationship with
Israel began at Sinai and that before that time the Hebrew fathers had
never even heard his name.[6]  There on a mountain-top in the Sinaitic
wilderness dwelt this new-found god, so anthropomorphically conceived
that he could hide Moses in a rock's cleft from which the prophet could
not see Jehovah's face but could see his back.[7]  He was a god of battle
and the name of an old book about him still remains to us, "The book of
the Wars of Jehovah." [8]

  "Jehovah is a man of war:
  Jehovah is his name"--[9]

so his people at first rejoiced in him and gloried in his power when he
thundered and lightened on Sinai.  Few stories in man's spiritual history
are so interesting as the record of the way in which this mountain-god,
for the first time, so far as we know, in Semitic history, left his
settled shrine, traveled with his people in the holy Ark, became
acclimated in Canaan, and, gradually absorbing the functions of the old
baals of the land, extended his sovereignty over the whole of Palestine.

To be sure, even then he still was thought of, as all ancient gods were
thought of, as geographically limited to the country whose god he was.
Milcolm and Chemosh were real gods too, ruling in Philistia and Moab as
Jehovah did in Canaan.  This is the meaning of Jephthah's protest to a
hostile chieftain: "Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god
giveth thee to possess?" [10]  This is the meaning of David's protest
when he is driven out to the Philistine cities: "They have driven me out
this day that I should not cleave unto the inheritance of Jehovah,
saying, Go, serve other gods." [11]  This is the meaning of Naaman's
desire to have two mules' burden of Jehovah's land on which to worship
Jehovah in Damascus.[12]  Jehovah could be worshiped only on Jehovah's
land.  But ever as the day of fuller understanding dawned, the
sovereignty of Jehovah widened and his power usurped the place and
function of all other gods.  Amos saw him using the nations as his pawns;
Isaiah heard him whistling to the nations as a shepherd to his dogs;
Jeremiah heard him cry, "Can any hide himself in secret places so that I
shall not see him? . . .  Do not I fill heaven and earth?" [13]; until at
last we sweep out, through the exile and all the heightening of faith and
clarifying of thought that came with it, into the Great Isaiah's 40th
chapter on the universal and absolute sovereignty of God, into the
Priestly narrative of creation, where God makes all things with a word,
into psalms which cry,

  "For all the gods of the people are idols;
  But Jehovah made the heavens." [14]

Moreover, as Jehovah's sovereignty thus is enlarged until he is the God
of all creation, his character too is deepened and exalted in the
understanding of his people.  That noblest succession of moral teachers
in ancient history, the Hebrew prophets, developed a conception of the
nature of God in terms of righteousness, so broad in its outreach, so
high in its quality, that as one mounts through Amos' fifth chapter and
Isaiah's first chapter and Jeremiah's seventh chapter, he finds himself,
like Moses on Nebo's top, looking over into the Promised Land of the New
Testament.  There this development flowers out under the influence of
Jesus.  God's righteousness is interpreted, not in terms of justice only,
but of compassionate, sacrificial love; his Fatherhood embraces not only
all mankind but each individual, lifting him out of obscurity in the mass
into infinite worthfulness and hope.  And more than this development of
idea, the New Testament gives us a new picture of God in the personality
of Jesus, and we see the light of the knowledge of God's glory in his

Moreover, this development, so plainly recorded in Scripture, was not
unconsciously achieved by the drift of circumstance; it represents the
ardent desire of forward-looking men, inspired by the Spirit.  The
Master, himself, was consciously pleading for a progressive movement in
the religious life and thinking of his day.  A static religion was the
last thing he ever dreamed of or wanted.  No one was more reverent than
he toward his people's past; his thought and his speech were saturated
with the beauty of his race's heritage; yet consider his words as again
and again they fell from his lips: "It was said to them of old time . . .
but I say unto you."  His life was rooted in the past but it was not
imprisoned there; it grew up out of the past, not destroying but
fulfilling it.  He had in him the spirit of the prophets, who once had
spoken to his people in words of fire; but old forms that he thought had
been outgrown he brushed aside.  He would not have his Gospel a patch on
an old garment, he said, nor would he put it like new wine into old
wineskins.  He appealed from the oral traditions of the elders to the
written law; within the written law he distinguished between ceremonial
and ethical elements, making the former of small or no account, the
latter all-important; and then within the written ethical law he waived
provisions that seemed to him outmoded by time.  Even when he bade
farewell to his disciples, he did not talk to them as if what he himself
had said were a finished system: "I have yet many things to say unto you,
but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is
come, he shall guide you into all the truth."

In Paul's hands the work which Jesus began went on.  He dared an
adventurous move that makes much of our modern progressiveness look like
child's play: he lifted the Christian churches out of the narrow,
religious exclusiveness of the Hebrew synagogue.  He dared to wage battle
for the new idea that Christianity was not a Jewish sect but a universal
religion.  He withstood to his face Peter, still trammeled in the
narrowness of his Jewish thinking, and he founded churches across the
Roman Empire where was neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, male
nor female, bond nor free, but all were one man in Christ Jesus.

Even more thrilling were those later days when in Ephesus the writer of
the Fourth Gospel faced a Hellenistic audience, to whom the forms of
thought in which Jesus hitherto had been interpreted were utterly unreal.
The first creed about Jesus proclaimed that he was the Messiah, but
Messiah was a Jewish term and to the folk of Ephesus it had no vital
meaning.  John could not go on calling the Master that and that alone,
when he had hungry souls before him who needed the Master but to whom
Jewish terms had no significance.  One thing those folk of Ephesus did
understand, the idea of the Logos.  They had heard of that from the many
faiths whose pure or syncretized forms made the religious background of
their time.  They knew about the Logos from Zoroastrianism, where beside
Ahura Mazdah stood Vohu Manah, the Mind of God; from Stoicism, at the
basis of whose philosophy lay the idea of the Logos; from Alexandrian
Hellenism, by means of which a Jew like Philo had endeavoured to marry
Greek philosophy and Hebrew orthodoxy.  And the writer of the Fourth
Gospel used that new form of thought in which to present to his people
the personality of our Lord.  "In the beginning was the Logos, and the
Logos was with God, and the Logos was God"--so begins the Fourth Gospel's
prologue, in words that every intelligent person in Ephesus could
understand and was familiar with, and that initial sermon in the book,
for it is a sermon, not philosophy, moves on in forms of thought which
the people knew about and habitually used, until the hidden purpose comes
to light: "The Logos became flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld his
glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and
truth."  John was presenting his Lord to the people of his time in terms
that the people could understand.

Even within the New Testament, therefore, there is no static creed.  For,
like a flowing river, the Church's thought of her Lord shaped itself to
the intellectual banks of the generation through which it moved, even
while, by its construction and erosion, it transfigured them.  Nor did
this movement cease with New Testament days.  From the Johannine idea of
the Logos to the Nicene Creed, where our Lord is set in the framework of
Greek metaphysics, the development is just as clear as from the category
of Jewish Messiah to the categories of the Fourth Gospel.  And if, in our
generation, a conservative scholar like the late Dr. Sanday pleaded for
the necessity of a new Christology, it was not because he was primarily
zealous for a novel philosophy, but because like John of old in Ephesus
he was zealous to present Christ to his own generation in terms that his
own generation could comprehend.[15]


Undoubtedly such an outlook upon the fluid nature of the Christian
movement will demand readjustment in the religious thinking of many
people.  They miss the old ideas about revelation.  This new
progressiveness seems to them to be merely the story of man's discovery,
finding God, here a little and there a little, as he has found the truths
of astronomy.  But God's revelation of himself is just as real when it is
conceived in progressive as when it is conceived in static terms.  Men
once thought of God's creation of the world in terms of fiat--it was done
on the instant; and when evolution was propounded men cried that the
progressive method shut God out.  We see now how false that fear was.
The creative activity of God never was so nobly conceived as it has been
since we have known the story of his slow unfolding of the universe.  We
have a grander picture in our minds than even the psalmist had, when we
say after him, "The heavens declare the glory of God."  So men who have
been accustomed to think of revelation in static terms, now that the long
leisureliness of man's developing spiritual insight is apparent, fear
that this does away with revelation.  But in God's unfolding education of
his people recorded in the Scriptures revelation is at its noblest.  No
man ever found God except when God was seeking to be found.  Discovery is
the under side of the process; the upper side is revelation.

Indeed, this conception of progressive revelation does not shut out
finality.  In scientific thought, which continually moves and grows,
expands and changes, truths are discovered once for all.  The work of
Copernicus is in a real sense final.  This earth does move; it is not
stationary; and the universe is not geocentric.  That discovery is final.
Many developments start from that, but the truth itself is settled once
for all.  So, in the spiritual history of man, final revelations come.
They will not have to be made over again and they will not have to be
given up.  Progress does not shut out finality; it only makes each new
finality a point of departure for a new adventure, not a terminus ad quem
for a conclusive stop.  That God was in Christ reconciling the world unto
himself is for the Christian a finality, but, from the day the first
disciples saw its truth until now, the intellectual formulations in which
it has been set and the mental categories by which it has been
interpreted have changed with the changes of each age's thought.

While at first, then, a progressive Christianity may seem to plunge us
into unsettlement, the more one studies it the less he would wish it
otherwise.  Who would accept a snapshot taken at any point on the road of
Christian development as the final and perfect form of Christianity?
Robert Louis Stevenson has drawn for us a picture of a man trying with
cords and pegs to stake out the shadow of an oak tree, expecting that
when he had marked its boundaries the shadow would stay within the limits
of the pegs.  Yet all the while the mighty globe was turning around in
space.  He could not keep a tree's shadow static on a moving earth.
Nevertheless, multitudes of people in their endeavour to build up an
infallibly settled creed have tried just such a hopeless task.  They
forget that while a revelation _from_ God might conceivably be final and
complete, religion deals with a revelation _of_ God.  God, the infinite
and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, the source and crown and
destiny of all the universe--shall a man whose days are as grass rise up
to say that he has made a statement about him which will not need to be
revised?  Rather, our prayer should be that the thought of God, the
meaning of God, the glory of God, the plans and purpose of God may expand
in our comprehension until we, who now see in a mirror, darkly, may see
face to face.  "Le Dieu défini est le Dieu fini."

This mistaken endeavour, in the interest of stability, to make a vital
movement static is not confined to religion.  Those of us who love Wagner
remember the lesson of Die Meistersinger.  Down in Nuremberg they had
standardized and conventionalized music.  They had set it down in rules
and men like Beckmesser could not imagine that there was any music
permissible outside the regulations.  Then came Walter von Stolzing.
Music to him was not a conventionality but a passion--not a rule, but a
life--and, when he sang, his melodies reached heights of beauty that
Beckmesser's rules did not provide for.  It was Walter von Stolzing who
sang the Prize Song, and as the hearts of the people were stirred in
answer to its spontaneous melody, until all the population of Nuremberg
were singing its accumulating harmonies, poor Beckmesser on his
blackboard jotted down the rules which were being broken.  Beckmesser
represents a static conception of life which endeavours to freeze
progress at a given point and call it infallible.  But Beckmesser is
wrong.  You cannot take things like music and religion and set them down
in final rules and regulations.  They are life, and you have to let them
grow and flower and expand and reveal evermore the latent splendour at
their heart.


Obviously, the point where this progressive conception of Christianity
comes into conflict with many widely accepted ideas is the abandonment
which it involves of an external and inerrant authority in matters of
religion.  The marvel is that that idea of authority, which is one of the
historic curses of religion, should be regarded by so many as one of the
vital necessities of the faith.  The fact is that religion by its very
nature is one of the realms to which external authority is least
applicable.  In science people commonly suppose that they do not take
truth on any one's authority; they prove it.  In business they do not
accept methods on authority; they work them out.  In statesmanship they
no longer believe in the divine right of kings nor do they accept
infallible dicta handed down from above.  But they think that religion is
delivered to them by authority and that they believe what they do believe
because a divine Church or a divine Book or a divine Man told them.

