By: J. Gre­sham Machen

This address on “The Sci­en­tif­ic Prepa­ra­tion of the Min­is­ter” was deliv­ered Sep­tem­ber 20, 1912, at the open­ing of the?one hun­dred and first ses­sion of Prince­ton The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. It is found in the Prince­ton The­o­log­i­cal Review,?Vol. XI, No. 1, 1913, p. 1.

One of the great­est of the prob­lems that has agi­tat­ed the Church is the prob­lem of the rela­tion between knowledge?and piety, between cul­ture and Chris­tian­i­ty. This prob­lem has appeared first of all in the pres­ence of two tendencies?in the Church – the sci­en­tif­ic or aca­d­e­m­ic ten­den­cy, and what may be called the prac­ti­cal ten­den­cy. Some men have?devoted them­selves chiefly to the task of form­ing right con­cep­tions as to Chris­tian­i­ty and its foun­da­tions. To them?no fact, how­ev­er triv­ial, has appeared wor­thy of neglect; by them truth has been cher­ished for its own sake, without?immediate ref­er­ence to prac­ti­cal con­se­quences. Some, on the oth­er hand, have empha­sized the essen­tial sim­plic­i­ty of?the gospel. The world is lying in mis­ery, we our­selves are sin­ners, men are per­ish­ing in sin every­day. The gospel is?the sole means of escape; let us preach it to the world while yet we may. So des­per­ate is the need that we have no?time to engage in vain bab­blings or old wives’ fables. While we are dis­cussing the exact loca­tion of the church­es of?Galatia, men are per­ish­ing under the curse of the law; while we are set­tling the date of Jesus’ birth, the world is doing?without its Christ­mas message.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives of both of these ten­den­cies regard them­selves as Chris­tians, but too often there is little?brotherly feel­ing between them. The Chris­t­ian of aca­d­e­m­ic tastes accus­es his broth­er of undue emo­tion­al­ism, of?shallow argu­men­ta­tion, of cheap meth­ods of work. On the oth­er hand, your prac­ti­cal man is ever loud in his?denunciation of aca­d­e­m­ic indif­fer­ence to the dire needs of human­i­ty. The schol­ar is rep­re­sent­ed either as a?dangerous dis­sem­i­na­tor of doubt, or else as a man whose faith is a faith with­out works. A man who investigates?human sin and the grace of God by the aid of dusty vol­umes, care­ful­ly seclud­ed in a warm and com­fort­able study,?without a thought of the men who are per­ish­ing in mis­ery every day!

But if the prob­lem appears thus in the pres­ence of dif­fer­ent ten­den­cies in the Church, it becomes yet far more?insistent with­in the con­scious­ness of the indi­vid­ual! If we are thought­ful, we must see that the desire to know and the?desire to be saved are wide­ly dif­fer­ent. The schol­ar must appar­ent­ly assume the atti­tude of an impar­tial observ­er – an?attitude which seems absolute­ly impos­si­ble to the pious Chris­t­ian lay­ing hold upon Jesus as the only Sav­iour from?the load of sin. If these two activ­i­ties – on the one hand the acqui­si­tion of knowl­edge, and on the oth­er the exercise?and the incul­ca­tion of sim­ple faith – are both to be giv­en a place in our lives, the ques­tion of their prop­er relationship?cannot be ignored.

