A Call to the Church
Reprinted by permission of
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2014
THERE are three current books which should be noted by thoughtful Christians, as signs of the times. These Books are Human Destiny, by Lecomte du Nouy, Civilization on Trial, by Arnold Toynbee, and Miracles, by C. S. Lewis. It is significant that these books have all appeared at this time and that, although not of the type that is ordinarily popular, two of them have, for many months, been in the lists of "best sellers." They represent three great and different fields of human knowledge, the field of Science, the field of World History, and the field of Philosophy and the Humanities. The writer of each book is a recognized master in his own field. And all three of these writers give their testimony definitely for God and Religion, and repudiate the Secularist Philosophy which largely dominates the thought and the teaching in many of our institutions of higher learning --and which has been a chief factor in the [3/4] weakening of the sense of personal responsibility, and the lowering of moral standards in our life generally.
Secularism vs. Supernaturalism
In his great book Human Destiny, which has been acclaimed by many of his fellow scientists, du Nouy says, "The knowledge acquired in the last forty years instead of reenforcing the materialist point of view has made it scientifically untenable," and he calls upon the secularists and materialists to accept the truth which science now shows. Speaking in the light of the highest scientific knowledge, he says that the evolutionary process as now known calls for man's advance "on the moral and spiritual plane," and that man's task is, as a copartner with God, to develop spiritually and morally into the perfect ideal of manhood. "And let us not forget," he says; "that the perfect man is not a myth; he has existed in the person of Jesus . . ." "Christ brings us the proof that this is not an unrealizable dream, but an accessible ideal." He declares explicitly that "the only salvation for man will be found in religion," and that what we need to meet our actual problems is "a religion respectful of the Scriptures but also fully aware of the advancement of human knowledge." "Never," he says, "in her two thousand years has the Church had a more urgent call and a nobler opportunity to fulfill her [4/5] obligation as the comforter and guide of humanity."
In his Civilization on Trial, Arnold Toynbee, with his amazing knowledge of the whole of human history, tells us that the vital need of our Western civilization is "to put the secular superstructure back onto religious foundations." This great historian sees that history is not a meaningless succession of events but is the sphere in which God is working out His purpose for mankind--and he sees that the Incarnation is the key to the meaning of the whole human story. History shows, he declares, that "religion is the serious business of the human race. Man has been a dazzling success in the field of intellect and 'know-how' and a dismal failure in the things of the spirit; and this has been the great tragedy of human life on earth, for the spiritual side of man's life is of vastly greater importance for man's well-being (even for his material well-being in the last resort) than is his control over non-human nature."
The most obvious ingredient of our Western civilization, he says, is technology, but "man cannot live by technology alone." If the great edifice of our Western civilization is to survive and is to play its part in the unification of the world, its foundation must be made firm and must be "carried down to the bedrock of religion." [5/6] And, in an article written since this book was published, he says: "The great need of the modern world is a rebirth of supernatural belief. We must have unity. But it is quite possible that in making One World our primary hope we may fail by making our aim too low. For the brotherhood of man is, I am convinced, an utterly impossible ideal unless men are bound together by belief in a transcendent God."
C. S. Lewis' books have an extraordinary circulation and influence. They have gone through printing after printing and are being read by people of all faiths and of no faith, and by both students and professors in our colleges. In his book Miracles, he discusses the question, "Can we believe in Miracles?" In his own urbane way, with characteristic flashes of humor, but with devastating logic, he shows that Naturalism, which had its great vogue in the 19th century, is no longer intellectually respectable. He shows that the secularist is confronted with self-contradictions from which he cannot escape "without (philosophically speaking) cutting his own throat." But, Mr. Lewis says, the naturalistic philosophy still permeates the popular mind and many of those who imagine themselves to be emancipated from it are still under its influence. "We all have naturalism in our bones and even complete conversion does not at once work the infection out of our systems. [6/7] Naturalistic assumptions," he says, "will meet you on every side--even from the pens of clergymen." He shows that the reason why people think, or vaguely feel, that miracles are impossible is that they do not really believe in a personal God. Many people today, he says, "believe in 'religion' --but not in God." The popular religion today is Pantheism, and he agrees that the sort of God conceived by this pantheistic religion "obviously would do no miracles, nor indeed anything else." He stresses the fact however that our belief in miracles does not commit us to uncritical acceptance of all stories of the miraculous, and that most of such stories are probably untrue. "God does not shake miracles into nature at random as if from a pepper caster."
