write a review that 750 – 1000 word in length about one chapter in the Niebuhr textbook. Half will be summary and half will be the student’s personal reflection. The reflection should include points that the student agrees and disagrees with Niebuhr about and why.


To Reinie


Copyright, 1 95 1 , by Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporate.ct,
Printed in the United States of America

All rights in this book are reserved.
No part of the book may be used or reproduced
in any manner whatsoever without written per­
mission except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in critical articles and reviews. For
information address:

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10 East 53rd Street, New York, N. Y. 10022.

First HARPER TORCHBOOK edition published 1956


]. The Enduring Problem




2. Cbrist Against Culture






3. Tbe Cbrist of Culture







4. Christ Above Culture



5. Christ and Culture in Paradox





6. Christ the Transformer of Culture




7. A “Concluding Unscientific Postscript”





24 1



The present volume makes available in print and in expanded
form the series of lectures which Professor H. Richard Niebuhr
gave at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in January, 1 949,
on the Alumni Foundation. This lectureship was inaugurated in
1 945. Since that time the Seminary has had the privilege of present­
ing to its students and alumni at the time of the midwinter convoca­
tions the reflections of leading Christian thinkers on important
issues and, in part, of stimulating the publication of these refl.ec�
tions for the benefit of a wider audience.

The men and their subjects have been:

1945-Ernest Trice Thompson, Christian Bases of World Order
1946-Josef Lukl Hromadka, The Church at the Crossroads
1947-Paul Scherer, The Plight of Freedom
1948-D. Elton Trueblood, Alternative to Futility
194g-H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture
1950–Paul Minear, The Kingdom and the Power
1951 -G. Ernest Wright, God Who Acts

Dr. Niebuhr makes a distinguished contribution in this dear and
incisive study in Christian Ethics.

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary,
Austin, Texas

DAVID L. Srrrr,


The following essay on the double wrestle of the church with its
Lord and with the cultural society with which it lives in symbiosis
represents part of the result of many years of study, reflection and
teaching. The immediate occasion for the organization and written
composition of the material was offered by the invitation of Austin
Presbyterian Theological Seminary to deliver and to publish a
series of lectures on the subject. Back of the efforts to condense my
observations and reflections into five lectures and then again to
refine and elaborate them in the revision lie many other attempts
at comprehension and organization of the complex data. Directly
antecedent to the Austin lectures were courses in the history and
the types of Christian ethics which I offered to students of the
Divinity School of Yale University.

“When a work has been so long in preparation the debts accumu­
lated by the author are so many and so great that public acknowl­
edgment is embarrassing since it must reveal his lack of adequate
gratitude as well as of adequate ability to appropriate the gifts that
have been offered him. There are reflections in this book which I
regard as the fruits of my own effort to understand but which,
nevertheless, are in reality ideas which I have appropriated from
others. Some of my former students, should they read these pages,
will be able to say at this or that point, “This is a fact or an inter­
pretation to which I called my teacher’s attention,” but they will
look in vain for the footnote in which due credit is given. Fellow
students who have written on related subjects will be in the same
situation. Yet there is more pleasure than embarrassment in
acknowledging this unspecified indebtedness to members of that
wide community in which all know that none possesses anything
that he has not received and that as we have freely received so we
may freely give.

I am most conscious of my debt to that theologian and historiar;.


who was occupied throughout his life by the problem of church
and culture-Ernst Troeltsch. The present book in one sense un­
dertakes to do no more than to supplement and in part to correct
his work on The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches.
Troeltsch has taught me to respect the multiformity and individu­
ality of men and movements in Christian history, to be loath to
force this rich variety into prefashioned, conceptual molds, and yet
to seek logos in mythos, reason in history, essence in existence. He
has helped me to accept and to profit by the acceptance of the
relativity not only of historical objects but, more, of the historical
subject, the observer and interpreter. If I think of my essay as an
effort to correct Troeltsch’s analyses of the encounters of church
and world it is mostly because I try to understand this historical
relativism in the light of theological and theo-centric relativism. I
believe that it is an aberration of faith as well as of reason to
absolutize the finite but that all this relative history of finite men
and movements is under the governance of the absolute God. Isaiah
1 0, I Corinthians 1 2 and Augustine’s City of God indicate the con­
text in which the relativities of history make sense. In the analysis
of the five main types which I have substituted for Troeltsch’s three,
I have received the greatest help from Professor Etienne Gilson’s
Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages, as well as fruitful sug­
gestions from C. J. Jung’s Psychological Types.

Many colleagues, relatives, and friends have helped me with coun­
sel, criticism, and encouragement in the course of the effort to give
my reflections the unity and precision which written communication
demands in the measure that the complexity of the data and the
ability of the worker permit. ! record niy special thanks to my col­
leagues, Professors Paul Schubert and Raymond Morris, to my sister
and brother, Professors Hulda and Reinhold Niebuhr, to Mr. Dud­
ley Zuver of Harper & Brothers, at whose suggestion the last chapter
was added, to my daughter and to Mrs. Dorothy Ansley who assisted
with the typescript, to Professor Edwin Penick, who gave most care­
ful attention to proof sheets and supplied the index, and to my wife.
I recollect with gratitude the kindly reception given me at Austin
by President Stitt and his colleagues and the part they played in
helping me to bring this work to its present, tentative conclusion.

New Haven, Connecticut H. RICHARD NIEBUHR


The Enduring Problem


A many-sided debate about the relations of Christianity and
civilization is being carried on in our time. H istorians and
theologians, statesmen and churchmen, Catholics and Protes­
tants, Christians and anti-Christians participat.e in it. It is
carried on publicly by opposing parties and privately in the con­
flicts of conscience. Sometimes it is concentrated on special
issues, such as those of the place of Christian faith in general
education or of Christian ethics in economic life. Sometimes it
deals with broad questions of the church’ s responsibility for
social order or of the need for a new separation of Christ’s fol­
lowers from the world.

The debate is as confused as it is many-sided. When it seems
that the issue has been clearly defined as lying between the
exponents of a Christian civilization and the non-Christian
defenders of a wholly secularized society, new perplexities arise
as devoted believers seem to make common cause with secular­
ists, calling, for instance, for the elimination of religion from
public education, or for the Christian support of apparently
anti-Christian political movements. So many voices are heard,
so many confident but diverse assertions about the Christian
answer to the social problem are being made, so many issues


are raised, that bewilderment and uncertainty beset many

In this situation it is helpful to remember that the question
of Christianity and civilization is by no means a new one; that
Christian perplexity in this area has been perennial, and that
the problem has been an enduring one through all the Chris­
tian centuries. It is helpful also to recall that the repeated
struggles of Christians with this problem have yielded no single
Christian answer, but only a series of typical answers which
together, for faith, represent phases of the strategy of the mili­
tant church in the world. That strategy, however, being in the
mind of the Captain rather than of any lieutenants, is not under
the control of the latter. Christ’s answer to the problem of
human culture is one thing, Christian answers are another; yet
his followers are assured that he uses their various works in ac­
complishing his own. It is the purpose of the following chapters
to set forth typical Christian answers to the problem of Christ
and culture and so to contribute to the mutual understanding of
variant and often conflicting Christian groups. The belief which
lies back of this effort, however, is the conviction that Christ as
living Lord is answering the question in the totality of history
and life in a fashion which transcends the wisdom of all his
interpreters yet employs their partial insights and their neces­
sary conflicts.

The enduring problem evidently arose in the days of Jesus
Christ’s humanity when he who “was a Jew and . . . remained
a Jew till his last breath” 1 confronted Jewish culture with a
hard challenge. Rabbi Klausner has described in modern terms
how the problem of Jesus and culture must have appeared to the
Pharisees and Sadducees, and has defended their repudiation of
the Nazarene on the ground that he imperiled Jewish civiliza-

1 Klausner, Joseph, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 368.

tion. Though Jesus was a product of that culture, so that there
is not a word of ethical or religious counsel in the gospels which
cannot be paralleled in ] ewish writings, says Klausner, yet he
endangered it by abstracting religion and ethics from the rest
of social life, and by looking for the establishment by divine
power only of a “kingdom not of this world.” “Judaism, how­
ever, is not only religion and it is not only ethics : it is the sum­
total of all the needs of the nation, placed on a religious basis .
. . . Judaism is a national life, a life which the national religion
and human ethical principles embrace without engulfing. Jesus
came and thrust aside all the requirements of the national life .
. . . In their stead he set up nothing but an ethico-religious
system bound up with hj.s conception of the Godhead.”2 Had he
undertaken to reform the religious and national culture, elim­
inating what was archaic in ceremonial and civil law, he might
haYe been a great boon to his society; but instead/of reforming
culture he ignored it. ” H e did not come to enlarge his nation’s
knowledge, art and culture, but to abolish even such culture as
it possessed, bound up with religion.” For civil j ustice he substi­
tuted the command to nonresistance, which must result in the
loss of all social order; the social regulation and protection of
family life he replaced with the prohibition of all divorce, and
with praise of those who “made themselves eunuchs for the
kingdom of heaven’s sake” ; instead of manifesting interest in
labor, in economic and political achievement, he recommended
the unanxious, toilless life exemplified by birds and lilies; he
ignored even the requirements of ordinary distributive j ustice
when he said, ” Man, who has made me a judge or divider over
you?” Hence, Klausner concludes, “Jesus ignored everything
concerned with material civilization : in this sense he does not
belong to civilization.”3 Therefore his people rejected him; and

2 Ibid., p. 390.
3 Ibid., PP· 373-375.


‘”two thousand years of non-Jewish Christianity have proved
that the Jewish people did not err.”4

Not all the Jews of his day rejected Jesus in the name of their
culture, and two thousand years of non-Jewish Christianity and
non-Christian Judaism may be appealed to in validation of
many other propositions than that Jesus imperils culture; but
it is evident that those two millennia have been full of wres­
tlings with j ust this problem. Not only Jews but also Greeks and
Romans, medievalists and modems, Westerners and Orientals
have rejected Christ because they saw in him a threat to their

The story of Graeco-Roman civilization’s attack on the gospel
forms one of the dramatic chapters in every history of Wes tern
culture and of the church, though it is told too often in terms
of politicai persecution only. Popular animosity based on social
piety, literary polemics, philosophical objection, priestly re­
sistance, and doubtless economic defensiveness all played a
part in the rejection of Christ, for the problem he raised was
broadly cultural and not merely political. Indeed, the state was
slower to take up arms against him and his disciples than were
other institutions and groups.5 In modern times open conflict J
has again arisen, not only as spokesmen of nationalistic and
communistic societies but also as ardent champions of human­
istic and democratic civilizations have discerned in Christ a
foe of cultural interests.

The historical and social situations in which such rejections
4 Ibid., p. 391.
5 “Christianity’s battle with the inner faith of the pagan masses, with the

convictions of the leading spirits, was incomparably more difficult than was its
wrestle with the power of the Roman state; the victory of the new faith was in
consequence a far greater achievement than earlier times with their depreciation
of paganism have assumed.” Geffcken, Johannes, Der A usgang des Griechisch­
Roemischen Heidentums, 1920, p. 1. For other accounts of the conflict see Cam­
bridge Ancient History, Vol. XII, 1 939, and Cochrane, C. N., Christianity and
Classical Culture, 1 940.


of Jesus Christ have taken place have been extremely various;
the personal and group motivations of opponents have been of
many sorts; the philosophical and scientific beliefs which have
been arrayed against Christian convictions have often been more
sharply opposed to each other than to the convictions them­
selves. Yet in so far as the relation of Jesus Christ to culture is
concerned considerable unanimity may be found among these.
disparate critics. Ancient spiritualists and modern materialists,
pious Romans who charge Christianity with atheism, and nine­
teenth century atheists who condemn its theistic faith, national­
ists and humanists, all seem to be offended by the same elements
in the gospel and employ similar arguments in defending their
culture against it.

Prominent among these recurrent arguments is the conten­
tion that, as Gibbon states the Roman case, Christians are


“animated by a contempt for present existence and by confi­
dence in immortality.”6 This two-edged faith has baffled and
angered glorifiers of modern civilization as well as defenders of
Rome, radical revolutionaries as well as conservers of the old
order, believers in continuing progress and desponding antici­
pators of the decline of culture. It is not an attitude which can
be ascribed to defective discipleship while the Master is excul­
pated, since his statements about anxiety for food and drink,
about the unimportance of treasures on earth, and about fear
of those who can take away life as well as his rejection in life
and death of temporal power, make him the evident source of
his followers’ convictions. N either is it an attitude that can be
dismissed as characteristic of some Christians only, such as those
who believe in an early end of the world, or ultraspiritualists.
It is connected with various views of history and with various

6 The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Modern Library ed., Vol. I,
P· 402.


ideas about the relations of spirit and matter. It is a baffiing
attitude, because it–IDates what .seems like contempt for present
existence with great concern for existing men, because it is not
frightened by the prospect of doom on all man’s works, because
it is not despairing but confident. Christianity seems to threaten
culture at this point not because it prophesies that of all human
achievements not one stone will be left on another but because
Christ enables men to regard this disaster with a certain equa­
nimity, directs their hopes toward another world, and so seems
to deprive them of motivation to engage in the ceaseless labor
of conserving a massive but insecure social heritage. Therefore
a Celsus moves from attack on Christianity to an appeal to
believers to stop endangering a threatened empire by their
withdrawal from the public tasks of defense and reconstruction,
The same Christian attitude, however, arouses Marx and Lenin
to hostility because believers do not care enough about temporal
existence to engage in all-out struggle for the destruction of an
old order and the building of a new one. They can account for
it only by supposing that Christian faith is a religious opiate

used by the fortunate to stupefy the people, who should be well
aware that there is no life beyond culture.

Another common argument raised against Christ by his cul�
tural antagonists of various times and persuasions is that he
indu�es men to rely on the grace of God instead of summoning
them to human achievement. What would have happened to
the Romans, asks Celsus in effect, if they had followed the com­
mand to trust in God alone? Would they not have been left like
the Jews, without a patch of ground to call their own, and
would they not have been hunted down as criminals, like the
Christians?7 Modem philosophers of culture, such as N ikolai

7 Origen, Contra Celsus, VIII, lxix (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, p. 666) .


Hartmann, find in this God-reliance of faith an ultimate an­
tinomy to the ethics of culture with its necessary fOncentration
on human effort. 8 Marxists, believing that men make history,
regard trust in the grace of God a sleeping pill as potent as the
hope of heaven. Democratic and humanistic reformers of society
accuse Christians of “quietism,” while popular wisdom ex­
presses its tolerant unbelief in grace by saying that God helps
those who help themselves and that one must trust in H im but
keep one’s powder dry.

A third count in the recurring cultural indictments of Christ
and his church is that they are intolerant, though this charge
is not as general as are the former accusations. It does not occur
in the Communists’ complaint, for it is not the obj ection which
one intolerant belief raises against another but rather the dis­
approval with which unbelief meets conviction. Ancient Roman
civilization, says Gibbon, was bound to rej ect Christianity j ust
because Rome was tolerant. This culture, with its great diversity
of customs and religions, could exist only if reverence and assent
were granted to the many confused traditions and ceremonies of
its constituent nations. Hence it was to be “expected that they
would unite with indignation against any sect of people which
should separate itself from the communion of mankind and
claiming the exclusive possession of divine knowledge, should
disdain every form of worship except its own as impious and
idolatrous.”9 Toward Jews, who held the same convictions as
Christians about the gods and idols, Romans could be some­
what tolerant, because they were a separate nation with ancient
traditions, and because they were content for the most part to
live withdrawn from the social life. Christians, however, were
members of Roman society, and in the midst of that society

2 Hartmann, Nikolai, Ethics, 1932, Vol. III, pp. 266 ff.
9 Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 446.


explicitly and implicitly expressed their scorn for the religions
of the people. Hei:ce they appeared to be traitors who dissolved
the sacred ties of custom and education, violated the religious
institutions of their country, and presumptuously despised what
their fathers had believed true and reverenced as sacred.10 We
need to add that Roman tolerance, like modern democratic
tolerance, had its limits just because it was carried out as a
social policy for the sake of maintaining unity. Whatever re­
ligion man followed, homage to Caesar was eventually re­
quired.11 But Christ and Christians threatened the unity of the
culture at both ‘points with their radical monotheism, a faith
in the one God that was very different from the pagan uni­
versalism which sought to unify many deities and many cults
under one earthly or heavenly monarch. The political problem
such monotheism presents to the exponents of a national or im­
perial culture has been largely obscured in modern times, but
became quite evident in the anti-Christian and especially anti­
J ewish attacks of German national socialism.12 Divinity, it
seems, must not only hedge kings but also other symbols of
political power, and monotheism deprives them of their sacred
aura. The Christ who will not worship Satan to gain the world’s
kingdoms is followed by Christians who will worship only Christ
in unity with the Lord whom he serves. And this is intolerable
to all defenders of society who are content that many gods
should be worshipped if only Democracy or America or Ger­
many or the Empire receives its due, religious homage. The
antagonism of modern, tolerant culture to Christ is of course
often disguised because it does not call its religious practices

10 Ibid., p. 448.
1 1 Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. XII, pp. 409 ff.; 356 ff.; Cochrane, C. N.,

op. cit., pp. 1 1 5 ff.
12 Cf. Barth, Karl, The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day, 1 939;

Hayes, Carlton J. H., Essays in Nationalism, 1933.


religious, reserving that term for certain specified rites con­
nected with officially recognized sacred institutions; and also
because it regards what it calls religion as one of many interests
which can be placed alongside economics, art, science, politics,
and techniques. Hence the objection it voices to Christian
monotheism appears in such injunctions only as that religion
should be kept out of politics and business, or that Christian
faith must learn to get along with other religions. What is often
meant is that not only the claims of religious groups but all
consideration of the claims of Christ and God should be ban­
ished from the spheres where other gods, called valu�s, reign.
The implied charge against Christian faith is like the ancient
one : it imperils society by its attack on its religious life ; it de­
prives social institutions of their cultic, sacred character; by its
refusal to condone the pious superstitions of to.lerant poly­
theism it threatens social unity. The charge lies not only against
Christian organizations which use coercive means against what
they define as false religions, but against the faith itself.

Other points are frequently made in the attacks on Christ
and Christianity by those who see in them the foes of culture.
The forgiveness that Christ practices and teaches is said to be
irreconcilable with the demands of justice or the free man’s
sense of moral responsibility. The injunctions of the Sermon on
the Mount concerning anger and resistance to evil, oaths and
marriage, anxiety and property, are found incompatible with
the duties of life in society. Christian exaltation of the lowly
offends aristocrats and Nietzscheans in one way, champions of
the proletariat in another. The unavailability of Christ’s wis­
dom to the wise and prudent, its attainability by the simple and
by babes, bewilder the philosophical leaders of culture or excite
their scorn.

Though these attacks on Christ and Christian faith under-


score and bring into the open-often in bizarre forms-the
nature of the issue, it is not defense against them that consti­
tutes the Christian problem. Not only pagans who have rejected
Christ but believers who have accepted him find it difficult to
combine his claims upon them with those of their societies.
Struggle and appeasement, victory and reconciliation appear
not only in the open where parties calling themselves Christian
and anti-Christian meet; more frequently the debate about
Christ and culture is carried on among Christians and in the
hidden depths of the individual conscience, not as the struggle
and accommodation of belief with unbelief, but as the wrestling
and the reconciliation of faith with faith. The Christ and cul­
ture issue was present in Paul’s struggle with the Judaizers and
the Hellenizers of the gospel, but also in his effort to translate
it into the forms of Greek language and thought. It appears in
the early struggles of the church with the empire, with the re­
ligions and philosophies of the Mediterranean world, in its
rejections and acceptances of prevailing mores, moral princi­
ples, metaphysical ideas, and forms of social organization. The
Constantinian settlement, the formulation of the great creeds,
the rise of the papacy, the monastic movement, Augustinian
Platonism, and Thomistic Aristotelianism, the Reformation and
the Renaissance, the Revival and the Enlightenment, liberalism
and the Social Gospel-these represent a few of the many chap­
ters in the history of the enduring problem. It appears in many
forms as well as in all ages; as the problem of reason and revela­
tion, of religion and science, of natural and divine law, of state
and church, of nonresistance and coercion. It has come to view
in such specific studies as those of the relations of Protestantism
and capitalism, of Pietism and nationalism, of Puritanism and
democracy, of Catholicism and Romanism or Anglicanism, of
Christianity and progress.


It is not essentially the problem of Christianity and civiliza­
tion; for Christianity, whether defined as church, creed, ethics,
or movement of thought, itself moves between the poles of
Christ and culture. The relation of these two authorities con­
stitutes its problem. When Christianity deals with the question
of reason and revelation, what is ultimately in question is the
relation of the revelation in Christ to the reason which prevails
in culture. When it makes the effort to distinguish, contrast, or
combine rational ethics with its knowledge of the will of God,
it deals with the understanding of right and wrong developed
in the culture and with good and evil as ill�minated by Christ.

When the problem of loyalty to church or state is raised,
Christ and cultural society stand in the background as the true
objects of devotion. Hence, before we undertake to outline and
to illustrate the main ways in which Christians have, dealt with
their enduring problem, it is desirable that we seek to state what
we mean by these two terms-Christ and culture. In doing this
we shall need to exercise care lest we prejudge the issue by so
defining one term or the other or both that only one of t:he
Christian answers to be described will appear legitimate.


A Christian is ordinarily defined as “one who believes in
Jesus Christ” or as “a follower of Jesus Christ.” He might more
adequately be described as one who counts himself as belonging
to that community of men for whom Jesus Christ-his life,
words, deeds, and destiny-is of supreme importance as the key
to the understanding of themselves and their world, the main
source of the knowledge of God and man, good and evil, the
constant companion of the conscience, and the expected de­
liverer from evil. So great, however, is the variety of personal
and communal “belief in Jesus Christ,” so manifold the inter-


pretation of his essential nature, that the question must arise
whether the Christ of Christianity is indeed one Lord. For
some Christians and parts of the Christian community Jesus
Christ is a great teacher and lawgiver who in what he said of

and the moral law so persuades the mind and will that

there is henceforth no escape from him. Christianity is for them
a new law and a new religion proclaimed by Jesus. In part i t.
seems to be the cause which they have chosen; in part it is a
cause which has chosen them, by wresting consent from their
minds. For others Jesus Christ is not so much a teacher and re­
vealer of truths and laws as in himself, in incarnation, death,
resurrection, and living presence the revelatim1 of God. Jesus
Christ, by being what he was, by suffering what he did, by being
defeated in crucifixion, and by returning victoriously from
death, makes evident the being and nature of God, exercises the
claim of God on human faith, and thus raises to a new life the
men he encounters. For still others Christianity is primarily
neither new teaching nor new life but a new community, the
Holy Catholic Church; hence the work of Christ which occupies
the center of their attention is his founding of this new society

which mediates his grace through word and sacrament.
There are many other views of what it means to “believe in

Jesus Christ.” Yet this variety in Christianity cannot obscure
the fundamental unity which is supplied by the fact that the
Jesus Christ to whom men are related in such different ways is
a definite character and person whose teachings, actions, and
sufferings are of one piece. The fact remains that the Christ
who exercises authority over Christians or whom Christians
accept as authority is the Jesus Christ of the N ew Testament;
and that this is a person with definite teachings, a definite char­
acter, and a definite fate. Important as are the once debated
question whether Jesus ever “really” lived, and the still moot


problem of the trustworthiness of N ew Testament records as
factual descriptions of actual events, these are not the questions
of primary significance. For the Jesus Christ of the N ew Testa­
ment is in our actual history, in history as we remember and
live it, as it shapes our present faith and action. And this Jesus
Christ is a definite person, one and the same whether he appears
as man of flesh and blood or as risen Lord. He can never be
confused with a Socrates, a Plato or an Aristotle, a Gautama,
a Confucius, or a Mohammed, or even with an Amos or Isaiah.
Interpreted by a monk, he may take on monastic character­
istics; delineated by a socialist, he may show the features of a
radical reformer; portrayed by a Hoffman, he may appear as a
mild gentleman. But there always remain the original p ortraits
with which all later pictures may be compared and by which
all caricatures may be corrected. And in these origiI).al portraits
he is recognizably one and the same. Whatever roles he plays in
the varieties of Christian experience, it is the same Christ who
exercises these various offices. The founder of the church is the
same Christ who gives the new law; the teacher of truths about
God is the same Christ who is in himself the revelation of the
truth. The sacramentalist cannot escape the fact that the one
who gives his body and blood is also the giver of the new com­
mandments; the sectarian cannot avoid meeting in the ethical
authority the forgiver of sins. Those who no longer know a
” Christ after the flesh” still know the risen Lord as the same
one whose deeds were described by those who “from the begin­
ning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word.” However
great the variations among Christians in experiencing and
describing the authority J esus Christ has over them, they have
this in common: that Jesus Christ is their authority, and that
the ·one who exercises these various kinds of authority is the
same Christ.


As soon, of course, as we undertake to define the essence of
the J esus Christ who is one and the same, or to say what it is
that gives him his various kinds of authority, we enter into
the continuous debate of the Christian community. We en­
counter two difficulties in particular. The first is the impossibil­
ity of stating adequately by means of concepts and propositions
a principle which presents itself in the form of a person. The
second is the impossibility of saying anything about this person
which is not also relative to the particular standpoint in church,
history, and culture of the one who undertakes to describe him .
Hence one is tempted t o speak redundantly, saying simply,
”Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ,” or to accept the method of
Biblical positivism, pointing to th e New Testament and fore­
going all interpretation.

It is, however, as unnecessary as it is undesirable to confine
ourselves to such assertions and gestures. If we cannot say any­
thing adequately, we can say some things inadequately. If we
cannot point to the heart and essence of this Christ, we can at
least point to some of the phenomena in which his essence
appears. Though every description is an interpretation, it can
be an interpretation of the objective reality. Jesus Christ who
is the Christian’s authority can be described, though every
description falls short of completeness and must fail to satisfy
others who have encountered him.

For the purpose of such description a moralist may be per­
mitted to choose the somewhat arbitrary device of pointing out
and defining the virtues of Jesus Christ; though it will be evi­
dent that the resultant portrait needs to be complemented by
other interpretations of the same subject, and that a moral
description cannot claim to come closer to the essence than do
metaphysical or historical descriptions. By the virtues of Christ
we mean the excellences of character which on the one hand


he exemplifies in his own life, and which on the other he
communicates to his followers. For some Christians they are the
virtues his example and law demand; for others they are gifts
he bestows through regeneration, the dying and rising of the
self with him, the first-born of many brothers. But whether
Christians emphasize law or grace, whether they look to the
J esus of history or to the pre-existent and risen Lord, the virtues
of Je;ms Christ are the same.

The virtue of Christ which religious liberalism has magnified
beyond all others is love.13 The discernment of this excellence
in him surely constitutes no aberration on the part of liberal
thought, whatever may be said about the paucity of references
to love in the Synoptic Gospels. The remainder of the New
Testament and the witness ot Christians in all ages confirm the
affirmation that love is one of Jesus Christ’s great yirtues, and
that what he demands of his disciples or makes possible to them
is love. Yet when we examine the New Testament and study its
portraits of Jesus we become dubious of the descriptive value
of such phrases as “the absolutism and perfectionism of Jesus’
love ethic”14 or of such statements as the following :

What Uesus] freed from its connexion with self-seeking and ritual
elements, and recognized as the moral principle, he reduces to one
root and to one motive-love. He knows no other, and love itself,
whether it takes tne form of love of one’s neighbor or of one’s
enemy, or the love of the Samaritan, is of one kind only. It must
completely fill the soul; it is what remains when the soul dies to

Jesus nowhere commands love for its own sake, and nowhere
exhibits that complete dominance of the kindly over the aggres�

13 Cf. esp. Harnack, A., What is Christianity? i901, pp. 78 ff. Not only lib­
erals magnify this virtue; Reinhold Niebuhr, for instance, agrees with Harnack
in regarding love as the key to Jesus’ ethics. Cf. An Interpretation of Christia’lt.
Ethics, 1 935, chap. II.

14 Niebuhr, op. cit., p. 39.
•5 Harnack, op. cit., p. 78.


sive sentiments and emotions which seems indicated by the
idea that in him and for him love “must completely fill the
soul,” or that his ethics is characterized by “the ideal of love.”
The virtue of love in Jesus’ character and demand is the virtue
of the love of God and of the neighb or in God, not the virtue
of the love of love. The unity of this person lies in the simplicity
and completeness of his direction toward God, whether the
relation be one of love or of faith or of fear. Love, to be sure,
is characterized by a certain extremism in Jesus, but its extrem­
ism is not that of a passion unmodified by any other passions; it

· is the extremism of devotion to the one God, uncom promised
by love of any other absolute good. This virtue in him is dispro­
portionate only in the polytheistic-monotheistic sense, not in the
sense that it is unaccompanied by other virtues perhaps equally
great; nor in an Aristotelian sense, as though it did not lie in the
mean between excess and defect or between kindliness and
anger. For Jesus there is no other finally love-worthy being, no
other ultimate obj ect of devotion, than God; He is the Father;
there is none good save God; He alone is to be thanked ; His
kingdom alone is to be sought. Hence the love of God in Jesus’
character and teaching is not only compatible with anger but
can be a motive to it, as when he sees the Father’s house made
into a den of thieves or the Father’s children outraged. Hence
also it is right and possible to underscore the significance of this
virtue in J esus, while at the same time one recognizes that
according to the Synoptic Gospels he emphasized in conduct and
in teaching the virtues of faith in God and humility before Him
much more than love.

If the nature of this virtue in Jesus is to be understood, some
attention must be given to his theology. The tendency to
describe Jesus wholly in terms of love is intimately connected
with the disposition to identify God with love. Fatherhood is


regarded as almost the sole attribute of God, so that when God
is loved it is the principle of fatherhood that is loved.16 Or God
.is defined as ” the final unity which transcends the world’s chaos
as certainly as it is basic to the world’s order.” This Hunity of
God is not static, but potent and creative. God is, therefore,
love.” He is all-inclusive good-will.17 Surely this does not repre­
sent the theology of Jesus. Though God is love, love is not God
for him; though God is one, oneness is not his God. God whom
Christ loves is the ” Lord of heaven and earth” ; He is the God
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; He is the power who causes rain
and sun, without whose will and knowledge not a sparrow dies,
nor a city is destroyed, nor he himself crucified. The greatness
and the strangeness of Jesus’ love of God does not appear in his
love of cosmic love, but in his loyalty to the transcendent power
that to all men of little faith seems anything but fatgerlike. The
word “Father” on the lips of Jesus is a greater, more faithful,
and more heroic word than is evident when fatherhood and
deity are identified.

To this interpretation of the unique nature of the virtue of
love in Jesus as based on the single-mindedness of his devotion
to God it will be objected that he practices and teaches a double
love, of the neighbor as well as of God, and that his ethics has
twofoci, ” God, the Father, and the infinite value of the human
soul.”18 Such statements forget that the double .commandment,
whether originally stated or merely confirmed by Jesus, by no
means places God and neighbor on a level, as though complete
devotion were due to each. It is only God who is to be loved
with heart, soul, mind and strength; the neighbor is put on the
same level of value that the self occupies. Moreover, the idea

16 /bid.: pp. 68 ff., 154 £.
11 Niebuhr, op. cit., pp. 38, 49, 56.
18 So Harnack, op. cit.; pp. 55, 68-76. The phrase in many variations has

become the commonplace of liberal Protestantism.

of ascribing ” infinite” or “intrinsic” value to the human soul
seems wholly foreign to Jesus. He does not speak of worth apart
from God. The value of man, like the value Qf sparrow and
flower, is his value to God; the measure of true j oy in value is
the j oy in heaven. Because worth is worth in relation to God,
therefore Jesus finds sacredness in all creation, and not in
humanity alone-though his disciples are to take special com­
fort from the fact that they are of more value to God than are
the also valued birds. The virtue of neighbor-love in Jesus’
conduct and teaching can never be adequately described if it
is in any way abstracted from the primary love of God. Christ
loves his neighbor not as he loves himself but as God loves him.
Hence the Fourth Gospel, discerning that the Jewish statement
“Love thy neighbor as thyself” fitted adequately neither Jesus’
actions nor his requirements, changed the commandment to
read, ” Love one another as I have loved you.”19 Beyond that it
became clear to the disciples that Jesus Christ’s love of men was
not merely an illustration of universal benevolence but a de­
cisive act of divine Agape. For we must face the recognition that
what the early Christians saw in Jesus Christ, and what we must
accept if we look at him rather than at our imaginations about
him, was not a person characterized by universal benignity,
loving God and man. H is love of God and his

love of neighbor

are two distinct virtues that have no common quality but only
a common source. Love of God is adoration of the only true
good; it is gratitude to the bestower of all gifts; it is j oy in
Holiness; it is “consent to Being.” But the love of man is pitiful
rather than adoring; it is giving and forgiving rather than
grateful; it suffers for and in their viciousness and profaneness;
it does not consent to accept them as they are, but calls them to
repentance. The love of God is nonpossessive Eros; the love of


man pure Agape; the love of God is passion; the love of man,
compassion. There is duality here, but not of like-minded
interest in two great values, God and man. It is rather the
duality of the Son of Man and Son of God, who loves God as
man should love Him, and loves man as only God can love, with
powerful pity for those who are foundering.

There seems then to be no other adequate way to describe
] esus as having the virtue of love than to say that his love was
that of the Son of God. It was not love but God that filled his

Similar statements must be made about the other excellences
we find in him. The liberalism that magnified his love has been
followed by eschatological interpretations that see him as the
man of hope, and by an existentialism that describes him as
radically obedient. It was preceded by an orthodox Protestantism
for which he was the exemplar and the bestower of the virtue
of faith, and by a monasticism which was astonished and charmed
by his great humility. The Christ of the New Testament pos­
sesses each of these virtues, and each of them is expressed in his
conduct and teaching in a manner that seems extreme and dis­
proportionate to secular, cultural wisdom. But he practices
none of them and requires none of them of his followers other­
wise than in relation to God. Because these virtues are qualities
of conduct on the part of men who always confront the Almighty
and Holy One, therefore they seem extreme.

It is so with the virtue of h ope. The eschatologists, of whom
Albert Schweitzer is the b est known spokesman, have attempted
to describe Jesus as uniquely characterized by expectancy rather
than love. He hoped so intensely, they assert, for the realization
of the Messianic promise, for the great reversal in history
through which evil would be finally overcome and God’s reign
would be established, that nothing mattered to him except


preparation for this event. ” Is it not even a priori the only con­
ceivable view,” writes Schweitzer, “that the conduct of one who
looked forward to his Messianic ‘parousia’ in the near future
should be determined by that expectation?”20 Jesus’ teaching,
like his conduct, is explained by reference to this hope. “If the
thought of the eschatological realization of the Kingdom is the
fundamental factor in Jesus’ preaching, his whole theory of
ethics must come under the conception of repentance as prep­
aration for the coming of the Kingdom. . . . [Repentance J is a
moral renewal in prospect of the accomplishment of universal
perfection in the future . . . . Jesus’ ethics . . . is oriented entirely
by the expected supernatural consummation.”21 vVhat Jesus
communicated to his disciples, the eschatologist maintains, was
a similar expectancy, heightened now by the conviction that in
him the Messianic future had come very near. Hence the ethics
of early Christianity is set forth as the ethics of the great hope.

As in the case of the liberal interpretation of Jesus as a hero
of love, a deep truth is evidently presented here, and all modern
Christianity is in debt to the eschatologists for drawing atten­
tion to this virtue in Jesus and to its setting. Their work has
greatly helped toward the achievement of Schweitzer’s aim “to
depict the figure of Jesus in its overwhelming heroic greatness
and to impress it upon the modern age and upon modern
theology.”22 There was an extremeness in the hopefulness of
Jesus that sets him apart from all other men who expect lesser
glories or more frequently, no glory at all. Average morality
presupposes complacency tempered by a little cynicism, or
resignation qualified by moderate expectations of good. Intense
anticipation of supernal good must result in a transformation
of ethics.

20 Schweitzer, A ., The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1926, p. 349.
21 Schweitzer, A., The Mystery of the Kingdom of God, 1914, pp. 94, 100.
22 Ibid., p. 274.


