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I The Outlook for Christian Culture THERE IS ALWAYS a danger in speaking of so wide and deep a question as that of Christian culture that we may be speaking at cross-purposes. It is therefore just as well to start by defining our terms. When I speak of culture I am not thinking of the cultivation of the individual mind, which was the usual sense of the word in the past, but of a common social way of life-a way of life with a tradition behind it, which has embodied itself in institutions and which involves moral standards and principles. Every historic society has such a culture from the lowest tribe of savages to the most complex forms of civilized life. And every society can lose its culture either completely or partially, if it is exposed to violent or farreaching changes. What then do we mean by a Christian culture? In fact the word Christian is commonly used in two different senses. There is a sense in which it is identified with certain forms of moral behavior which are regarded as typically or essentially Christian, so that a Christian society may mean an altruistic and pacific society, and an unchristian society or form of behavior is taken to mean one that is aggressive and acquisitive. 3 4 The Historic Reality of Christian Culture Whether this use of the word is justifiable or not, It IS certainly different from the traditional use of the word. Thus if we judge by the utterances of statesmen and the programs of governments and political parties, there has never been an age in which society has concerned itself more with the welfare and conditions of life of the common people than our own. Yet though this concern is wholly consonant with Christian ideals and may even owe its ultimate inspiration to them, it does not suffice to make our society Christian in a real sense; and the tendency to put exclusive emphasis on this aspect of the question will be a serious cause of error, if it leads us to a confusion of Christianity with humanitarianism. The only true criterion of a Christian culture is the degree in which the social way of life is based on the Christian faith. However barbarous a society may be, however backward in the modern humanitarian sense, if its members possess a genuine Christian faith they will possess a Christian culture-and the more genuine the faith, the more Christian the culture. And so when we talk of Christian culture, we ought not to think of some ideal pattern of social perfection which can be used as a sort of model or blueprint by which existing societies can be judged. We should look first and above all at the historic reality of Christianity as a living force which has entered into the lives of men and societies and changed them in proportion to their will and their capacity. We see how it has been spread broadcast over the world by the grace of God and the accidents of historical necessity. Often it has fallen on stony ground and withered away, often it has been choked by the secular forces of a civilization, but where it has taken root, we see again and again the miracle of divine creativity and a new spiritual harvest springing from the old soil of human nature and past social tradition . This flowering of new life is Christian culture in the highest sense of the word, but every believing Christian society already has in it a living seed of change which is bound to bear fruit in due time, even if its growth is hidden or hindered by the many The Outlook for Christian Culture 5 other growths which are so deeply rooted in the soil of human nature that they can never be eradicated. We cannot measure spiritual achievement by cultural achievement, since the two processes lie on different planes; but though the former transcends the latter it may also find in it its means of expression and outward manifestation. But there is always a time lag in this process. The spiritual achievement of today finds its social expression in the cultural achievements of tomorrow, while today 's culture is inspired by the spiritual achievement of yesterday or the day before. If we take the case of the first introduction of the Christian faith in Europe, we see how complex and profound is the process that we are attempting to understand. When...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813220420
Related ISBN
9780813209142
MARC Record
OCLC
815969435
Pages
296
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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