Will the Christian Church Survive?

Recently I came across an article with this title. I entered the major seminary in 1966, so I’ve been watching the church for more than a half-century at this point; and I think the author got things about right.  He says near the start, “Carried along by inertia, churchmen have watched without comprehension while congregations have melted away, while the secularly educated younger generation increasingly has absented itself from worship and activity.”  That’s been my experience, and quite possibly yours too. Later, diagnosing the problem, he continues, “If the Church is in any real sense to influence the world of tomorrow, it would seem that the Church must reform itself so that it can make a new and almost brutal proclamation of the ethics of Christ.”  Here’s his list of items for that proclamation (all exact quotes, shortened with ellipses omitted so I can fit his list here):

  1. “Human happiness is more than a brief existence between birth and death; earthly happiness may often well be sacrificed, and sometimes must be sacrificed, for the sake of spiritual integrity; man’s chief end is to know God and to enjoy Him forever.
  2. “Patriotism is all too apt to become a snare;  to exploit one’s fellows by way of privilege is disobedience to God, fratricidal folly, cause of war, and this whether the privilege be within a nation and due to accident of birth or misuse of ownership, or between the nations.
  3. “It is better to serve than to be served; servants are quite literally more pleasing to God than masters, and the redemption of a master is made possible only as he becomes the servant of his servants. The more abilities and talents one possesses, the greater is one’s obligation to take care of the welfare of those less gifted than oneself.
  4. “Enemies are to be loved; if they hunger they are to be fed; we are to do good to those who hate, revile, despitefully use us.
  5. “It is useless or worse to refrain from doing right today for fear of what may eventuate therefrom in the future; a man must live each day as though it were the last day; our responsibility is with our own conduct.
  6. “Children are the most important of all people and more particularly the determinants of marriage; it is more important that offspring should be nurtured than it is that fathers and mothers should continue ‘to be loved.’
  7. “It is immoral to lay up riches with the hope that with them we may buy, for ourselves or for our heirs, exemption from the common lot of useful and productive labor; it is right to desire a reasonable security, especially in age, but such security cannot rightly come by increment from private investment.  A Christian security must be a social security.”

The author goes on: “These ethical convictions are clear in the New Testament; recognized by reputable Christian theologians.  In accordance with them Jesus lived. To them the saints have borne their witness. Because the Church of the late yesterdays soft-pedaled them, striking its forte on more comforting notes, stressing pious acts and subtle formulas with which to decorate an essential worldliness, the wisdom of Jesus is well-nigh forgotten.  There are millions of Christians who simply do not know that the Christianity to which they give a vague and occasional allegiance involves obedience to such hard and searching sayings. (My emphasis.)

Why has the Church been dying around us?  Look at the list above again. How often have you heard that preached, seen it put into practice by people who claim to be Christian?  And if you want to blame it all on “the ‘60s,” or “Vatican II changes” or anything like that – the article was written in 1942. We have a long climb back.  Until next week, peace.

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