A DISILLUSIONED MODERNIST
By D. R. DAVIES
The profound shock of current facts, wrecking the easy optimism picturing a future that is a mirage, and bringing the disillusioned soul back to divine truth, is one main hope of the days immediately ahead. Though not expressed quite as a Scriptural believer would frame it, here (from the British Weekly, June 22, 1939) is the testimony of a Congregational minister - a striking example, which may God multiply. – D. M. PANTON.
To what extent I speak for my generation (I am forty-eight years of age) I do not know. But it is certain that I am not speaking for myself alone. I am but one of a multitude. The Book of Revelation speaks of a great multitude arrayed in white, that had come through Great Tribulation. We, too, have come through a Great Tribulation, but alas! our garments are no longer white. They are in rags and tatters; and the colours they once had have been laundered out by the pressure of events.
The sense in which I use the term “rationalist” will, I trust, become clear in the course of my narrative. The term “Liberal” (in its religious rather than political connotation) would do almost as well. In common with thousands of my generation, I drank deep of the wells of Liberal thought in politics, religion and philosophy. I accepted without question the assumption of Liberalism and Rationalism about human nature. I accepted without question the belief in the self-sufficient power of reason, the belief in the power of man, by education and organization, to create a just and ideal world.
I equated sin to ignorance. Given more enlightenment, man would create the
world of his dreams. Mr. H. G. Wells was
one of my major prophets. The
To begin with, the events of post-war
We are witnessing the rise of slave States. In 1933 Mein Kampf seemed
the ravings of a lunatic, but they are gradually being translated into fact. To-day, the world triumph of Fascism is a
satanic possibility. Who would have believed, even in 1933,
that we should live to see, in the heart of
One effect of this is the incredible degeneration that has
taken place in international relations. Symptomatic is the disappearance of the
courtesies of pre-war-diplomacy. The
appalling vulgarity and boasting of the Dictators poisons international
communications. The whole process of
internationalism has been reversed. In
his speech to the Reichstag of January 30, Hitler
screamed, “We don’t want Humanity.” (For some curious reason that was not reported.)
These events and tendencies have compelled me to recognize
that there must be something fundamentally evil in the heart of man, which
cannot be exorcised by sweet reason and education. Intimations of God and
Immortality are not the only things that lie in the depths of the modern man’s
Unconscious. Indeed, the whole of post-war
Now all these reflections have compelled me to reconsider the whole of history with a new penetration - a consideration which deepens and intensifies the pessimism induced by our contemporary world. One fact emerges clearly: History records no progressive diminution of injustice, but simply a change in its forms. Instead of the chattel-slavery of the ancient world we have to-day wage-slavery. Instead of the medieval superstitions of witchcraft we have the superstition of racialism and nationalism. The gains of civilization are nearly all neutralized by a parallel loss. The cause of all this lies in the human heart and will. Where else can it lie? The Marxian contention that by the ending of class-civilization man will cease to exploit his fellows is altogether too naive.
So I am driven to the grim conclusion that mankind is doomed, historically, to perpetual injustice. Its forms may vary, but its substance will remain. There is no escape for man, within history, from the nemesis of his own will to power. Such a conclusion, if it is final, dries up every source of inspiration and paralyzes the will to act. And it is in the attempt to escape such a consequence that I am driven to religion, to Christianity in its severest and most orthodox form, a process which I can only barely indicate.
If I have understood it aright, I am simply repeating the classical experience of all Christian conversion in every age, the essence of which is this: that when one comes up against a situation completely beyond one’s own power or capacity, one turns to religion. Religion becomes real in a state of final desperation. One’s trust in one’s will to power must somehow be broken before religion becomes inevitable. As I have already endeavoured to describe - all too briefly and imperfectly - that is the position into which a rational Liberalism has landed me.
The facts of History begin to acquire an altogether different
significance once one begins to see that they are part of a process whose
fulfilment lies beyond the sphere of History itself. Though History cannot possibly fulfil its own
promise of an Ideal Community, it can prepare the preliminary conditions to its
fulfilment. The Ideal Community, what
Jesus called “the
This faith, I discover, makes it possible for me to be a realist in relation to the facts of History, of the contemporary world, and of human nature without becoming either pessimistic or cynical. Without deceiving myself about historic possibilities, I nevertheless can co-operate with others in the struggle for further progress. And above all, in a day of mounting tragedy, and triumphant reaction, this faith gives me a quiet security and confidence that the ultimate decision in human affairs does not lie within the power of men, be they ever so powerful, but in the hands of a God whom Christianity has taught is a Creator, Judge, and Saviour.
* * *
Harden not thine heart, 0 sinner,
Jesus still is calling thee,
Calling thee from earth’s destruction
Tarry not, rise up and flee
From the awful wrath of God,
From the smiting of His rod.
Still the voice of mercy pleading,
Spirit striving with thy sin;
Heart of adamant, cold and friendless,
Let the dew of heaven in;
Ransom for thy dreadful guilt.