In this common mode of thinking, popular ideas have the truth turned
upside down.  The fact is that science, not religion, is the realm where
most of all we use external authority.  They tell us that there are
millions of solar systems scattered through the fields of space.  Is that
true?  How do we know?  We never counted them.  We know only what the
authorities say.  They tell us that the next great problem in science is
breaking up the atom to discover the incalculable resources of power
there waiting to be harnessed by our skill.  Is that true?  Most of us do
not understand what an atom is, and what it means to break one up passes
the farthest reach of our imaginations; all we know is what the
authorities say.  They tell us that electricity is a mode of motion in
ether.  Is that true?  Most of us have no first hand knowledge about
electricity.  The motorman calls it "juice" and that means as much to us
as to call it a mode of motion in ether; we must rely on the authorities.
They tell us that sometime we are going to talk through wireless
telephones across thousands of miles, so that no man need ever be out of
vocal communication with his family and friends.  Is that true?  It seems
to us an incredible miracle, but we suppose that it is so, as the
authorities say.  In a word, the idea that we do not use authority in
science is absurd.  Science is precisely the place where nine hundred and
ninety-nine men out of a thousand use authority the most.  The chemistry,
biology, geology, astronomy which the authorities teach is the only
science which most of us possess.

There is another realm, however, where we never think of taking such an
attitude.  They tell us that friendship is beautiful.  Is that true?
Would we ever think of saying that we do not know, ourselves, but that we
rely on the authorities?  Far better to say that our experience with
friendship has been unhappy and that we personally question its utility!
That, at least, would have an accent of personal, original experience in
it.  For here we are facing a realm where we never can enter at all until
we enter, each man for himself.

Two realms exist, therefore, in each of which first-hand experience is
desirable, but in only one of which it is absolutely indispensable.  We
can live on what the authorities in physics say, but there are no proxies
for the soul.  Love, friendship, delight in music and in nature, parental
affection--these things are like eating and breathing; no one can do them
for us; we must enter the experience for ourselves.  Religion, too,
belongs in this last realm.  The one vital thing in religion is
first-hand, personal experience.  Religion is the most intimate, inward,
incommunicable fellowship of the human soul.  In the words of Plotinus,
religion is "the flight of the alone to the Alone."  You never know God
at all until you know him for yourself.  The only God you ever will know
is the God you do know for yourself.

This does not mean, of course, that there are no authorities in religion.
There are authorities in everything, but the function of an authority in
religion, as in every other vital realm, is not to take the place of our
eyes, seeing in our stead and inerrantly declaring to us what it sees;
the function of an authority is to bring to us the insight of the world's
accumulated wisdom and the revelations of God's seers, and so to open our
eyes that we may see, each man for himself.  So an authority in
literature does not say to his students: The Merchant of Venice is a
great drama; you may accept my judgment on that--I know.  Upon the
contrary, he opens their eyes; he makes them see; he makes their hearts
sensitive so that the genius which made Shylock and Portia live
captivates and subdues them, until like the Samaritans they say, "Now we
believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves,
and know."  That is the only use of authority in a vital, realm.  It can
lead us up to the threshold of a great experience where we must enter,
each man for himself, and that service to the spiritual life is the
Bible's inestimable gift.

At the beginning, Christianity was just such a first-hand experience as
we have described.  The Christian fellowship consisted of a group of men
keeping company with Jesus and learning how to live.  They had no creeds
to recite when they met together; what they believed was still an
unstereotyped passion in their hearts.  They had no sacraments to
distinguish their faith--baptism had been a Jewish rite and even the
Lord's Supper was an informal use of bread and wine, the common elements
of their daily meal.  They had no organizations to join; they never
dreamed that the Christian Gospel would build a church outside the
synagogue.  Christianity in the beginning was an intensely personal

Then the Master went away and the tremendous forces of human life and
history laid hold on the movement which so vitally he had begun.  His
followers began building churches.  Just as the Wesleyans had to leave
the Church of England, not because they wanted to, but because the
Anglicans would not keep them, so the Christians, not because they
planned to, but because the synagogue was not large enough to hold them,
had to leave the synagogue.  They began building creeds; they had to.
Every one of the first Christian creeds was written in sheer
self-defense.  If we had been Christians in those first centuries, when a
powerful movement was under way called Gnosticism, which denied that God,
the Father Almighty, had made both the heaven and the earth, which said
that God had made heaven indeed but that a demigod had made the world,
and which denied that Jesus had been born in the flesh and in the flesh
had died, we would have done what the first Christians did: we would have
defined in a creed what it was the Christians did believe as against that
wild conglomeration of Oriental mythology that Gnosticism was, and we
would have shouted the creed as a war cry against the Gnostics.  That is
what the so-called Apostles' Creed was--the first Christian battle chant,
a militant proclamation of the historic faith against the heretics; and
every one of its declarations met with a head-on collision some claim of
Gnosticism.  Then, too, the early Christians drew up rituals; they had
to.  We cannot keep any spiritual thing in human life, even the spirit of
courtesy, as a disembodied wraith.  We ritualize it--we bow, we take off
our hats, we shake hands, we rise when a lady enters.  We have
innumerable ways of expressing politeness in a ritual.  Neither could
they have kept so deep and beautiful a thing as the Christian life
without such expression.

So historic Christianity grew, organized, creedalized, ritualized.  And
ever as it grew, a peril grew with it, for there were multitudes of
people who joined these organizations, recited these creeds, observed
these rituals, took all the secondary and derived elements of
Christianity, but often forgot that vital thing which all this was meant
in the first place to express: a first-hand, personal experience of God
in Christ.  That alone is vital in Christianity; all the rest is once or
twice or thrice removed from life.  For Christianity is not a creed, nor
an organization, nor a ritual.  These are important but they are
secondary.  They are the leaves, not the roots; they are the wires, not
the message.  Christianity itself is a life.

If, however, Christianity is thus a life, we cannot stereotype its
expressions in set and final forms.  If it is a life in fellowship with
the living God, it will think new thoughts, build new organizations,
expand into new symbolic expressions.  We cannot at any given time write
"finis" after its development.  We can no more "keep the faith" by
stopping its growth than we can keep a son by insisting on his being
forever a child.  The progressiveness of Christianity is not simply its
response to a progressive age; the progressiveness of Christianity
springs from its own inherent vitality.  So far is this from being
regrettable, that a modern Christian rejoices in it and gladly recognizes
not only that he is thinking thoughts and undertaking enterprises which
his fathers would not have understood, but also that his children after
him will differ quite as much in teaching and practice from the modernity
of to-day.  It has been the fashion to regard this changeableness with
wistful regret.  So Wordsworth sings in his sonnet on Mutability:

  "Truth fails not; but her outward forms that bear
  The longest date do melt like frosty rime,
  That in the morning whitened hill and plain
  And is no more; drop like the tower sublime
  Of yesterday, which royally did wear
  Its crown of weeds, but could not even sustain
  Some casual shout that broke the silent air,
  Or the unimaginable touch of Time."

Such wistfulness, however, while a natural sentiment, is not true to the
best Christian thought of our day.  He who believes in the living God,
while he will be far from calling all change progress, and while he will,
according to his judgment, withstand perverse changes with all his might,
will also regard the cessation of change as the greatest calamity that
could befall religion.  Stagnation in thought or enterprise means death
for Christianity as certainly as it does for any other vital movement.
Stagnation, not change, is Christianity's most deadly enemy, for this is
a progressive world, and in a progressive world no doom is more certain
than that which awaits whatever is belated, obscurantist and reactionary.

[1] Leonard Huxley: Scott's Last Expedition, Vol. I, The Journals of
Captain R. F. Scott, Rn., C. V. O., p. 417.

[2] Kirby Page; The Sword or the Cross, p. 41.

[3] Tertullian: De Virginibus Velandis, Cap. I--"Regula quidem fidei una
omnino est, sola immobilis et irreformabilis."

[4] Vatican Council, July 18, 1870, First Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church of Christ, Chapter IV, Concerning the Infallible Teaching of the
Roman Pontiff.

[5] The Papal Syllabus of Errors, A. D. 1864, Sec. 1, 5.

[6] Exodus 6:3; Chap. 19.

[7] Exodus 33:22-23.

[8] Numbers 21:14.

[9] Exodus 15:3.

[10] Judges 11:24.

[11] I Samuel 26:19.

[12] II Kings 5:17.

[13] Jeremiah 23:24.

[14] Psalm 96:5.

[15] William Sanday: Christologies Ancient and Modern.




In the history of human thought and social organization there is an
interesting pendular swing between conflicting ideas so that, about the
time we wake up to recognize that thought is swinging one way, we may
be fairly sure that soon it will be swinging the other.  Man's social
organization, for example, has moved back and forth between the two
poles of individual liberty and social solidarity.  To pick up the
swing of that pendulum only in recent times, we note that out of the
social solidarity of the feudal system man swung over to the individual
liberty of the free cities; then from the individual liberty of the
free cities to the social solidarity of the absolute monarchies; then
back again into the individual liberty of the democratic states.  We
see that now we are clearly swinging over to some new form of social
solidarity, of which tendency federalism and socialism are expressions,
and doubtless from that we shall recoil toward individual liberty once
more.  It is a safe generalization that whenever human thought shows
some decided trend, a corrective movement is not far away.  However
enthusiastic we may be, therefore, about the idea of progress and the
positive contributions which it can make to our understanding and
mastery of life, we may be certain that there are in it the faults of
its qualities.  If we take it without salt, our children will rise up,
not to applaud our far-seeing wisdom, but to blame our easy-going
credulity.  We have already seen that the very idea of progress sprang
up in recent times in consequence of a few factors which predisposed
men's minds to social hopefulness.  Fortunately, some of these factors,
such as the scientific control of life through the knowledge of law,
seem permanent, and we are confident that the idea of progress will
have abiding meaning for human thought and life.  But no study of the
matter could be complete without an endeavour to discern the perils in
this modern mode of thought and to guard ourselves against accepting as
an unmixed blessing what is certainly, like all things human, a blend
of good and evil.

One peril involved in the popular acceptance of the idea of progress
has been the creation of a superficial, ill-considered optimism which
has largely lost sight of the terrific obstacles in human nature
against which any real moral advance on earth must win its way.  Too
often we have taken for granted what a recent book calls "a goal of
racial perfection and nobility the splendour of which it is beyond our
powers to conceive," and we have dreamed about this earthly paradise
like a saint having visions of heaven and counting it as won already
because he is predestined to obtain it.  Belief in inevitable progress
has thus acted as an opiate on many minds, lulling them into an elysium
where all things come by wishing and where human ignorance and folly,
cruelty and selfishness do not impede the peaceful flowing of their
dreams.  In a word, the idea of progress has blanketed the sense of
sin.  Lord Morley spoke once of "that horrid burden and impediment upon
the soul which the Churches call Sin, and which, by whatever name you
call it, is a real catastrophe in the moral nature of man."  The modern
age, busy with slick, swift schemes for progress, has too largely lost
sight of that.

Indeed, at no point do modern Christians differ more sharply from their
predecessors than in the serious facing of the problem of sin.
Christians of former times were burdened with a heavy sense of their
transgressions, and their primary interest in the Gospel was its
promised reestablishment of their guilty souls in the fellowship of a
holy God.  Modern Christianity, however, is distinguished from all that
by a jaunty sense of moral well-being; when we admit our sins we do it
with complacency and cheerfulness; our religion is generally
characterized by an easy-going self-righteousness.  Bunyan's Pilgrim
with his lamentable load upon his back, crying, "What shall I do! . . .
I am . . . undone by reason of a burden that lieth hard upon me," is no
fit symbol of a typically modern Christian.

