Edwin A. (Edwin Augustus) McAlpin.

On to Christ; the gospel of the new era online

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3 3433 07954738















Copyright, 1919
By George II. Dor an Company

Printed in the United States of Avierica





THE Past is the foundation on which we
work. The Present is our field of activity.
The Future is what we work for.
In facing the present Crisis of Christianity
in entering the New Era we must keep these
facts clearly in mind. The Church cannot af-
ford to spend its energy and strength in merely
conserving the things of the Past. The foun-
dation has been well laid, and we do not have
to worry about it. We can learn some lessons
from its mistakes and in faith we must go
ahead and build. The Future is hidden in the
mist, but through the mist we catch glimpses
of prominent features and probabilities ; keep-
ing our eyes on these things we must forge
ahead. The Present is filled with perplexities
and opportunities. We may make many
blunders, but only the coward will falter, as
the greatest blunder of all is to do nothing.
We must see as clearly as possible, think deeply
and act quickly. The crisis is upon us and
failure now is irreparable. We must go for-


viii Introduction

ward, and our motto should bo '*0n to Christ."
There are some people who have failed to
grasp the significance of the rapid changes that
are taking place in our civilisation and religious
ideas. They expect to return to pre-war times
shortly after peace has been declared. They
do not realise that the war has destroyed many
things besides the economic life of Belgium and
the dynasties of Europe. They fail to realise
the effect that the army training and war experi-
ences will have on America. They fail to take
account of spiritual influences that are bound
to follow on the world-wide upheaval that has
taken place.

One of the cardinal sins of the Church is her
desire to walk forward while she keeps her eyes
on the past. She has been so deeply interested
in her study of the faith of the Fathers that she
has often forgotten that her main duty is to
create the faith of their sons. The faith of the
Fathers was all right. It served to make them
men of God and it was the cradle of true democ-
racy. That same faith needs to be applied in
a new way to meet the problems of the New

The Church has been trying to go ahead like
a man who walks forward with his head twisted
over his shoulder and his eyes fixed on an object
far behind him. A man walking in that un-

Introduction ix

natural way cannot keep a straight line — neither
can a Churcli. He will bump into every object
that crosses his path — so will the Church. He
will hurt himself and many others on the street
— so will the Church.

The time has come for the Church to turn her
eyes to the front — this means getting her atten-
tion on the future. Here is our real problem.
Will the Church be big enough and strong
enough to stamp its character on the new civili-
sation tha.t is being born out of the world travail
of the present time? If it fails the world will
suffer a. great loss. It will be due to the weak-
ness of the ecclesiastical mind and the preju-
dices of those who are unwilling to learn new
spiritual truths. It cannot fail if the men of
the Church really know the power and purpose
of Christ.

The war, with its terrific loss of life, destruc-
tion of property, overturning of dynasties, and
social upheavals, has affected the mind and
heart of the whole world. In the general re-
adjustment of the processes of production and
social relationships the ideas of thinking men
are bound to change. Eeligious conceptions are
sure to feel this influence. If Christianity con-
tinues to cling to the past and fails to apply the
truth to new conditions in a practical way, she
will fail to stamp her character on the institu-


tioiis and policies that will affect the spiritual
life of millions of people as yet unborn.

The Purpose

The object of this study is to bring home to
all thoughtful minds some of the problems of
the Church in dealing with the opportunities of
the New Era. An effort is made in the first
half of this book to point out the failures of
the past, and then in the last half we try to
show how the Church can meet these problems
in a practical way. The problem is outlined in
the first chapter and then different phases of it
are discussed with suggestions of how they
should be met in the following chapters. In the
Second Part we make some practical sugges-
tions on the reconstruction of the Church's life
and thought. Some of these solutions may
seem radical, but it must be remembered that
structural weaknesses cannot be permanently
repaired by superficial patches. The structure
must be rebuilt and the weakness must be elimi-
nated. It may be impossible to get unanimous
support for suggestions that seem to affect
whole ecclesiastical organisations, but no other
alternative seems adequate to meet the needs of
the New Era.