Yet the urgency i n Jesus’ expectancy i s inexplicable, and the
degree to which he communicates it to disciples in cultures
remote from first-century Palestine is unintelligible, when it is
forgotten, as eschatologists sometimes seem to forget, that his
hope was in God and for God. What Jesus hoped in, they seem
inclined to say, was a dogma; what he hoped for was a meta­
morphosis of nature, human and nonhuman-a transformation
of the whole earthly form of existence. So Schweitzer defines
eschatological interpretation as “a critical examination of the
dogmatic element in the life of Jesus . . . . Eschatology is simply
‘dogmatic history’ -history as moulded by theological beliefs .
. . . Dogmatic considerations . . . guided the resolutions of
Jesus.”23 Hence he is thought to have staked his hope upon
what turned out to be an erroneous belief about the shortness
of time, and to have tried to force a stubborn course of events
to conform to his dogmatic pattern. Though the J esus described
in the New Testament was clearly animated by an intense hope,
yet it seems evident that the reality present to him as the author
of the future was not a course of history, dogmatically conceived.
His eschatological view of history did not differ from the doc­
trine of progress only or primarily by regarding time as short.
He was not dealing with history at all in the first place, but
with God, the Lord of time and space. H e hoped in the living
G od, by whose finger demons were being cast out, whose for­
giveness of sins was being made manifest. The times were in
His hand, and therefore predictions about times and seasons
were out of place. And was not the obj ect of Jesus’ intense
�xpectancy God Himself, the manifestation of divine glory and
the revelation of divine righteousness? The Kingdom of God
for Jesus is less a happy state of affairs in the first place than
G od in his evident rulership. He rules now, but H is rule is to

23 Quest of the Historical Jesus, pp. 248, 249, 357.


become manifest to all. The ethics of Jesus does not seem to
depend on his view of history any more than his view of history
depends on his ethics; both are reflections of his faith in God.
Hence also one must do violence to the New Testament account
if one attempts to make extreme hopefulness, with the repent­
ance it entails, the key virtue in his conduct and teaching. Many
of his most radical statements are not closely connected at all
with expectancy of the coming kingdom, but rather with realiza­
tion of the present rule of God in the course of daily and
natural events. So in the teaching about nonanxiety there is no
reference to future catastrophe and renewal, but only to God’s
daily care; and the teaching about forgiveness of the enemy is
connected with the daily and ordinary demonstration of God’s
mercy in sending rain and sun on just and un j ust.24 The heroic
character of Jesus’ hopefulness does not stand alone, it is mated
with heroic love and heroic faith; and all these have their source
in his relation to the God who is N ow as well as Then. Not
eschatology but sonship to God is the key to Jesus’ ethics.

It is not otherwise with the obedience of Christ. The Chris­
tian existentialists of our time find Jesus characterized by the
virtue of radical obedience, undertaking as their predecessors
did to describe him and his teaching by centering on one great
excellence. So Bultmann writes that one can understand Jesus’
proclamation of the will of God and his ethics, in distinction
from the Greek ideal of humanity and from the modern ethics
of autonomy and value theory, only if one notes its relation to
and its distinction from Jewish piety. Then one can say concisely
that ” the ethic of Jesus, exactly like the Jewish, is an ethic of
obedience, and the single though fundamental difference is
that Jesus has conceived radically the idea of obedience. “25 Bult-

24 Mt. 6:25-34, 5:43-48.
25 Bultmann, Rudolf, Jesus and the Word, 1 934, pp. 7:i.-73.


mann accounts for the radicalness of Jesus’ obedience by point­
ing out that for him there was no mediate authority between
God and man, for “radical obedience exists only when a man
inwardly assents to what is required of him, when the thing
commanded is seen as intrinsically God’s command . . . . So
l ong as obedience is only subjection to an authority which man
does not understand, it is not true obedience.” Further, obedi4
ence is radical when the whole man is involved, so that “he is
not only do ing something obediently but is essentially obedient,”
and when he confronts an either-or so that he no longer seeks
a neutral position but accepts the burden of decision between
good and evil.26

Again, as in the case of an interpretation in terms of love, we
must recognize the evident truth in such statements. Jesus was
obedient, and he was radically obedient-as the believers rec­
ognized from the beginning. They marvelled at his obedience
unto death, at his submission in the agony and prayer at
Gethsemane; they saw that he had come down from heaven not
to do his own will but the will of H im that sent him ; they
rejoiced that through the obedience of the one, many will be
made righteous; and they were consoled by the thought that
they had a high priest in heaven who, though he was a Son, had
learned obedience by what he had suffered.27 They discerned
that the radicalness of this obedience was connected with a
certain transcending of the mediate authority of the law, that
it was addressed to the whole man, including every thought and
motive as well as every overt deed, and that there was no escape
from the responsibility of obedience.

Yet something is lacking in the existentialist portrait of the
obedient Christ. Not only has one virtue been made the key to

26 Ibid., pp. 77, 78.
27 Phil. 2: 8, Mark 14:36, John 6:38, 15:10, Rom. 5:19, Hebrews 5:8.


all the others, but this virtue has been essentially abstracted
from that realization of God which makes all the virtues oC
Jesus Christ radical. This existentialist Jesus is more Kantian
than Markan or Pauline or J ohannine. Bultmann can find no
real content in the gospel idea of obedience. Jesus, he says, has
no doctrine “of duty or of the good. It is sufficient for a man
to know that God has placed him under the necessity of decision
in every concrete situation in life, in the here and now. And
this means that he himself must know what is required of him.
. . . Man does not meet the crisis of decision armed with a
definite standard; he stands on no firm base, but rather alone
in empty space . . . . He [Jesus] sees only the individual man
standing before the will of God. . . . Jesus teaches no ethics at
all in the sense of an intelligible theory valid for all men con­
cerning what should be done and left undone.”28 Moreover,
although God is mentioned as the one whose will is to be obeyed,
the idea of God ascribed to Jesus is as empty and formal as the
idea of obedience. Just as for liberalism God is the counterpart
of human love, so in this existentialism He becomes the mere
counterpart of moral decision. He is “the Power which con­
strains man to decision,” the one whom man can find “only in
the actual comprehension of his own existence”; ” God Himself
must vanish for the man who does not know that the essence
of his own life consists in the full freedom of his decision.”29
The animus of such existentialism against speculative and
naturalistic ideas of God can be understood, but the ascription
to Jesus of this twentieth century view of freedom results in a
caricature of the N ew Testament Christ. For the Jesus who is
radically obedient knows that the will of God is the will of the
Creator and Governor of all nature and of all history; that there

2s Op. cit., pp. 108, 85, 84. Cf. pp. 87-88.
29 op. cit., PP· 1 03, ::.54.


is structure and content in His will; that He is the author of the
ten commandments; that He demands mercy and not sacrifice;
that He requires not only obedience to Himself but love and
faith in Him, and love of the neighbor whom He creates and
loves. This Jesus is radically obedient; but he also knows that
love and faith alone make obedience possible, and that God
is the bestower of all these gifts. His obedience is a relation to
a God who is much more than an ” Unconditioned,” met in the
moment of decision; its radical character is therefore not some­
thing that lies in itself, or something that is separable from
radical love and hope and faith. It is the obedience of a Son
whose sonship is not definable as j ust obedience to a principle
that constrains obedience.

Examination of Protestant concentration on the faith of
Jesus Christ, and of monastic interest in his great hum ility,
leads to the same result. He is indeed charact�rized by an
extreme faith and by a radical humility. But faith and humility
are not things in themselves; they are relations to persons­
habits of behavior in the presence of others. Now when we
look at Jesus from the point of view of his faith in men, he
seems a great skeptic who believes that he is dealing with an
evil and adulterous generation, with a people that stones its
prophets and then erects monuments to them. He puts no
trust in the enduring institutions and traditions of his society.
He shows little confidence in his disciples; he is convinced that
they will be offended in him, and that the sturdiest of them will
be unable to stand by him in the time of testing. Only romantic
fictionizing can interpret the Jesus of the N ew Testament as
one who believed in the goodness of men, and sought by trusting
it to bring out what was good in them. Yet despi;te his skepticism
he is remarkably free from anxiety. He is hero’ic in his faith in
God, calling the Lord of heaven and earth Father. He relies in

his poverty-stricken existence, without family, food, or lodging,
on the one who gives the bread needful for the day; and in the
end he commends his spirit to Him whom he knows to be
responsible for his ignominious and shameful death. To Him
also he entrusts his nation, believing that everything needful
will be granted to folk who, turning away from self-defense,
seek only the Kingdom of God. Such faith will always seem
radical to human beings with their deep suspicion of the power
which brought them forth, maintains them, and decrees their
death. It is the faith of a Son of God, too extreme for those who
conceive themselves as sons of nature, or of men, or of blind

Jesus’ humility is also inordinate. He lives with the sinners
and pariahs; he washes the disciples’ feet; he accepts indignities
and scurrilities from priests and soldiers. When he is recognized
as the living, risen Lord, the magnificence of his lowliness
astounds and staggers his believers. Though he was rich, he had
become poor that he might enrich many; though he was in the
form of God, he had taken the form of a slave; the Word through
whom all things were made had become flesh; the life which
was the light of men had entered their darkness. There is indeed
something disproportionate about the humility of Jesus Christ;
it would not be surprising if a new school of interpreters
arose in the wake of existentialists with an attempt to under­
stand him as the man of radical humility. But the humility of
Jesus is humility before God, and can only be understood a�
the humility of the Son. He neither exhibited nor commended
imd communicated the humility of inferiority-feeling before
Drner men. Before Pharisees, high priests, Pilate, and 1 ‘ that fox”
Herod he showed a confidence that had no trace of self-abnega­
tion. Whatever may be true of his Messianic self-consciousness,
he spoke with authority and acted with confidence of power.


When he repudiated the title of “Good Master” he did not defer
to other rabbis better than himself, but said, “No one is good
but God alone.” There is no condescension in his life toward
the sinners,. fiuch as might mark an insecure or apologetic man.
His humility is of the sort that raises to a new sense of dignity
and worth those who have been humiliated by the defensive
pretentions of the “good” and the “righteous.” It is a kind of
proud humility and humble pride, which can be called para­
doxical only if the relation to God as the fundamental relation
in his life is left out of account. If it is wholly different from all
the modesties and diffidences that mark men’s efforts to accom­
modate themselves to their own and each others’ superiority­
feelings, it is also wholly different from that wise Greek virtue
of remaining within one’s limits lest the j ealous gods destroy
their potential rivals. The humility of Christ is not the modera­
tion of keeping one’s exact place in the scale of being: but rather
that of absolute dependence on God and absolute trust in Him,
with the consequent ability to remove mountains. The secret
of the meekness and the gentleness of Christ lies in his relation
to God.

Thus any one of the virtues of Jesus may be taken as the key
to the understanding of his character and teaching; but each is
intelligible in its apparent radicalism only as a relation to God.
It is better, of course, not to attempt to delineate him by describ­
ing one of his excellences but rather to take them all together,
those to which we have referred and others. In either case, how­
ever, it seems evident that the strangeness, the heroic stature,
the extremism and sublimity of this person, considered morally,
is due to that unique devotion to God and to that single-hearted
trust in Him which can be symbolized by no other figure of
speech so well as by the one which calls him Son of God.

Hence belief in Jesus Christ by men in their various cultures


always means belief in God. No one can know the Son without
acknowledging the Father. To be related in devotion and obedi­
ence to Jesus Christ is to be related to the One to whom he
undeviatingly points. As Son of God he points away from the
many values of man’s social life to the One who alone is good;
from the many powers which men use and on which they depend
to the One who alone is powerful; from the many times and
seasons of history with their hopes and fears to the One who is
Lord of all times and is alone to be feared and hoped for; h e
points away from all that i s conditioned t o the Unconditioned.
He does not direct attention away from this world to another;
but from all worlds, present and future, material and spiritual>
to the One who creates all worlds, who is the Other of all worlds.

Yet this is only half the meaning of Christ, considered morally.
The other half has been indicated above by what was said about
his love of men in relation to his love of God. Because he is the
moral Son of God in his love, hope, faith, obedience, and humil­
ity in the presence of God, therefore he is the moral mediator
of the Father’s will toward men. Because he loves the Father
with the perfection of human eros) therefore he loves men with
the perfection of divine agape, since God is agape. Because he is
obedient to the Father’s will, therefore he exercises authority
over men, commanding obedience not to his own will but to
God’s. Because he hopes in God, therefore he gives promises to
men. Because he trusts perfectly in God who is faithful, there­
fore he is trustworthy in his own faithfulness towards men.
Because he exalts God with perfect human humility, therefore
he humbles men by giving them good gifts beyond all their
deserts. Since the Father of Jesus Christ is what He is, sonship
to H im involves the Son not in an ambiguous but in an ambiv­
alent process. It involves the double movement-with men
toward God, with God toward men; from the worlcl to the


Other, from the Other to the world; from work to Grace, from
Grace to work; from time to the Eternal and from the Eternal
to the temporal. In his moral sonship to God Jesus Christ is not
a median figure, half God, half man; he is a single person wholly
c!irected as man toward God and wholly directed in his unity
with the Father toward men. He is mediatorial, not median. H e
! s not a center from which radiate love o f God and o f men,
obedience to God and to Caesar, trust in God and in nature,
�1ope in divine and in human action. He exists rather as the
:focusing point in the continuous alternation of movements
from God to man and man to God; and these movements are
qualitatively as different as are agape and eros) authority and
obedience, promise and hope, humiliation and glorification,
faithfulness and trust.

Other approaches besides the moral one must

be taken if
Jesus Christ is to be described adequately. Yet as the history of
the church and its theologies indicate, each such approach tends
toward the same issue. The power and attraction Jesus Christ
exercises over men never comes from him alone, but from him
as Son of the Father. It comes from him in his Sonship in a
double way, as man living to God and God living with men.
Belief in him and loyalty to his cause involves men in the double
movement from world to God and from God to world. Even
when theologies fail to do j ustice to this fact, Christians living
with Christ in their cultures are aware of it. For they are
forever being challenged to abandon all things for the sake of
God; and forever being sent back into the world to teach and
practice all the things that have been commanded them.


From this inadequate definition of the meaning of Christ we
turn now to the task of defining, in similarly tenuous fashion,


the meaning of culture. What do we mean in our use of this
word when we say that the Christian church enduringly strug­
gles with the problem of Christ and culture?

A theologian’s definition of the term must, in the nature of
the case, be a layman’s definition, since he cannot presume to
enter into the issues raised by professional anthropologists; yet
it must also, at 1east initially, be a definition of the phenomenon
without theological interpretation, for it is j ust this theological
interpretation which is the point at issue among Christians. For
some of them culture is essentially Godless in the purely secular
sense, as having neither positive nor negative relation to the
God of Jesus Christ; for others it is Godless in the negative sense,
as being anti-God or idolatrous; for others it seems solidly
based on a natural, rational knowledge of God or His law.
Christian disinterestedness forbids the adoption at least at the
outset-of any one of these evaluations.

The culture with which we are concerned cannot be simply
that of a particular society, such as the Graeco-Roman, the
medieval, or the modern Wes tern. Some theologians, like some
anthropologists, do, indeed, think of Christian faith as integrally
related to Western culture, whether this term be use� to desig­
nate one continuous historical society beginning not later than
the first century A.D . , or a series of distinct and affiliated civiliza- .
tions as in Toynbee’s scheme. So Ernst Troeltsch believes that
Christianity and Western culture are so inextricably intertwined
that a Christian can say little about his faith to members of
other civilizations, and the latter in turn cannot encounter
Christ save as a member of the Western world.30 Troeltsch him­
self, however, is highly aware of the tension between Christ and
Western culture, so that even for the Westerner Jesus Christ is

so Troeltsch, Ernst, Christian Thought, 1 923, esp. pp. 2 1 -35 ; cf. also his Die
Absolutheit des Christentums, 1 929 (3d ed.) and Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. II,
1 913, PP· 779 ff.


never merely a member of his cultural society. Furthermore,
Christians in the East, and those who are looking forward to
the emergence of a new civilization, are concerned not only with
the Western Christ but with one who is to be distinguished
from “‘Tes tern faith in him and who is relevant to life in other
cultures. Hence culture as we are concerned with it is not a
particular phenomenon but the general one, though the general
thing appears only in particular forms, and though a Christian
of the West cannot think about the problem save in Western

Neither may we define culture narrowly by taking into view
some special phase of human social organization and achieve­
ment. This is done when the problem is stated in terms of
Christ’s relation to science and philosophy, as in the question
of revelation and reason, or of his relation to political organiza­
tion, as in the question of church and state. It is also done when,
with Jakob Burkhardt, “culture” is distinguished from both
religion and state. He regards these three powers, religion,
state, and culture, as ” supremely heterogeneous to each other.”
Culture, in his usage, is distinguished from the other two powers
by its nonauthoritarian character. It is ” the sum of all that has
sp ontaneously arisen for the advancement of material life and
as an expression of spiritual and moral life-all social inter­
course, technologies, arts, literature and sciences. It is the realm
of the variable, free, not necessarily universal, of all that cannot
lay claim to compulsive authority.”31 The spearhead of such
culture is speech, he says; the foremost expressions of its spirit
are found in the arts. Doubtless the relation of Christ to these
elements in civilization raises special problems, yet we can find
no clear demarcation between them and those that arise in
political and religious society; nor are authoritarianism and

31 Force and Freedom, 1 943, p. 1 07; cf. 140 ff.


freedom distributed as Burkhardt seems to think. It is especially
arbitrary and confusing to define culture as though it excluded
religion, and the latter as though it included Christ, since the
problems with which we are concerned are often most difficult
in the realm of religion, where we must ask about the connec­
tion of Christ with our social faiths. Again, culture is too nar.;
rowly defined for our purposes if it is distinguished from
civilization, the latter term being used to designate the more
advanced, perhaps more urban, technical and even senescent
forms of social life.32

What we have in view when we deal with Christ and culture
is that total process of human activity and that total result of
such activity to which now the name culture, now the name
civiliza tion, is applied in common speech.33 Culture is the “arti­
ficial, secondary environment” which man superimposes on the
natural. It comprises language, habits, ideas, beliefs, customs,
social organization, inherited artifacts, technical processes, and
values.34 This “social heritage,” this “reality sui generis,” which
the New Testament writers frequently had in mind when they
spoke of ” the world,” which is represented in many forms but
to which Christians like other men are inevitably subject, is
what we mean when we speak of culture.

Though we cannot venture to define the ” essence” of this
culture, we can describe some of its chief characteristics. For
one thing, it is inextricably bound up with man’ s life in society:
it is always social. “The essential fact of culture, as we live and
experience it, as we can observe it scientificaily, ” writes Malin-

s2 Malinowski, Bronislaw, art. “Culture,” Encyclopedia of Social Sciences,
Vol. IV, pp. 6 2 1 ff.; Dawson, Christopher, Religion and Culture, 1 947, p. 47,
Spengler, Oswald, The Decline of the West, 1 926, Vol. I, pp. 31 f., 35 1 ff.

ss Cf. Robinson, James Harvey, art. “Civilization,” Encyclopedia Britannica,
14th ed., Vol. V, p. 735; Brinkmann, Carl, art. “Civilization,” Encyclopedia of
Social Sciences, Vol. III, pp. 525 ff.

84 Malinowski, loc. cit.


owski, ” is the organization of human beings into permanent
groups. “35 Whether or not this is the essential fact, it is an
essential part of the fact. Individuals may use culture in their
own ways; they may change elements in their culture, yet what
they use and change is social. 36 Culture is the social heritage
they receive and transmit. Whatever is purely private, so that
it neither derives from nor enters into social life, is not a part
of culture. Conversely, social life is always cultural. Anthropol­
ogy, it seems, has completely scotched the romantic idea of a
purely natural society, not characterized by highly distinct and
acquired habits, customs, forms of social organization, etc. Cul­
ture and social existence go together.

Culture, secondly, is h u man ach ievement. We distinguish it
from nature by noting the evidences of human purposiveness
and effort. A river is nature, a canal culture; a raw piece of
quartz is nature, an arrowhead culture; a moan is natural, a
word cultural. Culture is the work of men’ s minds and hands.
It is that portion of man’s heritage in any place or time which
has been given us designedly and laboriously by other men,
not what has come to us via the mediation of nonhuman beings
or through human beings insofar as they have acted without
intention of results or without control of the process. Hence it
includes speech, education, tradition, myth, science, art, philos­
ophy, government, law, rite, beliefs, inventions, technologies.
Furthermore, if one of the marks of culture is that it is the
result of past human achievements, another is that no one can
possess it without effort and achievement on his own part. The
gifts of nature are received as they are communicated without
human intent or conscious effort; but the gifts of culture cannot
be possessed without striving on the part of the recipient. Speech

35 Malinowski, A Scientific Theory of Culture and O ther Essays, i 944, p. 43.
36 On individual and society in relation to culture see Benedict, Ruth, Pat­

tP;rns of Culture, i934, chapters VII and VIII.


must be laboriously acquired; government cannot be maintained
without constant effort; scientific method must be re-enacted and
reintended with every generation. Even the material results ol
cultural activity are useless unless they are accompanied by a
learning process that enables us to employ them as they were
intended to be employed; Whether we try to interpret the signs
of ancient culture or to solve problems of contemporary civil­
ization, this characteristic feature will always be brought to our
attention : we are dealing with what man has purposefully
wrought and with what man can or ought to do. The world so
far as it is man-made and man-intended is the world of culture.

These human achievements, in the third place, are all de­
signed for an end or ends; the world of culture is a w orld of
values. Whether or not we should ask value-questions about
nature or pass value-j udgments on natural occurrences is a moot
question. But with respect to culture phenomena this problem
never arises. What men have made and what they make, we
must assume, is intended for a purpose; it is designed to serve a
good.37 It can never be described without reference to ends in
minds of designers and users. Primitive art interests us
because it indicates human interest in form, rhythm, and color,
in meanings and symbols, and because we are interested in these
things. Potsherds are studied that they r.:lay reveal what ancient
men intended and what methods they had devised to achieve
their ends. We j udge science and philosophy, technology and
education, whether in past or present, always with reference to
the values that were intended by them and to the values that
attract us. To be sure, the ends that human achievements serve
may change; what was intended for utility may be preserved for

37 So Malinowski uses as a central concept in his theory of culture the idea of
“an organized system of purposive activities.” .!.1. Scientific Theory of Culture1
chaps. V and VI.

the sake of aesthetic satisfaction or of social harmony; yet the
value-relation is inescapable wherever we encounter cultm e. –

Further, the values with which these human achievements are
concerned are dominantly those of the goo d for man. Philoso­
phers in cultural societies may argue whether the ends that are
to be served by culture are ideal or natural, whether they are
ideas of value given to spiritual vision or natural goods_, that
is, ends interesting man as biological being. In either case,
however, they seem to agree that man must serve his own good,
that he is the measure of all things.38 In defining the ends that
his activities are to realize in culture, man begins with himself
as the chief value and the source of all other values. What is
good is what is good for him. It seems self-evident in culture
that animals are to be domesticated or annihilated so far as
these measures serve man’ s good, that God or the gods are to be
worshiped so far as this is necessary or desirable fot the sake of
maintaining and advancing human life, that ideas and ideals
are to be served for the sake of human self-realization. Though
the search of the good-for-man is dominant in the work of cul­
ture, it is not evident that this anthropocentrism is of an ex­
clusive sort. It is not only conceivable that men should under­
take to labor and produce for the sake of some other being’s
_ssood, but it seems true that they do indeed in their cultures
often seek to serve causes transcending human existence. From
totemic to modern societies they identify themselves with orders
of being that include more than men. They regard themselves
as representatives of life, so that social organization and laws as
well as art and religion show some respect for life even in non­
human beings. They define themselves as representatives of the

as Nikolai Hartmann’s Ethics, i932, which is from one point of view a great
�hilosophy of culture, presents at one and the same time a strong argument for
the transcendent, objective character of values and a defence of the primacy of
numan value.


order of rational beings, and seek to realize what is good-for-rea­
son. They also serve the gods. And yet the pragmatic tendency to
do all these things for the sake of men seems inconquerable. It
must at once be added, however, that no culture is really
humanistic in the broad sense, for there are only particular cul,
tures, and in each of them a particular society or a particular
class in that society tends to regard itself as the center and source
of value, seeking to achieve what is good for it, though j ustify­
ing that endeavor by claiming for itself a special status as the
representative of something universal.

Again, culture in all its forms and varieties is concerned with
the temporal and material realization of values. This does not
mean that the goods that human effort seeks to realize are
necessarily temporal or material, however much the concern
for these is a part of all cultural achievement. It is fallacious
to think of culture as materialistic in the sense that what men
labor to achieve is always the satisfaction of their needs as phys­
ical and temporal beings. Even the economic interpretations o f
culture recognize that beyond material goods-that i s , values
relative to man’s physical existence, beyond food, drink, cloth­
ing, progeny, and economic order-men in culture seek to gain
less tangible values. But even the immaterial goods must be
realized in temporal and material form; even the good-for-man
as mind and person must be given “a local habitation and a
name.” Prestige and glory on the one hand, beauty, truth, and
goodness on the other-to use the unsatisfactory symbols of
spiritual-value theory-are presented to feeling, imagination,
or intellectual vision; and human effort presses on to embody
in concrete, tangible, visible, and audible forms what has been
imaginatively discerned. The harmony and proportion, the
form, order and rhythm, the meanings and ideas that men intuit
.and trace out as they confront nature, social events, and the

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world of dreams, these by infinite labor they must paint on wall
or canvas, print on paper as systems of philosophy and science,
outline in carved stone or cast in bronze, sing in ballad, ode,
or symphony. Visions of order and j ustice, hopes of glory, must
at the cost of much suffering be embodied in written laws
dramatic rites, structures of government, empires, ascetic lives

Because all these actualizations of purpose are accomplished
in transient and perishing stuff, cultural activity is almost as
much concerned with the conservation of values as with their
realization. Much of the energy which men in their societies
expend at any time is given to this complicated task of preserv­
ing what they have inherited and made. Their houses, schools,
and temples, their roads and machines, stand in constant need
of repair. The desert and the jungle threaten every cultivated
acre. Even greater are the dangers of decay that surround the
less material achievements of the past. The systems of laws and
liberties, the customs of social intercourse, the methods of
thought, the institutions of learning and religion, the techniques
of art, of language, and of morality itself-these cannot be con­
served by keeping in repair the walls and documents that are
their symbols. They need to be written afresh generation by

gen�ration ” on the tables of the heart.” Let education and train­
ing lapse for one generation, and the whole grand structure of
past achievements falls into ruin. Culture is social tradition
which must be conserved by painful struggle not so much against
nonhuman ·natural forces as against revolutionary and critical
powers in human life and reason.39 But whether customs or
.artifacts are in question, culture cannot be maintained unless

s9 Henri Bergson in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, 1 935, offers
an illuminating and persuasive interpretation of the role of conservatism in
culture. Cf. chap5. I and II. Cf. also Lecomte du Niioy, Human Destiny, 1947,
chaps. IX and X .

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men devote a large part of their efforts to the work of conserva­

Finally, attention must be directed to the pluralism that is
characteristic of all culture. The values a culture seeks to realize
in any time or place are many in number. No society can even
try to realize all its manifold possibilities; each is highly com­
plex, made up of many institutions with many goals and inter­
weaving interests.40 The values are many, partly because men
are many. Culture is concerned with what is good for male and
female, child and adult, rulers and ruled; with what is good for
men in special vocations and groups, according to the customary
notions of such good. Moreover, all the individuals have their
special claims and interests; and everyone in his individuality
is a complex being with desires of body and mind, with self­
regarding and other-regarding motives, with relations to other
men, nature and supernatural beings. Even if economic or
biological interpretations of culture are maintained, still all
that can be claimed is that economic or biologic values are
fundamental, while the vast superstructure of other interests
must be recognized.41 But in culture as we meet it and live it
not even such unity as these interpretations claim is recogniz­
able. The values we seek in our societies and find represented
in their institutional behavior are many, disparate, and often
�ncomparable, so that these societies are always involved in a
.. nore or less laborious effort to hold together in tolerable con­
flict the many efforts of many men in many groups to achieve
and conserve many goods. The cultures are forever seeking to
combine peace with prosperity, justice with order, freedom

4° Cf. Benedict, Ruth, Patterns of Culture, 1934, chap. I I ; Malinowski, B.,
d Scientific Theory etc., chaps. X and XI.

41 Cf. for instance Friedrich Engels’ statement about the relative independ­
ence of the superstructure in his letter of Sept. 2 1 , 1 890, to Joseph Bloch.
Adoratsky, V., Karl Marx, Sele.-:ted Works, Vol. I, p. 38 1 .

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with welfare, truth with beauty, scientific truth with moral
good, technical proficiency with practical wisdom, holiness with
life, and all these with all the rest. Among the many values the
kingdom of God may be included-though scarcely as the one
pearl of great price. Jesus Christ and God the Father, the gospel,
the church, and eternal life may find places in the cultural
complex, but only as elements in the great pluralism.

These are some of the obvious characteristics of that culture
which lays its claim on every Christian, and under the authority
of which he also lives when he lives under the authority of
Jesus Christ. Though sometimes we state the fundamental
human problem as that of grace and nature, in human existence
we do not know a nature apart from culture. In any case we
cannot escape culture any more readily than we can escape
nature, for ” the man of nature, the Naturmensc.h) does not
exist,”42 and “no man ever . looks at the world with pristine


Gi ven these two complex realities-Christ and culture-an
infinite dialogue must develop in the Christian conscience and
the Christian community. In his single-minded direction toward
God, Christ leads men away from the temporality and pluralism
of culture. In its concern for the conservation of the many values
of the past, culture rejects the Christ who bids men rely on
grace. Yet the Son of God is himself child of a religious culture,
and sends his disciples to tend his lambs and sheep, who cannot
be guarded without cultural work. The dialogue proceeds with
denials and affirmations, reconstructions, compromises, and new
denials. Neither individual nor church can come to a stopping-

42 Malinowski in Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, Vol. IV, p. 62 i .
43 Ruth Benedict, op. cit., p . 2

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place in the �ndless search for an ans�er which will not provoke
a new rejoinder.

Yet it is possible to discern some order in this multiplicity, to
stop the dialogue, as it were, at certain points; and to define
typical partial answers that recur so often in different eras and
societies that they seem to be less the product of historical con­
ditioning than of the nature of the problem itself and the mean­
ings of its terms. In this way the course of the great conversation
about Christ and culture may be more intelligently followed,
and some of the fruits of the discussion may be garnered. In the
following chapters such typical answers are to be set forth and
illustrated by reference to such Christians as John and Paul,
Tertullian and Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Luther,
Ritschl and Tolstoy. At this point brief and summary descrip­
tions of these typical answers is offered as a guide to what
follows. Five sorts of answers are distinguished, of which three
are closely related to each other as belonging to that median type
in which both Christ and culture are distinguished and affirmed;
yet strange family resemblances may be found along the whole

Answers of the first type emphasize the opposition between
Christ and culture. Whatever may be the customs of the society
in which the Christian lives, and whatever the human achieve­
ments it conserves, Christ is seen as opposed to them, so that
he confronts men with the challenge of an “either-or” decision.
In the early period of church history Jewish rejection of Jesus,
defended by Klausner, found its counterpart in Christian
antagonism to Jewish culture, while Roman outlawry of the
new faith was accompanied by Christian flight from or attack
upon Graeco-Roman civilization. In medieval times monastic
orders and sectarian movements called on believers living in
what purported to be a Christian culture to abandon the

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“world” and to “come out from among them and be separate. ”
I n the modern period answers o f this kind are being given by
missionaries who require their converts to abandon wholly the
customs and institutions of so-called “heathen” societies, by
little groups of withdrawing Christians in Western or “Chris­
tianized” civilization, and in partial manner, by those who
emphasize the antagonism of Christian faith to capitalism and
communism, to industrialism and nationalism, to Catholicism
and Protestantism.

Recognition of a fundamental agreemen t between Christ and
culture is typical of the answers offered by a second group. In
them Jesus often appears as a great hero of human culture his­
tory; his life and teachings are regarded as the greatest human
achievement; in him, it is believed, the aspirations of men toJ
ward their values are brought to a point of culmination; he
confirms what is best in the past, and guides the process of
civilization to its proper goal. Moreover, he is a part of culture
in the sense that he himself is part of the social heritage that
must be transmitted and conserved. In our time answers of this
kind are given by Christians who note the close relation between
Christianity and Western civilization, between Jesus’ teachings
or the teachings about him and democratic institutions; yet there
are occasional interpretations that emphasize the agreement be­
tween Christ and Eastern culture as well as some that tend to
identify him with the spirit of Marxian society. In earlier times
solutions of the problem along these lines were being offered
simultaneously with the solutions of the first or ” Christ-against­
culture” type.

Three other typical answers agree with each other in seeking
to maintain the great differences between the two principles
and in undertaking to hold them together in some unity. They
are distinguished from each other by the manner in which

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each attempts to combine the two authorities. One of them, our
third type, understands Christ’s relation to culture somewhat as
the men of the second group do: he is the fulfillment of cultural
aspirations and the restorer of the institutions of true society.
Yet there is in him something that neither arises out of culture
nor contributes directly to it. He is discontinuous as well as
continuous with social life and its culture. The latter, indeed,
leads men to Christ, yet only in so preliminary a fashion that a
great leap is necessary if men are to reach him or, better, true
culture is not possible unless beyond all human achievement,
all human search for values, all human society, Christ enters into
life from above with gifts which human aspiration has not
envisioned and which human effort cannot attain unless he
relates men to a supernatural society and a new value-center.
Christ is, indeed, a Christ of culture, but he is also a Christ ab ove
culture. This sy nthetic type is best represented by Thomas
Aquinas and his followers, but it has many other representatives
in both early and modern times.

Another group of median answers constitutes our fourth type.
In these the duality and inescapable authority of both Christ
and culture are recognized, but the opposition between them is
also accepted. To those who answer the question in this way it
appears that Christians throughout life are subject to the ten­
sion that accompanies obedience to two authorities who do not
agree yet must both be obeyed. They refuse to accommodate
the claims of Christ to those of secular society, as, in their esti­
mation, men in the second and third groups do. So they are like
the ” Christ-against-culture” believers, yet differ from them in
the conviction that obedience to God requires obedience to the
institutions of society and loyalty to its members as well as
obedience to a Christ who sits in judgment on that society.

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Hence man is seen as subject to two moralities, and as a citizen
of two worlds that are not only discontinuous with each other
but largely opposed. In the polarity and tension of Christ and
culture life must be lived precariously and sinfully in the hope
of a justification which lies beyond history. Luther may be
regarded as the greatest representative of this type, yet many a
Christian who is not otherwise a Lutheran finds himself com­
pelled to solve the problem in this way.

Finally, as the fifth type in the general series and as the third
of the mediating answers, there is the conversion ist solution.
Those who offer it understand with the members of the first and
the fourth groups that human nature is fallen or perverted, and
that this perversion not only appears in culture but is trans­
mitted by it. Hence the opposition between Christ and all
human institutions and customs is to be recognized. Yet the
antithesis does not lead either to Christian separation from the
world as with the first group, or to mere endurance in the
expectation of a transhistorical salvation, as with the fourth.
Christ is seen as the converter of man in his culture and society,
not apart from these, for there is no nature without culture and
no turning of men from self and idols to God save in society.
It is in Augustine that the great outlines of this answer seem
to be offered; John Calvin makes it explicit; many others are
associated with these two.

When the answers to the enduring problem are stated in this
manner it is apparent that a construction has been set up that
is partly artificial. A type is always something of a construct,
even when it has not been constructed prior to long study of
many historic individuals and movements. When one returns
from the hypothetical scheme to the rich complexity of indi­
vidual events, it is evident at once that no person or group ever

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conforms completely to a type.44 Each historical figure will show
characteristics that are more reminiscent of some other family
than the one by whose name he has been called, or traits will
appear that seem wholly unique and individual. The method of
typology, however, though historically inadequate, has the
advantage of calling to attention the continuity and significance
of the great m o tifs that appear and reappear in the long wrestling
of Christians with their enduring problem. Hence also it may
help us to gain orientation as we in our own time seek to answer
the question of Christ and culture.

44 C. J. Jung’s Psychological Types, 1924, is suggestive and illuminating as
an example of typological method. On the applicability to individuals of type
descriptions see especially pp. 10 f., 4 1 2 ff.