Doubtless we have cause to be thankful for this swing away from the
morbid extremes to which our fathers often went in their sense of sin.
It is hard to forgive Jonathan Edwards when one reads in his famous
Enfield sermon: "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as
one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors
you, and is dreadfully provoked; . . . you are ten thousand times so
abominable in his eyes, as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in
ours."  Any one who understands human nature could have told him that,
after such a black exaggeration of human depravity as he and his
generation were guilty of, the Christian movement was foredoomed to
swing away over to the opposite extreme of complacent
self-righteousness.  Unquestionably we have made the swing.  In spite
of the debacle of the Great War, this is one of the most unrepentant
generations that ever walked the earth, dreaming still of automatic
progress toward an earthly paradise.

Many factors have gone into the making of this modern mood of
self-complacency.  _New knowledge_ has helped, by which disasters, such
as once awakened our fathers' poignant sense of sin, are now attributed
to scientific causes rather than to human guilt.  When famines or
pestilences came, our fathers thought them God's punishment for sin.
When earthquakes shook the earth or comets hung threateningly in the
sky, our fathers saw in them a divine demand for human penitence.  Such
events, referred now to their scientific causes, do not quicken in us a
sense of sin.  _New democracy_ also has helped in this development of
self-complacency.  Under autocratic kings the common people were common
people and they knew it well.  Their dependent commonality was enforced
on them by the constant pressure of their social life.  Accustomed to
call themselves miserable worms before an earthly king, they had no
qualms about so estimating themselves before the King of Heaven.
Democracy, however, elevates us into self-esteem.  The genius of
democracy is to believe in men, their worth, their possibilities, their
capacities for self-direction.  Once the dominant political ideas
depressed men into self-contempt; now they lift men into
self-exaltation.  _New excuses for sin_ have aided in creating our mood
of self-content.  We know more than our fathers did about the effect of
heredity and environment on character, and we see more clearly that
some souls are not born but damned into the world.  Criminals, in
consequence, have come not to be so much condemned as pitied, their
perversion of character is regarded not so much in terms of iniquity as
of disease, and as we thus condone transgression in others, so in
ourselves we palliate our wrong.  We regard it as the unfortunate but
hardly blamable consequence of temperament or training.  Our fathers,
who thought that the trouble was the devil in them, used to deal
sternly with themselves.  Like Chinese Gordon, fighting a besetting sin
in private prayer, they used to come out from their inward struggles
saying, "I hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord."  But we are softer
with ourselves; we find in lack of eugenics or in cruel circumstance a
good excuse.

Undoubtedly, the _new theology_ has helped to encourage this modern
mood of self-complacency.  Jonathan Edwards' Enfield sermon pictured
sinners held over the blazing abyss of hell in the hands of a wrathful
deity who at any moment was likely to let go, and so terrific was that
discourse in its delivery that women fainted and strong men clung in
agony to the pillars of the church.  Obviously, we do not believe in
that kind of God any more, and as always in reaction we swing to the
opposite extreme, so in the theology of these recent years we have
taught a very mild, benignant sort of deity.  One of our popular
drinking songs sums up this aspect of our new theology:

  "God is not censorious
  When His children have their fling."

Indeed, the god of the new theology has not seemed to care acutely
about sin; certainly he has not been warranted to punish heavily; he
has been an indulgent parent and when we have sinned, a polite "Excuse
me" has seemed more than adequate to make amends.  John Muir, the
naturalist, was accustomed during earthquake shocks in California to
assuage the anxieties of perturbed Eastern visitors by saying that it
was only Mother Earth trotting her children on her knee.  Such
poetizing is quite in the style of the new theology.  Nevertheless, the
description, however pretty, is not an adequate account of a real
earthquake, and in this moral universe there are real earthquakes, as
this generation above all others ought to know, when man's sin, his
greed, his selfishness, his rapacity roll up across the years an
accumulating mass of consequence until at last in a mad collapse the
whole earth crashes into ruin.  The moral order of the world has not
been trotting us on her knees these recent years; the moral order of
the world has been dipping us in hell; and because the new theology had
not been taking account of such possibilities, had never learned to
preach on that text in the New Testament, "It is a fearful thing to
fall into the hands of the living God," we were ill prepared for the

Many factors like those which we have named have contributed to create
our modern negligence of the problem of sin, but under all of them and
permeating them has been the idea that automatic progress is inherent
in the universe.  This evolving cosmos has been pictured as a
fool-proof world where men could make and love their lies, with their
souls dead and their stomachs well alive, with selfish profit the
motive of their economic order and narrow nationalism the slogan of
their patriotism, and where still, escaping the consequences, they
could live in a progressive society.  A recent writer considers it
possible that "over the crest of the hill the Promised Land stretches
away to the far horizons smiling in eternal sunshine."  The picture is
nonsense.  All the progress this world ever will know waits upon the
conquest of sin.  Strange as it may sound to the ears of this modern
age, long tickled by the amiable idiocies of evolution popularly
misinterpreted, this generation's deepest need is not these dithyrambic
songs about inevitable progress, but a fresh sense of personal and
social sin.

What the scientific doctrine of evolution really implies is something
much more weighty and sinister than frothy optimism.  When a preacher
now quotes Paul, "as in Adam all die," not many of the younger
generation understand him, but when we are told that we came out of
low, sub-human beginnings, that we carry with us yet the bestial
leftovers of an animal heritage to be fought against and overcome and
left behind, well-instructed members of this generation ought to
comprehend.  Yet in saying that, we are dealing with the same
fundamental fact which Paul was facing when he said, "as in Adam all
die"; we are handling the same unescapable experience out of which the
old doctrine of original sin first came; we are facing a truth which it
will not pay us to forget: that humanity's sinful nature is not
something which you and I alone make up by individual deeds of wrong,
but that it is an inherited mortgage and handicap on the whole human
family.  Why is it that if we let a field run wild it goes to weeds,
while if we wish wheat we must fight for every grain of it?  Why is it
that if we let human nature run loose it goes to evil, while he who
would be virtuous must struggle to achieve character?  It is because,
in spite of our optimisms and evasions, that fact still is here, which
our fathers often appraised more truly than we, that human nature, with
all its magnificent possibilities, is like the earth's soil filled with
age-long seeds and roots of evil growth, and that progress in goodness,
whether personal or social, must be achieved by grace of some power
which can give us the victory over our evil nature.

In past generations it was the preachers who talked most about sin and
thundered against it from their pulpits, but now for years they have
been very reticent about it.  Others, however, have not been still.
Scientists have made us feel the ancient heritage that must be fought
against; novelists have written no great novel that does not swirl
around some central sin; the work of the dramatists from Shakespeare
until Ibsen is centrally concerned with the problem of human evil; and
now the psycho-analysts are digging down into the unremembered thoughts
of men to bring up into the light of day the origins of our spiritual
miseries in frustrated and suppressed desire.  We do not need
artificially to conjure up a sense of sin.  All we need to do is to
open our eyes to facts.  Take one swift glance at the social state of
the world to-day.  Consider our desperate endeavours to save this
rocking civilization from the consequences of the blow just delivered
it by men's iniquities.  That should be sufficient to indicate that
this is no fool-proof universe automatically progressive, but that
moral evil is still the central problem of mankind.

One would almost say that the first rule for all who believe in a
progressive world is not to believe in it too much.  Long ago Plato
said that he drove two horses, one white and tractable, the other black
and fractious; Jesus said that two masters sought man's allegiance, one
God, the other mammon; Paul said that his soul was the battle-ground of
two forces, one of which he called spirit and the other flesh; and only
the other day one of our own number told of the same struggle between
two men in each of us, one Dr. Jekyll, the other Mr. Hyde.  That
conflict still is pivotal in human history.  The idea of progress can
defeat itself no more surely than by getting itself so believed that
men expect automatic social advance apart from the conquest of personal
and social sin.


Another result of our superficial confidence in the idea of progress is
reliance upon social palliatives instead of radical cures for our
public maladies.  We are so predisposed to think that the world
inherently wants to be better, is inwardly straining to be better, that
we are easily fooled into supposing that some slight easement of
external circumstance will at once release the progressive forces of
mankind and save the race.  When, for example, one compares the immense
amount of optimistic expectancy about a warless world with the small
amount of radical thinking as to what really is the matter with us, he
may well be amazed at the unfounded regnancy of the idea of progress.
We rejoice over some slight disarmament as though that were the cure of
our international shame, whereas always one can better trust a real
Quaker with a gun than a thug without one.  So the needs of our
international situation, involving external disarmament, to be sure,
involve also regenerations of thought and spirit much more radical than
any rearrangement of outward circumstance.  To forget that is to lose
the possibility of real progress; and insight into these deep-seated
needs is often dimmed by our too amiable and innocent belief in
automatic social advance waiting to take place on the slightest excuse.

To take but a single illustration of a radical change in men's
thinking, difficult to achieve and yet indispensable to a decent world,
consider the group of prejudices and passions which center about
nationalism and which impede the real progress of international
fraternity.  What if all Christians took Jesus in earnest in his
attitude that only one object on earth is worthy of the absolute
devotion of a man--the will of God for all mankind--and that therefore
no nationality nor patriotism whatsoever should be the highest object
of man's loyalty?  That ought to be an axiom to us, who stood with the
Allies against Germany.  Certainly, we condemned Germany roundly enough
because so many of her teachers exalted the state as an object of
absolute loyalty.  When in Japan one sees certain classes of people
regarding the Mikado as divine and rating loyalty to him as their
highest duty, it is easy to condemn that.  When, however, a man says in
plain English: I am an American but I am a Christian first and I am an
American only in the sense in which I can be an American, being first
of all a Christian, and my loyalty to America does not begin to compare
with my superior loyalty to God's will for all mankind and, if ever
national action makes these two things conflict, I must choose God and
not America--to the ears of many that plain statement has a tang of
newness and danger.  In the background of even Christian minds, Jesus
to the contrary notwithstanding, one finds the tacit assumption,
counted almost too sacred to be examined, that of course a man's first
loyalty is to his nation.

Indeed, we Protestants ought to feel a special responsibility for this
nationalism that so takes the place of God.  In medieval and Catholic
Europe folk did not so think of nationalism.  Folk in medieval Europe
were taught that their highest obligation was to God or, as they would
have phrased it, to the Church; that the Church could at any time
dispense them from any obligation to king or nation; that the Church
could even make the king, the symbol of the nation, stand three days in
the snow outside the Pope's door at Canossa.  Every boy and girl in
medieval Europe was taught that his first duty was spiritual and that
no nationality nor patriotism could compare with that.  Then we
Protestants began our battle for spiritual liberty against the tyranny
of Rome, and as one of the most potent agencies in the winning of our
battle we helped to develop the spirit of nationality.  In place of the
Holy Roman Church we put state churches.  In place of devotion to the
Vatican we were tempted to put devotion to the nation.  Luther did more
than write spiritual treatises; he sent out ringing, patriotic appeals
to the German nobility against Rome.  It is not an accident that
absolute nationalism came to its climacteric in Germany where
Protestantism began.  For Protestantism, without ever intending it, as
an unexpected by-product of its fight for spiritual liberty, helped to
break up western Europe into nations, where nationalism absorbed the
loyalty of the people.  And now that little tiger cub we helped to rear
has become a great beast and its roaring shakes the earth.