The prob­lem is made for us the more dif­fi­cult of solu­tion because we are unpre­pared for it. Our whole sys­tem of?school and col­lege edu­ca­tion is so con­sti­tut­ed as to keep reli­gion and cul­ture as far apart as pos­si­ble and ignore the?question of the rela­tion­ship between them. On five or six days in the week, we were engaged in the acqui­si­tion of?knowledge. From this activ­i­ty the study of reli­gions was ban­ished. We stud­ied nat­ur­al sci­ence with­out considering?its bear­ing or lack of bear­ing upon nat­ur­al the­ol­o­gy or upon rev­e­la­tion. We stud­ied Greed with­out open­ing the New?Testament. We stud­ied his­to­ry with care­ful avoid­ance of that great­est of his­tor­i­cal move­ments which was ush­ered in?by the preach­ing of Jesus. In phi­los­o­phy, the vital impor­tance of the study of reli­gion could not entire­ly be?concealed, but it was kept as far as pos­si­ble in the back­ground. On Sun­days, on the oth­er hand, we had religious?instruction that called for lit­tle exer­cise of the intel­lect. Care­ful prepa­ra­tion for Sun­day School lessons as for lessons?in math­e­mat­ics or Latin was unknown. Reli­gion seemed to be some­thing that had to do only with the emo­tions and?the will, leav­ing the intel­lect to sec­u­lar stud­ies. What won­der that after such train­ing we came to regard reli­gion and?culture as belong­ing to two entire­ly sep­a­rate com­part­ments of the soul, and their union as involv­ing the destruction?of both?

Upon enter­ing the Sem­i­nary, we are sud­den­ly intro­duced to an entire­ly dif­fer­ent pro­ce­dure. Reli­gion is suddenly?removed from its seclu­sion; the same meth­ods of study are applied to it as were for­mer­ly reserved for nat­ur­al science?and for his­to­ry. We study the Bible no longer sole­ly with the desire of moral and spir­i­tu­al improve­ment, but also in?order to know. Per­haps the first impres­sion is one of infi­nite loss. The sci­en­tif­ic spir­it seems to be replac­ing simple?faith, the mere appre­hen­sion of dead facts to be replac­ing the prac­tice of prin­ci­ples. The dif­fi­cul­ty is per­haps not so?much that we are brought face to face with new doubts as to the truth of Chris­tian­i­ty. Rather is it the con­flict of?method, of spir­it that trou­bles us. The sci­en­tif­ic spir­it seems to be incom­pat­i­ble with the old spir­it of sim­ple faith. In?short, almost entire­ly unpre­pared, we are brought face to face with the prob­lem of the rela­tion­ship between?knowledge and piety, or, oth­er­wise expressed, between cul­ture and Christianity.

This prob­lem may be set­tled in one of three ways. In the first place, Chris­tian­i­ty may be sub­or­di­nat­ed to culture.?That solu­tion real­ly, though to some extent uncon­scious­ly, is being favoured by a very large and influ­en­tial portion?of the Church today. For the elim­i­na­tion of the super­nat­ur­al in Chris­tian­i­ty – so tremen­dous­ly com­mon today – really?makes Chris­tian­i­ty mere­ly nat­ur­al. Chris­tian­i­ty becomes a human prod­uct, a mere part of human cul­ture. But as?such it is some­thing entire­ly dif­fer­ent from the old Chris­tian­i­ty that was based upon a direct rev­e­la­tion from God.?Deprived thus of its note of author­i­ty, the gospel is no gospel any longer; it is a cheque for untold mil­lions – but?without the sig­na­ture at the bot­tom. So in sub­or­di­nat­ing Chris­tian­i­ty to cul­ture we have real­ly destroyed Christianity,?and what con­tin­ues to bear the old name is a counterfeit.