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C H A P T E R 2

Christ Against Culture


The first answer to the question of Christ and culture we shall
consider is the one that uncompromisingly affirms the sole
authority of Christ over the Christian and resolutely rejects
culture’s claims to loyalty. It seems to be both logically and
chronologically entitled to the first position : logically, because
it appears to follow directly from the common Christian prin­
ciple of the Lordship of Jesus Christ; chronologically, because
it is widely held to be the typical attitude of the first Christians.
Both claims are subject to question, yet it must be conceded that
the answer was given at a very early time in the history of the
church, and that on the surface it seems to be logically more
consistent than the other positions.

While various New Testament writings evince something
of this attitude, none presents it without qualification. The first
gospel contrasts the new law with the old, yet contains very
explicit statements about the Christians’ obligations to be obe­
dient not only to the code of Moses but also to the requirements
of the leaders of Jewish society.1 The book of Revelation is
radical in its rejection of “the world,” but here the problem is
complicated by the persecution situation in which Christiam


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find themselves. Among the other writings, the First Letter of
John contains the least ambiguous presentation of this point
of view.

This little classic of devotion and theology has been treasured
by Christians for its profound understanding and beautiful
statement of the doctrine of love. It achieves the simple sum­
mary of Christian theology: ” God is love,” and the equally
concise formulation of Christian ethics : “Love one another.”
It presents in their inseparable relation and in fugue-like
manner the three themes of love: God’s love for man, and man’s
for God, and brother’s for brother. “In this is love, not that we
loved God but that he loved us . . . . “Ve love because he first
loved us . . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love
one another . . . . If any one says, ‘I love God, ‘ and hates his
brother, he is a liar. . . . No man has ever seen God; if we love
one another God abides in us and his love is perfected in us . . . .
H e who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love
God, whom he has not seen. “2 The central interest of the writer,
however, is quite as much the Lordship of Christ as the idea of
love. Indeed, Christ is the key to the whole kingdom of love,
for ” in this the love of God was made manifest among us, that

· God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live
through him ” ; and “by this we know love, that he laid down his
life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the breth­
ren. “3 The Christ who makes human love for God and neighbor
possible by his demonstration of the greatness of God’s love for
man, the Christ who loves men to the point of laying down
his life for them and who is their advocate in heaven, is also the
one who requires what he has made possible. The writer of I
John insists on obedience to the commandment of Jesus Christ

2 I John 4, vv. 1 0- 1 2 combined with vv. 19-iw.
i Ibid., 4:9; 3: 1 6.

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no less than on confidence in the love of God.4 The gospel and
the new law are here thoroughly united. 5 Hence God requires
two things: ” This is his commandment, that we should believe
in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, j ust
as he has commanded us. “6 The dual commandment of love of
God and neighbor, which the writer well knows, 7 has here
undergone a certain transformation as a result of the recognition
that the first movement of love is not from man to God but from
God to man and that the first requirement of the Christian life
is therefore a faith in God that is inseparable from the believing
acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Son. It is exceedingly important
for the First Letter of John that Christians be loyal to no merely
spiritual Christ but to a visible and tangible Jesus Christ of
history, who is, however, not only the J esus of history but the
Son of God, inseparably united with the unseen Fath,er in love
and righteousness, in the power to achieve and the authority
to command.8 With these two themes of love and faith in Jesus
Christ, other ideas, such as those of the forgiveness of sin,
the gift of the Spirit and of eternal life, are closely connected;
nevertheless these two define the Christian life; no one can be
a member of the Christian fellowship who does not acknowledge
Jesus as ,the Christ and the Son of God and who does not love
the brothers in obedience to the Lord.

This succinct statement of the positive meaning of Christi­
mity is, however, accompanied by an equally emphatic nega­
tion. The counterpart of loyalty to Christ and the brothers is
the rejection of cultural society; a clear line of separation is

4 Ibid., 2 : 3- 1 1 ; 3 : 4- 1 0, 2 1 -24; 4 : 2 1 ; 5 : 2 -3 .
5 Dodd, C. H ., T h e ]ohannine Epistles, 1946, p . xxxi.
6 I John, 3 : 23 .
7 Ibid., 4: i n .
8 Cf. ibid., 1 : 1 -3; 2 : 1 -2; 2 : 2 2 -24; 3 : 8b; 4 : 2 -3 , 9- 1 0, 14-15; 5: 1 -5 ; cf. also

Dodd, op. cit., pp. xxx-xxxvi; 1 -6; 55-58.

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drawn between the brotherhood of the children of God and the
world. Save in two instances9 the word “world” evidently means
for the writer of this letter the whole society outside the church,
in which, however, the believers live.10 The injunction to Chris­
tians is, ” D o not love the world or the things in the world. If
any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.”11
That world appears as a realm under the power of evil; it i s
t h e region of darkness, into which the citizens o f the kingdom
of light must not enter; it is characterized by the prevalence in
it of lies, hatred, and murder; it is the heir of Cain.12 It is a
secular society, dominated by the “lust of the flesh, the lust of
the eyes and the pride of life,” or, in Prof. Dodd’s translation
of these phrases, it is ” pagan society, with its sensuality, super­
ficiality and pretentiousness, its materialism and its egoism.”13
It is a culture that is concerned with temporal and passil1g
values, whereas Christ has words of eternal life; it is a dying as
well as a murderous order, for ” the world passes away and the
lust of it.”14 It is dying, however, not only because it is con­
cerned with temporal goods and contains the inner contradic­
tions of hatred and lie, but also because Christ has come to
destroy the works of the devil and because faith in him is the
victory which overcomes the world.15 Hence the loyalty of the
believer is directed entirely toward the new order, the new
society and its Lord.

The “Christ-against-culture” position is not set forth here in
its most radical form. Though love of neighbor has been inter­
preted to mean love of the brother-that is, the fellow believer

9 I John 2 : 2; 4: 14.
10 Cf. Dodd, op. cit., pp. 27, 39-45.
11 I John 2: 1 5 .
1 2 Ibid., 5 : 1 9 ; i : 6; 2 : 8-9, u ; 3 : 1 1- 15.
1s op. cit., p. 42.
14 1 John 2 : 1 7 ; cf. 2 : 8.
15 Ibid., 3 : 8; 5:4-5.

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-it is also taken for granted that Jesus Christ has come to
expiate the sins of the world, which probably means in I ] ohn
the expiation of the sins of all men, regarded more or less indi,
vidually. Though there is no statement here that the Christian
is obliged to participate in the work of the social institutions,
to maintain or convert them, neither is there any express rejec­
tion of the state or of property as such. Doubtless the end of
” the world” seemed so .near to the writer that he found no
occasion for counsel on these points; all that was required
under the circumstances was loyalty to Jesus Christ and to the
brotherhood, without concern for the transitory culture.

Similar, though less profound, expressions of the same atti­
tude are to be found in other Christian writings of the second
century, while Tertullian stated it in radical fashion. The best­
loved books of the time, such as The Teaching of the Twelve,
The Shepherd of Hermas) The Epistle of Barnabas� and the
First Epistle of Clement) present Christianity as a way of life
quite separate from culture. Some of them are more legalistic
than I John, setting forth the meaning of Christ’s Lordship
almost solely in terms of the laws given by him or in Scriptures,
and regarding the new life under divine mercy more as a
reward to be earned by obedience than as free gift and present
reality.16 But whether grace or law is emphasized as the essence
of the Christian life, in any case it is life in a new and separated
community. The idea which is common to second-century state­
ments of this type is the conviction that Christians constitute a
new people, a third “race” besides Jews and Gentiles. So
Clement writes, “God, who seeth all things and who is the ruler
of all spirits and the Lord of all flesh . . . chose our Lord Jesus
Christ and us through him to be a peculiar people.”17 As

16 Cf. Lietzmann, H., The Beginnings of the Christian Church, 1 937, pp.
2 6 1 -273.

11 l Clement lxiv, i; cf. Epistle of Barna bas, xiii-xiv.

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Harnack has summarized the beliefs of these early Christians,.
they were persuaded that ” 1 ) our people is older than the
world; 2) the world was created for our sakes; 3) the world is
carried on for our sakes; we retard the j udgment of the world;
4) everything in the world is subject to us and must serve us;
5) everything in the world, the beginning and course and end
of all history, is revealed to us and lies transparent to our eyes;
6) we shall take part in the j udgment of the world and ourselves
enjoy eternal bliss.”18 The fundamental conviction, however,
was the idea that this new society, race, or people, had been
established by J esus Christ, who was its lawgiver and King. The
corollary of the whole conception was the thought that whatever
does not belong to the commonwealth of Christ is under the
rule of evil. This came to expression in the doctrine of the t”\. ·o
ways : “two ways there are, one of life and one of death, but
there is a great difference between the two ways.”11) The way
of life was the Christian way. It was expounded by the rehears­
ing of the commandments of the new law, such as the command­
ments to love God and neighbor, the Golden Rule, the counsels
to love the enemy and not to resist evil; certain injunctions
drawn from the Old Testament were, however, also included.
The way of death was described simply as the vicious course of
life, so that the plain alternative was to be either a Christian
or a wicked man. There seems to be in this Christian ethic no
recognition of the fact that in a society where gospel rules are
not acknowledged some rules are nevertheless in force; and that

is Harnack, A., Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three
Centuries, 1 904, Vol. I, p. 302; cf. Gavin, Frank, Church and Society in the Sec­
ond Century, 1 934, which draws a picture of primitive Christian life-chiefly on
the basis of Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition-as dominated by the sense of its
“corporate and social quality.” “It was as if to say that the proudest boast of the
believer was that he was a ‘member.’ His most essential quality was that he
‘belonged.’ ” P. 3; cf. pp. 5, 8.

19 The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, i, i; cf. Barna bas, xix-xx; Shepherd
(if Hermas, Mand, 6, i.

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l!S there are virtues and vices in the domain of Christ s o there
are also virtues and vices relative to the standards of non-Chris�
tian culture. The line was sharply drawn between the new peD’
ple and the old society, between obedience to the law of Christ
and simple lawlessness; though some concession to the presence
of divine government in and over cultural institutions is to be
found in Clement’s prayer “that we may be obedient to thy
almighty and glorious name, and to our rulers and governors
upon the earth. ” He recognized, as he goes on to say, that
” Thou, Master, hast given the power of sovereignty to them
through thy excellent and inexpressible might, that we may
know the glory and honor given to them by thee, and be sub.­
j ect to them, in nothing resisting thy will.”20

The most explicit and, apart from New Testament writers,
doubtless the greatest representative in early Chris!ianity of the
” Christ-against-culture” type was Tertullian. One must hasten
to add that he does not wholly conform to our hypothetical
pattern, but demonstrates traits that relate him to other families
and types. He is a Trinitarian who understands that the God
Vho reveals Himself in Jesus Christ is the Creator and the
Spirit also; but within that context he maintains the absolute
authority of Jesus Christ, ” the supreme H ead and Master of
[God’s promised] grace and discipline, the Enlightener and
Trainer of the human race, God’s own Son.”21 Tertullian’�
loyalty to Christ can express itself in such radical terms as th’!
following: “Christ Jesus our Lord (may he bear with me a
moment in thus expressing myself! ) , whosoever he is, of what
God soever he is the Son, of what substance soever he is man
and God, of what faith soever he is the teacher, of what reward
soever he is the promiser, did, whilst he lived on earth himself

20 I Clement Ix, 4-lxi, 1 .
21 Apology, chap. xxi. This and the following quotations are taken from the

translation of Tertullian’s works in A nte-NicRnP. Fathers, Vols. III and IV.

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declare what he was, what he had been, what the Father’s will
was which he was administering, what the duty of man wa�
which he was prescribing.”22 In every case the primary Chris�
tian reference is to Christ “as the Power of God and the Spirit
of God, as the Word, the Reason, the Wisdom and the Son of
God,” and the Christian confession is, “We say, and before all
men we say, and torn and bleeding under . . . tortures we cry
out, ‘We worship God through Christ.’ “23 With this concentra­
tion on the Lordship of Jesus Christ Tertullian combines a
rigorous morality of obedience to his commandments, including
not only love of the brothers but of enemies, nonresistance to
evil, prohibitions of anger and the lustful look. He is as strict
a Puritan in his interpretation of what Christian faith demands
in conduct as one can find.24 He replaces the positive and warm
ethics of love which charaeterizes the First Letter of John with
a largely negative morality; avoidance of sin and fearsome
preparation for the coming day of j udgment seem more impor·
tant than thankful acceptance of God’s grace in the gift of his

Tertullian’s rejection of the claims of culture is correspond·
ingly sharp. The conflict of the believer is not with nature but
with culture, for it is in culture that sin chiefly resides. Tertul­
lian comes very close to the thought that original sin is trans,
mitted through society, and that if it were not for the vicious
customs that surround a child from its birth and for its artificial
training its soul would remain good. The universe and the soul
are naturally good, for God is their maker, yet “we must not
consider merely by whom all things were made, but by whom
they have been perverted, ” and that ” there is a vast difference

2s The Prescription Against Heretics, chap. xx.
28 A po logy, xxiii, xx.
2′ Cf. Apology, xxxix, xlv� De SPectaculis; De Corona; On Repentance.

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between the corrupted state and that of primal purity.”25 How
much corruption and civilization coincide in Tertullian’s
thought is partly indicated in the reflection that Christ came
not to bring “boors and savages . . . into some civilization . . . ;
but as one who aimed to enlighten men already civilized, and
under illusions from their very culture, that they might come
to the knowledge of the truth.”26

It becomes more evident when one notes what the vices are
that he condemns and what the worldliness is that the Christian
is required to shun. The most vicious thing, of course, is social,
pagan religion, with its polytheism and idolatry, its beliefs and
rites, its sensuality and its commercialization.27 Such religion,
however, is interfused with all the other activities and institu­
tions · of society, so that the Christian is in constant danger of
compromising his loyalty to the Lord. Tertullian{ to be sure,
rejects the charge that believers are ” useless in the affairs of
life,” for, he says, “we soj ourn with you in the world, abjuring
neither forum, nor shambles, nor bath, nor booth, nor inn, nor
weekly market, nor any other places of commerce.” He even
adds, “We sail with you, and fight with you, and till the ground
with you; and in like manner we unite with you in your traffick­
ings-even in the various arts we make public property of our
works for your benefit.”28 This, however, is said in defense.
When he admonishes believers his counsel is to withdraw from
many meetings and many occupations, not only because they
are corrupted by their relation to pagan faith but because they

25 The quotation is from De Spectaculis, ii. For the doctrine of the natural
goodness of the soul see Apology, xvii, The Soul’s Testimony, and A Treatise on
the Soul, chapter xxxix of which speaks of the corruption of the soul through
customs; but cf. chap. xli.

26 Apology, xxl.
21 On Idolatry; Apology, x-xv.
2s Apology, xiii.

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require a mode of life contrary to the spirit and the law of

So political life is to be shunned. “As those in whom all ardor
in the pursuit of honor and glory is dead,” writes Tertullian
e ven in defense, “we have no pressing inducement to take part
in your public meetings; nor is there aught more entirely for­
eign to us than affairs of state.”29 There is an inner contradic­
tion between the exercise of political power and Christian faith.
Military service is to be avoided because it involves participation
in pagan religious rites and the swearing of an oath to Caesar,
but chiefly because it violates the law of Christ, who, ” in dis­
arming Peter, unbelted every soldier.” H ow “shall the son of
peace take part in battle when it does not become him even to
sue at law?”30 Trade cannot be prohibited with equal rigor,
and there may even be some righteousness in business, yet it
is scarcely “adapted for a servant of God,” fox apart from covet”
ousness, which is a species of idolatry, there is no real motive
for acquiring.31

When Tertullian turns to philosophy and the arts he is, if
anything, more drastic in pronouncing prohibitions than he is
in the case of the soldier’s occupation. H e has no sympathy with
the efforts of some Christians of his time to point out positive
connections between their faith and the ideas of the Greek
philosophers. “Away,’ he exclaims, “with all attempts to pro�
duce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic and dialectic
composition. We want no curious disputation after possessing
Jesus Christ . . . . With our faith we desire no further belief.”32

29 Ibid., xxxviii. Elsewhere, in chap. xxi, Tertullian remarks that “Caesars
too would have believed in Christ, if either the Caesars had not been necessary
for the world, or if Christians could have been Caesars.”

30 On Idolatry, xix; De Corona, xi.
31 On Idolatry, xi.
s2 Prescription A gainst Heretics, vii� ApoloifY, xlvi.

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In Socrates’ daimon he discovers an evil demon; the disciples
of Greece have for him nothing in common with ” the disciples
of heaven” ; they corrupt the truth, they seek their own fame,
they are mere talkers rather than doers. In so far as he must con­
cede the presence of some truth in these non-Christian thinkers,
he believes that they deriYed their insights from the Scriptures.
The stain of corruption pervades the arts also. Literary erudi­
tion, to be sure, cannot be wholly avoided, therefore “learning
literature is allowable for believers” ; but teaching it must b e
discountenanced, for it is impossible t o be a professor of litera­
ture without commending and affirming ” the praises of idols
interspersed therein. “33 As for the theater, not only the games
with their levity and brutality, but tragedy and even music are
ministers of sin. Tertullian seems to delight in his vision of the
last j udgment, when the illustrious monarchs who had been
deified by men, the wise men of the world, the philosophers,
poets, and tragedians, along with play-actors and wrestlers, will
groan in the lowest darkness or be tossed in the fiery billows,
while the carpenter’ s son thfly despised is exalted in glory.34

The great N orth African theologian seems, then, to present
the epitome of the “Christ-against-culture” position. Yet he
sounds both more radical and more consistent than he really
was.35 As we shall have occasion to note, he could not in fact
emancipate himself and the church from reliance on and partici­
pation in culture, pagan though it was. N evertheless he remains
one of the foremost illustrations of the anticultural m ovement
to be found in the history of the church.

33 O n Idola tryT x.
34 De Spectaculis, xxx.
:s;.; Cf. Cochrane, C. N ., C hristianity and Classical Culture, 1940, pp. 222 ff.,

227 ff., 245 f. For further discussions of Tertullian’s ethics see Guignebert,
Charles, Tertullien, Etude sur ses Sentiments a l’Egard de l’Empire et de la
Societe Civile, 1901, and Brandt, Theodor, Tertullians Ethik, 1929.

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We shall not undertake to describe how this m o tif in early
Christianity was developed in the monastic movement, with its
withdrawal from the institutions and societies of civilization,
from family and state, from school and socially established
church, from trade and industry. Eventually, of course, many
sorts of monasticism arose and some of the varieties occupied
positions quite distinct from those of Tertullian and the First
Letter of John. Yet the main stream of the movement, as repre­
sented for instance by the Rule of St. Benedict, remained in the
tradition of exclusive Christianity. Whatever contributions it
t”l-lentually made to culture, including the recognized social re­
ligion, were incidental byproducts which it did not intend. Its
i ntention was directed to the achievement of a Christian life,
apart from civiJization, in obedience to the laws of Christ, and
in pursuit of a perfection wholly distinct from the aims that
men seek in politics and economics, in sciences and arts. Prot­
estant sectarianism-to use that term in its narrow, sociological
meaning-has given the same sort of answer to the question of
Christ and culture. Out of the many sects that arose in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, protesting against the
worldly church, both Catholic and Protestant, and seeking- to
live under the Lordship of Christ alone, only a few survive.
The Mennonites have come to represent the attitude most
purely, since they not only renounce all participation in politics
and refuse to b e drawn into military service, but follow their
own distinctive customs and regulations in economics and edu­
cation. The Society of Friends, never as radical, represents the
type less adequately; though the family resemblance can be
noted, especially in connection with the practice of brotherly

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love and the abstention from military service. By and large,
however, the modern Quaker shows greater affinity to the op­
posite attitude in Christianity, the one which regards Christ
as the representative of culture.36 Hundreds of other groups,
many of them evanescent, and thousands of individuals, have
felt themselves compelled by loyalty to Christ to withdraw from
culture and to give up all responsibility for the world. We meet
them in all times and in many lands. In the nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries they did not attract much attention,
for most Christians seemed to believe that another answer to
their problem had been finally established. But there was one
man who in his own way and under the circumstances of his
own time and place stated the radical position as vehemently
and consistently as Tertullian. That man was Leo Tolstoy. He
is worth our special attention, because of the great/and dramatic
manner in which he presented his convictions in life and art,
and because of the pervasiveness of his influence in West and
East, in Christianity and beyond it.

The great crisis Tolstoy met in his middle years was resolved,
after many painful struggles, when he accepted the Jesus Christ
of the Gospels as his sole and explicit authority. Nob le by birth,
wealthy by inheritance, famous by his own achievements as the
author of War and Peace and A nna Karen ina, he yet found him­
self threatened in his own life by the meaninglessness of exist­
ence and the tawdriness of all the values that his society
esteemed. He could not rise from this despair into tranquillity,
and from the full stoppage of life into new activity, until he
recognized the fallibility of all other authorities and acknowl­
edged the teaching of J esus as inescapable truth, founded on

sa The best discussion, within the compass of one work, of the ethics of
medieval and modern sectarianism is to be found in Troeltsch, E., The Social
Teachings of the Christian C h urches, 1 93 1 , pp. 328 ff., 6 9 1 ff.

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reality.37 Jesus Christ was for Tolstoy always the great lawgiver,
whose commandments were in accordance with man’s true
nature and with the demands of uncorrupted reason. His con­
version centered in the realization that what Jesus had really
done was to give men a new law, and that this law was based
on the nature of things. “I have understood,” he writes in de­
scribing the great change in his life, “Christ’s teaching in his
commandments and I see that their fulfillment offers blessedness
to me and to all men . I have understood that the execution of
these commandments is the will of that Source of all from which
my life also has come . . . . In its fulfillment lies the only possi­
bility of salvation. . . . And having understood th is, I under­
stood and believed that Jesus is not only the Messiah, the Christ,
but that he is really the Saviour of the world. I know that there
is no other exit either for me or for all those who together with
me are tormented in this life. I know that for all, and for me
together with them, there is no way of escape except by fulfill­
ing those commands of Christ which offer to all humanity the
highest welfare of which I can conceive. “38 The literalness with
which Tolstoy interpreted the new law, as found particularly
in the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, and
the rigorousness of his obedience to it, made his conversion a
very radical event. In the little book entitled What I Believe or
My Religion he relates the story of his effort to understand the
N ew Testament, and of his release from struggle when he at
last discovered that Jesus’ words were to be literally interpreted,
with all ·ecclesiastical glosses on the text eliminated. Then it
became clear that Christ’s commandments were a statement of

37 Cf. Preface to “The Christian Teaching,” Vol. XII, pp. 209 ff. of The
Tolstoy Centenary Edition, London, 1 928-3 7 . (This edition will hereafter be
cited as Works.) Cf. also “A Confession,” Works, Vol. XI, pp. 3 ff.; “What I
Believe,” Vol. XI, pp. 307 ff.

38 “What I Believe,” Works, Vol. XI, pp. 447, 448.

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God’s eternal law, that he had abolished the law of Moses, and
had not come, as the church inclined to say, to reinforce the old
law or to teach that he was the second person of the Trinity.39
Tolstoy believed that he was interpreting the gospel faithfully
when he undertook to summarize this new law in five definite
injunctions. The first commandment was: ” Live at peace with
all men and never consider your anger against any man justi­
fied . . . . Try in advance to destroy any enmity between your­
self and others that it may not flame up and destroy you . ” The
second: “Do not make the desire for sexual relations an amuse­
ment. Let every man have a wife and each wife a husband and
let the husband have only one wife and the. wife only one hus­
band, and under no pretext infringe the sexual union of one
with the other.” The “definite and practicable third command­
ment is clearly expressed : Never take an oath to anyone, any­
where, about anything. Every oath is extorted for

evil ends.”

The fourth commandment destroys ” the stupid and bad” social
order in which men live, for simply, clearly, and practically it
says: “Never resist the evildoer by force, do not meet violence
with violence. If they beat you, endure it; if they take your
possessions, yield them up; if they compel you to work, work;
and if they wish to take from you what you consider to be yours,
give it up.” The final commandment, enjoining love of the
enemy, Tolstoy understood as the “definite, important, and
practicable rule . . . : not to make distinctions between one’s
own and other nations and not to do all the things that flow
from making such distinctions; not to bear enmity to foreign
nations; not to make war or to take part in warfare; not to arm
oneself for war, but to behave to all men, of whatever race they
may be, as we behave to our own people.”40 Through the

39 Ibid., pp. 353 ff., 370 ff. .
40 Ibid., pp. 376 f., 386, 390, 392 f., 398, 404. Cf. “The Gospel in Brief,”

Works, Vol. XI, pp. 1 6.!l – 1 6:;.

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promulgation of these five laws, Tolstoy believed, Christ had
established the kingdom of God; though it is clear that the
iaw of nonresistance was for him the key to the whole.

As in the case of other examples of this type which we have
considered, the counterpart of such devotion to the command­
ments of J esus Christ is a thoroughgoing opposition to the
institutions of culture. To Tolstoy these seem to be founded
on a complex foundation of errors, including the acceptance
of the inevitability of evil in man’s present life, the belief that
life is governed by external laws so that men cannot attain
blessedness by their own efforts, the fear of death, the identifi­
cation of true life with personal existence, and, above all, the
practice of and belief in violence. Even less than Tertullian
does he think that human corruption is resident in human
nature; the evil with which men contend is in their culture
only. Moreover, Tolstoy seems to have little understanding of
the extent and depth to which culture enters into human nature.
Hence he can center his attack on the conscious beliefs, the
tangible institutions, and the specious customs of society. H e
is not content simply t o withdraw from these himself and to
live a semimonastic life; he becomes a crusader against culture
under the banner of the law of Christ.

Every phase of culture falls under indictment. Though state,
church, and property system are the citadels of evil, philosophy
and sciences and arts also come under condemnation. There is
no such thing as good government for Tolstoy. ” The revolu­
tionaries say: ‘ The government organization is bad in this and
that respect; it must be destroyed and replaced by this and that.’
But a Christian says: ‘I know nothing about the governmental
organization, or in how far it is good or bad, and for th e same
reason I do not want to support it.’ . . . All the state obligations
are against the conscience of a Christian : the oath of allegiance.

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taxes, law proceedings and military service.”41 The state and
Christian faith are simply incompatible; for the state is based
on love of p ower and the exercise of violence, whereas the love,
humility, forgiveness, and nonresistance of Christian life draw
it completely away from political measures and institutions.
Christianity does not so much make the state unnecessary as
sap its foundations and destroy it from within. The argument of
such Christians as Paul who contend that the state performs
an interim function in restraining evil does not appeal to
Tolstoy, for he sees the state as the chief offender against life.42
Against its evil there is no defense except complete nonpartici­
pation, and nonviolent striving for the conversion of all men
to peaceful, anarchic Christianity.

Though the churches call themselves Christian, they are
equally far removed from the Christianity of J esus. Tolstoy
regards them as self-centered organizations that assert their own
infallibility; servants of the state, defenders of the reign of
violence and privilege, of inequality and property; obscurers
and falsifiers of the gospel. ” The Churches as Churches . . . are
anti-Christian institutions,” utterly hostile in their “pride,
violence, and self-assertion, immobility and death” to the “hu­
mility, penitence, meekness, progress and life” of Christianity.43
As in the case of states, reformation of such institutions is wholly
inadequate. Christ did not found them, and comprehension
of his doctrine will not reform but will ” destroy the churches
and their significance.”44 To this theme, as to the criticism of
the state, Tolstoy returns again and again. The church is an
invention of the devil; no honest man believing the gospel can
remain priest or preacher; all the churches are alike in their

41 “The Kingdom of God Is Within You,” Works, Vol. XX, pp. 275 f.
42 Ibid., pp. 2 8 1 ff.
43 Ibid., p. 82.
44 Ibid., pp. 69, 1 0 1 .

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betrayal of Christ’s law; churches and states together represent

the institutionalization of violence and fraud.45
Tolstoy’s attack on economic institutions is equally intransi­

gent. His own effort to renounce property while yet retaining
some responsibility for its administration constitutes part of his
personal tragedy. He believed that property claims were based
on robbery and maintained by violence. More radical than
second-century radical Christians and than most monks, he
turned even against the subdivision of labor in economic society,
It seemed to him to be the means by which privileged persons,
such as artists, intellectuals, and their kind, absorbed the labor
of others, j ustifying themselves by the belief that they were
beings of a higher order than workingmen, or that their con­
tribution to society was so great that it compensated for the
harm they did by overburdening manual workers with their
claims. The first supposition has been exploded by Christian
teaching about human equality; the con tribution made to so­
ciety by the privileged is dubious when it is not patently
mischievous. Hence Tolstoy urges the intellectuals, as well as
landlords and military men in society, to stop deceiving them­
selves, to renounce their own righteousness, advantages, and
distinctions, to labor with all their power to sustain their own
lives and those of others by manual labor. Following his own
principles, he aJtempted to be his own tailor and cobbler, and
would have liked to be his own gardener and cook.46

Like Tertullian, Tolstoy also turned against philosophy and

45 Cf. “The Restoration of Hell,” a remarkable little fable in which the re­
establishment of the reign of evil on earth after Christ’s victory is explained
particularly by the invention of the church. The devil who invented it explains
to Beelzebub, “I have arranged it so that men do not believe in Christ’s teaching
bu t in mine, which they call by his name.” Works, Vol. XII, pp. 309 ff. Cf. also
“Religion and Morality,” “What is Religion?” “Church and State,” “An Appeal
to the Clergy,” in the same volume.

46 “What Then Must We Do?” Works, Vol. XIV, pp. 209 ff., 269 ff., 3 1 1 ff.

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the sciences and arts in which he had been nurtured. The first
two are not only useless, because they fail to answer the funda­
mental questions of man about the meaning and conduct of
life, but are bad because they rest on falsehood. The experi­
mental sciences devote great energies to confirm a dogma that
makes the whole enterprise false, namely the dogma that “mat­
ter and energy exist,” while they do nothing to ameliorate man’s
actual life. “I am convinced,” writes Tolstoy, ” that a few cen­
turies hence the so-called ‘scientific’ activity of our belauded
recent centuries of European humanity will furnish an inex­
tinguishable fund of mirth and pity to future generations.”47
Philosophy leads us no further than to the knowledge that all is
vanity; but “what is hidden to the wise and prudent is revealed
to babes. ” The common peasant who follows the Sermon on
the Mount knows what the great and wise cannot understand.
“Special talents and intellectual gifts are needed, not for the
knowledge and statement of truth but for the invention and
statement of falsehood.”48 The artist Tolstoy could not make
quite as complete a break with the arts. He at least made a
distinction between good art and bad. To the latter category
he consigned all his own iormer work, save for two small stories,
all “genteel” art designed for the privileged classes, and even
Hamlet and the Nin th Symphony . But he allowed a place for
an art that was a sincere expression and communication of feel.
ing, that had universal appeal, was comprehensible by the
masses of men, and was in accord with Christian moral con­
sciousness.4’9 Hence in so far as he did not devote his great
literary talents to the writing of homilies and tracts on non-

47 “What I Believe,” Works, Vol. XI, p. 420; cf. “A Confession,” Vol. XI, pp.
23 ff.; “On Life,” Vol. XII, pp. i2 f.

4s “Reason and Religion,” Works, Vol. XII, p. 202; cf. “A Confession,” Vol.
X I , pp. 56 ff., 73 f.

49 “What Is Art?” Works. Vql. XVIII. t>p. 2�� !!.

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resistance and true religion, he produced parables and stories
such as “Where Love Is There God Is” and ” Master and Man . ”

Tolstoy of course no more conforms completely t o o u r type
than any other great individual conforms to a pattern. He is
like the author of I John in his praise of love and his rejection
of the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of
life.” H e is like Tertullian in the vehemence o f his attack on
social institutions. He is like the monks in his personal with­
drawal into a life of poverty. But he differs from all these in his
relation to Jesus Christ, for one finds in them a personal devo­
tion to a personal Lord which is strangely lacking in Tolstoy.
For him the law of Christ is much more significant than the
person of the lawgiver. Maxim Gorky has remarked that when
Tolstoy spoke of Christ there was “no enthusiasm, no feeling in
his words, and no spark of real fire.”50 The writings in gener�l
bear out that j udgment. Moreover, Tolstoy shows little under­
standing for the meaning of the grace of God manifested in
Jesus Christ, for the historical nature of Christian revelation,
for the psychological, moral, and spiritual depths of both cor­
ruption and salvation. Hence he was more of a legalist than
even the legal Tertullian. Yet in modern history and under
the conditions of the modern culture of which he was in part
a product, Tolstoy remains a clear-cut example of anticultural
Christianity. 51

It would be easy to multiply illustrations of the type. De.
l>Cribed one after the other they would constitute a very diverse
group, including Eastern and Western Catholics, orthodox and
sectarian Protestants, millenarians and mystics, ancient and me­
dieval and modern Christians. Yet their unity of spirit would
also be apparent in their common acknowledgment of the sole

50 Gorky, Maxim, Reminiscences of Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy, 1 920, p. 5 .
51 For full descriptions o f Tolstoy’s life and works see Aylmer Maude’s Life

vf Tolstoy and Ernest J. Simmon’s Leo Tolstoy.

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authority of Jesus Christ and the common rejection of the pre­
vailing culture. Whether that culture calls itself Christian or
not is of no importance, for to these men it is always pagan and
corrupt. Neither is it of first-rate significance whether such
Christians think in apocalyptic or in mystical terms. As apoca­
lyptics they will prophesy the early passing of the old society and
the coming into history of a new divine order. As mystics they
will experience and announce the reality of an eternal order
hidden by the specious temporal and cultural scene. The signif­
icant question to be asked about Christians in this respect is
not whether they think historically or mystically about the king­
dom of God; but rather whether they are convinced of its
nearness and are governed by this conviction, or whether they
think of it as relatively remote in time or space and relatively
ineffective in power. Neither are the differences between Protes­
tants and Catholics decisive. Monastic characteristics reappear
in Protestant sectarians; and a Lutheran Kierkegaard attacks
the Christendom of post-Reformation culture with the same in­
transigence that marks a Wiclif’s thrust against medieval social
faith. Various and diverse though these men and movements
are, they give a recognizably common answer to the problem of
Christ and culture.


It is easy to raise objections to this solution of the Christian
dilemma. Yet intelligent Christians who cannot conscientiously
take this position themselves will recognize the sincerity of most
of its exponents, and its importance in history and the need for
it in the total encounter of church and world.

Half-baked and muddle-headed men abound in the anticul ·
tural movement as well as elsewhere; doubtless hypocris?
flourishes here too. Yet the single-heartedness and sincerity oi

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the great representatives of this type are among their most at·
tractive qualities. There has been a kind of Kierkegaardian
“reduplication” in their lives, for they have expressed in their
actions what they said in words. They have not taken easy ways
in professing their allegiance to Christ. They have endured
physical and mental sufferings in their willingness to abandon
homes, property, and the protection of government for the sake
of his cause. They have accepted the derision and animosity
which societies inflict on nonconformists. From the persecutions
of Christians under D omitian to the imprisonment of Jehovah’s
Vitnesses in national-socialist Germany and democratic Amer­
ica, such people have been subject to martyrdom. In so far as
Christian pacifists in our time belong to this group-not all of
them do–their sufferings will seem to themselves and others
to be more evidently due to obedience to Jesus Christ than is
the case when a Christian soldier suffers and dies. Part of the
appeal of the ” Christ-against-culture” answer lies in this evi­
dent reduplication of profession in conduct. When we make it
we seem to be proving to ourselves and others that we mean
what we say when we say that Jesus Christ is our Lord.

