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Bibliothèque de l'Église apostolique arménienne - Paris
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Walter Robert MATTHEWS
( 1881 - 1973 )

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 The Christian Faith
Titre : The Christian Faith / auteur(s) : Walter Robert MATTHEWS - Essays in explanation and defence
Editeur : Eyre and Spottiswoode, London
Année : 1936
Imprimeur/Fabricant : Great-britain
Description : 15 x 22 cm, 340 pages
Collection :
Notes :
Autres auteurs :
Sujets : Christian faith
Lecture On-line : non disponible

Commentaire :


The reader who opens this book may be glad to know in advance what he should expect. He will find a series of essays on subjects fundamental in Christian belief by authors who have written with complete independence and have been free to express their own opinions. Thus no one, not even the Editor, is responsible for any views except those which are expounded in his own essay. This volume differs, therefore, in character and purpose from those composite works which from time to time have appeared as manifestos of a school of thought or an ecclesiastical party; it is not the statement of a controversial point of view, nor is it intended as propaganda for any movement. The scholars who have lent their aid to it have many different Church allegiances and no doubt would, on occasion, be found in opposite camps where the internal divisions of Christendom are concerned. They agree in being firmly convinced of the truth of the central affirmations of Christianity, and also in their belief that these affirmations can be presented in a manner which is not in contradiction with the best thought and scholarship of our time.
No complete harmony between the opinions and arguments of the various essays should be looked for, and doubtless a careful reader will discern disagreements. For example, there is a difference of emphasis, and perhaps of substance, between Dr. Dearmer's essay and that of Canon Barry, and again between the estimate of the value of " eschatology " suggested by Dr. Dearmer and Professor Duncan's view. These divergences are the necessary consequence of the scope and method of the book and, it may be claimed, do not affect the fundamental agreement of the writers. The mention of Dr. Dearmer's name reminds us of the severe loss which the Church, in the widest sense of the word, has sustained by his death, which occurred while this volume was in preparation. His essay on Christianity and Civilization was probably the last writing to come from his prolific pen, and he did not live long enough to revise it. Possibly he would have wished to modify some of his phrases on reconsideration, but there is no reason to suppose that he would have wished to alter any of the opinions and arguments. In these circumstances it seemed best to print it without revision, and it stands as he wrote it with one purely verbal amendment. Those who, like the present writer, were privileged to know him will not soon forget the stimulus and inspiration which they owe to him.
The plan of the book will be readily understood from an account of how it grew in the minds of those responsible for it. We felt sure that there are many intelligent men and women who are perplexed by what they hear and read about the position of Christianity in the intellectual world today. They are told that religion has been " undermined " by modern knowledge, and they can find no easy way of deciding for themselves whether this is true. What they need is a plain statement of the case from persons competent to give it; now this is what we hope we have here provided. The contributors have endeavoured to write in a style comprehensible to the man or woman who is accustomed to read leading articles in The Times. This does not mean that no intellectual effort is required on the part of the reader, for no honest writer on these subjects would pretend that he could make his meaning clear to those who want to be instructed without the labour of attention, and indeed the essays in some instances are necessarily too compressed to be light reading. We have eliminated, as far as possible, unusual or technical words, and in the few cases where they are employed it will be found that they are explained in the context.
No doubt a great deal of writing on theological questions seems to die layman to be about subjects which have no practical importance; this is often due to the layman's ignorance rather than to the theologian's incompetence; but we have tried to avoid even the appearance of irrelevance in this book by setting every author a definite question to answer. This volume might almost be regarded as an examination paper answered by experts. The reader will have little difficulty in discovering what question is being answered in each essay, and it is hoped that the questions asked cover the main topics on which the majority of potential readers would desire light. They are at least commonly on people's lips. Why Christianity in preference to all other religions of the world ? What is the value of the Bible in the light of criticism? Can an educated man believe in the Christian God? What is the good of worship? What shall we think of Christ? Why do we need redemption? What is the use of the Church? Where is the place of Christianity in modern civilization? All these are questions which may be heard every day. But unfortunately the number of those who will ask intelligent questions is much greater than that of those who will " stay for an answer." It is astonishingly hard to induce some even among the "intellectuals" to listen to an exposition of what Christianity, as understood by modern and instructed believers, really means.
Thus an important part of the aim of each essay has been to explain what Christianity has to say on the chosen topic—elucidation is in fact the main element in defence. Dr. Edwyn Bevan has described one of the most exasperating aspects of contemporary religious controversy in terms which exactly hit the mark. " What strikes one about most contemporary attacks on Christian views of the world is how seldom they come to close quarters with any Christian view as set forth by its best exponents. They almost always attack Christianity as they have found it represented by some poorly educated clergyman in the next street, or some dull traditionalist who taught them at school. ... By attacking Christianity in its most ignorant exponents, or even grossly caricaturing it after their own fancy, as a preparation for overthrowing it, they are able to arrive at the little chirrup of felt intellectual superiority far more easily than if they had to address themselves to a system of thought set forth by a competent and able contemporary thinker."1 It has been our aim in this volume to collect brief statements by " competent and able contemporary thinkers."
The note of " crisis " which is sounded so strongly in Canon Barry's essay must find an echo in many minds. It becomes clearer that we are living in a creative moment of history. We see plainly enough in Berdyaev's phrase the " end of our times," but we cannot discern the new phase of human existence which is struggling to be born. The old civilization was partly built on the Christian faith and the Christian world-view; in so far as it had a soul it was a Christian soul. To many detached observers it seems that Christianity has spent its force and has no promise in it of further inspiration. The mind and spirit of the civilization of the future will be nourished from other founts. No one could deny that those who take this view have much evidence on their side, and it is a real possibility that the Church will become a diminishing section of the community living on memories of the past; but there is another possibility—that the Christian faith, cleared of some temporary elements and thought out afresh with sincerity and courage, will once again be the light by which men are guided to a nobler, juster, and more peaceful world.
The essays in this book are all written with the assumption that reason and thought have inalienable rights in the sphere of religion. There is at present a widespread revolt against reason, and it has invaded Christianity. Some distinguished theologians would tell us that we must rely upon some kind of " feeling," or upon a " Revelation" which produces no credentials capable of being examined by the intellect. It would be foolish indeed to ignore the importance, the fundamental importance, of religious experience, and certainly none of the contributors to this volume could be accused of doing so; to discourse about religion in the abstract without any reference to what religion means in human life is one of the most futile ways of wasting time; but the Christian religion, when it became a world-religion, necessarily formulated itself in a series of more or less coherent doctrines, which summed up the spiritual experience in which it consisted. The doctrines are not Christianity, but it cannot propagate itself from one generation to another without them. They are the symbols round which the Christian life is built. To labour, therefore, to explain and commend, and if necessary to revise, the great affirmations of the Faith is always an essential duty of the Church, and one which was never more obviously laid upon us than today. This labour of religious thinking is not the exclusive office of the expert theologian; it is a work in which all Christians have their part—for the mind of the Church is not that of the learned few but the corporate thinking of all believers.W. R. MATTHEWS.

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