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Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon 

Many Christians are today ready to afl&rm that Christian- 
ity stands for the Brotherhood of Man. For many centuries, 
Christians when they "said their prayers" have been 
accustomed to repeat the words "Thy Kingdom come" 
ostensibly as expressing their great desire or one of their 
great desires. In the preaching of Jesus, the "Kingdom of 
God" was apparently the great central theme, and there is 
in recent years a revival of interest in this phrase and of study 
as to its meaning. And it is being largely used nowadays as a 
term descriptive of the ideal state of society, in which the 
Brotherhood of Man shall be realized. We have to consider 
the question whether or to what extent the phrase " Kingdom 
of God" and the ideas naturally associated with it may 
suitably be used to indicate the religion of the Brotherhood 
of Man or a religion through which the Brotherhood of Man 
may be gradually established. 

As a standard by which to test any forms or conceptions of 
reUgion which may be considered as suitable to usher in and 
maintain the brotherhood of man and the real democracy of 
which it is, we have asserted, the necessary spirit, we must at 
the start, set clearly before us the two absolute essentials of 
such a real democracy. The first, we may call the principle 
of individual responsibility. The second is the good will 
motive. In a democracy every mature individual is to make 
his decisions as to what it is right and wise for himself and 
others to do, by the power of his own mind, in the light of such 
knowledge and experience as he shall have gained for himself. 



There must be no outer compulsion of any sort upon him, as 
to his decisions. You may, if you like, apply to him the 
principle "the King can do no wrong," only that is to be 
applied to his thoughts and decisions, not to his overt acts. 
The concrete expression of this responsibihty is in his ballot, 
and if this be kept in mind it will help to make the principle 
clear — almost self-evident. Each citizen is to have the right 
to vote as he thinks good, with no bribe, nor threat of any 
sort of welfare or ill-fare to warp his decision. He must yield 
in his actions to the plurahty of judgments as to what is good, 
obeying the laws which he may often consider unwise. But 
he must not be limited in any way in his right to form his 
own opinion about those laws or policies under which he must 
live for a time, and to express that opinion in an orderly, legal 
way, doubtless in speech and press, but particularly in the 

It is to be recognized that the acceptance of this general 
principle for one's self involves with logically absolute necessity 
its extension to all others who will accept it and live by it. 
That is, if I demand and accept the right to express my mind 
and share in determining the government and laws under 
which I live, unthreatened by any policeman or thug, with 
no bribe to pull me and no economic penalty (except such as 
would follow from the nature of the policy I advocate, itself) 
to push me, then I must grant the same freedom to everyone 
else who will accept it. This means that no power of soldier, 
constable, or court, nor of actual or threatened strike, nor of 
offered promotion, demotion, or dismissal may be used against 
me or by me against some one else, to make him say, "Yes," 
when his mind says, "No," or to make him vote "No" when 
his mind votes "Yes," so long as he and I are willing to abide 
by the result, until we can secure its change by the same 
democratic method in which it was determined. This is the 
principle of the "universal, equal, secret suffrage" demanded 
in democratic countries. As a theory of government it implies 


that, given the opportunity and responsibility, every man or, 
at least the large majority of men, will in time come to see 
what is wise and good in the matter of such human relations 
as can be controlled or influenced by government, and that 
society will be better oflF, altogether, when governed by the 
wisdom which has been reached by a majority of its members, 
than by that which has been reached by a smaller number, 
who would therefore impose their will by force upon the 
majority, since the majority did not consent to their will. 

The second principle absolutely essential to successful 
democratic government is the one to which we have already 
given considerable attention, the principle of the good will 
motive. Only when each citizen, each voter, therefore, each 
ruler, seeks the welfare of all concerned, that is, today at least, 
of all humanity, can there be any assurance that he will use 
the power of the ballot, the power of his share in the govern- 
ment in the interests of the governed. We have perhaps said 
enough, for the present about this principle. It is of the first 
importance that we keep in mind these two principles of 
individual responsibihty and the good will motive, in judging 
any form of reUgion as to its compatibility with or value to 

The Christian interest in the "Kingdom of God" dates, 
naturally, from the first century of our era. The hope of the 
Jews of the time of Jesus, was that the Roman yoke should be 
thrown off, and that Palestine should become an independent, 
prosperous, and glorious kingdom, with a glory similar to 
but even greater than that which was reputed to have been 
enjoyed under the reigns of David and Solomon. The hope 
of such independence and prosperity was the most vital part 
of the religion of the Jews at this time. It was by the power 
of God that the foreign yoke was to be broken, and it was 
his "Messiah" (Christ or Anointed One) who was to lead 
the nation in its revolution and to rule it as the representative 
of God. 