In history these Christian withdrawals from and rejections
of the instit

utions of society have been of very great importance

to both church and culture. They have maintained the distinc­
tion between Christ and Caesar, between revelation and reason,
between God’s will and man’s. They have led to reformations
in both church and world, though this was never their inten­
tion. Hence men and movements of this sort are often cele­
brated for their heroic roles in the history of a culture which
they rejected. ‘What Montalembert said of Benedict of Nursia
applies in one way or another to almost all the great representa­
tives of exclusive Christianity: ” Historians have vied in prais­
ing his genius and clear-sightedness; they have supposed that he

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intended to regenerate Europe, to stop the dissolution of society.
to prepare the reconstitution of political order, to re-establish
public education, and to preserve literature and the arts . . . . l
firmly believe that he never dreamt of regenerating anything
but his own soul and those of his brethren, the monks.”;:;2
Doubtless the individualistic ideal of soul-regeneration is not
an adequate key to the attitude of radical Christians; but
neither is the hope of social reform. In social reform they ac­
complish what they did not ‘ intend. Second-century believers
who had no interest in the rule of Caesar prepared the way for
the social triumph of the church and the conversion of the
pagan world into a Christian civilization. Monasticism even­
tually became one of the great conservers and transmitters of
cultural tradition; it trained many great ecclesiastical and po­
litical leaders of society; it strengthened the institutions from
which its founders had withdrawn. Protestant sectarians made
important contributions to political customs and traditions,
such as those which guarantee religious liberty to all members
of a society. Quakers and Tolstoyans, intending only to abolish
all methods of coercion, have helped to reform prisons, to limit
armaments, and to establish international organizations for the
maintenance of peace through coercion.

Now that we have recognized the importance of the role
played by anticul tural Christians in the reform of culture, we
must immediately point out that they never achieved these re­
sults alone or directly but only through the mediation of be­
lievers who gave a different answer to the fundamental question.
Not Tertullian, but Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Ambrose,
and Augustine initiated the reformation of Roman culture. N ot
Benedict, but Francis, Dominic, and Bernard of Clairvaux ac­
complished the reform of medieval society often credited to

52 De Montalembert. The Monks o.f the West, 1896, Vol. I, p. 436.

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Benedict. Not George Fox, but William Penn and John Wool­
man, changed social institutions in England and America. And
in every case the followers did not so much compromise the
teachings of the radicals as follow another inspiration than the
one deriving from an exclusive loyalty to an exclusive Christ.

Yet the radically Christian answer to the problem of culture
needed to be given in the past, and doubtless needs to be given
now. It must be given for its own sake, and because without it
other Christian groups lose their balance. The relation of the
authority of Jesus Christ to the authority of culture is such that
every Christian must often feel himself claimed by the Lord to
reject the world and its kingdoms with their pluralism and
temporalism, their makeshift compromises of many interests,
their hypnotic obsession by the love of life and the fear of death.
The movement of withdrawal and renunciation is a necessary
element in every Christian life, even though it be followed by
an equally necessary movement of responsible engagement in
cultural tasks. Where this is lacking, Christian faith quickly
degenerates into a utilitarian device for the attainment of per­
sonal prosperity or public peace; and some imagined idol called
by his name takes the place of Jesus Christ the Lord. What is
necessary in the individual life is required also in the existence
of the church. If Romans 1 3 is not balanced by I John, the
church becomes an instrument of state, unable to point men to
their transpolitical destiny and their suprapolitical loyalty; un­
able also to engage in political tasks, save as one more group of
power-hungry or security-seeking men. Given Jesus Christ with
his authority, the radical answer is inevitable; not only when
men are in despair about their civilization, but also when they
are complacent, not only as they hope for a kingdom of God,
but also as they shore up the crumbling walls of temporal so­
cieties for the sake of the men who might be buried under their

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ruins. So long l S eternity cannot be translated into temporal
terms nor time into eternity, so long as Christ and culture can­
not be amalgamated, so long is the radical answer inevitable in
the church.

It is an inevitable answer; but it is also inadequate, as mem­
bers of other groups in the church can easily point out. It is
inadequate, for one thing, because it affirms in words what it
denies in action; namely, the possibility of sole dependence on
Jesus Christ to the exclusion of culture. Christ claims no man
purely as a natural being, but always as one who has become
human in a culture; who is not only in culture, but into whom
culture has penetrated. Man not only speaks but thinks with
the aid of the language of culture. Not only has the objective
world about him been modified by human achievement; but
the forms and attitudes of his mind which allow him to make
sense out of the objective world have been given him by cul­
ture. He cannot dismiss the philosophy and science of his so­
ciety as though they were external to him ; they are in him­
though in different forms from those in which they appear in
the leaders of culture. He cannot rid himself of political beliefs
and economic customs by rej ecting the more or less external
institutions; these customs and beliefs have taken up residence
in his mind. If Christians do not come to Christ with the lan­
guage, the thought patterns, the moral disciplines of J udais.m,
they come with those of Rome; if not with those of Rome, then
with those of Germany, England, Russia, America, India, or
China. Hence the radical Christians are always making use of
the culture, or parts of the culture, which ostensibly they reject.
The writer of I John employs the terms of that Gnostic philos­
ophy to whose pagan use he objects.5� Clement of Rome uses
semi-Stoic ideas. In almo�t every utterance Tertullian makes

sa Cf. Dodd, C. H., op. cit., xx, xxix, xlii, et passim.

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evident that he is a Roman, so nurtured in the legal tradition
and so dependent on philosophy that he cannot state the Chris­
tian case without their aid.54 Tolstoy becomes intelligible when
he is interpreted as a nineteenth centu1y Russian who partici­
pates, in the depths of his unconscious soul as well as con­
sciously, in the cultural movements of his time, and in the
Russian mystic sense of community with men and nature. It is
so with all the members of the radical Christian group. When
they meet Christ they do so as heirs of a culture which they can­
not reject because it is a part of them. They can withdraw from
its more obvious institutions a nd expressions; but for the most
part they can only select-and modify under Christ’s authority
-something they have received through the mediation of

The conservation, selection, and conversion of cultural
achievements is not only a fact; it is also a morally inescapable
requirement, which the exclusive Christian must meet because
he is a Christian and a man. If he is to confess J esus before men,
he must do so by means of words and ideas derived from cul­
ture, though a change of meaning is also necessary. He must


such words as ” Christ” or ” Messiah” or ” Kyrios” or “Son of
God” or ” Logos. ” If he is to say what “love” means he must
choose among such words as “eras/’ “ph ilan thropia” and
“agap e_,” or “charity,” “loyalty,” and “love”-seeking one that
comes close to the meaning of Jesus Christ, and modifying it by
use in , context. These things he must do, not only that he may
communicate, but also that he may himself know whom and
what he believes. When he undertakes to fulfill the demands of
Jesus Christ, he finds himself partly under the necessity of trans­
lating into the terms of his own culture what was commanded

54 Cf. Shortt, C. De Lisle, The lnfiuence of Philosophy on the Mind of Te1-
tullian, and Beck, Alexander, Roemisches Recht bei Tertullian und Cyprian.

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in the terms of another, partly under the requirement of giving
precision and meaning to general principles by adopting speci­
fic rules relevant to his social life. What is the meaning of
Jesus’ statements about the Sabbath in a society which does not
celebrate such a day? Is it to be introduced and modified, or left
aside as a part of an alien, non-Christian culture? What is the
meaning of praying to a Father in heaven, in a culture with a
cosmology differing radically from that of Palestine in the first
century? How shall demons be cast out where they are not be­
lieved to exist? There is no escape from culture here; the alter­
native seems to be between the effort to reproduce the culture
in which Jesus lived, or to translate his words into those of
another social order. Furthermore, the command to love the
neighbor cannot be obeyed except in specific terms that involve
cultural understanding of the neighbor’s nature, a:nd except in
specific acts directed toward him as a being who has a place in
culture, as member of family or religious community, as na­
tional friend or enemy, as rich or poor. In his effort to be obe­
dient to Christ, the radical Christian therefore reintroduces
ideas and rules from non-Christian culture in two areas: in the
government of the withdrawn Christian community, and in the
regulation of Christian conduct toward the world outside.

The tendency in exclusive Christianity is to confine the com­
mandments of loyalty to Christ, of love of God and neighbor,
to the fellowship of Christians. Here also the other gospel re­
quirements are to be enforced. But, as Martin Dibelius among
many others has pointed out, “the words of Jesus were not in­
t.ended as ethical rules for a Christian culture, and even if they
were applied as such they were not sufficient to supply an an ..
swer to all the questions of daily life.”55 Other helps were
needed; and they were found by early Christians in Jewish and.

55 Dibelius, Martin, A Fresh Approach to the New Testament, p. : n 9.

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Hellenistic-Jewish popular ethics. It is remarkable to what ex­
tent the ethics of second-century Christianity-as”summarized
for instance in The Teaching of the Twelve and the Epistle of
Barnabas-contains material extraneous to the N ew Testament.
These Christians, who thought of themselves as a new “race”
distinct from Jews and Gentiles, borrowed from the laws and
customs of those from whom they had separated what they
needed for the common life but had not received from their
own authority. The situation is similar in the case of the monas­
tic rules. Benedict of N ursia seeks Scriptural foundation for all
his regulations and counsels; but the New Testament does not
suffice him, nor does the Bible as a whole; and he must find, in
old reflections on human experience in social life, rules by
means of which to govern the new community. The spirit in
which both Scriptural and non-Scriptural regulations are pre­
sented also shows how impossible it is to be only a Christian
without reference to culture. When Tertullian recommends
modesty and patience, Stoic overtones are always present; and
when Tolstoy speaks of nonresistance, Rousseauistic ideas are
in the context. Even if no use were made of another inheritance
besides that derived from Jesus Christ, the needs of the with­
drawn community would lead to the development of a new
culture. Invention, hum.an achievement, temporal :…. ealization
of value, organization of the common life-all must go on in it.
When the dogmas and rites of social religion have been aban­
doned, a new dogma and a new ritual must be developed, if
religious practice is to go on at all. Therefore monks work out
their own rituals in their monasteries, and Quaker silences be­
come as formalized as masses; Tolstoy’s dogmas are as confi­
dently uttered as are those of the Russian church. When the
state has been rejected, the exclusively Christian community
has necessarily developed some political organization of its own ;

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and has done so with the aid of other ideas than those derived
from the injunction that the first shall be the servant of all. It
has called its leaders prophets or abbots, its governing assem­
blies quarterly meetings or congregations; it has enforced uni­
formity by means of popular opinion and banishment from the
society; but in any case it has sought to maintain internal order,
not only generally but in a specific way of life. Prevailing prop­
erty institutions have been set aside; but something more than
the counsel to sell all and give to the poor has been necessary,
since men had to eat and be clothed and sheltered even in pov­
erty. Hence ways and means of acquiring and distributing goods
were devised, and a new economic culture was established.

In dealing with the society which he regards as pagan, but
from which he never succeeds in separating himself completely,
the radical Christian has also always been required to take re­
course to principles he could not derive directly from his con­
viction of Christ’s Lordship. H is problem here has been that of
living in an interim. Whether exclusive Christians are escha­
tologists or spiritualists, in ei�her case they must take account
of the “meanwhile,” the interval between the dawning of the
new order of life and its victory, the period in which the tem­
poral and material has not yet been transformed into the spiri­
tual. They cannot separate themselves completely, therefore,
from the world of culture around them, nor from those needs
in themselves which make this culture necessary. Though the
whole world lies in darkness, yet distinctions must be made be­
tween relative rights and wrongs in that world, and in Christian
relations to it. So, Tertullian writing to his wife advises her to
remain a widow if he should die first. He disclaims any motive
of j ealousy or possessiveness, for such carnal motives will be
eliminated in the resurrection, and ” there will at that day be n o
resumption o f voluptuous disgrace between us. ” She is to re-

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main a widow because Christian law permits only one marriage
and because virginity is better than marriage. Marriage is not
really good but only not evil; indeed, when Jesus says ” ‘They
were marrying and buying’ He sets a brand on the very leading
vices of the flesh and the world, which call men off the most from
divine disciplines. ” Hence Tertullian counsels his wife to accept
his death as God’s call to the great good of a life of continence.
But thereafter he wrote a second letter in which he gave the
“next best advice,” to the effect that if she needed to remarry
she should at least “marry in the Lord, ” that is, marry a Chris­
tian and not an unbeliever.56 In the end one can find in Tertul­
lian a whole scale of relative goods and evils in his estimation of
orders in man’s sex-life in the interval before the resurrection.
Compared with virginity, marriage is relatively evil; a single
marriage in a lifetime, however, is relatively good as compared
with second marriage; yet if the evil of second marriage does
take place, marriage with a believer is relatively good. If Ter­
tullian were pressed he might concede that if there were to b e
marriage with a n unbeliever, a monogamous marriage would
still be a better wickedness than polygamy; and even that in a
disordered world polygamy might be relatively good compared
to wholly irresponsible sex relations.

Other illustrations of the necessity for recognizing laws rela­
tive to the time of the interim and to the existence of a pagan
:mciety can be found in the history of Friends who are con­
cerned that since there is a vicious institution of slavery slaves
should be treated “justly” ; and since there is buying and selling
a fixed-price policy should prevail. One thinks, too, of Christian
pacifists, who, having rejected the institutions and practices of
w arfare as wholly evil, yet seek to have armaments limited and

56 “To His Wife,” (Ante-Nicere Fathers, Vol. IV); cf. also “On Monogamy”;
“‘Or! Exhortation to Chastity.”

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certain weapons banned. Count Tolstoy’s daughter has told the
story of her father’s tragedy, which was at least in part the trag­
edy of an exclusive Christian whose responsibilities did not
allow him to escape the problems of the “meanwhile . ” For him­
�elf he could choose the life of poverty, but not for wife and
children, who did not share his convictions; he did n ot want the
protection of police, and did not need it; but he was a member
of a family that required the guardianship of force. So the poor
man lived on his own rich estate, unwillingly and with ambigu­
ous responsibility; the nonresister was protected against mobs
even at his death. Countess Alexandra relates a story that pre­
sents the problem dramatically, and indicates how even Tolstoy
needed to recognize that conscience and the rule of right lay
their claims on man in the midst of bad institutions. Since he
had renounced property but remained bound to his /family, re�
sponsibility for the management of the estate fell on his wife,
who was poorly equipped for the task. Under her inadequate
supervision, incompetent or ” dishonest stewards allowed the
property to fall into general disorder. A horrible accident oc­
curred as a result of maladministration-a peasant was buried
alive in a neglected sandpit. “I seldom saw father so upset, ”
writes his daughter. ” ‘Such things can’t happen, they can’t
happen,’ he was telling mother. ‘ If you want an estate you must
manage it well, or else give it up altogether.’ “-07

Stories of this sort, which illustrate the adj ustments of radical
Christians to a rejected and evil but inescapable culture, can
be multiplied; and they delight their critics. But surely the de­
light is premature and unfounded, for such stories only under­
score the common Christian dilemma. The difference between
the radicals and the other groups is often only this : that the

57 Tolstoy, Countess Alexandra, The Tragedy of Count Tolstoy, 1 933, p. 65·
tf. pp. 1 6 1 – 165, and Simmons, op. cit., 63 1 ff., 682 f. et passim.

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radicals fail to recognize what they are doing, and continue to
speak as though they were separated from the world. Sometimes
the contradictions are quite explicit in their writings; as in the
case of Tertullian, who seems to argue agftinst himself on such
subjects as the value of philosophy and government. Often they
are implicit, and come to expression only in contradictory con­
duct. In either case the radical Christian confesses that he has
not solved the problem of Christ and culture, but is only seek
ing a solution along a certain line.


There are indications in the Christ-against-culture movement
that the difficulties the Christian faces as he deals with his di­
lemma are not only ethical but theological; and that ethical
solutions depend quite as much on theological understanding
as vice versa. Questions about divine and human nature, about
God’s action and pian ‘s, arise at every point, as the radical Chris­
tian undertakes to separate himself from the cultural society,
and as he engages in debate with members of other Christian
groups. Four of these questions with their radical answers may
be briefly sketched here.

The first of these is the problem of reason and revelation.
There is a tendency in the radical movement to use the word
“reason” to designate the methods and the content of knowl­
edge to be found in cultural society; “revelation” to indicate
that Christian knowledge of God and duty that is derived from
Jesus Christ and resident in the Christian society. These defini­
tions, then, are connected with the denigration of reason and
the exaltation of revelation:58 Even in I John, the least extreme

58 The opposition of reason and revelation to each other in this manner is
of course not confined to members of the Christ-against-culture movement. Chris­
tians who take other positions than the radical one in political or economic
matters may adopt the exclusive attitude in dealing with the problem of

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of our examples, something of this contrast appears, in the op�
position of the world of darkness to the realm of light in which
Christians walk; and Christians are said to know all things be­
cause they have been anointed by the Holy One. Tertullian, of
course, is the stock example in history of the position that sub­
stitutes revelation for reason. Though he did not say, “I believe
because it is absurd,” in the sense in which that statement is
usually ascribed to him, he did write, “You will not be ‘wise’
unless you become a ‘fool’ to the world, by believing ‘ the fool­
ish things of God.’ . . . The Son of God was crucified; I am not
ashamed because men must needs be ashamed of it. The Son
of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is
absurd [prorSU:S credib ile est) q uia ineptum es] . And He was
buried and ro�e again; the fact is certain, because it is impossi­
ble.”59 But it is not so much the vigor of this confessJon of belief
in the common Christian doctrine that makes him the great
exponent of the antirational defense of revelation, as those a t­
tacks on philosophy and cultural wisdom to which we have
previously referred. A similar attitude toward cultural reason
is to be found in many monastics, in the early Quakers arid
other Protestant sectarians; it is characteristic of Tolstoy.
Human reason as it flourishes in culture is for these men not
only inadequate because it does not lead to knowledge of God
and the truth necessary to salvation; but it is also erroneous and
deceptive. Yet it is true that few of them find the rejection of
reason and the acceptance of revelation in its stead sufficient.
With Tertullian and Tolstoy, they distinguish between the
simple, “natural” knowledge that the uncorrupted human soul
possesses, and the vitiated understanding that is to be found in
culture; furthermore, they tend to make a distinction between
the revelation given by the spirit or the inner light, and that

59 On the Flesh of Christ. ch. v.

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which is historically given and transmitted through the Scrip­
tures. They cannot solve their problem of Christ and culture
without recognizing that distinctions must be made both with
respect to the reasoning that goes on outside the Christian
sphere and to the knowledge that is present in it.

Secondly, the question about the nature and prevalence of
sin is involved in the answer to the Christ-and-culture question.
The logical answer of the radical seems to be that sin abounds
in culture, but that Christians have passed out of darkness into
the light, and that a fundamental reason for separation from
the world is the preservation of the holy community from cor­
ruption. Some of them, for instance certain Friends and Tol­
s toy, regard the doctrine of original sin itself as a measure by
means of which a compromising Christianity j ustifies itself. The
tendency is-and here these men make an important contribu­
tion to theology-to explain in social terms the inherit�nce of
s in among men. The corruption of the culture in which a child
is reared, not the corruption of its uncultivated nature, is re­
sponsible for the long history of sin. Yet this solution of the
problem of sin and holiness is found, by the exclusive Christians
themselves, to be inadequate. For one thing, the demands of
Christ for holiness of life meet resistance in the Christian him­
self; not apparently because he has inherited culture, but be­
cause he has been given a certain nature. The ascetic practices
of the radicals, from Tertullian to Tolstoy, in dealing with sex,
eating and fasting, anger, and even sleep, indicate how great
their awareness is that temptation to sin arises out of nature as
well as culture. More significant is their understanding that one
of the distinctions between Christianity and secularism is j ust
this, that the Christian faces up to the fact of his sinfulness. “If
we say we have no sin/’ writes John, “we deceive ourselves and
the truth is not in us.” Tolstoy comes clo.;e to the same funda-

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mental idea when he addresses himself to landowners, judges,
priests, and soldiers, asking them to do one thing above all, to
refuse to recognize the lawfulness of their crimes. To give up
the land and to abdicate all advantages is a heroic act; “but it
may be,. as is most likely, that you have not the strength . . . .
But to recognize the truth as a truth and avoid lying about i t is
a thing you can always do. ” The truth they must confess is that
they are not serving the common good.60 If the greatest sin is
the refusal to acknowledge one’s sinfulness, then it becomes
impossible to make the line between Christ’s holiness and man’s
sinfulness coincide with the line drawn between the Christian
and the world. Sin is in him, not outside his soul and body. I f
sin i s more deeply rooted and more extensive than the first
answer of radical Christianity indicates, then the strategy of
Christian faith in gaining victory over the world needs to in­
clude other tactics than those of withdrawal from culture and
defense of new-won holiness.

Closely connected with these problems is the question· about
the relations of law and grace. Opponents of the exclusive type
frequently accuse its representatives of legalism, and of neglect­
ing the significance of grace in Christian life and thought; or of
so emphasizing the character of Christianity as a new law for a
select community that they forget its gospel to all men. This
much is true, that they all insist on the exhibition of Christian
faith in daily conduct. How can a follower of J esus Christ know
that he is a disciple if his conduct in love of the brothers, in
self-denial, in modesty, in nonresistance, and in voluntary pov·
erty does not distinguish him from other men? The emphasis
on conduct may lead to the definition of precise rules, concern
i:or one’s conformity to such rules, and concentration on one’s
own will rather than on the gracious work of God. As we have

60 “The Kingdom of God Is Within You,” Works, Vol. XX, p. 442.

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noted, I J ohn combines grace and law, and emphasizes the
primacy of that divine love that alone enables men, in response.
to its great attraction, to love both God and neighbor. Tertul­
lian, however, is in all respects, more legally minded, and so are
many of the monastics, against whose “works-righteousness”
Protestantism then objects. Tolstoy represents the extreme, since
for him Jesus Christ is really only the teacher of the new law,
since this law is statable in precise commandments, and since
the problem of obedience may be solved by summoning up
within oneself the resident power of one’s good will. Mated
with such leanings toward legalism, however, one finds in Ter­
tullian, monastics, sectarians and even Tolstoy reflections that
Christians are just like other men, needing to rely wholly on
the gracious forgiveness of their sins by God-in-Christ, that
Christ is by no means the founder of a new closed society with
a new law but the expiator of the sins of the whole world, that
the only difference between Christians and non-Christians lies
in the spirit with which Christians do the same things as non.
Christians. “Eating the same food, wearing the same attire, hav�
ing the same habits, under the same necessities of existence,”
sailing together, ploughing together, even holding property
together and fighting together, the Christian does everything
with a difference; not because he has a different law, but be.
cause he knows grace and hence reflects grace; not because he
must distinguish himself, but because he does not need to dis­
tinguish himself. 61

The knottiest theological problem raised by the Christ­
against-culture movement is the problem of the relation of
Jesus Christ to the Creator of nature and Governor of history
as well as to the Spirit immanent in creation and in the Chris-

61 Tertullian, Apology, xlii; cf. Tolstoy; “Kingdom of God,” Works, Vol XX,
PP· 452 ff.


dan community. Some exponents of radical Christianity, such
lS certain sectarians and Tolstoy, regard the doctrine of the
Trinity as having no ethical meaning, and as the corrupt in.
wention of a corrupt church. But they cannot escape the prob­
lem with which it deals and they try to solve it in their own way.
Others, such as the author of I John and Tertullian, belong
among the founders of the orthodox doctrine. The positive and
negative interest of these strongly ethical and practical Chris­
tians in the problem and its solution indicates that Trinitarian­
ism is by no means as speculative a position and as unimportant
for conduct as is often maintained. Practically the problem
arises for radical Christians when, in their concentration on the
Lordship of Christ, they seek to defend his authority, to define
the content of his commandment, and to relate his law or reign
to that power which governs nature and presides ov�r the des­
tinies of men in their secular societies. The extreme temptation
the radicals meet when they deal with these questiom is that of
converting their ethical dualism into an ontological bifurcation
of reality. Their rejection of culture is easily combined with a
suspicion of nature and nature’s God; their reliance on Christ
is often converted into a reliance on the Spirit immanent in
him and the believer; ultimately they are tempted to divide the
world into the material realm governed by a principle opposed
to Christ and a spiritual realm guided :Jy the spiritual God.
Such tendencies are evident in Tertullian’s Montanism, in
Spiritual Franciscanism, in the inner light doctrine of the Quak­
ers, and in Tolstoy’s spiritualism. At the edges of the radical
movement the Manichean heresy is always developing. If on the
one hand this tendency leads exclusive Christianity to obscure
the relation of Jesus Christ to nature and to . the Author of na­
ture, it leads on the other to loss �f rnntact with the historical
Jesus Christ of history, for whom a spiritual principle is subs ti·


tnted. Hence George Fox’s radical reform of a Christianity that
had compromised, as he thought, with the world, was connected
with an emphasis on the spirit that led in some parts of his
movement to the virtual abandonment of the Scriptures and the
Scriptural Jesus Christ, and the enthronement, as man’s supreme
authority, of private conscience. Tolstoy substitutes for the Jesus
Christ of history the spirit immanent in Buddha, in Jesus, in
Confucius, and in himself. Why radical Christians s]lould be so
subject to the temptation of a spiritualism that leads them away
from the principle with which they begin, namely Christ’s
authority, is difficult to fathom. Perhaps it is indicated that
Christ cannot be followed alone, as he cannot be worshipped
alone; and that radical Christianity, important as one move­
ment in the church, cannot itself exist without the counter­
weight of other types of Christianity.

C H A P T E R 3

The Christ of Culture


In every culture to which the Gospel comes there are men
who hail Jesus as the Messiah of their society, the fulfiller
of its hopes and aspirations, the perfecter of its true faith, the
source of its holiest spirit. In the Christian community they
seem to stand in direct opposition to the radicals, who reject
th0e social institutions for Christ’s sake; but they are far
removed from those “cultured among the despisers” of Chris,
tiari faith who reject Christ for the sake of their civilization.
These men are Christians not only in the sense that they
count themselves believers in the Lord but also in the sense
that they seek to maintain community with all other believers.
Yet they seem equally at home in the community of culture.
They feel no great tension between church and world, the
social laws and the Gospel, the workings of divine grace and
human effort, the ethics of salvation and the ethics of social
conservation or progress. On the one hand they interpret
culture through Christ, regarding those elements in it as most
important which are most accordant with his work and person;
on the other hand they understand Christ through culture,
selecting from his teaching and action as well as from the
Christian doctrine about him such points as seem to agree
with what is best in civilization. So they harmonize Christ



and culture, not without excision, of course, from New
Testament and social custom, of stubbornly discordant fea­
tures. They do not necessarily seek Christian sanction for
the whole of prevailing culture, but only for what they
regard as real in the actual; in the case of Christ they try to
disentangle the rational and abiding from the historical and
accidental. Though their fundamental interest may be this­
worldly, they do not reject other-worldliness; but seek to
understand the transcendent realm as continuous in time or
character with the present life. Hence the great work of Christ
may be conceived as the training of men in their present social
existence for the better life to come; often he is regarded as the
great educator, sometimes as tne great philosopher or reformer.
Just as the gulf between the worlds is bridged, so other differ­
ences between Christ and culture that seem like chasms to
radical Christians and anti-Christians are easily passed over by
these men. Sometimes they are ignored, sometimes filled in with
convenient material derived from historical excavations or
demolitiom of old thought-structures. Such Christians have
been described psychologically by F. W. Newman and William
James as constituting the company of the “once-born” and the
“healthy-minded.” Sociologically they · may be interpreted as
nonrevolutionaries who find no need for positing “cracks in
time” -fall and incarnation and judgment and resurrection. In
modern history this type is well-known, since for generations it
has been dominant in a large section of Protestantism. Inade­
quately defined by the use of such terms as “liberal” and “lib­
eralism,” is is more aptly named Culture-Protestantism; 1 but
appearances of the type have not been confined to the modern
world nor to the churches of the Reformation.

l Karl Barth, I believe, invented the term. See especially his Protestantische
Theologie im z9. ]ahrhundert, 1947, chap. iii.


There were movements of this sort in the earliest days of
.::Jhristianity, as it arose in the midst of Jewish society, was
carried into the Grneco-Roman world by Paul and other mission-
0ries, and became involved in the complex interactions of the
many cultural ingredients that bubbled in the Mediterranean
melting pot. Among Jewish Christians doubtless all the varia­
tions appeared that we find among ancient and modern Gentile
Christians as they wrestle with the Christ-culture problem.
Paul’s conflict with the Judaizers and later references to Naza­
renes and Ebionites indicate that there were groups or move­
ments which were more Jewish than Christian, or which, it
might be better to say, sought to maintain loyalty to Jesus Christ
without abandoning any important part of current Jewish tra­
dition or giving up the special Messianic hopes of the chosen
people.2 Jesus was for them not only the promised Messiah but
the Messiah of the promise, as this was understood in their

In early Gentile Christianity many modifications of the
Christ-culture theme combined more or less positive concern
for culture with fundamental loyalty to Jesus. Radical Chris­
tians of a later time have been inclined to relegate them all to
the undifferentiated limbo of compromise or apostate Christian­
ity; but there were great differences among them. The extreme
attitude, which interprets Christ wholly in cultural terms and
tends to eliminate all sense of tension between him and social
belief or custom, was represented in the Hellenistic world by
the Christian Gnostics. These men-Basilides, Valentinus, the
author of Pistis Sophia, and their like-are heretics in the eyes
of the main body of the church as well as of radical Christians.
But they seem to ha.ve thought of themselves as loyal believers.

2 On Jewish Christianity see Lietzmann, H., The Beginnings of the Christian
Church, pp. 235 ff.; Weiss, J., History of Primitive Christianity, Vol. II, pp. 707 ff.


They “started from Christian ideas, they were attempting to
formulate a Christian theory of God and man; the contest
between Catholics and Gnostics was a struggle between persons
who felt themselves to be Christians, not between Christians
and heathens.”3

Prof. Burkitt has argued persuasively that in the thought of
such Gnostics “the figure of Jesus is essential, and without
Jesus the systems would drop to pieces,” that what they sought
to do was to reconcile the gospel with the science and phi­
losophy of their time. As nineteenth-century defenders of the
faith tried to state the doctrine of Jesus Christ in terms of
evolution, so these men undertook to interpret it in the light
of the fascinating ideas that had been suggested to enlightened
minds oy Ptolemaian astronomy and by the psychology of the
day with its catchwords soma-sema) its theory that the body was
the soul’s tomb.4 Nothing is as evanescent in history as the
pansophic theories that flourish among the illuminati of all
times under the bright sunlight of the latest scientific discov­
eries; and nothing can be more easily dismissed by later periods
as mere speculation. But we may well believe that the Gnostics
were no more inclined to fantasy than are those folk in our day
who find in psychiatry the key to the understanding of Christ, or
in nuclear fission the answer to the problems of eschatology.
They sought to disentangle the gospel from its involvement with
barbaric and outmoded Jewish notions about God and history;
to raise Christianity from the level of belief to that of intelligent
knowledge, and so to increase its attractiveness and its power.5
Emancipated as they were from the crude forms of polytheism

3 Burkitt, F. C., Church and Gnosis, 1 932, p. 8; cf. also Cambridge Ancient
History, Vol. XII, pp. 467 ff.; McGiffert, A. C., History of Christian Thought?
Vol. I, pp. 45 ff.

41 Burkitt, op. cit., pp. 29-35; 48; 5 1 ; 57 f.; 87-9 1 .
5 Ehrhard, Albert, Die Kirche der Maertyre1 ? 1932, p. 1 80·


and idolatry, and cognizant of profound spiritual depths of
being, they set forth a doctrine according to which Jesus Christ
was a cosmic savior of souls, imprisoned and confounded in
the fallen, material world, the revealer of the true, redeeming
wisdom, the restorer of right knowledge about the abyss of
being and about the ascent as well as the descent of man.6 This
is the most obvious element in the effort of the Gnostics to
accommodate Christianity to the culture of their day: their
“scientific” and “philosophic” interpretation of the person and
work of Christ. What is less obvious is that this attempt
entailed his naturalization in the whole civilization. Christianity
so interpreted became a religious and philosophic system,
regarded doubtless as the best and the only true one, yet one
among many. As a religion dealing with the soul it laid no
imperious claim on man’s total life. Jesus Christ was spiritual
savior, not the Lord of life; his Father was not the source of all
things nor their Governor. For the church, the new people,
there was substituted an association of the enlightened who
could live in culture as those who sought a destiny beyond
it but were not in strife with it. Participation in the life of
culture was now a matter of indifference; it involved no great
problems. A Gnostic had no reason for refusing to pay homage
to Caesar or to participate in war; though perhaps he had no
compelling reason, apart from social pressure, for yielding to
the mores and the laws. If he was too enlightened to take
seriously the popular and official worship of idols, · he was also
too enlightened to make an issue out of its rejection; and
martyrdom he scorned.7 In the Gnostic version, knowledge of

6 Cf. Burkitt, op. cit., pp. 89 f. The thought of the Gnostics will seem less
strange and foreign to those modern students of theology who have become
acquainted with the ideas of N icolai Berdyaev, who calls himself a Christian
Gnostic. See especially his Freedom and the Spirit, 1 935.