A superficial confidence in automatic progress, therefore, which
neglects an elemental fact like this at the root of our whole
international problem is futile; it leads nowhere; it is rose water
prescribed for leprosy.  The trouble with nationalism is profound and
this is the gist of it: we may be unselfish personally, but we group
ourselves into social units called nations, where we, being
individually unselfish with reference to the group, are satisfied with
ourselves, but where all the time the group itself is not unselfish,
but, it may be, is aggressively and violently avaricious.  Yet to most
people our sacrificial loyalty to the nation would pass for virtue,
even though the nation as a whole were exploiting its neighbours or
waging a useless, unjust war.  The loyalty of Germans to Germany may be
rated as the loftiest goodness no matter what Germany as a whole is
doing, and the loyalty of Americans to America may be praised as the
very passport to heaven while America as a whole may be engaged in a
nationally unworthy enterprise.  The fine spirit of men's devotion
within the limits of the group disguises the ultimate selfishness of
the whole procedure and cloaks a huge sin under a comparatively small

We can see that same principle at work in our industrial situation.  We
break up into two groups; we are trades unionists or associated
employers.  We are unselfish so far as our group is concerned; we make
it a point of honour to support our economic class; it is part of our
code of duty to be loyal there.  But while we are thus unselfish with
reference to the group, the group itself is not unselfish; the group
itself is fighting a bitter and selfish conflict, avaricious and often
cruel.  There is no ultimate way out of this situation which does not
include the activity of people who have a loyalty that is greater than
their groups.  Henry George was once introduced at Cooper Institute,
New York City, by a chairman who, wishing to curry favour with the
crowd, called out with a loud voice, "Henry George, the friend of the
workingman."  George stood up and sternly began, "I am not the friend
of the workingman"; then after a strained silence, "and I am not the
friend of the capitalist"; then after another silence, "I am for men;
men simply as men, regardless of any accidental or superficial
distinctions of race, creed, colour, class, or yet function or
employment."  Until we can get that larger loyalty into the hearts of
men, all the committees on earth cannot solve our industrial problems.

Nor can anything else make it possible to solve our international
problem.  The curse of nationalism is that, having pooled the
unselfishness of persons in one group under one national name and of
persons in another group under another national name, it uses this
beautiful unselfishness of patriotism to carry out national enterprises
that are fundamentally selfish.  One element, therefore, is
indispensable in any solution: enough Christians, whether they call
themselves by that name or not, who have caught Jesus' point of view
that only one loyalty on earth is absolute--the will of God for all
mankind.  This last summer I spent one Sunday night in the home of Mr.
Ozaki, perhaps the leading liberal of Japan, a man who stands in danger
of assassination any day for his international attitude.  Suddenly he
turned on me and said, "If the United States should go into a war which
you regarded as unjust and wrong, what would you do?"  I had to answer
him swiftly and I had to give him the only answer that a Christian
minister could give and keep his self-respect.  I said, "If the United
States goes into a war which I think is unjust and wrong, I will go
into my pulpit the next Sunday morning and in the name of God denounce
that war and take the consequence."  Surely, a man does not have to be
a theoretical pacifist, which I am not, to see how indispensable that
attitude is to a Christian.  There is hardly anything more needed now
in the international situation than a multitude of people who will sit
in radical judgment on the actions of their governments, so that when
the governments of the world begin to talk war they will know that
surely they must face a mass of people rising up to say: War?  Why war?
We are no longer dumb beasts to be led to the slaughter; we no longer
think that any state on earth is God Almighty.  If, however, we are to
have that attitude strong enough so that it will stand the strain of
mob psychology and the fear of consequences, it must be founded deep,
as was Jesus' attitude: one absolute loyalty to the will of God for all
mankind.  So far from hurting true patriotism, this attitude would be
the making of patriotism.  It would purge patriotism from all its
peril, would exalt it, purify it, make of it a blessing, not a curse.
But whatever be the effect upon patriotism, the Christian is committed
by the Master to a prior loyalty; he is a citizen of the Kingdom of God
in all the earth.

An easy-going belief in inherent and inevitable progress, therefore, is
positively perilous in the manifoldly complex social situation, from
which only the most careful thinking and the most courageous living
will ever rescue us.  The Christian Church is indeed entrusted, in the
message of Jesus, with the basic principles of life which the world
needs, but the clarity of vision which sees their meaning and the
courage of heart which will apply them are not easy to achieve.  Some
of us have felt that acutely these last few years; all of us should
have learned that whatever progress is wrought out upon this planet
will be sternly fought for and hardly won.  Belief in the idea of
progress does not mean that this earth is predestined to drift into
Paradise like thistledown before an inevitable wind.


A third peril associated with the idea of progress is quite as
widespread as the other two and in some ways more insidious.  The idea
is prevalent that progress involves the constant supersession of the
old by the new so that we, who have appeared thus late in human history
and are therefore the heirs "of all the ages, in the foremost files of
time," may at once assume our superiority to the ancients.  The modern
man, living in a world supposedly progressing from early crude
conditions toward perfection, has shifted the golden age from the past
to the future, and in so doing has placed himself in much closer
proximity to it than his ancestors were.  The world is getting
better--such is the common assumption which is naturally associated
with the idea of progress.  As one enthusiastic sponsor of this
proposition puts it:

"Go back ten years, and there was no airship; fifteen years, and there
was no wireless telegraphy; twenty-five years, and there was no
automobile; forty years, and there was no telephone, and no electric
light; sixty years, and there was no photograph, and no sewing machine;
seventy-five years, no telegraph; one hundred years, no railway and no
steamship; one hundred and twenty-five years, no steam engine; two
hundred years, no post-office; three hundred years, no newspaper; five
hundred years, no printing press; one thousand years, no compass, and
ships could not go out of sight of land; two thousand years, no writing
paper, but parchments of skin and tablets of wax and clay.  Go back far
enough and there were no plows, no tools, no iron, no cloth; people ate
acorns and roots and lived in caves and went naked or clothed
themselves in the skins of wild beasts." [1]

Such is the picture of human history upon this planet which occupies
the modern mind, and one implication often drawn is that we have
outgrown the ancients and that they might well learn from us and not we
from them.

Christians, however, center their allegiance around ideas and
personalities which are, from the modern standpoint, very old indeed.
The truths that were wrought out in the developing life and faith of
the Hebrew-Christian people are still the regulative Christian truths,
and the personality who crowned the whole development is still the
Christians' Lord.  They are challenged, however, to maintain this in a
progressive world.  Men do not think of harking back to ancient
Palestine nineteen centuries ago for their business methods, their
educational systems, their scientific opinions, or anything else in
ordinary life whatever.  Then why go back to ancient Palestine for the
chief exemplar of the spiritual life?  This is a familiar modern
question which springs directly from popular interpretations of

  "Dim tracts of time divide
    Those golden days from me;
  Thy voice comes strange o'er years of change;
    How can I follow Thee?

  "Comes faint and far Thy voice
    From vales of Galilee;
  Thy vision fades in ancient shades;
    How should we follow Thee?" [2]

Behind this familiar mood lies one of the most significant changes that
has ever passed over the human mind.  The medieval age was tempted to
look backward for its knowledge of everything.  Philosophy was to be
found in Aristotle, science in Pliny and his like.  It was the ancients
who were wise; it was the ancients who had understood nature and had
known God.  The farther back you went the nearer you came to the
venerable and the authoritative.  As, therefore, in every other realm
folk looked back for knowledge, so it was most natural that they should
look back for their religion, too.  To find philosophy in Aristotle and
to find spiritual life in Christ required not even the turning of the
head.  In all realms the age in its search for knowledge was facing
backwards.  It was a significant hour in the history of human thought
when that attitude began to give way.  The scandal caused by Alessandro
Tassoni's attacks on Homer and Aristotle in the early seventeenth
century resounded through Europe.  He advanced the new and astonishing
idea that, so far from having degenerated since ancient times, the race
had advanced and that the moderns were better than their sires.  This
new idea prevailed as belief in progress grew.  It met, however, with
violent opposition, and the remnants of that old controversy are still
to be found in volumes like George Hakewill's five hundred page folio
published in 1627 on "the common errour touching Nature's perpetuall
and universall decay." [3]  But from the seventeenth century on the
idea gained swift ascendency that the human race, like an individual,
is growing up, that humanity is becoming wiser with the years, that we
can know more than Aristotle and Pliny, that we should look, not back
to the ancients, but rather to ourselves and to our offspring, for the
real wisdom which maturity achieves.  Once what was old seemed wise and
established; what was new seemed extempore and insecure: now what is
old seems outgrown; what is new seems probable and convincing.  Such is
the natural and prevalent attitude in a world where the idea of
progress is in control.  Nor can the applications of this idea to the
realm of religion be evaded.  If we would not turn back to Palestine
nineteen centuries ago for anything else, why should we turn back to
find there the Master of our spiritual life?  In a word, our modern
belief in progress, popularly interpreted, leads multitudes of people
to listen with itching ears for every new thing, while they condescend
to all that is old in religion, and in particular conclude that, while
Jesus lived a wonderful life for his own day, that was a long time ago
and surely we must be outgrowing him.

That this attitude is critically perilous to the integrity of the
Christian movement will at once be obvious to any one whose own
spiritual experience is centered in Christ.  From the beginning until
now the faith of Christian people has been primarily directed, not to a
set of abstract principles, nor to a set of creedal definitions, but to
a Person.  Christians have been people believing in Jesus Christ.  This
abiding element has put unity into Christian history.  The stream of
Christian thought and progress has never been twice the same, yet for
all that it has been a continuous stream and not an aimless, sprawling
flood, and this unity and consistency have existed for one reason
chiefly: the influence of the personality of Jesus.  Folk may have been
Romanists or Protestants, ritualists or Quakers, reactionaries or
progressives, but still they have believed in Jesus.  His personality
has been the sun around which even in their differences they have swung
like planets in varying orbits.  Take the personality of Jesus out of
Christian history and what you have left is chaos.

Moreover, it is the personality of Jesus that has been the source of
Christianity's transforming influence on character.  Ask whence has
come that power over the spirits of men which we recognize as
Christianity at its mightiest and best, and the origin must be sought,
not primarily in our theologies or rubrics or churches, but in the
character and spirit of Jesus.  He himself is the central productive
source of power in Christianity.  We have come so to take this for
granted that we do not half appreciate the wonder of it.  This
personality, who so has mastered men, was born sixty generations ago in
a small village in an outlying Roman province, and until he was thirty
years of age he lived and worked as a carpenter among his fellow
townsfolk, attracting no wide consideration.  Then for three years or
less he poured out his life in courageous teaching and sacrificial
service, amid the growing hatred and hostility of his countrymen, until
he was put to death by crucifixion "because he stirred up the people."
Anatole France, in one of his stories, represents Pilate in his later
years as trying to remember the trial and death of Jesus and being
barely able to recall it.  That incident had been so much a part of the
day's work in governing a province like Judea that it had all but
escaped his recollection.  Such a representation of the case is not
improbable.  It is easy so to tell the story of Jesus' life as to make
his continued influence seem incredible.  None would have supposed that
nineteen centuries after his death, Lecky, the historian of European
morals, would say, "The simple record of three short years of active
life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the
disquisitions of philosophers, and all the exhortations of moralists."
[4]  None would have thought that sixty generations after he was gone,
Montefiori, a Jew, putting his finger on the source of Christianity's
power, would light upon the phrase "For the sake of Jesus," and would
cry: "Of what fine lives and deaths has not this motive been the spring
and the sustainment!" [5]  None would have thought that so long after
Calvary seemed to end forever the power of Jesus, one of the race's
greatest men, David Livingstone, engaged in one of the race's most
courageous enterprises, breaking his way into the untraveled jungles of
Africa, would sing as he went, for so his journal says he did,

  "Jesus, the very thought of Thee
  With sweetness fills my breast"?

Take the personality of the Master out of Christian history and we have
robbed it of its central moral power.