Needless to say, the theory and ideal of modern democracy 
was unknown in Palestine in the first century. The consent 
of all worthy Jews to the reign of the God-anointed king, in 
the line of David, was, of course, assumed. But there was 
no thought that the power by which the king should carry 
on his government would be other than that of military and 
police force, wherever there might be any objection to the 
will of the ruler, except as supernatiu^al or magical force might 
be added by God to the usual human forces at the disposal of 
ordinary monarchs. 

In the Jewish thought of this time there is no trace of the 
principle that "governments derive their just powers from 
the consent of the governed." The Jewish political theory 
was that of the theocracy, with a visible representative of God 
anointed by his authority and appointed by him, seated on 
the throne, and exercising, without dispute, so far as other 
men were concerned, the royal powers deputed by the invisible 
God. We shall probably be safe in saying that such a theoc- 
racy, in one or another modification, has always been the 
theoretical form of the monarchies of earth until the modem 
days of constitutional or limited monarchies, and it has per- 
sisted even in them. Probably all the kings left on earth 
today make at least formal claim in law or in title to reign 
Dei Gratia, to be vicars or regents of the unseen (if not ab- 
sent) God. 

Whether or not a religion with a theocratic theory of civil 
government is favorable to the development of democracy 
will evidently depend on the faith held with regard to the 
nature of the god and his relations with men. In so far as 
the ruling deity governs men in accordance with what we have 
called the principle of individual responsibility, he will develop 
democratic tendencies and powers among his worshipers. In 
so far as he rules men by outward compulsion, and reveals 
his will by outward authority of some sort, not subject to 
the criticism of the mind of the individual, the effect will be 


anti-democratic. Democracy, we have seen, requires freedom 
of judgment for every individual. Only the immanent god, 
expressing his truth and will through the mind and conscience 
of the individual is a friend to democracy, so far as this first 
standard is concerned. 

The second question about the relation of theocratic faith 
to the development of democracy is concerned with the degree 
in which it promotes the good will motive among men. Logi- 
cally, doubtless, it might be shown that the principle of indi- 
vidual responsibility is a form for thought and action, and an 
empty form, without the good will, which is the only suitable 
substance for the expression of that form. It might also be 
maintained that good will without the form which we have 
described under the term individual responsibiUty is hkely to 
be ineffective, if not actually subversive of that which it would 
promote, i.e., the welfare of men. Yet in practice the one or 
the other may be emphasized and developed without a fully 
parallel process in the other. 

We may say that the principle of individual responsibility 
had been recognized and taught by some of the greatest of 
the prophets of Israel, but its meaning and implications 
formed no essential part of the popular hope for the Kingdom 
of God, in the time of Jesus. So also of the good will motive. 
It also may be dimly discerned in some of the noblest thoughts 
of the prophets, but before Jesus we cannot find any explicit 
teaching that one should love all men, and certainly such 
universal human love did not flow from the popular concep- 
tion of the nature of God or of his will, in the first century. 

Jesus, as we have noted, used the Kingdom of God as his 
central theme. Like John the Baptist, we are told that he 
commenced his ministry with the message than which no other 
could have been so welcome or so exciting in his day: "Repent 
for the Kingdom of God is at hand." His subsequent hfe 
and teaching have been and are today interpreted in two 
radically different ways. For our purposes, we may call the 


one school of interpreters the autocratic and the other the 
democratic school, according as the interpretation assumes 
or finds that the principles of Jesus' Ufe and teaching are those 
belonging to autocracy or democracy. 