The sec­ond solu­tion goes to the oppo­site extreme. In its effort to give reli­gion a clear field, it seeks to destroy?culture. This solu­tion is bet­ter than the first. Instead of indulging in a shal­low opti­mism or deifi­ca­tion of human­i­ty, ?it rec­og­nizes the pro­found evil of the world, and does not shrink from the most hero­ic rem­e­dy. The world is so evil?that it can­not pos­si­bly pro­duce the means for its own sal­va­tion. Sal­va­tion must be the gift of an entire­ly new life,?coming direct­ly from God. There­fore, it is argued, the cul­ture of this world must be a mat­ter at least of indifference?to the Chris­t­ian. Now in its extreme form this solu­tion hard­ly requires refu­ta­tion. If Chris­tian­i­ty is real­ly found to?contradict that rea­son which is our only means of appre­hend­ing truth, then of course we must either mod­i­fy or?abandon Chris­tian­i­ty. We can­not there­fore be entire­ly inde­pen­dent of the achieve­ments of the intel­lect. ?Fur­ther­more, we can­not with­out incon­sis­ten­cy employ the print­ing-press, the rail­road, the tele­graph in the?propagation of our gospel, and at the same time denounce as evil those aci­tivites of the human mind that produced?these things. And in the pro­duc­tion of these things not mere­ly prac­ti­cal inven­tive genius had a part, but also, back of?that, the inves­ti­ga­tions of pure sci­ence ani­mat­ed sim­ply by the desire to know. In its extreme form, therefore,?involving the aban­don­ment of all intel­lec­tu­al activ­i­ty, this sec­ond solu­tion would be adopt­ed by none of us. But very?many pious men in the Church today are adopt­ing this solu­tion in essence and in spir­it. They admit that the Christian?must have a part in human cul­ture. But they regard such activ­i­ty as a nec­es­sary evil – a dan­ger­ous and unwor­thy task?necessary to be gone through with under a stern sense of duty in order that there­by the high­er ends of the gospel may?be attained. Such men can nev­er engage in the arts and sci­ences with any­thing like enthu­si­asm – such enthusiasm?they would regard as dis­loy­al­ty to the gospel. Such a posi­tion is real­ly both illog­i­cal and unbib­li­cal. God has given?us cer­tain pow­ers of mind, and has implant­ed with­in us the inerad­i­ca­ble con­vic­tion that these pow­ers were intended?to be exer­cised. The Bible, too, con­tains poet­ry that exhibits no lack of enthu­si­asm, no lack of a keen appre­ci­a­tion of?beauty. With this sec­ond solu­tion of the prob­lem we can­not rest con­tent. Despite all we can do, the desire to know and the love of beau­ty can­not be entire­ly sti­fled, and we can­not per­ma­nent­ly regard these desires as evil.

Are then Chris­tian­i­ty and cul­ture in a con­flict that is to be set­tled only by the destruc­tion of one or the oth­er of the?contending forces? A third solu­tion for­tu­nate­ly, is pos­si­ble – name­ly con­se­cra­tion. Instead of destroy­ing the arts and?sciences or being indif­fer­ent to them, let us cul­ti­vate them with all the enthu­si­asm of the ver­i­est human­ist, but at the?same time con­se­crate them to the ser­vice of our God. Instead of sti­fling the plea­sures afford­ed by the acqui­si­tion of?knowledge or by the appre­ci­a­tion of what is beau­ti­ful, let us accept these plea­sures as the gifts of a heav­en­ly Father. ?Instead of oblit­er­at­ing the dis­tinc­tion between the King­dom and the world, or on the oth­er hand with­draw­ing from?the world into a sort of mod­ern­ized intel­lec­tu­al monas­ti­cism, let us go forth joy­ful­ly, enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly to make the?world sub­ject to God.

