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Copyright 1918
By frank M. SHELDON





M^ Jatli^r mh Motion






A large number of people, both young and old, brought
up under the influence of historic Christianity, have
begun seriously to question whether the Christian Idea is
fitted to the actual conditions of our modern world. The
distance seems to widen between the idealism of far-away
Galilee and the battle-ground of life today. The Christian
Idea seems to many people to be true neither to the facts of
human nature nor to the facts of human Hfe. The contrast
is sharpened by those who insist that Jesus' teaching of love
outlaws the use of force, inculcates literal non-resistance, and
insists on peace at any cost.

To vindicate the reasonableness and practicability of the
Christian Idea, to show that it is the only one which does
justice to all the elements of human nature, and is the only
one which can be trusted to deal adequately with the prob-
lems of our modern world, is the purpose of these chapters.

The material in this book was used originally in sermons
and addresses by the author. It has been entirely revised
for the present publication.

Cambridge^ Massachusetts,
Easier, 1918,




I The Issue 1

II My Brother's Keeper 15

III The Meaning of Sacrifice 27

IV The Good Fight of Faith 37

V The Meaning of Non-Resistance 49

VI Christian Discipleship 61

VII The Servant State 83

VIII A Christian Nation 97

IX The Christian Idea and the Great War . . .115






The events of the past four years have thrown into sharp
relief the real issue which today confronts the Christian faith.
Against the dark background of these years stands clearly
outlined the question which must be answered if the truth of
Christianity is to be vindicated and its right to be the religion
of our modern world is to be established in the mind of the
a present generation. The battle-ground has shifted on which
jiis being debated the question whether or not Christianity
can continue to be the religion of thoughtful men. What
are the questions today, the answer to which shall settle for
them the larger question whether Christianity is true or not?
These questions are not what they used to be. Of that
we may be confident. The question, for example, whether
Christianity is true or false no longer hinges on questions of
(Bible authorship or composition. There was a time when
'these were the burning themes. Was the world made in
six days or was it not? Can we reconcile the story of the crea-
tion with the story of evolution? Did Moses write the
Pentateuch? Did David write the Psalms? Is Jonah
literal history? If not, then the Old Testament is false;
then the Bible is false ; then Christianity is false. That was

2 The Christian Idea in the Modern World

the idea of IngersoU. It seemed to him that if he could prove
that Moses and David made mistakes, then he had proved
|that Christianity was a mistake. If it could be proved that
the sun did not stand still at the command of Joshua, then
the Bible ceased to be inspired. And if the Bible is not an
"inspired book, neither is Christianity an inspired religion.

Now we have passed away beyond all that. We have
discovered that these are not the questions at all that decide
either the fate of the Bible or the fate of the Christian relig-
ion. We understand today that the inspiration of the
Bible is not involved in these questions. The Bible may be
an inspired book whoever wrote it. And the inspiration of
the Bible as an infallible book of religion does not depend on
its being an infallible guide in astronomy, in biology, or any
other science. These questions do not touch, much less
settle, the truth of Christianity as a religion for thoughtful

Neither do the questions of the truth of the super-
natural element in the New Testament involve the
question of the real truth of the Christian religion.
There was a time when men felt that it did. Huxley
felt that it did. Gladstone felt that it did. If the
miracles were disproved, Christianity was disproved.
If Christ did not truly raise Lazarus, or walk on the
sea, or feed the five thousand, then Christianity is false.
If these went, it went. If these were not true, it was
not true. So for years the supernatural element in the
New Testament was the battle-ground on which the
truth of Christianity was fought out. But that day
also is passed. It has passed for the opponents of
traditional Christianity because they hold that these
questions are already obsolete; that science has dis-
posed of them, — that no serious minded person may
believe them any longer. But it has passed also for all

The Issue 3

thoughtful defenders of the faith, not because they admit
that the miracles of the New Testament must go, but
because they perceive that whether they go or not, the
real core of Christianity has not been touched. They
understand that the Christian religion does not rest
upon a physical basis, that its innermost truth is not
built on material foundations; that Jesus did not come
into this world primarily to be a wonder-worker; and
that the real question about Him is not whether He per-
formed these miracles or not. The real test, they have
discovered, is a spiritual test; the real evidence is spiritual
evidence. The main question is not whether He raised a
dead body two thousand years ago, but whether He can
raise a dead soul today; not whether He satisfied the
physical hunger of men and women then, but whether He
has a message which can satisfy the soul-hunger of the
world today. If He can, then the question of what He
did long ago can be left to decide itself, and Christianity
can be the faith of our modern world. If He cannot, then
no matter what He may have done long ago, His religion
is not for men today.