7 Irenaeus, Against Heretics, IV, xxxiii, 9; cf. Ehrhard, op. cit., pp. 1 62, 1 7<: f. 88 CHRIST AND CULTURE Jesus Christ was an individual and spiritual matter, which had its place in the life of culture as the very pinnacle of human achievement. It was something that advanced souls could attain; and it was the advanced, the religious, attainment of such souls. Doubtless it was connected with ethics-sometimes with very rigoristic conduct of life, sometimes with indulgence and even license; but the ethics was grounded not upon Christ's com­ mandment nor upon the loyalty of the believer to the new community. It was rather the ethics of individual aspiration after a destiny highly exalted above the material and the social world, and at the same time an ethics of individual adjustment to this indifferent world. From the point of view of the culture problem, the effort of the Gnostic to reconcile Christ with the science and philosophy of his day was not an end but a means. What he accomplished for himself-wittingly and designedly or unwittingly-as the corollary of this effort, was the easing of all tensions between the new faith and the old world. How much of the gospel he retained is another question, though it must be pointed out that the Gnostic was selective in his atti­ tude toward culture as well as toward Christ. He rejected, for himself at least, what seemed ignoble in it, and cultivated what appeared to be most religious and most Christian.8 'I'he movement represented by Gnosticism has been one of the most powerful in Christian history, despite the fact that its extreme representatives have been condemned by the church. At its center is the tendency to interpret Christianity as a religion rather than as church, or to interpret church as reli�ious association rather than as new society. It sees in Jesus 8 Another kind of cultural Christianity in the early period is represented by Lactantius and those theologians and statesmen who, a t the time of the Constan· tir..ian settlement, sought to amalgamate Romanism and the new faith. It had been excellently described by Cochrane in his Christianity and Classical Cul1ure, P t. II, especially chapter V. THE CHRIST OF CULTURE 89 Christ not only a revealer of religious truth but a god. the object of religious worship; but not the Lord of all life, and not the son of the Father who is the present Creator and Governor of all things. It is too easy to say that Gnosticism retains the religion and drops the ethics of Christianity; the acceptance of the terms "religion" and "ethics" as characteristics of Christianity is itself an acceptance of the cultural point of view, of a pluralistic conception of life in which activity can be added to activity. The difficulty involved appears partly in the fact, evident in the case of the Gnostics, that when what is called religion is separated from ethics it becomes something very different from what it is in the church : it is now a meta­ physics, a "Gnosis," a mystery cult rather than a faith governing all life. The problems raised by Gnosticism regarding the relations oi Christ to religion and of religion to culture became mon': rather than less acute with the development of so-called Chris. tian civilization. There can be no doubt that medieval society was intensely religious, and that its religion was Christianity; yet the question whether Christ was the Lord of this culture is not answered by reference to the pre-eminence of the reli­ gious institution in it, nor even by reference to the pre-emi­ nence of Christ in that institution. In this religious society the same problems about Christ and culture appeared that per­ plexed Christians in pagan Rome, and similarly divergent efforts at solution resulted. If some varieties of monasticism and �ome of the medieval sects followed Tertullian, then in an Abelard we may discern the attempt to answer the question .somewhat as the Christian Gnostics answered it in the second century. Though the content of Abelard's thought is very dif­ ferent from that of the Gnostics, in spirit he is much akin to them. He seems to quarrel only with the church' s way of CHRIST AND CULTURE stating its belief; since this prevents Jews and other non­ Christians, especially those who revere and follow the Greek philosophers, from accepting something with which in their hearts they agree.9 But in stating the faith, its beliefs about God and Christ and its demands on conduct, he reduces it to what conforms with the best in culture. It becomes a philo­ sophic knowledge about reality, and an ethics for the improve­ ment of life. The moral theory of the atonement is offered as an alternative not only to a doctrine that is difficult for Christians as Christians but to the whole conception of a once-and-for-all act of redemption. Jesus Christ has become for Abelard the great moral teacher who "in all that he did in the flesh . . . had the intention of our instruction,''10 doing in a higher degree what Socrates and Plato had done before him. Of the philos­ ophers he says that "in their care for the state and its citizens, . . . in life and doctrine, they give evidence of an evangelic and apostolic perfection and come little or nothing short of the Christian religion. They are, in fact, joined to us by this common zeal for moral achievement."11 Such a remark is revelatory not only of a broad and charitable spirit toward non­ Christians, but, more significantly, of a peculiar understand­ ing of the gospel, markedly different surely from that of radical Christians. Abelard's ethics reveals the same attitude. One seeks in vain in his Scito te I psum for a recognition of the hard demand which the Sermon on the Mount makes on the Chris­ tian. What is offered here is kindly and liberal guidance for good people who want to do right and for their spiritual directors.12 All conflict between Christ and culture is gone; the 9 Cf. McCallum, J. R., A belard's Christian Theology, 1948, p. go. io Ibid., p. 84. 11 fbid., p . 62; cf. De Wulf, Maurice, History of Medieval Philosophy, 1 925 Vol. I, pp. 1 6 1 - 1 66. 12 McCallum, J. R., A bailard's Ethics, 1 935. THE CHRIST OF CULTURE 9 1 tension that exists between church and world is really due, in the estimation of an Abelard, to the church's misunderstanding of Christ. II. " CULTURE-PROTESTANTISM" AND A. RITSCHL In medieval culture Abelard was a relatively lonely figure; but since the 1 8th century his followers have been numerous, and what was heresy became the new orthodoxy. A thousand variations of the Christ-of-culture theme have been formulated by great and little thinkers in the Western world, by leaders of society and of the church, by theologians and philosophers. It appears in rationalistic and romantic, in conservative and. liberal versions; Lutherans, Calvinists, sectarians, and Roman Catholics produce their own forms. From the point of view of our problem, the catchwords "rationalism," "liberalism, '' "fundamentalism," etc., are not highly significant. They indi­ cate what lines of division there are within a cultural society, but obscure the fundamental unity that obtains among men who interpret Christ as a hero of manifold culture. Among these many men and movements one may name a John Locke for whom 1 he Reasonableness of Christianity com­ mended itself to all who not only used their reason but used it in the "reasonable" manner characteristic of an English culture that found the middle way between all extremes. Leibnitz belongs here; and fundamentally Kant, with his trans­ lation of the gospel into a Religion Wit h in the L imits of Reason, for in this case also the word "reason" means the particular exercise of man's analytical and synthetic intellectual power characteristic of the best culture of the time. Thomas Jefferson is one of the group. "I am a Christian," he declared, �'in the only sense in which he Qesus Christ] wished any one CHRIST AND CULTURE to be," but he made that declaration after he had carefully excerpted from the New Testament the sayings of Jesus which commended themselves to him. Though Jesus' doctrines, in the sage of Monticello's j udgment, have not only come down to us in mutilated and corrupted form but were defective in their original pronouncement, yet "notwithstanding these disad .. vantages, a system of morals is presented to us, which, if filled up in the style and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man." Christ did two things: " 1 . He corrected the Deism of the Jews, confirming them in their belief in one only God, and giving them juster notions of his attributes and government. 2. His moral doctrines relating to kindred and friends, were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews; and they went far beyond both in inculcating universal philan­ thropy, not only to kindred and friends, to neighbors and coun­ trymen, but to all mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds of charity, peace, common wants and common aids."13 The philosophers, statesmen, reformers, poets, and novelists who acclaim Christ with Jefferson all repeat the same theme; Jesus Christ is the great enlightener, the great teacher, the one who directs all men in culture to the attainment of wisdom, moral perfection, and peace. Sometimes he is hailed as the great utilitarian, sometimes as the great idealist, some­ times as the man of reason, sometimes as the man of sentiment. But whatever the categori�s are by means of which he is under­ stood, the things for which he stands are fundamentally the same-a peaceful, co-operative society achieved by moral train­ ing. 1s From a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Apr. 2 1 , 1 803; in Foner, P. S.� Basic Writings of Thomas Jefferson, pp. 66o-662. Cf. also Thomas Jefferson, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, extracted textually from the Gospels. THE CHRIST OF CULTURE 93 Many of the leading theologians of the church in the nine· teenth century joined the movement. The Schleiermacher of the Speeches on Religion participated in it, though he does not so evidently represent it in his writing of The C hristian Faith. The former, youthful utterance is characteristically directed to "the cultured among the despisers of religion." Though the word "culture" here means the specialized attainment of the most self-consciously intellectual and aesthetic group in society, yet it is also indicated that Schleiermacher is directing him· self, like the Gnostics and Abelard before him, to the repre� sentatives of culture in the broad sense. Like them also he believes that what they find offensive is not Christ but the church with its teachings and ceremonies; and again he con. forms to the general pattern by dealing with Christ in terms of religion. For Christ is in this presentation less the Jesus Christ of the New Testament than the principle of mediation between finite and infinite. Christ belongs in culture, because culture itself, without "sense and taste for the infinite," without a "holy music" accompanying all its work, becomes sterile and corrupt. This Christ of religion does not call upon men to leave homes and kindred for his sake; he enters into their homes and all their associations as the gracious presence which adds an aura of infinite meaning to all temporal tasks.14 Karl Barth, in a brilliant appreciation and critique, empha­ sizes the duality and unity of Schleiermacher' s two interests: he was determined to be both a Christo-centric theologian and a modern man, participating fully in the work of culture, in th( development of science, the maintenance of the state, the cul . tivation of art, the ennoblement of family life, the advancement of philosophy. And he carried out this double task without a 14 On Religion. Translated by John Oman, 1893; cf. pp. 246, 249, 1 7 8 et passim. 94 CHRIST AND CULTURE sense of tension, without the feeling that he served two masters. Perhaps Barth sees Schleiermacher as too much of one piece; but certainly in the Speeches on Religion, as well as in his writings on ethics, he is a clear-cut representative of those who accommodate Christ to culture while selecting from culture what conforms most readily to Christ.15 As the nineteenth century moved on from Kant, Jefferson, and Schleiermacher to Hegel, Emerson, and Ritschl, from the religion within the limits of reason to the religion of humanity, the Christ-of-culture theme was sounded over and over again in many variations, was denounced by cultural opponents of Christ and by radical Christians, and merged into other answers that sought to maintain the distinction between Christ and civilization while yet maintaining loyalty to both. Today we are inclined to regard the whole period as the time of cultural Protestantism; though even as we do so we make our criticism of its tendencies with the aid of such nineteenth century theologians as Kierkegaard and F. D. Maurice. The movement toward the identification of Chri&6 with culture doubtless reached its climax in the latter half of the century; and the most representative theologian of that time, Albrecht Ritschl, may be taken as the Lest modern illustration of the Christ-of­ culture type. Unlike Jefferson and Kant, Ritschl stays close to the New Testament Jesus Christ. Indeed, he is partly respon­ sible for the intense concentration of modern scholarship on the study of the Gospels and the history of the early church. He retains a much larger share of the creed of the church than


may help to clarify its methods. Illustrations may be found in
many periods and many groups-in the early church, the medi­
eval and the modern, in Roman and in Anglican Catholicism,
and even, though less plainly, in Protestantism. The New Testa­
ment contains no document that clearly expresses the synthetic
view; but there are many statements in gospels and epistles
which sound the motif or which can be interpreted, without
violence to the text, as containing this solution of the Christ­
and-culture problem. Among them are the following: “Think
not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I
have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I
say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a
dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever
then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and
teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;
but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in
the kingdom of heaven.”1 “Render to Caesar the things that are
Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. “2 “Let every
person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no
authority except from God, and those that exist have been insti­
tuted by God . . . . The authorities are ministers of God.”3

Tentative efforts to state the synthetic answer, particularly in
connection with the problem of revelation and philosophic
wisdom, are to be found in the Apologists of the second century,
particularly in Justin Martyr. Tertullian’s contemporary, Clem­
ent of Alexandria, is the first great representative of the type.
How he tries to do j ustice to sharp injunctions of Jesus, and
also to the claims of nature as culture discerns them, is indicated
in his little pamphlet on the subject Who is the Rich Man
That Shall be Saved, and becomes more fully apparent in his

1 Mt. 5: 1 7 – 1 9; cf. 2 3 : 2.
2 Mt. 2� : � 1
s Romans 1.2: l , b.


Instructor and The Miscellanies. In dealing with the problem
of wealth, he is concerned lest the church so use Christ’s com­
mandments to the rich and promises to the poor as to drive rich
men to despair of salvation. Hence the spiritual meaning of
such statements must be understood, and the rich man be as­
sisted to cultivate, in the midst of his wealth, the detached Stoic
attitude of one not dependent on possessions and the Christian
virtue of thankful generosity. Such a one “is blessed by the
Lord and called poor in spirit, a meet heir for the kingdom of
heaven, not one who could not live rich.”4 So far Clement
agrees with the cultural Christian; but to this Stoicized Chris­
tianity or Christianized Stoicism he adds a new note. Over and
above this gentle adjustment of the gospel to the needs of the
rich, he issues a clear Christian call to respond to the love of
the self-impoverished Lord. “For each of us he gave his life­
the equivalent for all. This he demands of us in return, to give
our lives for one another. And if we owe our lives to the breth­
ren and have made such a mutual compact with the Savior, why
should we any more hoard and shut up worldly goods, which
are beggarly, foreign to us, and transitory?”5 There are two
motives, then, that should guide the Christian in his economic
action; and two stages of life in economic society. Stoic detach­
ment and Christian love are not contradictory, but they are
distinct and lead to different though not contradictory actions;
life among possessions by which one is not possessed and life
without possessions are not identical, though not in disagree­
ment with each other; yet these two states mark distinct stages
on the way to salvation. The search for salvation by means of
self-cultivation, and the response to Christ’s saving act, are not
one human action, but neither are they alien to each other.

4 Who is the Rich Man That Shall be Saved, xvi (A nte-Nicene Fathers.
Vol. II).

5 Ibid., xxxvii.


In writing his book called The Instructor, Clement, con­
cerned with the training of Christians, presented the Lord as a
kindly and wise tutor whose aim it was to improve the souls of
his charges and to train them up to a virtuous life. Not only is
Christ’s purpose the great cultural work of education; but the
kir:td of training he gives Christians, according to Clement,
differs scarcely at all from that which any morally serious and
wise pagan teacher of Alexandria in 2 00 A.D. would have given
his pupils.6 Indeed, Clement, this first Professor of Christian
Ethics, delights in the ease with which he can refer to Plato and
Aristotle and Zeno, to Aristophanes and Menander, as guaran­
tors of the truth of his practical admonitions. Jesus Christ is
the Word, the Reason of God; his reasoning in practical affairs
is for Clement like all good, sound reasoning. Hence the Chris­
tian ethics and etiquette of The Instructor corre§pond closely
to the content of Stoic handbooks of morality current at the
time. Christian conduct in eating, drinking, the use of orna­
ments, the wearing of shoes, in the public baths, in sex relations,
at feasts, is minutely discussed. How to walk, how to sleep, how
to laugh in a manner befitting an heir of blessedness, is pre­
scribed with great seriousness. vT e read among many other
things that when we eat we must keep “hand and couch and
chin free from stains,” and “guard against speaking anything
while eating, for the voice becomes disagreeable and inarticulate
when confined by full j aws”; that “we are to drink without
contortions of the face, . . . nor before drinking make the eyes
roll with unseemly motion,” for “in what manner do you think
the Lord drank when he became a man for our sakes? Was it
not with decorum and propriety? Was it not deliberately? For
rest assured, he himself also partook of wine.”7 Clement always

6 Cf. Lietzmann, H ., The Founding of the Church Universal, chap. xiii.
T Op. cit., Book II, chaps, i, ii (Ante-Nicene Fathers; Vol. II/.


seeks connection between his rules of decent, sober conduct and
the example or words of Jesus Christ, but the relation is usually
a strained one, and often made possible only by ascribing the
whole Old Testament to Christ, the Logos of God. His use of
bread and fish in feeding the five thousand indicates his prefer­
ence for simple foods; if men are warned against shaving, it is
not only because this practice goes against nature but because
Jesus said ” ‘The very hairs of your head are all numbered’;
those on the chin, too are numbered, and those on the whole
body. There must be therefore no plucking out, contrary to
God’s appointment, which has counted them according to his
will.”8 Apart from numerous trifles of this sort, which doubtless
strike us as more puerile than they did the readers of Clement’s
day, the Instructor is concerned with training Christians to
temperance, frugality, self-control. Whatever else is required of
the disciple, the good, sound training the best culture afford�,
and the avoidance of that license that characterizes revolt against
custom, are fundamental demands made upon him. Clement is
well aware that if Christianity is in any sense against culturet it
has nothing to do with that anticultural movement that arises
out of individualistic contempt for the mores. He is in no
danger of confusing the Sabbath-breaker who does not know
what he is doing with the one who is fully aware of the meaning
of his action; or a crucified thief with a crucified Christ because
both are the victims of the state. Clement also knows that
Christians are subject to all the ordinary temptations. His
interest, therefore, in presenting the ethics of a sober, decorous,
respectable life as the ethics of Christ is far removed from the
interest of men who want to make discipleship easy. He is not
at all concerned with the task of recommending Christ to the
cultured, but wholly occupied with the problem of training the

s Ibid., Book III, chap. iii.


immature wisely, since “it is not by nature but by learning that
people become noble and good.”9 His example is Christ, th(
great shepherd of the sheep; and one wholly misunderstand’
Clement if one does not discern that all this prudent moral
exhortation is the work of a man who, loving his Lord, has
heard the commandment to feed the lambs.

A Christian, in Clement’s view, must then first of all be a
good man in accordance with the standard of good culture.
Sobriety in personal conduct is to be accompanied by honesty
in economic dealings, and by obedience to political authority.
But this is by no means the whole of the Christian life. There
is a stage of existence beyond the morally respectable life of
the church-goer. Christ invites men to attain, and promises them
the realization of a perfection even greater than that of the
passionless wise man. It is a life oi love of God for His own sake,
without desire of reward or fear of punishment; a life of spon·
taneous goodness in which neighbors and enemies are served
in response to divine love; a life in freedom, being beyond the
law.10 This sort of life is not of this world, and yet the hope of
its realization and previsions of :ts reality fill present existence.
All Clement’s work as pastor and author is evidently directed
toward this end of attaining and helping others to come to full
knowledge of the God in whom he believes, and to a full realiza ..
tion in action of the love of Christ. His Christ is not against
culture, but uses its best products as instruments in his work of
bestowing on men what they cannot achieve by their own
efforts. He exhorts them to exert themselves in self-culture and
intellectual training, in order that they may be prepared for a
life irr which they no longer care for themselves, their culture,

9 The Miscellanies, Book I, chap. vi.
10 See the descriptions of the life of the true Gnostic iu Tk M.ieeU�tt,



can fill the heart of man.”14 And since what is at the heart of
man, his best activity and best power, is the speculative under­
standing, the “last and perfect happiness of man cannot be
otherwise than in the vision of the divine essence”; or, since
“every intelligent being gains its last end by understanding
it • . . therefore, it is by understanding that the human intellect
attains God as its end.”15 So far Thomas is a Christian Aristotel­
ian, who has reproduced the philosopher’s argument for the
superiority of the contemplative life to the practical, but has
named the object of intellectual vision God. He has enthroned
the monastic life, not as a protest against the corrppt world,
but as an effort to rise above the sensible and temporal world
to contemplation of unchanging reality. With aspiration toward
a last end so defined it is wholly possible for Thomas, as for
Aristotle, to reconcile the efforts men direct in their practical
life and noncontemplative societies toward the attainment of
ordinary ends, such as health, j ustice, knowledge of temporal
realities, economic goods. These goods are requisite to happi­
ness, and “if we look at things rightly we may see that all human
occupations seem to be ministerial to the contemplators of
truth.”16 But Thomas adds to this dual ethics of a society con­
sisting of practical men and contemplators an understanding of
man’s last end that is gained more from the New Testament
than from Aristotle. “In the state of the present life perfect
happiness is not to be had by man,” for here he is subject to
many evils and to transiency. What man can gain in his culture
and by culture of God’s original gifts in creation is only an
imperfect happiness. Beyond that lies another end in eternity,
for which all striving is an inadequate preparation. The attain­
ment of that ultimate happiness is not within the range of

14 Summa Theologica, 11-1, Q. ii, art. viii.
15 Jbid., Q. iii, art. viii; Summa contra Gentiles, Book III, chap. xxv.
16 Summa Theologica, 11-1, Q. iv; Summa contra Gentiles, III, xxxvii.


human possibilities, but it is freely bestowed on men by God
through Jesus Christ. It is bestowed, moreover, not only on
those who have attained to the imperfect happiness of contem­
plation, but also on those who have done what they could to
live rightly in unphilosophic and unmonastic surroundings.
It is bestowed also on the sinners.17 Thomas does not construct
an easy synthesis of successive stages, so that man ascends from
rectitude in the practical life to the imperfect happiness of con­
templation and thence to the perfect happiness of eternal bless­
edness. The stages are there, but a leap is required as man
advances from one to the other, and a leap may carry him
across an intermediate stage. More than that, the steep ascent to
heaven, though always involving human activity, proceeds only
by power sacramentally bestowed from above.

As there is a double happiness for man, one in his life in cul­
ture and one in his life in Christ, and as the former is again a
double happiness, one in practical activity and one in contem­
plation, so the ways to blessedness are many yet form one
system of roads. There is the way of the culture of the moral
life through training in good habits; and the way of intelligent
self-direction; and the way of ascetic obedience to the radical
counsels of Jesus; and the way of gracious, spontaneous love,
faith, and hope; but this last way is not one that man can find,
nor one on which he can walk by his own power. Thomas is
keenly aware that moral goodness comes through effort, that
society and each individual person must expend immense labor
in order that the habits of action necessary to human and hu·
mane existence may be formed and maintained. Prudence, self­
control, courage, justice, and specific habits of thought, speech,
eating, and the other human actions are necessary to life, yet
are not given to free souls as inviolable instincts are bestowed on

17 Summa Theologica, 11-1, Q. iii. art. ii. Q. v.


animals. Man is not governed without his consent or co-opera,
tion. What he has painfully acquired he must painfully trans­
mit. The “merely moral life,” which some exclusive Christians
at least pretend to despise, is a great achievement, a product of
man’s freedom yet also a compulsive necessity if he is to live as
a man. Without it the imperfect but required end of achieving
happiness in social life is impossible; unless a man possesses the
ordinary, civil, “Philistine,” “bourgeois” virtues, he cannot
begin to aspire after the virtues and happiness of the contempla­
tive life. Though the cultivation of such good habits of action
is man’s responsibility, yet even in this sphere he is not on his
own; for he is constantly being assisted and directed by the
gracious God, who mediates His help through the great social
institutions of family, state, and church. But now there is set
before him through the gospel the other happiness “exceeding
the nature of man, whereunto man can arrive only by a divine
virtue involving a certain participation in the Deity . . . . Hence
there must be superadded to man by the gift of God certain
principles, whereby he may be put on the way to supernaturai
happiness, even as he is directed to his connatural end by nat­
ural principles, yet not without divine aid. “18 Thomas under­
stands fully-as many a cultural Christian does not seem to
do-how superb and superhuman is the goodness required by
the commandments to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind,
and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. He recog­
nizes that where faith is absent it cannot be produced by an act
of will; and that the hope of glory, attractive as it appears in
lives animated by it, will not come as a consequence of resolu­
tion. Yet they are not impossible virtues; neither are they acci­
dental gifts of luck, or of a capricious nature that produces
strange moral and spiritual geniuses now and again. They are

1s Ibid., Il-1, Q. xiii, art. i.

given and promised by God through Jesus Christ, given in a
foretaste, promised in fullness. Those who receive them share
in Christ’s nature; they no longer live for themselves, but have
been lifted out of themselves. Theirs is the active and effortless
goodness of self-forgetful charity. However much men may
aspire after thc5c theological virtues, this Christlike living, they
can only prepare receptive hearts; they cannot force the gift.
And the gift may come to a thief on the cross before it is ex­
tended to the righteous citizen or the ascetic monk.

The same sort of synthetic combination is characteristic of
Thomas’ theory of the law. Man cannot live in freedom save
under law, that is to say, in culture. But law must be true law,
not derived from the will of the strong but discovered in the
nature of things. Thomas does not seek to find a rule for human
social life in the gospels. These rules must be found by reason.
They constitute in their broad principles a natural law which
all reasonable men living human lives under the given condi­
tions of common human existence can discern, and which is
based ultimately on the eternal law in the mind of God, the
creator and ruler of all. Though the application of these prin­
ciples in civil law will vary from time to time and place to
place, the principles remain the same. Culture discerns the
rules for culture, because culture is the work of God-given rea­
son in God-given nature. Yet there is another law besides the
law rational men discover and apply. The divine law revealed
by God through His prophets and above all through His Son
is partly coincident with the natural law, and partly transcends
it as the law of man’s supernatural life. “Thou shalt not steal”
is a commandment found both by reason and in revelation;
“Sell all that thou hast and give to the poor” is found in the
divine law only. It applies to man as one who has had a virtue
implanted in him beyond the virtue of honesty. and who has


been directed in hope toward a perfection beyond justice in
this mortal existence.19

On this basis Thomas provides not only for defense of the
great social institutions, but also for their guidance in accord­
ance with moral principles germane to their charact�r. Private
property, for instance, so suspect to the radical, is justified, for
it “is not contrary to natural law, but an addition thereto de­
vised by human reason. Yet reason discerns that though the
private management of exterior goods is a fair and just arrange­
ment their use for purely private, egoistic ends is indefensi­
ble.”20 Trade, involving profit, is lawful though not virtuous,
and must be governed by principles of fair price and abstention
from usury; not simply because the Bible prohibits usury but
because it is unreasonable to sell “what is nonexistent.”21 Gov­
ernment, the state, and the use of political power are provided
for in similar fashion; 22 for God has created man a social being,
and society is impossible on the human level without direction
in accordance with law. Beyond the state is the church, which
not only directs men to their supernatural end and provides
aacramental assistance, but also as custodian of the divine law
assists in the ordering of the temporal life; since reason some­
times falls short of its possible performance and requires the
gracious assistance of revelation, and since it cannot reach to
the inner springs and motives of action.23 The church, however,
is also a double organization, the religious institution in the
world and the monastic order. In Thomas’ synthesis all these
institutions are so organically related to each other that while
each serves a particular end each also serves the others. It 1s

19 For Thomas’ theory of law see Summa Theologica, 11-1, Qq. xc-t’viii.
20 Ibid., 11-11, Q. lxvi, art. 2.
21 Ibid., 1I-II, Qq. lxxvii, lxxviii.
22 “On the Governance of Rulers.”
2a Summa Theologica, II-I, Qq. xcix, cviii.


easy to emphasize the hierarchical character of this structure,
and to picture it as a military organization in which a chain of
command extends from the Divine Lawgiver and Ruler through
his vicegerent on earth, the church with its papal head, through
subordinate princes and estates, and so on down the line till it
reaches the final subjects, who have only to obey. There is no
question about the hierarchical principle in Thomas’ concep­
tion; since, as he said in his inaugural lecture as Master of
Theology at Paris and repeated in many variations, his funda­
mental conviction was that “the King and Lord of the heavens
ordained from eternity this law: that the gifts of his providence
should reach to the lowest things by way of those that lie be­
tween.”24 But the synthesis would not be as attractive and
successful as it is had Thomas not provided all along the line
for a certain independence of each institution and of each indi­
vidual, rational creature. Each has its own proper end, each its
own understanding through common reason of the goal and
the law of its actions, each its own will or principle of self­
direction. The hierarchy is present, but it is not an Oriental
satrapy; it presupposes the presence of a common mind and the
consent of the governed, as well as a degree of independence in
every group and person performing its own immediate task.

In so far as this common mind was present in the thirteenth
century culture, and in so far as the institutions of the day
formed a unity without serious strains among them, Thomas’
synthesis was not only an intellectual achievement but the
philosophical and theological representation of a social unifica­
tion of Christ and culture. That unity was broken as soon as it
was achieved, not by the Reformation and the Renaissance but
apart from them, in all the conflicts and stresses of the four­
teenth century. When we examine later periods of Christian

24 So Quoted bv Gerald Vann in his St. Thomas A quinas, pp. 45 f,


history for similar examples of the Christianity of synthesis, we
are hard put to it to find adequate illustrations of the type. One
is tempted to interpret Tolstoy’s and Ritschl’s powerful con­
temporary Joachim Pecci, Pope Leo XIII, as a Christian of the
synthetic school. During his epoch-making pontificate he drew
the Roman Catholic church out of its isolationism and its tend­
ency to think of true Christianity as an alien society in a
strange world. In his social encyclicals on “Christian Marriage,”
” The Christian Constitution of States,” ” Human Liberty,” “On
the Chief Duties of Christians as Citizens,” and “The Condition
of the Working Classes, ” he showed his concern for wise Chris­
tian participation in the common life, and his sense of respon­
sibility for the maintenance or reformation of the great
institutions. He was active in promoting education and en­
couraged the study of philosophy, for “the natural helps with
which the grace of the divine wisdom, strongly and sweetly dis­
posing all things, has supplied the human race are neither to
be despised nor neglected, chief among which is evidently the
right use of philosophy.”25 At the same time and without any
sense of tension he proclaimed the Lordship of Christ, because
he is “the origin and source of all good and j ust as mankind
could not be freed from slavery but by the sacrifice of Christ, so
neither can it be preserved but by his power.”26

Yet Leo XIII and all who followed him in calling for a new
synthesis on a Thomistic basis are not synthesists. The synthesis.
of Christ and culture is doubtless their goal, but they do not
synthesize Christ with present culture, present philosophy, pres­
ent institutions as Thomas did. When they address themselves
to the “Gentiles” they do not take common ground with them,

25 “The Study of Scholastic Philosophy,” in Wynne, J. D., The Great
Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, p. 36.

26 “Christ our Redeemer,” in Wynne, p. 463. Cf. also “On the Consecration
of Mankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” Wynrie, p. 454 ff.

arguing on the basis of a common philosophy, but recommend
to them the philosophy of Thomas’ day. Leo XIII discourses on
” Christian Democracy” as Thomas wrote on “Th e Governanct
of Rulers, ” but Leo writes in the patriarchal spirit of a feudal
society, not as one who participates in the modern political
movement as Thomas shared in the medieval.27 What is sought
here is not the synthesis of Christ with present culture, but the
re-establishment of the philosophy and the institutions of an­
other culture. Instead of belonging to the synthetic type, this
Christianity is of the cultural sort; its fundamental allegiance
seems to be to a kind of culture of which, to be sure, Jesus Christ
and especially his church are an important part. But the reign
and the Lordship of Jesus have been so identified with the
dogmas, organization, and mores of a cultural religious institu­
tion that the dynamic counterpoises characteristic /of Thomas’
synthesis have disappeared, save in the accepted theory itself,
that is, in a kind of reflection and refraction. ” By the law of
Christ, ” wrote . Leo XIII, “we mean not merely the natural pre­
cepts of morality, or what supernatural knowledge the ancient
world acquired, all which Jesus Christ perfected and raised to
the highest plane by his explanation, interpretation, and ratifi­
cation; but we mean, besides, all the doctrine and in particular
the institutions he has left us. Of these the Church is the chief.
Indeed, what institution is there that she does not fully embrace
and include? By the ministry of the Church, so gloriously
founded by him, he willed to perpetuate the office assigned to
him by the Father, and having on the one hand conferred upon
her all effectual aids for human salvation, he ordained with the
utmost emphasis on the other that men should be subject to
her as to himself and zealously follow her guidance in every de-

21 See Leo XIII, “Cl:ristiw Democracy,” Wynne, p. 479 ff.


partment of life.”28 Such a position is an exact counterpart in
the Roman Catholic sphere of the cultural Christianity of the
social gospel in Protestantism, for which Jesus Christ is the
founder and perfecter of democratic society and of free religion
and the ethics of freedom. What quarrel there is between such
Roman Catholics and such Protestants is a family contention;
both are primarily concerned with culture; only their ideas
about the organization of society and the values to be realized
by human achievement differ. Hence also their debate is carried
on in the cultural society rather than in the church; these
Catholics and Protestants contend with each other about the
organization of states, the management and content of educa­
tion, the control of trade unions, and the choice of true philos­
ophy, not about participation or nonparticipation in the secular .
tasks of the world or about law and grace or the radical nature
of sin. Yet we do well to remember that Leo XIII is not Cathol­
icism and Ritschl is not Protestantism.

A better example of the synthesis of Christ and culture might
be found in the Anglican bishop Joseph Butler, who in his
A nalogy of Religion and in his sermons on ethical subjects
sought to relate science, philosophy, and revelation, the cul­
tural ethics of rational self-love-so eighteenth-century English
-and the ethics of Christian conscience, of the love of God and
the neighbor. Alongside of Thomas Aquinas his thought seems
prosaic and thin, more like a well-built village church than a
cathedral; there are no vaulting arches here nor flying but­
tresses; the altar is not very high. In America Roger Williams
‘tied to give an answer to the question of Christ and culture,
especially with respect to political institutions, which would do
justice to the distinctions of the claims of reason in society and

28 “Christ Our Redeemer,” in Wynne, pp. 469 f. The most objective descriJ>
tion of Leo XIII’s life and work I have found is in Schmidlin, Josef, Papstges·
‘chichte der Neuzeit, Vol. II, 1 934.


of Christ i n the gospel. B u t though h e distinguished h e could
not reunite, and left himself and his followers with a parallel­
ism of claims rather than with a synthesis. The parallelism
often resulted in a bifurcation of the spiritual and the temporal
life, or of individual Christian and social rational morality,
that could be resolved only by the acceptance in practice of
cultural Christianity or of the solution proposed by those who
follow Luther.

Whether the synthetic answer is absent from modern Chris,
tianity on account of the nature of our culture, or because of
the understanding of Christ that prevails, we shall not · attempt
to analyze. There are many yearnings after such an answer; one
hears demands that it be furnished. But none is in sight, either
as the product of a great thinker or, what is more important, as
an active, social life, a climate of opinion, and a living, all-per­
meating faith.


The attractiveness of the synthesist type of answer to the
Christ-and-culture problem is doubtless felt by all Christians,
whether or not they are drawn to the acceptance of the Thom­
istic system. Man’s search for unity is unconquerable, and the
Christian has a special reason for seeking integrity because of
his fundamental faith in the God who is One. When he has
realized, in consequence of experience and reflection, that he
cannot be at one with himself if he denies nature and culture in
the effort to be obedient to Christ, or that such denial itself
involves a kind of disobedience to the commandments of love,
since the social institutions are instruments of that love, then
he must seek some sort of reconciliation between Christ and
culture without denial of either. The drive toward moral unitv J
in the self is mated with the urgent quest of reason to discover


the unity of its principles and the unified principle of the reali­
ties toward which it is directed. In the synthesis of reason and
revelation, in which the philosopher’s inquiry and the prophet’s
proclamation are combined without confusion, reason seems to
be promised the satisfaction of its hunger. With the drives to­
ward moral and intellectual integrity the social demand for the
unity of society is inseparably connected. Society itself is an
expression of the desire of the many for oneness; its ills are all
forms of dissension; peace is another name for social health.
The union of church and state, of state with state and class with
class, and the union of all these with the supernatural Lord
and Companion is the ineluctable desire of the believer. Syn­
thesis seems required above all by the demand of God, not only
as He operates in human nature, reason, and society by His
unifying spirit, but as He reveals himself through H is words
and His Word. To the New Testament as well as to the Old
Testament church the great proclamation is made, ” Hear, 0
Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” Because the synthetic
type of answer seems to meet these needs and demands, there­
fore it will always be attractive to Christians. Even when they
must rej ect the form in which it is offered they will see it as a
symbol of the ultimate answer.

Apart perhaps from some radical and exclusive believers, all
Christians find themselves in agreement with the synthesists’ af­
firmation of the importance of the civil virtues and of j ust social
institutions. Augustinians and Lutherans, as we shall note, re­
gard these virtues and institutions in a different light, but j oin
in acknowledgment of their importance for the follower of
Christ and for every citizen of the commonwealth of God. What
distinguishes the synthesist of Thomas’ sort is his concern to
discover the bases of right in the given, created nature of man
an tf his world. H is insistence that the “ought” is founded on

Jie “is,’ ‘ though this in turn be founded on the “oughe in
God’s mind, appeals with its realism to all who are awar � of
the dangers of wishful thinking-not of its dangers to social
life only, but of the perils to faith it involves. For the concen­
tration on the future kingdom of God can easily lead to the.
denial that God reigns now; the desire for what is not present
may easily bring with it the affirmation that what is presented
comes from a devil rather than from God. There is an appealing
greatness in the synthesisfs resolute proclamation that the God
who is to rule now rules and has ruled, that His rule is estab­
lished in the nature of things, and that man must build on the
established foundations. He expresses in this way a principle
that no other Christian group seems to assert so well but which
all need to share; namely, the principle that the Creator and
the Savior are one, or that whatever salvation means beyond
creation it does not mean the destruction of the created. Prac­
tically stated, he affirms most clearly that the conduct of life
among the redeemed cannot fall short of life under law, how­
ever high it must rise beyond it; and that law is never merely a
human invention, but contains the will of God. With these
recognitions the synthesist offers to Christians an intelligible
basis for the work they must do in co-operation with nonbeliev­
ers. Though a Tertullian says to the non-Christians, “We sail
with you and fight with you, and till the ground with you; and
. . . unite with you in your traffickings,” he does not indicate
on what ground the Christian can join such a united front, or
give directions how and within what limits he can co-operate.
The cultural Christian, on the other hand, makes common cause
with the nonbeliever to an extent which deprives him of dis­
tinctively Christian principles. The synthesist alone seems to
provide for willing and intelligent co-operation of Christians
with nonbelievers in carrying on the work of the world, while


yet maintaining the distinctiveness of Christian faith and life.
Alongside of this achievement of the synthetic answer stands

the other-its unswerving witness to the fact that the gospel
promises and requires more than the rational knowledge of the
Creator’s plan for the creature and willing obedience to the
law of nature demand and assure. Radical critics too often for­
get how exalted a view of the law and the goal of love is pre­
sented by Clement and Thomas. To the synthesists the
Christian life is like that of the servants to whom Jesus com­
pared his disciples. They can never fulfill their duties, working
in the fields, waiting on the tables, keeping the house in order.
Yet these unworthy servants have an invitation to a royal feast
at the end of the day, and so carry on a double preparation; all
their menial labor is ·transformed for them by the inner glow of
expectancy-not of their pay envelope but of an unpurchasable
and unmeritable j oy. There is always the more and the other;
there is always “all this and heaven too” ; and for the true syn­
thesist the m ore is not an afterthought, as it so often seems to
be with the cultural Christian.

