Once upon a time, Christianity provided the official system of thought, Life and Law. And I say ‘Christianity’ for lack of a better collective term to describe the group of people who through their teachings and practices reflect the true identity of those who have been transformed by the renewing of their mind, and who prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.
Religion is back, but it isn’t Christian in any sense which most people accept. Religion is even fashionable, provided it isn’t Christian. Mysticism is taken seriously, but not ‘Doctrine’. From being too religious, Christians are now often regarded as insufficiently, or rather naively, religious. They failed to realise that not only had the world changed, but that they themselves could not. The greater number of Christians, unaware of the nature of the influences to which they are subjected, and unacquainted with the detailed arguments of scholars and preachers, floundered in increasing anxiety.
‘Enthusiasm’, to polite Christians and their free-thinking friends, is not a complimentary term. It means the vulgar religious emotionalism which must not be allowed to spoil the urbane ethical and intellectual system which both Catholics and Protestants have devised (in different versions) to supply their religious needs.
Because we are so cerebral in our religious attitudes (or if we are not, feel we must leave the thinking to those who are) we do not easily absorb wisdom as we breathe, as people once did, even if they ignored it often enough. We need to have it unpacked for us, deliberately and explicitly. This is the reason many have fallen prey, despite their ‘intelligence’, to so-called ‘men-of-God’ preaching ‘a gospel’ yet perpetuating abomination as they go by.
‘Middle-class morality’, which means the version of Christian ethics which the respectable and prosperous have tailored to fit their need and prejudices.
This is the human world, made by man for his survival, and suspicious of anything that seems likely to undermine his precariously achieved social security. Customs and Laws and mental attitudes are all part of the system. The assumption in many societies that personal effort is meritorious and deserves success is one example of an attitude of mind which is extremely important for the survival of certain kinds of society.
There is a principle more powerful than any of these, and nothing you do will alter it, because this is the fundamental law of man’s spiritual nature.
It is the job of Christians to change the world. The methods used by Christians need to be intelligently extrapolated from scripture, and the key ingredient in this process is simple obedience. The Christian Spiritual Effort should entail recognising the “Christian Faith” and the “Human Predicament”. We need a new start in this work, one which recognises our oneness, but also our aloneness. Side by side with this, but sometimes at odds with it as insufficiently realistic and effective, is the realisation of the Christians obligation to be politically aware and active, since the real remedy for oppression is not soup kitchens but revolution- non-violent perhaps, but effective.
How do we answer the Christian Vocation now? How do we take up the cause of this generation as our own? In trying to discover an answer to such questions, it seems necessary to find a way of thinking about the Christians Personal Understanding. We may set about developing a Christian life which, faced with unique challenges, is human, contemporary, uncompromising and hopeful. We ought not be wrong in details nor inefficient in practice, but rather, we must be right in principle.