The autocratic school holds that Jesus actually came to 
the earth to be substantially what the Jews were expecting, 
only much more, to be the divine representative of God — 
the visible presence of God himseh, on the earth, to rule hy 
force not only the Jews and Palestine but also all the rest of 
the earth. Most of this school would perhaps hold that for 
some reason it was not intended to carry out the whole of 
this program during the first earthly life of Jesus. They 
would acknowledge, certainly, that the use of external force 
to compel submission to "his claims" was abjured during his 
life in past history, but that element of autocracy is soon to 
be suppUed. The return of Jesus to the earth to reign with 
external power, destroying his enemies and promoting his 
friends, has been expected every year from the first century 
down to the present, and the faith that he may come now at 
any hour to reign as the Divine Kaiser, and bring order out 
of the chaos and happiness out of the misery in which the 
world now groans, is passionately believed and advocated by 
large numbers of those who call themselves Christians, and, 
of course, the only orthodox Christians upon the earth. 

But this school, while acknowledging a conspicuous absence 
of any attempt to compel submission by outward force during 
his historical life upon the earth, would find the other principal 
elements of autocracy even in that life. For these interpre- 
ters, Jesus was absolute in his power and authority to reveal 
truth and to legislate for mankind. Any utterance that he 
made is to be accepted as true without any question as to 
how it meets the ordinary tests of truth available to us today, 
and to question any statement attributed to him in the Four 
Gospels, with the possibility in mind of disputing its truth, 
is nothing short of blasphemy. 


Likewise Jesus had absolute authority to speak for God as 
to what was right and wrong, to legislate for humanity. If 
he said that to divorce except for adultery was to commit 
adultery, that settles the matter forever, and if he said that 
people should not resist evil, but should make violence easy 
for the violent and robbery for the thief, then all war and all 
police activity become automatically wicked. The moral 
judgment or conscience of the individual has nothing to do in 
any instance in which Jesus has thus laid down the law but 
to apply it most simply and directly. 

There are, of course, a great many who would be inconsist- 
ent in their interpretation of Jesus' authority. They would 
hold that Jesus taught nothing absurd, that we must try to 
find a reasonable meaning for his teaching, and are bound to 
obey it, only as we find such a reasonable meaning. Many, 
for instance, would abjure pacificism, while at the same time 
acknowledging the absolute authority of Jesus in all matters 
upon which he spoke. They would find a reasonable meaning 
to his injunction to "turn the other cheek" and to give up both 
cloak and coat — a. teaching not as to the particular action to 
be followed in all circumstances, but as to the spirit of love 
that is to actuate under all circumstances. But these same 
interpreters would not admit any such right of seeking a 
reasonable meaning of the teaching upon divorce. That is 
divine legislation not subject to human questioning. So if 
Jesus said that he who should beUeve and be baptized should 
be saved, the baptism has the same authority as the faith, 
and no reason or experience has any weight to the contrary. 

If it be asked how one is to be assured that Jesus had 
such absolute authority, the Protestant answer is that the 
divine nature and authority of Jesus were demonstrated by 
events inexplicable on the ground of known laws and processes 
of nature, preceding, during, and following the life of Jesus 
upon the earth. Although the most of these works, famiharly 
known as miracles, were benevolent in intention and helpful 


in result, that is only a harmonious incident. The valuation 
of these events as proofs of divine authoiity depends entirely 
upon the belief that they had no adequate cause except 
"divine power, '' that they have no place in the laws or regular 
processes of nature, and that we could not say that under the 
same circumstances they would happen again, unless we include 
as the principal circumstance the will of God to act directly 
and without any regular means. To use the technical term 
for such phenomena in religion and anthropology, the proof 
of the authority of Jesus was his magical powers, and the 
magical events associated with his life. The Catholic answer 
to the question, What is the evidence for the absolute authority 
of Jesus? would doubtless be: the word of the church is 
your sufficient proof. And the Catholic church does not 
require either to go back to the historical Jesus, or to await 
his return as the divine Autocrat in order to have the benefits 
of his absolute authority. It holds that the authority of 
Jesus was delegated to the apostles, especially Peter and his 
successors and that absolute power to declare truth or to legis- 
late for men abides in the priestly authorities of the church. 
The layman has individual responsibility only that he may 
deliver it up to the church, and thereafter use it, in so far as 
permitted by the church, imder its direction. 