Moreover, the personality of Jesus has always been the standard of
reformation when Christianity has become recreant or laggard or
corrupt.  A man named John Wilkes started a political movement in
England in the eighteenth century, and around him sprang up a party who
called themselves Wilkites.  These followers of Wilkes, however, went
to extremes so wild and perilous that poor John Wilkes himself had to
explain to everybody that, as for him, he was not a Wilkite.  This
lapse of a movement from the original intention of its founder is
familiar in history and nowhere is it more clearly illustrated than in
Christianity.  The Master, watching Western Christendom today, with all
our hatred, bitterness, war, would have to say, If this is
Christianity, then I am not a Christian.  The Master, wandering through
our cathedrals with their masses, waxen images and votive gifts, or
through our Protestant churches with their fine-spun speculations
insisted on as necessary to belief if one is to be a child of grace,
would have to say, If this is Christianity, then I am not a Christian.
Indeed, just this sort of service the Master always has been rendering
his movement; he is the perennial rebuke of all that is degenerate and
false in Christianity.  Whenever reform has come, whenever real
Christianity has sprung up again through the false and superficial, the
movement has been associated with somebody's rediscovery of Jesus
Christ.  Saint Francis of Assisi rediscovered him, and made a spot of
spiritual beauty at the heart of the medieval age.  John Wesley
rediscovered him and his compassion for the outcast, and led the Church
into a new day of evangelism and philanthropy.  William Carey
rediscovered him and his unbounded care for men, and blazed the trail
for a new era of expansive Christianity.  And if today many of us are
deeply in earnest about the application of Christian principles to the
social life of men, it is because we have rediscovered him and the
spirit of his Good Samaritan.  In an old myth, Antaeus, the child of
Earth, could be overcome when he was lifted from contact with the
ground but, whenever he touched again the earth from which he sprang,
his old power came back once more.  Such is Christianity's relation
with Jesus Christ.  If, therefore, the idea of progress involves the
modern man's condescension to the Master as the outgrown seer of an
ancient day, the idea of progress has given Christianity an incurable

Before we surrender to such a popular interpretation of the meaning of
progress, we may well discriminate between two aspects of human life in
one of which we plainly have progressed, but in the other of which
progress is not so evident.  In the Coliseum in ancient Rome centuries
ago, a group of Christians waited in the arena to be devoured by the
lions, and eighty thousand spectators watched their vigil.  Those
Christians were plain folk--"not many mighty, not many noble"--and
every one of them could have escaped that brutal fate if he had been
willing to burn a little incense to the Emperor.  Turn now to
ourselves, eighteen hundred years afterwards.  We have had a long time
to outgrow the character and fidelity of those first Christians; do we
think that we have done so?  As we imagine ourselves in their places,
are we ready with any glibness to talk about progress in character?
Those first Christians never had ridden in a trolley car; they never
had seen a subway; they never had been to a moving picture show; they
never had talked over a telephone.  There are innumerable ways in which
we have progressed far beyond them.  But character, fidelity, loyalty
to conscience and to God--are we sure of progress there?

To hear some people talk, one would suppose that progress is simply a
matter of chronology.  That one man or generation comes in time after
another is taken as sufficient evidence that the latter has of course
superseded the earlier.  Do we mean that because Tennyson came after
Shelly he is therefore the greater poet?  What has chronology to do
with spiritual quality and creativeness, which always must rise from
within, out of the abysmal depths of personality?  Professor Gilbert
Murray, thinking primarily in a realm outside religion altogether,
chastises this cheap and superficial claim of advance in spiritual life:

"As to Progress, it is no doubt a real fact.  To many of us it is a
truth that lies somewhere near the roots of our religion.  But it is
never a straight march forward; it is never a result that happens of
its own accord.  It is only a name for the mass of accumulated human
effort, successful here, baffled there, misdirected and driven astray
in a third region, but on the whole and in the main producing some
cumulative result.  I believe this difficulty about Progress, this fear
that in studying the great teachers of the past we are in some sense
wantonly sitting at the feet of savages, causes real trouble of mind to
many keen students.  The full answer to it would take us beyond the
limits of this paper and beyond my own range of knowledge.  But the
main lines of the answer seem to me clear.  There are in life two
elements, one transitory and progressive, the other comparatively if
not absolutely non-progressive and eternal, and the soul of man is
chiefly concerned with the second.  Try to compare our inventions, our
material civilization, our stores of accumulated knowledge, with those
of the age of Aeschylus or Aristotle or St. Francis, and the comparison
is absurd.  Our superiority is beyond question and beyond measure.  But
compare any chosen poet of our age with Aeschylus, any philosopher with
Aristotle, any saintly preacher with St. Francis, and the result is
totally different.  I do not wish to argue that we have fallen below
the standard of those past ages; but it is clear that we are not
definitely above them.  The things of the spirit depend on will, on
effort, on aspiration, on the quality of the individual soul, and not
on discoveries and material advances which can be accumulated and added
up." [6]

Let any Christian preacher test out this matter and discover for
himself its truth.  We are preachers of the Gospel in the twentieth
century.  St. Francis of Assisi was a preacher of the Gospel in the
thirteenth century.  We know many things which St. Francis and his
generation never could have known but, when we step back through that
outward change into the spirit of St. Francis himself, we must take the
shoes from off our feet, for the place whereon we stand is holy ground.
We may not talk in such an hour about progress in Christian character
in terms of chronology, for a modern minister might well pray to touch
the garment's hem of such a spirit as St. Francis had!  When, then, one
speaks of outgrowing Jesus, one would do well to get a better reason
than simply the fact that he was born nineteen centuries ago.  The
truth is that humanity has been upon this planet hundreds of thousands
of years, while our known history reaches back, and that very dimly,
through only some four or five thousand.  In that known time there has
certainly been no biological development in man that any scientist has
yet discerned.  Even the brain of man in the ice age was apparently as
large as ours.  Moreover, within that period of history well known to
us, we can see many ups and downs of spiritual life, mountain peaks of
achievement in literature and art and religion, with deep valleys
intervening, but we cannot be sure that the mountain peaks now are
higher than they used to be.  The art of the two centuries culminating
about 1530 represents a glorious flowering of creative genius, but it
was succeeded by over three centuries of descent to the abominations of
ugliness which the late eighteenth century produced.  We have climbed
up a little since then, but not within distant reach of those lovers
and makers of beauty from whose hearts and hands the Gothic cathedrals
came.  Progress in history has lain in the power of man to remember and
so to accumulate for general use the discoveries, both material and
ethical, of many individuals; it has lain in man's increasing
information about the universe, in his increasing mastery over external
nature, and in the growing integration of his social life; it has not
lain in the production of creative personalities appearing in the
course of history with ever greater sublimity of spirit and grasp of
intellect.  Where is there a mind on earth today like Plato's?  Where
is there a spirit today like Paul's?

The past invites us still to look back for revelations in the realm of
creative personality.  Some things have been done in history, like the
sculptures of Phidias, that never have been done so well since and that
perhaps never will be done so well again.  As for the Bible, we may
well look back to that.  There is no book to compare with it in the
realm of religion.  Most of the books we read are like the rainwater
that fell last night, a superficial matter, soon running off.  But the
Bible is a whole sea--the accumulated spiritual gains of ages--and to
know it and to love it, to go down beside it and dip into it, to feel
its vast expanse, the currents that run through it, and the tides that
lift it, is one of the choicest and most rewarding spiritual privileges
that we enjoy.  As for Jesus, it is difficult to see what this
twentieth century can mean by supposing that it has outgrown him.  It
has outgrown countless elements in his generation and many forms of
thought which he shared with his generation, but it never will outgrow
his spirit, his faith in God, his principles of life: "Our Father who
art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name;" "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength,
and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself;" "It is not the
will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones
should perish;" "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,
if ye have love one to another;" "If any man would be first, he shall
be last of all, and servant of all;" "All things therefore whatsoever
ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them;"
"Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you;" "Thy will be
done, as in heaven, so on earth."  Take principles like these, set them
afire in a flaming life the like of which has never come to earth, and
we have in Jesus a revelation of the spiritual world which is not going
to be outgrown.  Still for the Christian he is Saviour and Lord, and
across the centuries in his face shines the light of the knowledge of
the glory of God.


Progress, therefore, intelligently apprehended, does not involve that
flippant irreverence for the past that so often is associated with it.
It offers no encouragement to the chase after vagaries in which so many
moderns indulge, as though all that is old were belated and all that is
novel were true.  The idea of progress has led more than one eager mind
to think that the old religions were outgrown; that they were the
belated leftovers of a bygone age and were not for modern minds; that a
new religion fitted to our new needs alone would do.  Suppose, however,
that one should say: The English language is an archaic affair; it has
grown like Topsy, by chance; it has carried along with it the forms of
thinking of outgrown generations; it is not scientific; what we need is
a new language built to order to meet our wants.  In answer one must
acknowledge that the English language is open to very serious
criticism, that one can never tell from the way a word is spelled how
it is going to be pronounced, nor from the way it is pronounced how it
is going to be spelled.  One must agree that the English language makes
one phrase do duty for many different meanings.  When two people
quarrel, they make up; before the actor goes upon the stage, he makes
up; the preacher goes into his study to make up his sermon; when we do
wrong we try to make up for it; and the saucy lad in school behind his
teacher's back makes up a face.  The English language is fearfully and
wonderfully made.  But merely because the English language has such
ungainly developments, we are not likely to surrender it and adopt
instead a modern language made to order, like Esperanto.  Say what one
will about English, it is the speech in which our poets have sung and
our prophets have prophesied and our seers have dreamed dreams.  If any
do not like it they may get a new one, but most of us will stay where
we still can catch the accents of the master spirits who have spoken in
our tongue.  There are words in the English language that no Esperanto
words ever can take the place of: home and honour and love and God,
words that have been sung about and prayed over and fought for by our
sires for centuries, and that come to us across the ages with
accumulated meanings, like caskets full of jewels.  Surely we are not
going to give up the English language.  Progress does not mean
surrendering it, but developing it.

We shall not give up Christianity.  It has had ungainly developments;
it does need reformation; many elements in it are pitiably belated;
but, for all that, the profoundest need of the world is real
Christianity, the kind of life the Master came to put into the hearts
of men.  Progress does not mean breaking away from it, but going deeper
into it.

Here, then, are the three perils which tempt the believer in progress:
a silly underestimate of the tremendous force of human sin, which
withstands all real advance; superficial reliance upon social
palliatives to speed the convalescence of the world, when only radical
cures will do; flippant irreverence toward the past, when, as a matter
of fact, the light we have for the future shines upon us from behind.
He who most believes in progress needs most to resist its temptations.

[1] James H. Snowden: Is the World Growing Better?  pp. 41-42.

[2] Francis Turner Palgrave: Faith and Light in the Latter Days.

[3] George Hakewill: An Apologie of the Power and Providence of God in
the Government of the World, or An Examination and Censure of the
Common Errour Touching Natures Perpetuall and Universall Decay.

[4] W. E. H. Lecky: History of European Morals from Augustus to
Charlemagne, Vol. II, p. 9.

[5] C. G. Montefiore: Some Elements of the Religious Teaching of Jesus
According to the Synoptic Gospels, p. 133.

[6] Gilbert Murray: Tradition and Progress, Chapter I, Religio
Grammatici, IV, pp. 19-20.




We may well begin our final lecture, on the interplay between the idea
of progress and the idea of God, by noting that only faith in God can
satisfy man's craving for spiritual stability amid change.  The central
element in the conception of a progressive world is that men's thoughts
and lives have changed, are changing and will change, that nothing
therefore is settled in the sense of being finally formulated, that
creation has never said its last word on any subject or landed its last
hammer blow on any task.  Such an outlook on life, instead of being
exhilarating, is to many disquieting in the extreme.  In particular it
is disquieting in religion, one of whose functions has always been to
provide stability, to teach men amid the transient to see the eternal.
If in a changing world religious thought changes too, if in that realm
also new answers are given to old questions and new questions rise that
never have been answered before, if forms of faith in which men once
trusted are outgrown, man's unsettlement seems to be complete.  The
whole world then is like a huge kaleidoscope turning round and round
and, as it turns, the manifold elements in human experience, even its
religious doctrines and practices, arrange and rearrange themselves in
endless permutations.  How then in such a world can religion mean to us
what it has meant to the saints who of old, amid a shaken world, have

  "Change and decay in all around I see;
  O Thou, Who changest not, abide with me!"

