The Christian in the Modern World
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[ 185 The Christian in the Modern World This unpublished lecture was presented at the annual meeting of the Church Union Literature Association at Church House on 31 Jan 1935, with the Rev. Charles Harris, Prebendary of Hereford Cathedral and chairman of the Book Committee, presiding. The Church Union, founded in 1934 by merger of the English Church Union and the Anglo-Catholic Congress, aimed to promote High Church principles in the Church of England. TSE was Secretary of the Book Committee, which oversaw the publication of suitable ecclesiastical and theological books. A brief report of the lecture appeared in the Times of 2 Feb under the title “Church Literature”: “The aim of the association was that the Catholic Movement should have the finest theological and scholarly support that it could get” (15). I do not propose to go into any details of what is called “Christian Sociology.” And a good deal of what I have to say will already have been said by others: I shall be satisfied if I can make one or two points as a contribution to a literature which is growing larger all the time. What position should the Christian take up in the modern state and the modern community ? Every season a number of books appear on this subject: a week from today there will be published a book of 526 pages called “Christianity and the Social Revolution,” by several authors including the Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, and the Revd. Conrad Noel.1 But for the moment I wish only to recommend one shilling pamphlet, “Church, Community and State” by J. H. Oldham, published by the Student Christian Movement Press.2 So long as people were able to believe – most of them – that the world was making continuous progress in civilization, it was possible for most people to make easy terms with contemporary society. Society was improving , so it seemed, almost automatically, in every respect except belief in Christ. Everyone was to become more prosperous, or, if not exactly prosperous , at least better looked after; war was to become an anachronism as soon as a number of scattered savage tribes were reduced to civility; and even these outbreaks did not affect the peaceful life of the member of urban society. The social and economic order was far from perfect, but it was on the way towards perfection; and the individual who played his part in it, and bringing up a family in it, and doing his duty in churchgoing and philanthropy, was doing all that could be expected of him. True, certain Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1935 186 ] eminent Victorians had become eminent by a career of protesting against the state of affairs: in the Church, the men of the Oxford movement and F. D. Maurice;3 outside of it, men like Carlyle, Ruskin and Arnold: but an age which is sure of itself is only flattered by condemnation; and indeed it is doubtful whether even these men saw, except in flashes, the full iniquity of the age in which they lived. And in the last twenty years we have been more unsettled by events, than we could be by two generations of prophets. I should say, in the last fifteen years: for it is the period 1920-1935 that has broken the illusions of a century. Compare, for instance, the attitude towards war in 1914 and in 1935. In 1914, as I remember, a general war came as an unexpected interruption of the march of progress. Somebody or other had decided to interfere with progress; once this somebody had been properly dealt with, progress would go on as before, and thereafter no one would dare to imitate the example of the culprit. In 1914 we still believed in culprits: everyone else was virtuous, and probably heroic. The majority of people believed, or were persuaded to believe, in a righteous war to end war. There was a minority, a mixed minority, of people who refused to engage in the war. Some suffered more than others. Some objected because they saw how little good would come from so much evil, because, in a general way, they foresaw what would happen afterwards. Others objected because they believed war to be always and everywhere wrong: and for these I have only respect. But “pacifism” in those days comprehended a considerable variety of people, with various motives. In 1935, what is the difference? There are still, I believe, the small body of people who believe...


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