N ot only church but culture also is immensely indebted to
the �ynthesists for these and other contributions. In the history
of Western civilization the work of Clement, Thomas, and
their followers or companions has been immeasurably influen­
tial. The arts and sciences, philosophy, law, government, educa­
tion, and economic institutions have been profoundly affected
by it. The men of this group have been mediators of Greek
wisdom and Roman law to modern culture. They have molded
and directed the most influential single religious institution in
our civilization, the Roman Catholic Church; and have also
helped to shape less widely effective religious organizations and

When we reflect on the value to faith and to society of this


way of dealing with the Christ-culture problem, it is difficult to
avoid the j udgment that it is a necessary approach to the ques­
tion, and that the answer is a necessary affirmation of a truth or
truths. That it is the whole truth and nothing but the truth is
less evident. Apart from specific objections to specific formula­
tions of the synthesis, Christians of other groups will point out
that the enterprise in and of itself must lead into an error. The
effort to bring Christ and culture, God’s work and man’s, the
temporal and the eternal, law and grace, into one system of
thought and practice tends, perhaps inevitably, to the absolutiz­
ing of what is relative, the reduction of the infinite to a finite
form, and the materialization of the dynamic. It is one thing
to assert that there is a law of God inscribed in the very struc­
ture of the creature, who must seek to know this law by the use
of his reason and govern himself accordingly; it is another thing
to formulate the law in the language and concepts of a reason
that is always culturally conditioned. Perhaps a synthesis is
possible in which the relative character of all creaturely formu­
lations of the Creator’s law will be fully recognized. But no
synthesist answer so far given in Christian history has avoided
the equation of a cultural view of God’s law in creation with
that law itself. Clement’s understanding of what is natural to
man is often pathetically provincial. The hierarchical view of
natural order in Thomas Aquinas is historical and medieval.
Provincial and historical truths may be true in the sense of cor­
responding to reality, but are nevertheless fragmentary, and
become untrue when overemphasized. No synthesis-since it
consists of fragmentary, historical, and hence of relative formu­
lations of the law of creation, with acknowledgedly fragmentary
previsions of the law of redemption-can be otherwise than
provisional and symbolic. But when the synthesist recognizes
this he is on the way to accepting another than the synthetic


answer; he is saying then in effect that all culture is subject to
continuous and infinite conversion; and that his own formula­
tion of the elements of the synthesis, like its social achievement
in the structure of church and SO}iety, is only provisional and

It has often been remarked that Thomas, along with his
whole period, lacked historical understanding. The modern
recognition that reason is involved with all of culture in the
continual movement of history, and that social institutions, de­
spite the presence in them of recognizably stable elements, are
everlastingly changing, coincides with the Christian reflection
that all human achievement is temporal and passing. A synthe�
s ist who makes the evanescent in any sense fundamental to his
theory of the Christian life will be required to turn to the de­
fense of that temporal foundation for the sake of the superstruc�
ture it carries when changes in culture threaten it. It is logical
that when a synthetic answer has been given to the problem of
Christ and culture, those who accept it should become more
concerned about the defense of the culture synthesized with the
gospel than about the gospel itself. The two things then seem to
be so interconnected that the perennial gospel seems involved
in the withering of the annual culture. Whether medieval or
modern, feudal or democratic, agrarian or urban civilization
has been united with the gospel, whether the synthesist is
Roman or Anglican or Protestant, he tends to devote himself
to the restoration or conservation of a culture and thus becomes
a cultural Christian. The tendency toward cultural conserv�
atism seems endemic in the school.

On the other hand, it appears that the effort to synthesize
leads to the institutionalization of Christ and the gospel. It may
be that a synthesis is possible in which the law of Christ is n ot
identified with the law of the church. in which his grace is not

effectively confined to the ministry of the social religious insti­
tution, in which his Lordship is not equated with the rule of
those who claim to be his successors. It may be that a synthetic
answer is possible in which it is recognized that the social reli­
gious institution that calls itself the church is as much a part of
the temporal order and as much a human achievement as are
state, school, and economic institutions. But it is hard to see
how this could be; for if Christ’s grace, law, and reign are not
institutionalized every synthesis must again be provisional and
open, subj ect to radical attack, to conversion and replacement
by the action of a free Lord and of men subj ect to his command­
ment rather than to the religious institution.

These objections all meet in the one point: that integrity
and peace are the eternal hope and goal of the Christian, and
that the temporal embodiment of this unity in a man-devised
form represents a u surpation in which time seeks to exercise
the power of eternity and man the power of God. As a purely
symbolic action, as a humble, acknowledgedly fallible attempt,.
as the human side of an action that cannot be completed with­
out the deed of the God who also initiated it, synthesis is one
thing; as an authoritative statement about the way things fit
together in the kingdom of God, i t is another. But if it is the
former it is not really synthesis .

. There are other criticisms that dualists, conversionists, and
radicals urge against the Thomists. One to which we shall only
allude is that the effort to combine culture with Christ has
involved a tendency to distinguish grades of Christian perfec­
tion; with all the mischief that results from the division of
Christians into those who obey lower and higher laws, who
are “psychics” or ” Gnostics,” secular or religious. Doubtless
there are stages in the Christian life; but no succesion of finite
stages brings man nearer the infinite, and no institutionalized


orders, methods of education, types of worship, or standards
of j udgement can be correlated with the stages. Pastoral care
which ad justs its demands and its expectations to the immatu­
rity or maturity of its charges is one thing; the judgment that
the contemplative life is more Christlike than the practical, or
that the monk fulfills the law of Christ more perfectly than the
economic or political man, is a different

matter altogether.

Such judgments are beyond the range of men and sinners. Syn�
thesists, however, do not seem able to combine life in the
world with life in Christ save with the aid of the idea of stages.

The major objection to the synthesists’ answers which all
but the cultural Christians raise is the protest that however
much they profess that they share the presupposition of human
sinfulness, and therefore of the necessity and greatness of
Christ’s salvation, they do not in fact face up to the radical
evil present in all human work. Since this objection is most
effectiv�ly raised by the dualists, we shall defer our develop-­
ment of the theme to the next chapter.

C H A P T E R 5

Christ and Culture in Paradox


Efforts to synthesize Christ and culture have been subject
to sharp attacks throughout Christian history. Radicals have
protested that these attempts are disguised versions of cultural
accommodation of the rigorous gospel, and that they broaden the
narrow way of life into an easy highway. Cultur�l Christians
have objected that synthesists retain as evangelical truth ves­
tigial remnants of old, immature ways of thought. The strongest
or-position, however, has been voiced by neither left- nor
right-wing parties but by another central group, that is to say,
by one which also seeks to answer the Christ and culture ques­
tion with a “both-and. ” This is the group which, for want of a
better name, we have called dualist, though it is by no means
dualistic in the sense that it divides the world in Manichaean
fashion into realms of light and darkness, of kingdoms of God
and Satan. Though the members of this group dissent from the
synthesists’ definitions and combinations of Christ and culture
they also seek to do justice to the need for holding together as
well as for distinguishing between loyalty to Christ and respon­
sibility for culture.

If we would understand the dualists, we must note the place
where they stand and take up our position with them as they

l !9


deal with our problem. For them the fundamental issue in
life is not the one which radical Christians face as thev draw I
the line between Christian community and pagan world.
Neither is it the issue which cultural Christianity discerns as
it sees man everywhere in conflict with nature and locates Christ
on the side of the spiritual forces of culture. Yet, like both of
these and unlike the synthesist in his more irenic and develop­
ing world, the dualist lives in conflict, and in the presence of
one great issue. That conflict is between God and man, or
better-since the dualist is an existential thinker-between
God and us; the issue lies between the righteousness of God and
the righteousness of self. On the one side are we with all or
our activities, our states and our churches, our pagan and our
Christian works; on the other side is God in Christ and Christ
in God. The question about Christ and culture in this situation
is not one which man puts to himself, but one that God asks
him; it is not a question about Christians and pagans, but a
question about God and man.

No matter what the dualist’s psychological history may have
been, his logical starting point in dealing with the cultural
problem is the great act of reconciliation and forgiveness that
has occurred in the divine-human battle-the act we call Jesus
Christ. From this beginning the fact that there was and is a
conflict, the facts of God’s grace and human sin are understood.
No dualist has found it easy to arrive at this starting point. Each
is quick to point out that he was on the wrong road until he
was stopped and turned round in his tracks by another will
than his own. The knowledge of the grace of God was not given
him, and he does not believe it is given to any, as a self-evident
truth of reason-as certain cultural Christians, the Deists for
instance, believe. What these regard as the sin to be forgiven and
as the grace that fm:-gives are far removed from the depths and


heights of wickedness and goodness revealed in the cross of
Christ. The faith in grace and the correlate knowledge of sin
that come through the cross are of another order from that
easy acceptance of kindliness in the deity and of moral error in
mankind of which those speak who have never faced up to the
horror of a world in which men blaspheme and try to destroy
the very image of Truth and Goodness, God himself. The mir­
acle with which the dualist begins is the miracle of God’s grace,
which forgives tjiese men without any merit on their part, re­
ceives them as children of the Father, gives them repentance ..
hope, and assurance of salvation from the dark powers that rule
in their lives, especially death, and makes them companions
of the one they willed to kill. Though His demands on them
are so high that they daily deny them and Him, still He remains
their savior, lifting them up after every fall and setting them
on the road to life.

The fact that the new beginning has been made with the
Tevelation of God’s grace does not change the fundamental situ­
ation as far as grace and sin are concerned. Grace is in God,
and sin is in man. The grace of God is not a substance, a mana­
like power, which is mediated to men through human acts. Grace
is always in God’s action; it is God’s attribute. It is the action
of reconciliation that reaches out across the no-man’s land of
the historic war of men against God. If something of the gra­
ciousness of Christ is reflected in the thankful responses of a
Paul or a Luther to the gracious action of Christ, they themselves
cannot be aware of it; and those who behold it cannot but see
that it is only reflection. As soon as man tries to locate it in
himself it disappears, as gratitude disappears in the moment
when I turn from my benefactor to the contemplation of this
beneficial virtue in me. The faith also with which man acknowl­
edges and turns in trust to the gracious Lord is nothing that


he can bring forth out of his native capacities. It is the reflec­
tion of the faithfulness of God. We trust because he is faithful.
Therefore in the divine-human encounter, in the situation in
which man is after as well as before he hears the word of recon­
ciliation, grace is all on God’s side. And Jesus Christ is the
grace of God and the God of grace.

But sin is in man and man is in sin. In the presence of the
crucified Lord of glory, men see that all their works and
their work are not only pitifully inadequate, JD.easured by that
standard of goodness, but sordid and depraved. The dualist
Christians differ considerably from the synthesists in their un­
derstanding of both the extent and the thoroughness of human
depravity. As to extent: Clement, Thomas, and their associates
note that man’s reason may be darkened, but is not in its nature
misdirected; for them the cure of bad reasoning lies in better
reasoning, and in the aid of the divine teacher. Moreover, they
regard man’s religious culture in its Christian form-the in­
stitutions and doctrines of the holy church-as beyond the
range of sinful corruption, however many minor evils calling for
reform may now and again appear in the sacred precincts. But
the dualist of Luther’s type discerns corruption and degradation
in all man’s work. Before the holiness of God as disclosed in
the grace of Jesus Christ there is no distinction between the
wisdom of the philosopher and the folly of the simpleton, be­
tween the crime of the murderer and his chastisement by the
magistrate, between the profaning of sanctuaries by blasphemers
and their hallowing by priests, between the carnal sins and the
spiritual aspirations of men. The dualist does not say that there
are no differences between these things, but that before the
holiness of God there are no significant differences; as one
might say that comparisons between the highest skyscrapers
an d th e m eanest hovels are mt”aning-less in the presence of Betel-


geuse. Human culture i s corrupt; and it includes all human
work, not simply the achievements of men outside the church
but also those in it, not only philosophy so far as it is human
achievement but theology also, not only Jewish defence of Jewish
law but also Christian defence of Christian precept. If we would
understand the dualist here we must keep two things in mind,
He is not passing j udgment on other men-save as in the sin­
fulness to which he is subject he abandons his position before
God-but testifies rather to the j udgment that is being passed
on him and on the whole of mankind, with which he is insep­
arably united not only by nature but in culture. When he
speaks of the sinfulness of the law-abiding man he does so as
a Paul who has been zealous in observance of the law, and as
a Luther who has rigorously sought to keep the letter and the
spirit of the monastic vows. When he speaks about: the corrup­
tion of reason, he does so as a reasoner who has tried ardently
to ascend to the knowledge of truth. What is said about the
depravity of man is said therefore from the standpoint and in
the situation of cultured, sinful man confronting the holiness
of divine grace. The other thing that must be kept in mind
is that for these believers the attitude of man before God is not
an attitude man takes in addition to other positions, after he
has confronted nature, or his fellow men, or the concepts of
reason. It is the fundamental and ever-present situation; though
man is forever trying to ignore the fact that he is up against
God, or that what he is up against when he is “up against it”
is God.

The dualist differs from the synthesist also in his conception
of the nature of corruption in culture. Perhaps the two schools
share that religious sense of sin that can never be translated
into moral or intellectual terms, and the dualist only feels
more profoundly the sordidness of everything that is creaturely,


human, and earthly when it is in the presence of the holy.1
Having contended like Job for his own goodness, he also j oins
in the confession : “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear;
but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself and
repent in dust and ashes.” Yet the holiness of God as presented
in the grace of Jesus Christ has too precise a character to per­
mit definition of its negative counterpart, human sin, in the
vague terms of primitive feeling. The sense of sordidness, of
shame, dirtiness, and pollution is the affective accompaniment
of an objective moral judgment on the nature of the self and
its society. Here is man before God, deriving his life from God,
being sustained and forgiven by God, being loved and being
lived; and this man is engaged in an attack on the One who is
his life and his being. H e is denying what he must assert in the
very act of denial; he is rebelling against the One without
whose loyalty he could not even rebel. All human action, all
culture, is infected with godlessness, which is the essence of
sin. Godlessness appears as the will to live without God, to
ignore Him, to be one’s own source and beginning, to live with­
out being indebted and forgiven, to be independent and secure
in one’s self, to be godlike in oneself. It has a thousand forms
and expresses itself in the most devious ways. It appears in the
complacency of self-righteously moral and of self-authenti­
catedly rational men, but also in the despair of those for whom
all is vanity. It manifests itself in irreligion, in atheism and
antitheism; but also in the piety of those who consciously carry
God around with them wherever they go. It issue� in desperate
acts of passion, by which men assert themselves against the
social law with its claims to divine sanction; but also in the
zealous obedience of the law-abiding, who desperately need the

1 Cf. Otto, Rudolf, The Idea of the Holy, 1924, pp. 9 ff.; also Taylor, A. E.,
The Faith of a Moralist, 1 9110, Vol. I, pp. 163 fl.

assurance that they are superior to the lesser breeds without
the law. Thwarted in its efforts to found divine, enduring em­
pires, the desire to be independent of God’s grace expresses
itself in attempts to establish godlike churches that have stored
up all necessary truth and grace in doctrines and sacraments.
Unable to impose its will on others through the morality of
masters, the will to be god tries the methods of slave morality.
When man cannot any longer assure himself that he is the
master of his physical fate, he turns to the things he believes
are really under his control, such things as sincerity and in·
tegrity, and tries to shelter himself under his honesty; in ,this
domain, at least, he thinks he can get along without grace, an
independent good man, needing nothing he cannot himself
supply. The duali�t likes to point out that the will to live as
gods, hence without God, appears in man’s noblest endeavors,
that is, those that are noblest according to human standards.
Men whose business it is to reason exalt reason to the position
of j udge and ruler of all things; they call it the divine element
in man. Those who have the vocation of maintaining order
in society deify law-and partly themselves. The independent,
democratic citizen has a little god inside himself in an authori­
tative conscience that is not under authority. As Christians we
want to be the forgivers of sins, the lovers of men, new incarna­
tions of Christ, saviors rather than saved; secure in our own
possession of the true religion, rather than dependent on a Lord
who possesses us, chooses us, forgives us. If we do not try to have
God under our control, then at least we try to give ourselves the
assurance that we are on His side facing the rest of the world;
not with that world facing H im in infinite dependence, with
no security save in Him .

Thus i n the dualist’s view the whole edifice of culture is
cracked and madlv askew; the work of self-contradicting build.-


ers, erecting towers that aspire to heaven on a fault in the
earth’s crust. Where the synthesist rejoices in the rational
content of law and social institutions, the dualist, with the
skepticism of the Sophist and positivist, calls attention to the
lust for power and the will of the strong which rationalizes
itself in all these social arrangements. In monarchies, aristoc­
racies, and democracies, in middle-class and proletarian rules,
in episcopal, presbyterian, and congregational polities, the hand
of power is never wholly disguised by its soft glove of reason.
In the work of science itself reason is confounded; as on the
one hand it humbly surrenders itself to the given in disin­
terested questioning, and on the other hand seeks knowledge
for power. In all the synthesists’ defences of rational elements
in culture the dualist sees this fatal flaw, that reason in human
affairs is never separable from its egoistic, godless, perversion.
The institution of property, he points out, not only guards
against theft but also sanctions the great seizures of alien pos­
sessions, as when it protects the settler in his rights over lands
taken by force or deceit from Indians. The reasonable in­
stitution rests on a great irrationality. Institutions of celibacy
and marriage prevent and also cover a multitude of sins.
Hence the dualist j oins the radical Christian in pronouncing the
whole world of human culture to be godless and sick unto death.
But there is this difference between them: the dualist knows
that he belongs to that culture and cannot get out of it, that
God indeed sustains him in it and by it; for if God in His grace
did not sustain the world in its sin it would not exist for a

ln this situation the dualist cannot speak otherwise than in
what sound like paradox es; for he is standing on the side of
man in the encounter with God, yet seeks to interpret the Word
:>f God which he has heard coming from the other side. In this


Cension he must speak of revelation and reason, of law and
grace, of the Creator and Redeemer. Not only his speech is
paradoxical under these circumstances, but his conduct also.
He is under law, and yet not under law but grace; he is sinner,
and yet righteous; he believes, as a doubter; he has assurance
of salvation, yet walks along the knife-edge of insecurity. In
Christ all things have become new, and yet everything remains
as it was from the beginning. God has revealed Himself in
Christ, but hidden Himself in His revelation; the believer
knows the One in whom he has believed, yet walks by faith,
not sight.

Among these paradoxes two are of particular importance in
the dualists’ answer to the Christ-culture problem : those of law
and grace, and of divine wrath and mercy. The dualist j oins
the radical Christian in maintaining the authority of the law of
Christ over all men, and in stating it in its plain literal sense,
objecting to the attenuations of the gospel precepts by cultural
or synthetic Christians. The law of Christ is not, in his under­
standing, an addition to the law of man’s nature but its true
statement, a code for the average, normal man, and not a special
rule for spiritual supermen. Yet he also insists that no human
self-culture, in obedience to that law or any other, can avail to
extricate man out of his sinful dilemma. N or are institutions
that claim this law as their basis-monastic orders or pacifist
customs or communistic communities-less subject to the sin
of godlessness and self-love than are the cruder forms of custom
and society. The law of God in the hands of men is an instrn­
ment of sJ.n. Yet as coming from God and heard from His lips
�t is a means of grace. But, again, it is a kind of negative means,
driving man to despair of himself and so preparing him to turn
away from himself to God. When, however, the sinner throws
himself on the d ivine mercy and lives by that mercy alone, the


!aw is reinstated in a new form, as something written on the
heart-a law of nature, not an external commandment. Still,
it is the law of God which the forgiven receives as the will of
the Other rather than as his own. Thus the dialogue about law

proceeds. It sounds paradoxical, because the effort is being made
to state in a monologue a meaning that is clear only in the
dramatic encounters and re-encounters of God and the souls
of men. In his shorthand synopsis of the great action, the
dualist seems to be saying that the law of life is not law but
grace; that grace is not grace but law, an infinite demand made
on man; that love is an impossible possibility and hope of salva­
tion an improbable assurance. These are the abstractions; the
reality is the continuing dialogue and struggle of man with
God, with its questions and answers, its divine victories that
look like defeats, its human defeats that tum into victories.

The situation the dualist is attempting to describe in his
paradoxical language is further complicated by the fact that
man encountering God does not meet a simple unity. The
dualist is always a Trinitarian, or at least a binitarian, for whom
the relations of the Son and the Father are dynamic. But besides
this he notes in God as revealed in nature and Christ and the
Scriptures the duality of mercy and wrath. In nature man meets
not only reason, order, and life-giving goodness, but also force,
conflict, and destruction; in the Scriptures he hears the word o f
the prophet, “Shall evil befall a city and the Lord hath not
done it?” On the cross he sees a Son of God who is not only
the victim of human wickedness but is also one delivered to
f regel!�ration, and eternal life, the otfier is
the ethics for the prevention of degeneration. In its Christian
form it is not exactly an ethics of death, but it is an ethics for
the dying. Hence there is no recognition here of two sorts of
virtues, the moral and the theological. There is no virtue save
the love that is in Christ, inextricably combined with faith and
hope-. From this all other excellence flows. The ethics of Chris­
tian culture, and of the culture in which Christians live, is as
such without virtue; at its best it is the ethics of nonviciousness
-though there are no neutral points in a life always subject
to sin and to grace.

In this sense Paul is a dualist. His two ethics are not contra­
dictory, but neither do they form parts of one closely knit
!>ystem. They cannot do so, because they refer to contradictory
ends, life and death, .:n


weaving of historical record and spiritual interpretation in this
enigmatic and enlightening book.

The conversionist theme that appears in this attitude toward
history is implicitly and sometimes explicitly presented in what
John has to say about human culture and its institutions. His
apparently ambivalent attitude toward Judaism, Gnosticism,
and the sacraments of early Christianity is partly explicable if
we think of him as conversionist. On the one hand he presents
Judaism as anti-Christian; on the other he emphasizes that
“salvation is from the Jews,” and that their Scriptures bear wit­
ness to Christ. The dualism in this attitude may be explained by
reference to the conflicts of the second century, and to the
church’s claim to be the true Israel ; 13 but it may also be main­
tained that such an attitude is consonant in all times and places
with the view that Christ-not the Christian church as a cultural
institution-is the hope, the true meaning, the new beginning
of a Judaism that accepts his transformation of itself not into a
Gentile religion but into a nondefensive worship of the Father.
Similarly, John’s relations to Gnosticism are ambiguous. On
the one hand he seems to take the exclusive attitude of the
First Letter of John toward the accommodation of the gospel
to this brand of popular wisdom; on the other hand he appears
to be very much like the Christian Gnostics in his interest in
knowledge and his concern with spirit.14 Historically explicable
in part, this dual attitude is more intelligible in conversionist
terms as a Christian transformation of cultural religious
thought. John is a conversionist, too, in his attitude toward
the church of the second century, its doctrine, sacraments, and
organization. He seems to be a defender of this cultural religion
against Judaism. Yet he is far removed from those exclusive

is Scott, op. cit., pp. 70-77.
14 Jbid.., v-o. 86- 103.


Christians who find the distinctively Christian element in the
external forms of fasting, praying, and observing the sacra­

He seems to understand and interpret Christian faith and
practice with the aid of terms derived from mystery cults,
though nothing can be more alien to his spirit than the idea
of making Christ a cult-hero_H> He is concerned throughout his
book with the transformation by the spirit of Christ of the
spirit that expresses itself in external acts of religion. H e is
concerned that each symbolic act should have the true source
and the true direction toward its true obj ect. Perhaps John
does not record the ·words of the Lord’s Prayer because he takes
for granted that his readers know them; but other writers of
the time repeated them, and it is evident that this man dis­
tinguishes between spirit and letter even when the letter is
Christian. His interpretation of the sacraments of the Lord’s
Supper and baptism stresses the same note of participation in
Christ and his spirit, without denying and without emphasizing
the importance of physical bread and wine and water.16 As far,
then, as the religious culture and institutions of men are con ·
cerned, it seems clear that the Fourth Gospel thinks of Christ
as the converter and transformer of human actions. The man
who wrote, “The hour is coming and now is, when the true
worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for
such the Father seeks to worship him,” doubtless had Christians
in mind as well as Jews and Samaritans; and was far from sup­
posing that the substitution of Christian forms for others in
religion i3sued in integrity and true adoration.

One would need to force matters were one to read a con,
versionist attitude into John ‘s brief references to other phases

15 Cf. Strachan, R. H., The Fourth Gospel, 1 9 1 7 , pp. 46-53.
16 Hoskyns, op., cit., pp. 335 ff.; Scott, op. cit., p p . 122 ff.


of culture. The special treatment he accords to Pilate, who
would have had no power over Christ if it had not been given
him from above, and whose sense of justice was defeated with
some difficulty, may be variously explained; as may the refer­
ence to the kingdom of this world whose servants fight. It can
only be said that in general John’s interest is dire�ted toward
the spiritual transformation of man’s life in the world, not
toward the substitution of a wholly spiritual existence for a
temporal one, nor toward the replacement of the present
physical environment and bodies of men by new physical and
metaphysical creations, nor toward the gradual ascent from the
temporal to the eternal.

We are prevented from interpreting the Fourth Gospel as a
wholly conversionist document, not only by its silence on many
subjects but also by the fact that its universalistic note is
accompanied by a particularist tendency. The Christian life
consists, indeed, in the transformation of all actions by Christ,
so that they are acts of love to God and man, glorify the Father
and the Son, and are obedient to the commandment to love
one another. It is a life of work, in which the Christian dot”r
what he sees the Son doing as the Son does th� works of the
Father. But this life seems to be possible only to the few. To
be sure, Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the s ins of
the world, and it was God’s love of the world that caused H im
to send His Son into it; and when Christ is lifted up he will
draw all men to himself.17 Yet such universalistic statements,
which seem to look forward to the complete transformation of
human life and work, are balanced in the Gospel by sayings
that voice the sense of the world’ s opposition to Christ and of
his concern for the few. “I have manifested thy name,” J esus
says in his high-priestly prayer, “to the men thou gavest me out


of the world . . . . I am praying for them; I am not praying for
the world . . . . They are not of the world, even as I am not of
the world.”18 Hence Prof. Scott comments: ” The Fourth Gospel,
which gives the grandest expression to the universalism of the
Christian religion, is . . . at the same time the most exclusive
of the New Testament writings. It draws a sharp division
between the Church of Christ and the outlying world, which
is regarded as merely foreign or hostile.”19 The antinomy can
be partly explained by the reflection that while John is mostly
concerned with the conversion of the church from a separatist,
kgalist society into a free, spiritual, dynamic community, which
draws its life from the living Christ, he is also on his guard
against the confusion of faith with the speciously universal
spiritualism of contemporary secular culture. Hence for him
the Christian life is cultural life converted by the regeneration
of man’s spirit; but the rebirth of the spirit of all men and the
transformation of all cultural existence by the incarnate Word,
the risen Lord, and the inspiring Paraclete does not enter into
his vision. He has combined the conversionist m o tif with the
separatism of the Christ-against-culture school of thougr.t.

A similar combination of conversionism with separatism is
suggested in the second-century Letter to Diognetus. Christians,
it says, “are distinguished from other men neither by country,
nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they
neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form
of speech, nor lead a life which is marked by any singularity .
. . . Inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as
the lot of each of them has determined, and following the
customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food and the rest
of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful

1s John, 1 7 : 6, g, 16.
19 Scott, op. cit., p. 1 15 ; cf. p p . 1 38 ff.


a nd confessedly striking mode of life.”20 What makes this mode
of life striking is the scorn of death, the love, meekness, and
humility which have been infused into it by God through His
redeeming as well as creative Word. Yet the suggestion that
Christian life is a transformed mode of cultural existence, and
the statement that “what the soul is in the body, that are Chris­
tians in the world” are not connected by the author of this
document with a hope for the conversion of the whole of
humanity in all its cultural life.


The expectation of universal regeneration through Christ
emerges somewhat more clearly in the great Christian leaders
of the fourth century. Even then, however, the universalist
note does not come to as full an expression as the idea of
conversion, since, as in the case of the Fourth Gospel, the
conversionists need to contend on two fronts-against the anti­
culturalism of exclusive Christianity, and against the accom­
modationism of culture-Christians. Both these tendencies had
been given a powerful impetus by the acceptance of the new
faith as the religion of the state. Charles N orris Cochrane has
brilliantly described the various movements of the time in his
study of classical culture from Augustan reconstruction through
Constantinian renovation to Augustinian regeneration.21 Ac­
cording to his interpretation, the regeneration of human society
through the replacement of pagan by Trinitarian principles is
the theme of that Christian movement which Athanasius and
Ambrose began and which Augustine brought to a great climax
in his City of God.22 These men achieved the sound theory for

20 A n t.e-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p. 26.
21 Christianity and Classical Culture, A Study of Thought and Action from

Augustus to A ugustine, i940.
22 Jbid., esp. pp. 359 ff., 5 10 ff.


the renewal of human cultural existence that Roman Caesars
and thinkers had essayed in vain because their first principles
were fatally self-contradictory. To interpret Augustine in this
fashion is to make him fit neatly into our scheme of Christian
ethical types-a little too neatly. The conversionist or trans­
formation m o tif is the great thing in this theologian, who, in
the words he applied to John, “was one of those mountains
concerning which it is written : ‘ Let the mountains receive peace
for thy people . ‘ “23 Yet it is not to be forgotten that this motif
is accompanied in his thought by other ideas about the relations
of Christ and culture. His interest in monasticism allies him
with the radical school of Christians; as does his antithesis of
heavenly and earthly cities, as far as this contrast applies to the
opposition between organized Christian religion and the org�n·
ized political communities. His Neo-Platonist philosophy con­
nects him with cultural Christianity, and makes possible, if not
plausible, the argument that his conversion wa::. more a turning
to Plato than to the Christ of the New Testament. Thomas
and Thomists claim him as their own, calling attention to his
concern for the right ordering of values and to his hierarchical
view of the relations of body, reason, and soul, as well as of
social authorities and of earthly to heavenly peace. 24 When
Augustine speaks of slavery and war, he thinks in dualistic
terms of obedience to orders that are relative to sin and simply
prevent greater corruption. 25 Moreover, for him as for other
dualists, despite his doctrine of creation, the animal body by
its corruption often seems to weigh down the spirit more than
the corrupted spirit weighs down the body. Finally, it is ques­
tionable whether Augustine’s ” fresh vision of society based on

23 Tractates on the Gospel According to St. John, I, 2 .
2 4 Cf. for instance Bourke, V . J., A ugustine’s Quest o f Wi.cdom, i945, pp.

225 f., 266, 277.
2s City of God, XIX, 7, i5.


the unity of faith and the bond of concord’ ” was truly “uni­
(“1ersal in a sense undreamed of even by the so-called universal
�mpire, . . . potentially . . . as broad and inclusive as the human
race itself.”26 His doctrines of predestination and of eternal
punishment, both individualistically conceived, stand in such
contrast to his views about human solidarity in sin and salva­
tion that it is difficult to credit him with the idea of universal
regeneration. Once more, then, we deal with a man who is much
more than representative of a type.

Nevertheless, the interpretation of Augustine as the theo­
logian of cultural transformation by Christ is in accord with
his fundamental theory of creation, fall, and regeneration, with
his own career as pagan and Christian, and with the kind of
influence he has exercised on Christianity. The potential uni­
versalism of his theory also cannot be gainsaid. Augustine not
only describes, but illustrates in his own person, the work of
Christ as converter of culture. The Roman rhetorician becomes
a Christian preacher, who not only puts into the service .of
Christ the training in language and literature given him by his
society, but, by virtue of the freedom and illumination received
from the gospel, uses that language with a new brilliance and
brings a new liberty into that literary tradition. The N eo­
Platonist not only adds to his wisdom about spiritual reality
the knowledge of the incarnation which no philosopher had
taught him, but this wisdom is humanized, given new depth
and direction, made productive of new insights, by the realiza­
tion that the Word has become flesh and has borne the sins of
the spirit. The Ciceronian moralist does not add to the classical
virtues the new virtues of the gospel, nor substitute new law
for natural and Roman legislation, but transvalues and re­
directs in consequence of the experience of grace the morality

26 Cochrane, op. cit., p. ; n .


in which he had been trained and which he taught. In addition
to this, Augustine becomes one of the leaders of that great
historical movement whereby the society of the Roman empire
is converted from a Caesar-centered community into medieval
Christendom. Therefore he is himself an example of what con­
version of culture means; in contrast to its rejection by radicals,
to its idealization by culturalists, to the synthesis that proceeds
largely by means of adding Christ to good civilization, and to
the dualism that seeks to live by the gospel in an incon­
querably immoral society.27 Yet even Tertullian, the Roman
lawyer, and Tolstoy, the Russian artist, Thomas, the Aristo­
telian monk, Paul, the Jewish Pharisee, and Luther, the
nominalist, illustrate the conversionist theme. What is distinc­
tive about Augustine is that his theory largely duplicates his

Christ is the transformer of culture for Augustine in the
sense that he redirects, reinvigorates, and regenerates that life
of man, expressed in all human works, which in present actuality
is the perverted and corrupted exercise of a fundamentally good
nature; which, moreover, in its depravity lies under the curse
of transiency and death, not because an external punishment
has been visited upon it, but because it is intrinsically self­
contradictory. His vision of human actuality and divine possi­
bility did not begin with the idea of a good creation; but the
description of the theory may well begin there. How Augustine,
after many false starts in speculative and practical reasoning,
was enabled to begin with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
and to proceed thence to the understanding of the self and the
creature, is the story of his Confessions. After he made this
beginning-or after his life was so rebegun-he saw that all
creation was good, first as good for God, the source and center

27 Ibid., p. 5 10.


of all being and value, and secondly as good in its order. with
the goodness of beauty and of the mutual service of the crea­
tures. His C onfessions end with an ecstatic expression of the
idea which is repeated in more abstract formulations in many
other works : “Thou, 0 God, sawest everything that thou hadst
made, and, behold, it was very good. yea we also see the same,
and behold, all things are very good. . . . Seven times have I
counted it to be written, that thou sawest that that which thou
madest was good: and this is the eighth, that thou sawest every­
thing that thou hadst made and, behold, it was not only good,
but also very good, as being now altogether. For severally, they
were only good; but altogether both good and very good. All
beautiful bodies express the same; by reason that a body con­
sisting of members all beautiful, is far more beautiful than the
same members by themselves are, by whose well-ordered blend­
ing the whole is perfected . . . . It is one thing then for a man
to think that to be ill which is good . . . ; another, that that
which is good, a man should see that it is good, (as thy creatures
be pleasing unto many, because they be good, whom yet thou
pleasest not in them, when they prefer to enjoy them to thee; )
and another, that when a man sees a thing that i t is good, God
should in him see that it is good, so namely that he should be
loved in that which he made, who cannot be loved but by the
Holy Ghost which he hath given . . . , by whom we see that
whatsoever in any degree is, is good. For from him it is who
himself is not in degree, but what he is, is . . . . Let thy works
praise thee that we may love thee, and let us love thee that thy
works may praise thee.”28

Though whatever is is good, Augustine is very far from saying
in eighteenth-century fashion either that whatever is is right,
or that only the sociai institutions are wrong and that by a

:zi:> Confessions, XTU, xxvii, 43; xxxi, 46; xxxiii, 48.


return to primitive conditions man can return to felicity. The
good nature of man has been corrupted and his culture has
become perverse in such fashion that corrupt nature produces
perverse cul ture and perverse culture corrupts nature. The
spiritual, psychological, biological, and social depravity of man
does not mean that he has become a bad being, for Augustine
insists that there “cannot be a nature in which there is no
good. Hence not even the nature of the devil himself is evil,
in so far as it is nature, but it was made evil by being per­
verted.”29 The moral sickness of man, which could not exist
unless there were some order of health in his nature, is as
complex as his nature; but it has a single origin in man’s self­
contradictory self-assertion. Man is by his created nature made
to obey, to worship, to glorify, and depend on the Goodness
which made him and made him good; on God, who is his chief
good. As his primary goodness consists in adhering to God, so
his primal sin lies in turning away from God to himself or to
some inferior value. “When the will abandons what is above
itself, and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil-not because
that is evil to which it turns, but because the turning itself is
wicked.”30 This primal sin, which is more significantly named
the first sin of man than the sin of the first man, may be
variously described as faWng away from the word of God, as
disobedience to God, as vice, i.e., as that which is contrary to
nature, as living according to man and as pride, for “what is
pride but the craving for an undue self-exaltation?” It always
has this double aspect: that it is a departure from the One from
whom man draws his life, and a clinging to a created good, as
though it were the chief value. From this root sin arise other
disorders in human life. One of these is the confusion that enters

29 City of God, XIX, 1 3.
30 Ibid., XII, 6.


into the ordered pattern of man’s rational and emotional
psychophysical nature. “What but disobedience was the punish­
ment of disobedience in that [first] sin? For what else is man’s
misery but his own disobedience to himself, so that in conse­
quence of his not being willing to do what he could do, he now
wills to do what he cannot? . . . For who can count how many
things he wishes which he cannot do, so long as he is disobedient
to himself, that is so long as his mind and his flesh do not obey
his will?”31 The disorder in the emotional and rational life of
man is acutely felt in the great disturbance of his existence by
sexual passion; but it appears also in all the other expressions
of his libido. The disordered soul is corrupt in all its parts,
not because a part has been disordered but because the funda­
mental relation of the soul to God has been disordered.