Cer­tain obvi­ous advan­tages are con­nect­ed with such a solu­tion of the prob­lem. In the first place, a logical?advantage. A man can believe only what he holds to be true. We are Chris­tians because we hold Chris­tian­i­ty to be?true. But oth­er men hold Chris­tian­i­ty to be false. Who is right? That ques­tion can be set­tled only by an examination?and com­par­i­son of the rea­sons adduced on both sides. It is true, one of the grounds for our belief is an inward?experience that we can­not share – the great expe­ri­ence begun by con­vic­tion of sin and con­ver­sion and con­tin­ued by?communion with God – an expe­ri­ence which oth­er men do not pos­sess, and upon which, there­fore, we can­not directly?base an argu­ment. But if our posi­tion is cor­rect, we ought at least to be able to show the oth­er man that his reasons?may be incon­clu­sive. And that involves care­ful study of both sides of the ques­tion. Fur­ther­more, the field of?Christianity is the world. The Chris­t­ian can­not be sat­is­fied so long as any human activ­i­ty is either opposed to?Christianity or out of all con­nec­tion with Chris­tian­i­ty. Chris­tian­i­ty must per­vade not mere­ly all nations, but also all?of human thought. The Chris­t­ian, there­fore, can­not be indif­fer­ent to any branch of earnest human endeav­our. It?must all be brought into some rela­tion to the gospel. It must be stud­ied either in order to be demon­strat­ed as false, or?else in order to be made use­ful in advanc­ing the King­dom of God. The King­dom must be advanced not merely?extensively, but also inten­sive­ly. The Chruch must seek to con­quer not mere­ly every man for Christ, but also the?whole of man. We are accus­tomed to encour­age our­selves in our dis­cour­age­ments by the thought of the time when?every knee shall bow and every tongue con­fess that Jesus is Lord. No less inspir­ing is the oth­er aspect of that same?great con­sum­ma­tion. That will also be a time when doubts have dis­ap­peared, when every con­tra­dic­tion has been?removed, when all of sci­ence con­verges to one great con­vic­tion, when all of art is devot­ed to one great end, when all?of human think­ing is per­me­at­ed by the refin­ing, ennobling influ­ence of Jesus, when every thought has been brought?into sub­jec­tion to the obe­di­ence of Christ.

If to some of our prac­ti­cal men, these advan­tages of our solu­tion of the prob­lem seem to be intan­gi­ble, we can?point to the mere­ly numer­i­cal advan­tage of intel­lec­tu­al and artis­tic activ­i­ty with­in the Church. We are all agreed that?at least one great func­tion of the Church is the con­ver­sion of indi­vid­ual men. The mis­sion­ary move­ment is the great?religous move­ment of our day. Now it is per­fect­ly true that men must be brought to Christ one by one. There are no?labor-saving devices in evan­ge­lism. It is all hand-work. And yet it would be a great mis­take to sup­pose that all men?are equal­ly well pre­pared to receive the gospel. It is true that the deci­sive thing is the regen­er­a­tive pow­er of God.?That can over­come all lack of prepa­ra­tion, and the absence of that makes even the best prepa­ra­tion use­less. But as a?matter of fact God usu­al­ly exerts that pow­er in con­nec­tion with cer­tain pri­or con­di­tions of the human mind, and it?should be ours to cre­ate, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favourable con­di­tions for the recep­tion of the?gospel. False ideas are the great­est obsta­cles to the recep­tion of the gospel. We may preach with all the fer­vour of a?reformer and yet suc­ceed only in win­ning a strag­gler here and there, if we per­mit the whole col­lec­tive thought of the?nation or of the world to be con­trolled by ideas which, by the resist­less force of log­ic, pre­vent Chris­tian­i­ty from?being regard­ed as any­thing more than a harm­less delu­sion. Under such cir­cum­stances, what God desires us to do is?to destroy the obsta­cle at its root. Many would have the sem­i­nar­ies com­bat error by attack­ing it as it is taught by its?popular expo­nents. Instead of that they con­fuse their stu­dents with a lot of Ger­man names unknown out­side the walls?of the uni­ver­si­ties. That method of pro­ce­dure is based sim­ply upon a pro­found belief in the per­va­sive­ness of ideas.?What is today a mat­ter of aca­d­e­m­ic spec­u­la­tion begins tomor­row to move armies and pull down empires. In that?second stage, it has gone too far to be com­bat­ted; the time to stop it was when it was still a mat­ter of impassionate?debate. So as Chris­tians we should try to mould the thought of the world in such a way as to make the accep­tance of?Christianity some­thing more than a log­i­cal absur­di­ty. Thought­ful men are won­der­ing why the stu­dents of our great?Eastern uni­ver­si­ties no longer enter the min­istry or dis­play any very vital inter­est in Chris­tian­i­ty. Var­i­ous totally?inadequate expla­na­tions are pro­posed, such as the increas­ing attrac­tive­ness of oth­er pro­fes­sions – an absurd?explanation, by the way, since oth­er pro­fes­sions are becom­ing so over-crowd­ed that a man can bare­ly make a living?in them. The real dif­fi­cul­ty amounts to this – that the thought of the day, as it makes itself most strong­ly felt in the?universities, but from them spreads inevitably to the mass­es of the peo­ple, is pro­found­ly opposed to Chris­tian­i­ty, or?at least – what is near­ly as bad – it is out of all con­nec­tion with Chris­tian­i­ty. The Church is unable either to com­bat it?or to assim­i­late it, because the Church sim­ply does not under­stand it. Under such cir­cum­stances, what more pressing?duty than for those who have received the mighty expe­ri­ence of regen­er­a­tion, who, there­fore, do not, like the world,?neglect that the whole series of vital­ly rel­e­vant facts which is embraced in Chris­t­ian expe­ri­ence – what more pressing?duty than for these men to make them­selves mas­ters of the thought of the world in order to make it an instru­ment of?truth instead of error? The Church has no right to be so absorbed in help­ing the indi­vid­ual that she for­gets the world.