For years the Church has been talking Feder-

Introduction xi

ation and Unity. The time has come to stop
talking and make some experiments in Federat-
ing our religious forces and unifying their work.
This cannot be done at once in every field, but
it can be worked out in sparsely settled com-
munities where the multiplication of Protestant
churches merely breeds or continues petty local
jealousies. The number of weak and struggling
churches is more often a disgrace to the denom-
ination that supports them than a credit to
its Christian statesmanship, as many weak
churches could be eliminated by uniting differ-
ent Protestant organisations in sparsely settled

It is possible to outline the theological con-
ceptions that must control this movement with-
out trying to write a creed. If such a creed is
needed it can be worked out by theologians of
spiritual vision and broad sympathy. It will
be another interesting document for future gen-
erations to study and then pigeonhole. The
true Creed of Christ is written in His life and
work, and it must be rewritten anew in the life
of each generation for itself.

The purpose of this study is to show that the
Christianity of Christ was broader and more
spiritual than the creed of any Church. The
creeds are merely man's efforts to define what
their authors believed was Christ's interpreta-

xii Introduction

tion of religion. Thoy are limited by the scien-
tific knowledge and philosophical conceptions of
the age in which thoy w^ere written. It is hoped
that some men who have mistaken the defini-
tions for the things that were being defined will
realise that they too can join mtli the Church in
the spiritual work of saving the world and
establishing it in the righteousness of Christ.

In solving the problems of the New Era the
Avorld needs the guidance and wisdom of God.
The only way that we can get into touch with
the mind of God is through prayer, and there-
fore the Church must cultivate in its people as
never before the habit of prayer. If life is
spiritual and the solution of its problems is
only found in spiritual help, we should guard
against thinking of this life and the life beyond
the grave as being two different lives. Life is
one. Therefore the Church cannot limit its
message to this world. Men need a practical
application of the Gospel of Eternal Hope to
heal their wounded hearts.

The culmination of the criticisms made and
the efforts at reconstruction offered comes in
the last chapter, where the keynote of our con-
clusion is found in the phrase *'0n to Christ.''
This is not merely a new shibboleth, it is also
a program of work. It means a truer inter-
pretation of Christ and a more thoroughgoing

Introduction xiii

effort to follow His leadership and to avail
ourselves of His power.

The Sources

The material for this study has been dra\\ai
from the author's own experiences in different
fields of Christian work. It was his privilege
to act as the Y. M. C. A. Director of Religious
Work at one of the army cantonments for three
months. The duties of this position brought
him into close personal contact with the chap-
lains, camp pastors, and all the religious work
in the cantonment. This position was the
strategic centre of all the religious work in
camp and gave a unique opportunity for see-
ing both its details and also its larger outlines.

The writer has also visited a number of camps
as a preacher or lecturer. These experiences
have broadened the impressions gained by the
intensive study of the religious life of one camp.

The men in camp gave a unique opportunity
to study the opinions and interests of the men
of the country. They were just ^4iome folks,"
but they showed how the masculine element of
home folks really felt and thought.

The author spent a good part of five years
during his student days in a social settlement
with all the problems of a great city seething

xiv Introduction

by the door. For several years while pastor of
a city church he had the privilege of acting as
chairman of the committee that had charge of
the Home Mission work of a whole State.
This position revealed the inside problems of
many village and country churches. These ex-
periences laid the foundation for the ideas
expressed in the following pages, which are
illustrated by incidents from actual life.

