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THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


By 
CHARLES SINGER 


LONDON 
VICTOR GOLLANCZ LTD 
14 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden 
1943 


Copyright 1943 by Charles Singer 


Printed in Great Britain by 
‘The Camelot Press Ltd., London and Southampton 


1 


Ol. 


x 


CONTENTS 


PREFACE . . < . . . . 


DAWN OF THE SCIENTIFIC AGE . . . 


|. SCIENCE CONFRONTS RELIGION . . . 


SCIENTIFIC METHODS AND LIMITATIONS . . 


. CHARACTER AS MOULDED BY THE SCIENTIFIC 


MOOD: So 5 sim ge) Ba ee 
THE RELIGION OF HUMANITY See Yay “ts 
CHRISTIANITY FACES THE “NEW PIIILOSOPHY” 
THE HISTORICAL RECORD—THE ROOT .. 
THE CHURGHES IN CRISIS—THE FRUIT. . 
THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY . . we 


A PERSONAL NOTE . . . . . 


PAGE 


18 


25 


107 


“Men have been created for the sake of one another, 
Injustice is therefore impiety.”— 
Marcus Aureus. 


PREFACE 


I wave felt impelled to write the things that are here set 
down, not because I wish to say them, but because it 
seems to me that some of them urgently need to be said, 
and because I cannot find that anyone is saying them. 
T have derived no pleasure or satisfaction from writing this 
book. I have done so simply because I must. The book has 
been written in haste—almost as fast as the pen will go— 
for the human tragedy now moves so rapidly that only 
what is published with speed can bear on the scene for 
which it is intended. I do not doubt that it shows all the 
marks of haste. 

The book is based on two articles under a pen-name in 
the last two numbers of the Political Quarterly. I had 
intended to keep my anonymity here also, not because I 
desire to conceal my identity but because whatever 
reputation I have is in a field very different from that here 
treated. I am advised, however, that anonymity might 
prevent the little work from being read even by the minute 
public which, I am aware, is all that is likely to notice it. 
The book carries no authority and is purely an expression 
of personal opinion. 

Like the articles on which it is based, the book divides 
itself naturally into two parts. The first, consisting of four 
chapters, is, as it seems to me, a necessary introduction to 
the remainder. Our civilisation and our humanity are so 
clearly and closely related to the rise of science and to the 
consequent industrialisation of our world, that the nature 
and bearing of this great movement must be carefully 
estimated in considering our spiritual state. I have dwelt 
on this movement at some length since important aspects 
of it seem to me to be commonly misunderstood. Some 


8 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


may be glad to omit the first four chapters containing 
this discussion and to begin on page 45. 

Christians do not, I think, hear too often how Christian 
standards appear to those without. But these pages 
contain so much criticism of Christian bearing in face of 
the world-crisis that I should grieve if they carried the 
impression that I am not fully aware and appreciative of 
the enormous efforts of small Christian groups to alleviate 
the appalling tide of human misery that has been gather- 
ing its woeful mass for the last ten years. I believe that 
Christendom as a whole will one day realise its debt to 
those few in every land who have, like the Bishop of 
Chichester, incessantly drawn attention to this awful 
claim on Christians. These things, however, do not 
dissuade me from my belief that Christianity is perilously 
placed and that the Western Churches are much weaker 
than they appear. Who can fail to be disturbed, too, by the 
memory of the fall of another Church. Before the Russian 
Revolution of 1917 we were ceaselessly assured that the 
scores of millions of the Russian people were utterly 
devoted to their Church with its ancient ritual. Yet it was 
but a fagade and it fell at a mere touch. How terrible if 
the Western Churches were to crash in like manner and 
bring our civilisation down with them. It would be little 
solace to know that they were still surviving in the 
catacombs. 

It may be that some readers will regard much of what 
is written here as an attack on Christianity. They will be 
wrong. That is neither its nature nor its intention, nor 
will it be its effect, should it have any. The pages which 
follow are not about Christianity, but about Christians, 
Neither the basic doctrines nor the historic foundations of 
Christianity are considered. These have provided much 
of the foundations of Western civilisation which is now in 
danger. It is with that danger, and with the failure of the 


PREFACE 9 


Christian fellowship to meet it, and not with any discus- 
sion of Christianity that I am concerned. To me it 
seems that that which I call the “ Christian fallacy ” is a 
grave factor in the situation. It is a fallacy, not of doctrine 
—a theme not discussed here—but of human adjustment 
to a situation—that is, of conduct—and its foundation is, 
I suppose, that very captain of the seven sins, pride. 

Most Christians are, I believe, uneasily aware of the 
maladjustment of some Christian teaching to the needs 
of the time and to modern philosophic views, but I do not 
believe that most Christians are adequately conscious of 
what vast wickedness has been perpetrated in the Christ- 
ian name, of what evil men and evil things have been and 
still are associated with the teaching of Christianity and 
with the Christian name, of how largely these matters are 
involved in the present crisis of civilisation, and of how 
little there has been of saintliness in many of the leaders 
of the Churches. Further, I do not believe that most 
Christians have yet even dimly realised how precarious 
is the position of Christianity, how inactive the Christian 
fellowship, how hesitating and dubious the Christian 
leading, and how rapidly Christianity itself is receding. 
To say that Christians have not faced their human duty is 
not to attack Christianity. “ If a man say, I love God, and 
hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1 John iv. 20). 


CHRISTMAS DAY, 1942, BEING ALSO THE TERCENTENARY 
OF THE BIRTH OF NEWTON. 


I 
DAWN OF THE SCIENTIFIC AGE 


Few can now doubt that we have entered a crisis 
of our civilisation. The future is very dark, but at least we 
can discern that that which comes out of the furnace in 
which we are being re-wrought will be very different from 
that which is going into it. 

The revolutionary situation that confronts us may be 
contemplated from many aspects, political, economic, 
moral, and the rest. All are so closely interrelated that 
none can be discussed without reference to the others. Yet 
basically the most intelligible way of approach is in the 
light of what may be called the “ religious ” situation, if 
we think of religion as the view that men take of their 
place and status in the universe. This basic religion is the 
effective motive for major actions after the animal needs 
have been satisfied. It is, in general, far different from the 
expressed, professed or formal religion by which, neverthe- 
less, it is often deeply influenced. During the last few 
centuries the basic religion has been much more pro- 
foundly affected than has the formal by all the great 
movements that have occupied men’s minds and have 
determined the form and direction of their thinking. 

The most prominent and formidable of these movements 
that have left their mark on basic religion in modern times 
is that great forward sweep in knowledge of Nature, that 
has become known as “ Science.” We must needs, there- 
fore, consider in some detail the origin and character of 
this scientific movement, the forces behind it, and its 
general effects upon men’s minds. Unless we do this, we 
cannot hope to penetrate to the heart of our problem. 


12 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


We live—or did until a generation ago—in a world of 
which the material framework had been outlined by 
Newton (1642-1727) two centuries earlier. The attitude 
of mind called “scientific determinism,” sometimes 
rashly equated with “ scientific materialism,” is not quite 
as old as that. Newton’s masterpiece, Principia Mathematica 
Naturalis Philosophiae, “Mathematical Principles of Natural 
Philosophy,” was published in 1687. It had little 
immediate effect on the general thought of the seventeenth 
or early eighteenth century. Newton had neither taste nor 
talent for popular exposition. His book could, at first, be 
read only with difficulty even by mathematicians. A mere 
handful of his contemporaries understood its demonstra- 
tions, and none of this select band was interested in 
introducing them to less scientific readers. Its real 
influence began to be felt after his death. The impact of 
“ Newtonism ” on general thought can be dated from the 
publication of Voltaire’s admirably clear essay on 
Newton’s system (1737). 

Though Newton wrote what he called philosophy and 
habitually called himself a philosopher, he meant by those 
words just what we mean by “ science” and “ scientist.” 
The Royal Society, the great scientific body over which he 
presided, still publishes its Philosophical Transactions, but it 
has always taken special precautions to exclude therefrom 
anything of the nature of what we now understand by 
“ philosophy.” Newton himself was an irascible man and 
was especially angered by any misinterpretation of what 
he wrote, Had he been alive to-day and had he used the 
English of our time, he would have lost his always rather 
short temper if any of us had accused him of writing 
philosophy. That we may not vex his spirit, let us there- 
fore consistently render his philosophia by our word 
‘* science ”’—a word which he does not use, but which is 
almost exactly what he meant. 


DAWN OF THE SCIENTIFIC AGE 13 


Newton left us in no doubt as to what he regarded as the 
principles of science and his hopes for it. “ All the diffi- 
culties of science,” he writes, “ seem to consist in this— 
from the phenomena of motions to investigate the forces of 
nature, and then, from [our knowledge of] these, to 
demonstrate other phenomena.” And he goes on: “ I wish 
T could derive all phenomena of nature by some kind of 
reasoning from mechanical principles; for I have many 
reasons to suspect that they all depend upon certain forces 
by which the particles of bodies are cither mutually 
attracted and cohere in regular figures or are repelled and 
recede from each other.” Thus he hoped to fit all physical 
and material events into a framework of relatively simple 
and mathematically expressible rules. That is what he 
regarded as the task of his “ philosophy,” and what many 
nowadays regard as the task of “ science.” 

Now not only was Newton not given to what we call 
philosophising, but also his marvellous genius ran at its 
ease only along the line of demonstration to the senses, as 
the genius of a great man of science should run. It was as a 
means for demonstrating to the senses that his superb 
mathematical apparatus was expressly designed. Newton 
was much interested in theology and spent a good dea! of 
time on it, but for philosophy he had a distaste. If we seck 
to learn Newton’s philosophical views from his works, we 
shall find ourselves in great difficulties. Many volumes 
have been devoted to the discussion of his philosophy. 
None has yielded any very clear picture, to this writer at 
least. He derives comfort for his incapacity from the 
reflection that it is not altogether surprising that Newton 
did not express himself well on a subject for which he 
avowed an aversion! Newton’s greatness must be sought 
in an entirely different direction. The influence of his 
science on philosophy, and through it on religion, has 
mostly been unwitting on his part, though no less 


14 THE CHRISTIAN FAEFLURE 


important on that account. The direct influence of his own 
theological efforts may, however, safely be dismissed as 
negligible, 

Newton was more gifted with the power of scientific 
demonstration than any man. He is rightly regarded as the 
very type of the modern man of science, and, in the pages 
which follow, he is treated as the scientific exemplar. 
Modern science, however, did not originate with him. It 
opened its triumphant course at least a century before he 
was born. Several of its most famous exponents had done 
their work before he saw the light. Nevertheless, Newton 
formulated, more clearly than any of his predecessors, 
those primary data on which others came to build that 
comprehensive philosophic system which later became 
known as “ scientific determinism.” The term was intro- 
duced about the middle of the nineteenth century but the 
passages just quoted from Newton’s Principia contain 
essential elements in the determinist faith. Some of the 
exponents of that faith have, however, extended the 
conception of ‘‘ phenomena ” far beyond anything that 
Newton intended. They have, for example, ranked as 
phenomena events within the mind itself, and they have 
treated them also as determinate. 

The conception that mental events are determinate has 
been much more revolutionary for religion than anything 
in the Newtonian system proper. That man’s body works 
on ascertainable mechanical principles had indeed 
seemed obvious to Descartes (1596-1650) before Newton 
and as long ago as 1627. The followers of Descartes 
directed the thought of the age for about a century. All 
the Cartesians, however, recognised with their master that 
men are something more than mechanical systems. Man 
thinks as well as acts. Only if man’s entire nature, 
including his thinking, could be fitted as links into a long 
chain of causal development, could his actions and his 


DAWN OF THE SCIENTIFIC AGE 15 


mind be treated as truly determinate. It was in this very 
way that the conceptions of Descartes and Newton were 
extended in the mid- and later nineteenth century, 
especially after 1859, in which year appeared both 
Darwin's Origin of Species and Marx’s Communist Manifesto. 
The former contains the germ of modern biological 
determinism, the latter of modern psychological deter- 
minism. Both are sources of the doctrine of social 
determinism. 

Years before the Origin and the Communist Manifesto, the 
seer William Blake (1757-1827) had seized on the appar- 
ently unoffending figure of Newton as type of those who 
deny freewill—which in fact Newton did not. Blake 
could not read any part of Newton’s science, but echoes of 
the evolutionary rumours of his own age must have 
reached his very limited circle. Despite his misunder- 
standings, Blake had a remarkable vision of scientific 
determinism. But he was not the first. There were certain 
schools of thought in the eighteenth century that followed 
the determinist path. Such were the French Encyclo- 
pedists and some of the first English Utilitarians. With 
these may well be classed certain heretical groups during 
renaissance and medizval times. Behind these again were 
strains of Stoic and of Epicurean thought in classical 
antiquity. Further back, too, at the very dawn of philo- 
sophy, we see a cleavage on determinism between the 
thought of Socrates and that of his rival Anaxagoras. 
Rational religion, moreover, exhibited early a comparable 
antithesis as between freewill and predestination. The 
contrast is presented with all the simplicity of superbly 
sophisticated art in The Book of Job. Through all the ages 
to modern times, these attitudes have opposed each other. 
Neither had nor could then have demonstrational 
backing. It was Newton who first demonstrated a Law 
of physical movement the writ of which ran equally on 


16 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


earth as in the heavens, a Law which seemed wholly 
unrelated to any spiritual order. This it was that gave to 
the conception of determinance an immediacy as well as 
@ practical workaday aspect that it had never previously 
worn and that it has never since lost. 

Newton sought always to cast his scientific conclusions 
into a mathematical form. From the time of Galileo 
(1564-1642) many men of science have held that the 
scientific value of any collection of observations can be 
estimated by the degree to which they are susceptible of 
arrangement under mathematical formule. Were this 
the case, mathematics would be the yardstick by which 
alone the maturity of a science could be judged. Epigram- 
matically this has been expressed as “Science is Measure- 
ment.” This is widely held and even more widely accepted 
tacitly. We need not discuss the validity of the belief, 
for it is a fact that much science is not, or has not yet 
become, mathematical, while even more science is, at 
least, not highly mathematical. So far as the last century 
is concerned, it was the conclusions of certain non- 
mathematical sciences that impinged most directly on 
religious thought. As all know, it was the geologists and 
the evolutionary biologists that raised most acutely the 
issues primarily responsible for the collision familiarly 
known as the “conflict between religion and science.” 
It was the biologists and geologists who demonstrated that 
man’s place in nature is very different from that which 
has been taught by current religion. Evolutionary 
doctrine rapidly affected even historical and social 
studies. No line of scientific thought has ever so rapidly 
seized so many minds as that associated with the name of 
Darwin. 

The critical year is 1859, eighty years ago. The thunders 
of the evolutionary conflict have in our day become 
rather distant. They rumble now only from the furthest 


DAWN OF THE SCIENTIFIC AGE 17 


frontiers of philosophical and theological discussion. The 
air has long cleared in the area of the original disturbance, 
Scientific men are still busy discussing the nature of the 
evolutionary process, but they do not spend time answer- 
ing such remote and ineffectual theologians as may deny 
the demonstrated evolutionary sequences. Biological 
evolution is a stricken field. The reaction to the word 
“ science ” of the ordinary man hardly arouses nowadays 
any evolutionary issue at all. General attention in our 
time is much more often directed to a quite other aspect 
of the knowledge of nature. 

During the last generation, applications of the methods 
of certain of the mechanical sciences have come to affect 
almost every transaction of our daily life. These have 
altered our actual conditions of existence and our social 
system, and with them much of our thinking. It is the 
mechanical products of science that are nowadays most 
usually in mind when people speak of this as a “ scientific 
age.” The implications of the social dislocations, changes, 
and disturbances dependent on these mechanical achieve- 
ments occur immediately to most people nowadays when 
they think of the influence of science on religion. We must 
therefore make a little further analysis of these influences 
and we must consider them on a deeper level than their 
mere mechanical results. Especially we must consider 
them within the religious atmosphere of our time. 


Ir 
SCIENCE CONFRONTS RELIGION 


Examination of the records makes it clear that mis- 
interpretation of the nature of the impact of science and 
religion has commonly arisen, and still commonly arises, 
from two very different errors. First is the confusion 
between the pursuit of scientific knowledge, on the one 
hand, and the application of such knowledge as has been 
won, on the other. Second is the assumption of an in- 
herent and deliberate hostility or incompatibility between 
science and religion. We will begin with the first. 

Science, like religion, is extremely difficult to define 
but, like religion, it involves simultaneously a ‘‘ mood,” 
an attitude of mind, and a method. The result of the 
concurrence of these and their combined action is a body 
of knowledge. It is characteristic of the body of scientific 
knowledge that it is necessarily growing. But science is 
no more scientific device than religion is theology. And 
science should no more be identified with scientific 
mechanisms or inventions—that is to say, with the 
application of the knowledge won by science—than should 
religion with either liturgy or ecclesiastical preferment. 
To ascribe to science the evils of modern warfare, for 
example, is as absurd as to treat the invention of the 
cutting edge in the Old Stone Age as the “‘ cause” of 
murder. That error should hardly need refutation outside 
the Fifth Form Debating Society. 

The causa sine qua non, the indispensable condition of 
war, as of murder is, of course, the evil inclination of man, 
which uses the most effective instrument available to it. 
There is nothing so innocent that it may not be turned to 


SCIENCE CONFRONTS RELIGION 19 


an ill use, for you cannot have power for good without 
having also power for evil. Mother’s milk itself has been 
the first nourishment of every murderer. This power for 
evil, which is exactly the same as the power for good, is 
surely one of man’s chief prerogatives. To say this is the 
same as saying that it is one of his chief responsibilities. 
The point is fundamental for any understanding of either 
science or religion. It is more: it is fundamental for all 
thinking. For, if there is any significance at all in our 
activity—if and in so far as we are anything but mechan- 
isms—it must be an activity of choice; it must be a selec- 
tion of a course that is relatively good as against one that 
is relatively evil. In other words our activity must have 
some “ value.” 

The very conception of value clearly involves the 
existence of evil as well as of good. There are various 
evasions of what is called the “ problem of evil” as, for 
example, the denial of the existence of evil; or the 
allegation that it is purely negative or privative—that is, 
that evil is the mere absence of good; or the complete 
separation of mind from matter—the old Nous and Hyle 
—the one good in essence and the other in essence evil. 
All in the end must involve an abandonment of the con- 
ception of value. But, properly speaking, there is no 
problem of evil and what goes under that name is rather 
the problem of existence which necessarily involves both 
good and evil. The problem of existence is insoluble. 
Surely on this the prophet has said the last and only word: 


‘¢ My thoughts are not as your thoughts, 
Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord, 
For as the heavens 
Are higher than the earth, 
So are my ways higher than your ways, 
And my thoughts than your thoughts.” 


20 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


Why should any man seek further? The meaning of 
existence is hidden from us by a veil that never can be 
rent. It is best not discussed, for the conventional theo- 
logical solutions are no more than verbal devices. But 
that there is such a thing as value we can hardly doubt, 
for the act of doubting itself implies it. 

Acceptance of value involves the separation into two 
very different categories of the things called evil. On the 
one hand there are things evil in themselves, evil in- 
trinsically, evil in all their aspects. Such things, in the 
nature of the case, can only be things of the mind, mental 
states. On the other hand, there are things outside the 
mind which are evil in relation to mental states. For such 
things we need a suitable word; they may be called mis- 
fortunes or miseries. They are relative evils, relative, that 
is, to ourselves. Among them are, for example, those ills 
to which all flesh is heir. These are not evil in themselves. 
There is nothing intrinsically evil in the bacteria of 
disease, for example. The activities of bacteria may 
become misfortunes in relation to ourselves but, under 
certain other circumstances, they may be relatively good. 
Other such misfortunes which may also be relatively good 
are the cataclysms of Nature and all those miseries that 
arise from the determinate workings of Nature. Into the 
same category must go those activities which arise from the 
mental states of others. To ascribe any of these things to 
the action of a Devil, not only makes science meaningless, 
but must ultimately destroy the whole conception of 
value. Belief in a Devil is more than error; it amounts to 
denial of value to human personality. If the kingdom of 
God is within us, so also is the kingdom of Satan. 

The power to choose between good and evil is not the 
only great human prerogative and responsibility. Another 
is the power of reason. However determinate the processes 
of man’s mind, whatever man’s origin, and whatever 


SCIENCE CONFRONTS RELIGION ai 


man’s lower manifestations in the idiot or lunatic, these 
two powers, to sin and to be foolish, separate him pretty 
clearly from the beasts. And it may be that, ultimately, 
these are not two powers, but one power. Such, at least, 
was the opinion of those who wrote the ‘“ Wisdom 
Literature ” of the Old Testament. Man may be foolish 
and sinful or may be wise and virtuous in employing 
scientific apparatus. For the moral character of those who 
employ its aids, science as such, and men of science as 
such can be neither praised nor blamed. 

The point may be exemplified by a single illustration. 
It has been said that in the first forty years of the twentieth 
century a greater weight of minerals was won from the 
earth than in all the ages before. This might have been 
used for improving the human lot. The larger part was 
the immediate instrument of destruction, and much of it 
was hurled with murderous intent from one side to the 
other of a no-man’s-land. Shall we charge this evil and 
foolish use against the miner on the coal-face? Against 
the metallurgical chemist in his laboratory ? Against the 
professor of mathematics, geology or physics? Against 
the engineer improving the internal combustion engine ? 
Against the pathologist investigating the biology of gas- 
gangrene and trench-feet? Against the meteorologist 
predicting the weather for flying? Surely such charges 
could mean nothing unless we assume that these men—~ 
each living his own life, each with his own loves and 
duties, his own cares and joys—are, on the whole, worse 
than they would have been had science not shaped the 
pattern of their lives. 

