Born in Kentucky fifty-eight years ago, Bishop Moore was educated at Lebanon College, Ohio, and at Yale Divinity School, with later studies at Leipzig and Heidelberg. Ordained to the ministry of the Southern Methodist Church, his first charge was in Marvin Church, St. Louis. After distinguished labor as pastor, as editor of The Christian Advocate, as secretary of Home Missions, he was elected Bishop in 1918, and given charge of the work in Brazil—hence a most charming book entitled Brazil, An Introductory Study.
Bishop Moore presides over a vast area, including Oklahoma and the east half of Texas; and to recount his labors as executive and as advisor on important commissions would be to tell a long story. Yet he has found time to write three other delightful books, Etchings of the East, The South Today, and, best of all, Making the World Christian—a series of lectures at the Southern Methodist University in which we see a large-minded spiritual statesman interpreting the missionary enterprise.
It is astonishing to be told by Bishop Moore that this is the first sermon he has ever written; which makes one realize how much the Church at large has missed of his clear-sighted leadership. He sees plainly that a domineering dogmatism and an illusive liberalism are alike impotent to deal with the present religious situation. There must be another dimension of Christianity, a commanding certitude of experience to unify, coördinate and consecrate the Church for its stupendous task.
I know whom I have believed. II Timothy 1:12.
This is a great confession, worthy of him who made it and just as worthy of the great body of Christian believers that has treasured it. It is no sudden outburst of an impulsive enthusiast; it is the matured judgment of a master in religious thinking, bent on finding an adequate faith. Because of that fact its content deserves serious thought and its implications warrant most careful consideration. The Great Apostle was not ashamed of the gospel that brought life and immortality to light to him. He had established a foundation which he could trust. In so doing he had fixed a starting point for his surveys in the domain of Christian belief: “I know whom I have believed.” Should uncertainty as to his course ever come upon him he has a fixed star from which he can take his bearings anew. So long as this star shines in his heavens the way of the earth can always be found.
St. Paul took seriously his responsibility, as a man called of God, to proclaim, establish, and promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. Honest, conscientious, deep-souled, master-minded, he put the measure of this responsibility at the limits of his capability. Every such man will do as much. He who is called of God to be a good minister of Jesus Christ has serious business on his hands. To preach a correct and complete gospel and to leave as successors men who will loyally set forth, defend and carry forward a vital, essential, and interpretative faith is the solemn obligation of those who are the ministers of Christ by the will of God. This obligation St. Paul undertook to meet in himself and as well through his beloved son Timothy.
Timothy to whom St. Paul looked with such fatherly interest, hope and concern had a gigantic task awaiting him. He had a fine lineage as a true son in the gospel. He was the heir of superior religious ancestry. He had been the fortunate recipient of sound instruction in the “faith and love of Christ Jesus.” But that was not enough. There were burdens to be borne and he needed strength; there were obligations to be faced and he needed courage and force and determination. The day of testing was not far ahead. False and inadequate doctrines would inevitably arise. The onslaughts of ill-tempered and darkened forces would surely fall. Was he fortified against these things? The gospel must be kept pure and carried to its ultimate goal. Was Timothy equipped for such a task? Did he know Christ? Did he comprehend the teachings, the acts, the ends of this Jesus of Nazareth? Was his spirit world-winning and world-conquering in its tone and power? Was his will set to attain the supreme purpose of his Lord? Was he equal to the responsibility which the immediate future would lay upon him? These are the questions that deeply concern the Great Apostle as he scanned the horizon of the coming day; and these are the questions that concern the true leadership of Christianity in every era.
