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ERNEST D. BURTON SHAILER MATHEWS THEODORE G. SOARES

CONSTRUCTIVE STUDIES

CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

THE UNIVERSITY OF OHIOAGO PRESS OHIOAGO, ILLINOIS

THE BAKER & TAYLOR COMPANY EW YORK

THE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS LONDON

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CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

By

Ezra AxBert Cook, Pu.D.

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Theology ie brary

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AT CLAREMONT California

COPYRIGHT 1913 AND 1920 By Tue UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

All Rights Reserved Published August 1913 Second Impression March 1914 Third Impression January 1917 Second Edition October 1920

Composed and Printed By The University of Chicago Press Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

TO THE MEN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WHO DESIRE TO LIVE THE IDEAL LIFE IN THE REAL WORLD

PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION

This book aims to present the essential truths of historic Christianity in orderly form, in non- technical language, in view of, and in harmony with, those elements of the scientific and religious thought of today which are generally accepted by trained minds. It is intended primarily for use in classes for religious study in college, Young Men’s Christian Association, Sunday school, and kindred organizations. It is the result of my experience and work with such classes and has been in process of preparation for more than six years.

It is hoped that it will be found useful to three classes of people. First are the young people who are in process of forming their conceptions of Christianity, and who, being in contact with the intellectual life of the age, must necessarily relate those conceptions to that which they are learning in the realms of history, sociology, and science. Second, among those whom I have in mind are those older members of the Christian church who, having accepted in their youth the current defini- tions and doctrines of Christian theology, have lately found occasion, perhaps by contact with their children now in process of education, perhaps by reading and reflection, to consider whether some changes of their thought about religion, in

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x PREFACE

form if not in substance, are not called for by the progress of human thought in various fields of knowledge. And third, it is intended for some people who, intelligent and influential in other departments of thought and life, have remained outside the church, under the impression that the Christian church is falling so far behind the progress of thought in other spheres that one who thinks honestly cannot really accept current Christianity or ally oneself with the church.

Religion is not wholly an affair of the intellect; it is even more a matter of will and life. But Christianity has its intellectual side, and clear and strong thinking ought to issue, and in the long run and in the large, always does issue, not in negations, but in positive convictions, and through them in larger and richer life.

While I am indebted to very many books and minds for the development of my own theological thought and for assistance in the composition of this book, I may mention three men to whom my thanks are especially due. President W. Douglass Mackenzie, of Hartford Theological Seminary, was my teacher in theology and is my dear friend. Professor William Adams Brown, of Union Semi- nary, was exceedingly kind in reading through the manuscript of this book, in earlier forms, twice, . and in offering many very helpful suggestions. Mr. Frederick M. Harris, editor of publications of

PREFACE xi

the International Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association, also read the manuscript in an earlier form and in its final revision, and his encouragement and advice on many points have been of great value.

I shall greatly appreciate any sympathetic criticism or suggestion for improvement of a future edition which any careful student of this book may send to me, and it goes forth with the earnest hope that God may use it for the strengthening of the church of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom in the hearts of all men.

E. ALBERT Cook

MONTREAL April, 1913

PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION

The welcome given to the first edition of this little book, which has been surprisingly cordial and approving, in view of the great variety of religious views and the transitional nature of present-day thought, and the concrete evidence of its use, in the repeated reprintings, have been most encouraging to the author. They have made it the more necessary that some more evident errors and crudities in the first edition should be removed.

I should like to refer very briefly to two criti- cisms which have been made upon this book by friends. The first has to do with the so-called “pragmatic method’”’ which has been used. Some varieties of pragmatism are supposed to teach that some ideas should be held to be true on account of their usefulness, even though they are not really true, or are at least quite uncertain. A fair consideration of the argument in this book will not find any such pragmatism in it. I hold that the usefulness of an idea in the attainment of a desired end is an evidence of its truth, but never evidence that can contradict established truths or the facts of experience. Further I hold, with Professor William James, that there are cases . where we must choose and must act, without conclusive evidence of the truth of the theory

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upon which we must act; there is no absolutely conclusive evidence for either the truth or the falsity of Christian theism. But we act and must act as if that theory of the universe were either true or false. Surely the results of such action in either alternative are sufficient grounds for the choice of the action. Choosing the action then means assuming the theory as a working theory. I fail to see that this variety of pragmatism is open to serious objection.