In judging as to the credibility of any particular miraculous event, Mr. Lewis says, we must, of course, consider the historical evidence for it, but he warns us that if we believe in the popular pantheistic God it will be useless for us to do even this. Our minds will be closed against the evidence before we begin to consider it. We shall have decided that miracles are impossible and no weight of historical evidence will convince us. But to those who believe in the living God of the Christian religion, he declares, the question is not whether God can intervene in nature, [7/8] but whether the reported interventions are such as we can rightly and reasonably believe to be true.
Discussing the miraculous in the Christian Gospel, he shows that to talk of a "non-miraculous Christianity" is to talk of something which has no existence. There is no such thing. The Christian Gospel is specifically the announcement of the greatest of all miracles. The Christian Religion is belief in the stupendous miracle of the Incarnation, and life in accordance with this belief. And if we believe in the Iwncarnation--the coming of God Himself into this world in Jesus Christ--this carries with it belief in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection and the Ascension, and the other miracles of the Gospel. "The fitness, and therefore the credibility of the particular miracles," Mr. Lewis says, "depends upon their relation to the Grand Miracle (the Incarnation); all discussion of them in isolation from it is futile." Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. "A naturalistic Christianity," he says, "leaves out all that is specifically Christian. The mind which asks for a non-miraculous Christianity is a mind in the process of relapsing from Christianity into mere 'religion.'" The Incarnation, he declares, is the central fact of the whole history of mankind. It is the fact which the Christian Gospel is all about. [8/9] We accept and believe this tremendous miracle because of its "fitness" and reasonableness; because it harmonizes with all that we know of God and of ourselves; because with both mind and soul we see that it is the Truth.
The Tide Turns
These three leading present-day scholars and writers give their testimony clearly and definitely for the Christian Faith, and the notable thing is that they represent a distinct movement. A large number of influential writers are giving the same testimony; poets and writers such as T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams, Richardson Wright, and Jacques Maritain. And it should be noted that the writers here mentioned are all of them laymen, that four of them, including C. S. Lewis, were formerly avowed secularists, and that they turned from secularism not to a humanistic and "non-miraculous" Christianity, but to the Christian Gospel as Revealed, and as declared by the Church and the Scriptures. The influence of secularism in our life is still widespread and powerful. As Mr. Lewis says, the 19th century materialist philosophy still permeates the popular mind. Naturalistic assumptions still "meet us on every side--even from the pens of clergymen." But the tide is turning. There have been evidences of this for some time [9/10] but the movement is now clear and unmistakable, and it is especially evident on the highest levels of thought and knowledge.
This turning of the tide, the turning of men such as those above named from Secularism to full and definite Christian belief is of great significance, and it brings a clear call to us as a Church. It tells us that we need in the Church today a great renewal of evangelical faith and power. It tells us that if the Church is to do her work for God, and for the help of men, she must stand fearlessly and uncompromisingly for the reality and truth and glory of the supernatural. It calls us to make our present campaign of Evangelism a bolder and clearer call to men for full belief in Christ and His Gospel. This is the very meaning of evangelism. Evangelism is bringing men and women personally to the knowledge and the love of Jesus Christ, and so to repentance, faith, and "newness of life." Archbishop William Temple's Commission told us that "To evangelize is so to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Ghost that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and to follow Him as their King, in the fellowship of His Church."