It is at this point then that the issue is joined. We have
come at last to the root of the matter. The burning ques-
tion in our day is not, Is the Bible inspired? or Did the
'miracles happen? but, Are the very ideals of Christianity
true, practical and workable ideals? Has Christianity a;!
spiritual message on which men can safely build their own
lives and a solid foundation on which a true and stable
social order can be erected? In a word, the questions
about the truth of Christianity have been taken out of the
study, and have been taken into the disordered, distracted
life of the outside world. Can the religion of Jesus solve
our personal problems, our business problems, our social



4 The Christian Idea in the Modern World

problems, our political problems? Is the faith of
Jesus a faith that can be worked? Is the Gospel a Gos-
pel that men can live by, a Gospel that will show the
world how it ought to live, and help the world to live it?
These are the real questions today; this is the real issue of
our time, and on the outcome of it the future of Chris-
tianity as the religion of our modern world will depend.
That is what the word 'true' means today when it is
applied to Christianity. True to what? If we ask a
thoughtful man today whether Christianity is true or not,
we find that he is not thinking of whether or not it is his-
torically true or whether it can be made to agree with the
teachings of science. He is thinking of something else.
Is it true now? Is it true to one's own human nature?
Does it square with what we know of life as it exists to-
day? Will it get us where we want to go? Will it
accomplish what must be done ?

And let no one deceive himself as to the seriousness of
the issue. To many people it has seemed as if the issue
which confronted Christianity a generation ago was the
most serious that Christianity had ever faced; that if his-
torical Christianity could survive the storm in which the
discoveries of modern science involved it, its future for all
time was assured. But that issue, serious as it was, is not
to be compared in criticalness with that which is now upon
us. The modern questions about Christianity go to the
heart of it. Unless the modern issue can be safely
And triumphantly met, Christianity may indeed continue to
[be the private religion of individual souls, but it will cease
to be what it thus far has been, the faith that has ordered
and controlled the destinies of civilization and moulded
and made the moral life of the world.

Already multitudes of people have either made up their

The Issue 5

minds or are rapidly making up their minds that the ideals
of the Christian life, — letting all alone the ancient debates
about the Bible and the miracles, and advancing to the real
question of whether Christianity itself is true or false as
a working faith — that the ideals of the Christian life are
no longer practicable under the strain of modern circum-
stances. They find that the family is disintegrating, that
business is hopelessly demoralized, that capitalism is incon-
sistent with Christianity, that national and international

/ politics are forms of piracy and plunder. In the midst of
all this the Christian Church has seemed to them to stand
helpless and bewildered, still feebly uttering an antiquated
message — itself an external organization in which the life
of the spirit is barely able to exist. When these thinkers
go behind the Church to the New Testament and to the
Gospels, they find there a message which, however beautiful
and ideal in itself, seems to them to be absolutely out of
harmony with our modern life. On what terms, they ask,
is it possible to live a Christian life in our modern world?
Must one not take his choice between the two? "Must
one not choose between the idealism of the Gospel and
the utilitarianism of modem life? Must he not frankly
confess that the Christian law of conduct and the demands
of commerce and political stability are radically opposed
to each other, and that under the circumstances of modem
civilization which one can neither escape nor for the pres-
ent transform, the Christian character has become an
impracticable dream ?" ^

' Some have frankly reached this conclusion. It is, they
say, next to impossible to find a single man who literally
and absolutely pretends to obey the teachings of Jesus. An

• actual and utter Christian would perish today just as

i F. G. Peabody, " The Christian Life in the Modern World," p. 4.

6 The Christian Idea in the Modern World

Christ did and so be a conclusive argument against Chris-
tianity. The fact is, they say, that Christianity is away
over our heads, — so much so as to be absolutely impossible
as a program of life. Even Christians, we are told, per-
'ceive this, and so make no real effort to be Christians.
Nobody, not even the most conscientious Church-goer
really expects seriously to practise his religion. He pays
for a pew in a Christian church, but his whole attitude of
mind and actual conduct is fundamentally un-Christian.
If Christianity were to become universal, we are told, and
.every one were to practise it, the race would die out in a
/Igeneration. Professor Peabody quotes convincingly from'
' wntemporary writers on this point.^ " 'None of us are
Christians,' a distinguished EngHsh philosopher has af-
firmed, 'and we all know, no matter what we say, we ought
not to be. We have lived a long time now the professors
of a creed which no one can consistently practise and
which, if practised, would be as immoral as unreal.'^ Let
us have done with pretense. Let us cease to call ourselves
Christians when we do not follow Christ.' " * \\

Such then is the issue. Such is the question which
pierces to the center of our Christian faith. There is the
problem of Christianity in our day. Compared with it,
other issues of the past may well seem trivial and
secondary. But this is critical and final. "Whether con-
temporary Hfe and historical Christianity are really incom-
patible with each other, whether the choice must be made
between the ancient faith and the modern world, that is a ,
fundamental question. If that choice must be made, it
would be made by the great majority of thoughtful minds
without hesitation, although often with much distress. It

« F. G. Peabody, op. cit. p. 6.