Again, friends have found that the book slights the emotional or mystical elements in Christianity and that it sometimes seems to make morality superior to religion, righteousness of greater value than God. I feel that there is some justice in this criticism. The reading and experience of the seven years since this book was first published have led me to approve more heartily than ever the words which Principal Garvie of London wrote me: ‘‘Assuredly the outward test of the reality of religion is the moral character; but it is not the whole content, as the inward communion with God is in itself an absolute good for man,” and I wish that I could so revise this book as to give stronger emphasis to the great values of religion other than the strictly ‘‘moral.” Yet I think such values have not been altogether ignored, and that section 71, for example, suggests them quite clearly. There is hardly place or space in

xiv PREFACE

this book to give adequate consideration to emotional and mystical experiences. It has seemed of first importance to define the idea of God with whom we are to come into communion, and to give grounds for believing in the reality of such a God which would be available for every man, and not only for those who had such peculiar and striking experiences as fill Professor James’s Varieties of Religious Experience and other splendid books. I would better refer the reader to that book and Hocking’s wonderful Meaning of God in Human Experience and Coe’s Psychology of Religion than try to amplify that subject in this book.

The revisions made in this second edition may be summarized as follows: On pages 1, 3, 22, 67, 78, 141, 142, 170, and 231 there have been slight corrections of evident errors or infelicities or a wrong figure, or the insertion of a helpful word. On page 8, a statement about Mohammedanism, found to be contradicted by better authorities, has been elided and a sentence giving undisputed material inserted. On pages 20, 46, 47, 86, and 87 references by name to certain great historic Christian communions, which seemed to some to lay the book open to the charge of sectarianism, have been omitted, the principles involved further explained, and the index corrected accordingly. The discussion of Christian Science on page 31 has been slightly corrected and I hope, improved.

PREFACE XV

On pages 141 and 144 the words “conscious” and “consciousness” have been changed to avoid ambiguity and perhaps incorrect implications. On page 143 the thesis and first part of the dis- cussion have been modified to refer to the posi- tively righteous character rather than sinlessness of Jesus.

An addition which will greatly increase its value as a textbook, has been made in the list of questions on the text given in Appendix III, commencing page 255. I have been using these questions in mimeographed form, with the book, for theological students, who were not yet pre- pared for the more technical and historical trea- tises. They have accepted them eagerly as the basis for their study, recitation, review, and examination. They are even more necessary for correspondence students, who will gain a good mastery of the book if they can answer properly these questions on the text. Most students find it profitable to write out their answers to all questions, and in cases of uncertainty submit their answers to the teacher.

I feel constrained to call attention again to what seems to me to be the most pressing necessity in our Christian education today. In place of the Bible-study courses of a generation ago, which, while assuming an unscientific and in some ways mistaken attitude toward the Bible, were yet

xvi PREFACE

largely classes in Christian doctrine, we have the new Bible courses, in which the purer and more truly scientific and Christian doctrine is pre- supposed, but not taught. ‘The students, however, have not learned their Christian doctrine in this better form, and some of the doctrines they have been taught before coming to college do not seem to harmonize with the new Bible teaching. Their religious thought is thus confused rather than clarified. The colleges and universities have the primary duty of bringing through their students the pure and scientific Christianity to the world of today, in forms suited to the rapidly changing needs of this new age. I am convinced that nothing will take the place of a simple, elementary course in Christian faith for the students in our Christian colleges and would like to urge upon those responsible for the religious education of our college youth the necessity of using such a course as this book offers or of preparing a better one.

My sincere thanks are given to the many who have given ‘suggestions and uttered words of appreciation of the first edition of this book. I trust that they may find the second a little more worthy than the first.

E. ALBERT Cook Howarp UNIVERSITY WASHINGTON, D.C. July, 1920

CHAPTER

II.

ITI.

=

VII.

VITI.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Is CHRISTIANITY THE BEsT RELI- GION ?

THE VALUE OF THE BIBLE AS A WRIT- TEN REVELATION

How To USE THE BIBLE

Wat SHALL WE BELIEVE ABOUT Gop ?

Mav, SIN, AND SALVATION

WHat SHALL WE BELIEVE ABOUT JEsus?