The chapter on the *^ Crystallisation of the
Eeligion of the Inarticulate^' has been based on
personal experiences in several places and a
study of books written by men who have knoAvn
the soldier in the trenches. Donald Hankey's
Student in Arms (both series), Chaplain Tip-
lady's The Cross at the Front, Papers from
Picardy by Two Chaplains, and The Heart of a
Soldier by Laughlan Maclean Watt are some of
the books used. The opinions expressed as to
the significance and importance of the cam-
paign of education carried on by the Govern-
ment and the welfare organisations of the
Army are based on actual experiences in this

Although the writer has had no opportunity
to know our men at the front, he rejoices in the
privilege of having spent enough time in one
cantonment to really know the spirit of our
National Army.

Introduction xv

Where use has been made of the observations
of studies of others this is indicated in the
text. The author regrets that they cannot be
mentioned by name, but their personal request
for obviously good reasons has made this

The incident quoted in the chapter on ^* Prac-
tical Work in the Army and at Home ' ' to illus-
trate the chasm between labour and capital is
rol' intended as a reflection on the labour move-
ment. The writer believes in organised labour.
This incident is merely used in an effort to
awaken the mind of the Church to the serious-
ness of the misunderstanding that exists be-
tween these groups at the present time. The
whole future of the world depends on getting
these two antagonistic classes into a different
mental attitude toward each other. The Church
is the only institution that can do this.

The chapter on ** Practical Immortality" re-
ceived some suggestions from the article that
appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in the spring
of 1918 on *'The New Death' » by Winifred
Kirkland. Just how much is due to this article
is doubtful, but it is a pleasure to confess the
stimulus it gave.

It is impossible to go into more detail as to
where these thoughts have come from. They
have been inspired by books, magazines,

xvi hitroduction

articles, conversations, and the present condi-
tions in the world.

This little study deals with big things. It is
not expected that the Protestant Churches can
be moved at once to make any radical readjust-
ments to meet the problems of the New Era. It
is hoped that a brief statement of actual condi-
tions can stimulate discussion and awaken criti-
cism. Out of this discussion and criticism some-
thing practical may come.

In conclusion I desire to acknowledge the
courtesy of the editors of The Continent and
The Presbyterian Advance in allowing me to
use material that has appeared from time to
lime as articles in their magazines.





I The Church 's Peril and Its Cause 21

II The Church and Her Men .

III The Weakness of the Denomina-

tional Appeal ....

IV The Need of a Practical Chris-


V Crystallising the Religion of the


the future : its hope and promise

VI The Return of Faith

VII Spiritual Orthodoxy

VITI The Power of Prayer

IX Practical Immortality

X On to Christ .







THE church's peril AND ITS CAUSES

TPIE Churches of America are facing at
this time the possibility of one of the
greatest failures in history.

The whole nation is seething with spiritual
unrest and vague aspirations and almost no
one is looking to the Church for a solution of
his problems. This is a blunt statement of an
unpleasant fact, but it sometimes takes a shock
to shake the easy-going self-confidence of our
church people and their spiritual leaders. There
is a tendency to always evade an unpleasant
situation by plausible excuses and it is only by
holding before our eyes these unpleasant facts
that we realise the danger that confronts the

In recent months there has been a noticeable
falling off in church attendance in one of our
typical Eastern States. The secretary of an
Inter-Church society reports that on his trips
throughout the State he finds small congrega-
tions and discouraged ministers everywhere.
The superintendent of Home Missions of one


On to Christ

Protestant denomination in this State reports
that he has noticed the same situation in the
churches under his care. Here we have the
observations of two men on the spiritual life
of a whole State. This does not represent a
neglected field, as in this area there are at least
four theological seminaries. Some people may
try to explain this situation by saying that
the people in this State have been so much
occupied in the war-welfare work that they have
no time for church attendance. That is an
explanation that does not explain. If the people
had felt the need of the spiritual help that their
churches gave, their activities in behalf of
others would have made them go to church and
not kept them aw^ay.