- KETTIE K. PAYNE
* * *
AN ARMY OFFICER’S CONVERSION
By COLONEL E. SHEWELL-COOPER R.A.
It was not until I was at the
It was just before leaving England, six months after I
received my commission in the Royal Artillery, that I fully experienced the
feeling that as I was, I was all wrong, that there was a higher life to be
lived than the one I was living, and I desired to live that higher life, and to
know what it was to have peace in my heart, and to get rid of the unrest and
uncertainty that was filling it at that time.
I knew there was something better than the life I was leading. I had always known it, and though I mostly
stifled the voice of conscience, at times it made itself heard. I received a letter from a relation, who had
recently become very
This thought stayed with me, off and on, for some weeks; and when I went abroad I asked a Soldiers’ Home lady for some tracts, and the first Sunday on board the troopship I went round the forecastle, giving tracts, and talking to the men as best I could. I, however, was stumped by one Bluejacket who wanted to know where Cain got his wife from; and my attempts at tract distributing were put a stop to by the Captain of the ship, who gave me a dressing down for trespassing upon the Chaplain’s preserves, the latter apparently having made a complaint.
As might have been expected, my religious feelings and good intentions based upon this misconception of God’s way of salvation, did not last long, and under the temptations of a foreign station I fell into deeper sin than ever before. And it was at this time that I gave up saying my prayers daily, as I felt it would be hypocritical to continue to do so.
So many months went by, wasting my life in riotous living, but with God’s Spirit from time to time speaking to my heart and telling me I was wrong. I had a shock, too, when I was under fire in Burmah. When I had to lie still and listen to the bullets whistling around me, in fearful dread lest the next one should be fatal to myself, I knew then that I was quite unprepared to die, and I knew to what place I should go were I called away. In my fear, my first instinct was to call upon God to spare me, but I fought against that instinct, not knowing it was of God, and refused to pray, considering it more manly to say nothing than to turn when in danger to a God whom I had neglected when in safety, and had not prayed to for years.
In due course I left for
And, of course, he was only too glad to have the opening to speak to me, and what time he arrived home that day I do not know; but it was not until some few days afterwards that my eyes were fully opened to see God’s way of salvation. I went with him and another Christian officer to the Soldiers’ Home to an officers’ Bible Class, and when that was over was taken in to see the lady of the Home, whom I had known as a boy in a Home in another garrison town hundreds of miles away, and who had given me the tracts when I first went abroad. She had a long talk with me, and my diary says: “Put things so plainly, and said all I had to do was trust in Christ.” Then I came back to my quarters and read a little booklet, Immediate Salvation, that had been given me by the second officer; and as we cannot tell when Zacchaeus was converted, whether up the tree, or on the ground, or on his way down, so I cannot tell when the light broke into my soul, whether in the Home or in my quarters, or on the road between, but I do know that that day was the day of my new birth, for I find in my diary: “And now I do trust, I do believe! I know it and I see it all now! Nothing that I can do can do any good. I am not to do anything. I am only to believe. That is all, and I do believe now, and I do trust.”
And so my little story ends; and yet it does not really end, it only begins, for the life I now live, which began on that day, will go on for ever and ever. And I desire to testify to God’s goodness and long-suffering in seeking me all those years though I so neglected Him; and I desire to testify to His love and keeping power through the fifty years that have followed, for every year has been happier than the one before, with more instances of His love, more answers to prayer, more growth “in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” and with more opportunities of service for Him, and more blessed results of such service.
NOTE BY W. E. SHEWELL‑COOPER, PH.D.
You would have thought that with such a father - for he was a wonderful father - I, his only son, would have followed gladly in his footsteps. I had the right upbringing. My Sundays were not made miserable like his were. I had heard the Gospel message again and again. I loved the hymns and choruses I learned as a boy, but I did not realize my need for a Saviour. The result was that the world lured me quite early. Though (largely through my parents’ prayers, I am sure) I did not fall into the lowest vices, I became an awful sinner. The ways of the world are alluring, and a young man, with no help from God, can soon fall.
Thus for years I lived a selfish, thoughtless, pleasure-seeking life. I had my twinges of conscience, of course. I had a serious diving accident, and that made me very frightened - because I knew quite well where I should go if I died. God spoke to me again in another accident a year later, but I took no notice, and, yet a third time, at an operation. I was hardened by then and frightened, too, at what I should have to “give up” if I decided to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, but when I was converted, the wonderful thing was that “these things” just gave themselves up! I did not have to do anything about it at all.
I had thought that God would come and speak to me in some
dramatic way, like He did to
I think the reason many people fail to come to Jesus is because it is all so simple. You have not to do anything, except realize your own sinfulness; realize you cannot do anything “on your own”. Once you realize this, then comes the kneeling down and asking God to take you for the sake of his dear Son Who died on the Cross to wipe out all your sins, and Who was raised by the power of God from the dead, and now lives to help you live His victorious life.
‑The British Messenger.