For such worsening of human nature there is no shadow 
of evidence. Men are not manifestly worse than they were; 
put also they are not manifestly better. There was no 
Golden Age. There was no primitive state when men 
lived in unspoiled mutual love and gentleness. And if 


22 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


lives were then nasty, brutish, and short, they have, on 
the whole, and very very slowly, been getting a little less 
so for a good many thousands of years. But despite these 
changes men are still much what they were. For long 
ages—perhaps from the time when men first were men 
--they have been about as bad and about as good as 
they are in this year of grace. An ancient flint battle-axe 
may not have killed as many as a modern bomb, but its 
intention was the same. Pride, avarice, lust, hatred, 
greed, anger and sloth, the seven deadly states, have 
always been present to darken the human heart. But 
men in the Old Stone Age loved their children and their 
wives; they were sufficiently honest with each other for 
them to dwell together, at least in small communities, and 
to divide the spoils of the chase; they aspired to live after 
the onset of the appearance of death; they were united 
in war for what they regarded as their territory or their 
rights; in fear or want, or in desire for the products of 
their hunting, they conjured some higher power. All these 
things they still do about as intensely as they ever did. So 
far as we can judge, the springs of conduct have not varied 
very greatly in a hundred thousand years. Human charac- 
ter is slower to change than the everlasting hills. The very 
contours of the earth have altered, but men’s hearts have 
remained much the same. Man to-day is of his nature 
much what he was before the last glacial epoch. 

What then has religion or science, or the two together 
changed in him ? If there be an answer to this question, 
it must be along the lines that there is something in man 
which is not wholly determinate, something which is not 
the product of his physical or physiological nature. This 
something, if it exists, must come to him neither from his 
ancestry, nor from his environment, nor from that most 
pervasive form of environment that is called “ civilisa- 
tion.” This something, if it exists, is indeterminate and is 


SCIENCE CONFRONTS RELIGION 23 


therefore insusceptible of scientific prediction. The some- 
thing is surely that essential matrix which shapes and in 
which is shaped his basic religion. One word for it is 
“soul.” 

We now turn to the second error, which supposes an 
inherent hostility between science and religion. 

Scientific knowledge differs from other knowledge not 
in itself, but in the way in which it is acquired or, rather, 
to speak more accurately, in the way in which information 
acquired is demonstrated to be real knowledge. In so far 
as the world is intelligible at all, how can any real know- 
ledge about it be opposed to any other real knowledge ? 
A very little reading of history will show that it is not 
possible to regard the mode of acquiring scientific 
knowledge as intrinsically opposed to religious belief. 
Multitudes of men of science, both before and after the 
famous Bridgewater Treatises (1833-40), have worked all 
their lives in the conviction that they were demonstrating 
“the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as mani- 
fested in the Creation.” And looking at the matter from 
the religious side, it is surely evident that if God fulfils 
himself in Nature, it must, in a Christian view, be at least 
worth learning about Nature. 

That “ Nature is the Art of God ” seemed evident, ages 
before Sir Thomas Browne said it (1635). And if St. 
Augustine and all the SR centuries that followed 


1 The semi-insane F1 ighth Earl of Bridgewater 
(1756-1829), ite nll aes to pay beast hs st work ‘“ on the power, 
wisdom, and goodness of God as manifested in the Creation.” The then 
President of the Royal Society divided it between eight authors, of whom 
Dean Buckland wrote on Geology (‘Some doubts were once expressed about 
the Flood; Buckland arose and all was clear as mud”); Sir Charles Beil 
wrote on the structure of the human hand, a work stl read and in some 
respects recalling views of the ancient teleologist, Gal en ; and Whewell wrote 
‘on Astronomy, in the well-1 |-known vein of that positive’ thinker. The key to 
the whole serics is in the introductory volume by the theologian, Thomas 
Chalmers 370-847), 7 The Adoption of External Nature to the Moral and 
Tntellectual in 1839 and is perhaps the last 
important mene tof nee tric view of Nature. 


24 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


turned their faces the other way, the ancients did not, 
Seneca, Pliny, Galen, to say nothing of Aristotle and 
Plato, had no more doubts on the point than had Job and 
Amos before them and Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648) 
and John Locke (1632-1704) after them. That Nature 
reveals the mind of God was the very foundation of 
cighteenth-century Deism and is put with embarrassing 
frankness by a bad poet, clerical, timid, and lugubrious, 
but living on the very crest of the deistic wave: 


“* Naiure is Christian; preaches to mankind 
And bids dead matter aid us in our creed.” 


Youne’s Night Thoughts, 1742. 


And if, in the next century, Tennyson, the accepted poct 
of the age, in one mood saw Nature as “ red in tooth and 
claw,” he was ever more prone to feel that ‘‘ Nature, so 
far as in her lies, imitates God.” Nor did he find it hard to 
contain the first view within the second. 


HI 
SCIENTIFIC METHODS AND LIMITATIONS 


Surveyine our own situation, we observe: (1) that 
after some sixteen centuries of effective supremacy of 
Christian religious and ethical teaching, the power of the 
evil inclination is not manifestly or substantially dimin- 
ished; (2) that in the last centuries science has drawn men 
to it with a passion comparable to that roused by religion; 
and (3) that, like religion, science has produced character~ 
istic patterns of conduct. Some have suggested that in 
science a rival to Christianity has thus arisen. To follow a 
little more deeply the implications of this common 
misconception, further examination must be made of 
what we mean by science and scientific method. 

Science never considers, and cannot consider, the world 
as a whole. It is essential to any science that it proceed 
by abstracting a part of the universe, to be considered by 
and for itself. This abstracting—‘ fragmentation ” is, in 
certain contexts, perhaps a better word—carries with it 
the secret of the scientific triumph. To most minds 
nowadays the first reaction to the word “science” is 
either than of the grander achievements of astronomy 
and cosmology or of the material devices of our immediate 
modern surroundings. Yet the essentials of the method 
are more vividly brought out by considering studies that 
elicit no great immediate emotions. Let us therefore take 
our illustrations from neutral ground. Let us select some 
department of science the achievements of which neither 
immediately overwhelm us with wonder, nor involve us in 
any of the political or economic or religious issues of our 
time. 

But a perfectly innocent science is not so easily found as 

Br 


26 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


might be supposed. All the major departments of science 
have, at some time or other, been involved in some or 
other of the greater and more urgent human issues, and 
any minor department may, at some time or other, become 
similarly involved. The innocuous neutrality that we seek 
is not characteristic of any department of research. 
Knowledge is “ neutral” and fails to raise these issues 
only in so far as it cannot be seen to bear at the moment 
upon the human state. A science the advance of which is 
at one stage far removed from these dangerous fields, at 
another may cross and recross them. Historically the 
sciences that most disturbed thinking in the early seven- 
teenth century were mainly astronomical; in the later 
seventeenth they were mainly physiological; in the 
eighteenth, mathematical; in the early nineteenth, 
physical ; in the mid-nineteenth, geological and biological ; 
in the early twentieth, physical ; and in the mid-twentieth 
they are perhaps especially psychological. We must 
therefore avoid all the major departments of science and 
turn rather to some minor speciality. 

For a science as neutral as any, there may serve the 
intensive study of some group of insects. We must be 
careful that it is not an economically significant group. 
Unfortunately insects are the prevalent creatures on this 
planet. In the evolutionary sense, they are marvellously 
successful. More species of insects have been recognised 
than of all other creatures put together. Many species 
exist in numbers of astronomical magnitude. Certain 
species not only deeply affect human habits, but even 
determine the possibilities of human life. Therefore, even 
among the insects, we cannot safely choose at random. Let 
us select for our example some group of beetles of no 
immediate or obvious economic importance. Having 
chosen our subject for scientific investigation, let us 
examine the implications. 


SCIENTIFIC METHODS AND LIMITATIONS 27 


First, if I decide to be a specialised entomologist, I must, 
by that very fact, abandon (in my entomological mood) all 
thought of animals other than insects. I must concentrate 
as much as possible on my own special group of beetles. 
While I am at work on these Coleoptera I must give up 
any consideration of other sciences, save for their bearing 
on beetles and their ways of life and relationships, to say 
nothing of all consideration of the great themes of 
religion, art, philosophy, literature and the rest. If I 
cannot put these things aside while at work in my 
laboratory, it is quite certain that my entomology will be 
ineffective. This is but to say that a science must work by 
abstraction. If it does not, it is not a science. 

Changing a word or two, all this might be said of any 
other science. Perhaps, therefore, in the strictest sense, 
there is no such thing as setence, but only sciences, each of 
which has its own field. Insects are the field of entomology, 
minds of psychology, metals of metallurgy, and so on. 
Sometimes sciences may combine to form a new science 
with its own technique. Thus, combining two of our 
examples, there is a science of insect psychology. One 
science can use the results of another science, but each 
science can describe only its own little bit of the universe 
in its own terms. These terms are derived by a comparison’ 
of yet smaller bits of the universe with other smaller bits. 
Such terms have little or no application outside the 
particular science for which they were devised. The 
technical terms of the sciences have no universal applica- 
tion or value and their use outside the field for which they 
were invented is, in fact, a very frequent source of 
misunderstanding. 

Much misunderstanding, even by scientific men, has 
arisen from such transference of scientific terms from their 
original field of reference. Consider, as examples, the 
mass of fruitless and futile disputation that has arisen in 


28 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


various scientific fields around the words “ evolution,” 


“ instinct,” “ element,” “ function ”; or the employment 
of the words “ race,” “ tradition,” “ heredity,” “ nation- 
ality,” “ value ” to give a scientific appearance to pseudo- 
scientific twaddle; or, again, the endless confusion between 
the scientific, philosophic, and theological usages of such 
terms as “substance,” “theory,” “idea,” “ cause,” 
“ purpose,” “‘ function.” Indeed, a special department 
that should treat of the language of the sciences is long 
overdue. It is a peculiarly difficult subject, for language is 
a product of complex and ever-changing social conditions. 
Words cannot be fixed or stabilised, and they carry with 
them a history which needs to be traced right up to the 
moment of usage. 

We must not enter here into the difficult and disputable 
region of definition of terms. This would take us right 
back to a discussion of the very nature of knowledge. It 
was, in fact, in discussion of the definition of terms that 
philosophy first took formal shape in the mind of Socrates. 
Here it must suffice to indicate that you cannot have a 
“science” of the whole universe. Specifically it is 
impossible to reach that end—or perhaps any end—by 
just adding the sciences together. Even apart from the 
many difficulties and objections intrinsic to such a process, 
there are vast regions of experience—those occupied, for 
example, by art, literature, and philosophy—that are 
refractory of scientific treatment. In any event, there is no 
such thing as a universal science as an integrated whole— 
that is to say, a scientific treatment of the entire universe. 
It is, moreover, certain that there never can be. 

Nevertheless a science must not be mistaken for a mere 
fragmentation of knowledge. The necessary minuteness of 
scientific analysis may give those untrained in the 
sciences an impression of triviality. The restriction of the 
field of experience of scientific men is a favourite, 


SCIENTIFIC METHODS AND LIMITATIONS 29 


legitimate, and highly praiseworthy theme for humorists. 
There are indeed many useful men of science who spend 
their lives absorbed in minute scientific details and who 
never learn the importance or significance of their own 
studies. But, of course, despite such dull, obstinate, timid, 
or temperamentally limited beings, science is a great deal 
more than exploration of ever minuter details. The 
objective of scientific analysis is to reach a series of points— 
a natural frontier—from which the mind can return along 
its tracks to arrange its findings into some pattern. Such 
patterns are scientific theories or generalisations. They 
frequently involve a reunion of the findings of workers in 
different departments. Often these findings become the 
starting-places for new analytic explorations and the bases 
of yet further generalisations and thus of new sciences. 
They are “hypotheses,” though not in Newton’s 
sense of the word (pp. 63-5). The fertility of its generali- 
sations in promoting new explorations is one measure 
of the success of a science, though it is not the only 
Measure. 

The impressiveness of the great scientific generalisations 
must not, however, deceive us as to their essentially 
abstractive nature. Each science is as much a consideration 
of an artificially separated fragment of the universe as is 
the minutest entomological research. Whether we are 
discussing the galactic circle or the antenna of a beetle 
or the “expanding universe,” we are dealing with an 
artificially separated bit of the world. We often speak of 
the “field” of a science and the term is peculiarly 
applicable to such an area of experience. The essential 
character of a field is that it is separated from the 
surrounding country by a fence or hedge. It docs not make 
up the whole landscape, though it contributes to its 
character. A science, to be such, must have its set limita- 
tions; it cannot occupy the entire universe of thought. 


go THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


Each science develops a technique and a language which 
is valid only in its own field. 

The term “ expanding universe” itself here merits a 
little consideration, since it is often the subject of a naive 
confusion between scientific, philosophic, and religious 
conceptions. The “ expanding universe ” of the relativists 
is, of course, not at all the universe of ordinary thought, 
put simply a technical term of astronomical and 
mathematico-physical science. It refers to something the 
existence of which must be assumed in order to fit together 
the mathematical deductions from certain physical 
measurements, For these deductions to fit each other, it is 
necessary to assume a “ field ” that is ever enlarging. This 
is the “expanding universe” of the astronomers. The 
“universe,” without an adjective, includes many things 
that are insusceptible not only of measurement, but of 
any sort of mathematical treatment or expression. To 
such things the term “‘ expanding ” is wholly inapplicable. 
Put in the form of a verbal, though not a real, paradox, we 
may say that the expanding universe is part of the 
universe. 

There is an aspect of the necessary conditions of 
scientific observation that has forced itself upon the 
attention of men of science during the twentieth century. 
It became more apparent to them that their studies 
demand for their prosecution certain basic data, “ things 
given ”—things, that is to say, that are taken for granted. 
To express the same thought in other words, we say that 
physical science has its metaphysical foundations. There 
is a famous saying of Archimedes more than two thousand 
years ago which brings out this point. ‘‘ Give me a place 
on which to stand,” said he, “and I can move the 
world,” His difficulty was, of course, that there is no such 
place, unless it be, as he says, “ given ”—that is, taken 
for granted and imagined for the purpose of his discussion. 


SCIENTIFIG METHODS AND LIMITATIONS 31 


Men of science have now come to perceive, more clearly 
than before, that for scientific observation to have any 
meaning, certain things must be assumed, accepted, 
taken for granted, given. The point came into high relief 
early in this century in connection with the interpretation 
of certain observations of the behaviour of light from the 
stars. These observations formed the basis of the physical 
theory of relativity, the essence of which may be ex- 
pressed by saying that the very act of observation affects 
that which is observed. Within a few more years a 
similar point arose in connection with the intra-atomic 
physics. It was found that the more accurately the 
position of a particle could be specified, the less accurately 
could its velocity be predicted, and vice versa. This is the 
principle called “‘indeterminancy,” which, like relativ- 
ity, runs athwart the whole view of scientific determinism. 

Relativity and indeterminancy are of the utmost 
importance not only in the specific fields in which they 
first came into view, but also for any consideration of the 
ultimate validity of scientific demonstration. In this 
connection, however, a serious misunderstanding has 
arisen. It has been assumed that because the most 
minutely exact prediction may be impossible to us human 
beings, that therefore physical action is ultimately 
indeterminate. But the one thing does not follow from 
the other. Whether Nature is indeterminate or not is an 
entirely different question from whether we can or not 
ascertain all her determinate elements. The indeterminate 
element may be in ourselves. 

Fortunately, it is unnecessary to discuss here in detail 
physical relativity or physical indeterminancy. Since 
neither principle is involved in those separate observa~ 
tional sciences which admittedly treat only of artificially 
separated fragments of the sensually appreciable universe, 
scientific “‘ theories” can generally be safely launched 


32 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


regardless of these principles. Though it is of importance 
that they be held in mind in any general consideration of 
science, they in no way affect such aspects of the sciences 
as we have here to consider. 

Scientific theories, generalisations, laws, are not, as we 
have seen, applicable to the universe but only to artificially 
abstracted or separated parts of the universe. Not even if 
‘we were to attempt to add them all together, could these 
scientific generalisations be treated as a whole. Even were 
this possible we should still have neglected the principles 
of relativity and indeterminancy. The universe as a whole 
is not explained by gravitation plus particulate doctrine 
of matter plus relativity plus evolution plus subconscious 
mind plus the doctrine of marginal values plus energetics 
and so on, totalling up all the great scientific generalisa- 
tions that we can muster. Such things cannot all be added 
together. To attempt to do so is to pass into absurdity. 
Some of them are incommensurate with others of them. 
And, moreover, such of them as can be added together 
provide thereby not a goal, but rather a starting-place for 
further exploration, as we found in our example of “insect 
psychology.” The vastness of the territory which has been 
subjected to the scientific process must not blind us to 
this essentially partial or temporary character of its 
conclusions. There is a limit to the application of the 
method. The sciences can, at best, describe only a part of 
the universe, 

Thus to the question, “‘ What does science say about 
religion ?” the strictly true answer is, ‘‘ Nothing what- 
ever,” if by religion is meant a general view of the universe 
and of man’s place in it. Notably that must be the answer, 
if religion is to include that inner factor in man’s con- 
sciousness by which he integrates himselfinto the universe. 
Science can say something of scarabs and stars and 
mountains and, maybe, of the relations of all these things 


SCIENTIFIC METHODS AND LIMITATIONS 33. 


to each other. It may treat of the operations of minds, 
both individually and collectively, at any rate as judged 
by an assumed—though unintelligible—parallelism be- 
tween mind and body. And as regards a religion, science 
may analyse it into abstracted parts and tell us something 
of, let us say, the psychology of Buddhism or the debt of 
Islam to Byzantine Christianity. It may display the 
influence of a religion on the conduct not only of a society, 
but even of an individual. But science can neither, on the 
one hand, bring all the diverse parts of the universe into 
relation with each other nor, on the other hand, can 
science touch the essential nature of existence of which we 
are aware through something that we call “ consciousness.” 

Consciousness is the ultimate datum, the thing taken 
for granted. Consciousness is, as it were, the judge before 
whom science must recite her piece, which is her narrative 
of experience of phenomena, These experiences are 
arranged in a series of acts or scenes each of which bears 
the name of a particular science. The scenes may be 
altered, amalgamated, enlarged, increased in number, 
but external things, seen, heard, and felt, they remain, 
Their recital, and that alone, is the role of science. If she 
go beyond it, she will pass into absurdity. 

Science has thus a limitation. She cannot consider that 
which is universal. Specifically, and within our special 
field, science must thus remain mute as to that essence of 
personal religious experience, communion with the 
Divine, without which there can be no religion in the 
Christian sense. Said Pascal, himself‘ great man of science, 
“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows 
nothing.” 

But science has another necessary limitation. The 
experimental method, better called the experiential 
method, is of its nature a method of comparison. It is not 
applicable to experience that is unique. The consideration 


34 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


of the soul’s communion with the Divine is outside its 
competence. To say this is not to seck an impregnable 
citadel for the final retreat of theology before advancing 
science. That retreat has taken place on a wide front 
which will become wider yet. But the position as regards 
this essential factor of religion, the unique and personal 
experience, is quite different. It is a very ancient and 
very elementary attitude. It is set forth dozens of times by 
psalmist and prophet and Hebrew sage. These men knew 
nothing of the conquests of the experiential method, but 
they had had plenty of inner experience, which was, of 
its nature, unique. This they separated from the outer 
experience which they shared with their fellows. They 
distinguished their private worlds from the public world. 
It is, as I believe, just because they made this distinction 
so sharply and clearly, that they failed to create an effec- 
tive ecclesia. Perhaps this great “‘ prophetic religion ” is 
essentially a religion of private worlds. Perhaps it can 
never become a very “ popular” or “‘ congregational ” 
religion. But in any event the method of science is inapplic- 
able to the private worlds that form the core of all great 
religions and, more especially, of the great Prophetic 
Religion. 


Iv 


CHARACTER AS MOULDED BY THE SCIENTIFIC 
MOOD 


Tue prosecution of the sciences involves not only a 
method, but also a definite mood in which, and in which 
alone, that method can be effectively applied. Now 
scientific men are not always in the scientific mood. Like 
other men they have, for example, their philosuphic, their 
religious, their artistic moods. The irrelevance of such 
moods to science and of science to such moods is abun- 
dantly evident to scientific men when they are actually 
prosecuting their scientific studies, as when they are at 
work in their laboratories. It is, however, naturally the 
case that men of science, like other men, should have 
views and aspirations outside the subject in which they 
have shown professional competence. In this connection 
a good deal of misapprehension has arisen as to the effects 
of the sciences beyond their proper “* fields.” 

Aspiration by men of science to express themselves on 
the major extra-scientific themes is rarer than many 
persons, especially theologians, seem wont to imagine. 
No men of science engage or ever have engaged upon their 
scientific studies in order to refute the views of the religious. 
The prosecution of a science, the exploration of a chosen 
bit of Nature, is a most absorbing occupation. Few of those 
occupied upon it have time, aptitude, or taste for extensive, 
active, or effective speculation on more general topics. 
Men of science are, by definition, specialists. For the most 
part, they are specialists by temperament as well as by 
choice. But they are also men of great mental activity 
which naturally may overflow into other fields. Some 
distinguished men of science have spoken outside their 
own departments with very great force and authority. 


36 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


Their force is their own, but their authority should 
never be mistaken for the authority of science when they 
are not speaking within the range of their own chosen 
studies, Within that area proficiency is proven in the only 
way in which science can establish its claims—namely, by 
an appeal to the senses, especially through exact pre- 
diction. In other forms of activity things quite different 
are needed to carry conviction, and proficiency is 
exhibited in quite other ways. 