This fear of the unsettling effects of the idea of progress accounts
for most of the resentment against it in the realm of theology, and for
the desperate endeavours which perennially are made to congeal the
Christian movement at some one stage and to call that stage final.
Stability, however, can never be achieved by resort to such reactionary
dogmatism.  What one obtains by that method is not stability but
stagnation, and the two, though often confused, are utterly different.
Stagnation is like a pool, stationary, finished, and without
progressive prospects.  A river, however, has another kind of
steadfastness altogether.  It is not stationary; it flows; it is never
twice the same and its enlarging prospects as it widens and deepens in
its course are its glory.  Nevertheless, the Hudson and the Mississippi
and the Amazon are among the most stable and abiding features which
nature knows.  They will probably outlast many mountains.  They will
certainly outlast any pool.

The spiritual stability which we may have in a progressive world is of
this latter sort, if we believe in the living God.  It is so much more
inspiring than the stagnation of the dogmatist that one wonders how any
one, seeing both, could choose the inferior article in which to repose
his trust.  Consider, for example, the development of the idea of God
himself, the course of which through the Bible we briefly traced in a
previous lecture.  From Sinai to Calvary--was ever a record of
progressive revelation more plain or more convincing?  The development
begins with Jehovah disclosed in a thunder-storm on a desert mountain,
and it ends with Christ saying: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship
him must worship in spirit and truth;" it begins with a war-god leading
his partisans to victory and it ends with men saying, "God is love; and
he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him;" it
begins with a provincial deity loving his tribe and hating its enemies
and it ends with the God of the whole earth worshiped by "a great
multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all
tribes and peoples and tongues;" it begins with a God who commands the
slaying of the Amalekites, "both man and woman, infant and suckling,"
and it ends with a Father whose will it is that not "one of these
little ones should perish;" it begins with God's people standing afar
off from his lightnings and praying that he might not speak to them
lest they die and it ends with men going into their inner chambers and,
having shut the door, praying to their Father who is in secret.  Here
is no pool; here is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of

Consider as well the course of the idea of God after the close of the
New Testament canon.  The Biblical conception of God in terms of
righteous and compassionate personal will went out into a world of
thought where Greek metaphysics was largely in control.  There God was
conceived in terms of substance, as the ontological basis and ground of
all existence--immutable, inscrutable, unqualified pure being.  These
two ideas, God as personal will, and God as metaphysical substance,
never perfectly coalescing, flowed together.  In minds like St.
Augustine's one finds them both.  God as pure being and God as gracious
and righteous personal will--St. Augustine accepted both ideas but
never harmonized them.  Down through Christian history one can see
these two conceptions complementing each other, each balancing the
other's eccentricities.  The Greek idea runs out toward pantheism in
Spinoza and Hegel.  The Biblical idea runs out toward deism in Duns
Scotus and Calvin.  In the eighteenth century an extreme form of deism
held the field and God, as personal will, was conceived as the Creator,
who in a dim and distant past had made all things.  In the nineteenth
century the thought of God swung back to terms of immanence, and God,
who had been crowded out of his world, came flooding in as the abiding
life of all of it.

As one contemplates a line of development like this, he must be aware
that, while change is there, it is not aimless, discontinuous, chaotic
change.  The riverbed in which this stream of thought flows is stable
and secure; the whole development is controlled by man's abiding
spiritual need of God and God's unceasing search for man.  One feels
about it as he might about man's varying, developing methods of telling
the time of day.  Men began by noting roughly the position of the sun
or the length of shadows; they went on to make sun-dials, then
water-clocks, then sand-glasses; then weight-driven clocks were
blunderingly tried and, later, watches, used first as toys, so little
were they to be relied upon.  The story of man's telling of the time of
day is a story of progressive change, but it does not lack stability.
The sun and stars and the revolution of the earth abide.  The changes
in man's telling of the time have been simply the unfolding of an
abiding relationship between man and his world.

So the development of man's religious ideas from early, crude
beginnings until now is not a process which one would wish to stop at
any point in order to achieve infallible security.  The movement is not
haphazard and discontinuous change, like disparate particles in a
kaleidoscope falling together in new but vitally unrelated ways.  Upon
the contrary, its course is a continuous path which can be traced,
recovered in thought, conceived as a whole.  We can see where our ideas
came from, what now they are, and in what direction they probably will
move.  The stability is in the process itself, arising out of the
abiding relationships of man with the eternal.

Indeed, the endeavour to achieve stability by methods which alone can
bring stagnation, the endeavor, that is, to hit upon dogmatic finality
in opinion, is of all things in religion probably the most disastrous
in its consequence.  Until recent times when reform movements invaded
Mohammedanism and higher criticism tackled the problem of the Koran,
one could see this achievement of stagnation in Islam in all its
inglorious success.  The Koran was regarded as having been infallibly
written, word for word, in heaven before ever it came to earth.  The
Koran therefore was a book of inerrant and changeless opinion.  But the
Koran enshrines the best theological and ethical ideas of Arabia at the
time when it was written: God was an oriental monarch, ruling in
heaven; utter submission to the fate which he decreed was the one law
of human relationship with him; and on earth slavery and polygamy and
conversion of unbelievers by force were recognized as right.  The Koran
was ahead of its day, but having been by a theory of inspiration
petrified into artificial finality it became the enemy of all opinions
which would pass beyond its own.

When, now, one contrasts Mohammedanism with Christianity, one finds an
important difference.  For all our temptation, succumbed to by
multitudes, to make the Bible a Koran, Christianity has had a
progressive revelation.  In the Bible one can find all the ideas and
customs which Mohammedanism has approved and for which it now is hated:
its oriental deity decreeing fates, its use of force to destroy
unbelievers, its patriarchal polygamy, and its slave systems.  All
these things, from which we now send missionaries to convert
Mohammedans, are in our Bible, but in the Bible they are not final.
They are ever being superseded.  The revelation is progressive.  The
idea of God grows from oriental kingship to compassionate fatherhood;
the use of force gives way to the appeals of love; polygamy is
displaced by monogamy; slavery never openly condemned, even when the
New Testament closes, is being underminded [Transcriber's note:
undermined?] by ideas which, like dynamite, in the end will blast to
pieces its foundations.  We are continually running upon passages like
this: "It was said to them of old time, . . . but I say unto you;"
"God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by
divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days
spoken unto us in his Son;" "The times of ignorance therefore God
overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere
repent;" and over the doorway out of the New Testament into the
Christian centuries that followed is written this inscription: "The
spirit of truth . . . shall guide you into all the truth."  In a word,
finality in the Koran is behind--it lies in the treasured concepts of
600 A. D.--but finality in the Bible is ahead.  We are moving toward
it.  It is too great for us yet to apprehend.  Our best thoughts are
thrown out in its direction but they do not exhaust its meaning.

  "Our little systems have their day;
    They have their day and cease to be;
    They are but broken lights of thee,
  And thou, O Lord, art more than they."

Such is the exultant outlook of a Christian believer on a progressive
world.  If, however, one is to have this exultant outlook, he must
deeply believe in the living God and in the guidance of his Spirit.
What irreligion means at this point is not fully understood by most
unbelieving folk because most unbelievers do not think through to a
conclusion the implications of their own skepticism.  We may well be
thankful even in the name of religion for a few people like Bertrand
Russell.  He is not only irreligious but he is intelligently
irreligious, and, what is more, he possesses the courage to say frankly
and fully what irreligion really means:

"That Man is the product of causes which have no prevision of the end
they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears,
his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental
collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of
thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave;
that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the
inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined
to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole
temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the
debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond
dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects
them can hope to stand.  Only within the scaffolding of these truths,
only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's
habitation henceforth be safely built." [1]  Such is the outlook on
human life of a frank and thoroughgoing irreligion, and there is
nothing exhilarating about it.  All progress possible in such a setting
is a good deal like a horse-race staged in a theatre, where the horses
do indeed run furiously, but where we all know well that they are not
getting anywhere.  There is a moving floor beneath them, and it is only
the shifting of the scenery that makes them seem to go.  Is human
history like that?  Is progress an illusion?  Is it all going to end as
Bertrand Russell says?  Those who believe in the living God are certain
of the contrary, for stability amid change is the gift of a
progressive, religious faith.


It must be evident, however, to any one acquainted with popular ideas
of God that if in a progressive world we thus are to maintain a vital
confidence in the spiritual nature of creative reality and so rejoice
in the guidance of the Spirit amid change, we must win through in our
thinking to a very much greater conception of God than that to which
popular Christianity has been accustomed.  Few passages in Scripture
better deserve a preacher's attention than God's accusation against his
people in the 50th Psalm: "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a
one as thyself."  The universal applicability of this charge is evident
to any one who knows the history of man's religious thought.  If in the
beginning God did make man in his own image, man has been busy ever
since making God in his image, and the deplorable consequences are
everywhere to be seen.  From idolaters, who bow down before wooden
images of the divine in human form, to ourselves, praying to a
magnified man throned somewhere in the skies, man has persistently run
God into his own mold.  To be sure, this tendency of man to think of
God as altogether such a one as ourselves is nothing to be surprised
at.  Even when we deal with our human fellows, we read ourselves into
our understandings of them.  A contemporary observer tells us that
whenever a portrait of Gladstone appeared in French papers he was made
to look like a Frenchman, and that when he was represented in Japanese
papers his countenance had an unmistakably Japanese cast.

If this habitual tendency to read ourselves into other people is
evident even when we deal with human personalities, whom we can know
well, how can it be absent from man's thought of the eternal?  A man
needs only to go out on a starry night with the revelations of modern
astronomy in his mind and to consider the one who made all this and
whose power sustains it, to see how utterly beyond our adequate
comprehension he must be.  As men in old tales used to take diffused
superhumans, the genii, and by magic word bring them down into a
stoppered bottle where they could be held in manageable form, so man
has taken the vastness of God and run it into a human symbol.

This persistent anthropomorphism is revealed in our religious
ceremonies.  Within Christianity itself are systems of priestcraft
where the individual believer has no glad, free access to his Father's
presence, but where his approach must be mediated by a priestly ritual,
his forgiveness assured by a priestly declaration, his salvation sealed
by a priestly sacrament.  This idea that God must be approached by
stated ceremonies came directly from thinking of God in terms of a
human monarch.  No common man could walk carelessly into the presence
of an old-time king.  There were proprieties to be observed.  There
were courtiers who knew the proper approach to royalty, through whom
the common folk would better send petitions up and from whom they would
better look for favour.  So God was pictured as a human monarch with
his throne, his scepter, his ministering attendants.  Here on earth the
priests were those courtiers who knew the effectual way of reaching
him, by whom we would best send up our prayers, through whom we would
best look for our salvation.  Nordau is not exaggerating when he says:
"When we have studied the sacrificial rites, the incantations, prayers,
hymns, and ceremonies of religion, we have as complete a picture of the
relations between our ancestors and their chiefs as if we had seen them
with our own eyes." [2]

Our anthropomorphism, however, reaches its most dangerous form in our
inward imaginations of God's character.  How the pot has called the
kettle black!  Man has read his vanities into God, until he has
supposed that singing anthems to God's praise might flatter him as it
would flatter us.  Man has read his cruelties into God, and what in
moments of vindictiveness and wrath we would like to do our enemies we
have supposed Eternal God would do to his.  Man has read his religious
partisanship into God; he who holds Orion and the Pleiades in his
leash, the Almighty and Everlasting God, before whom in the beginning
the morning stars sang together, has been conceived as though he were a
Baptist or a Methodist, a Presbyterian or an Anglican.  Man has read
his racial pride into God; nations have thought themselves his chosen
people above all his other children because they seemed so to
themselves.  The centuries are sick with a god made in man's image, and
all the time the real God has been saying, "Thou thoughtest that I was
altogether such a one as thyself."