There are two objec­tions to our solu­tion of the prob­lem. If you bring cul­ture and Chris­tian­i­ty thus into close?union – in the first place, will not Chris­tian­i­ty destroy cul­ture? Must not art and sci­ence be inde­pen­dent in order to?flourish? We answer that it all depends upon the nature of their depen­dence. Sub­jec­tion to any exter­nal author­i­ty or?even to any human author­i­ty would be fatal to art and sci­ence. But sub­jec­tion to God is entire­ly different.?Dedication of human pow­ers to God is found, as a mat­ter of fact, not to destroy but to height­en them. God gave?those pow­ers. He under­stands them well enough not bungling­ly to destroy His own gifts. In the sec­ond place, will?not cul­ture destroy Chris­tian­i­ty? Is it not far eas­i­er to be an earnest Chris­t­ian if you con­fine your atten­tion to the?Bible and do not risk being led astray by the thought of the world? We answer, of course it is eas­i­er. Shut yourself?up in an intel­lec­tu­al monastery, do not dis­turb your­self with the thoughts of unre­gen­er­ate men, and of course you will?find it eas­i­er to be a Chris­t­ian, just as it is eas­i­er to be a good sol­dier in com­fort­able win­ter quar­ters than it is on the?field of bat­tle. You save your own soul – but the Lord’s ene­mies remain in pos­ses­sion of the field.

But by whom is this task of trans­form­ing the unwieldy, resist­ing mass of human thought until it becomes?subservient to the gospel – by whom is this task to be accom­plished? To some extent, no doubt, by pro­fes­sors in?theological sem­i­nar­ies and uni­ver­si­ties. But the ordi­nary min­is­ter of the gospel can­not shirk his respon­si­bil­i­ty. It is a?great mis­take to sup­pose that inves­ti­ga­tion can suc­cess­ful­ly be car­ried on by a few spe­cial­ists whose work is of?interest to nobody but them­selves. Many men of many minds are need­ed. What we need first of all, espe­cial­ly in our?American church­es, is a more gen­er­al inter­est in the prob­lems of the­o­log­i­cal sci­ence. With­out that, the spe­cial­ist is?without the stim­u­lat­ing atmos­phere which nerves him to do his work.

But no mat­ter what his sta­tion in life, the schol­ar must be a regen­er­at­ed man – he must yield to no one in the?intensity and depth of his reli­gious expe­ri­ence. We are well sup­plied in the world with excel­lent schol­ars who are?without that qual­i­fi­ca­tion. They are doing use­ful work in detail, in Bib­li­cal philol­o­gy, in exe­ge­sis, in Biblical?theology, and in oth­er branch­es of study. But they are not accom­plish­ing the great task, they are not assimilating?modern thought to Chris­tian­i­ty, because they are with­out that expe­ri­ence of God’s pow­er in the soul which is of the?essence of Chris­tian­i­ty. They have only one side for the com­par­i­son. Mod­ern thought they know, but Chris­tian­i­ty is?really for­eign to them. It is just that great inward expe­ri­ence which it is the func­tion of the true Chris­t­ian schol­ar to?bring into some sort of con­nec­tion with the thought of the world.