Nothing in the mental constitution or temper of most 
great exponents of experimental science suggests that the 
highest importance need be attached to their utterances on 
philosophic and religious themes. Set down, for example, 
the greatest names in the annals of experimental science 
through three centuries. (Of course no two historians 
would make exactly the same list.) Copernicus (1472- 
1543), Vesalius (1514-64), Stevin (1548~1620), Galileo 
(1564-1642), Kepler (1571-1630), Harvey (1578-1657), 
Boyle (1627-91), Huygens (1629-95), Leeuwenhoek 
(1632-1723), Newton (1624-1727), Hales (1677-1761), 
Linneus (1707-78), Herschel (1638-1822), Lavoisier 
(1743-94), Laplace (1749-1827), Cuvier (1766-1832), 
Young (1773-1829), Darwin (1809-82), Joule (1818-88), 
Pasteur (1822-95), Kelvin (1824-1907). Nearly all of this 
long list of men held somewhat conventional views outside 
their own sciences. A few were exceptionally conservative 
and even backward. The most influential of them all, 
Newton and Darwin were negligible as regards their 
personal outlook on philosophy. Perhaps only Galileo 
among them wrote effectively on anything of the nature 
of philosophic themes. 

The great investigators are thus not commonly the best 
exponents of the nature of the scientific method. Nor is 
that method easily deduced from their published results. 
In fact the very process of scientific exposition is so con- 


CHARACTER AS MOULDED BY SCIENTIFIC MOOD 37 


structed as to conceal the process of discovery. If we seek 
those who have best elucidated the nature of scientific 
method and its relation to general thinking, we should 
need to step outside the circle of the experimenters. There 
we shall find in our period such names as Bacon (1561~ 
1626), Descartes (1596-1650), Locke (1632-1704), Leib- 
nitz (1646-1716), Bentham (1748-1832), Whewell (1794~ 
1866), Mill (1806-73), Spencer (1820-1903), all inter- 
ested in scientific theory and its bearing on religion, but 
none making very effective experimental contributions. 
Thus most of those who have written effectively on the 
relationship of science to the other regions of experience 
have not themselves participated very actively in the 
process of scientific demonstration. But even if they have 
done so, it should be emphasised that, when discussing 
universal topics, they are not using the scientific method 
and should therefore not be credited with the rightful 
prestige of that method in its own marvellous field of 
experience. During the present generation a number of 
men of the highest scientific eminence have written sheer 
rubbish on universal themes. To draw attention to this 
is no more to belittle what scientific men in general may 
have to say outside their sciences than it would magnify 
their scientific work to say that they were men of saintly 
character, musical ability or philosophic attainments. It 
has to be recognised that scientific achievement is irrelev- 
ant to universal themes. Specifically it is irrelevant to the 
inmost nature of man and the inmost element in religion. 
All that can be safely inferred as to the producer of good 
scientific results is that he is a man of great mental activity. 
Despite all this, it is yet true that the pursuit of science 
has certain effects on the mental and spiritual life of that 
society or community in which it is active. It has created. 
and introduced a new kind of intellectual climate. It 
attracts a type and intensity of interest which changes the 


38 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


content of the mind so fundamentally that ultimately it 
alters even the way of thinking. Science has done more than 
give us a new heaven and a new earth. It has given us not 
merely an altered and revised version of heaven and 
earth, but a heaven and earth of a kind unconceived 
before. But more. Science has also given us new minds 
and hearts and memories to enjoy the new heaven and 
the new earth. 

Theologians miss this point at their peril, for science has 
set such a wall between the generations as has never 
before been seen. The worlds of Newtonian inter- 
relationship of parts, of Darwinian grading of beast and 
man, of Freudian extension of the field of mind, and of 
Einsteinian space-time continuum, for example, do not, 
perhaps, integrate with each other. They have this, 
however, in common, that none of them can be discussed 
in either the language or the mood of the days when 
theology was Queen of the Sciences and St. Thomas 
thought he was reinterpreting the synthesis of the moral 
and material universe set forth fifteen hundred years before 
him by Aristotle of Stagyra. 


“ The longest Tyranny that ever sway’d 
Was that wherein our Ancestors betray’d 
Their free-born Reason to the Stagirite 
And made his Torch their universal Night. 
So Truth, while onely one supplied the State, 
Grew scarce, and dear, and yet sophisticate ; 
Until twas bought, like Empirique Wares, or Charms, 
Hard words sealed up with Aristotle's Armes.” + 
Joun Drypen, 1663. 

1 Sealed up empiric wares” is the seventeenth-century equivalent for 
what we should nowadays call “patent medicines ”—that is, costly 
standardised mixtures the composition of which we do not understand, and 
the action of which is a matter of faith. “* Sophisticate ” in the Innguage bed 


the time means adulterated or mixed with some inferior substance, 
term specially applied to drugs and other “empiric wares.” 


CHARACTER AS MOULDED BY SCIENTIFIC MOOD 39 


The very habit of sustained ratiocination on a deduc- 
tive basis, so cherished still by certain theological and 
philosophic minds, had lapsed even in Dryden’s day in so 
far as it was not even then discredited. Of our own age we 
may safely say that only those who have submitted to a 
special discipline can ever again think the thoughts of 
the ages of faith. Indeed the application of the experiential 
method had barely started on its triumphant course before 
many perceived that they had reached a parting of the 
mental ways. They discerned—as we discern again to-day 
—that the coming world was to be a new one, though they 
could hardly descry—as we to-day cannot descry—what 
shape its newness should take. 

The first to grasp clearly that the intellectual revolution 
had come was certainly Francis Bacon (1561-1626). 
The nature of his “ New Philosophy,” which is almost 
(though not quite) what we call science, was a main object 
of debate by the “ wits ” of the seventeenth century. It is 
nevertheless extraordinary how little impression it made 
on the literature or the formal theology of the age. From 
that learned century there has come down to us much 
discourse both of religion and of science, but the two 
seldom met and yet seldomer disputed. (The incident of 
Galileo requires special treatment. See ch. vi, p. 52.) Their 
interests fell apart; there was hardly a struggle between 
them. Religion and science came to employ a different 
vocabulary; that of science was designedly developed, 
that of theology as deliberately arrested. Nullius in verba,? 
“ By the words of no man,” was the motto from the 
beginning (1664) of the Royal Society of which the 
function was the exposition of the new philosophy. 

The phrase Nullius in verba is sometimes taken to mean 
the rejection of authority. In the sense in which the 


2 The phrase i taken from Horace's Epises (I 114), Nalin addictus 
fora in verba magistri, “ Pledged to swear by the of no master.” 


40 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


religion of the day accepted statements in certain docu- 
ments as beyond discussion, the sciences of the seventeenth 
century, as of our own, did assuredly reject authority in 
their own fields. Nevertheless, it is manifest that in the 
course of their work men of science do constantly accept 
authority, nor could they work without doing so. But 
the conception of authority in science is totally different 
from the theological conception. This difference provides 
a simple and diagrammatic illustration of how far apart 
the languages of the two activities have drifted. 

Nowadays theologians complain (or ought to if they 
don’t) that they are misunderstood ; that they have their 
own technical vocabulary that demands study; that men 
will not exhibit the patience to get at their meaning ; that 
a materialist generation forsakes its own mercy. All this 
and more is true. Theologians are indeed misunderstood. 
Few outside their own circle have the time or will to 
master their terminology. Their disciplines are not in high 
public regard. Publishers fight shy of theological works. 
A generation has grown up which openly derides theo- 
logical studies and is called pagan in return. For all this, 
one reason, at least, is apparent enough. Our times are 
full of other interests and eager minds have many things 
other than theology to absorb them. Theological conserva- 
tism—and the great mass of theological thought has been 
conservative—has for. four centuries sought to dam the 
rising flood of the New Philosophy. The dam was leaking 
badly by the eighteenth century. It has now entirely 
given way and cannot be rebuilt on the old site, or with the 
old tools, or of the old materials, or with anything closely 
resembling them. We have come to the end of an age. 

It is then true that men do not understand the old 
theological terms in their proper context. But the rift goes 
very much deeper than that, for it is also true that, if they 
did understand the old terms and the old discussions, they 


CHARACTER AS MOULDED BY SCIENTIFIC MOOD 41 


would also understand, even more clearly than they do, 
how much richer and fuller is their own world than that of 
the ages in which those terms and those discussions gained 
their meaning. For there was a time—before the sixteenth 
century—when the material world seemed finite, bounded 
by a fixed sphere, and so small that all great adventure 
was perforce spiritual (see ch. vi, p. 52). 

That time is past and its form of thought is no more. 
The fact is inescapable. The sciences have directed human 
interest into glorious new paths, given a new content to 
minds and displayed a new and most beautiful way in 
which they may work and rejoice. The old studies seem 
poor barren things. The universe is expanding in another 
and deeper sense than that used by the relativists. What- 
ever the fate of religion in the world in which we are now 
entering, it is as certain as anything can be that Theology 
will not become again a main and popular interest. In 
producing this result, Science has played a major part. 
Those who perceive the importance of religion for man’s 
future would, I believe, be“wise to take this matter into 
account in arraying such resources as are at their disposal. 
But I believe also that, despite all this, religion has so 
vital a part to play that, without it, the continuance of 
civilised human society is unthinkable. 

Apart from the content of the mind and its manner of 
working, there is another manner in which the scientific 
discipline has directly fashioned character. The sciences 
do, in fact, provide a way of life, a new way that was not 
seen in the world in former times. The effective prosecu- 
tion of a science requires self-control and self-denial and 
strict regard for truth. Its pursuit needs courage and 
sensitiveness to the thoughts of others. Especially it 
demands, to a degree unapproached by any other 
discipline, extreme sensibility, both natural and acquired, 
to that wonderful form of beauty which is found in order. 


42 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


Further, on the plane of human relations, the first needs of 
the pursuit of a science are sober, industrious and modest 
living and, above all, loyalty to the great ideal of un- 
flinching criticism of evidence, and therefore openness of 
mind, acceptance of correction, and outspokenness 
wherever error is in question. 

Thus the sciences produce in their votaries very noble 
and characteristic patterns of conduct and even elements 
of sanctity, Anyone who denies this cannot be well 
informed as to the lives of the great devotees of the 
sciences and of the ways in which they have come to be 
interpreters of nature. Let him read the personal records 
of such as Archimedes, Boyle, Darwin, Faraday, Hales, 
Herschel, Huygens, Lister, Linnzus, Maxwell, Newton, 
Pasteur, Ray. True, there have been great exponents of 
science who were not of this lofty type—Gauss and Young 
were perhaps among the meaner of scientific thinkers of 
the front rank. But the general character of great men 
of science bears comparison with that of any class 
and, notably, with that of any long line of distin- 
guished theologians or ecclesiastics. This is no criticism 
of religion but it is a criticism of certain approaches 
to it. 

Patterns of conduct produced by devotion to the 
sciences are different from the patterns produced by 
religion ; yet they are not wholly different. The mood in 
which scientific men approach their task can never have 
been derived from religion, even though some of them 
have thought it was. But it may well be derived from 
something that bears a strong likeness to religion, some- 
thing that may enter into religion, something very near to 
that “ holy, subtle, lively, clear and undefiled thing that is 
more moving than any motion and goes through all things 
by reason of her pureness.” It is pictured in the unforget- 
table seventh chapter of the Book of Wisdom, itself an echo, 


CHARACTER AS MOULDED BY SCIENTIFIC MOOD 43 


on its own peculiar Alexandrian sounding-board, of the 
authentic prophetic voice. The Prophetic Religion does 
indeed adapt itself to the pattern of conduct produced by 
absorption of the mind in the beauty of natural order. 
In this very book of about 100 8.c., we watch the prophetic 
spirit seeking, under Greek inspiration, to adjust itself to 
what we should nowadays call the metaphysical founda- 
tions of science, It is a note that will hardly be heard 
during the first fifteen Christian centuries. 


“ I prayed and understanding was given me 
And the spirit of Wisdom came to me. 
Riches I esteemed nothing in comparison of her 
Because all the gold of the earth in her sight is but a little sand. 
Above health and beauty I loved her, 
And chose to have her rather than light, 
For the light that cometh from her never goeth out. 
All good things together come to me with her 
And I rejoiced in them all. 
I learned diligently and communicate her liberally, 
I do not hide her riches, 
For she is a treasure unto men that never faileth, 
Which they that use become the friends of God. 
For God hath granted me to speak as I would 
And to conceive thoughts worthy of what hath been given. 
For in his hands are both we and our words 
And it is he that hath given me knowledge of the things that are. 
How the world was made, and the operations of the elements, 
The turnings of the sun, and the changes of seasons, 
The circuits of years, and the position of stars, 
The natures of living creatures, and the furies of wild beasts, 
The powers of minds, and the reasonings of men, 
The diversities of plants, and the virtues of roots. 
These things Wisdom, which is the artificer of all things, 
taught me. 


44 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


For she is the breath of the power of God, 
And a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty, 
The unspotied mirror of the power of God. 
And being but one, she can do all-things : 
And remaining in herself, she maketh all things new, 
And in all ages entering into holy souls, 
She maketh them friends of God and prophets.” 
From Wisdom vii. 


Vv 
THE RELIGION OF HUMANITY 


Havine glanced at some of the ways in which science 
moulds character, we turn to consider some character- 
patterns produced by religion. It is admittedly impossible 
to frame a definition to cover all phases of religion. Here 
we have to contemplate only certain moods habitual in 
the highly sophisticated atmosphere of our own civilisation 
and a few of the character-patterns which they initiate. 
Omitting the private world, the inner sanctuary of 
religion, we discern, corresponding to inherent human 
needs, three main specifically religious activities, These 
we may distinguish as ritual, humanitarian, and theo- 
logical. We are concerned only with the last two. It is 
true that they cannot be completely separated from each 
other, but the traditions that are behind them are not 
identical and, moreover, they represent different moods. 
To adopt, as is commonly done, the covering term 
“Christian” for both is to do justice to the historical 
importance of neither. Moreover, it conceals the fact that 
Christianity is not only a religion but also a civilisation, 
that is to say, that it is, on the one hand, the design and, 
on the other hand, the framework of a social mechanism 
by means of which men are enabled to live together in our 
western societies. Much confusion arises from using the 
name of Christianity for these two very different things. 
Regarded as a religion, an attitude to the universe in 
which we are set, a world-outlook, it seems probable that 
for most inhabitants of Europe, and especially for the 
educated classes, Christianity though still formally held, 
has been largely replaced by something else. If it ever 


46 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


was the basic religion of the West, it has probably long 
ceased to be so. But regarded as a civilisation, the history 
of the Christian Church remains an inescapable fact. 
Its record is unalterable. We all partake of the civilisation 
in which we are embedded whether we profess the 
Christian faith or not. The history of Europe is in effect 
the history of Christian civilisation. The Christian civil- 
isation is in our daily habits; it is in our dress and diet; 
it is in the structure of our language and in the script 
which we use to write it; it is in our social and legal 
systems; it is in the very form in which our thoughts are 
cast. That the Christian religion has moulded the Chris- 
tian civilisation is manifest, but the civilisation has also 
moulded the religion. Neither therefore can be considered 
entirely without the other, but the Christian religion is 
confronted and largely displaced by another religion, 
whereas the only competitor of the Christian civilisation 
is its mere negation, Barbarism. 

Quite justly it has been said that a religion can be 
understood truly only from within. But apart from personal 
religion, there is the effect of religion on the life of a 
society, With equal justice it may be urged that the 
functioning of religion in the human fellowship can be 
observed effectively only from without, for it is not given 
to all of us to see ourselves as others see us. 

To estimate the influence of a religion on a society is 
extremely difficult. Many factors, besides religion, deter- 
mine those relations of men to each other which give 
their special characters to human societies. But it must be 
borne well in mind that the society influences the religion 
just as the religion influences the society, An analysis of 
the effect of the influence of a religion is therefore likely 
to be best formed by those who can adopt the perspective 
of observers. It is only as one of these that this writer can 
offer any reflections. He professes neither the Christian 


THE RELIGION OF HUMANITY 47 


religion nor what seems to him to be its most formidable 
immediate rival which has largely displaced it. This has 
sometimes been very ineptly called the “ Religion of 
Science.” At risk of misunderstanding, it is here discussed 
as the “ Religion of Humanity.” By this is meant the 
religion that regards man as both a means and an end in 
himself. 

The Religion of Humanity is by no means incompatible 
with theistic doctrine but customarily treats it mainly as 
irrelevant to conduct. It is largely concerned with con- 
duct. And since it is a recognised Jaw that competing 
faiths stress opposing human needs, it is natural that the 
Religion of Humanity should stress the humanitarian 
aspect in precisely those circumstances in which its rival, 
Christianity, most emphasises ritual and theological 
activities. Indeed, humanitarianism (which is an aspect 
of the Religion of Humanity but must not on that account 
be confused with it) is often a way of escape for the 
ritually and theologically glutted. These are wont tu speak 
and act as though humanitarian conduct were itself 
Christianity or, at least, the peculiar prerogative and. 
characteristic of the Christian religion. A very little 
reflection is sufficient for the conclusion that this is by no 
means the case. Read Marcus Aurelius. 

The Religion of Humanity in our age and country isa 
basic rather than a professed faith. For this reason the 
immense hold that it has is but little apparent and has not 
been fully appreciated. Nevertheless it is by far the most 
serious opponent of Christianity. The Religion of 
Humanity has a much firmer grip on men’s minds than 
the other competitors with Christianity, the pagan faiths 
of Nationalism, or than the Prophetic Religion. The 
Religion of Humanity pervades the centuries and has 
retained its outlines through the millennia. The Religions 
of Nationalism are forming and dissolving under our very 


48 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


eyes, like miasmic clouds, unsavoury emanations of ill- 
corralled herds, nor are they aught but the reek of the 
herd-instinct. The Religion of Humanity has a grand 
philosophic background and a venerable ethic of its own; 
both its philosophy and its morality have stamped them- 
selves deep on Christianity. The Religions of Nationalism 
are founded on an error as to their origin, and have in 
common only a hatred of all that is universal ; the only way 
in which they can embrace Christianity is when, as often, 
Christianity belies itself and ceases to be universal. Philo- 
sophically the Religions of Nationalism are merely 
contemptible, or rather they are the very negation of 
philosophy, They will be remembered only as a nightmare 
is dimly recalled. But be assured that the Religion of 
Humanity will endure, since it answers certain unchange- 
able needs of man’s heart and mind. I say that not as one 
of its initiates from within, but as an observer from 
without. 

During the last few centuries the Religion of Humanity 
has been particularly forward in applying the conclusions 
of the sciences to the amelioration of the human lot. Its 
ethical system has thus become naively regarded, even 
by some of its ablest exponents, as based upon and 
developed from scientific data. It is in this way that there 
arose the misconception of the “religion of science.” 
The error perhaps began with Voltaire whose writings, 
like those of the English Utilitarian school, are full of 
some such idea. But the Religion of Humanity is some- 
thing very much older than the ‘‘ New Philosophy ” 
which began only in the seventeenth century, and it is 
something incomparably deeper set in the spirit of man. 
It is indeed a religion and is neither an appanage nor a 
product of science, nor does it need science for its full 
development. It is one of the great independent faiths. 

Of the great Religion of Humanity—for a great religion 


THE RELIGION OF HUMANITY 49 


it verily is—Communism is a modern sect, product of 
certain special conditions. But the Religion of Humanity 
has far more ancient roots than Communism and is 
antecedent to Christianity itself. Who shall say how old 
it is? Perhaps it is coeval with man himself. Scientific 
activity is in no way essential to its efflorescence. In that 
minute fraction of human time during which man has 
been literate, the Religion of Humanity has appeared 
under many names. Such are Stoicism, Humanism, Deism, 
Utilitarianism, Positivism, Secularism, Communism and. 
a hundred more. A way of thinking and of living that 
inspired Hippocrates, Pericles, Zeno, Cicero, Marcus 
Aurelius, Vives, Herbert of Cherbury, Grotius, Locke, 
Voltaire, Pope, Benjamin Franklin, Bentham, Mill, 
Comte, Marx, Lenin has had a series of very great 
prophets. 

The Religion of Humanity is ignored in most works on 
political history, for it has never, until! our own age, 
developed organised Churches. It has no architectural 
monuments to show. Until of Jate, it has not had many 
formal followers. Its historic course is at some periods 
difficult to trace since it constantly makes compromises 
with any form of religion the ethical system of which is 
not wholly incompatible with its own ethics. Many of 
its greatest exponents have been and are content to bear 
the labels of other faiths and even to profess orthodoxy 
therein. I believe the Religion of Humanity to be the 
prevalent basic faith of our own time. Compared to it, 
Nationalism is a shallow thing for, after all, the forms of 
Nationalism must, in due course, cancel each other, but 
the Religion of Humanity is a universal religion. 

The historian of the human mind can hardly be in 
doubt of the continued significance of the Religion of 
Humanity. For long in the Roman Empire it was openly, 
as Stoicism, a formidable rival to Christianity. Episodes 


50 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


in its course have borne such labels as “ Humanist 
revolt,” ‘‘ Renaissance,” ‘‘ French Revolution,” “ Utili- 
tarian School,” “Aufklérung,” and “ Humanitarian 
Movement.” And now after sixteen centuries during 
which Christianity has seemed supreme, the Religion of 
Humanity has, as Communism, again become an open 
rival to Christianity. In this new phase, it has gained an 
enormous adventitious prestige from its special eagerness 
for alliance with the triumphant scientific movement, 
For various equally adventitious reasons, Christianity 
has largely treated that movement as a foe. It is worth 
noting that in Russia under Communism the Religion of 
Humanity has obtained the same type of state-support 
that Christianity has enjoyed throughout Europe since 
the fourth century. It may well be that the fate of mankind 
for centuries may be determined by whether or no the 
Religion of Humanity wil] use its new-found power as 
ruthlessly as Christianity has done. For in this matter the 
record of Christianity is wellnigh as evil as that of any 
great religion that has claimed to be universal. It might 
reasonably be claimed that Christianity has been saved 
from even worse excesses by the elements of the Religion 
of Humanity that have always been embedded in the 
Christian civilisation, 

In modern times the Religion of Humanity has won an 
increasing number of adherents in all Western countries. 
Particularly a large proportion of scientific men has gone 
over to it. This is not at all surprising if one bears in mind 
the historic attitude of Christianity to science, the ex- 
tremely conservative way in which Christian theological 
and ethical teaching has always been presented, the 
association of the Churches with social privilege, their 
deplorable attitude to the injustices and inequalities of 
the social system, and the ill-concealed reluctance of 
almost all the Churches to answer the claims of humanity. 