The vital question in the life of the Church today is not whether we are called "high church" or "low church," [10/11] not whether we use certain ritual forms and acts, but whether we believe in Jesus Christ as "God manifest in the flesh," the Second Person of the Eternal Trinity, the Christ of the Scriptures Who has "all power in heaven and in earth" and Who is Saviour, Lord, and God. It is the full, clear teaching of the Christian Faith that is needed, and it is this to which men are now turning. We have had a moving illustration of this in the recent diocesan mission in New York. Those who think that men cannot be interested, or young people attracted, unless the Gospel is diluted, or minimized, or "explained away," should have seen the young people, and the older people also, thronging the vast spaces of the Cathedral night after night to hear the same simple, direct preaching of Christ that speaks to us from the pages of the Acts of the Apostles. We who are in the ministry know, all of us, that we have fallen short in our preaching and teaching of the Christian Faith. None of us have preached Christ as we might have done, and ought to have done. There are many in our parishes and congregations, many who have attended the services and listened to the sermons for years, who have only vague ideas as to what the Gospel is and what is its message. But now we are called to a Campaign of Evangelism, and evangelism means that we are [11/12] "so to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Ghost that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and to follow Him as their King, in the fellowship of His Church."
1. We must tell men plainly--and especially the secularist teachers in our universities and colleges--that the secularist philosophy is not only unintelligent but is deeply and definitely evil--destructive of the foundations of human life--destructive of that which gives human life its sacredness and worth and dignity--destructive of belief in God, in the moral law, and in the soul of man.
2. We must call upon men to see that the one hope of this world is belief in the Living God and in His moral law the same for all men everywhere--and that it is Jesus Christ alone who can bring the world to God, and so to world brotherhood and peace.
3. We must call upon men to believe the Christian Gospel not only because it is declared by the Church and the Bible but because it is the absolute truth--the absolute truth about God, about man, and about the relation of men to God and to each other. The Gospel is not true because the Church and the Bible say so; the Church and the Bible say so because it is true.
4.  We must preach the whole Gospel. We cannot convert men to Christ by preaching only the social half of the Gospel, or only the ethical half, or only the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount. The whole Gospel has power to convert the world; half the Gospel has no power to convert anyone.
5. We must preach the glorious fact of the Incarnation in all its Divine truth and splendor. We must show men that this stupendous event illuminates, and orders, and gives reason and meaning to all our other knowledge of God, of the universe, and of ourselves; that it shows us the boundless love of God, and the greatness of His purpose for man; that it shows us the depth and tragedy of human sin and what God has done to rescue and redeem us from sin.
We are "boldly to make known the mystery of the Gospel." We are to declare to all men that "Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man"--that He "reveals God to us, and reveals us to ourselves." We are to show men that Jesus Christ is the One who "was in the beginning and was with God, and was God"--the One who "was made flesh and dwelt among us"--the One in whom we see "the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth"--the One Who today offers to all who will receive Him, and believe on His Name, "power to become the sons of God."
6.  We must preach more faithfully the divine Wonder of the Atonement--the Transcendent Glory of the Cross. We must preach that which is the very truth of the Gospel--"that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," that He "suffered death upon the Cross for our redemption," and that He "made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world." We must call men to truer realization of the meaning of the Cross, and to truer thankfulness for all that Christ has done for us.
Jesus Christ suffered for us and for the whole world. He did for us what no other could do. He broke down "the middle wall of partition" and overcame everything in our human nature that separates us from God. He lifted up our human nature into perfect union with God. He made His glorious sacrifice for us, but not instead of us. He offered Himself for our sakes, but not as our substitute. He suffered in our behalf, but not in our stead. To accept Him as our Saviour means that we ask Him to do in us what He has already done for us, that so we may "grow up in all things into him which is the head, even Christ" and may be brought into at-one-ment with God by Him who "loved us and gave himself for us"--and who "ever liveth to make intercession for us."
7.  We must preach the Divine Reality and Mission of the Holy Catholic Church of Christ, the Church which our Lord Himself founded, the Church of which the New Testament tells us such glorious things, the Church in which we declare our belief each time that we say the Apostles' or the Nicene Creed.