The democratic school of interpreters of Jesus holds that 
he repudiated the autocratic ideal of the Kingdom of God, 
as a political organization to be ruled by force, by a human or 
quasi-\xoxQ3Ji king as God's representative. He believed, 
apparently, that he was to be in some sense, doubtless in the 
real or right sense, the Messiah, anointed by God to proclaim 
and establish his Kingdom, but he steadfastly refused, perhaps 
even to the end of his life, either to claim to be the Messiah 
or to acknowledge definitely its proper application to him, 
because it meant for the people, even for his disciples, such 
an earthly autocrat as he refused to be, for he recognized that 
such a king could not establish by autocratic methods the 


Kingdom of God. He taught, then, a spiritual kingdom in 
which God's reign was to be reaUzed through the submission 
of the individual to the wiU of God, his inner loyalty to the 
laws and purposes of God. Jesus recognized and maintained 
the principle of individual responsibility to the full. He 
required the individual to make his own moral judgments and 
act, not according to any written code of laws of the past, 
nor any new enactments which he himself made, but according 
to God's voice in his mind and heart as expressed in the best 
thought and feeling of his own consciousness. To be sure, 
Jesus did not teach this principle expHcitly. But his whole 
life and teaching was an expression of this principle. 

Jesus said that he came to fulfil the traditional law of the 
Jews as embodied in what we most commonly call the Old 
Testament. But he showed what he meant by fulfilling, when 
he sought out and taught the fundamental moral principles 
contained within it, and insisted upon action according to 
these principles even to the contravention of the letter of the 
law. This attitude is shown clearly, the democratic school 
would hold, in the passage in Matt. 5:21-48 and particularly 
in his dealing with Sabbath laws and laws of ceremonial 
purity. It is shown in his declaration of the Golden Rule 
(Matt. 7:12) as the essence of the "law and the prophets" 
and again in his assertion that the "law and the prophets" 
hang upon the two great commandments of love to God and 
to ntighbor (Matt. 22:38-40). 

The democratic interpreters would further point out that 
Jesus not only refused to be "a judge and divider," or to lead 
a revolt against the government or to defend himself by force 
of arms, but regarded the ambition to assume the power and 
functions of an earthly king as a temptation to be sternly 
resisted. This is described in picturesque imagery in the 
account of the Devil offering him all the kingdoms of this 
world, if he would " fall down and worship him." The accept- 
ance of autocratic power would have been for Jesus worship 
of the Devil. 


Most significant in opposition to the position that Jesus 
claimed absolute authority to declare truth and to promulgate 
moral law, and that this authority of Jesus was demonstrated 
by inexplicable events or miracles, is the attitude which Jesus 
himself maintained with regard to his authority and especially 
with regard to confirmation by miracles. When the Phari- 
sees came "seeking of him a sign from heaven" according 
to probably the oldest account we have |(Mark 8:11, 12), 
"He sighed deeply in his spirit and saith, Why doth this 
generation seek a sign ? Verily I say unto you, There shall no 
sign be given unto this generation." Whatever may be the 
reason for and significance and truth of the parallel readings 
in Matthew and Luke, referring to signs of the weather, and 
the sign of Jonah, the fact remains that a miraculous sign was 
refused as a confirmation of his authority. Of possibly greater 
importance is the account in Mark 11:12-33, and parallels 
in Matthew and Luke, according to which Jesus answered 
the question of the chief priests and scribes as to his authority, 
with the question to them about the authority of John the 
Baptist. When they evaded an answer to this question he 
refused the answer to theirs, evidently because his authority 
rested upon the same foundation as that of John's. No miracle 
is narrated of John, but the appeal of John's preaching to 
mind and conscience wa? suflScient evidence that he was a 
prophet or messenger from God. The evidence for the 
authority of Jesus was precisely of the same sort. His 
authority was that of the truth which he spoke and the good 
which he taught and did; and of that every honest man was 
the competent judge. 

One further argument would be offered by the democratic 
school from the story of the temptation. One of the tempta- 
tions was to demonstrate his supernatural authority or divine 
sonship by casting himself down from a "pinnacle of the 
temple." That he recognized this impulse to acquire prestige 
and a following by a supernatural sign, to be a temptation to 
do evil, and resisted it, seems to be a further proof of his 


recognition that his authority was purely that of the appeal 
which his words and Ufe should make to the moral judgment 
of the individual. 