THE RELIGION OF HUMANITY 51 


And even among professing Christians of our time, it is 
not difficult to find every degree of occupation by its rival 
creed in the field of religious interest. 

During its course the Religion of Humanity, like 
Christianity, has been subject to perversions. Which of 
the two has produced the uglier manifestations we need 
not discuss. Corrupiio optimi pessima, “ The corruption of 
the best may be the very worst.” But the two religions 
are susceptible of comparison and, regarded from with- 
out, this is the only method by which they can be in- 
telligibly considered. All we can know of religions from 
the outside, apart from their history and doctrinal details, 
is the sort of human result that they produce. We need 
not question that there is more in a religion than the acts 
of men that profess it, or that the Lord seeth not as a man 
seeth, or that the issues of life are from the heart and that 
all things are there possible. But nothing of that kind can 
be discussed on the scientific and comparative level as 
seen from the outside. We are discussing religions only 
from without, 


VI 


CHRISTIANITY FACES THE 
“NEW PHILOSOPHY ” 


Iw the history of ideas, few events have been more 
misinterpreted than the impact of the experiential method 
on the theological system of the Middle Ages. That system 
was still untouched in the sixteenth century. It stalks the 
twentieth, an uneasy and aloof anachronism, moaning 
plaintively, and not unjustly, of being misunderstood. Its 
language is remote from ours, but it is not only its terms 
that are outmoded ; the world in which they were coined 
has itself died. It has not only died, but has been forgotten 
even of many scholars. If we examine what it is that was 
so completely displaced by the “ New Philosophy,” we 
shall be concerned with something incomparably more 
significant than the change in the conception of the solar 
system with which popular thinking has linked the name 
of Galileo. 

It is essential to hold in mind that the material world of 
ancient and mediaval Christian thought, like the material 
world of theological nomenclature, was a universe with exact 
Srontiers. In its very centre lay the terrestrial sphere, the 
Earth. (The absurd error that the Schoolmen thought 
the Earth flat should not be repeated.) This was the inner 
‘‘corruptible world.” Around it circled in order the 
incorruptible celestial bodies, each in its proper sphere. 
Each sphere was within the next, like the skins of an onion, 
The influence of the celestial bodies entered all terrestrial 
activity, even disposing, but not forcing, the human will. 
Hence the universal medizval belief in astrology, which 
was then no superstition, but a “ hypothesis” (see p. 63) 


GHRISTIANITY FACES THE “NEW PHILOSOPHY” 53 


as to how the parts of the created world act on each 
other, 

Thus the heavens circling in order, each outside the 
last, were themselves hollow, concentric spheres. There 
were nine such heavens, one for each of the seven planets, 
one outside all these~namely, the “ firmament,” con- 
taining the whole array of the fixed stars, and lastly, 
outside the firmament, the crystalline heaven which 
provided the motor power for all within. Outside this 
utmost sphere was the Empyrean, eternal and infinite, its 
inner spherical surface bounding the created world, but 
itself containing no stars. This furthest region possessed a 
divinely uniform light (Greek, empuros, fiery). It was the 
luminous abode of the blessed, of the angels, and of God 
Himself, unattainable by mortal man and imperceptible 
to his earthly senses. 

As is very well known, Milton (1608-74) used this 
scheme as a poetical device in Paradise Lost (1655), though 
he well knew Galileo and his views. Perhaps less familiar 
is its treatment by his contemporary, the mystical poet, 
Henry Vaughan (1622-95), who lived in time, but, 
unlike Milton, not in spirit, within the age of the New 
Philosophy : 

“* I saw Eternity the other night, 

Like a great ring of pure and endless light, 
All calm, as it was bright; 

And round beneath it Time in hours, days, years, 
Driv’n by the spheres, 

Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world 
And all her train were hurl’d.”” 

Vaucuan, The World. 


Vaughan shared the medieval view that our corruptible 
earthly world, a region finite in space and time, was 
sharply separated, during the brief interval that precedes 


54 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


its end, from the great region of pure and endless light, 
infinite in space and time. 

With such a plan of the heavens in mind, there was 
erected a complete system of thought in which the 
spiritual and moral world was immeasurably more 
important and incomparably more interesting than the 
diagrammatically known material world. Indeed, it 
would be more true to say that in such a world-view, the 
mere material universe was hardly worth serious study 
at all. Such was the world of the doctors of the Church 
from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas and beyond. 
Such was the system of thought in which developed the 
technical terminology of theology. 

With such a world-outlook science could not flourish. 
The material world was not worth the trouble of detailed 
investigation. Perhaps the only serious reason for studying 
it was as a means of succouring human life; that is, as a 
basis for the art of medicine. But since science had ceased 
to be an active process, medical practice had become 
necessarily divorced from scientific theory. Thus medicine 
had degenerated into mere lists of drugs and recipes, 
often of disgusting character, more or less furtively 
supported by the verdicts of astrology. The only group 
who took any deep interest in the material world were the 
artists. Their attention was drawn to Nature because they 
thought that the material world that they were depicting 
did, in some degree, foreshadow as an “‘ archtype ” the 
spiritual world on which alone they, like all their contem- 
poraries, had fixed their deeper thoughts. They used 
Nature, but only for such edificatory value as they 
thought they could extract from her. 

And would such a material world as we have briefly 
outlined, if we believed in it, be worth exploring by the 
painfully laborious methods of research? Remember 
that there was the adventure of thought, the experiences 


CHRISTIANITY FACES THE “NEW PHILOSOPHY” 55 


of the soul, the subtleties of ratiocination, the analogies 
and imagery of religious discourse, the marvellous 
experiences of the mystic. Surely these would be not only 
far more exciting and more interesting than the paltry 
material world, but also the only things exciting or 
interesting. There are those who still seek to exalt the 
mediaval ways but, of a truth, those ways are open now 
only to such as are prepared to embrace the medieval 
world-scheme and to repudiate that of Newton. In those 
centuries of faith there was no scope for the method of 
scientific fragmentation. Thus among the “ sciences,” 
among which Theology insisted on her place as Queen, 
there was hardly to be numbered any of those which are 
now regarded as sciences. The scientia of the medieval 
thinker is immeasurably different from that which we call 
“ science.” The one is a complete and rounded scheme, 
closed at all points by a divine mystery; the other is a 
series of exploratory adventures into a boundless ocean 
of experience, each voyage yielding new wonders. 

Remember again how much more science has done in 
our age than merely to produce fragmented knowledge. 
It has opened up spacious vistas, the beauties of which 
may be endlessly explored in widening regions of space 
and time and thought. It has unveiled an inconceivable 
complexity of minute things. At every turn it has revealed 
unsuspected types of order. It has disclosed astonishing 
beings, denizens of a world more strange than ever 
dreamed by the most fantastic artist of medieval or 
renaissance times. Think back to the coming of these new 
things in the seventeenth century. It was an epiphany for 
all men to see with the eye of flesh, and has been not 
seldom compared to another that, like il, spread ever 
wider. In a sense very different from that of the poet, 
a wit of the day might have wished his scientific 
friend: 


56 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


“ May the great time in you still greater be, 
While all the year is your Epiphany.” 
RicHarD GrasHaw, ¢. 1642. 


It was to be a revolution, but it began very gradually 
and at first with a most subtle change in mood, but Oh ! 
how fundamental it was. We cannot here trace the change 
and perhaps its beginnings may never be altogether clear, 
for there are certain peculiar difficulties in its elucidation 
at that early stage. There were inklings and rumours and 
partial attempts and glimpses of what was to come, that 
together make a story as intricate as it is absorbing. Not 
until the early seventeenth century, even in the intellectual 
class, was there any appreciation that somehow some 
drastic adjustment of the old scheme must be made. And 
among those who felt thus were some few who were 
following the experimental way. 

At first, as was natural, these men of the New Philosophy 
sought a compromise with the medizval system. They had 
no complete scheme of their own and hardly even a partial 
one, What justification, then, would there be for any of 
them—even for Galileo or Descartes—to break with what 
he was in no way prepared to replace ? The compromise 
they sought is the compromise that men still seek. Galileo 
put it in a sentence when he said: “ The Bible teaches 
men how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” He 
asked therefore that the clerics should go their way and 
allow him to go his until he had finished his work. Such a 
dichotomy was still quite possible, and Galileo’s work, On 
the Interpretation of Holy Scripture (1636), really amounts to 
hardly more than this. 

Galileo shielded himself to some extent with the name 
of that conservative and orthodox scholar, Copernicus 
(1473-1543), long since dead, whose views were, of a truth, 
much more medieval than modern. The Scriptures speak 


CHRISTIANITY FACES THE “NEW PHILOSOPHY” 57 


always as though earth were flat. Medixval scholastics 
had fully accepted the spherical earth of the Aristotelian 
system (see p. 52). Why should not the seventeenth- 
century clerics accept the sun-centred world of the 
Copernican system and go their way as before? The 
adjustment of view would have been no greater than that 
admitted by their medieval forebears who had adapted 
the Aristotelian world system to Christian theology. In 
fact, some of the wiser clerics were much inclined to make 
this not very difficult compromise. 

Why then should a shifting of the Earth from the exact 
centre, as suggested by Copernicus, have introduced such 
an upheaval ? The true answer is that it did not. The 
religious mood is always conservative. There was certainly 
opposition to the views of Copernicus in his own day, but 
for two generations it was neither fierce nor dangerous. 
Copernicus died in 1543, in which year was issued his 
book, De revolutionibus orbium celestium, “On the Revolutions 
of the Heavenly Spheres.” It was seventy-three years before 
it was placed on the Index of Prohibited Books (1616). 

What had happened in the meantime? The answer, 
which demands considerable readjustment of the conven- 
tional historic view, brings out the essential nature of the 
clash which roused such ferocity. The conflict was on 
something incomparably more significant than the 
interpretation of a few biblical passages or the mathe- 
matical formulz used to express the movements of the 
heavenly bodies. 

In the scheme of Copernicus the outer heavens were, as 
in the orthodox scheme, at a limited distance from the 
Earth. Copernicus thus offended conservatism, but hardly 
orthodoxy. The world of Copernicus, being thus limited, 
could still be treated as a “creature,” a thing made,* 


1 Greek Ktisis (Rom. viii. 19-22 and elsewhere) ; Aticein, to build, establish, 
make, create. 


58 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


and thus something separate from the Godhead. 
But into this view, fully accepted by the orthodox 
Copernicus, a corollary factor was injected even before 
the end of the sixteenth century. Before Galileo had 
spoken, there was in the air another view, dimly adum- 
brated in the Middle Ages, that the Empyrean had no 
definite existence. It was suggested that the stars were not 
set in an outermost sphere, but were scattered through 
infinite distances of space. Thus the world, being devoid 
of frontiers or limits, could not be thought of as a 
“ creature.” To say this is, in effect, to say that Creator 
and Creature are indistinguishable. It is in effect 
Pantheism. 

This was a truly revolutionary conception and was 
entirely inconsistent with the mediaeval world-outlook, 
It was most forcibly voiced by Giordano Bruno (1547- 
1600), who was its martyr. To place him among martyrs of 
science is to get him out of focus. He was no man of 
science. He knew nothing of the experiential method. 
Had he known of it, he would not have been interested 
in it or have sympathised with it. Science was not at all 
in his way of thinking but, like certain others of his day, 
he sensed certain philosophic implications if the same 
treatment as that accorded by Copernicus to the inner 
spheres were extended to the outmost frontier of the 
astronomical universe. 

In Bruno’s view the stars lay scattered in infinite space. 
This was, with him, still philosophical theory, for Galileo’s 
telescope was not invented (1610) till a decade after he 
was burned to ashes (1600). But it could not be conceived 
that infinite space, with its sprinkling of starry universes, 
could whirl around the minute sphere of Earth which, 

1 The conception of an infinite universe had been expounded by Nicolas 
Krebs of Cues (Cardinal Nicholas of Gusa, 1401-64). But the writings of that 


active papal statesman aroused little attention during his lifetime, though 
they profoundly influenced Bruno in the following century. 


CHRISTIANITY FACES THE “NEW PHILOSOPHY” 59 


moreover, could no longer be regarded as the heavens’ 
centre. All thought of a centre and circumference of the 
world must go. The whole range of ideas involved in the 
conception of a limited astronomical world must be 
abandoned. The conception of absolute position has lost 
all meaning. The very frontier between the corruptible 
earthly sphere and the incorruptible heavens has vanished. 
Nay, the act of Creation itself can no longer be main- 
tained. The whole of medieval cosmological thought 
and with it much of medieval theology becomes non- 
sense. 

Thus it was something very different from a technical 
change in the mathematics of the heavens that so deeply 
moved the theologians. They obtained a dim view of the 
implications of Bruno’s thought. They were right to be 
moved. But it was still a dimly philosophical vision; it 
had not received that demonstrative garb that we now 
call scientific. 

The issues involved were not at first generally recog- 
nised. Some, who were profoundly stirred by the pagan 
form in which much of Bruno’s thought was cast, fixed 
on the almost irrelevant detail of the Earth moving round 
the Sun as contrary to Scripture. This idea Bruno had 
certainly taken from Copernicus, whose work was not, as 
yet, prohibited. But Bruno’s vision had far deeper im- 
plications than a mathematical readjustment of the 
current world-scheme. A finite universe, spherical or not, 
with or without the Earth as its centre, whether the sun 
moves or not, can be conceived as “ created.” An infinite 
universe cannot be so contemplated. Creation is funda- 
mental to Christianity—at least to the Christianity of that 
age—nor need it surprise us that the Christianity of that 
age struck at Bruno. In 1600 he was burned at the stake, 
having passed eight years in the prisons of the Inquisition. 
His philosophical writings were suppressed, but their 


60 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


seed had been sown. During the centuries which followed, 
the seed came to fruit. 

Bruno perished miserably without the hope or thought 
that he had a disciple. Yet his view was soon to displace 
that of medieval Christianity. Before he had been dead 
for half a century, the world was, for the man of science, 
no longer a diagrammatic scheme which required in- 
vestigation only as regards its details. It had become a 
world without bounds and therefore of infinite possibil- 
ities. Yet it was a world whose parts were slowly being 
revealed as uniformly related according to mathematical 
rules, the physical bases of which were in process of 
discovery. And then, toward the end of the century with 
Newton, it was seen that these mathematical rules of the 
heavens were the very rules obeyed by earthly engines. 
The world, as it was more and more explored, seemed 
everywhere a machine. 

Tt was, of course, true then, as it is, of course, true now, 
that the view of universal law did not and does not 
occupy the whole mind of all men of science. Most men of 
science reserved, and still reserve, some department of 
experience in which they forbid full play to their vision of 
universal law. But when and where they give rein to that 
mood, then and there it is bound to displace the mood of 
faith, nor can the Cartesian compromise stand against it. 
Thus the three little tracts of Bruno, printed in London in 
1584 and containing the essence of his philosophy, mark 
the real change from medizval to modern thought and 
especially to modern scientific thought. The change was 
Jong in coming, longer for some topics than for others, 
Jonger in some minds than in others. But the coming of 
that change was inevitable once these three tracts had 
got abroad. Every attempt was made to suppress them, 
but they had done their work. 

Bruno’s view links up with the Pantheism that long after 


CHRISTIANITY FACES THE “NEW PHILOSOPHY” 61 


his death came to flower with Spinoza. It was indeed the 
case that those who condemned him had more cause to 
fear than he whom they condemned, as he himself said 
at his trial, But when, ten years later, Galileo’s Messenger 
of the Heavens (1610) announced a host of new stars 
arranged in no crystalline sphere but stretching magni- 
tude after magnitude, beyond the reach of vision even 
with his telescopes, it was, indeed, something terrifying 
that had happened. The whole fabric of traditional 
thought was at risk, the very scheme that seemed to hold 
civilisation itself together. There is evidence that from 
now on Galileo himself was more than a little afraid. The 
world has hardly, even now, recovered from the fear that 
he shared. 

It is otiose at this date to discuss the misunderstandings 
of stupid men about the movements of the earth. Yet it is 
the simple fact that to this day theology has not settled 
its account on this point of the distinction of Creator and 
creature, This is no conflict between religion and science. 
It is a fundamental antithesis between two ways of looking 
at the world. One of these has developed a philosophy that 
has come to terms with science; the other has not. One 
is the Religion of Humanity, the other has remained, in 
all essentials, traditional Christian theology. 


Vil 
THE HISTORICAL RECORD—THE ROOT 


Since the rise of the New Philosophy in the seventeenth 
century, the theological apologist has had to bear with 
him, on his defensive manceuvres, the enormous burden 
of a vast, ancient, rigid and antiquated tradition. Many 
nowadays refuse to take him quite seriously, since they feel 
that he is not appealing to a real public but rather is 
entertaining his fellow athletes. There is surely a private 
world, a multitude of private worlds, where Christ is 
King. That world does not need his apologetic exercises 
nor is its nature relevant to the issue before us, nor even, 
perhaps, substantially supported by any of the theological 
scaffolding used for erection of the edifices of the Churches. 
Yet some there are that can still hear a dialogue between 
the two main ways of thinking that have always com- 
manded the respect of men. And as they listen to the great 
debate that goes on through the centuries between the 
philosophy of Theism and that of the Religion of 
Humanity they can, perhaps, afford to regard the ground- 
rumble of theological apology as “ noises-off.” It is with 
the relation of these two outlooks that they are primarily 
concerned. 

Can the historical record be subsumed under either of 
these world outlooks ? The answer of any theistic thinker 
must necessarily be ‘‘ Yes.” We must find God in history; 
if God cannot be found there, he can be found nowhere 
save in private worlds. If history is devoid of purpose, 
there can be no real value in human society. This is to say 
that, effectively at least, there is no God. The Religion of 
Humanity can afford to accept this situation and is not 
very greatly shaken thereby. Theism can hardly do so. 
But to take the theistic standpoint that we can see God in 


THE HISTORICAL RECORD—THE ROOT 63 


history is very different from saying that we can see 
or demonstrate God’s purpose throughout all history 
or through most of history. That we certainly can not 
do. 

To assume God and God’s purpose in history is to frame 
a “hypothesis,” in the original and primal meaning of 
that word. A hypothesis in its first sense is literally 
“something placed under ”—that is, a support. God is 
such a hypothesis, a support to life. Be it noted well that 
this is no hypothesis in the scientific sense of that word, 
The one kind of hypothesis, the scientific kind, provides a 
support for obtaining knowledge; the other kind of hypo- 
thesis supports the knowledge when obtained. 

Behind these two uses of a word there lies a great deal 
more than a mere question of definitions, or of current 
usage, or of etymology. The whole contest around the 
determinist position is involved, and not only the Christian 
but the whole theistic outlook is at stake. At the beginning 
of his Principia Newton uses his famous phrase: “I frame 
no hypotheses.” The prestige of his name led to the bold 
assertion that “‘ whereas his predecessors described the 
motions of the heavenly bodies, Newton was the first to 
explain them.” But did he explain them, or has anyone 
explained them? The matter is important for any 
theistic view of the world. 

The critical passage of Newton runs as follows: “I 
have not yet been able to deduce from the phenomena the 
reason of these properties of gravitation and J frame no 
hypotheses. For whatever cannot be deduced from the phenomena 
should be called an hypothesis.” Now Newton here gives the 
word its exact original meaning. In the works of Plato, 
as well as in yet earlier writings, the word “ hypothesis ”” 
has its literal sense, “a thing placed under,” a foundation 
—that is, a postulated scheme—which must be accepted 
if discussion is to take place. We have such hypotheses 


64 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


constantly before us in the language of the Law. Of 
these legal uses some are mere fictions, as that “ the king 
can do no wrong”; others are convenient presentations 
of an extremely remote possibility, as “ the lease that runs 
for 999 years”; others refer to procedure, as that “a man 
is innocent [i.e. treated as innocent] until proved guilty.” 
All these are hypotheses in the Platonic and Newtonian 
sense. None are deduced from the phenomena. None are 
verifiable. Most are false. All are parts of a working 
scheme into which certain events can be conveniently 
and tidily fitted. In this use and sense of the word, Newton. 
was certainly right when he said, “I frame no hypotheses.” 

But if hypothesis is to mean what we usually understand 
by a scientific hypothesis, that is to say, a generalisation 
drawn from a series of observations which, it may reason- 
ably be hoped, will be confirmed by yet further observa- 
tions, then we must say that Newton was constantly both 
framing and employing hypotheses. His application to 
the movements of the moon of the doctrine of gravity as 
he had experimentally demonstrated it on earth was an 
obvious example. Once he had such a “ hypothesis” 
that would fit the moon, he could and did apply it to other 
members of the planetary system. Its verification from the 
planets strengthened his conviction of the value of his first 
inference. The whole of his scientific activity was remark- 
able for invention of such hypotheses. The successful 
invention of such hypotheses is indeed the very mark of 
his scientific eminence. 

As regards the distinction between description and 
explanation, the position is somewhat similar. Newton 
knew that a property which we call gravity is associated 
with all matter of which we have direct experience. 
Having reached an exact conception of this property, he 
proceeds to examine the motions of the planetary bodies 
and finds that they may be re-expressed in terms of 


THE HISTORICAL RECORD—THE ROOT 65 


gravity. To do this is to give a description, not an ex- 
planation, for as to the nature of gravity, as to why bodies 
possess gravity, Newton could say nothing at all. 