The unhappy prevalence of this mental idolatry is one of the chief
causes for the loss of religious faith among the younger generation.
They have grown up in our homes and churches with their imaginations
dwelling on a God made in man's image, and now through education they
have moved out into a universe so much too big for that little god of
theirs either to have made in the first place or to handle now that
they find it hard to believe in him.  Astronomers tell us that there
are a hundred million luminous stars in our sky, and dark stars in
unknown multitudes; that these stars range from a million to ten
million miles in diameter; that some of them are so vast that were they
brought as close to us as our sun is they would fill the entire
horizon; and that these systems are scattered through the stellar
spaces at distances so incredible that, were some hardy discoverer to
seek our planet in the midst of them, it would be like looking for a
needle lost somewhere on the western prairies.  The consequence is
inevitable: a vast progressive universe plus an inadequate God means
that in many minds faith in God goes to pieces.


One of the profoundest needs of the Church, therefore, in this new and
growing world, is the achievement of such worthy ways of thinking about
God and presenting him as will make the very idea of him a help to
faith and not a stumbling-block to the faithful.  In the attainment of
that purpose we need for one thing to approach the thought of God from
an angle which to popular Christianity is largely unfamiliar, although
it is not unfamiliar in the historic tradition of the Church.  Too
exclusively have we clung to the mental categories and the resultant
phraseology which have grown up around the idea of God as an individual
like ourselves.  The reasons for the prevalence of this individualized
conception of deity are obvious.  First, as we have seen, the growth of
the idea of God in Hebrew-Christian thought moved out from a very
clearly visualized figure on a mountain-top to those expanded and
spiritualized forms which glorified the later stages of the Biblical
development; and, second, every one of us in his personal religious
experience and thought recapitulates the same process, starting as a
child with God conceived in very human terms and moving out to expanded
and sublimated forms of that childish conception.  Whether, then, we
consider the source of our idea of God in the Biblical tradition or in
our own private experience, we see that it is rooted in and springs up
out of a very human conception of him, and that our characteristic
words about him, attitudes toward him, and imaginations of him, are
associated with these childlike origins.  Popular Christianity,
therefore, approaches God with the regulative idea of a human
individual in its mind, and, while popular Christianity would insist
that God is much more than that, it still starts with that, and the
enterprise of stretching the conception is only relatively successful.
Even when it is successful the result must be a God who is achieved by
stretching out a man.

In this situation the only help for many is, for the time being, to
leave this endeavour to approach God by way of an expanded and
sublimated human individual and to approach God, instead, by way of the
Creative Power from which this amazing universe and all that is within
it have arisen.  Man's deepest question concerns the nature of the
Creative Power from which all things and persons have come.  In
creation are we dealing with the kind of power which in ordinary life
we recognize as physical, or with the kind which we recognize as
spiritual?  With these two sorts of power we actually deal and, so far
as we can see, the ultimate reality which has expressed itself in them
must be akin to the one or to the other or to both.  _He who is
convinced that the Creative Power from which all things have come is
spiritual believes in God_.  I have seen that simple statement lift the
burden of doubt from minds utterly perplexed and usher befogged spirits
out into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.  For they did
not believe that the Creative Power was dynamic dirt, going it blind;
they did believe that the Creative Power was akin to what we know as
spirit, but so accustomed were they to the Church's narrower
anthropomorphism that they did not suppose that this approach was a
legitimate avenue for the soul's faith in God.

Nevertheless, it is a legitimate avenue and in the history of the
Church many are the souls that have traveled it.  The basis for all
mature conceptions of God lies here: that the Power from whom all life
proceeds wells up in two forms.  One is physical; we can see it, touch
it, weigh it, analyze and measure it.  The other is spiritual; it is
character, conscience, intelligence, purpose, love; we cannot see it,
nor touch it, nor weigh it, nor analyze it.  We ourselves did not make
either of these two expressions of life.  They came up together out of
the Creative Reality from which we came.  When a man thinks of the
Power from which all life proceeds, he must say at least this: that
when it wells up in us it wells up in two forms and one of them is
spirit.  How, then, when we think of that Power, can we leave spirit
out?  At the heart of the eternal is the fountain of that spiritual
life which in myself I know.

This thought of God does not start, then, with a magnified man in the
heavens; this thought of God starts with the universe itself vibrant
with life, tingling with energy, where, when scientists try to analyze
matter, they have to trace it back from molecules to atoms, from atoms
to electrons, and from electrons to that vague spirituelle thing which
they call a "strain in the ether," a universe where there is manifestly
no such thing as dead matter, but where everything is alive.  When one
thinks of the Power that made this, that sustains this, that flows like
blood through the veins of this, one cannot easily think that
physicalness is enough to predicate concerning him.  If the physical
adequately could have revealed that Power, there never would have been
anything but the physical to reveal him.  The fact that spiritual life
is here is evidence that it takes spiritual life fully to display the
truth about creation's reality.  As an old mystic put it: "God sleeps
in the stone, he dreams in the animal, he wakes in man!"

It was this approach to God which saved the best spiritual life of the
nineteenth century.  For in the eighteenth century Christianity came
nearer to being driven out of business than ever in her history before.
She had believed in a carpenter god who had made the world and
occasionally tinkered with it in events which men called miracles.  But
new knowledge made that carpenter god impossible.  Area after area
where he had been supposed to operate was closed to him by the
discovery of natural law until at last even comets were seen to be
law-abiding and he was escorted clean to the edge of the universe and
bowed out altogether.  Nobody who has not read the contemporary
literature of the eighteenth century can know what dryness of soul

Man, however, cannot live without God.  Our fathers had to have God
back again.  But if God were to come back again he could not return as
an occasional tinkerer; he had to come as the life in all that lives,
the indwelling presence throughout his creation, whose ways of working
are the laws, so that he penetrates and informs them all.  No absentee
landlord could be welcomed back, but if God came as the resident soul
of all creation, men could comprehend that.  And he did come back that
way.  His return is the glory of the nineteenth century.  In the best
visions of the century's prophets that glory shines.


  "Earth's crammed with heaven,
  And every common bush afire with God:
  But only he who sees, takes off his shoes."


  "Speak to Him, thou, for He hears, and
      Spirit with Spirit can meet--
  Closer is He than breathing, and nearer
      than hands and feet."


  "Glory to Thee, Father of Earth and Heaven!
  All conscious presence of the Universe!
  Nature's vast ever-acting Energy!"


          "a sense sublime
  Of something far more deeply interfused,
  Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
  And the round ocean and the living air
  And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
  A motion and a spirit, that impels
  All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts,
  And rolls through all things."


"Then sawest thou that this fair Universe, were it in the meanest
province thereof, is in very deed the star-domed City of God; that
through every star, through every grass-blade, and most through every
Living Soul, the glory of a present God still beams.  But Nature, which
is the Time-vesture of God, and reveals Him to the wise, hides Him from
the foolish."

Moreover, this idea of God as the Creative Power conceived in spiritual
terms need not lose any of the intimate meanings which have inhered in
more personal thoughts of him and which are expressed in the Bible's
names for him: Father, Mother, Bridegroom, Husband, Friend.  There is
indeed this danger in the approach which we have been describing, that
we may conceive God as so dispersed everywhere that we cannot find him
anywhere and that at last, so diffused, he will lose the practical
value on account of which we want him.  For we do desire a God who is
like ourselves--enough like ourselves so that he can understand us and
care for us and enter into our human problems.  We do want a human side
to God.  A man who had seen in Henry Drummond the most beautiful
exhibition of God's Spirit that he had ever experienced said that after
Henry Drummond died he always prayed up to God by way of Drummond.  We
make our most vital approaches to God in that way and we always have,
from the time we prayed to God through our fathers and mothers until
now, when we find God in Christ.  We want in God a personality that can
answer ours, and we can have it without belittling in the least his

I know a man who says that one of the turning points of his spiritual
experience came on a day when for the first time it dawned on him that
he never had seen his mother.  Now, his mother was the major molding
influence in his life.  He could have said about her what Longfellow
said in a letter to his mother, written when he was twenty-one.  "For
me," wrote Longfellow, "a line from my mother is more efficacious than
all the homilies preached in Lent; and I find more incitement to virtue
in merely looking at your handwriting than in a whole volume of ethics
and moral discourses."  So this man would have felt about the pervasive
influence of his mother.  Then it dawned on him one day that he never
had seen her.  To be sure, he had seen the bodily instrument by which
she had been able somehow to express herself through look and word and
gesture, but his mother herself, her thoughts, her consciousness, her
love, her spirit, he never had seen and he never would see.  She was
the realest force in his life, but she was invisible.  When they talked
together they signalled to each other out of the unseen where they
dwelt.  They both were as invisible as God.  Moreover, while his mother
was only a human, personal spirit, there was a kind of omnipresence in
her so far as he was concerned, and he loved her and she loved him
everywhere, though he never had seen her and never could.  If spiritual
life even in its human form can take on such meanings, we need not
think of God as an expanded individual in order to love him, be loved
by him, and company with him as an unseen friend.  Let a man once begin
with God as the universal spiritual Presence and then go on to see the
divine quality of that Presence revealed in Christ, and there is no
limit to the deepening and heightening of his estimation of God's
character, except the limits of his own moral imagination.


With many minds the difficulty of achieving an idea of God adequate for
our new universe will not be met by any such intellectual shift of
emphasis as we have suggested.  Not anthropomorphic theology so much as
ecclesiasticism is the major burden on their thinking about deity.  Two
conceptions of the Church are in conflict to-day in modern
Protestantism, and one of the most crucial problems of America's
religious life in this next generation is the decision as to which of
these two ideas of the Church shall triumph.  We may call one the
exclusive and the other the inclusive conception of the Church.  The
exclusive conception of the Church lies along lines like these: that we
are the true Church; that we have the true doctrines and the true
practices as no other Church possesses them; that we are constituted as
a Church just because we have these uniquely true opinions and
practices; that all we in the Church agree about these opinions and
that when we joined the Church we gave allegiance to them; that nobody
has any business to belong to our Church unless he agrees with us; that
if there are people outside the Church who disagree, they ought to be
kept outside and if there are people in the Church who come to
disagree, they ought to be put outside.  That is the exclusive idea of
the Church, and there are many who need no further description of it
for they were brought up in it and all their youthful religious life
was surrounded by its rigid sectarianism.

Over against this conception is the inclusive idea of the Church, which
runs along lines like these: that the Christian Church ought to be the
organizing center for all the Christian life of a community; that a
Church is not based upon theological uniformity but upon devotion to
the Lord Jesus, to the life with God and man for which he stood, and to
the work which he gave us to do; that wherever there are people who
have that spiritual devotion, who possess that love, who want more of
it, who desire to work and worship with those of kindred Christian
aspirations, they belong inside the family of the Christian Church.
The inclusive idea of the Church looks out upon our American
communities and sees there, with all their sin, spiritual life
unexpressed and unorganized, good-will and aspiration and moral power
unharnessed and going to waste, and it longs to cry so that the whole
community can hear it.  Come, all men of Christian good-will, let us
work together for the Lord of all good life!  That is the inclusive
idea of the Church.  It desires to be the point of incandescence where,
regardless of denominationalism or theology, the Christian life of the
community bursts into flame.

As between these two conceptions there hardly can be any question that
the first idea so far has prevailed.  Our endlessly split and shivered
Protestantism bears sufficient witness to the influence of the
exclusive idea of the Church.  The disastrous consequences of this in
many realms are evident, and one result lies directly in our argument's
path.  An exclusive Church narrows the idea of God.  Almost inevitably
God comes to be conceived as the head of the exclusive Church, the
origin of its uniquely true doctrine, the director of its uniquely
correct practices, so that the activities of God outside the Church
grow dim, and more and more he is conceived as operating through his
favourite organization as nowhere else in all the universe.  In
particular the idea grows easily in the soil of an exclusive Church
that God is not operative except in people who recognize him and that
the world outside such conscious recognition is largely empty of his
activity and barren of his grace.  God tends, in such thinking, to
become cooped up in the Church, among the people who consciously have
acknowledged him.  What wonder that multitudes of our youth, waking up
to the facts about our vast and growing universe, conclude that it is
too big to be managed by the tribal god of a Protestant sect!

