"And I will put this third into the fire, refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them..." Zechariah 13.9
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We need to revisit our history in Christianity. There is much to remember.
are a great many people whose convictions on religious subjects are very far
from solid. They would confess that they
have very little religious experience, or perhaps spiritual sensibility. They do not read more on such subjects than a
newspaper review or a magazine article.
Thus, when they hear of every traditional belief being questioned by men
of apparent learning and integrity, their convictions, such as they were, even
on quite fundamental subjects, are quite undermined. How shall they decide
where learned men disagree?
Again, there are others—and those a
great number—who are disgusted by the unworthiness of the Christianity which
they see around them. They are alienated
by the divisions among us Christians, by our bitterness or pettiness, or by the
worldliness of orthodox believers. The
Christian churches seem to them to make no serious struggle against the forces
which enslave masses of men in social and moral degradation, and to exhibit no
real likeness of Jesus of Nazareth. A
great many men, that is to say, disbelieve in current Christianity because they
desire something more like Jesus Christ.
And there are others who hold their
religious convictions piously and fervently, and who yet add to the prevailing skepticism:
for they are distressed because questions are even raised about subjects of
such sanctity. They resent altogether
the atmosphere of free inquiry, and by their nervousness and apparent distrust
of the power of truth to prevail in the open field, they do more than they
suspect to propagate the opinion that the Christian religion is an
old-fashioned superstition which cannot bear investigation.
In such an age of religious
unsettlement it is as well to remember that, after all, it is to ages of such
mental ferment as ours, and not to ages of mental stagnation, that we owe our
great debts of gratitude for the works of religious construction. It was from an age of universal intellectual
ferment and unsettlement that there emerged the solid structure of the catholic
creeds; it was in an atmosphere of serious unsettlement the Butler and other in
the eighteenth century relaid the intellectual foundation on which Wesley and
Simeon and Pusey and Newman built their works of spiritual recovery. If religion is 'the pearl of great price’ we
must not expect to win it cheaply, and intellectual trouble is no more to be
resented than pain of body." (p. 2-4)
Charles Gore (1907) The New Theology and the Old Religion: Being Eight Lectures, Together with Five Sermons.