It may reasonably be claimed that such “ description ” 
is the true aim of science. Science is ever engaged in 
bringing things together into new or wider categories and 
expressing their behaviour in general formula. This 
merely indicates for us with some clearness the field and 
the limitation of the scientific method. That method 
enables us to describe any piece of the universe that we 
select. To explain such a fragment, it must needs be 
related to all other pieces. For this, science does not help 
at all. In the attempt to present the world as a whole we 
are left effectively with two outlooks which confront each 
other, that of Theism and that of the Religion of 
Humanity. Both are “ hypotheses” in the Newtonian 
and Platonic but not in the scientific sense. 

Of either of these religions or “‘ hypotheses” we are 
entitled to ask: “ What then is Man?” The Religion of 
Humanity avoids the answer or is content with one or 
more of the scientific answers. To me all of these seem 
intellectually trivial and fundamentally unsatisfying. For 
Man is neither a walking test tube nor a living anatomy, 
He is neither a colony of cells nor a self-repairing machine 
that carries its own spare parts. He is neither a summation 
of the factors of heredity and environment nor a unit in a 
social system. He is neither a logical apparatus nor a 
bundle of complexes. And, finally, he is not a mere 
summation of all these things and their like because, 
among many reasons, these things, as we have seen, cannot 
be added together. But again, as we have seen, we may 
consider man as a whole as separated from the rest of 
creation if we think of him as a being with values and, 
therefore, a being with a purpose. 

What is that purpose ? The answers to this question are 


66 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


verbal subterfuges and we had best leave the matter to the 
prophets who have answered that there is no answer(p. 19). 
For of that purpose man, of his nature, can, at best, grasp 
very little, since that by which he would know is a part of 
the purpose. But the two outlooks which we are consid- 
ering would set him in very different relations to the world. 
With the one outlook, which Nietzsche called the 
Promethean—that of the Religion of Humanity—he may 
endlessly storm the ramparts of the world and accept 
with gratitude such gains as he will undoubtedly make. 
With the other, which I have called Theistic but would 
like to call the Prophetic, he must content himself with 
living in two worlds, only one of which is discussable here, 
This is the public world which is the world of science, but 
also the world of all those parts of religion which are not 
of private worlds. 

It is thus important to try to see, if we can, just how far 
the scientific method can be extended into the public 
world and especially into certain regions related to 
religious thought. The enquiry assumes particular signifi- 
cance in connection with history and especially in connec~ 
tion with the historical record which forms the basis of 
most religions. We do not here refer to the doctrinal 
claims of religions concerning historic events or to the 
evidence for divine revelation, but rather to the course 
and development of religion in an historic framework, for 
religious interests are very deeply tinged with history. 

The question as to whether or no there is such a thing 
as a science of history has been debated time out of mind 
and times without number. We need not enter the general 
question but, in the particular light of our discussion, 
there seems no reason whatever to consider the historical 
record in other than the scientific light. The material 
facts of history are doubtless less clearly linked and can 
be grouped less easily into sequences than those of most 


THE HISTORICAL RECORD—THE ROOT 67 


other sciences. Nevertheless, the demonstration of a 
continuous process of sequences is as much the business 
of history as it is, for example, of stratigraphical geology. 
In that sense, history must necessarily be treated as 
though it were determinate, and its material must be 
subjected to scientific examination. 

Since the dawn of the New Philosophy, the methods of 
science have entered the armoury of the historian. 
Scientific methods in history, in fact, have been among 
the most potent factors in creating the situation that 
Christianity has faced in a spirit so different to the 
Religion of Humanity. If we regard the function of science 
as essentially description, it would be unreasonable to 
deny the scientific claims of history. That history is not, 
and is not likely to become, an exact science is clear 
enough. That its matter is very intractable of scientific 
treatment is obvious. That there are aspects of historic 
narrative that can never be treated by the scientific 
method is certainly true. But the primary function of the 
historian is the display of sequences, the demonstration 
that certain phenomena follow, and may be expected to 
follow, certain other phenomena. Such is also a large part 
of the function of, for example, the biologist. Since the 
general spread of evolutionary ideas, it has been recog- 
nised that organisms are characterised by their histories 
even more than by their forms, and that their forms 
depend upon and are, in some degree, epitomes of their 
histories. 

History is, in fact, the very mark and test of life. 
History characterises everything that lives. But—mark 
here a difference between the living and the not-living— 
history is an irreversible process. Chemical and physical 
processes can be reversed indefinitely ; lives, like history, 
cannot. Lives, in fact, are histories. Each life is, in its own 
setting, something that is unique. A short way of saying 


68 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


all this is that “ Being is Becoming.” Moreover, such is the 
history of the human race—“ biological evolution ” as we 
are accustomed to call it—that we carry our history in our 
very bowels. Both spiritually and biologically the dead 
live in each one of us. 

The resemblance between our social and mental life 
on the one hand and our biological life on the other is 
more than a mere analogy. We need to remember—and 
how we long to forget—that we are the resultant of the 
entirety of our experiences, the bad no less than the good, 
the pleasant no more than the unpleasant. In the inner 
sanctum of the private world a man may doubtless be 
born again through repentance and through grace, but 
that in no way changes the fact that his sins were sins and 
have now become parts of his history. And so it is also with 
human societies. Social institutions, and specifically 
religions, are the products of historical processes which 
are not unappropriately compared to the evolution of 
biological types. Religions, like living organisms, like 
ourselves, have their rudiments and their vestiges; their 
dependent, degenerate and parasitic phases; their static 
and their developmental periods; their rapid metamor- 
phoses and their cataclysmic declines. They, too, carry 
their history with them. Alike of men and of the lives of 
men, as of religions, 


“ Our deeds still travel with us from afar, 
And what we have been makes us what we are.* 


Therefore, while it would be foolish to judge a religion 
by its feeblest exponents, it must and should be judged by 
its historic, its official, its formal representatives. The 
intelligent and the only intelligible practice of the Church 
is to be found in the acts of its leaders and the writings of 
its most respected theologians. We must not accept the 
common mode of evasion that such men often have not 


THE HISTORICAL RECORD—THE ROOT 69 


the root of the matter in them. How often one hears of 
some detestable action or attitude of the Church: “ Oh, 
but that isn’t Christianity.” But it is Christianity; it is 
historic Christianity. Whatever pang the limitation may 
cost the Christian, he cannot be allowed to choose his 
history, or even to select from it. All that has been is 
history, and the individual Christian of our day is the 
heir of the whole historic record of the Christian religion 
and of Christian civilisation. We live in this moment 
which, at the next, goes past recall to make us what we 
shall be. What we do at this moment will be still with us 
in the next and each one of us is heir of all that has been. 
History is utterly unforgiving and ruthless. 

The acts of the Spanish Inquisition; the massacre of the 
Albigenses; the record of Luther with reference to the 
Peasants’ Revolt and royal divorce; the inhuman temper 
of Calvin; the evil lives and designed cruelty of many of 
the Popes; and, in our time, the temporising of Christians 
and of Churches with the evil forces that have over- 
whelmed, much of the world; these are, for comparative 
and scientific purposes, as essential parts of the history of 
Christianity as are the lives of the saints. All these events, 
in sober fact, have had their share in shaping current 
Christianity. They have had their share in shaping 
Christians themselves. 

Some may say that from these acts, these records, these 
attitudes, these lives, the spirit of Christ had wholly 
departed. Let it be so. We have not been discussing the 
spirit of Christ, but the record, and to claim that these 
things are not representative of the historic process known 
as Christianity is to attempt to falsify the record. Torque- 
mada, Luther, Calvin, Innocent III, Alexander VI were 
official exponents of Christianity. They were, indeed, the 
very embodiments of its history. They were typical 
products of the history of Christianity just as they shaped 


jo THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


the history of Christianity. The Christian apologist must 
answer for them no whit less than the exponent of the 
Religion of Humanity must answer for, let us say, the 
persecution of religion in Russia, And should the Christian 
apologist evade the charges against historic Christianity 
of the many accommodations that it has made with the 
forces of evil of our time ? 

Can there be a quantitative measure of inhumanity ? 
If so, we should need to rank the standard of cruelty 
attained by Christianity high among the achievements of 
the great religions and the great civilisations. The 
Christian attainment in cruelty has certainly not been 
lower than anything of the sort reached by the religion of 
Humanity. And even in our time the overwhelming 
Majority of National Socialists still profess a formal 
Christianity. 

The man who can read history and say that Christianity 
has not produced many abominations, many horrors, 
many perversions of the human spirit, must have been 
reading with specially constructed spectacles. Yet how 
many there are who habitually wear these odd distorters 
of vision. We are urged to make our society Christian. But 
Europe had been Christian for a full nine hundred years 
after the vision of the Cross had come to Constantine 
when every soul in Béziers was butchered in Christ’s own 
name, by the will of Christ’s own vicar. “ Kill all; the 
Lord will know His own.” It is but one example among 
many ; but this, and all the wickedness that led to it and 
flowed from it, was approved by one of the greatest of 
those who have sat in Peter’s seat. Each of the centuries 
as it went by was lit by its own cruel fires and religious’ 
wars, How grand if we could wipe out these records as 
from a slate. We cannot. The human soul may doubtless 
be freed from sin by grace, but history never forgives. 
That, to me, is one of the most solemn thoughts that is. 


THE HISTORICAL RECORD—THE ROOT 7I 


The plain record is that some of the fiercest and most 
cruel peoples that the world has seen have exhibited their 
fiercest and most cruel moods in the very name of 
Christianity. The plain record is that among the fiercest 
and most cruel wars have been those waged by Christians 
in the cause of what they regarded as their religion. The 
plain record is that massacre, torture and pillage have 
repeatedly been employed by Christian men in what they 
held to be a Christian cause. And, above all, the plain 
record is that the leadership of the Christian world has 
seldom had any clear relationship to personal sanctity. 

Theologians will doubtless be loth to believe that the 
history of Christianity can have anything to do with the 
shape of the religious war in which we now find ourselves, 
but the theologians will be wrong. If Christianity means 
anything at all, it means that history is all of a piece, and 
that, were our knowledge adequate, a pattern could be 
traced in the human drama throughout the ages. Nor is 
it theologians alone who refuse to remove the veil that 
they have themselves drawn over their eyes and are blind 
to that which they do not wish to see. Yet to some of 
those who are not theologically minded, it is not at all 
difficult to discern how a modern religion of hate, cruelty 
and pride has developed out of religion as expounded by 
such men as those who have been named above. The 
loathsome and satanic religion of National Socialism 
seems to have come as a surprise to Christians. It has not 
come at all as a surprise to some of the observers of 
historic Christianity. Those who have read the life of 
Martin Luther or Alexander VI need not be astounded at 
the life of Adolf Hitler. There is a stock whose root is 
Tottenness and its fruit shall come up as dust. 

In the physical world there is a law of the indestructi- 
bility of energy, but there is also a rule of passage from a 
higher to a lower potential. The pebble dropped into the 


q2 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


smooth surface of the pool spreads waves which weaken as 
they widen. The ripples ultimately disappear from vision, 
but their effects are still present and always will be. In the 
spiritual world there is a like law, but the passage from 
the higher to the lower potential is not always the rule. 
That which has been, has been. Naught can be recalled, 
for history is irreversible. Yet the effects of thoughts and 
deeds do not always weaken as they widen. For there have 
been grand spiritual events—as there have been evil 
events—that have held unimpaired for ages their power to 
move men to like thoughts and deeds. A thousand ancient 
phrases still touch the heart as on the day they were 
spoken. For we are in a strange world that, like a waterfall, 
is at once ever-changing and changeless. Men differ-from 
each other infinitely, none is quite like his fellow and no 
life repeats another, yet a single pattern runs through 
them all. 

Theologians, while emphasising what they regard as 
the eternal and the absolute elements in Christianity, 
often gloss the equally unalterable character of the history 
of Christianity. Thus, for example, they concentrate on 
the Incarnation, but commonly have no word to say as 
to the blood and tears that Christians have caused to flow 
in Christ’s own name; yes, and would cause to flow yet 
again, had some of them their way. Theologians often, 
too, ignore the self-evident fact that whatever the spiritual 
basis of religion, theology itself is a man-made thing. A 
theological system is as much the product of human 
ingenuity as is a motor car. It is ingenious Christian men 
who have invented, cultivated, exercised and perfected 
the highly complex apparatus of Christian theology. The 
ferocity with which Christianity has been championed 
and the endless suffering and bereavement that it has 
caused remain inescapable charges on Christians. Surely 
the theologian should consider the historical effects and 


THE HISTORICAL RECORD—THE ROOT 73 


implications of his own doctrines as an integral whole, 
even if and when he claims that they have been perverted. 

Forgetfulness of these things prevents Christians from 
recognising fully the part that the Churches themselves 
have played in producing the present situation. To an 
observer, it would seem that if the leaders of the Churches 
have perfectly clear consciences in this matter, there must 
be something wrong with the construction of those con- 
sciences. Though it is a calamity to mankind of the first 
order, it is not altogether incomprehensible to the outsider 
that the Church should now be failing in her main strong- 
hold, the West. 

If the fact be doubted, brief reflection will, perhaps, 
confirm it. The claim can hardly be made that the spirit 
of Christ has attained such hold on men’s minds that it 
has of late years been influencing the major actions of 
their great societies. Historically the ethics of the West 
are substantially those implanted by Christianity. The 
field in which we should expect to find them specially 
operative is just that association of men most character- 
istic of our region and our age. This is the Nation-State. 
Has their operation there been either an edifying or a 
hope-inspiring spectacle ? 

‘There can be no doubt that large sections of Christians 
have now seen the error of the neglect of these things in 
the years preceding the war. But they cannot thereby and 
should not thereby discharge the Churches of a share in 
producing the present situation. It seems to me that much 

- of the thinking on this subject is vitiated by shortness of 
memory. Men speak as though the general attitude of the 
Churches and of Christians as a body in 1942 is the same 
as it was from 1920 to 1939. It is not. It is impossible to 
remove from the historic record the stupid, the obstinate, 
the wilfully blind, the heartless, the cowardly, the time- 
serving, the subservient attitude of the Churches and of 


74 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


large sections of Christians in the presence of manifest 
evils during those fateful years. These things are now 
graven on tablets from which they can never be erased. 
What has been, has been. 


VHI 
THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS—THE FRUIT 


Tue true measure of the influence of Christianity on 
the body politic is surely the way in which the community 
of Christian states—and, above all, the Christian Churches 
of those states—respond to acts which ignore or views 
which repudiate central Christian doctrines. Surely the 
most fundamental, anticipating even the Incarnation, is 
that there is a dignity and worth of the individual soul, 
for without that the Incarnation itself would be mean- 
ingless. How have Christian states and Christian Churches 
responded ? 

We pass over the record of the Churches in relation to 
torture and cruelty. We set aside compulsory conversion, 
along with the wars of religion, the horrors of inquisitions 
and of their variants, and the subtler but yet more deadly 
enemy of human dignity, clerical censorship in all its 
forms, It is better to be silent as to the witch-mania as 
well as to the Christian doctrine of serfdom. We must not 
print specimens of the foul invective which became a 
commonplace of theological debate, nor discuss the 
persistent and systematic defamatory propaganda of the 
Church against Islam and against Judaism, compared to 
which that of Goebbels shows as a mere prentice effort. 
Forget the futilities of the Crusades and the endless and 
fruitless misery and bereavement that they brought upon 
mankind. Pass over the long monopoly of higher education. 
by the Churches, as well as the record of the Churches in 
their subservient moods as buttresses of ruling powers or 
classes. Turn rather to the situation as it is. 

Memories are short. The failure of Christian states to 


76 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


respond to the call of human suffering seems to many to 
be a major cause of the crisis of our civilisation, but pass 
that by to consider the Christian leadership. Will anyone 
suggest that everywhere men who call themselves Chris- 
tian have been for the last ten years aflame with the 
outrages inflicted on the most sacred human rights ? 
Will anyone say that the leaders of the Churches, or that 
Christian men who occupy high positions in politics, were 
in general, or even often, early to see and to proclaim that 
acts of injustice were foul offences against the Christian 
conscience ? Will anyone make this claim, for example, for 
the major ecclesiastical and lay leaders of the great 
Churches from 1933 onward, men whose names must be 
in the minds of any reader ? No one will do so, for the 
opposite is most certainly the case. The conception of the 
nature of the crisis came late to leading Christians. It was 
accepted very reluctantly by them. Those outside the 
Christian fold, and notably exponents of the Relgen of 
Humanity, long anticipated them. 

Memories are short. A very few examples—there is no 
space for more—of how Christian leaders have shouldered 
their moral responsibilities, may perhaps serve to awaken 
some memories. It would be best not to adduce as a 
Christian responsibility acts of those whose Christianity 
may be doubted by any Christian, or of those who do not 
represent a large section of Christian opinion. We must 
seek typical examples. 

Consider what was held to be the best standard of 
Christian conduct only four short years ago. A single but 
typical example must suffice. The Dean of Chichester, 
particularly well known for his humane and modern views, 
issued a learned and authoritative work, The Struggle for 
Religious Freedom in Germany. (The Preface is dated May, 
1938.) This scholarly production will doubtless remain 
current as a record of the events that it records, though at 


THE CHURCHES IN GRISIS—THE FRUIT 77 


the time of its issue there had ceased to be any effective 
struggle, if indeed such had ever existed. In sober fact, 
it had never been conducted with any very convincing 
vigour, or by any but a minute proportion of professed 
Christians in Germany. This admirable book is, in effect, 
a presentation of the Christian effort, not for religious 
freedom—for no such effort was seriously made—but 
for the freedom of certain Churches. The text runs to 
270 pages, and the treatment of Jews is not discussed 
until the two hundred and sixty-seventh. There it receives 
exactly one and a half lines in the following passage: 


“ It certainly does not become us to utter one word of reproach 
Sor those who have not been able to rise to sacrificial heights. 
Nor may we criticise those who have so risen, because 
they have not done something else as well; because, for 
example, they have not made a violent protest against 
the shameful treatment of the Jews, or the horror of the 
concentration camps. 

“ Karl Barth, himself a Swiss, has forestalled any such 
criticism for us in his lecture at Oxford, when he asks 
how little likely it is that the Christians of any other 
country would have given greater proof.” (Italics 
added.) 


So much for the heroism that a Christian expected 
Christianity to elicit in its most devoted adherents. And 
this 1,600 years after the adoption of Christianity as the 
State religion of Europe. A Christian, defending the 
action of representatives of his faith, hints that the same 
courage and steadfastness cannot be expected from the 
soldiers of Christ as we are now daily witnessing by the 
ten thousand from the soldiers of Satan. But one cause of 
the feebleness of the Churches shows through this very 
passage. Apart from the point that Professor Barth, far 
from forestalling any such criticism in his lecture, had in 


78 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


fact dealt with it most inadequately, it must be said that 
the very plan of the book is corrupted by the great 
Christian fallacy. Nor is it this book alone. There is now 
a large literature on the anti-Christian movement in 
Germany and I have been able to find very few indeed 
that do not contain the same fallacy. 

Before going further the reader should be seized of what 
80 open-minded a Christian as Dr. Duncan-Jones regarded, 
as late as May 1938, as “ forestalling any criticism.” 
In Dr, Barth’s lecture, as printed, the sole reference to the 
subject is contained in the following passage which exposes 
with great frankness the unhealthy state of European 
Christianity : 


“There are many spectators in other countries of the 
struggle of the Church in Germany who make it a cause 
of reproach that the Church has not given a greater proof 
of the reality of the Christian faith. Why, one hears it 
asked, have the Christians in Germany not been able to 
prevent the horrors of National-socialism, the con- 
centration camps, the persecution of the Jews ? Yes, and 
still more: where were the Christians in Germany when 
this National-socialism first rose up ? Why did they for 
the most part go so far as to accompany it with en- 
thusiasm ? Such questions lie only too near; but one 
should be very careful before giving expression to them. 
Ie is only too easy to overlook much: how complicated 
the situation in Germany had become in the fifteen 
years after the War, how weak internally the position 
of the Church at that time was, how easy it was at the 
beginning of 1933 to deceive oneself as to the bolshe- 
vistic character of the Hitler movement, and above all, 
how little likely it is that the Christians of any other 
country would have been in a position to give in similar 
circumstances that greater proof of the reality of the 


THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS—-THE FRUIT 79 


Christian faith. But even if it be assumed that a greater 
proof would in fact have been possible, this remains 
true: a small proof of the reality of the faith has been 
given and is still being given by the Church in 

Germany.””} 

Yes, Dr. Barth is just in his claims, But no one has ever 
suggested that there were no Christians, What many 
more than suspect, however, is that Christians are very few 
and that they are little represented in the leading of the 
Churches. Thus, to return to Dr. Duncan-Jones’ account 
of their position, if the question of the relations of the 
Churches to the Nazi Movement is to be treated as a 
whole, if the attempt is made to get these relations into 
true historic perspective, if in fact we are to understand 
what has happened in Germany, then the passage quoted 
above from Dr. Duncan-Jones’ book is wrongly placed 
and wrongly stressed. It should open the whole story, not 
close it as a sort of afterthought. Surely the treatment 
of Christians has a related sequence to the treatment of 
Jews. The false step taken early in 1933 by the Church 
leaders in accepting the “ shameful treatment” of Jews, 
as Dr. Duncan-Jones rightly calls it, was at least a factor 
that led. to the shameful treatment of Christians as Dr. 
Duncan-Jones wrongly omits to indicate. It was at least 
partly because the Church leaders had uncovered the 
nakedness of their own professions, and had showed that 
they had no regard for human dignity, that they were 
exposed to treatment with contempt by their enemies. 
How could it have been otherwise ? Surely even on the 
very simplest Christian view a man must be a man before 
he can be a Christian, and God’s estimate of man’s worth 
must precede His Sacrifice. Every Nazi knew that. 