A second consequence of the root sin is the social sinfulness
of mankind. “There is nothing,” says Augustine, “so social by
nature, so unsocial by its corruption, as this race.” “The society
of mortals . . . although bound together by a certain fellowship
of our common nature, is yet for the most part divided against
itself, and the strongest oppress the others, because all follow
after their own interests and lusts.”32 Friendship is corrupted
by treachery; the home, “natural refuge from !he ills of life,”
is itself not safe; the political order in city and empire is not
only confused by wars and oppressions, but the very administra­
tion of j:ustice becomes a perverse business in which ignorance
seeking to check vice commits new injustice.33 Disorder extends
to every phase of culture; diversity of language and efforts to
impose a common language, just wars as well as unjust, efforts ,
to achieve peace and to establish dominion, the injustice of
slavery and the requirement that men act justly as masters and

81 Jbid., XIV, 1 5 ; cf. the following chapters.
32 Jbid., XII, 27; XVIII, 2 .
3 3 Ibid., XIX, 5 .


slaves in the midst o f this injustice-all these and many other
aspects of social existence are symptoms of man’s corruption
and misery. The very virtues themselves, in which men are
trained in society, are perverse; since courage, prudence, and
temperance used for egoistic or idolatrous ends become
“splendid vices. ” Yet all this social sinfulness is dependent on
the presence of a fundamentally good, created order. “Even
what is perverted must of necessity be in harmony with, and in
dependence on, and in some part of the order of things, for
otherwise it would have no existence at all. . . . There may be
peace without war, but there cannot be war without some kind
of peace, because war presupposes the existence of some natures
to wage it, and these natures cannot exist without peace of one
kind or another.”34 Moreover, God rules and overrules men in
their corrupt personal and social existence. “As he is the
supremely good Creator of good natures so he is of evil wills the
most j us t Ruler, so that while they make an ill use of good
natures, he makes a good use even of evil wills.” By the ill will
Df rulers he checks and chastises the perversity of their subjects,
and by giving earthly kingdoms both to good and to bad, ” ac:cord­
ing to the order of things and times . . . himself rules as Lord. “3;)

To mankind, with this perverted nature and corrupted cul­
ture Jesus Christ has come to heal and renew what sin has in­
fected with the sickness unto death. By his life and his death he
makes plain to man the greatness of God’s love and the depth of
human sin; by revelation and instruction he reattaches the soul
to God, the source of its being and goodness, and restores to it
the right order of love, causing it to love whatever it loves i,n
God and not in the context of selfishness or of idolatrous devo­
tion to the creature. “This is the mediation whereby a hand is

34 Ibid., XIX, i2, i 3 .
a;; Ibid., X I , 1 7 ; I, 1 , 8, 9; IV, 33·


stretched out to the lapsed and the fallen. ” Since man, moving
in his vicious circle of godlessness, could not save himself from
himself, “the truth itself, God, God’s Son, assuming humanity
without destroying his divinity, established and founded this
faith, that there might be a way from man to man’s God
through a God-man. For this is the Mediator between God and
men, the man Christ Jesus,” who as God is our end and as man
is our way.36 By humbling human pride and detaching man
from himself on the one hand, by revealing God’s love and
attaching man to his one good, Christ restores what has been
corrupted and redirects what has been perverted. He trans­
forms the emotions of men, not by substituting reason for
emotion, but by attaching fear, desire, grief, and j oy to their
right object. “The citizens of the holy city of God, who live
according to God in the pilgrimage of this life, both fear and
desire, and grieve and rej oice. And because their love is rightly
placed, all these affections of theirs are right. “37 The moral
virtues men develop in their perverse cultures are not sup­
planted by new graces, but are converted by love. ” Temperance
is love keeping itself entire and incorrupt for God; fortitude is
love bearing t verything readily for the sake of God; j ustice is
love, serving God only, and therefore ruling well all else, as
subject to man; prudence is love making a right distinction
between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it.”38
The life of reason above all, that wisdom of man which the
wisdom of God reveals to be full of folly, is reoriented and
redirected by being given a new first principle. Instead of begin­
ning with faith in itself and with love of its own order, the
reasoning of redeemed man begins with faith in God and love
of the order which He has put into all H is creation; therefore

86 Jbid., X, 24; XI, 2; cf. VII, 3 1 ; IX, 15.
31 Jbid., XIV, 9.
as On the Morals of the Catholic Church, XV.


i t is free to trace out H is designs and humbly to follow His
ways.39 There is room within the Augustinian theory for the
thought that mathematics, logic, and natural science, the fine
arts and technology, may all become both the beneficiaries of
the conversion of man’s love and the instruments of that new
love of God that rej oices in His whole creation and serves all
His creatures. The Christian life can and must make use not
only of these cultural activities but of ” the convenient and
necessary arrangements of men with men”-conventions regard­
ing dress and rank, weights and measures, coinage, and the
like.40 Everything, and not least the political life, is subject to
the great conversion that ensues when God makes a new begin­
ning for man by causing man to begin with God. vVere one to
pursue Augustine’s conversionist ideas only, one might repre­
sent him as a Christian who set before men the vision of
universal concord and peace in a culture in which all human
actions had been reordered by the gracious action of God in
drawing all men to Himself, and in which all men were active
in works directed toward and thus reflecting the love and glory
of God.41

Augustine, however, did not develop his thought in this
direction. He did not actually look forward with hope to the
realization of the great eschatological possibility, demonstrated
and promised in the incarnate Christ-the redemption of the
created and corrupted human world and the transformation of
mankind in all its cultural activity. The possibility of the re­
direction of all man’s work among temporal things into an
activity glorifying God by rejoicing in and cultivating the

s9 For the Augustinian interpretation of philosophy and science cf. Cochrane,
op. cit., chap. XI, where the subject is dealt with extensively.

40 Cf. On Christian Doctrine, II, 25, 26.
41 The statement about peace of body and soul, of men with men and God,

at the beginning of chap. 1 3, Bk. XIX, of the City of God is sometimes presented
as if it were an Augustinian prophecy, which it is not.


beauty in His creation, by rendering mutual service in the spirit
of self-forgetful love, by scorning death and the fear of it in the
conviction of divine power over death, by tracing out in dis­
interested reasoning the order and design of the creation and
by using all temporal goods with sacramental reverence as
incarnations and symbols of eternal words-this possibility
rises to view in Augustinian thought only to be dismissed.
What is offered instead is the eschatological vision of a spiritual
society, consisting of some elect human individuals together
with angels, living in eternal parallelism with the company of
the damned. The elect are not the remnant from which a new
humanity arises; they are a saved but not a saving remnant.
Why the theologian whose fundamental convictions laid the
groundwork for a thoroughly conversionist view of humanity’s
nature and culture did not draw the consequences of these
convictions is a diffirnlt question. It may be argued that he
sought to be faithful to the Scriptures with its parables of the
last j udgment and the separatist ideas in it. But there is also a
universal note in the Scriptures; and faithfulness to the book
does not explain why one who otherwise was always more inter­
ested in the spiritual sense than in the letter, not only followed
the letter in this instance but exaggerated the literal sense. The
clue to the problem seems to lie in Augustine’s defensiveness.
From his confession of his sin and of divine grace he turns to
the defense of the j ustice of a God who having chosen Christians
through the revelation of His goodness does not appear to have
chosen the non-Christians. From the confession of sin and grace
as a member of the Catholic church, he turns to the j ustification
of the church in the face of charges brought against it by pagans.
From the hope of the conversion of culture he turns to the
defense of Christian culture, that is, of the institutions and
habits of the Christian society. He defends also the endangered


though unregenerate morality of man b y threats of hell and
promises of heaven. In consequence of (or as cause of) this tum
to self-j ustification, his Christology remains weak and unde­
veloped when compared with Paul’s or Luther’s. He often tends
to substitute the Christian religion-a cultural achievement­
for Christ; and frequently deals with the Lord more as the
founder of an authoritative cultural institution, the church,
than as savior of the world through the direct exercise of his
kingship. Hence also, faith in Augustine tends to be reduced to
obedient assent to the church’s teachings, which is doubtless
very important in Christian culture but nevertheless is no sub­
stitute for immediate confidence in God. In his predestinarian
form of the doctrine of election, Augustine, again with a large
trace of defensiveness, changes his fundamental insight that
God chooses man to love Him before man can love God, into
the proposition that God chooses some men and rejects others.
So the glorious vision of the City of God turns into a vision of
two cities, composed of different individuals, forever separate.
Here is a dualism more radical than that of Paul and Luther.

Calvin is very much like Augustine. The conversionist idea
is prominent in his thought and practice. More than Luther he
looks for the present permeation of all life by the gospel. His
more dynamic conception of the vocations of men as activities
in which they may express their faith and love and may glorify
God in their calling, his closer association of church and state,
and his insistence that the state is God’s minister not only in a
negative fashion as restrainer of evil but positively in the pro­
motion of welfare, his more humanistic views of the splendor
of human nature still evident in the ruins of the fall, his con­
cern for the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh, above all
his emphasis on the actuality of God’s sovereignty-all these
lead to the thought that what the gospel promises and makes


possible, as divine (not human) possibility, is the transforma­
tion of mankind in all its nature and culture into a kingdom of
God in which the laws of the kingdom have been written upon
the inward parts. But in this case also the eschatological hope
of Christ’s transformation of mankind’s ruined life is turned
into the eschatology of physical death, and the redemption of
some men to : L life in glory separated not only by its spirit but
also by its physical conditions from life in the world. The
eschatological hope of a new heaven and a new earth brought
into being by the coming of Christ is modified by the belief
that Christ cannot come to this heaven and earth but must
await the death of the old and rising of a new creation. To the
eternal over-againstness of God and man, Calvin adds the dual­
ism of temporal and eternal existence, and the other dualism of
an eternal heaven and an eternal hell. Though Calvinism h as
been marked by the influence of the eschatological hope of
transformation by Christ and by its consequent pressing toward
the realization of the promise, this element in it has always been
accompanied by a separatist and repressive note, even more
markedly than in Lutheranism.


H ow important the idea of Christ’s transformation of culture
can be, in distinction from the other main motifs of Christian
ethics, the tenacity and vitality of the idea of perfection in
church history helps to make clear. Vesley is the great Protes·
tant exponent of this perfectionism. His thought upon the
subject is often confused with that of exclusive Christians, but
he differs from them profoundly, because he shares with Paul,
John, Luther, Augustine, and Calvin the understanding that
Christ is no new lawgiver who separates a new people from the
old by giving: them the constitution for a new kind of culture.


Christ i s for Wesley the transformer o f life; h e j ustifies men by
giving them faith; he deals with the sources of human action;
he makes no distinctions between the moral and the immoral
citizens of human commonwealths, in convicting all of self-love
and in opening to all the life of freedom in response to God’s
forgiving love. But Wesley insists on the possibility-again as
God’s possibility, not man’s-of a present fulfilment of that
promise of freedom. By the power of Christ believers may be
cleansed from all sin, may be like their Master, may be de­
livered “in this world.” The New Testament does not say “the
blood of Christ will cleanse at the hour of death, or in the day
of j udgment, but it ‘cleanseth,’ at the time present, ‘us,’ living
Christians, ‘from all sin.’ “42 For man this possibility meant an
intensity of expectation and of striving toward a goal that could
easily be perverted again into self-centered and self-empowered
activity, into religious and

moral self-culture in which holiness

was sought as possession and God became instrument toward
the attainment of self-respect. But what Wesley, amid all the
inadequacies of his doctrine of sin,43 and what his followers,
amid all their relapses into pride, were concerned about was.
the J ohannine idea of the present possibility of the transforma­
tion of temporal man into a child of God, living from and
toward God’s love in freedom from self.44 In his individualism
Wesley did not bring prominently to mind the promise of
Christ to mankind rather than to separate men, but there are
suggestions of that idea also and later followers of his have
developed them, though often with a greater leaning toward
cultural Christianity than was characteristic of the initiator of
the Methodist movement.

Jonathan Edwards, with his sensitive and profound views of
42 From the sermon “On Christian Perfection.”
43 Cf. Flew, .R . . Newton, The Idea of Perfection, 1934, pp. 332 ff.
44 Cf. esp. Lindstroem. Harald. Weslev and Sanctifi.cation, 1946.


creation, sin, and j ustification, with his understanding of the
way of conversion and his millennial hopes, became in America
the founder of a movement of thought about Christ as the
regenerator of man in his culture. It has never wholly lost
momentum, though it was often perverted into banal, Pelagian
theurgisms in which men were concerned with the symptoms
of sin, not its roots, and thought it possible to channel the
grace and power of God into the canals they engineered. Thus
the conversionism of Edwards was used to j ustify the psycho­
logical mechanics of a shabby revivalism, with its mass produc­
tion of renovated souls, and the sociological science of that part
-0£ the social gospel which expected to change prodigal mankind
by improving the quality of the husks served in the pigsty.

In the nineteenth century, in the generations represented by
Tolstoy, Ritschl, Kierkegaard and Leo XIII, the conversionist
idea had many exponents. Notable among them is F. D. Maur­
ice, the English theologian whose work is so variously assessed
that j udgments about its profundity and comprehensiveness are
always balanced by references to its mistiness, confusion, and
fragmentariness.45 Yet Maurice’s influence is pervasive and per­
meative. He is above all a Johannine thinker, who begins with
the fact that the Christ who comes into the world comes into
his own, and that it is Christ himself who exercises his kingship
over men, not a vicegerent-whether pope, Scriptures, Chris­
tian religion, church, or inner light-separate from the incar­
nate Word. Early in life the conviction had been forced upon
him that Christ is Lord of mankind whether men believe it or
not. So in a letter to his mother he wrote, ” God tells us, ‘in

45 Cf. Vidler, Alec R., The Theolog;y of F. D. Maurice, 1948, pp. 7 ff. This
book, published in America under the title Witness to the Light, is an excellent
introduction to Maurice’s thought. Indispensable for the understanding of
Maurice is The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice Chiefly Told in His Let ters,
edited by his son Frederick Maurice; � vols .• 1 884.


Him,’ that is, in Christ, ‘I have created all things whether they
be in heaven or on earth. Christ is the head of every man . ‘
Some men believe this; some men disbelieve i t . Those men who
disbelieve it ‘walk after the flesh. ‘ . . . They do not believe this,
and therefore they do not act upon this belief . . . . But though
tens of hundreds of thousands of men live after the flesh, yea,
though every man in the world were so living, we are forbidden
by Christian truth and the Catholic church to call this the real
state of man . . . . The truth is that every man is in Christ . . . ;
except he were j oined to Christ he could not think, breathe,
live a single hour.”46 Men, Maurice understood, were social by
nature; they had no existence save as sons, brothers, members
of community. This conviction united him with the socialists.
But the community in which men were created was not merely
human; it could not be truly human if it were not more-the
community of men with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In
Maurice’s understanding of the “spiritual constitution” of man­
kind, all the intricate interrelations of love in the Godhead, of
the Father’s love of men and of Christ’s, of the human and
divine natures of the Son, of the Creating and Redeeming
Word, of man’s love of neighbor in God and of God in the
neighbor, of family, nation, and church, have their place.47
But the center is Christ. In him all things were created to live
in union with God and each other; he reveals the true nature
of life and the law of the created society as well as the sin and
rebellion of its members; he redeems men in and for com­
munity with one another in God. ” The essence and the mean­
ing of the whole history” recorded in the Scriptures is contained
in Christ’s “amazing prayer, ‘That they may all be one, as thCu,

46 Life, Vol. I, p. 155.
47 Cf. especially The Kingdom of Christ, Vol. I, Part II, chaps. I I and HI;

cf. Vidler, op. cit., chap. II.


Father, an: in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us.’ “48
Hence Maurice found himself in conflict not only with ” un­
social Christians” but also with “unchristian socialists” ; the
former based man’s relation to Christ on external rites, sub­
stituted religion for Christ, and took no responsibility for
human social life; the latter were inclined tc base society on
man’s animal nature, and to make common self-interest the
ground for social action. Men are “not animals plus a soul,”
Maurice contends, “but they are spirits with an animal nature;
. . . the bond of their union is not a commercial one, not sub.­
mission to a common tyrant, not brutal rage against him; but
. . . it does rest and has always rested on spiritual ground; . . .
the sin of the Church-the horrible apostasy of the Church­
has consisted in denying its own function, which is to proclaim
to men their spiritual condition, the eternal foundation on
·which it rests, the manifestation which has been made of it by
the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of the Son of God,.
and the gift of the Spirit.”49

The deep disease of man, the self-contradiction in which he
is involved as individual and member of human societies, is his
denial of the law of his being. He seeks to possess within or by
himself, whether in the form of physical or spiritual goods, what
he can have only in the community of receiving and giving.
Maurice is so deeply aware of the sin of self-love and of the
tragedy of human divisiveness, the exploitation of man by
man, the self-glorification of nations and churches, that he need�
to say little in an explicit way about fall and corruption; it is
the undercurrent of all his thinking. “When I began to seek
God for myself,” he wrote, ” the feeling that I needed a deliverer
from an overwhelming weight of selfishness was the predomi·

48 The Kingdom of Christ, Vol. I, p. 292.
49 1.ife, Vol. II, p. 272.


nant one in my mind. “50 Both the weight and the ethereal

pervasiveness of that selfishness continued to oppress him. He
found selfishness in the commercial system, against which he
protested as a leader of the Christian Socialist movement, and
then discovered how it appeared among the protesters; it mani­
fested itself in the individualism of religious people, who con­
fessed that they belonged to a guilty race but hoped for a
separate pardon; in a man’s effort to j ustify himself by faith
held as possession and by a righteousness of his own; in the
cries of the parties and sects in the church, each pointing to
themselves or their principles as the way to salvation. Man’s sin
is that he tries to be God to himself. “It is the effect of our sin
to make us look upon ourselves as the centres of the universe;
and then to look upon the perverse and miserable accidents of
our condition as determining what we ourselves are. “5 1 In view
of the pervasiveness and destructiveness of sin, the petition,
“Deliver us from evil, ” could seem almost dishonest. ” H ow
hard when evil is above, beneath, within, when it faces you in
the world, and scares you in the closet, when you hear it saying
in your own heart, and saying in every one else, ‘ Our name is
Legion, ‘ . . . when all schemes of redress seem to make the evil
under which the earth is groaning more malignant, when our
own history, and the history of mankind, seems to be mocking
at every effort for life, and to be biddir..g us rest contented in
death; 0, it is hard, most hard to think that such a prayer as
this is not another of the cheats of self-delusion, in which we
have worn out existence. “52 The prevalence of corruption and
self-contradiction in human life was especially oppressive and
disheartening because it appeared in the church, in Christian
culture itself. So Maurice wrote, “I consider your sects-one

50 Ibid., p. 15; cf. Vidler, op. cit., pp. 42 ff.
51 The Lord’s Prayer, pp. 63 f.
52 Jbid., pp. 144 f. Cf. also The Gospel of John, pp. 91 f.


and all of them-as an outrage on the Christian principle, as a
denial of it. . . . You do not really mean to unite us in Christ,
as being members of his body; you mean us to unite in holding
certain notions about Christ.”53 “Yes! Religion against God.
This is the heresy of our age . . . and this is leading to the last,
most terrific form of infidelity.”54

What made Maurice the most consistent of conversionists,
however, was the fact that he held fast to the principle that
Christ was king, and that men were therefore required to take
account of him only and not of their sin; for to concentrate on
sin as though it were actually the ruling principle of existence
was to be enmeshed in still further self-contradiction. Hence he
took issue with the Evangelicals in Germany and England, for
they ” seem to make sin the ground of all theology, whereas i t
seems t o me that the living and the holy God is the ground of
it, and sin the departure from the state of union with him, into
which he has brought us. I cannot believe that the devil is· in
any sense king of this universe. I believe Christ is its king in
all senses, and that the devil is tempting us every day and every
hour to deny Him, and think of himself as king. It is with me
a question of life and death which of these doctrines is true; I
would that I might live and die to maintain that which has
been revealed to me.”55 For this reason Maurice rejected every
dualistic tendency to turn from positive to negative action, from
co-operation to attack on nonco-operation, from the practice of
unity in Christ to conflict with dividers of the church, from
forgiveness of sinners to their exclusion from the church. Every
�ort of this sort involves a recognition of the power of evil-as
tnough it exists otherwise than as a spirit of self-seeking, self­
�illing, and self-glorification; as though it can be located some-

53 Life, Vol. I, p. 259.
54 Jbid., p. 5 1 8.
o5 Jbid., p. 450.


where outside ourselves. Hence it invokes Satan to cast out
Satan, as when socialism in seeking to destroy the oppression of
class by class appeals to class solidarity and class interest; or when
Catholic movements in the church point to themselves and
their principles as the ground of Christian concord. So Chris­
tianity is substituted for Christ, and the defense of Christian
culture takes the place of obedience to its Lord. This is not
compr9mising with evil, but accepting evil as our good; for
between good and evil there can be no compromise, however
much good and evil may be mixed in persons and actions.
Maurice was well aware that he himself fell into negation at
times, and into separation from his fellows in church and world;
but he did not find his fall excusable. He knew that his own
thought would be used defensively by some new party. But t o
all t h e inveterate tendency of m e n t o turn their true insights
into self-assertions and so to deny what they were affirming,
there could be no other answer than renewed witnessing t o
Christ, the only center of life, the only power able t o overcome

The conversion of mankind from self-centeredness to Christ­
centeredness was for Maurice the universal and present divine
possibility. It was universal in the sense that it included all men;
since all were members of the kingdom of Christ by their crea­
tion in the Word, by the actual spiritual constitution under
which they lived. It was universal also in the sense that the
church needed to direct all its interest toward the realization of
the divine possibility of universal, willing acceptance of the
actual rule. The inclusion in Christian witness to Christ of
doctrines of double predestination-the election of men not
only to life with God but also to separation from Him-and of

5 fl For Maurice’s views on socialism cf. Life, Vol. H, chaps. i-iii; on the High
Church party, ibid., Vol. I, pp. 16o ff., 205 f.


eternal punishment, were to Maurice aberrations of the sort
that result from negative Christianity. “I ask no one to pro­
nounce,” he wrote, “for I dare not pronounce myself, what are
the possibilities of resistance in a human will to the loving will
of God. There are times when they seem to me-thinking of
myself more than of others-almost infinite. But I know that
there is something which must be infinite. I am obliged td.
believe in an abyss of love which is deeper than the abyss ot
death : I dare not lose faith in that love. I sink into death,
eternal death if I do. I must feel that this love is compassing

the universe. More about it I cannot know. “57 “I cannot believe
that He will fail with any at last; if the work was in other hands
it might be wasted; but His will must surely be done, however
long it may be resisted.”58

Universal salvation meant more than the turning of indi·
vidual selves to their true center. By creation through the Word
men are social; they are fathers and brothers and wives and
husbands, members of nations, spiritual, voluntary participants
in political, religious, and economic societies. The full realiza·
tion of the kingdom of Christ did not, then, mean the substitu·
tion of a new universal society for all the separate organizations
of men, but rather the participation of all these in the one
universal kingdom of which Christ is the head. It meant trans­
formation through humiliation and exaltation : through the
humiliation which comes when members of the body willingly
accept the fact that they are not the head, and through the exal­
tation which results from the knowledge that they have been
given their own particular, necessary work in service to the head
of the body and to all its other members. Maurice was keenJy
aware of the values in the varieties of national cultures, and was

57 Theological Essays, 2d ed., p. 360.
58 Life, Vol. II, p. 575.


no more interested in the eradication of nationality than of the
self. The schools of philosophy, like the various groups and
movements in the religious life, each had its particular value.
Variety brought disorder in all these instances only because
men mistook their partial contributions to truth for the whole
truth; transformation occurred when humility and service sup­
planted self-assertion and self-glorification. In this sense Maurice
dealt with all phases of culture ; with social customs, political
systems, languages, economic organizations. In his view of the
kingdom of Christ, which is both actuality and possibility, th<� Protestant doctrines of vocation and Christian nationality Thomistic regard for philosophy and social morality, Catholic interest in unity and sectarian emphases on special truths-all w ere combined in a great positive affirmation that there is no phase of human culture over which Christ does not rule, and no human work which is not subject to his transforming power over self-will-as there is none, however holy, which is not subject to deformation.59 With universality Maurice mated the idea of eschatological immediacy. Eternity meant for him, as for John, the dimension of divine working, not the negation of time. As creation was the eternal, not the pretemporal, work of God, so redemption also meant what God-in-Christ does in that eternal working that ever stands over against man's temporal action. The eternal does not cancel man's past, present, and future; neither is it dependent on one of these : God was and is and is to come; He reigns and H e will reign. The better order for which men hope is not dependent on the change of physical conditions which a new creation will bring. " Our Lord speaks of his kingdom or his Father's kingdom, not as if it were to set aside that constitu- 59 Cf. especially The Kingdom of Christ, P t.* II, chaps, ii, iii, v; also Vidler, op. cit., pp. 1 83 ff., and Raven, C. E., Christian Socialism, r848-z854. p. 13 ff. CHRIST AND CULTURE tion of the universe, of which men had seen the tokens in family and national institutions, of which they had dreamed when they thought of a higher and more general fellowship . . . . The lofty expressions of contempt for the littleness of mere earthly trans­ actions and the vicissitudes of human government, which some divines affect, are not learnt in his school." Though he cherished and confirmed men's hope for the future, he did not encourage "anticipations incompatible with an entire recognition of the sacredness of our life here," or "Manichaean notions that the earth or the flesh is the devil's creature and property."60 Yet Christ's kingdom is not of this world; it is not a rule over external conditions, but over the spirits of men. "When he cast out evil spirits, he bore witness that he was holding converse with the spirit of man ; that with the pride, lust, hatred, the powers of spiritual wickedness in high places which have en­ slaved us, he was carrying on his great controversy . . . . Here in this inner region, in this root of man's· being, he is still sub­ duing his enemies, he is conducting his mysterious education."61 The time of the conflict is now; the time of Christ's victory is now. We are not dealing with human progress in culture, but with the divine conversion of the spirit of man from which all culture rises. " The kingdom of God begins within, but it is to make itself manifest without . . . It is to penetrate the feelings, habits, thoughts, words, acts, of him who is the subject of it. At last it is to penetrate our whole social existence."62 The kingdom of God is transformed culture, because it is first of all the conversion of the human spirit from faithlessness and self­ service to the knowledge and service of God. This kingdom is real, for if God did not rule nothing would exist; and if He had not heard the prayer for the coming of the kingdom, the world eo The Lord's Prayer, pp. 41 f., 44. at Ibid., pp. 48 £. 62 Ibid., p. 49· CHRIST THE TRANSFORMER OF CULTURE 2 2 9 ot mankind would long ago have become a den of robbers. Every moment and period is an eschatological present, for in every moment men are dealing with God. In Maurice the conversionist idea is more clearly expressed than in any other modern Christian thinker and leader. His attitude toward culture is affirmative throughout, because he takes most seriously the conviction that nothing exists without the Word. It is thoroughly conversionist and never accom­ modating, because he is most sensitive to the perversion of human culture, as well in its religious as in its political and economic aspects. It is never dualistic; because he has cast off all ideas about the corruption of spirit through body, and about the separation of mankind into redeemed and condemned. Fur­ thermore, he is consistent in rejecting negative action against sin; and always calls for positive, confessional, God-oriented practice in church and community. The question arises, of course, whether even his work would have been effective had he not been associated in the Christian Socialist movement, in education and religious work, with synthesists and dualists and radical Christians. This question he doubtless would have answered himself with the reflection that no Christian thought can encompass the thought of the Master, and that as the body is one but has many members so also the church. C H A P T E R 'J ii A " Concluding Unscientific Postscript" I. CONCLUSION IN DECISION Our examination of the typical answers Christians have given Jo their enduring problem is unconcluded and inconclusive. It wuld be indefinitely extended. The study could be brought more nearly up to date in a consideration of manifold essays on the theme which theologians, historians, poets, and philosophers have published in recent years for the enlightenment and sometimes to the confusion of their fellow citizens and fellow Christians.1 Wider and deeper inquiry into the past would bring into view a host of Christian leaders, quite as significant 1 Among such recent essays the following may be mentioned as illustrative of the interest in the problem and the scope of the discussion: Baillie, John, What Is Christian Civilization?; Barth, Karl, Christengemeinde und Buerger­ gemeinde; Ch urch and State; Berdyaev, Nicolas, The Destin)' of Man; Brunner, Emil, Justice and the Social Order; Christianity and Civilization; Cochrane, Charles Norris, Christianity and Classical Culture; Dawson, Christopher, Religion and Culture; Religion and the Rise of Western Culture; Eliot, T. S., The Idea of a Christian Society; Notes Towards a Definition of Culture; Maritain, Jacques, True Humanism; Niebuhr, Reinhold, The Nature and Destiny of Man; Faith and History; Reckitt, M. B. (ed.), Prospect for Christendom; Tillich, Paul, The Protestant Era,· Toynbee, Arnold, Civilization on Trial; A Study of History. Papal encyclicals since the time of Leo XIII and the ecumenical conferences of recent decades have been much concerned with various aspects of the problem; cf. Hughes, Philip, The Popes' New Order; Husslein, Joseph, Social Wellsprings; The Churches Survey Their Task, The Report of the Con/ erence at Oxford, July I937, On Ch urclJ,, Community and State; First Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Findings and Decisions; also the studies issued in prepara­ tion for these conferences: The Oxford Series; Man's Disorder and God's Design. 2 30 A "CONCLUDING UNSCIENTIFIC POSTSCRIPT" 2 3 1 as those we have mentioned, who also wrestled with the prob­ lem and gave their answers both in words and in potent de­ cisions. ·we might spread a wider net and seine out of the sea of history not only theological but also political, scientific, literary, and military examples of loyalty to Christ in conflict and adjust­ ment to cultural duties. Constantine, Charlemagne, Thomas More, Oliver Cromwell and Gladstone, Pascal, Kepler, and Newton, Dante, Milton, Blake and D ostoievsky, Gustavus Adol­ phus, Robert E. Lee and "Chinese" Gvrdon-these and many more in all fields of cultural activity offer fascinating prospects for study to those who marvel at the interweaving strains of faith in Christ and reasoning performance of duty in society, or are full of wonder at the tenacious hold Christ exer­ cises on men in the mids t of their temporal labors. The study could be interminably and fruitfully continued by multiplying types and subtypes, motifs anct countermotifs, for/ the purpose of bringing conceptual patterns and historical realities into closer relations, or reducing the haze of uncertainty that sur­ rounds every effort to analyze form :i n the manifold richness of historical life, of drawing sharper boundaries between the inter­ fusing, interacting thoughts and deeds of separate men. Yet it must be evident that neither extension nor refinement of study could bring us to the conclusive result that would enable us to say, "This is the Christian answer. " Reader as well a s writer i s doubtless tempted to essay such a conclusion; for i t will have become as evident t o the one a s t o the other that the types are by no means wholly exclusive of each other, and that there are possibilities of reconciliation at many points among the various positions. It will perhaps have become dear also that in theology as in any other science the seeking of an inclu­ sive theory is of great practical importance; and that a great work of construction in this sphere might enable one to see more CHRIST AND CULTURE unity in what is now divided, and to act in greater harmony with movements that seem to be at cross purposes. Yet one is stopped at one point or another from making- the attempt to give a final answer, not only by the evident paucity of one' s historical knowledge, a s compared with other historical men, and the evident weakness of one's ability in conceptual construction, as compared with other thinkers, but by the conviction, the knowledge, that the giving of such an answer by any finite mind, to which any measure of limited and little faith has been granted, would be an act of usurpation of the Lordship of Christ which at the same time would involve doing vi9lence to the liberty of Christian men and to the linconcluded history of the church in culture. If we should make such an attempt we should need to assume that our particular place in the church and history is so final that we can hear not only the word of God addressed to us but His whole word. We should need to assume that in exercising our freedom in reasoning interpretation of that word and in obedience to it we should not be exercising the freedom of a finite reason and will but acting as though our reason and will were universal. vVe should need to assume, if we tried to give the Christian answer, that we are representatives of the head of the church, not members of the body, that we represent its reason rather than being subject to it as hands or feet, ears or eyes, arthritic fingers or stiffened j oints. Our incapacity to give the Christian answer is not merely a relative one; one man may indeed be more capable than another to state the answer of a majority of his fellow Christians, or to move toward a more enlightened and faithful answer. But whatever our capacities to state relatively inclusive and intelligible answers to the problem of Christ and culture� they all meet their limit in a moral imperative that commands>
” Thus far shalt thou go and no further.”


Yet in one sense we must go farther, and arrive at a con­
clusion. This farther step cannot be taken on the plane of
understanding, and this conclusion cannot be reached in the
realm of theoretic insight and outlook. They are rather under­
taken and attained in the movement from consideration to
action, from insight to decision. Each believer reaches his own
“final” conclusion, in resolutions that involve a leap from the
chair in which he has read about ancient battles into the middle
of a present conflict. No amount of speculative insight into the
reasoning and believing of other men, and no continuation of
consideration of the imperatives and values issuing from Christ
and culture, can relieve the Christian individual or the respon­
sible Christian community from the Burden, the necessity, the
guilt and glory, of arriving at such conclusions in present
decisions and present obedience. The study of types of reflection
and action represented by other men in other times offers no
more of an escape from this burden of freedom than does any
other study. After we have said that in our view of the situation
we are Thomists or Lutherans, Tolstoyans or Augustinians, we
still need to resolve a present issue in specific terms; and in that
decision we shall determine, purely by the way, whether our
reflections about ourselves were moderately correct. Doubtless
in the nature of the case our decisions will show that we are
always both more and less than members of a group.

If this is the conclusion of our s tudy-that the problem of
Christ and culture can and must come to an end only in a
realm beyond all study in the free decisions of individual
believers and responsible communities-it does not follow that
it is not also our duty to attend to the ways in which other men
have answered and answer the question, and to ask what reason­
ing accompanied their free, relative, and individual choices.
Vor to believe is to be united with both the one in whom we


believe and with all those who believe in him. In faith, because
we believe, we are made aware of our relativity and our related­
ness; in faith our existential freedom is acknowledgedly as well
as actually exercised in the context of our dependence. To
decide in faith is to decide in awareness of this context. To
understand that context as best he may is as much the duty of
the believer as to do his duty in the context.

What is meant here may be made clearer by an examination
of the character of the decisions we make in the freedom of
faith. They are made, it appears, on the basi s · of relative insight
and faith, but they are not relativistic. They are individual
decisions, but not individualistic. They are made in freedom,
but not in independence; they are made in the moment, but
are n ot nonhistorical.


The conclusions at which we arrive individually in seeking
to be Christians in our culture are relative in at least four ways.
They depend on the partial, incomplete, fragmentary knowl­
edge of the individual; they are relative to the measure of his
faith and his unbelief; they are related to the historical position
he occupies . and to the duties of his station in society; they are
concerned with the relative values of things. It is scarcely neces­
sary to elaborate the first point. Though the evil that ignorant
good men do is gleefully exposed in our times by men who think
that science is a substitute for morals, it must also be continually
exposed and repented of by those who know that morals are no
substitute for science. The Christ who commended a good
Samaritan for pouring oil and wine into wounds would scarcely
likewise honor a man who, trained in contemporary methods of
giving first aid, regarded the B�blical example as his absolute
guide. In politics, economics, and every other sphere of culture,


no less than i n medicine, w e d o the best w e can o n the basis
of what we know about the nature of things and the processes
of nature; but that best is always relative to fragmentary social
and more fragmentary personal knowledge. Not only our tech­
nical knowledge but also our philosophical understanding­
the larger patterns by means of which we gain an orientation
in our complex world-makes our decisions relative. Everyone
has some kind of a philosophy, some general world view, which
to men of other views will seem mythological. That philosophy
or mythology affects our actions and makes them relative. They
are not less relative when affected by the mythology of the
twentieth century than when influenced by the mythology of
the first. We do not dare to act on . the basis of the latter, and
deal with mental patients by exorcising demons; we shall en­
deavor to use our best understanding of the nature and relations
of spirit and boµy, yet we shall know that what is relatively
true for us also contains mythological elements.