This same lack of interest in the Church's
spiritual message is shown by the kind of books
that people are reading. People read the books
that either interest or help them. The pub-
lishers of religious literature say that there is
no interest in this country in any books that
deal with the spiritual lessons of the war. Peo-
ple simply will not read them. Here we find
the greatest war of history closing and the
people of our country absolutely indifferent to
its spiritual lessons. This lack of church attend-
ance and indifference to the lessons from the
war show the state of mind that the Church

The Church's Peril and Its Causes 23

must deal with in its effort to awaken the con-
science of America.

For a clear understanding of the situation
that confronts the Church it is necessary to
review the things that have caused it.

America's Lack of Spiritual Reaction

With all our sacrifices in the use of food sub-
stitutes and in saving the money we wanted to
spend so as to buy our share of bonds and in
giving the money we wanted to save to help the
Bed Cross and Y.M.C.A. we have not felt
the burden of the war enough to cause a spirit-
ual reaction. The shortages of wheat and sugar
were merely temporary inconveniences. Our
purchase of United States bonds was too good
an investment to be called a sacrifice and the
sums we gave to the Red Cross and Y.M.C.A.
were not excessive.

We entered the conflict at just the right
moment and the heroism of our Army in one
short severe campaign was the turning-point of
the conflict. If this struggle had continued for
several years and if the loss of life in our
forces had reached the same proportion of our
population as it did in England and France,
the horror would have sunk deeply into our
soul. Men would have been forced to think of

24 On to Christ

God. They would not have gloried so much in
their own power, as they would have been forced
to realise their own weakness.

There is grave danger that a spirit of self-
satisfaction will be developed instead of a spirit
of humility. The danger of ha\dng our spiritual
life weakened and side-tracked is so imminent
that it is startling, and yet we are just as blind
to this danger as we were to the German ava-
lanche of August 1, 1914.

This weakened spiritual interest is not caused
entirely by the lack of reaction to the war stim-
ulus. It is too deep-seated a malady to have
groA\Ti up in three or four years. The influences
that affect the religious life and thought of a
nation have to be studied for a period of thirty
or forty years to be understood, as religious
ideas spread slowly and take time to affect a

During the period preceding the Great War
there were several causes at work that were
weakening the spiritual hold of the Churches
on the life of the nation.

The Critical Controversy

The first of these was the critical controversy
that has been .i^oing on among theologians. The
introduction of the scientific method of study in

The Church's Peril and Its Causes 25

Biblical subjects has overturned some things
that were held to be sacred by an older genera-
tion. This method of study caused ministers
to take sides, and the controversy raged merrily
over the question of whether we have a Penta-
teuch or a Hexateuch ; whether Moses wrote the
first five books of the Old Testament or whether
they were a compilation from other authors
showing in many places the hand of an editor.
The questions of the historicity of Daniel and
Jonah have filled the minds and ears of many
thoughtful Christians to such an extent that
they have entirely forgotten the messages con-
tained in the books they were quarrelling over.
This whole controversy has taken up energies
that might have been better used in trying to
make clear the personality and work of Jesus
Christ. The theories of the students and the
investigations of the scholars have constantly
been aired from the pulpit before they were
completely worked out. These investigations
have their place in the study, but they should
be kept there. When properly used they form
a valuable background, but when used contro-
versially they only create mental uncertainties
and spiritual unrest. The champions of the old
theories have spent more time in defining tlieir
theories than in trying to make men see a living
Saviour. They did not think it was possible for

26 On to Christ

a man to know Jesus Christ as his Redeemer
unless this man agreed with their opinions on
the books of Moses and Jonah. Both sides unin-
tentionally have been throwing stumbling-blocks
in the way of the Church and preventing the
man on the street from getting a grip on spirit-
ual truth. We have merely accepted some of the
destructive principles of the scientific method of
Bible study and have failed to assimilate a
spiritual conception of Jesus Christ.

We do not need less science in our Bible
study, but we need a great deal more spiritual
assimilation. We have fallen into the old sin
of the Scribe and Pharisee of repeating text
on text and quoting authority on authority and
forgetting the spiritual life that Christ imparts.