1 Trouble and Promise in the Struggle of the Church in Germany, by Karl Barth: 
“Translation of the substance of the Lecture at Oxford on 4 March 
1998 by P. V. M, Benecke ” (Oxford, 1998). 


80 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


The book rightly indicates that the enemies of the 
Churches were not slow to perceive their weakness. Dull 
indeed would they have been to have missed it! It needed 
no very recondite knowledge of human character to 
foresee that opponents of the Churches were likely thus 
to react to signs of yielding, especially by their leaders, 
to doctrines and practices manifestly opposed to the most 
elementary Christian principles, Yet the leaders of the 
Churches in Germany, while the Churches were still 
“intact,” made no protest till their own interests were 
manifestly and immediately threatened. And even when 
they did at last make some stand, their protests were—as 
they still are—with insignificant exceptions, based upon 
their corporate rights or deduced from their own specific 
doctrines and not upon the dignity and worth of man as 
man which surely forms the very basis of all their teaching. 

By the Catholic Church in Germany, so far as I have 
been able to learn, practically no stand has been made 
except upon its own rights. The material has been ably 
collected and admirably set forth in the anonymous 
volume: Persecution of the Catholic Church in the Third Reich 
(London, 1940). Much of this refers to the critical years 
when National Socialism was newly in power and some- 
thing might have been effected. But evidence of efforts 
to take a stand on the rights of man as a child of God, 
instead of his rights as a member of the Church, is con- 
spicuous by its absence. On this point the story is practic- 
ally identical with that of the Protestant Churches.1 

Dr. Duncan-Jones’ book and Dr. Barth’s lecture must 
suffice as examples of the state of informed and sympa~ 


2 Such protests as were made by the Churches are collected by Elizabeth 
Castonier, The Eternal Front, 1942, “'The inside story of the Christian oppo- 
Sition—both Protestant and Catholic—to Nazi doctrine within Germany 
and in the occupied countries of Europe, with translations from original 
documents.” It is a very short book and, especially for Central Europe, 
singularly unconvincing. For Poland the Jews are not even mentioned ! 


THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS—THE FRUIT 81 


thetic Christian feeling in the first half of the year before 
the war. Let us pass to the end of that year and again 
take a typical example. 

November 11th is a day of remembrance, the Armistice 
Day of the termination of the 1914-18 War. The eve of 
that day in 1938, four years ago, was celebrated by a 
massacre of Jews in Germany. Nearly all their synagogues 
were burnt under police supervision. Thousand of homes 
were wrecked by Government-directed violence. Many 
persons were killed, and yet more died of ill treatment. 
The German Churches showed hardly any reaction at all. 
But on that November 11th, National Socialism having 
been in power for five years and nine months, the then 
Archbishop of Canterbury wrote as follows to The Times : 


“ Strain upon British Friendship. 

“ Str,—I believe that I speak for the Christian people 
of this country in giving immediate expression to the 
feelings of indignation with which we have read of the 
deeds of cruelty and destruction which were perpetrated 
last Thursday in Germany and Austria. Whatever provoca- 
tion may have been given by the deplorable act of a single 
irresponsible Fewish youth, reprisals on such a scale, so fierce, 
cruel and vindictive, cannot possibly be justified. A sinister 
significance is added to them by the fact that the police 
seem either to have acquiesced in them or to have been 
powerless to restrain them. 

“ It is most distasteful to write these words just when there 
is in this country a general desire to be on friendly terms with the 
German nation. But there are times when the mere instincts of 
humanity make silence impossible. Would that the rulers of the 
Reich could realise that such excesses of hatred and malice put 
upon the friendship which we are ready to offer them an almost 
intolerable strain ! 

“T trust that in our Churches on Sunday and there- 


82 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


after remembrance may be made in our prayers of 
those who have suffered this fresh onset of persecution 
and whose future seems to be so dark and hopeless. 

“ Yours faithfully, Cosmo CanTuaR: 


“ Lampetu Patace, November 11th, 1938.” (Italics 
added.) 


The language of this letter may be subject to a little 
analysis. “‘ Whatever provocation may have been given 
by .. . an irresponsible youth, reprisals on such a scale, so 
fierce, cruel and vindictive, cannot possibly be justified.” 
This can only have a meaning if it be supposed that 
reprisals on a lesser scale could be justified. To give a 
meaning to the word “ possibly,” it must be supposed 
that the writer seeks at least to palliate reprisals on a 
lesser scale. Moreover, the sentence carries the suggestion 
that an act of an irresponsible youth is a national 
provocation. 

“Tt is distasteful to write these words when there is a 
general desire to be on friendly terms with the German 
nation . . . but mere instincts of humanity make silence 
impossible.” As though at other times reprisals would be 
of less significance or their discussion less distasteful, and 
as though nothing but the most extreme act could justify 
silence! The same suggestion is made a third and fourth 
time, ‘ Would that the rulers of the Reich could realise 
that such excesses of hatred and malice put upon the 
friendship which we are ready to offer them an almost 
intolerable strain.” To give this sentence meaning, it must 
again be supposed that excesses less outrageous would put 
only a tolerable strain ! Had the Archbishop ever heard of 
Mein Kampf? 

Is there one of the six sentences of this letter which 
bears a distinctive Christian mark? Is there one that 
expressed what was by then the general fecling that had 


THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS—THE FRUIT 83 


been reached by the people of this country? That the 
laity differ from their official leaders is perhaps to be 
explained by their having a different basic religion. But if 
ecclesiastical language is intended to mean anything—and. 
perhaps it is not—this letter can only mean that an 
English Archbishop had only a qualified disapproval of 
these crimes committed upon non-Christians. Of course, 
much of this is mere blundering in the use of language. 
But that such blunders can be made, and that repeatedly, 
reveals a hesitance and cowardice in the presence of 
revealed evil that augurs ill for the Church in the world 
that is struggling to birth. 

The temporising hesitancy of this letter, and comparable 
actions by other high ecclesiastics in several confessions, 
in part reflected and in part determined the wavering 
reluctance of Christendom in the face of what, to all 
outside the Christian fold, was apparent as a direct attack 
on the very essence of Christianity. There were, happily, 
others who, if they could not speak in the name of a formal 
ecclesia, could do so for that universal Church that is to be 
found wherever two or three are gathered together unto 
the Name. At the time when the Archbishop was finding it 
“ distasteful ” to write a word against National Socialism, 
Dr. Karl Barth who, as resident in Germany, had seen the 
thing at close hand from the beginning, and whose 
previously expressed view must have been familiar to all 
responsiblé theologians, was now perfectly clear as to the 
danger that threatened Christianity.* Dr. Barth wrote as 
follows from within sight of the German frontier : 

“The Church should have established from her own 
perceptions and knowledge that in National Socialism 

1 Dr. Barth is not German but Swiss by birth and early education. He 
has been professor of theology in three German universities: Géttingen, 
1921-5, Miinster, 1925-30, Bonn, 1930-5. In 1935, when residence in 


Germany became impossible for him on account of his views, Dr. Barth 
returned to big native Basel, where he bas since beld a chair. 


84 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


there had entered the field not only a strange God, but a 
hostile, evil God, and a hostile, evil service of God. The 
decisive reason for this does not lie in the anti-Christian 
asseverations and actions of National Socialism. It lies in 
that thing which, in this last week, has specially moved us, 
namely the anti-Semitism which is one of its principles. 
This by itself is sufficient to justify the sentence National 
Socialism is the anti-Church fundamentally hostile to Christianity. 
Hitler and those responsible do not realise, of course, the 
thing that they have touched upon. When it is resolved to 
exterminate the people of Israel, to burn the synagogues 
and Scriptures, to reject the ‘Jew God’. and the ‘Jew 
Bible’ as the essence of abomination to the German, 
then an attempt is made to strike a mortal blow into the 
Toots of the Church. Can any even wish to close his ears to 
all the unutterable misery caused by this anti-Semitic pest, 
crying to Heaven in every German country ? How can 
Christian ears do other than tingle ? Objectively what are 
we without Israel ? He who rejects and persecutes the Jews 
rejects and persecutes Him who died for the sins of the 
Jews and thereby for our sins. A radical enemy of the Jews 
is a radical enemy of Jesus Christ. Anti-Semitism is a sin 
against the Holy Ghost for it is rejection of the grace of 
God. But National Socialism lives, moves and has its being 
in anti-Semitism. What sign must still come if this does 
not say to the Church that she can have nothing whatever 
to do with National Socialism ; that she has to awake and 
at every point resolutely to reject it.” 

But Dr. Barth was, from the beginning, fighting what 
proved a losing battle. The large majority of those who 
called themselves Christian outside Germany, and an 
increasing and finally overwhelming proportion of those 

1 abbrevia 
what dnplied Pron Bravery, ses Sse of ele The 


will be found in full in his The Police Pobles of Our 
(London, 1939). 


THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS—THE FRUIT 85 


who called themselves Christian within the German orbit, 
still preferred to temporise in the spirit of the Archbishop’s 
letter. It is true that now, in 1942, most Christians have 
received such an awakening that a change in the temper 
of Christendom is clearly observable. But it was before 
that change that this vast evil had fastened itself on 
European civilisation. For its alleviation, on the most 
hopeful estimate, the work of unborn gencrations will be 
needed. It is an evil so great that it must bulk as one of the 
major incidents in European history. But Nazi iniquity is 
only one side of the picture: a side with which all are now 
familiar. Christian complaisance and hesitancy, trimming 
and time-serving, is the other side of the picture. From 
that Christians have very wrongly and unwisely averted 
their gaze, It is truly an ugly sight and an ugly story. 
Memories are short. The Archbishop was not the only 
one engulfed by the Christian fallacy. What was the 
proportion of Christian leaders who, professing their 
religion to be Catholic or Ecumenical or Universal or 
Orthodox, exclaimed at the first hearing that the claim 
of a race to override the rights and dignity of man as man 
could by no means be Christian or compatible with 
Christianity ? The true answer is that there were hardly 
any Christian leaders who assumed that attitude until the 
nature of the crisis had long been obvious to every 
intelligent non-Christian observer. The profession of 
Christianity added no penetration at all to scrutiny of the 
situation, but seems rather to have dimmed the spiritual 
vision. Not until it became quite evident, even to the 
wilfully blind, that the Churches themselves were threat- 
ened were their Jeaders able to see through what did not 
seem to others a particularly dense fog. Since then they 
have discovered that National Socialism is wickedness. 
Since then they have seen, what others saw long before 
them, how weak and feeble and sick is Christianity in 


86 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


Central Europe, and in how great danger the Churches 
are everywhere. They have therefore changed their atti- 
tude. But Churches are not alone in being converted by 
adversity, nor does that type of conversion augur entirely 
well for the future. There are other such cases. My old 
nurse taught me of one such a case when I was a child. 
“ When the Devil was sick, the Devil a saint would be, But 
when the Devil was well, the devil a saint was he.” 

The time for the proper protest was most unhappily and 
most unwisely allowed to pass. That unhappiness and that 
unwisdom, that dereliction of duty by almost all the 
Yeaders of all the Churches, is as integral a part of the story 
as is the violence and wickedness of the Nazis. It is not 
improbable that this error will have sealed the doom of 
some of the organised Churches as we know them. The 
attitude of mind that led to this shameful conduct is a 
major exhibition of the Christian fallacy. 

Memories are short. The Vatican let five years go by 
before it brought itself to speak on this head. Even now it 
has hardly done so unequivocally. Cardinal Faulhaber, 
least timid of the clerics—the standard of courage is not 
high-in his well-known sermons of 1933, most signifi- 
cantly omits to touch upon the treatment of the Jews. 
Those who think otherwise cannot have read these 
sermons.’ The pitiable Bodelschwingh simply fled from 
the subject. Dibelius skilfully evaded it. Even Barth, 
speaking outside Germany more than four years after the 
first outbreak in his Oxford address, still seemed to be 
soft-pedalling it. Of all the men who have spoken for 
Christianity in Germany, and those they represent, we 
are surely entitled to ask, “‘ What place have they given 
and do they now give to a consideration of the dignity and 
worth of man as man? 

I myself believe that the historian of a few years hence 


1 Judaism, Christianity ond Gomany, London, 1954. 


THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS—THE FRUIT 87 


will place this lapse of all the German Church leaders and 
of most Church leaders outside Germany in very high 
relief. It calls for discussion with frankness and in detail. 
On the conclusions thus derived depends the answer to 
the question whether or no the forms of religion that were 
professed in Germany, and many that were professed 
outside Germany, can be treated as parts of a Universal 
Church. Can these forms of religion survive at all, save 
perhaps as a collection of living fossils comparable to the 
minor Eastern Churches? When the present crisis has 
passed, what will be the attitude of these Churches ? 
Will they regard the dignity of man as man as essential to 
their faith ? Will they still demand the support of the 
State, trusting to the staff of that broken reed whereon, if a 
man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it ? Will they 
still make their totalitarian claims ? Unless these questions 
are clearly and satisfactorily answered, I do not believe 
that it will be self-evident to the average European that 
the survival of those Churches is important for humanity 
or that any struggle for or by them is humanly worth 
while. 

Something like this reasoning is, I believe, commonly 
directed against Christianity by many who have not 
formally separated themselves from it. This negative side 
is the basis of the main attack on Christianity from within. 
As against Christianity, the Religion of Humanity makes 
certain positive claims, based on action, from without. 
The most effective defence would be clear and explicit 
answers to these questions, but those answers must refer 
to the fateful years before the war. It is useless to urge in 
rebuttal of such charges that the Churches have now seen 
that their interests are not sustained by acquiescing in the 
meanest and lowest tryanny that ever was. 

Quite apart from the humane aspect—and the situation 
must horrify all decent-minded men, whether Christians 


88 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


or not—it is a very grave portent that the Churches in 
Germany were so extremely tardy as to appear actually 
reluctant to defend the civilisation, the ethics, and the 
liberty of their own creation. The gravity of the portent is 
not lessened but emphasised by stressing the internal 
weakness and division of the Churches. 

The line adopted by Dr. Barth that, to quote his own 
words, after Hitler’s seizure of power, “the Church of 
Christ took some time to recognise the Nazi régime as its 
enemy,” is certainly true, but it carries with it an ex- 
tremely severe condemnation of the leaders of that 
Church, including Dr. Barth and including Nieméller 
himself. The racial policy of Nationa] Socialism was the 
very basis of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. This book, which both 
Dr, Nieméller and Dr. Barth had certainly read, was 
published in the years 1925-6. The racial policy was given 
a prominent place in all Hitler’s early speeches. It was 
also given a place in the often published and very widely 
circulated Programme of the Party, to which my own 
attention was drawn in 1931 by several German col- 
leagues. It is quite impossible to believe that German 
Church leaders were ignorant of the significance of a 
current matter of internal German policy perfectly 
familiar to every intelligent German outside clerical 
circles as well as to many foreigners. It is very much easier 
to believe that Church leaders hoped that by silence or 
by compromise or by accepting the Nazi régime, they 
and their followers and Churches would escape attack. 
Of humanity outside their own Churches they were not 
thinking and, with very few exceptions, there is no 
evidence that they have much thought even now. That, 
I believe, is the highly discreditable fact. That I believe 
to be a major key to the religious situation in Europe. 
That great lapse is a most important historic event and is 
an integral and irremovable part of the history of Chris- 


THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS—THE FRUIT 89 


tianity. Those who seek to conceal this do an ill-service 
to Christianity. 

Memories are short, but the plain and damnatory fact, 
which the historian will record, is that from 1933 and for 
four full years and more, all the major Churches sought to 
come to terms with the abominable heresies of National 
Socialism and Fascism. In so far as the Churches spoke at 
all it was, at least until 1937, evasively and with the 
manifest desire to avoid committal. 

Memories are short, but with the documents of these 
years before him the historian will not omit to record, as 
significant events in the history of Christianity, many 
incidents which some would fain forget. There are the 
papal agreements with the murderers and blasphemers, 
Hitler and Mussolini. There are the many early equivocal 
pronouncements of high Anglican dignitaries. There is the 
expertly oracular amphibology that has consistently 
emanated from the Vatican. There is the pitiful break- 
down of Protestantism in Germany and its substantial 
absorption into the Nazi system. There is the miserable 
acceptance of National Socialism by Austrian clerics and 
notably the open allegiance to Hitler and his doctrines 
by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Innitzer. There 
are the many unholy alliances in many Roman Catholic 
countries between Churches and Fascism from 1933 to 
1938 and beyond. There has been the ill-concealed 
sympathy of many if not most Churches with totalitarian 
methods. There is the inhuman indifference of the 
Central European Churches, and the very slow reaction 
of all the Churches outside Germany, in face of organised 
anti-Semitism. How slow it was, how dull it was, how 
reluctant, how inhuman, how unimaginative, how sense- 
less it was, only those who watched the situation at near 
hand will, perhaps, ever fully realise. There is the stupid 
and semi-wilful blindness of the Churches to the evident 

Dr 


go THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


fact that the formal basis of National Socialism is not only 
a denial of Christianity, but makes it also a deadly enemy, 
not only to Christianity, but to every thing that is universal 
in every religion. There is the degrading silence of the 
elderly adolescent who represented Britain in Berlin. 
There is the ill-concealed support of Hitler’s way by 
certain so-called statesmen in this country. Not least 
there is the long procession of presumably Christian 
British Foreign Secretaries, so humiliatingly tongue-tied 
whenever confronted with the denial of the humane 
foundations of that international Jaw which is, perhaps, 
one of the greatest products of Christianity. Perhaps they 
and other heroes of the Munich agreement and of German 
and Italian appeasement have now reached the conclusion 
that we all are members one of another. It is a pity that 
their spoken words stil] do not more clearly indicate as 
much. Is there any passage in all our history that raises 
such a blush as our foreign policy from 1933 to 1939? 

Regarded as an event in the long course of ecclesiastical 
history, the striking feature of the terrible episode through 
which we are living is negative. Nothing that has hap- 
pened in it is as significant as what has not happened. 
There was, until the Churches themselves were in un- 
mistakeable danger, no general Christian upsurge of 
indignation, even against their own treatment. The 
salient spiritual characteristic of our age has been the 
failure of the Churches to produce seers or martyrs or 
even great leaders. Christian reaction to the situation 
has been very, very slow and, in general, very, very 
reluctant. 

Think of the hundreds of millions of people in 
Europe who call themselves Christian and then of the 
minute number of those who have made any voluntary 
sacrifice for their Christian faith. Their names are mostly 
known—Niemiéller and the rest. They made, till quite 


THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS—THE FRUIT gr 


recently, a mere stage army that passed in and out of the 
news. Those who have shown any willingness to sacrifice 
themselves for Christianity, outside perhaps Holland and 
Norway, form the merest handful. Even fewer are those 
who have shown, by deliberately facing personal danger, 
any care for Christian ethics. 

The theologians have manfully wielded their pens 
overtime, but Christian men who by their lives and with 
their lives have shown eagerness or even willingness to 
bear practical witness to their faith have been con- 
picuously few. Compare the numbers of this tiny band to 
the hosts of young men who have risked and lost their lives 
gladly for the idolatrous Religion of Nationalism. Hardly 
one of the very few Christian protesters who has taken a 
personal risk has occupied a prominent ecclesiastical 
position. If the blood of the martyrs be indeed the seed of 
the Church, then we must have lean spiritual years ahead. 
The name Niemiller is constantly “in the news,” but 
in the Lutheran Church alone and in the limits of the old 
Reich there were some 20,000 pastors. And, moreover, 
Nieméller himself was a Nazi till he realised that the 
Church itself was threatened. I have read all his available 
sermons. They are able and eloquent, but if they contain 
a breath of humanity, in the sense in which that word is 
normally understood, then it has escaped me. 

But if saints and martyrs, and even steadfast and con- 
sistent Christians, have been few, even fewer have been 
the Christian leaders who, early in this world-crisis, 
showed insight as to its essentially spiritual origin. We 
now have it dinned into our ears that Christianity is in 
danger from these new religions of National Socialism 
and Fascism. Of course it is. So it was from the first. But 
when did Christian leaders discover this extremely 
unpleasant truth ? The answer is that it took hardly any 
of them less than four years to reach this elementary 


g2 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


conclusion. Yet the fundamental incompatibility of 
Christianity with the Religion of Nationality—‘ the 
new paganism,” as it came to be called—was abundantly 
evident from the very first to many outside the Christian 
fold, of whom this writer was one. The twenty-five point 
programme of the Nazi Party was published in 1920, not 
1942, and there was, above all, Mein Kampf. 

The Religion of Humanity has had a better record than 
Christianity during these apocalyptic years. Without the 
Religion of Humanity our state now would be even worse 
than it is. Human mercy would have been an even 
scarcer commodity, and this war would have assumed on 
both sides, instead of only on the Axis side, all the 
traditional horrors of a “war of religion.” Looking 
back on the Jast three centuries of history, the Religion 
of Humanity can be seen increasingly as the effective 
working faith of the great “ humanitarian” movement 
so characteristic of the age. This rise of the Religion of 
Humanity, largely indistinguishable as a separate faith, 
has concealed an insidious, an ancient and a deep-seated 
process in the course of which Christian faith has receded 
as a motive. 

To ascribe this recession to “science” is a shallow 
misunderstanding. The Churches, it is true, have shown 
an indisposition or an incapacity to adapt themselves to 
the philosophic needs of the time, dating from an out- 
standing and unsettled account with the New Philosophy. 
But this last is a mere symptom of a much deeper lesion, 
for far more important than events external to Christian- 
ity has been an insidious process the seeds of which were 
sown much earlier. The trouble lies within the Churches, 
not without. 