Our solutions and decisions are relative, because they are
related to the fragmentary and frail measure of our faith. Ve
have not found and shall not find-until Christ comes again­
a Christian in history whose faith so ruled his life that every
thought was brought into subjection to it and every moment
and place was for him in the kingdom of God. Each one has
encountered the mountain he could not move, the demon he
could not exorcise. And it is evidently so with us. Sometimes it
is the recald trance of pagan culture as a whole that makes one
say, “God’s mercy and power cannot budge this thing.” Some­
times it is the evil in the flesh which leads to the j udgment that
it is not possible for God to redeem man in the body and in
the history which began with his creation. Sometimes the faith
in His goodness and power stops sh<;>rt at the sight of evil-doers
among men, animals, or other powers of nature. And wherever


faith stops there decision in faith stops, as well as reasoning in
faith; there decision and reasoning in unbelief begin. If I do
not believe that the power that ultimately presides over human
societies is merciful toward them but only toward individuals,
then I will not only turn to the service of individuals but will
direct my social actions by my underlying unbelief about the
redeemability of society. If I have no confidence that the power
that manifests itself in nature is God, I will accept nature’s
bounties without gratitude and its blows without repentance;
though I be ever so God-conscious when I meet gracious or
critical spirits in church or society. All our faith is fragmentary,
though we do not all have the same fragments of faith. The
littleness of second-century faith became apparent in its attitude
toward the “world” ; the littleness of medieval faith appeared
in its relation to the heretics; the littleness of modern faith is
manifest in our attitude to death. But faith is a far smaller and
more fragmentary thing than its most evident failures indicate.
When we reason and act in faith and so give our Christian
answer, we act on the ground of partial, piecemeal faith, so
that there is perhaps a little Christianity in our answer.

The historical and cultural relativity of our reasoning and
our decisions is evident, not only when we consider the his­
torical changes in knowledge but when we think ot our duties
in the historical process or in the social structure. A great and
powerful church cannot responsibly do what a small and per­
secuted sect found to be required of it. Christians in an indus­
trial culture cannot think and act as if they lived in feudal
society. It is true that we are not farther away from Christ
because we live 1 950 years after Jesus’ birth than were disciples
who lived five hundred or a thousand years ago; we are doubt­
less much further removed from some of our alleged contem­
poraries who never have and never will come into our view.


But from this particular standpoint in social history we neces­
sarily see Christ against a background and hear his words in a
context somewhat different from the background and context
of our predecessors’ experience. Our historical situation with
i ts views and duties is further complicated by the relativity
of our situation in society as men and women, parents and
children, governors and governed, teachers and learners, man­
ual and intellectual workers, etc. We must make our decisions,
carry on our reasoning, and gain our experience as particular
men in particular times and with particular duties.

Finally, there is a relativity of values that we must take into
account in all our choices. Everything with which we deal has
many value relations; it has value for ourselves, for other men,
for life, for reason, for the state, and so on. Though we start
with the bold affirmation of faith that all men have sacred
value, because all are related to God, and that they are there­
fore equal in value, yet we must also consider that all men are
in relations to other finite beings, and that in these relations
they do not have equal value. The one who offends “one of the
little ones” is not equal in value for the “little one” with its
benefactor. Priest, Levite, and Samaritan must be considered
equal in value as objects of divine valmftion; but they are not
equal in value to the victim of the robbers, quite apart from
anything he thinks about them. In Christ there is neither Jew
nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female; but in relation to
other men a multitude of relative value considerations arise.
Nothing, not even truth, has value in only one relation-not to
speak of the notion of intrinsic worth. Though truth has eternal
value, value for God, it also stands in value relations to human
reason, to life, to society in its order, to the self. Our work in
culture is concerned with all these relative values of men, ideas,
natural objects and 9rocesses. In justice we deal with the rela·


tive values of criminals and honest men for their fellowmen; in
economics we are concerned about the relative values of things
and actions that are related to millions of beings in multiple
relations to each other. In every work of culture we relative
men, with our relative points of view and relative evaluations�
deal with relative values; thus we make our decisions.

The recognition and acknowledgment of our relativity, how­
ever, does not mean that we are without an absolute. In the
presence of their relativities men seem to have three possibil­
ities: they can become nihilists and consistent skeptics who
affirm that nothing can be rel ied upon ; or they can flee to the
authority of some relative position, affirming that a church, or
a philosophy, or a value, like that of life for the self, is absolute;
or they can accept their relativities with faith in the infinite
Absolute to whom all their relative views, values and duties are
subject. In the last case they can make their confessions and
decisions both with confidence and with the humility which
accepts completion and correction and even conflict from and
with others who stand in the same relation to the Absolute.
They will then in their fragmentary knowledge be able to state
with conviction what they have seen and heard, the truth for
them; but they will not contend that it is the whole truth and
nothing but the truth, and they will not become dogmatists
unwilling to seek out what other men have seen and heard of
that same object they have fragmentarily known. Every man
looking upon the same Jesus Christ in faith will make his state­
ment of what Christ is to him; but he will n ot confound his
relatiye statement with the absolute Christ. Maurice had a
principle, gained from J. S. Mill, that commends itself to us.
H e affirmed that men were generally right in what they affirmed
and wrong in what they denied. What we deny is generally
something that lies outside our experience, and about which


we can therefore say nothing. The materialist is to be heard
as he affirms the importance of matter; but what is he doing
when he denies the importance of spirit but saying that he
knows nothing about it? It is doubtless true that culture is
wicked; but when Tolstoy affirms that there is nothing good in
it he assumes that he has transcended his relative standpoint
and can judge with the j udgment of God. Just because faith
knows of an absolute standpoint it can therefore accept the
relativity of the believer’s situation and knowledge.

If we have no faith in the absolute faithfulness of God-in­
Christ, it will doubtless be difficult for us to discern the rela­
tivity of our faith. Because that faith is weak, therefore we shall
always endeavor to make our personal or our social faith into
an absolute. But with the little faith we have in the faithfulness
of God, we can make the decisions of little faith with some
confidence, and with reliance on the forgiveness of the sin that
is involved in our action. So also the performance of our rela­
tive duties in our particular times, places, and callings is far
from being relativistic and self-assertive when it is carried out
in obedience to the command of the Absolute. It does become
relativistic and falsely absolute when I require that what is
right for me be the whole right and nothing but the right;
when I, in my relativity, demand that what I do in obedience
be worthy of being regarded by myself, by other men and God,
as right apart from all the complementary actions, the prece­
dents and consequents in my own activity, the activity of my
fellow men, and, above all, the activity of Christ. For faith in
the Absolute, as known in and through Christ, makes evident
that nothing I do or can do in my relative ignorance and knowl­
edge, faithlessness and faith, time, place, and calling is right
with the rightness of completed, finished action, right without


the completion, correction, and forgiveness of an activity of
grace working in all creation and in the redemption.

To deal as we must with the relative values of persons, things,
and movements does not involve us in relativism, when we re­
member that all these realities which have many values in rela­
tion to each other also have a relation to God that must never
be lost to view. It is true that if I consider only the value my
neighbor has to God and ignore his value for other men, there
will be no room for relative justice or for any kind of j ustice.
But in that case I am not acting with piety but with impiety,
for I am not exercising any faith in the actual God who has
created neither me nor my neighbor as only-begotten sons but
as brothers. If I consider my neighbor only in his value-relations
to myself there is no room for justice either, but only for the
reciprocity of eye for eye and helping hand for helping hand.
But if I consider him in his value-relations to all his neighbors
and also in his value-relation to God, then there is room not
only for relative j ustice but for the formation and reformation
of relative j udgments by reference to the absolute relation.
The relation to the Absolute will not come into consideration
as an afterthought-as when a priest is sent to accompany a
criminal on the way to the gallows-but as a forethought and a
cothought that determines how everything is done that is done
to him and for him. Provisions for fair trial, for the checking
and balancing of partial, relative judgments, for the prohibition
of certain kinds of punishment, for the physical, spiritual care
of the offender, for his restoration to society-these may all
reflect recognition of his value beyond all relative values. Rela­
tive justice becomes relativistic when some relative value is
substituted for the truly absolute one; as when a man’s worth
for his state or his class or his biological race is accepted as his
final value. There is a difference even in the treatment of beasts


between the behavior of relativistic men and that of those who
recognize a relation of the humblest creature to the Lord and
Giver of �ife. In economics and in science, in art and technique,
the decisions of faith in God differ from the decisions of faith in
false absolutes, not because they ignore the relative values of
things but because they are made in mindfulness of absolute:

Such a combination of relative insight and duty with faith in
God does not involve compromise, for one cannot compromise
among incommensurable interests and values; and an absolute
s tandard cannot be compromised-it can only be broken. That
we are forever forgetting the value to God of our neighbors
and fellow creatures, that we are making our choices of relative
values without reference to the absolute value-relation, that
the choices we call Christian are made in unbelief-all this is
too patently true. But we can not excuse ourselves by saying
that we have made the best compromise possible. We shall try
to recognize our faithlessness, and in faith rely on the grace
that will change our minds while, at the cost of innocent suffer­
ing, it heals the wounds we have inflicted and cannot heal.


There is another term we can apply to the decisions we must
make as Christians in the midst of cultural history. They are
existential as well as relative decisions; that is to say, they are
decisions that cannot be reached by speculative inquiry, but
must be made in freedom by a responsible subject acting in
the present moment on the basis of what is true for him.
Kierkegaard, to whom belongs the honor of having underscored
and ministered to this existential nature of the irreducible self
more than any other modern thinker, can be something of a
guide to us in our effort to understand how, in facing our en·


during problem, we must and can arrive at our answer, rather
than at the Christian answer. But he can easily become a falla­
cious guide if we accept his denials along with his affirmations.

In the C oncluding Unscientific Postscrip t Kierkegaard has his
alter ego, Johannes Climacus, present the problem of Chris­
tianity in this wise: “Without having understood Christianity
. . . I have still understood enough to apprehend that it proposes
to bestow an eternal happiness upon the individual man, thus
presuming an infinite interest in his eternal happiness as con­
ditio sine q ua non; an interest by virtue of which an individual
hates father and mother and thus doubtless also snaps his fingers
at speculative systems and outlines of universal history. “2 ·with
this as point of departure it is then argued that whatever may
be true or untrue about the Scriptures or about eighteen cenJ
turies of Christian history, or whatever may be objectively true
for the philosopher who has resolutely set aside self-interest fot
the sake of objectivity-all this is of no relevance to the indi­
vidual who is passionately concerned with what is true for him.
Such subjective truth-truth for me-is found only in faith and
in decision. “The decision lies in the subj ect . . . The thing of
being a Christian is not determined by the what of Christianity,
but by the how of the Christian.” This how is faith. A Christian
is a Christian by faith; faith is something very different from
all acceptance of doctrine and all inner experience. ” To b elieve
is specifically different from all other appropriation and inward­
ness. Faith is the objective uncertainty due to the repulsion of
the absurd held fast by the passion of inwardness, which in this
instance is intensified to the utmost degree . . . . Faith must not
rest content with unintelligibility; for precisely the relation to
or the repulsion from the unintelligible, the absurd, is the ex·
pression for the passion of faith.”3

2 op. cit., p. ig.
3 Ibid., p. �o


Much of this seems to fit our situation as we confront our
forced choices in the presence of Christ and our culture. We
must decide; we must proceed from history and speculation to
action; in deciding we must act on the basis of what is true for
us, in individual responsibility; we must grasp what is true for
us with the passion of faith; in our decision we need to go
beyond what is intelligible and yet hold fast to it.

But there is also much in this doctrine of decision and faith
that is not true for us. Our decisions are individual, that is true;
they are not individualistic-as though we made them for our­
selves and by ourselves as well as in ourselves. They are not
individualistic in the Kierkegaardian sense, first of all, because
what is at stake is not simply or primarily our own eternal
happiness. We cannot read ourselves out of the picture, to b e
sure; but the Johannes Climacus w h o speaks for many a pas­
sionate believer-including if not the present writer then that
self to whom he would commit himself-phrases his question
in this wise : “Without having understood Christ, I have still
understood enough to know that he proposes to bestow infinite
happiness, eternal life, upon men and mankind and thus pre­
sumes, or creates in those to whom he comes, an infinite interest
in the eternal happiness of their fellow-creatures as the conditio
sine q ua non; an interest by virtue of which they will hate
whatever is merely private, their father and mother and their
own life, and thus doubtless also snap their fingers at their
subjective dialectics and their private histories. ” The existen­
tial problem, stated in despair or in faith, cannot be phrased
simply in terms of the “I.” We are involved, and every ” I”
confronts its destiny in our salvation or damnation. What will
become of us? What is our whence and whither? What is the
meaning-if meaning there is-in this whole march of man­
kind with which I am marching? Why have we, this human


race, this unique historical reality, been thrown into existence?
What is our guilt, our hope? What power confronts us in our
birth and end? What must w e do to be saved from villainy and
vanity, emptiness and futility? How can we have a friendly
God? We raise our existential questions individually, doubtless,
and we do not forget our personal, individual selves. But the
existentialist question is not individualistic; it arises in its
most passionate form not in our solitariness but in our fellow-:
ship. It is the existential question of social men who have no
selfhood apart from their relations to other human selves.

Kierkegaardian existentialism gives up the culture problem
as irrelevant to faith, not because it is existentialist and prac­
tical, but because it is individualistic and abstract; having ab­
stracted the self from society as violently as any speculative
philosopher ever abstracted the life of reason from his existence
as a man. It abandons the social problem, not because it is in­
sistent on the responsibility of the individual, but because it
ignores the responsibility of the self to and for other selves. Its
Joshuas can never say, “As for me and my house, we will serve
the Lord,” for they are homeless. I ts “existing individuals” can­
not even know the meaning of the capital ” I ” in Paul’s pas­
sionate statement, ” I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not
lying; my conscience bears me witness in the H oly Spirit that
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For J
could wish that l myself were accursed and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race. ” These kins�
men are not solitary individuals either; they are beings in a
culture. “They are Israelites. and to them belong the sonship,
the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and
the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race,
-iccording to the flesh, is Christ.”4

4 Romans 9 : 1 -5.


Our individual Christian decisions are not individualistic,
in the second place, because they cannot be made in solitariness
on the basis of a truth that is ” true for me.” We do not confront
an isolated Christ known to us apart from a company of wit­
nesses who surround him, point to him, interpret this and that
feature of his presence, explain to us the meaning of his words,
direct our attention to his relations with the Father and the
Spirit. Without direct confrontation there is no truth for me
in all such testimony; but without companions, collaborators,
teachers, corroborating witnesses, I am at the mercy of my im­
aginations. This is true of the most trivial instances of knowl­
edge. Without companions and teachers we should not even
know cats and dogs, their names and distinctive characters­
though without meeting them in our experience we should not
know them either. The more important our k11owledge the
more important is not only directness of meeting but also the
companionship of fellow knowers. Though the voice of con­
science is not the voice of society, it i s not intelligible without
the mediating aid of others who have heard it. It is not in
lonely internal debate but in the living dialogue of the self with
other selves that we can come to the point where we can make
a decision and say, “W”hatever may be the duty of other men,
this is my duty,” or, “Whatever others do, this is what I must
do.” Were it not for that first clause-“Whatever others think
or do”-the second could not follow. So it is with the confronta­
tions by Christ. If after the long dialogue with Mark, Matthew,
John, and Paul, and Harnack, Schweitzer, Bultmann, and Dodd,
I come to the conclusion that whatever Christ means to others
and requires of others this is what he means to me and requires
of me, I am in a wholly different position from the one in
which I should be-if that were a possible position-were I
confronted by him alone. The Christ who speaks to me without


authorities and witnesses is not an actual Christ; he is no Jesus
Christ of history. H e may be nothing more than the projection
of my wish or my compulsion; as, on the other hand, the Christ
about whom I hear only through witnesses and never meet in
my personal history is never Christ for mec. We must make our
individual decisions in our existential situation; but we do not
make them individualistically in confrontation by a solitary
Christ as solitary selves.

The existentialism that has emphasized the reality of decision
and its free, individual character has also made us aware of the
significance of the moment. The speculative, contemplative
reason may live in past or future or in timelessness. It traces
causal, sequences and logical connections. As historical reason
it j ourneys into the first, the fourth, or the thirteenth centuries,
and looks at the world of Peter, of Augustine, of Thomas. It is
an impersonal reason, which tries to forget the pressing indi­
vidual concerns of the reasoner. But the thinker must return
from his j ourneys, for he is a man. As a man he must make
decisions; and the time of decision is neither past nor future,
but the present. The speculative reason, which has asked about
what has been done and why, or what will happen and why,
must yield to the practical reasoner, who asks, “What ought I
to do now?” In the moment of present decision the self becomes
aware of itself; in awareness of selfhood we are aware of the
present. The present moment is the time of decision; and the
meaning of the present is that it is the time dimension of free ..

In our historical present we make our individual decisions
with freedom and in faith; but we do not make them in inde­
pendence and without reason.

We make them in freedom because we must choose. We are
not free not to choose. Choice is involved in the resolution to

5 Training in Christianity, pp. 67 £.


wait a while before we commit ourselves to a line of action; it
is involved in the decision not to interfere in action but to be
a spectator; it is present in our consent to accept an authority
that will regulate all our lesser choices. Yet, though we choose
in freedom, we are not independent; for we exercise our free­
dom in the midst of values and powers we have not chosen but
to which we are bound. Before we choose to live we have been
chosen into existence, and have been determined to love life as
a value. We have not chosen human existence, but have been
elected members of humanity. We did not choose to be rational
rather than instinctive beings; we reason because we must. We
have not chosen the time and place of our present, but have
been selected to stand at this post at this hour of watch or of
battle. We have not chosen to be social beings, immeasurably
dependent on our fellows, nor have we chosen our culture; we
have come to consciousness in a society and among established
human works. Of these, life, humanity, reason, society, and
culture are not only powers but also values, goods to which we
have been attached by a necessary love. vVe are not able, it i s
true, t o live with any o f them i n unfreedom. Even t o live re�
quires our consent; we continue to be human only by con­
tinued choices; we are not rational without espousing reason,
social without commitment to our neighbors; we cannot be “all
there” in the here and now without trying to be. But there
has always been a choice prior to our own, and we live in de­
pendence on it as we make our lesser choices among the things
that are good for life, reason, and society.

We make our free decisions not only in such dependence on
origins beyond our control, but also in dependence on conse­
quences that are not in our power. The history of our culture
.illustrates in myriad ways this dependence of our freedom on
consequences we do not choose. Columbns’s decision to sail


westward, Luther’s decision t o attack the traffic in indulgences,
the resolve of the American Congress to declare the independ­
ence of the colonies-these were made without prevision or
desire of their long-range consequences. It is doubtless so with
the great social and the little personal choices of our present
moment. What reactions and decisions on the part of others
our actions will cali: forth, what interlacing of natural and moral
processes will ensue on our choice to enter into loyal marriage,
for instance, or to · venture the defense of an invaded nation,
we can neither know nor plan. We choose and are subject tei.
many choices that are not our own.

Our ultimate question in this existential situation of de,
pendent freedom is not whether we will choose in accordance
with reason or by faith, but whether we will choose with reason­
ing faithlessness or reasoning faith. In faithlessness we shall
make our choices as men whose existence is finally dependent
on undependable chance. By chance, we shall think, we have
been “thrown into existence,” and by chance we in our indi­
viduality have come into this particular here and now with this
particular constitution. By chance we are men and not beasts;
by chance we are rational. When we reason about our decisions
in this context, the element of chance begins to invade the very
content of our choices; and a kind of arbitrary freedom of the
moment asserts itself in our atheistic existentialism. Whether to
throw away the life that has been thrown our way, whether to
marr�r or not to marry, whether to be nonresistant or to fight­
these are questions the free, atheistic existentialist self decides
in the void merely by means of decision-that is, arbitrarily.

There is another possibility-that we shall choose and reason
in faith. Though we speak of it as if it were possibility we
choose, it seems clear when we attend to it that even more than
life and reason it is a power and a value for which we have been


chosen. It is a good we must consent to and receive and hold
fast; it is not something that we originate and choose in inde­
pendent freedom. What is this faith for which we have been
chosen, and in which we are required to make our lesser choices?

When Kierkegaard dealt with faith he emphasized that it was
a passion of inwardness, that it was objectively uncertain, and
that it was a relation to the absurd. Following our previous
method, we may attempt both to accept and to rej ect him by
saying that it is an inward passion directed toward another, that
it is subjectively as assured as it is objectively uncertain, and
that it is relation to a surd that makes possible reasoning in
existence. The passion of inwardness that we find in faith is the
intensity of loyalty with which we cling not to ourselves but to
that other without which our lives have no meaning. Wherever
there is loyalty there is this passion, with its reflective signifi­
cance for the self. The nationalist and the rationalist, everyone
who has a cause, betrays the presence of this passion of inward­
ness when the principle to which he is attached is assailed.
Faith in this sense is prior to all reasoning, for without a cause
-let it be truth, or life, or reason itself-we do not reason.
When we say that we live by faith and decide in faith, we may
mean-at a minimum-that we live by inner attachment to an
object of loyalty. Yet faith is not simply loyalty; it is assurance,
too. It is confidence in the object toward which the inner pas­
sion is directed. It is the trust that the cause will not fail us,
will not let us down. Such trust, to be sure, is mated with a
kind of objective uncertainty; but it is not the uncertainty
that makes it faith. To argue so is to be like a moralist who
defines duty as that conduct that runs counter to inclination.
I may not be aware of duty as duty unless I encounter the
resistance of inclination; and I may not be aware of the extent
of my trust save as it is exercised in the presence of objective


uncertainty. But awareness of the fact that I trust may be in�
versely proportionate to the actuality of my confidence. I shall
be more conscious of the fact that I am acting on faith when I
entrust my fortune to an unknown man than when I entrust it
to an established bank. I am not trusting less in the latter in­
stance, for I am still counting on something that is not objective
-namely, on the loyalty, the trustworthiness of subjects, of men
who have bound themselves by promises.

Here, then, are two strands of faith, loyalty, and trust. These
stand in responsive relations. I trust the loyal other and am
loyal to the trustworthy other. But it has still another character­
istic. To act in faith means also to act in loyalty to all who are
loyal to the same cause to which I am loyal and to which the
cause is loyal. If truth is the name of my cause, then I am bound
in loyalty to truth and to all who are loyal to the outh and to
all to whom truth is loyal, whom truth will not let down. I am
faithful to the truth only by being faithful in my truth-speaking
to all men bound to the truth; but my confidence in the power
of truth is not separable, either, from trust in all my compan­
ions who are bound to its cause. Faith is a dual bond of loyalty
and trust that is woven around the members of such a com­
munity. It does not issue from a subj ect simply; it is called forth
as trust by acts of loyalty on the part of others; it is infused
as loyalty to a cause by others who are loyal to that cause and to
me.6 Faith exists only in a community of selves in the presence
of a transcendent cause.

Without loyalty and trust in causes and communities, existen­
tial selves do not live or exercise freedom or think. Righteous
and unrighteous, we live by faith. But our faiths are broken
and bizarre; our causes are many and in conflict with each other.

6 Josiah Royce’s Philosophy of Loyalty and The Problem of Christianity con·
-tain rich and fertile reflections on loyalty and community.


In the name of loyalty to one cause we betray another; and in
our distrust of all, we seek our little unsatisfactory satisfaction�
and become faithless to our companions.

H ere the great surd enters. What is the absurd thing that
comes into our moral history as existential selves, but the con,
viction, mediated by a life, a death, and a miracle beyond
t.mderstanding, that the source and ground and government and
end of all things-the power we (in our distrust and disloyalty)
call fate and chance-is faithful, utterly trustworthy, utterly
loyal to all that issues from it? That it is not merely loyal to
loyalty but loyal to the disloyal, not merely trustworthy by the
loyal but also by the disloyal? To metaphysical thinking the
irrational thing is the incarnation of the infinite, the temporal·
izing of the absolute. But this is not the absurdity to our existen­
tial, subjective, decision-making thought. What is irrational
here is the creation of faith in the faithfulness of God by the
crucifixion, the betrayal of Jesus Christ, who was utterly loyal
to Him . We note not only that the faith of Jesus Christ in the
faithfulness of the Creator runs counter to all our rational
calculations based on the assumptions that we are being cheated
in life, that its promises are not redeemed, that we must count
not only on broken treaties among men but also on having
everything taken from us that has been given us and that we
hold most dear, that we have only chance to count on, and that
our chances are small. This is a greater surd: that the man who
reasoned otherwise, who counted on the faithfulness of God
in keeping all the promises given to life, and who was loyal to
all to whom he trusted God to be loyal, should come to his
shameful end, like all the rest of us; and that, in consequence
of thfa, faith in the God of his faith should be called forth in
us. It is not a question of believing certain men or writings
which assert that God raised him from the dead on the third


day. We do not trust the God of faith because we believe that
certain writings are trustworthy. Yet it is our conviction that
God is faithful, that He kept faith with Jesus Christ who was
loyal to Him and to his brothers; that Christ is risen from the
dead; that as the Power is faithful so Christ’s faithfulness is
powerful; that we can say ” Our Father” to that which has
elected u s to live, to die, and to inherit life beyond life.

This faith has been introduced into our history, into our
culture, our church, our human community, through this per­
son and this event. N ow that it has been called forth in us
through him we see that i t was always there, that without it we
should never have lived at all, that faithfulness is the moral
reason in all things. Yet without the historical incarnation of
that faith in Jesus Christ we should be lost in faithlessness. As
the given historical reality in our human history� he is the
cornerstone on which we build and the rock of offense. He is
simply there with his faith and with his creation of faith.

On the basis of that faith we reason; and much that was un­
i ntelligible on the ground of faithlessness or faith in the little
gods who are not trustworthy is now illumined. Far beyond the
limits of religious groups which seek to make the faith explicit
in creeds, it forms the basis for our reasoning in culture; for our
efforts to define a rational j ustice; for our endeavors after ra­
tional political order; for our attempts to interpret the beauti­
ful and true. It does not form the only basis; for our faith, our
l oyalty, our confidence is small, and we forever lapse into faith­
lessness-even in those regions where it has won some victory
over our thoughts. In that faith we seek to make decisions in
our existential present, knowing that the measure of faith is s o
meager that w e are always combining denials with our affirma­
tions of it. Yet in faith in the faithfulness of God we count on
being corrected, forgiven, complemented, by the company of


the faithful and by many others to whom He is faithful though
they rej ect H im.

To make our decisions in faith is to make them in view of the
fact that no single man or group or historical time is the church;
but that there is a church of faith in which we do our partial,.
relative work and on which we count. It is to make them in
view of the fact that Christ is risen from the dead, and is not
only the head of the church but the redeemer of the world. It
is to make them in view of the fact that the world of culture­
man’ s achievement-exists within the world of grace-God’s


A1.>dard, 89 ff.
Absolute, 238 ff.
Absolutizing of a relative value, 145 f.,

238 ff.
Agape, 18 f., 28
Antinomianism, 187
Aquinas, Thomas, 42, 1 2 8 ff.
Arts, 55, 63
Atonement, moral theory of, 90
Augustine, 43, 206 ff.
Ayer, A. J., 184 n .

Barth, Karl, 93 f .
Basilides, 85
Benedict of N ursia, 56, 66 f., 72
Berdyaev, N ., 87 n .
Bergson, H . , 37 n .
Bultmann, R . , 22 ff .
Burkhardt, J., 3 1 f .
Burkitt, F. C . , 86
Bu tler, J., 140

Calvin, J., 43, 2 1 7 f.
Celsus, 6
Chance, 25 1
Choice, 249 ff.
Christian, definition of, 1 1
Church, 47 ff., 6 1 f., 68, 72 f., 95, 97,

1 29, 1 36, 139, 222, 256
Civilization and culture, 32
Clement of Alexandria, 123 ff.
Clement of Rome, 49, 5 1 , 6g
Cochrane, C. N., 206
Conduct, Christian, 125 ff., 164 £.
Conscience, 82, 1 82
Conservatism, 1 87 £.
Contemporaneousness, 248 £.
Contempt for the world, 5 £.
Co-operation with nonbelievers, 1 43


Corruption, 1 94, 199; of man and so­
ciety, 2 1 1 f.

Creation, 1 9 1 ff., 1 97, 200; goodness of,
209 f.

Cultural rejection of Christ, 4 ff.
Culture: definition of, 32 ff.; variety

in, 106, 226 f.
Culture-Protestantism, 84, 1 0 1 ff.

Death, 178 f., 1 89
Decision, 24 f., 233 ff., 241 ff., 245 ff.
Dependence, 250 f.
Depravity, 1 1 2 f., 152 f., 16o f., 1 63, 1 91 ,

209, 2 1 1 . See also Sin
Dibelius, M., 7 1
Dodd, C. H . , 48

Edwards, J., 2 1 9 f.
Election, 2 1 6 f., 225 L
Encyclicals, papal, 138
Engels, F . , 38 n .
Eros, 1 8, 28
Eschatology, 19 ff., 1 95; of�Augustine�

2 1 6 ; of Calvin, 2 1 7
Eternal life, 5 , 1 9 5 , 201
Eternity and time, 1 95, 200 f., 227
Existentialism, 22 ff., 241 ff.; atheistic,

Expectancy. See Hope

Faith, 25 f., 47, 235 £., 242, 252 ff.
Faithfulness of God, 254 f.
Fall, 1 93 f., 1 98 ff.
Fatherhood of God, 1 6 £.
Finiteness. See Sin and finiteness
“Flesh,” 1 66 f. See also Sin and finite-

Forgiveness, -97 f.
Fourth Gospel. See John, Gospel of


Fox, G., 82
Freedom, 248 ff. See also Dependence
Friends, Society of. See Quakers
Fundamentalism, 102

Gibbon, E., 5, 7
Gnosticism, 85 ff., 1 2 7 n., 202
Godlessness, 154 ff.
Gorky, M., 64
Grace, 79 f., 150 f.

Happiness, 1 32 ff., 242 f.
Harnack, A., 15 n., 50, 1 68
Hartmann, N ., 6 i:., 35 n., 1 84
Hierarchical principle, 1 37
History, 2 1 , 1 82, 1 94 f., 200 L
Holiness, 1 52 ff., 1 60 f.
Holl, K., 1 72 n .
Hope, 1 9 ff., 144, 1 78
Hoskyns, Sir E., 200
Human achievement, 33 f., 146
Humility, 25 ff.

Immortality. See Eternal life
Incarnation, 1 92 f.
Individual, 1 8o, 242 f.
Individualism, 88, 1 8o f., 243 ff.
Institu tionalization of the gospel, 146 f.
Interim, 7 3 ff.
Intolerance, 7 f.
Inwardness, · 252

James, Wm., 84
Jeffer.son, T., 91 f., 99
Jesus Christ: 1 1 ff., 107; of history, 81 f.;

of the New Testament, 12 f., 19, 2 1 ,
25, 9 3 ff., 105, 109, 1 20

John, First Letter of, 46 ff., 69, 1 96
John, Gospel of, 1 96 ff.
Judaism, 3 f., 7, 202
Judaizers, 85
Jung, C. J., 44 n.
Justice, 240
Justification. See Forgiveness

Kant, I., 9 1 , 1 1 3
Kierkegaard, S., 65, 179 ff., 2,p ff.
Kingdom: of Christ, 226 f.; of ends,

96, 99; of God, 20 f., 39, 65, 96, 98 f.,
1 7 1 f., 226 ff.; of the world, 1 7 1 f.

Klausner, J., 2 ff., 40

Lactantius, 88 n .
Law: a n d grace, 79 f., 1 13 £., 1 1 9, 157 f.;

of Christ, 139, 157, 1 73; duality of,
1 2 1 ff.; new, 45, 47, 49 f., 58 ff. ;
Thomistic theory of, 1 35 f.

Legalism, 49, 79 f., 1 1 9
Letter to Diognetus, 205 f.
Liberalism, 15, 102
Lietzmann, H., 103 n., 1 93 n .
Locke, J . , 91
Logos. See Word
Lordship of Christ, 45 f., 49, 52, 57 f.,

1 38, 220 £., 224
Love of God and Neighbor: in Jesus,

15 ff.; in I John, 46 ff.; in exclusive
Christianity, 7 1 ; in Clement of Alex­
andria, 1 27; in Fourth Gospel, 1 98 £.;
in Augustine, 2 14

Loyalty, 252 ff.
Luther, M., 43, 1 70 ff., 188 f.

Malinowski, B., 32 l .
Marcion, 1 67 ff.
Marriage, 59, 74
Marx, K., 6
Maurice, F. D., 220 ff., 238 f.
Mediation: in society, 245 f.; of Christ,

29, 93
Memory and anticipation, 247 f.
Mennonites, 56
Mercy and wrath of God, 1 57 ff., 1 68,

1 78
Mill, J. S., 238
Monasticism, 56, 67, 72, 1 2 9
Monotheism, 8
Montalembert, 66 f.
Mythology, 235

Naturalism, 1 14 f.
Nature, 33, 39, 1 1 7 f.; conflict with,

95 f., 100 f.
Newman, F. W., 84
New Testament, 45, 72, 95
Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1 5
Nonresistance, 59 f.

Obedience, 22 ff., 42, n8
Old Testament, 1 67 f.
Original sin, 52, 78, 2 1 1
Otto, R., 1 1 3


Pacifism, 54, 66, 74 f.
Paraclete, 201
Paradox, 156 ff.
Paul, 61, 89, 159 ff., 170, 1 88 f., 1 93 n.,

1 96
Perfection: 2 1 8 f.; grades of, 132 f.,

147 f.
Philosophy, 54 f., 63, go, 1 28, 138, 235
Pluralism, 38 f.
Politics. See State
Pope Leo XIII, 138 f.
Power, desire for, 156
Predestination. See Election
Present, the, 246 ff.
Property, 62, 75, 1 24, 136, 156

Quakers, 56 f., 67, 74

Rauschenbusch, W., 100, 1 1 2
Reason: 76 f., 9 1 , no ff., 156, 2 14 f.,

246; and revelation, 1 1 , 76 ff., 1 10 f.
Rebirth. See Redemption
Reconciliation, 150 f.
Redemption, 1 6 1 f., 173, 201, 2 1 3 £.
Reduplication, 66, 79
Relativism, 234 ff.
Religion, 9, 88 f., 224
Repentance, 20
“Restoration of Hell,” 62 n.
Revelation. See Reason and
Revelation, Book of, 45
Ritschl, A., 94 ff.
Royce, J., 253 n .

Schleiermacher, F., 93 f.
Schweitzer, A., 19 ff.
Scott, E. F., 205
Science, 63
Sectarianism, 56 f., 57 n., 67, 2 23 £.
Self-contradiction, 2 1 2, 222 f.
Self-love, 173 f., 199 £., 222 f.
Sermon on the Mount, 9, 63
Sin: 78 f., 1 1 8 f., 152 ff., 1 63, 199 f.,

222 ff.; and class-consciousness, 104 £.;
and finiteness, 166 f., 1 88 f., 193 £.,

Society, 32 £., 221 f.
Sonship of Jesus, 22, 25 ff., 28 f., 1 98 f.
Spiritualism, 82
State, 54, 6o £., 1 36
Stoicism, 1 24
Subjective truth, 242

Technical knowledge, 175 ff., 234 f.
Tension, 1 77 f.
Tertullian, 5 1 ff., 6o, 64, 69 f., 72 ff.,

76 f., 143
Theology of Jesus, 1 6 f.
Time. See Eternity and time
Tolstoy: Leo, 57 ff., 70, 72, 78 ff., 239;

Countess Alexandra, 75
Toynbee, A., 30
Trinity, 5 1 , 8 1 , 1 14, 1 3 1 , 2 2 1
Troeltsch, E., 3 0 f., 57, 172 n., 1 8 1 f .
Trust, 2 5 2 ff.
Two Ways, Doctrine of the, 50
Typological method, 43 f., 1 20

Unity, drive toward, 141 f.
Universal regeneration, 204 £., 208,

225 ff.

Valentinus, 85
Value-relation, 34 f., 237 f., 240 £.
Values: 1 8, 34 ff., 1 32, 1 82, 237 f., 240 f.;

conservation of, 37 f.; realization of.
36 f.

Vidler, A. R., 220 n.
Virtues: 13� ff., 166, 2 14; of Christ,

14 ff.
Vocation, 97, 1 74 f.

Wealth. See Property
Wesley, J., 2 1 8 f.
Wiclif, J., 65
Williams, R., 140 f., 1 83 f.
Word, 1 92 f.
“World,” the, 32, 45, 47 ff., 1 1 7 f., 198 f.,

204 f.
Wrath of God. See Mercy and wrath ot


74 75 28 27 26 25 24 2 3 22

Title Page
1. The Enduring Problem
2. Christ Against Culture
3. The Christ of Culture
4. Christ Above Culture
5. Christ and Culture in Paradox
6. Christ The Transformer of Culture
7. A “Concluding Unscientific Postscript”