Dur­ing the last thir­ty years there has been a tremen­dous defec­tion from the Chris­t­ian Church. It is evi­denced even?by things that lie on the sur­face. For exam­ple, by the decline in church atten­dance and in Sab­bath obser­vance and in?the num­ber of can­di­dates for the min­istry. Spe­cial expla­na­tions, it is true, are some­times giv­en for these?discouraging ten­den­cies. But why should we deceive our­selves, why com­fort our­selves by pal­lia­tive explanations??Let us face the facts. The falling off in church atten­dance, the neglect of Sab­bath obser­vance – these things are?simply sur­face indi­ca­tions of a decline in the pow­er of Chris­tian­i­ty. Chris­tian­i­ty is exert­ing a far less pow­er­ful direct?influence in the civ­i­lized world today than it was exert­ing thir­ty years ago.

What is the cause of this tremen­dous defec­tion? For my part, I have lit­tle hes­i­ta­tion in say­ing that it lies chiefly in?the intel­lec­tu­al sphere. Men do not accept Chris­tian­i­ty because they can no longer be con­vinced that Chris­tian­i­ty is?true. It may be use­ful, but is it true? Oth­er expla­na­tions, of course, are giv­en. The mod­ern defec­tion from the?Church is explained by the prac­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism of the age. Men are so much engrossed in mak­ing mon­ey that they?have no time for spir­i­tu­al things. That expla­na­tion has a cer­tain range of valid­i­ty. But its range is lim­it­ed. It applies?perhaps to the boom towns of the West, where men are intox­i­cat­ed by sud­den pos­si­bil­i­ties of bound­less wealth. But?the defec­tion from Chris­tian­i­ty is far broad­er than that. It is felt in the set­tled coun­tries of Europe even more strongly?than in Amer­i­ca. It is felt among the poor just as strong­ly as among the rich. Final­ly, it is felt most strong­ly of all in?the uni­ver­si­ties, and that is only one indi­ca­tion more that the true cause of the defec­tion is intel­lec­tu­al. To a very?large extent, the stu­dents of our great East­ern uni­ver­si­ties – and still more the uni­ver­si­ties of Europe – are not?Christians. And they are not Chris­tians often just because they are stu­dents. The thought of the day, as it makes?itself most strong­ly felt in the uni­ver­si­ties, is pro­found­ly opposed to Chris­tian­i­ty, or at least it is out of connection?with Chris­tian­i­ty. The chief obsta­cle to the Chris­t­ian reli­gion today lies in the sphere of the intellect.

That asser­tion must be guard­ed against two mis­con­cep­tions. In the first place, I do not mean that most men reject?Christianity con­scious­ly on account of intel­lec­tu­al dif­fi­cul­ties. On the con­trary, rejec­tion of Chris­tian­i­ty is due in the?vast major­i­ty of cas­es sim­ply to indif­fer­ence. Only a few men have giv­en the sub­ject real atten­tion. The vast?majority of those who reject the gospel do so sim­ply because they know noth­ing about it. But whence comes this?indifference? It is due to the intel­lec­tu­al atmos­phere in which men are liv­ing. The mod­ern world is dom­i­nat­ed by?ideas which ignore the gospel. Mod­ern cul­ture is not alto­geth­er opposed to the gospel. But is out of all connection?with it. It not only pre­vents the accep­tance of Chris­tian­i­ty. It pre­vents Chris­tian­i­ty even from get­ting a hearing.