Ix 
THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY 


Svc is the situation as seen by one, and I believe by 
many, outside the Christian fellowship and by some at 
least within. In this, one of the greatest contests of all 
time, the religion of Christianity is receding. I believe 
that this will continue until some internal revolutionary 
change becomes manifest within the Church of Christ. 
The nature of that upheaval cannot be hazarded, but it 
must be of internal origin. No external event will serve, 
The trouble has arisen within, nor, to those without, do 
some of the seeds of decay seem wholly obscure. In 
traditional Christian habits of thought they perceive 
grave dissonances summarised and typified in a tension 
of ancient standing between the claims of the Church and 
those of the Faith. 

Certain elements, which have in part both contributed 
to this tension and arisen from it, may be separately 
distinguished. On the negative side we have referred to 
(1) a maladjustment to the “‘ new philosophy,” leading to 
(2) displacement of Christianity in the social field by its 
rival, the Religion of Humanity, opening the way for 
(3) further weakening of the Christian position by 
totalitarianism, at first welcomed by most Churches. On 
the positive side we have to consider (1) the fallacy that 
history may be read selectively, treating some events as 
though they had not been, (2) an ostrich-like fantasy that 
the Church’s failures in the field of her own doctrine are 
not apparent to those without, and (3) the deadening 
illusion that the Faith can be supported by the State. 

There is a widespread fallacy that certain major pas- 
sages, incidents, personalities, and aspects of personalities 


94 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


in the history of Christianity, can be isolated from all 
others and treated as comprising the history of the Church, 
and that other elements, that seem significant to secular 
historians, can be ignored or minimised. To write the 
annals of Christianity as a series of lives of the saints, or 
as a steady progress toward a high ethical, religious and 
social goal, or again to treat everything good in our 
society as of Christian origin, is like writing a human life 
and omitting references to the subject’s sins and short- 
comings. Biography is distrusted because all know that no 
man’s life would really bear telling. And so too the history 
of Christianity is full of ugly passages which are habitually 
minimised or slurred. Nevertheless, these passages form 
an integral and essential part of the record of the Church. 
They have made their contribution to the Christian cast 
of mind and to the form of Christian civilisation. 

There is a certain leader whose name and religion 
pervades Central Europe and has spread far beyond. 
‘That which he has said or written is treated by his followers 
almost as Holy Writ. He is often abusive, but is specially 
violent when speaking of Jews, whom he has personified 
as the special and irreconcilable enemies of his teaching. 
He dwells on his pleasure at their expulsion from territories 
that he influences and he advises other countries to follow 
this example. He urges that their synagogues be burned, 
their houses torn down, their books destroyed, their 
teachers silenced, their businesses seized, their worship 
prohibited. They should be forced to labour at the hardest 
and most degrading tasks. No one should have intercourse 
with them. Not all that he says of them can be printed 
in decent English, but his maledictions are hurled not 
only on Jews, but on all who would give them food or 
shelter. “‘ Whoever,” he writes, “‘ would shelter, feed or 
honour them with their poisonous tongues, devil’s spawn, 
our bitterest enemies, does but bring dishonour and a 


THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY 95 


curse upon himself.” With the utmost brutality he writes : 
“Tf that which you already suffer from the Jew is not 
sufficient, strike him in the jaw.” “I would like to 
assemble their most prominent men and demand that 
they prove me wrong, under the penalty that they have 
their tongues torn out by the roots.” 

The man who wrote and said these things was not 
Hitler. The beliefs and the language are older than 
National Socialism. These passages are not from Mein 
Kampf. They were published exactly 400 years ago, in 
the early part of the year 1543 and, as it happened, in 
the very year of publication of that work of Copernicus 
(p. 57) that first disturbed the Christian cosmic scheme. 
The man who wrote them is the hero of the Reformation, 
Martin Luther; they are part of his presentation of 
Christian duty. One of the largest sects in Christendom 
names itself after the man who said them.1 

“Oh, but Christian people are not like that nowadays. 
Luther was a grand man. He may have had violent 
passions, but he translated the Bible, was a wonderful 
preacher, had great insight into the human heart, 
remedied many abuses in the Church and was the effec- 
tive founder of modern Christian theology. Dr. Barth 
himself often refers to him with respect and reverence. 
And what wonderful hymns he wrote.” 

We need not discuss all these claims. But as to the first, 
it must be answered that very many who call themselves 
by the Christian name are just like that nowadays; and 


1 Anyone who has a taste for or interest in such stuff will find it very 
carefully and learnedh ect forth and annotated in the Weimar Kritische 
Gesammtausgabe of Luther's works and especially in Vol. 53 {published 
1920), or in Vols. III, VI and VII of the Miinchener Lutherausgabe. The 
foulest passages were republished in Vol. IIT of this latter work (Munich, 
1996) in the two works Ven die Fuden und ikren Liigen (“ Of the Jews and of 
Their Lies ”) and Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi (““ Of the 
Ineffable Name and of the Family of Christ"). So far as I know, these two 
works have not been translated into English. 


96 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


that therefore those who write as Lutherans, if they 
repudiate such an attitude as is illustrated in Luther’s 
writings, would serve Christianity by saying explicitly 
that they do so repudiate all such sayings and very many 
acts of Luther and specifically that side of Luther’s 
character here presented. I do not know that any of them 
has explicitly done so. 

It is mere self-deception to refuse to recognise that tens 
of millions who regard themselves as Christians are ardent 
followers of Hitler, who, in this and other matters, is the 
natural heir of the tradition of Luther. Among them are 
not a few theologians. An example ? I select a very mild 
and favourable one. There lies on my table a theological 
book that comes there almost by accident. In it I read: 
“Tf peace, order and cosmos form the ultimate aim of 
history, then the order of warfare, in which we are now 
living, is an ordinance of God, through which the final 
aim of His creation is prepared ” (p. 20). “ In all political 
and economic respects I am in full agreement with Adolf 
Hitler” (p. 31). “ Nationality is a biological [sic /] entity 
like a swarm of bees, a herd of wild horses, or a flock of 
migrating birds, who are led by unseen instincts which 
express themselves in a common movement. But this 
biological entity is the outward form of a mysterious 
intangible spirit. . . . The reality of the invisible spirit of 
the nation in its unfathomable mystic depths is experi- 
enced in a divine intoxication of devotion and of sacrifice. 
Anyone who has experienced this . . . believes in its 
reality once and for all. . . . The purpose of his people, 
the self-assertion of the nation, and service of the com- 
munity provide an ultimate sanction for all his actions. 
If he is a German, then Germany is his ethic, and the end 
for which he strives. The nation acting as one entity, 
delivers him from himself and lifts him out of the littleness 
of his own age, and out of his petty comforts ” (pp. 52-3). 


THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY 97 


The writer is not Rosenberg or Himmler or Ley; nor is 
he some irresponsible Nazi youth. He is Dr. Karl Heim, 
aged sixty-eight, who has been a full professor of theology 
at a Lutheran stronghold, the university of Tubingen, 
since 1920, thirteen years before the Nazis seized power. 
The words were spoken in lectures to an American theo- 
logical College, and the book, The Church of Christ and the 
Problems of the Day (1936), by Karl Heim, is a veiled and 
confused apologia for a sublimated nationalism in 
Christian dress based on the ideas of Luther. Heim is one 
of the most “ moderate ” exponents of this idea which he 
himself regards as coming to our time from Luther. There 
are many millions who call themselves Christian who are 
far nearer the pagan foolishness of “ Blood and Soil” 
than he. Every stage can be traced from the orthodox 
Lutheran to Rosenberg and Hitler and Himmler. 

Can it really be that there is any theologian so little 
versed in the Jore of the human heart, so ignorant of the 
natural history of sin, as to believe that a man can say 
the things which Luther has said without scarring the 
Church~I will not write the Christianity—to which he is 
speaking ? Is there really any historian so innocent of the 
darkness of the soul, or any ecclesiastic so unfamiliar with 
the echoing complexity of our civilisation, that he thinks 
that by silence on these things he can cause them to be as 
though they had not been? And remember that such 
things have not only repeatedly been said by countless 
Christians, but elaborately expounded from hundreds of 
thousands of pulpits for century on century. They were 
said long before Luther, as they are being said still. Is 
there any sense in suggesting that such things have not 
influenced Christian thought ? Is it really at all difficult 
to trace a thread of ideas from the Spanish Inquisition 
and from Luther—taking these two things as types—to 
the mouthings of Hitler and to the papal reluctance to 


98 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


open and specific denunciation of manifest evil in our 
time ? It is extraordinary how difficult it is to see things 
that one does not wish to see; but that is a phenomenon 
that is neither new nor obscure. 

And turn to our second head, the effect of these things 
on those outside Christianity. Jews have lived in the 
atmosphere reflected by Luther for more than 1,000 
years. Think of it! For upwards of thirty generations 
Jews have lived in a climate of hate which Luther merely 
accepted as natural, for he did not create it. Think of it ! 
Since long before the Norman Conquest, no Jewish 
generation has gone by without seeing a large scale 
massacre or expulsion. Can anyone seriously believe that 
a people can live so long in a perpetual atmosphere of 
fear and of uncertainty and of repression without an 
effect on every fibre of its being ? Of course it cannot, and 
there is no sense in suggesting or acting as though it can. 
Of course Jews are sick people—they could not be other- 
wise—nor are they the only people that is sick, for these 
things cannot be done without affecting also those who 
do them. 

Of course Jews are a sick people, nor will their sickness 
be cured by well-meaning votes of Church assemblies, 
nor by eloquent theses of Dr. Barth, nor by any declara- 
tion in Parliament, nor by the death of Hitler, nor by the 
break-up of National Socialism, nor even by the coming 
social revolution. The workings of a poison through a mil- 
Jennium cannot be allayed in a day or in a year; no, nor 
in a generation. It must take longer yet. No one who reads 
these words will live to see the end of this hideous interlude 
in the human drama. Nor even when the wrong is righted 
and human nervous systems have settled down to their 
proper and healthy reactions, can the Christian record 
be washed clean from the stains of blood and degradation 
that disfigure it. These things are utterly indelible. Man 


THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY 99 


may be redeemed--that theologians will decide—but 
there is no warrant for believing that history can be. Men 
are still products of their history and, so far as tangible 
evidence goes, the mass of those that call themselves by 
the Christian name has not been convincingly improved 
by the use through many centuries of that word of power. 
It does not look as though the time is yet nigh when the 
Lord will wipe the tears from off all faces. 

There is another approach to these things that is worth 
some attention. Christianity is a great covering term for 
both a religion and a civilisation. Either may be found 
without the other, Both are threatened in the present 
crisis, but the Christian civilisation is in less danger than 
the religion, for the civilisation is largely supported by 
the Religion of Humanity. So also Judaism is both a 
religion and a civilisation. There is, or rather was, a 
separate and specifically Jewish civilisation. That civilisa- 
tion—I speak my own opinion and as things appear to me 
—that civilisation is now in the last stages of decay. 
Jewish civilisation is not, I believe, recoverable and it 
would, in my judgment, be best not to attempt to recover it. 

The rags of ritual and social custom that, for most 
Christians, and no Jess, I believe, for most Jews, mar the 
Jewish religion are the remaining tatters of a civilisation 
in which it was once clothed. After a history of unique 
unhappiness, Judaism still hugs these remnants around it, 
but the very events that have brought Christianity near 
to collapse have but fortified the Faith of Israel. For 
within that unlovely garb is a form of superb dignity and 
beauty. It is the inner prophetic evangel that is no less 
universal than timeless, nor do I doubt at all that those 
who have heard it recognise each other by whatsoever 
name they may be called and whatsoever faith they may 
outwardly profess, The Prophetic Religion is now as ever 
one of the great religions of the world. It is not silent, and 


100 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


its voice is not least distinct when it is but still and small. 

And last as to the relation of the Church of Christ to 
the State. I know well how complex a thing this is, how 
many cross-currents are involved, what a vast literature it 
has launched, and how urgent the present issue. I do not 
pretend to. enter into the depths or niceties of this dis- 
cussion of the centuries. But I believe that, for all those of 
good will, there is here a matter in which the plain man 
sees no less clearly and, perhaps, more effectively than the 
philosopher, For there is a standard of conduct, civilised, 
or Christian, or humane, or merely “‘ decent,” on which 
there is full agreement among men of our society. It is 
that standard that we all want the State to preserve, and 
it is for the preservation of that standard that we look to 
the Churches to support the State. In this sense the 
situation is not complex at all, nor are any difficult issues 
involved. But men often in our time have not found in 
the Churches the support that they have sought in this 
matter. Those were ill days when they perceived the 
Churches to be reluctant, or timid, or facing both ways in 
matters of human dignity and worth. This hesitancy was 
no new thing; it is rooted in history. . 

What would have happened had Christianity not allied 
itself with the state in a.v. 380? What would have 
happened had Christianity not been imposed on Europe 
during the subsequent centuries ? It is certainly more than 
probable that the lives of men in those and later ages and, 
by consequence, in our own, would have been baser, 
darker, more brutish than they were and are. But the 
alliance with the State, like all human devices, was 
susceptible alike of good and evil usage. In any event it 
created its own type of vice which so grew by what it fed 
on as to alter not only the habits of Christian life but even 
of Christian standards and modes of thought. 

Why has Central Europe become a hell ? Does anyone 


THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY 101 


believe that it is because there were too few who professed 
to be Christian, or because there was not enough Christian 
teaching, or because there was no adequate supply of 
Christian priests and pastors? There must be very few who 
think this. Most are satisfied that pagan faiths flowed in 
to fill something near a spiritual vacuum left by a decay 
of the Churches. As I see it, a long-standing and deep- 
seated disease of Christendom has. at last declared 
itself. For the Churches in Europe have lost the power 
to stand alone. They cried out there, as they cry out 
here, for a Christian society, a Christian education, 
a Christian State, a Christian life, as though it were not 
precisely their function to produce those things, instead 
of asking for them to be provided from without. If the 
State does not bear itself in a manner corresponding to 
Christian ethics, that is the Churches’ failure; nor can it 
be remedied either by calling the State Christian, or by 
forcing Christian teaching upon the citizen or by further 
endowing Christianity. In the end these things can come 
only from within. It is evidently very difficult for the 
Christian to escape in his thinking from al] the subtle 
implications of age-old secular support. These errors are 
so much part of the unalterable history of Christianity 
that they have become absorbed into much Christian 
philosophy. The ancient fallacy is being repeated here 
daily in high places, 

For some 1,600 years the Church has assiduously 
cultivated the aid of the State. It has always claimed to 
guide the State. For all that long period Christianity has 
been, as it still is, or was till a few years ago, in effect the 
compulsory religion in Western countries. During all 
those centuries education has been almost entirely in the 
hands of professional exponents of Christianity. With them 
it still largely rests. There is even, at this moment, 
an active and organised movement to intensify this 


102 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


compulsory or, as it has now become, semi-compulsory 
religious element in our own State schools, 

Should it succeed, what can be hoped from it? For a 
full thousand years the Church has possessed an endowed 
Tepresentative in each of the hundreds of thousands of 
parishes throughout Europe. She has controlled all schools 
and all seats of learning and maintained a representative 
in almost all institutions. Thus states have become specific- 
ally Christian and have been designated as such. More- 
over the Church herself has always distinguished between 
states that are Christian and those that are not. If, 
therefore, after all these centuries, Christian states still 
fail to act on ethical principles distinguishable as Christian, 
then Christianity must be held to have failed in its major 
field. It has been an extremely long experiment—long 
even on the grand, historical scale. It has been a most 
unsuccessful experiment. 

It is sometimes disingenuously rejoined that the State 
itself is not the field in which to seek the characteristic 
social contribution of the Church, which is the emphasis 
on the individual. This is certainly true in the limited 
but highly important sense that Christianity has suc- 
ceeded in making a consideration of the dignity and worth 
of the individual a part of the ordinary thought of many 
ordinary men. But the challenge cannot be thus avoided. 
How has the Church presented, developed, exampled, 
that which she claims, with partial justice, as her own 
doctrine of man’s birthright, the preciousness of human 
personality ? Seek to history for the answer, 

Historically, states have been habitually guided by men 
who called themselves Christian. Historically, such states 
have constantly elaborated ingenious apparatus for com- 
pulsory conformity in all its varied and various degrees 
and forms, designed to bring to nothing the dignity and 
worth of the individual. Historically, organised Chris- 


THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY 103 


tianity has been the chief enemy of that for which its 
greatest claim is made. The greatest concession to the 
dignity and worth of the individual is that he shall worship 
God as he believes God desires. That concession has never 
been made by Christianity. Rather it has been wrung 
from Christianity by the Religion of Humanity, and that 
only in very modern times. 

Historically, the Churches have always claimed to guide 
the State, There was an epoch in which they really 
succeeded. Only a crazed medizvalist will suggest that 
then was the Golden Age. It was the age in which the 
Inquisition began its evil course; it was the age of forced 
conversion ; it was an age of basest superstition ; it was an 
age of the most extreme mental contraction in which all 
the wisdom of antiquity dwindled away ; it was the age in 
which beliefs known to be untrue were most sedulously 
inseminated from the highest quarters; it was the age of 
the most rigid separation of classes; it was the age of 
serfdom ; it was the age of barbarous cruelty in which the 
statesmen of the Church may have succeeded in reforming 
morals within the monasteries, but conspicuously failed 
outside them. But to the next age—and to that section of 
the Church whose special charge it was to voice the 
claim of the individual conscience—it was left to sink the 
worth and dignity of the individual to nothing at all. 
The Cujus regio, ejus religio, “ Of whom the power, his be 
the religion,” of the Peace of Augsburg (1555) carried 
an equal threat to freedom of conscience and to faith. To 
that most evil of compromises between several evils, we 
trace directly the spiritual dilemma of our times, though 
the origin of the tension thus expressed must be sought 
much further back in history. 

The point of view makes so much difference to the 
appearance of the scene surveyed. Thus to those within 
the Church Innocent III seems one of its great architects, 


104 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


to those without a monster of cruelty. To those within 
Luther appears as a man of extraordinary spiritual insight 
and greatest of religious reformers, to those without a 
coarse bully, conspicuously coarse and brutal in a coarse 
and brutal age and among a coarse and brutal people. 
What Christians regard as the “ moral decay” of our 
time appears to those outside Christianity to have arisen 
as a disease within the Christian body itself. To them it 
appears to be closely related to the Christian failure in its 
major field, the Nation-State. It is not without significance 
that Christians, even at this date, should suggest treatment 
of this disease by State-subsidised or State-enforced 
Christian teaching. It is like advising a man to raise 
himself by pulling on his bootlaces ! That remedy has been 
well tried out in the past. Even without a scientific 
training Christian philosophers, if not Christian statesmen, 
might be expected to predict the probable result, The 
laces may break, but the breaker is not likely to be moved, 
except in a sudden backward direction. That the sugges- 
tion of yet more compulsory Christianity should be made 
at all, seems to indicate a senile destitution of ideas within. 
the Churches, an atheromatous incapacity for adaptation 
to what must certainly be a rapidly changing world. 
The situation is at once poignant and terrifying to one 
who feels, as does this writer, that religion is essential if 
men are to live together in communities of civilised 
dimensions, Regarded from without, and as a means of 
shaping society, the features of Christianity have been its 
ethical scheme, its capacity for adapting itself to different 
and changing circumstances, its equal appeal to peasant 
and philosopher, its power to initiate legal schemes under 
which men may live together in tolerable peace and 
justice, its peculiar efficiency in displacing paganism. 
No system that is now on the horizon can take its place. 
The Religion of Humanity cannot provide sanctions for 


THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY 105, 


simpler minds and perhaps functions at its best in a near- 
despotism. The various Religions of Nationality are steps 
backward towards barbarism. The major universal 
religions other than Christianity can hardly become 
naturalised in a civilisation shaped by sixteen centuries 
of Christianity. 

The religion that has not been tried is the Prophetic. 
It has, of course, contributed enormously both to 
Christianity and to the Religion of Humanity. It possesses 
a marvellous literature which is a good deal more exten- 
sive than the prophetic elements in the two Testaments, 
It has shed the curse of cumulative ritual, has never 
developed a systematic theology, and has not to disengage 
from any entanglement in the great contest with science. 
It is a highly emotional religion which has often appealed 
to the mystic and the poet, but it has never appealed to 
large bodies of mankind. It survives among scattered 
quietists, loosely attached to several faiths, and so, 
doubtless, it will continue. But a development of the 
Prophetic Religion, stressing the personality of Jesus and 
by-passing theology by accepting the unbridgable Hebraic 
gulf between Creator and created, would need for its 
propagation an incomparably greater teacher than it has 
produced for millennia. 

Is only Christianity left ? In the world as I see it, this 
is the case. But the maintenance of European civilisation 
seems to me to depend on such a change within the 
Christian body as can be accomplished only by an 
internal revolutionary movement of the magnitude and 
completeness of that which must soon overtake our social 
system. Of such a change of heart there is little sign. 
Religion is, of its nature, conservative. Moreover, the 
Churches have, for centuries, largely devoted themselves 
to conditioning Christian society against exactly such an 
upheaval. For the most part the Churches are girding 


106 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


their loins to resist precisely such a spiritual revolution 
as is manifestly the only remedy. There are even purblind 
efforts to reconstitute a hopelessly discredited Christian 
totalitarianism. These are doubtless doomed to failure, 
but without a complete change within the Churches 
themselves their breakdown may well become complete. 
That would be a catastrophe beyond measure and to be 
avoided at almost any cost. It hardly bears contemplation 
by men of goodwill, whether they call themselves Christian 
or not. Such men can but hope for a more inspired 
leading than the Churches have seen for centuries, 


x 
A PERSONAL NOTE 


We are in a spiritual blizzard. In the last chapter I 
have expressed my belief that, despite its anachronistic 
and threadbare covering, the Jewish faith is standing the 
weather better than the Christian (p. 99). This may seem 
difficult to believe. I feel, therefore, that I cannot end this 
little volume without some justificatory evidence. I am 
not at all concerned here with either of the two religions 
as such and still less with their theology ; least of all would 
I wish to claim that one is better than the other. I am 
concerned only with the relation to conduct of certain 
habits of thought. For our purpose, the actual ethics of 
the two faiths are identical. 