«F. H. Bradley, International Journal of Ethics, October, 1894.

* Garrod: " The Religion of all Good Men," pp. 154, 159 (65).


The Issue 7

might be hard to Hve without the comforts and consola-
tions of Christianity, but it would be impossible to live
in an age that is gone. One might sigh for a beautiful
past, but he must live and work in a real, even though it
be an ugly, present. The Christian life must be frankly
surrendered if one is forced to the conclusion that its de-
mands and ideals are impracticable in a modern world." ^
^/Therj is the problem of Christianity in our day. The
I Christian apologist of the twentieth century must prove
'to the satisfaction of thoughtful men that the central, con-
i:ception of Christianity is true to the fundamental facts of
* ^our human nature, and that it offers men a practical work-,
ing program under the conditions of modern life. /

What that central conception is, we all know. It lies at ,^- v».Mv«

the very center of the whole Christian system: the prin- ^l/^^tv

-yciple, in a word, of love, of brotherliness, of cooperation, /t^

^of service one to another: the principle which declares that u-ci.u*4

not only self-love or self-interest, but the love of one's '^

neighbor as oneself, and interest in others as well as in ^u^M^^

ourselves, is the true way of life, the true principle of con- tr*^

''duct. *T am among you as he that serveth." ^ "The, '^. V

Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to min-

/ister." ^ "If any man desire to be first, he shall be last." ^

"We are members one of another." ^ "In honor preferring

one another." ^° "Beloved, let us love one another." ^^ So

the teaching runs all through the Gospels and Epistles and

is recognized today as being the cardinal principle, the root

idea of the Christian life.

But it is precisely this idea which we find most stoutly

challenged today. It is precisely about this idea that mul-

/titudes have become skeptical. It is precisely of this idea

« F. G. Peabody, op. cit. p. 5.

» St. Luke 22 : 27. ' St. Matt. 20 : 28. s st. Mark 9 : 35. » Eph. 4 : 25.

JORom. 12 : 10. "1 John 4: 7.


8 The Christian Idea in the Modern World

that men are asking today, "Is it true? Do we believe it?
Will it work? Is anybody today trying to practise it? If
a man in truth does practise it, is he precisely the kind of
man all of us would wish to be? Can the Christian Idea
be brought out into the midst of our warring world and
stand the test? Will it solve the problems of personal life,
of business Hfe, of political life?"

Many voices have been lifted up in our day to urge that
it is not true. We are told, on the one hand, that it is not
,true to our human nature. It is not human nature, as we
•say, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It is a
principle that is foreign to our real selves; it contradicts
the essential genius of our natures and deflects the natural
current of our lives. There is, we are told, but one pure,
sincere human impulse, and that is the will to live : the will
to power. And the only honest morality, the only moral-
ity that has no taint of insincerity and no hint of fiction
or of subterfuge about it, is the one which recognizes sel^r
interest as the only legitimate human impulse; which not
only recognizes it, but lives by it, gives it the right of way
in one's life, and does not try to graft a hypocritical kind
'of benevolent love upon it.

Now this, in popular language, has been the teaching of
a philosopher, whose name has been upon everyone's lips
and whose ideas have been given the widest circulation.
He may be called the High Apostle of this neo-individual-
ism.^2 According to Nietzsche, there are only two kinds of
morality: what he calls master or ruling morality, and
> what he calls slave or ruled morality. Now this master or
ruling morality,, he declares, is the native, the natural, the ,
instinctive way in which every one lives. Happiness he j
describes as the unrestrained yielding to the will to power^ '

" "Jenseits von Gut und Bose," §260.