The achievement of a worthy idea of God involves, therefore, the
ability to discover God in all life, outside the Church as well as
within, and in people who do not believe in him nor recognize him as
well as in those who do.  Let us consider for a moment the principle
which is here involved.  Many forces and persons serve us when we do
not recognize them and do not know the truth about them.  This
experience of being ministered to by persons whom we do not know goes
back even to the maternal care that nourished us before we were born.
No mother waits to be recognized before she serves her child.  We are
tempted to think of persons as ministering to us only when the service
is consciously received and acknowledged but, as a matter of fact,
service continually comes to us from sources we are unaware of and do
not think about.

  "Unnumbered comforts to my soul
  Thy tender care bestowed,
  Before my infant heart conceived
  From whom those comforts flowed."

This principle applies to mankind's relationship with the physical
universe.  Through many generations mankind utterly misconceived it.
They thought the earth was flat, the heavens a little way above; yet,
for all that, the sun warmed them and the rain refreshed them and the
stars guided their wandering boats.  The physical universe did not wait
until men knew all the truth about it before being useful to men and at
last, when the truth came and the glory of this vast and mobile cosmos
dawned on mankind, men discovered the facts about forces which, though
unknown and unacknowledged, long had served them.

This same principle applies also to man's relationship with social
institutions and social securities that have sustained us from our
infancy.  If a boy knows that there is a Constitution of the United
States, he does not think about it.  Then maturity comes and he begins
vividly to understand the sacrifices which our forefathers underwent in
building up the institutions that have nourished us.  He recognizes
forces and factors of which he had been unconscious but whose value,
long unacknowledged, he now gratefully can estimate.

This same principle also applies to our unconscious indebtedness to
people who have helped us but whom we have not known.  This is a far
finer world because of souls who have been here through whom God has
shined like the sun through eastern windows, but we can go on year
after year absorbing unconsciously the influence of these spirits
without ever knowing them.  I lived for twelve years in a community to
which in its early days a young minister had come, and where for forty
years he stood as the central influence in the town's life.  He brought
it up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  As was said of Joseph
in Potiphar's prison, "Whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of
it."  The height of his mind, the unselfishness of his spirit, the
liberality of his thought, made all the people gladly acclaim him as
the foremost citizen of the town.  There is a quality in the town's
life yet which never would have been there had it not been for him.
Sometimes yet his spirit must brood above that community which for
forty years he cherished and must say to people whom he never knew, but
who are being blessed by the benedictory influence of his life, what
Jehovah said to Cyrus the Persian, "I girded thee, though thou hast not
known me."

So, from multitudinous sources services flow in upon us that we do not
recognize.  It should be impossible then to think that God never
touches men until men welcome him.  Some people seem to suppose that
God ministers to men, saves them, transforms them, raises them up and
liberates them only when they confessedly receive him.  That cannot be
true of the God of the New Testament.  He is too magnanimous for that.
Jesus says a man is unworthy of his discipleship when he serves only
the friends who are responsive, that we must serve the hostile and
ungrateful, too.  Can it be that God is less good than Jesus said we
ought to be?  We in the churches have drawn our little lines too tight.
We have been tempted to divide mankind into two classes, the white and
the black: in the Church the white, the saved, who recognize God;
outside, the black, the unsaved, the ungodly who do not recognize him.
By that division we sometimes seem to imply that those outside the
Church are outside the reach of God's transforming grace and power.  We
are tempted to look for God's activity chiefly, if not altogether,
inside the organization that avows him.  But that cannot be true.  He
comes in like the sun through every chink and crevice where he can find
a way of entrance.  He does not wait to be welcomed.  He does not
insist on being consciously recognized before he enters a man's life.
Rather, through any door or window left unwittingly ajar where he may
steal in, even though unobserved, to lift and liberate a life, there
the God of the New Testament will come--"the light which lighteth every
man coming into the world."

Consider, for illustration, the many people in this generation who have
given up active relationship with the Church and assured faith in God.
They may even call themselves agnostics.  Would it not be true to speak
to them like this: You have not succeeded in getting rid of God.  There
is a flame in your heart that will not go out.  You try to say there is
no God and then you go out under the stars at night and you begin to
wonder how such a vast, law-abiding universe could come by accident, as
if a man were to throw a font of type on the floor and by chance it
should arrange itself into a play of Shakespeare.  Strange universe,
without God!  You try to say there is no God and you pick up a book: a
life of Phillips Brooks or David Livingstone or Francis Xavier, and you
begin to wonder that, amid these whirling stars and solar systems, a
race of men should have emerged with spiritual life like that which we
possess, with ideals that beckon us, conscience that warns us and
remorse that punishes us!  You cannot easily think that this long
spiritual struggle and achievement of the race is an accident struck
off unwittingly like sparks from falling stones in a material world
without abiding meaning.  Or you try to say there is no God, and then
you are married and your first baby is born and there wells up in your
heart that purest love that man can know, the feeling of a parent for a
little child.  And you cannot help wondering how a man can walk about
the world with love like that in the center of his life, thinking that
there is nothing to correspond with it in the reality from which his
heart and his baby came.  You try to say there is no God, and then you
begin to grow old and the friends you love best on earth pass away, as
Carlyle said his mother did, like "the last pale rim or sickle of the
moon which had once been full, sinking in the dark seas."  You cannot
help wondering whether great souls can be so at the mercy of a few
particles of matter that when these are disturbed the spirit is plunged
into oblivion!  You never really have gotten rid of God.  There is a
flame in the center of your heart which you cannot put out.  If there
were no God it would be easier to disbelieve in him than it is.  You
cannot get rid of him because the best in you is God in you.  The flame
is he and there in the center of your life, recognized or unrecognized,
he is burning up as best he can.

This principle of God's unrecognized presence applies to a special
group of people that has been growing rapidly in the last few years:
the men and women who give themselves with high spirit to human service
in science or philanthropy but who never think of attributing their
service or love of truth to religious motives.  To this group belong
many of our scientists.  They give themselves no rest, seeking for
truth which will help human need.  In obscure and forgotten
laboratories to-day they search for remedies for ancient, lamentable
ills.  They make it a point of professional honour not to take profit
for themselves when they have succeeded, but to give freely to the
world the knowledge they have achieved.  The pulpit has often quarreled
with the scientists.  Let the pulpit honour them for their amazing
outpouring of service to the world.  To this group also belong many of
our philanthropists, to whom sacrifice for the common weal has become
the moral equivalent of war.  Yet often these men and women, useful
public servants of the generation as they are, do not know God.  They
are great spirits.  Let us not pretend that they are not.  They are
making a deep and beneficent impress upon their own times, and our sons
and our sons' sons will rise up to call them blessed; yet they do not
know God.  What are we to say of such men and women?  You know what
some people do say about them.  They use them as arguments against
religion.  They say, See these fine men living without God.  That is an
utter fallacy.  They are not living without God.  They only think they
are.  They are the supreme examples of the work of the unrecognized
God.  One wishes that those men and women would recognize God.  God can
do much more through responsive than through unresponsive lives.  But
we may not say that they are living without God.  There, in the center
of their life, in the ideals they work for, in the service they render,
in the love they lavish, in the mission that has mastered them, there
_is_ God.

Some time ago I wandered down Broadway, in the small hours of the
morning, with one of the prominent citizens of the community.  At the
heart of his life is the passion to be of use.  Because his character
is stalwart and his ability great, the scope of his service is far
wider than the capacity of most of us.  Amid the hurrying crowds and
the flashing lights of Broadway we talked together hour after hour
about God and immortality.  He said that he could not believe in God.
He wistfully wished that he could.  He was sure that it must add
something beautiful to human life, but for himself he thought that
there was no possibility except to live a high, clean, serviceable life
until he should fall on sleep.  All the way home that night I thought
of other people whom I know.  Here is a man who believes in God.  He
always has believed in God.  He was brought up to believe in God and he
has never felt with poignant sympathy enough the abysmal, immedicable
woes of human-kind to have his faith disturbed.  He never has had any
doubts.  The war passed over him and left him as it found him.  The
fiercest storm that ever raged over mankind did not touch the surface
of his pool of sheltered faith.  How could one help comparing him with
my friend who could not believe?  For he, in high emotion, had spoken
of the miseries of men, of multitudes starving, of the horrors of war,
of the poor whose lives are a long animal struggle to keep the body
alive, of the woes that fall with such terrific incidence upon the
vast, obscure, forgotten masses of our human-kind, and out of the very
ardour of his sympathy had cried: "How can you believe that a good
Father made a world like this?"

Now, I believe in God with all my heart.  But the God whom I believe in
likes that man.  Jesus, were he here on earth as once he was, would
love him.  I think Jesus would love him more than the other man who
never had faced human misery with sympathy enough to feel his faith
disturbed.  This does not mean that we ought contentedly to see men
ministered to by a God whom they do not recognize.  It is a pity to be
served by the Eternal Spirit of all grace and yet not know him.  In
Jean Webster's "Daddy Long Legs," Jerusha Abbott in the orphanage is
helped by an unknown friend.  Year after year the favours flow in from
this friend whom she does not know.  She blossoms out into girlhood and
young womanhood and still she does not know him.  One day she sees him
and she does not recognize him.  She has always thought of him as
looking other than he does, and so even when she sees him she does not
know him.  Suppose that the story stopped there!  It would be
intolerable to have a story end so.  To be served all one's life by a
friend and then not to know him when he seeks recognition is tragedy.
So it is tragedy when God is unrecognized, but behind that is a deeper
tragedy still--people who believe in God but who have thoughts of him
so narrowly ecclesiastical that they themselves do not perceive his
presence, acknowledged or unacknowledged, in all the goodness and truth
and beauty of the universe.

Such an enlargement of the idea of God to meet the needs of this new
world is one of the innermost demands of religion to-day.  When a man
believes in the living God as the Creative Power in this universe,
whose character was revealed in Christ and who, recognized or
unrecognized, reveals himself in every form of goodness, truth and
beauty which life anywhere contains, he has achieved a God adequate for
life.  To such a man the modern progressive outlook upon the world
becomes exhilarating; all real advance is a revelation of the purpose
of this living God; and, far from being hostile to religion, our modern
categories furnish the noblest mental formulae in which the religious
spirit ever had opportunity to find expression.  We who believe this
have no business to be modest and apologetic about it, as though upon
the defensive we shyly presented it to the suffrages of men.  It is a
gospel to proclaim.  It does involve a new theology but, with
multitudes of eager minds in our generation, the decision no longer
lies between an old and a new theology, but between new theology and no
theology.  No longer can they phrase the deepest experiences of their
souls with God in the outgrown categories of a static world.  In all
their other thinking they live in a world deeply permeated by ideas of
progress, and to keep their religion in a separate compartment,
uninfluenced by the best knowledge and hope of their day, is an
enterprise which, whether it succeed or fail, means the death of vital
faith.  To take this modern, progressive world into one's mind and then
to achieve an idea of God great enough to encompass it, until with the
little gods gone and the great God come, life is full of the knowledge
of him, as the waters cover the sea, that is alike the duty and the
privilege of Christian leadership to-day.

In a world which out of lowly beginnings has climbed so far and seems
intended to go on to heights unimagined, God is our hope and in his
name we will set up our banners.

[1] Bertrand Russell: Philosophical Essays, II, The Free Man's Worship,
pp. 60-61.

[2] Max Nordau: The Interpretation of History, p. 217.

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