In the sec­ond place, I do not mean that the removal of intel­lec­tu­al objec­tions will make a man a Chris­t­ian. No?conversion was ever wrought sim­ply by argu­ment. A change of heart is also nec­es­sary. And that can be wrought?only by the imme­di­ate exer­cise of the pow­er of God. But because intel­lec­tu­al labour is insuf­fi­cient it does not?follow, as is so often assumed, that it is unnec­es­sary. God may, it is true, over­come all intel­lec­tu­al obsta­cles by an?immediate exer­cise of His regen­er­a­tive pow­er. Some­times He does. But He does so very sel­dom. Usu­al­ly He exerts?His pow­er in con­nec­tion with cer­tain con­di­tions of the human mind. Usu­al­ly He does not bring into the Kingdom,?entirely with­out prepa­ra­tion, those whose mind and fan­cy are com­plete­ly dom­i­nat­ed by ideas which made the?acceptance of the gospel log­i­cal­ly impossible.

Mod­ern cul­ture is a tremen­dous force. It affects all class­es of soci­ety. It affects the igno­rant as well as the?learned. What is to be done about it? In the first place, the Church may sim­ply with­draw from the con­flict. She may?simply allow the mighty stream of mod­ern thought to flow by unheed­ed and do her work mere­ly in the back-eddies?of the cur­rent. There are still some men in the world who have been unaf­fect­ed by mod­ern cul­ture. They may still?be won for Christ with­out intel­lec­tu­al labour. And they must be won. It is use­ful, it is nec­es­sary work. If the Church?is sat­is­fied with that alone, let her give up the sci­en­tif­ic edu­ca­tion of her min­istry. Let her assume the truth of her?message and learn sim­ply how it may be applied in detail to mod­ern indus­tri­al and social con­di­tions. Let her give up?the labo­ri­ous study of Greek and Hebrew. Let her aban­don the sci­en­tif­ic study of his­to­ry to the men of the world. In?a day of increased sci­en­tif­ic inter­est, let the Church go on becom­ing less sci­en­tif­ic. In a day of increased?specialization, of renewed inter­est in philol­o­gy and in his­to­ry, of more rigourous sci­en­tif­ic method, let the Church go?on aban­don­ing her Bible to her ene­mies. They will study it sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly, rest assured, if the Church does not. Let?her sub­sti­tute soci­ol­o­gy alto­geth­er for Hebrew, prac­ti­cal expert­ness for the proof of her gospel. Let her short­en the?preparation of her min­istry, let her per­mit it to be inter­rupt­ed yet more and more by pre­ma­ture prac­ti­cal activ­i­ty. By?doing so she will win a strag­gler here and there. But her win­nings will be but tem­po­rary. The great cur­rent of?modern cul­ture will soon­er or lat­er engulf her puny eddy. God will save her some­how – out of the depths. But the?labour of cen­turies will have been swept away. God grant that the Church may not resign her­self to that. God grant?she may face her prob­lem square­ly and brave­ly. That prob­lem is not easy. It involves the very basis of her faith.?Christianity is the procla­ma­tion of an his­tor­i­cal fact – that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Mod­ern thought has no?place for that procla­ma­tion. It pre­vents men even from lis­ten­ing to the mes­sage. Yet the cul­ture of today cannot?simply be reject­ed as a whole. It is not like the pagan cul­ture of the first cen­tu­ry. It is not whol­ly non-Christian.?Much of it has been derived direct­ly from the Bible. There are sig­nif­i­cant move­ments in it, going to waste, which?might well be used for the defence of the gospel. The sit­u­a­tion is com­plex. Easy whole­sale mea­sures are not in?place. Dis­crim­i­na­tion, inves­ti­ga­tion is nec­es­sary. Some of mod­ern thought must be refut­ed. The rest must be made?subservient. But noth­ing in it can be ignored. He that is not with us is against us. Mod­ern cul­ture is a mighty force.?It is either sub­servient to the gospel or else it is the dead­liest ene­my of the gospel. For mak­ing it subservient,?religious emo­tion is not enough, intel­lec­tu­al labour is also nec­es­sary. And that labour is being neglect­ed. The?Church has turned to eas­i­er tasks. And now she is reap­ing the fruits of her indo­lence. Now she must bat­tle for her?life.