The answer of the democratic school to two principal 
objections to its interpretation of Jesus, might well be noted 
here. One objection is that the Fourth Gospel does represent 
Jesus as a divine autocrat, and appeal to the confirmation 
of his authority through miraculous signs. This would be 
freely admitted, but the reply would be that this Gospel 
differs radically from the earlier three in just these respects, 
that both cannot be correct, that the Fourth Gospel is a product 
probably of the early decades of the second century and rep- 
resents the development of Christology up to that time, in 
certain circles, rather than the real facts about Jesus. 

The second objection is that while Jesus, in his historical 
life, undoubtedly did refrain from autocratic aims and methods, 
he expected and taught that he would presently return "in 
the clouds, with power and great glory." To this it is replied 
that the reputed utterances of Jesus on this subject, in the 
synoptics, are few and of uncertain meaning, and that those 
which seem more definitely to promise a return of Jesus "in 
the glory of his Father with the holy angels" may be rather 
the reflection of the faith which arose in connection with the 
post-crucifixion visions of Jesus than a true account of his 
own utterances. Or it may be that Jesus accepted the version 
of the messianic hope, current in his time, that God would 
soon interpose in a miraculous manner, to bring to a sudden 
end the present age, and remedy existing wrongs and establish 
his Kingdom in outward, visible form, by his supernatural 
power. Beyond a doubt, something of this sort was ardently 
expected by the early Christian church, mistakenly expected, 
at least as to date, for the reappearance of Christ was con- 
fidently looked for within the lifetime of some of those who had 
seen and heard Jesus before his death. At best, the words of 
Jesus on this subject, given in the Gospels, are very few, and 
difficult of interpretation. The democratic school would admit 


the possibility that Jesus himself may have mistakenly 
accepted some of the messianic ideals of his time, but point 
to the great weight of his unmistakable teaching of the prin- 
ciples of the spiritual kingdom, which harmonize completely 
with the democratic principle of individual responsibility. 

Before leaving this contrasting of the rival autocratic and 
democratic interpretations of Jesus, we may observe that those 
students whom we have called the democratic school, are also 
properly called the modem critical school. They endeavor 
to develop religion in the full light of modern science and 
present-day conditions, and feel not only free but required, 
in order to a proper understanding and use of the Bible, to 
use the historical method of study and interpretation, without 
any attempt to accept all traditional views of authorship, 
authenticity, and date of the various writings, or to harmonize 
the statements and doctrines of each with all of the rest. The 
autocratic school, on the other hand, is also the traditionalist 
school, holding to the theory of the "deposit of faith" or the 
"faith once for all delivered to the saints," probably in the 
first century of our era, general accepting traditional interpreta- 
tions, and views of authorship, integrity, date, etc., and regard- 
ing the so-called historical study or "higher criticism" of the 
Scriptures as impious and invalid. They are likely to be 
skeptical toward many of the conclusions of modem science 
and research, and to hold that the religion of the apostles of 
Jesus is the ideal and perfect religion, fully and perfectly 
adapted to all the needs of humanity in all time, subject 
therefore to no modification or change. 

In considering these rival interpretations of the hfe and 
teaching of Jesus, in their relation to democracy, we have 
looked particularly at their respective positions with regard 
to the principle of individual responsibility. We must also 
notice briefly their attitude toward the good will motive. 

Without doubt the autocratic school has generally accepted 
in theory the teaching of Jesus that the law of love is the 


fundamental law of God, and tried to teach the loving life 
and extend its influence, by precept and example. Its 
deficiency in this regard has arisen from the fact that it has 
made other principles and motives of equal or greater impor- 
tance, and has violated the law of love or acted contrary to 
the good will motive in many cases. To make belief in the 
authority of the pope or the church or the Scriptures or the 
value of the sacraments as important or more important for 
the individual than belief in the Ufe of love, is, of course, to 
minimize the latter. One may say that practically aU of the 
Christianity of the past up to a himdred years ago or less, 
has been that of the autocratic school, in one or another of 
its forms. And we look in vain for any of the great historic 
symbols, creeds, or confessions of faith which declares that 
good will to all men is absolutely essential to the welfare — 
the salvation — of the individual and of humanity. 