Wuat SHALL WE BELIEVE ABOUT

THE LAST THINGS AND THE FUTURE LIFE ?

How SwHatt We CULTIVATE AND EXPRESS THE BEST FAITH? .

AppENDIx I. Books for Reference .

Appenpix II. Notes, References and Ques-

tions

APPENDIX ITI. . .

INDEX

xvii

PAGE

40 56

75 102

130

160

181

221

223

255 281

x

CHAPTER I IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION?

“Let no man lead you astray: he that doeth righteous- ness is righteous.’’—I John 3:7.

1. Religion is man’s consciousness of fateful relation to his larger environment, (a) his feeling of relation to God (or the universe) and to humanity; (0) his thought about these relations and their consequences, and (c) the action resulting from this feeling and belief.—This definition differs from many familiar ones, especially in two ways. First, it recognizes the participation of the whole nature of man, emotions, intellect, and will, whereas many have thought that religion belonged to one of these three phases of human nature, to the par- tial or complete exclusion of the others. Secondly, this definition recognizes the essential place in religion of man’s relation to humanity at large, as a part of his environment.

This definition includes all forms of religion, even atheistic forms such as the original Buddhism, which it was very difficult to include in a definition which made religion the worship of a god or gods. It also recognizes that all men are religious, even those who have nothing to do with religious organizations or ceremonies. For every man feels

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2 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

some relation to the rest of reality, whether he thinks of that as fate, or the All, or some good or evil spirits, or the God and Father of Jesus Christ. For instance, the man whose life is absorbed in money-making has a feeling that he is taking the best way to obtain the greatest power over the earth and man and get the most out of life. His real religious faith is made in view of that feeling and his action is consistent with it. So too the materialist who believes in no spiritual force behind and in the universe, but nevertheless devotes perhaps his whole wealth and energy to the im- provement of the condition of his fellow-men, is seen to be religious—indeed, we shall come to see that he has a very good form of religion, although far from the best.

We are justified in including the consciousness of relation to humanity as an important element in religion, philosophically by the fact that espe- cially when nature is viewed mechanically as the automatic expression of inviolable laws, the sig- nificant part of the universe to which relationship is felt is humanity; and this feeling with the thought and action which go with it may take the place which would otherwise be taken by feeling of relation to superhuman powers. ‘This definition is also justified historically, as we find that the

‘relationship of each man to other men, at least others who are associated with him in the same

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 3

form of religion, is an essential part of historical religions, and that the highest forms lay the most stress on the necessity of right relations with men. The highest form of religion may therefore be defined with Professor E. T. Harper as “‘life flowing from love to God and fellow-men.”’

As a matter of fact, no other religion has attained to such a high idea of God and noble conception of man, or been developed in such harmonious. and helpful relation to the three phases of man’s nature, feeling, thought, and action, as Christianity. It is in Christianity that the highest ideal of religion has been reached, and most largely realized, and this will appear as we consider that ideal and measure essential Christianity by it, in the following pages.

A helpful conception of the nature of religion is that it is the search for friends in the universe. For every man instinctively desires to be in friendly relations with the rest of reality, and friendship can obtain, in its higher forms, only between per- ‘sonal beings. Hence the universal tendency to think of the powers of nature, the great factors that determine one’s fortune and destiny as being, or being controlled by, a great person or persons, a god or gods. All religion in its earlier forms assumes that there are such friendly beings with which man can come into contact. Pantheism and atheism are in every case later developments

4 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

to which some men have thought themselves forced by their reason. The worship of unfriendly or evil spirits or gods is rightly regarded as either a degradation or a counterfeit of religion and not a true or natural development.

2. The best religion, from the standpoint of the individual, is that which is of the greatest assistance in the development and enjoyment of all his powers, or which leads to the most satisfying life. From the standpoint of society, it is that which has the strongest tendency to make men helpful to each other or righteous.—The truth of the first part of this thesis is self-evident. Some may question, however, whether religion has to do with all phases and powers of life, and especially whether it may not be necessary, in order to develop and enjoy the higher and nobler powers, or to enjoy the life of happiness after the earthly life is over, that one should deny himself other enjoyments. Different forms of religion have emphasized one interest of human life, and neglected others or taught that the others must be quite abandoned if the more important were to be truly attained. It must be evident, however, that if it were possible to enjoy physical health, the various normal exercises and pleasures of mortal life, and of the life after the death of the body, and at the same time to attain ‘the highest development of the spiritual life—that is, of character—a religion which enabled a man

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 5

to do this would be better than one which enabled him to do only part of this. Christianity in its highest form holds that these various forms of individual satisfaction are all mutually consistent, indeed, that they are all bound up together, so that no one can enjoy one phase of life in the best way without the development of the other phases; and so far as our experience goes Christianity has been more successful in thus promoting the larger life of the individual than any other form of religion.