The sit­u­a­tion is des­per­ate. It might dis­cour­age us. But not if we are tru­ly Chris­tians. Not if we are liv­ing in vital?communion with the risen Lord. If we are real­ly con­vinced of the truth of our mes­sage, then we can pro­claim it before a world of ene­mies, then the very dif­fi­cul­ty of our task, the very scarci­ty of our allies becomes an inspiration,?then we can even rejoice that God did not place us in an easy age, but in a time of doubt and per­plex­i­ty and battle.?Then, too, we shall not be afraid to call forth oth­er sol­diers into the con­flict. Instead of mak­ing our theological?seminaries mere­ly cen­tres of reli­gious emo­tion, we shall make them bat­tle­grounds of the faith, where, helped a little?by the expe­ri­ence of Chris­t­ian teach­ers, men are taught to fight their own bat­tle, where they come to appre­ci­ate the?real strength of the adver­sary and in the hard school of intel­lec­tu­al strug­gle learn to sub­sti­tute for the unthink­ing faith?of child­hood the pro­found con­vic­tions of full-grown men. Let us not fear in this a loss of spir­i­tu­al pow­er. The?Church is per­ish­ing today through the lack of think­ing, not through an excess of it. She is win­ning vic­to­ries in the?sphere of mate­r­i­al bet­ter­ment. Such vic­to­ries are glo­ri­ous. God save us from the heart­less crime of disparaging?them. They are reliev­ing the mis­ery of men. But if they stand alone, I fear they are but tem­po­rary. The things which?are seen are tem­po­ral; the things which are not seen are eter­nal. What will become of phil­an­thropy if God be lost??Beneath the sur­face of life lies a world of spir­it. Philoso­phers have attempt­ed to explore it. Chris­tian­i­ty has revealed?its won­ders to the sim­ple soul. There lie the springs of the Church’s pow­er. But that spir­i­tu­al realm can­not be?entered with­out con­tro­ver­sy. And now the Church is shrink­ing from the con­flict. Dri­ven from the spir­i­tu­al realm by?the cur­rent of mod­ern thought, she is con­sol­ing her­self with things about which there is no dis­pute. If she favours?better hous­ing for the poor, she need fear no con­tra­dic­tion. She will need all her courage, she will have enemies?enough, God knows. But they will not fight her with argu­ment. The twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, in the­o­ry, is agreed on social?betterment. But sin, and death, and sal­va­tion, and life, and God – about these things there is debate. You can avoid?the debate if you choose. You need only drift with the cur­rent. Preach every Sun­day dur­ing your Sem­i­nary course,?devote the far ends of your time to study and to thought, study about as you stud­ied in col­lege – and these questions?will prob­a­bly nev­er trou­ble you. The great ques­tions may eas­i­ly be avoid­ed. Many preach­ers are avoid­ing them.?And many preach­ers are preach­ing to the air. The Church is wait­ing for men of anoth­er type. Men to fight her?battles and solve her prob­lems. The hope of find­ing them is the one great inspi­ra­tion of a Sem­i­nary’s life. They need?not all be men of con­spic­u­ous attain­ments. But they must all be men of thought. They must fight hard against?spiritual and intel­lec­tu­al indo­lence. Their think­ing may be con­fined to nar­row lim­its. But it must be their own. To?them the­ol­o­gy must be some­thing more than a task. It must be a mat­ter of inquiry. It must lead not to successful?memorizing, but to gen­uine convictions.

The Church is puz­zled by the world’s indif­fer­ence. She is try­ing to over­come it by adapt­ing her mes­sage to the?fashions of the day. But if, instead, before the con­flict, she would descend into the secret place of med­i­ta­tion, if by?the clear light of the gospel she would seek an answer not mere­ly to the ques­tion of the hour but, first of all, to the?eternal prob­lems of the spir­i­tu­al world, then per­haps, by God’s grace, through His good Spir­it, in His good time, she?might issue forth once more with pow­er, and an age of doubt might be fol­lowed by the dawn of an era of faith.