The Issue 9

And why do we not enjoy that happiness? Because we
are held back by another set of ideas that have been thrust
into our consciousness, which make us believe that we
have no right to that happiness : that we must restrain our-
selves, and give up the will to power and sacrifice ourselves
and learn to serve those who are below us, and love other
people as much as we love ourselves. And where did
these strange ideas come from? They did not come from
within. They are not the one original impulse of the
human heart; on the contrary, they are a secondary, a de-
'rived, an unnatural morality. They sprang from the lowly,

' defeated and the enslaved races who sought to save them-
selves by foisting these notions upon their conquerors, by

^inoculating civilization with their slavish ideas. The first
kind of morality was evolved by the ruling caste, but the
second kind by the ruled : the first by the masters, but the

v^second by the slaves. According to the true morality,
everything is good which proceeds from strength, power.

;< health, well-contentedness : and bad must be applied to the
coward and to everything that springs from or ends in
weakness. According to the second-rate and unnatural
morality of the slave class, all this is shifted; and self-
-interest, self -advancement, self-assertion, all that makes
for power, is called bad ; and only that is called good which
tries to alleviate weakness — pity and love and sympathy,

''self -abnegation and self-sacrifice. The warm heart,
patience, modesty, humility: these are the highest virtues

^ because useful for the lowest classes. Now, says Nietzsche,
it has come to pass that this second-rate and slave moraHty;;37 p
has dominated the life of our modern world. And he sets
himself to the task of transposing our meral values and
'putting master-morality where it belongs. He looks upon
the enthronement of this slave morality as a desperate

lo The Christian Idea in the Modern World

attempt upon the part of the low and the base to establish
themselves as powerful. This attempt, says Nietzsche,
must be defeated at all costs. And with terrible emphasis
he exhorts us to alter our values. "Break up," he cries,
"your ideas of good and bad. Enfranchise your real self
from the slavish ideas that bind it as the cords of Delilah
bound Samson. Face life defiant and unafraid. Be hard.
Live dangerously. Will to live in perfect freedom and
perfect power. Such ideas as mercy and pity and charity
are pernicious since they mean a transference of power
from the strong to the weak, whose proper business it is to
serve the strong. Remember that self-sacrifice and brother-
liness and love are not real moral instincts at all, but
merely manufactured compunctions to keep you from be-
ing your true self. Remember that man is essentially
selfish. Any slave would be master if he could. Any em-
ployee would be in his employer's place if he were able.
Any little race would be big if it knew how. Then why
deny it, why make it a crime to do what every man's in-
stinct prompts him to do? Why not face the facts of exis-
tence whether you like them or not ?" ^^

From all this it is easy to see what Nietzsche has to say
of Christianity. It has been the mission of Christianity to
foist this bogus morality on our modern world. Before
Christianity came, European morality was a master-moral-
ity. But this was all spoiled by the slavish ideals of
Christianity. Consequently Nietzsche looks upon Chris-
tianity as the one great curse. "I condemn it," he says,
"as the greatest of all possible corruptions. It has left
nothing untouched by its depravity. It combats all good
red blood, all hope of life. Christianity is the one immoral

is"Der Antichrist," |2. "Also Sprach Zarathustra" III; Jenseits von Gut und
Bdse, {258.

The Issue ii

shame and blemish upon the human race. It is both un-
reasonable and degrading. It is the most dangerous sys-
tem of slave-morality the world has ever known. It has
waged a deadly war on the highest type of man. It has
,put a ban on all that is healthy in a man." ^*

We may well call this extravagant language, and so it is.
Doubtless he felt that extravagant language was needed.
He was trying to uproot ideas that are two thousand years

nold. He was trying to get men to invert their moral ideas
and to call good what they were accustomed to call bad
and to cajl bad what they had formerly called good. Now
that is quite a task. And it was to that task that this Her-
culean intellect set himself. And it is useless to say that

,he has made no impression. A whole literature of the

ySuperman followed in his train. Thousands of people who
never heard his name have adopted his philosophy. In-,
^1 indeed, some one has said that, ^e but had the courage to py^l
'°^?into words what every" one 'really believes in his heart.''
Today the moral ideas that have come down to us in the
Ten Commandments and in the Beatitudes, in the Sermon
on the Mount and the Golden Rule, are under fire. To
many minds the modern thought which has successfully
disposed of the supernaturalism of Christianity is
now disposing of its moral ideals. Whatever, it
has been said, is good because the patriarchs or prophets
called it good is now being besieged. The general ten-
dency, it is confidently affirmed, is all toward the master-
morality. It is seen in the assumption that might^makes,
■''right. It is seen in the terrible appeal to arms in our day.
What is this world-war, but the practical demonstration
that in spite of all we say we believe, when it comes to a

^test there is only one thing we do believe: that God is on

w" Der Antichrist," §§5, 6. Sammtliche Werke, 1895, VIII, 270; XIII, 317.

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