|About the Book|
The following essay was originally published in the form of a lecture - and it was delivered to the members of that branch of the Evangelical Union which is established in Berlin. The Union is a remarkable feature of the present state of religiousMoreThe following essay was originally published in the form of a lecture - and it was delivered to the members of that branch of the Evangelical Union which is established in Berlin. The Union is a remarkable feature of the present state of religious life in modem Germany. It was founded in 1887 after the condition of the Kulturkampf, with the professed object of protecting the interests of Protestantism against the increasing power of the Roman Church. In that respect it bears some resemblance to certain associations and alliances in hut its scope is much wider than theirs, its spirit is more liberal, and its work and influence have obtained a larger measure of success. The Union is fortunate, perhaps, in having no call to devote attention to ceremonial anomalies in the Churches to which its members belong - nor are its energies consumed in discussing the relative advantages of looking to the East or to the North at a particular Juncture, or the appropriate shape and colour of ecclesiastical vestments.Its object is to show in what sense religion, and more especially the Christian religion, can he said to be dependent upon historical facts : how far it is established, if certain alleged events are proved to have actually happened - how far it is overthrown, if they are found to be the product of myth or incredible legend. Among those who profess themselves adherents of this religion, and also among those who do not or cannot accept it, there is a growing tendency to assume that the result of historical criticism is to shake its foundation - and this belief, while it fills some persons with satisfaction and others with dismay, leads a still larger number to seek support for their faith in a refusal to listen to any argument at all.But the belief that the Christian religion has been undermined by historical criticism is largely due to ignorance, or at least to a radical diversity of (pinion, in regard to the nature of its foundation. There is a great difference, as Lessing argued, between the Christian religion and Christs religion - between the structure of dogma erected by Greek philosophy on a Jewish soil, and the faith held by Christ himself, — the simple faith which every man can hold in common with him. Whatever may he obscure or doubtful in the narrative of the Gospels, the nature of Christs faith and the purport of his teaching are clear and unmistakable - and, in the main, they can be separated from alien accretions of later growth. It is Christs own faith, rather than a series of subtle and complicated dogmas, which should form the foundation and the substance of the religion that is called by his name. This, I take it, is the view of Christianity that is adopted in the following pages.