The truth of the second part of this thesis—that is, that from the standpoint of society that religion is best which best helps men to become righteous— will be seen when in section 6 we consider the meaning of righteousness, and see that the righteous life is just that life which is most helpful to others, and therefore most useful to men.

3. Christianity has satisfied at the same time the needs of the individual and of society as no other religion has done, and thus harmonized and united the elements which in other religions have always remained more or less antagonistic.—A complete demonstration of this thesis would of course require the study of the whole history of the world and all of the forms of religion which have existed. But for practical purposes we may make our study much narrower. Since there is a powerful incentive for mankind to retain what it finds to be most useful, and social change is in

6 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

general progressive, advancing, although with many temporary and local failures, we shall be safe in assuming that the best elements in the religions of the past have been preserved to the present, and we may therefore confine our atten- tion to those forms of religion which affect larger masses of men at the present time.

The great forms of religion at the present time are Buddhism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism. Confucianism is more a system of moral and poli- tical teaching than a religion, and its influence in China is now rapidly decaying. It is there united with various forms of religion, none of which can be considered as comparable with Christianity in value except Buddhism. Hinduism is a name for a multitude of different forms of religion, which while having common elements are without true unity. It cannot, therefore, come into comparison.

Buddhism exists in different forms and has been corrupted in various ways. As taught by its founder, Gautama, it was probably in its best form and contained much that was good and true, especially in its teachings with regard to the vir- tuous life. Gautama taught that no help or salvation could be expected from any god, and that the salvation which man needed could be reached only by the cessation of all desire. This state must be reached by everyone for himself, unaided by anyone else. Thus original and eso-

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 7

teric Buddhism was practically atheistic. Later forms have worshiped Gautama, the founder, as a god, or have introduced the worship of other deities, but have not changed the general ideal of life and salvation.

The Buddhistic view of life is that it is evil, to be gotten rid of as soon as possible, not by suicide—that would only prolong it in other, perhaps less desirable, incarnations—but by the extinction of the desire to live. The highest state which the Buddhist hopes to reach is that of the Nirvana, a condition of dreamless sleep—impos- sible definitely to distinguish from non-existence. In the meanwhile a man should treat his fellows kindly and rightly. But the path to the Nirvana is only for the few who give up their interest in life and its activities; and the many have for the present only a partial interest in religion and do not attain to the salvation which it offers. Aside from this highest form, there are many corrup- tions and superstitions in the doctrine and practice of Buddhism, and the life of the people who adhere to it is so manifestly inferior to that of Christians that a fair comparison can lead to only one con- clusion as to which is better.

Mohammedanism, when it arose, was a distinct advance upon the forms of religion and morals which it superseded, among the roving tribes of Arabia, but its faith and life have been inseparably

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8 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

connected with faith in the Koran as a divine revelation of absolute authority in all respects. Thus it has stood against progress everywhere and does so today. The place which it gives to women in this life, whether in monogamous or polygamous conditions, is far inferior to man’s. Mohammed thought God to have human form and human attributes, to be an all-powerful, absolute despot of the world, hopelessly beyond the understanding of man. The teaching of Islam is not worthless but it is far inferior to that of Christianity, particularly in its highest forms, and a comparison of the life yielded by Moham- medanism and Christianity leaves no question as to which is superior. Mohammedanism propagates ‘itself more by the power of the sword than by the appeal to reason and conscience, and justifies the ruthless slaughter of those who do not accept it.