This controversy has developed four different
types of theologians. They do not classify
themselves, but we will do it for our own con-
venience and to clarify our own minds.

First, We have the Liberal-Liberals, occupy-
ing the extreme Right in this controversy. They
accept every scientific conclusion and many
conclusions that are only called scientific. They
are not only severely critical in their Bible
study, but they have also lost their sense of
spiritual values. They have no use for anything
that seems mystical and is beyond the analysis
of their intellectual laboratories. Many of

The Church's Peril and Its Causes 27

them are real Trinitarians in their theology but
are so vague in their philosophy that they fail
to give any adequate help to the spiritual needs
of men. They are the champion exponents of
good works and reform movements. Their loss
of spiritual sense has created a white-heated
humanitarianism. You find them opposing
social, economic, and civic wrongs and working
night and day in the cause of human better-
ment. All honour them for their zeal and activ-
ity, but the man of deep spiritual interest re-
grets their diminished interests in the spiritual
side of Christ's Gospel.

Second, There is another group that has often
been overlooked. They are what we might call
the Conservative-Liberals. Their fundamental
intellectual position is that of the liberal school.
They believe in and practise the scientific
method of Bible study, but they also see the
hand of God moving in a unique way through
the life of the Israelitish nation. They do not
care to press their theory as to the authorship
of Old Testament books. They realise that the
authors may be unknown, but they know that
God spake through holy men in times past.
They are striving to hear God's voice and inter-
pret His message to the present age. Their
object and interest differ a good deal from those
that we have called the Liberal-Liberals. They

28 On to Christ

want to bring Christ as a Saviour into the lives
of sinful men. They desire to see God's King-
dom established on earth, but they also want
to keep the spiritual and personal emphasis
which Christ gave to all His teachings.

Third, We have the Liberal-Conservatives.
These are the men whose fundamental theolog-
ical conceptions are based on the principles
established in the time of the Reformation.
They arc honestly convinced of the traditional
conception of the Bible and the authors of its
various books. But they are neither hurt nor
troubled by those who have reached a different
conclusion, for they are men of liberal spirit
and they recognise that many students who dis-
agree with them on questions of research are
absolutely one with them in purpose and spirit.
They do not yield one iota of their own concep-
tions, but they possess large minds and are of
such a deep spiritual nature that they realise
the oneness of purpose of all those that are
working for Christ's Kingdom, even if their
theological opinions widely differ.

The spirit of the Liberal-Conservatives can
be best shown by an incident that happened
some years ago at a meeting of a Presbytery.
A young candidate of the ultra-Liberal-Liberal
type had been examined and Presbytery was
preparing to vote as to whether he should be

The Church's Peril and Its Causes 29

ordained or not. One of the men of strong con-
servative convictions arose and said that he
absolutely disagreed with the position taken by
the candidate but he was pleased with the care-
ful preparation of the young man and the
clearness of his statements. This conservative
theologian then went on to say that he realised
that it was possible for men to hold different
opinions and still work together in the same
Church and he was prepared to vote for the
young man's ordination although he still dis-
agreed with the liberal position. Such breadth
of spirit is not only commendable, it is far
more than that — it is an indication of the way
theological problems should be solved. The bit-
terness of argument is conquered by the spirit-
uality that lifts men above their own opinions
by bringing the disputants face to face with the
Christ they both serve.

The last class are the Conservative-Conserva-
tives. They are conservative both in theoretical
conception and in spiritual practice. They
believe in the verbal inspiration of Scripture
and they pronounce anathemas on the scien-
tific-historical method and all who practise it.
They condemn a man who teaches that the
Book of Jonah is a divine parable containing a
great spiritual truth if he fails to accept the
absolute historicity of both Jonah and his book.

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Online LibraryEdwin A. (Edwin Augustus) McAlpinOn to Christ; the gospel of the new era → online text (page 1 of 9)