It is difficult to display the relation between religious 
thought-habits and conduct because, in our modern 
complex world, conduct is determined by so many cross- 
currents. Turning the matter over, I have reluctantly 
reached the conclusion that certain relations that I have 
myself observed can best be made clear by telling some- 
thing of my own life. I am not so simple as to suppose that 
my own experience is, in itself, either sufficiently inter- 
esting or sufficiently important to be worth relating, but 
I can think of no better way of putting outside myself 
certain things that I see clearly. 

I was born in London sixty-seven years ago. My father 
was a rabbi and, like my mother, of English birth. He 
was a man of learning and culture, but, before all things, 
a minister of religion. He is remembered as the author of 
the standard translation into English of the Hebrew 
liturgy. This was made during my most impressionable 
period. I was, from my childhood, constantly in and out 
of his library in which he was engaged upon this, his 
main work. There, even as a child, I came in contact with 


108 THE GHRISTIAN FAILURE 


many distinguished Jewish and Christian scholars and 
often heard their discussions. There was, of course, much 
that I could not understand, but I was accustomed to ask 
my father questions about their talk which he would try 
to answer as suited my childish powers. I believe that he 
enjoyed thus reducing difficult theological and philosoph- 
ical problems to their simplest forms. I, on my side, 
learned at least to keep quiet and to listen, so that I have a 
memory richly stored with matters of this kind. 

My father was an observant and deeply religious, 
though certainly very far from what is usually called an 
“ orthodox ” Jew. His sympathies were always with what 
is now known as “ Liberal” Judaism, 2 movement that 
was making considerable progress in my later formative 
years. Had he been a Christian divine he would doubtless 
have belonged to what used to be the “‘ Broad Church.” 
His intellectual interests were wide. One of the memories 
of my early teens is that of his reading to me some of the 
dialogues of Plato in the then comparatively new version 
of Jowett. I can well recall his comments, suited to a 
childish mind, and his simplified accounts of the impact 
of Greek philosophy on the Hebrew religion. He spent 
also much time and thought explaining to me the 
differences between Judaism and Christianity, and I 
learned from him something of Hebrew and. rabbinic 
studies. This balanced my schooling, which was entirely 
in a Christian atmosphere, 

Toward the Bible my father took what was then 
regarded as an “ advanced ” attitude. He was an excellent 
German scholar and made a point of keeping abreast of 
the literature of biblical criticism which then emanated 
mostly from Germany. But he was an especial lover of the 
English Bible. I shall always carry with me the echo of his 
declamation of the messianic chapters of Isaiah and 
especially of the great passages of Judeo-Christian 


A PERSONAL NOTE 109 


controversy. Their cadence is, I think, constantly sounded 
in his English renderings of the Hebrew liturgy. 

My father had a devoted young friend and disciple, 
Israel Abrahams, who rose, as is generally admitted, to 
be one of the great Hebrew scholars of our time. He is well 
remembered in learned circles for his New Testament 
studies and the light from rabbinic sources that he shed 
upon the Gospel narratives. His expositions of certain 
aspects of the Hebrew religion seem to me on a peculiarly 
lofty plane. He and his friend, Claude Montefiore, worked. 
together for many years. They did more than any others 
to reveal to the English reader some of those elements that 
give the Jewish religion its astonishing vitality and power 
of endurance. Both were very often with my father. 

Moving in such an atmosphere, few can have had more 
competent early biblical instruction than I, and it is in no 
way remarkable that this should have set its stamp on my 
thoughts. After sixty years I find that some of those early 
lessons are reflected in my dreams. Nothing in literature 
means so much to me as the magnificent roll of some 
parts of the Book of Isaiah which I can still hear 
resounding in the voice of my father or of Montefiore. 
To any with experience comparable to mine, the decline 
in Bible-reading with the corresponding impoverishment 
of language and thought must appear a national disaster. 

_Along with religious and biblical instruction, I received 
a grounding in Hebrew. Of this I acquired the first 
elements from my Christian nurse. She had been my 
father’s nurse also, and had learned something of Hebrew 
in trying to follow his studies when he himself was a mere 
boy. My father had been left an orphan at fourteen, and 
she lived with him for fifty-three years in all and died in 
his service. She would at one time gladly have become a 
Jewess, but my father was against this course. As with 
most Jews, he attached no great importance to professions 


BS Ce) THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


of faith. Since in this case proselytisation might have been 
misinterpreted —as almost every act may be misin- 
terpreted—he preferred, and she came to prefer, that she 
should live and die a professed Christian. 

As I seek to recall my childhood, there stand out 
vividly in the background two events which affected the 
life of my family. They both proved significant for sub- 
sequent European history, and especially for develop- 
ments of the last decade. Those developments were 
acutally foreseen much more clearly and far earlier by 
most intelligent Jews than by any but a minute proportion 
of Christians. The two events that changed the spiritual 
climate in which my youth was passed were the wave of 
persecution of Jews in Russia and the rise of Zionism. © 

The era of pogroms in Russia began in 1881. I will not 
set down again the story of those wicked deeds, of the 
organised massacres of thousands and of the systematic 
degradation of millions of God’s creatures. I recall only 
the famous saying of a Russian statesman of the time who 
claimed to be directing the Russian Church, “ When the 
pressure on the six million Jews in the Russian Empire 
has had its full effect,” said the Procurator of the Holy 
Synod, “ one-third will be dead, one-third will have fled 
the country and the remaining third will have adopted the 
Christian religion.” These pogroms were organised by the 
Russian Government as the means to such an end. If 
they were not approved, they were substantially ignored 
by the ecclesiastical chiefs of the Russian Church. They 
were actually directed by the supreme lay chiefs of that 
Church. Their ostensible cause was, in the first instance, 
the murder of the Czar Alexander II, with which, in 
fact, no Jew had anything whatever to do. These are 
things that Christian theologians may forget, but they are 
things which the historians of Christian civilisation will 
certainly remember. 


A PERSONAL NOTE Tit 


The degrading record of carefully directed murder, 
pillage, persecution and humiliation can be traced until 
the outbreak of the First World War. When I recall the 
sequence of events in those thirty-five years of the history 
of the Jews in Russia, I often wonder that any human 
beings emerged sane from them. To seek among men and 
women, fleeing from generations of such horrors, the 
poise and balance of those who have behind them 
generations of security and peace, is to seek what human 
faculties will not yield. To expect that those who have 
suffered these things will be able to train their children in 
the calm, wise atmosphere of an established and historic 
culture, and that in a language that is foreign to them, is 
to ask them to exhibit superhuman powers. It is a fact 
that a great many Jews are abnormal beings, Our 
civilisation must take it to heart that, whatever happens, 
it must be at least some generations before the Jewish 
people can possibly return to a normal condition. 

Among my earliest memories is the talk of my elders 
concerning the state of the stricken multitudes, fleeing to 
Western Europe as a haven of refuge, mostly hoping to 
find their way to the “land of promise,” America. As 
the emigrant ships, packed with their wretched human 
cargoes, approached the harbour of New York, there 
loomed up out of the mist the great statue of Liberty 
holding her torch aloft. Had they known the language 
they might have read inscribed on that monument certain 
verses written by an American Jewess: 


“* Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” 


Exma Lazarus, 1849-87. 


112 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


Tt was the action of secular men that made possible the 
passage to America and the settlement there of these out- 
casts from Europe. How did the Churches comport 
themselves toward the mass of human misery ? The Greek 
Orthodox Church connived at all this cruelty. The 
Catholic Church had almost nothing to say. The German 
and other Continental Protestant Churches in effect 
ignored it. The Churches of the English-speaking countries 
were at least benevolent to the victims and took a stand 
somewhat more speedily than they did on the German 
persecution in the twentieth century. 

There were, of course, in the nineteenth century as there 
are in the twentieth many Christians sufficiently interested 
to pass resolutions on the matter. A few too saw then, what 
has perhaps become more obvious now, that unchristian 
conduct is at least as much a Christian problem as it is 
a Jewish problem, even when the victims are Jews. My 
father was much occupied with the relief of distress among 
the Russian and Polish refugees and was in constant 
contact with the very few Christians actively involved in 
such work. He made a number of journeys to Eastern 
Europe and to various parts of the Continent, to learn 
something of the sources of the endless waves of misery 
that beat upon our shores. On several occasions I travelled 
with him, to bear him company and to keep him in spirits, 
for contact with suffering made him very depressed. Thus 
when little more than a child, I obtained a first-hand 
glimpse of how anti-Semitism was becoming a factor in 
that dissolution of civilisation which we are all now forced 
to admit as a reality. 

I have often reflected that the world might have gone 
differently during the Jast ten years if the leaders of 
Christianity had not repeatedly turned a deaf ear to those 
whose tradition of millennia gives them a unique insight 
as to the spiritual consequences of cruelty. Considering 


A PERSONAL NOTE 11g 


the matter from this distance of time, it seems to me 
significant that Christian circles were so blind. I can see, 
clearly enough, where and how the spiritual decay was 
at work, 

In my childhood and youth, the Jewish population of 
London was divided into two fairly distinct groups. On 
the one hand there was an older settlement of those fully 
Anglicised, whose ancestors had come originally mostly 
from the Iberian Peninsula, Holland and Western Ger- 
many. On the other hand were the more recent migrants 
from Russian Poland and other parts of Eastern and 
Central Europe. The latter group were almost entirely of 
working class, had received an education entirely 
mediaval in character, and had lived in an almost 
medizval environment. The former group were mostly 
of middle-class and perhaps rather better educated than 
non-Jews of comparable status. They had become set in 
English ways and of a conservative manner of life. The 
older universities had been recently opened to them and 
they were beginning to take to the professions. 

Had the immigration been gradual, the newcomers 
would have been assimilated by the older group and any 
trace of a “ Jewish question’ in England would have 
disappeared automatically in a few decades. But my 
father’s generation of English Jews was suddenly faced 
with a new and overwhelming responsibility from which 
it never escaped and never sought to escape. The charge 
laid upon it was the rescue, the reception, the training and, 
as far as possible, the re-emigration of numbers far larger 
than its own of a driven and persecuted people. The small 
community of English Jews had to help a people of 
language, culture and tradition very different from its 
own, that had had all its ways of life deliberately per- 
verted, degraded and humiliated. 


Iq THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


I was too young to share in this great task of mercy and 
redemption, but E heard and saw much of how the situa- 
tion was handled. I came only gradually to realise to the 
full the nobility, courage, and self-sacrifice of the men, 
and perhaps even more of the women, who handled it. 
Tt was an epic of self-surrender and it deserves its own 
historian. I was one of a family of six, but almost the whole 
of the energy of my very vigorous and hard-worked mother 
as well as of my devoted and scholarly father was given 
from that time, and for the whole remainder of their lives, 
to the relief of suffering refugees. In this they were very 
far from being peculiar or even exceptional, for many of 
their flock made even greater sacrifices than they. 

It is fortunate that the tradition of Judaism has always 
emphasised the service of man. Charity, however, in the 
limited sense of alms-giving, hardly comes under this 
head, because it is just part of the ordinary Jewish habit of 
thought and way of living. The man or woman who did 
not practise it, on a scale which would astonish many 
Christians, would hardly be regarded by any body of 
Jews as a member of its brotherhood. Charity in this sense, 
is so much the habit of Jews of every type and of every 
variety of opinion that it is not necessary and hardly even 
fitting to preach to them on the subject. So much has 
charity always been taken for granted that in classical 
Hebrew there is no separate term for it, and the one word. 
zedakah is equivalent to both Charity and Justice. 
Charity is said to be merely “‘ justice to those in want.” 
To the Jew it would seem necessary that this should be so 
if human beings are to live together in a society and, of 
course, the very conditions of ghetto life emphasised this. 
With the general claim of charity thus automatically 
accepted, Judaism was at least as well equipped as 

1In the English Bible zedakah is usually translated “ righteousness,” 


ya in Jewish tradition, is made up of these two elements, Charity and 
justice. 


A PERSONAL NOTE 15 


Christianity has ever been to meet calamity. The Russian 
exodus threatened, but failed to submerge, the little 
Jewish communities of the West. 

I doubt if, outside Jewish annals, it would be easy to 
find comparable cases of devotion of a whole group. 
Perhaps a near parallel is that of the societies of early 
Christians. In my fairly long and fairly varied experience 
I have seen no movement among the Churches at all 
measurable, in self-sacrifice and devotion, to that of the 
minute body of English Jews faced with the charges laid 
upon them between 1881 and 1891 and again from 1933 
onward, If the blood of the martyrs be the seed of the 
Church, then I say that I have myself seen, and that at 
close hand, such harvests sown by that smal] band as men 
have not beheld elsewhere in my time. 

Some years ago I was witness of the Christian handling 
of a problem incomparably less difficult, and needing 
incomparably Jess work and resources from a vastly more 
powerful and wealthy body. I am thinking of the saving 
of the Assyrian Christians. What is the Church’s record in 
regard to them ? Put the matter into approximate figures. 
Some 100,000 Jews were living in Britain about 1890 and 
they supported perhaps 100 ministers of religion. They had 
to settle and absorb some 200,000 of their brethren and 
to send on their way more than a million who settled 
elsewhere. The task was accomplished. There were in 
Britain in 1919 some 40,000,000 nominal Christians, for 
whom endowments provided some 25,000 clergy. They 
had to care for the persecuted Assyrian Church of 100,000, 
to whom Britain had pledged her word. The Churches 
failed. These are things which it will be the business o 
historians exactly to estimate and to set down. 


What I have said here requires, perhaps, a certain 
amount of explanation. I know, of course, that there are 


116 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


very many individual Christians as devoted and self- 
sacrificing in the causes that they have chosen as were the Jews 
of whom I have spoken. I know something, for example, 
of the work of the Society of Friends, and of the noble 
way in which it chooses its causes. But remember that these 
Jewish men and women did not in any way choose their cause; 
they had it thrust upon them, as Jews have always had 
their responsibilities thrust upon them. 

The Christian reader should ponder that point very 
carefully indeed. The Jewish religion can thus summon, 
and has hundreds of times succeeded in summoning, and 
will yet again summon the devotion of ordinary men and 
women. Not specially pious or specially clever, or specially 
wise, or even specially good men and women, Judaism 
can and will and does summon ordinary men and women 
to duties that come to them as a mere accident of birth. 
This is a true noblesse oblige. Does the Christian love of his 
Saviour so affect every Tom, Dick and Harry? Surely 
there is some value to mankind in a spirit that can produce 
these results over and over and over again. 

The segregation of the Jewish people for 1,000 years 
necessarily confined their practice of charity to the 
ghetto. It was not until the eighteenth century that Jews 
were released from those prisons, and very many have not 
yet been freed. Hardly had they rubbed their eyes in the 
world of light when the strongest of all Jewish traditions 
asserted itself. Jewish charitable enterprise has proved, 
to be constructive and progressive and something far more 
vital than the rather negative conception commonly read 
into the word “charity.” To expound this statement 
would, however, lead us to a discussion of aspects of 
modern social history that cannot be followed in this place. 

All religions produce certain special patterns of charac- 
ter in those they affect. The peculiar history of the Jewish 
people and the peculiar teachings of the Jewish religion 


A PERSONAL NOTE 7 


have combined to produce a pattern of distinctive type. 
In that pattern of life the call of pressing human need 
makes an automatic, an immediate, an overwhelming 
appeal. That pattern of life makes its own call to men who 
are very far from being saintly, or devout, or refined, or 
even, in other respects, particularly good. It is no accident, 
I think, that in matters of social reform, and in the 
organisation of charity, Jews have had a share out of all 
proportion to their numbers and social status.? 

The special pattern of character created by a religious 
tradition can perhaps be traced in its simplest outline 
and therefore be seen most clearly in the conduct of men 
who, though born within that tradition, are little moved 
by its actual expression and little interested even in its 
products. This is quite as true of Judaism as of Chris- 
tianity. To me it seems, however, that the working of the 
Jewish religion on the conscience is more subtle—-I do 
not say and I do not mean more profound—than the 
working of Christianity. Judaism can survive with a 
minimum of expressed or formal faith. The Jewish pattern 
of life, like the Christian pattern of life, can often be seen 
even in those who have formally separated themselves 
from the religion, 

How long can the influence of a religious inheritance 
survive without the constant renewal induced by religious 
practice ? I have no answer to this critical question. A 
period like the present, when large numbers of those who 
derive from the Christian and Jewish inheritance find no 
satisfaction in the activities of Church and Synagogue, 
offers a special opportunity for the examination of the 
real strength and weakness of the two religious traditions. 
The matter is worth a special study. 

Christianity has, however, certainly failed to impress its 


1 Those interested in this point may read of details in C. Roth, The Jewish 
Contribution to Civilisation (London, 1938). 


118 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


ethic on its own society which is specially that of the great 
Nation-States. Perhaps it would be more exact to say that, 
for whatever reasons, and despite appearances, Christi- 
anity has not conveyed to most members of those States the 
idea that it possesses an ethic which could and should 
control social action. This is in glaring contrast to the 
position within Judaism. Very many Jews, wholly 
indifferent to any formal expression of the Jewish faith, 
still feel constrained to carry out its practical teachings on 
social responsibility. I do not at all doubt that there are 
other fields wherein the advantage is with Christianity. 
But the point I would make is that the conduct of men not 
explicitly conscious of direct religious impulsion is some 
gauge of the strength and subtilty of their religious 
inheritance. 

I turn to the second movement—not unrelated to the 
first—-that affected Jews in the nineteenth century, Zionism. 

Montefiore, Abrahams and my father spent much time 
in the consideration of the bearing of Messianism on the 
general situation, and especially on the new Zionist 
movement. I thus became, from childhood, familiar with 
many aspects of this question. To all three of these men 
the mission of Judaism, the ultimate. justification of its 
existence, was the evangelisation of the world, however 
long that event might be deferred, however unexpected 
the form that it might take. Their opposition to Zionism 
did not involve any reluctance to aiding refugees to settle 
in Palestine. Quite the contrary. What they rejected and 
what they feared was Jewish nationalism, which, in their 
view, was incompatible with any lofty conception of a 
Jewish mission. From their point of view, Judaism had as 
completely outgrown the conception of a Jewish State as 
the Jewish liturgy should have outgrown the priestly 
service of the Temple and its sacrifices. 


A PERSONAL NOTE 11g 


On this point the message of the prophets seemed to 
them, as it seems to me, unequivocal. To them a national 
movement was an attempt to throw back Judaism to a 
Maccabzan stage. I can well remember hearing my father 
say to Herzl, the founder of Zionism, who had come to 
visit him, ‘A Jewish Nation! Why, you are fifty years 
out of date. Only the little half-civilised peoples need an 
artificial nationality and are busy all over Europe finding 
their new national consciousness. These persecutions must 
surely pass. They are against human nature itself, Our dis- 
tant vision is disturbed by the horrors in the foreground. 
Israel has waited for centuries: Israel must still wait. Per- 
haps the deliverer is among us at this moment.” How 
wrong he was! But we were still in the nineteenth century. 

And yet was he so wrong? He was speaking not of his 
own time, but of things independent of time. And in true 
Jewish fashion—and in the fashion of the prophets—he 
was speaking both of his own people and of mankind in 
general, It may seem a strange thing that people who have 
suffered most are also the most hopeful; but it is a true 
thing. Suffering is not wholly evil. Hope in the salvation 
of man is the very condition of the survival of Israel. 
Judaism has ever seen redemptive power in man’s own 
deepest nature. For those who cling to that faith, life is still 
worth living, and the world is still worth living in—with 
patience and with hope. And in so far my father was speak- 
ing in his century, it was a century of hope. This was, per- 
haps, its messianic message to the century that was to come. 

Whether or no there survives among the rank and file 
of Christians a comparable hope, an effective belief in the 
second coming of the Messiah, I am unable to judge, 
though I doubt it. In any event, however, it is the case 
that, through history, the presentation of the Christian 
faith by most, if not all, the Churches has been deeply 
coloured by a profound despair of the world which we 


120 THE CHRISTIAN FAILURE 


know. The prevalence of this attitude is one reason why 
the Christian ethic has not had any real effect on the 
political actions of Nation-States in spite of innumerable 
and admirable expositions of what that effect ought to be. 
For, at bottom, Christianity has been pessimistic in its 
attitude to the world. The theologians, Catholics and 
Protestant alike, repudiate with varying degrees of 
ferocity the suggestion of a progressive evolution of the 
human state or of the human spirit. It is thus not 
wonderful that there has been little effective Christian 
guidance on the level of statecraft since States ceased to 
be closely linked with Churches. Moreover, the conduct 
of States before that stage was reached was not sufficiently 
edifying to suggest a resumption of these experiments in 
government, Contemplation of the records of the Spanish 
Inquisition, of the holy Roman Empire, of Holy Russia, 
of the Papal States—to go no further among such attempts 
—is sufficient to turn the utopian inventor to other models, 

As I look back on what I have here written, there comes 
to my mind an oft-quoted passage on the blindness of the 
Synagogue: 

“We use great plainness of speech and are not as 
Moses who put a veil over his face that the children of 
Israel should not look steadfastly on the end of that 
which was passing away. Their minds were blinded. 
Until this very day at the reading of the old covenant, 
the same veil remaineth unlifted; which veil is done 
away in Christ ” (2 Cor. iii. 12-15). 


He must be indeed a hardy defender of the Churches 
who would maintain that their bearing during the last 
ten years shows that the veil cast over the minds and 
hearts of Jews had, by divine grace, been entirely removed 
from the minds and hearts of Christians.