This good will has not been taught as an essential of 
salvation, but various other things, all of them belonging to 
the general system of autocracy, have been declared essential. 
The general, conscious influence of historical Christianity down 
to the most recent times, has therefore been favorable to autoc- 
racy and hostile to democracy, in its denial of the principle 
of individual responsibihty, and its neglect of and action 
contrary to the good will motive. Nevertheless imder the 
pressure of the needs and conditions of humanity, and of the 
truth and value of the love-principle within Christianity, 
however officially neglected, democracy has been developing 
under the shadow — often the protecting and often the blight- 
ing shadow — of Christianity. 

We noted in passing, that the democratic school recognized 
Jesus' teaching of the law of love, or the good will motive as 
of fxmdamental importance, both in his own thought and in 
its value for humanity. We may say that the whole tendency 
of this modem school is to make and keep this good will 
motive central in religion and in its interpretation of Jesus. 


The historical content of the phrase "Kingdom of God" 
has varied much, but that term has, naturally, always been 
interpreted in harmony with the general principles and ideals 
of the theologians of the time and group. It has been under- 
stood to mean a form of organization of society and of divine 
rule in it, of Palestine, or of the whole of himianity on this 
earth, or to denote the organized church within humanity, or 
a condition to be reaUzed not upon earth at all but in heaven. 
In most of these ideas God has been thought of as the Almighty 
Autocrat, and human autocratic methods have been used 
by church and state to express and enforce the divine rule. 
The democratic school of Christianity would hold that God 
truly rules only in so far as the individual acts from the good 
will motive, and freely decides for himself how he ought to 
act to express this motive. It repudiates autocracy altogether, 
even divine autocracy. 

In svmimarizing the foregoing discussion we may say that 
all principles of religion which maintain the existence of 
any authority outside of the individual, to which he should 
submit unconditionally, are to that extent anti-democratic. 
Such principles are government by a hierarchy not chosen by 
or responsible to the laity; salvation through the magical 
influence of the sacraments; submission to "the church" 
however organized, as an authority for truth and morals 
superior to and not subject to the criticism of the individual, 
acceptance of a body of scripture as giving complete and infal- 
lible information and direction in regard to religious and moral 
truth and life; beUef in the imminent return of Jesus to be an al- 
mighty and all-wise autocrat, destroying or coercing all who fail 
to submit entirely to his wiU, and abolishing, since supplanting, 
all spiritual movements for the redemption of humanity and 
poUtical movements for the establishment of democracy. 
Out of the mass of literature on this subject, two very timely 
and valuable articles in the Biblical World for July, 191 9, may 
be referred to, the one on " Premillenialism, " by H. F. Rail 


and the other on "Making Christianity Safe for Democracy" 
by G. B. Smith. 

The "Kingdom of God" we may beUeve, was a democratic 
conception in the mind of Jesus, but it has been largely an 
autocratic conception from his day to ours. It is again being 
given a democratic interpretation by the "democratic school" 
of interpreters to which we have referred, and, more or less, 
doubtless, by many who do not fully accept the principles and 
conclusions of this school. It may be doubted whether this 
term will be abandoned or supplanted in the foreseeable future 
to any appreciable extent by even the most democratic. But 
in view of the fact that the term "kingdom" inevitably suggests 
autocracy and when used in religion an autocratic God, it 
might be well for friends of democracy occasionally to 
emphasize the democratic interpretation as contrasted with 
the other, and perhaps to use other phrases more obviously 
democratic to make clear their use of this famous term, so 
dear to us from a thousand associations. 

But let us remember that we cannot get a democracy, or 
indeed a satisfactory condition of humanity, without good 
will freely expressed. Such free good will cannot be obtained 
by force from the outside of any form, divine or human. 
The spirit of love will never rule either by magic or machine- 
guns. Force must be used to control those who do not desire 
and are not ready to help promote the welfare of others, but 
to just the extent that it must thus be used, to that extent is 
democracy unrealized, and the Kingdom of the Loving Father