This glance at the only important world-rivals of Christianity, which should be supplemented by study of books referred to in the notes, shows that neither of them can be looked to as containing even the fundamental principles of the best religion in a form definite enough to serve as foundations for the development of the best religion, without giving up their primary characteristics as historic systems. On the other hand, as we shall see in succeeding sections, Christianity has had in it, from the beginning, the fundamental principles of

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 9

that religion which must be the best and the final one for humanity, and these principles must be regarded as constituting its real essence, and there- fore be used to distinguish it from errors and corrup- tions which have been associated with many of its historic forms.

4. Social and historical forms are essential to the existence and development of religion, and the best form of religion can be most surely found by the study of. historical religions, and therefore especially by the study of the highest form, Christianity—-No sensible man undertakes to become expert in any line of study or labor in which men have been engaged for centuries, with- out acquainting himself with the highest results which others have hitherto achieved. So no sensible man will undertake, even if it were pos- sible, to invent or discover the best form of religion without first finding out the highest forms which have been reached in the history of men. Every building must be constructed from the ground up, and every advance must commence at the point which has been attained. We may well question whether any particular form of Christianity now adhered to by large masses of people is in all respects true and ideal. If it were, we should have a right to expect that the people would be perfect in character, or at least far nearer perfec- tion than any group with which we are acquainted.

10 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

But the only way in which the ideal religion can possibly be reached is by the patient and pro- gressive perfecting of the best that we have, by the emphasizing of that which proves itself most useful and true, and the gradual elimination of elements whose value has been but temporary, and which have been outgrown. Such a process of growth and development belongs to true religion, and results from its own nature and vitality, and is one of the most remarkable characteristics of Christianity.

The question has been raised whether one form of religion can be best for all men, or whether one form may not be better for one race or nation or class, and a considerably different form better for another race, nation, or class. No doubt there is a sense in which the latter is the case. But just as there is but one true science of electricity for all men, however differently electrical apparatus may be used in different places and conditions, and just as true food is nourishing to all human beings, even though from various causes the diet and the appetite of one man will differ from those of another, so the needs and elements of human nature are everywhere fundamentally the same; and the best religion for one man will probably be the best religion for every other man, although different elements in it will be of greater value and importance in the one case than in the other,

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 11 -

and the understanding of it will be much less complete for one man than for another.

If, then, the best religion is one which shall best meet the needs of all races and classes, we may be most confident that we have found the best religion, or that from which the best religion must be developed, if we find that historical form which has met the needs of masses of men of all classes and conditions in the best way and this we cannot doubt to be historical Christianity.

If we admit that Christianity has some error connected with it in its historical forms, and that other great religions contain some of the good elements of Christianity, it may be thought that after all they should be treated as equals, and that we should simply urge the emphasis of the impor- tant and rejection of the false in each case, but not ask anyone to give up another form for Chris- tianity. This is not the right attitude. It may be that one form of religion has accepted ele- ments of good which belong also to other religions, but that its essential features may so obscure these good elements as to prevent them from ever attain- ing their true place and right emphasis in the lives of its adherents. This brings us to the question as to what the essence of a religion is. Our answer relates to founded religions, particu- larly, but as the great religions of the world, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and Christianity,

12 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

all belong to this class, it will apply to them all. We hold, then, that the essence of a religion is that character or those features, manifest in its founding and preserved in its history, which by their value and vitality give power to the religion to reform and purify itself and adapt itself to both the permanent and the changing elements in human life. We have briefly considered the two rivals of Christianity from this standpoint of their essential form. We now have to consider Christianity very briefly in the same way. Of course the succeeding chapters in the book are taken up with the explanation and confirmation of the details of Christian faith as they have been developed up to the present time.

5. Jesus in his own life and teaching presented the life of largest development and satisfaction for the individual.—This appears from the accounts which we have in the Gospels, both positively and negatively. He did not teach nor practice asceticism, although he did teach the life of self- sacrifice and self-denial. But almost all of his recorded acts are those of promoting the health or enjoyment of others. He did not avoid feasts nor say much of fasting. He enjoyed and approved of home life and of children and in no way suggested that a life of seclusion in cell or monastery was desired by God. The relations which he sustained and taught his disciples to hold to all men were

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 13

determined by the highest emotion, love. In the Beatitudes he points out the way to the happy life. In his warning against anxiety, worry, and covetousness, he was showing the way to peace and contentment of mind, conducive to the healthiest mental and physical life. He says very little about the life after death, and is mainly concerned not with that but with mortal life itself. In the Fourth Gospel he is represented as especially concerned with giving life to men, and many expressions emphasize this idea: ‘‘I came that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly”; ‘‘I am the bread of life”; ‘Ye will not come to me that ye may have life”; “T am the way and the truth and the life.”