Jesus Christ Himself founded His Church, chose and commissioned His Apostles, instituted the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Communion, and promised to be with the Church "alway, even unto the end of the world." He is "the head over all things to the Church, which is His Body." The Gospel without the Divinely Instituted Church is not the Gospel of the New Testament. The Gospel preached by the Apostles and declared by the whole New Testament is the Gospel of Christ and His Church.
Christ's power is not circumscribed. He is the eternal Word "by whom all things were made." He is "the Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." He promises His help to all who call upon Him. But the Church is the divinely constituted means and the visible pledge of His continuing presence and work in this world and of our fellowship with Him. The Church is the pledged sphere [15/16] of His grace and help given to men. In spite of its sinful divisions, in spite of its weakness and shortcoming on its human side, the Church is still "His Body" in which He lives and ministers to us, and in which He seeks to manifest Himself to the world. And so evangelism means that we are to bring men to accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and to follow Him as their King "in the fellowship of His Church."
We must tell all men that the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church hold and teach the Gospel of Christ and His Church, that they believe in the Church Divinely Instituted, the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, and that they therefore hold steadfastly to the Apostolic Faith and Sacraments and--in common with all the Catholic Churches of the World, both of the East and of the West, which today include the great majority of all the Christians in the world--to the Apostolic Ministry which has come down in unbroken succession "from the Apostles' time" as our Prayer Book declares.
The Church, the Sacraments, and the Ministry are not the ends. They are the means to bring men to Christ. But they are the divinely appointed means. And history shows two facts. First, that where these means of grace are used faithfully they do bring men to Christ and hold them near to Him in faith and life. Second, that [16/17] where these divinely given helps are rejected or neglected, this leads toward loss of faith in Christ as God, and to a religion of vague subjectivism, or rationalistic humanism, as is shown today only too clearly in much of modern Protestantism. Men tend toward loss of faith in the presence and power of Christ when they cease to believe in Christ's presence in the Church and the Sacraments.
8. We must make it clear--clear beyond all doubt or per-adventure--that we preach not a philosophy, not merely an ideal, or a doctrine, but a Person--no less a Person than the Eternal Son of God, the Living Christ, the Lord and Redeemer of the World. The Christian religion is personal faith in a personal Saviour.
We who preach the Gospel must preach Jesus Christ not only as He was here on earth but as He is now at the right hand of God, not only as teacher and example but as God and Saviour. The Gospel that we preach is Jesus Christ Himself. We must preach the Jesus of History, the Jesus of the Apostles, of the New Testament, and of the Holy Catholic Church from the beginning.
We must preach the Christ of the Annunciation, the Christ of Bethlehem, the Christ of Calvary and the Resurrection and the Ascension into Heaven, the Christ who with the Holy Ghost still ministers [17/18] in His Church on earth and in His holy Sacraments still blesses us with His living touch.
We must preach the Christ who is both God and man, the Christ who feels for our infirmities because He is one of us and "hath Himself suffered being tempted," the Christ who is able to give us His grace and strength, able to hear our prayers and answer them, able to fulfill all His promises to us for this life and for the life to come, because He is "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God." We must preach the Christ "who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man," the Christ to whom, before the Altar as we celebrate the Sacrament of His own institution, we say "Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father."
This is the Christ who speaks to all mankind as no other ever has, or ever can.
This is the Christ who says "I am the way, the truth, and the life," "I and my Father are one," "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," and "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
This is the Christ whom we are "so to present in the power of the Holy Ghost that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as [18/19] their Saviour, and to follow Him as their King, in the fellowship of His Church."
And it is this that is required--the simple, fearless preaching of Christ and His Church--if our, Campaign of Evangelism is to have any reality and power. This is the "Evangelism" to which all of us, the laity as well as the clergy, are absolutely committed as baptized members of the Holy Catholic Church, and in which we must rejoice to have our part if we believe the mighty truths declared in the Book of Common Prayer.
This time in which we are living calls to the whole Church for a great revival of faith and of evangelistic power and zeal--a faith which shall move men's hearts, as it moved Saint Paul's, with love for Christ and with desire to make Him known to all mankind.
HOLY CROSS PRESS, WEST PARK, N. Y.