6. Jesus taught that righteousness is the most important element in the life of the individual and of society, that it is of fundamental value for God and man.—A man acts righteously or rightly when he does what he would want everyone else to do under similar circumstances. This defini- tion of righteousness was first clearly stated in substantially this form by the great philosopher Kant, although it was probably understood by Socrates, two thousand years earlier. Jesus taught it in the form we know as the Golden Rule, and all of his teachings are consistent with it. Con- fucius also stated it in a negative form, but did not realize its truth in the positive form in which

14 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

Jesus taught it. The great value of this definition is that everyone who understands it will agree that it is correct, although from its nature it will be applied differently in specific cases by different people.-

Apart from some of the teachings of Jesus about the “last things,” the judgment, second coming, etc., which we shall have to consider later, his recorded sayings are mainly concerned with two things: the explanation of and exhor- tation to the righteous life, and the presentation of a spiritual idea of the kingdom of heaven in place of the prevailing materialistic idea of it. He taught that the essence of righteousness is love, and that God, who is perfectly righteous, requires his children to be perfect as he is. He saw beneath the outward actions to the inward motive, and judged man by the latter. The great- est commandment is to love God (this perfectly righteous Being) with all of one’s nature, and the second, like to the first in importance and in character, is to love one’s neighbor as oneself— that is, one cannot love God truly without loving one’s neighbor also truly. Such love to one’s fellows, as he taught and exemplified it, was the funda- mental principle of the righteousness which he demanded, and a moment’s thought will make it clear that he was right; for this principle of action from loving motives would be immediately

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 15

derivable from the definition of righteousness which we have agreed upon. How remarkable it was that Jesus had this clear perception of the nature of righteousness, when the current teaching of his day and his people was so different, need not here be dwelt upon.

Although, as we have seen, Jesus did not teach asceticism, he did insist upon righteousness and love to others, with all that that involved of self- sacrifice, self-denial, and self-restraint, as the first condition of God’s approval and man’s happiness and welfare. Righteousness—love for others shown by word and deed—and not any particular form of ceremony or creed, was the test, in the great judgment scene which he so dramatically pictured as the time of decision of the fate of men and nations.

The teaching of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven shows that this kingdom was something to be progressively realized on earth by men governed by the spirit of love to God and one another. It was not primarily an ideal for the life after death, but something that was already coming in the experiences of his disciples and was to spread from them like the yeast in the three measures of meal. Thus Jesus united in his faith and teaching the ideal of individual satisfac- tion, social harmony, and divine perfection, the highest appeal to the intellect, feelings, and will.

16 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

Righteousness and love were the key words in all three.

7. The authority to which Jesus appealed was always that of the reason and the conscience, and whenever tradition, even the most sacred, con- flicted with these, he did not hesitate to forsake tradition.—Tradition in religion opposes truth and progress in two ways. First, it often conflicts with the truth about right conduct. ‘The religion of a hundred years ago approved or at any rate did not condemn certain kinds of action which are now seen to have evil results, and there- fore to be morally wrong. ‘Then, these results may not have been apparent, and the action may have been so much of an improvement over previous action as to be right at that time. But now the man who receives the religion, and with it the views of right and wrong of a hundred years ago, must choose between this teaching of religious tradition and the voice of his conscience. The general approval of slavery in the United States a century ago is an instance of religious tradition which came to be in conflict with conscience. We should understand that tradi- tion indicates any teaching or custom which is “handed down” from one generation to another, whether true or false, and that it may be very good, as in the case of the Bible. The danger is that it may be held sacred and right

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 17

because it has come down from previous ages, instead of because it is confirmed by reason and conscience.

The second way in which tradition often opposes truth is with respect to teaching concerned directly with religious belief or ceremonial. For example, a certain creed expressed, a hundred years ago, the highest thought of man about God, and a certain ceremonial form seemed most suitable to the true worship of God. Now, the language and ideas of people have changed in many impor- tant respects and the creed of that day is not and cannot be understood in the same way as it was then. In certain ways, also, our ideas of God are clearer and higher now than then, so that the creed has not now the intrinsic authority of its appeal to reason and conscience that it had. But tradition insists on its acceptance on the implicit ground of the authority which it formerly had, not recognizing that the basis of that authority has passed away.

Jesus’ constant appeal to the reason and con- science is reflected with special emphasis in the Fourth Gospel, where the words “true” and “truth” recur so frequently. He appealed to the evidence of his works, to the witness that God bore to him (how else than by his Spirit in their minds and hearts, making the truth plain to those who would receive it?); and when he appealed to the Scrip-

18 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

tures for confirmation of the truth of his words it was either to point out the inconsistency of those who found fault with him while they professed the greatest reverence for the Scriptures, or to quote some passage the truth of which was evident quite apart from the authority of its source. He said that he came to fulfil the Scriptures, but, inter- preting those words by his life, we must find them to mean that he was to show the deeper and truer meaning of them by his life and teaching, rejecting or revising that in them which was only temporary in its value.

Jesus’ rejection or revision, not only of the teachings of the scribes and rabbis but also of the Scriptures when they came into conflict with truth -and right, is illustrated in his teaching about marriage and divorce, about “Korban,” about ceremonial defilement in eating with unwashed hands or eating meats that were ceremonially unclean. It is shown also in his reinterpretation of old commandments in the Sermon on the Mount where he goes from the outward act to the inward motive. ‘‘Ye have heard that it hath been said’”—that was the authority of tra- dition—‘‘but I say unto you”—that was not merely an appeal to his own authority, but rather his interpretation of the will of God enforced by an appeal to their own perception of how God actually works in the world.

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 19

8. Since the characteristic features of the life and teaching of Jesus have remained vital in Christianity and are the principles of the best religion, Christianity must be in essence the best and the final religion.—We have seen in the last sections that the principles of the life and teaching of Jesus are those of the best religion, the one giving largest satisfaction to the intellect, emotions, and will of the individual and having the strongest tendency to make men righteous. A study of church history would show that these principles were effective in the early organization of the church and development of its systems of teaching; that, although they have often been lost sight of by the ecclesiastical authorities and perhaps the larger body of adherents of the church, they have yet survived in the minds and hearts of a “rem- nant” at all times and come into prominence in the lives and teachings of the great prophets and reformers of the church from time to time. They were the underlying principles of the great refor- mation which commenced in the sixteenth cen- tury, and are again today being understood more clearly than ever before.

It is of great importance to note that, however these principles have been lost from view for a time in the history of the church, there never was a time when the life and words of Jesus were not regarded, theoretically at least, as of fundamental

20 CHRISTIAN FAITH FOR MEN OF TODAY

value to the church. And the fact that the Gospels have from the first century preserved this picture of Jesus and record of his words in which these principles are so evident has made a reformation and purification of Christian life and doctrine possible and often inevitable. They have thus been the vital principles of Christianity throughout its history. And by this history the practical value or ‘‘workableness”’ of these principles has been shown.

We have seen that the primary emphasis of the religion of Jesus was upon righteous living and that, although deeply reverencing the tradi- tions of historical religion, he accepted them only as they could be shown to promote human welfare in his own day. A study of the various forms of Christianity, as well as of non-Christian religions and of the social conditions in the communities and countries in which they prevail, will justify the natural expectation that, where these prin- ciples of the religion of Jesus are most clearly understood and most heartily applied, the community is most prosperous economically and most progressive intellectually, morally, and socially.

Granting that Christianity is the best religion that the world knows, the question may still be raised by some who see imperfections in its popular forms whether it may not some time be

IS CHRISTIANITY THE BEST RELIGION? 21

superseded by another still better. It would be very unwise in the face of history, even of Chris- tian history, to predict permanence for any detailed system of doctrine. Although in the following pages we give in reasonable detail the elements which seem to flow from the fundamental principles of the best religion, as they have been developed within Christianity up to the present time, it is not with the thought that no modification of any of them will be found necessary in the future, but rather that they fairly state the highest posi- tions that have yet been reached, and, by the criticism of careful thought and the testing of time, will lead to still clearer views of truth in the future.

But we have found Christianity to be in essence identical with the best religion, and that its essen- tial principles have proved their value and appli- cability to human nature as