“I know whom I have believed.” “Keep the great securities of your faith intact.” That was what the Great Apostle said to Timothy; that is what he says to us. We do well to weigh his words. We are also in a time of testing. The personal and social religious beliefs of men, all men—and they must have both—are being put to the test. The temper of the times will not allow it otherwise. Not only the grounds of these beliefs but the expression of them must meet the test; not to do so is for them to be depreciated if not disowned. The way of the ostrich is the way of death. Woe unto religion if it take it. Religion must be able to face its enemies. It must vindicate itself before its friends. If it cannot bear the light, and there is much light, it must fall back to hidden corners. The Christian faith can ask for its defense nothing more than full exposition and fitting interpretation.
The last half century has wrought havoc with the religious beliefs of many peoples in the world. They have been discounted, discredited and disowned even in the lands where once they reigned supreme. The ethnic faiths of the world have suffered with the coming world relationship, scientific investigation and universal civilization. Never has there been such a multitude in the earth without a satisfactory religion. The greater part of the world has lost its religious sense. Men are groping everywhere, feeling after God. Mary cried in her distress, “They have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid him.” That is the cry of the unnumbered hosts among the peoples of the earth. What a bitter wail it is: Without God! Without hope! If they could but hear St. Paul and understand him—“I know whom I have believed.”
Nothing has become more pronounced in recent years than the fact that Christianity has not been convincing to non-Christian people whose beliefs it has shattered or overshadowed. They have freely acknowledged the deficiencies of their own faiths but they have withheld acceptance from the Christianity which they have seen. If the Christian religion is to become the universal faith of mankind it must have a finer and fuller presentation and interpretation by those who seek to establish and promote it. Even in lands where Christianity has been dominant through the centuries and where it has had its broadest and most varied expression, its tenets have not received the endorsement of all the people. With great difficulty are converts to Christianity made from those who were reared in other beliefs. That this can be charged to the deficiencies of Christianity cannot be admitted. The misplaced emphasis of its exponents and promoters must bear the blame.
That Christianity today meets a confused mind in the world, and even in the realms where it has had the largest recognition and the broadest expression, can scarcely be questioned. The proceedings of the recent general conferences, convocations, conventions and assemblies impress the average individual, whether skeptical or devout, that more questions were raised than were settled. The prevailing divisions create the feeling that something is wrong somewhere. The untutored have had their suspicions aroused. They fear that the Bible is being destroyed, that their faith is being undermined, and that they are in danger of having these precious treasures taken from them. The scholar is often looked upon as an enemy to religion rather than as a friend, and he is all but an unwelcome guest in the house of faith. On the other hand men of scientific mind, method and attainment are set against Christianity by the crudities, dogmatism and intolerance of ecclesiastics and the exponents of its doctrines. They have espoused materialism in contempt of the only Christianity that they have seen or known. The genuine Christian faith has the grave responsibility of delivering to these extreme groups a course of belief and action that will be satisfying to both.
Can it be that these two groups will ever think alike? That could not be expected. Men do not think alike in anything else and why expect it in religion. The trouble is, that it is expected in religion and widely insisted upon. Confusion can never be removed from Christianity so long as it is expected that men shall think alike. Variety rather than monotony is the law of creation and with man it is no exception. Difference in intellectual capacity, difference in the character and temper of the mind, difference in points of view in the human race are well recognized facts which cannot be set aside or ignored in the consideration of religion any more than in the consideration of any other truth or relationship of life. The correct view is seldom the view of any one person or group but the synthetic view of the best seeing and most broadly knowing individuals or groups. Great truth, such as Christianity, to be fully comprehended, must be viewed from many angles; and the reason Christianity has been so poorly understood has been that most people decline to acknowledge the possibility of any correct view than their own. One may say, “My view of religion is good enough for me.” Yes; Herschell’s telescope was satisfactory to him but think what he might have seen had he had the Lick telescope, the product of many astronomical minds since his day. The heavens have not changed since Herschell’s time but the view and knowledge of them have been immeasurably enlarged. This has been true not because the astronomers gave their chief thought to instruments for seeing, but because they gave it to the heavens to be seen. Theologians have not always been so wise. They have busied themselves with the instruments and lost sight of the Sun.
In St. Paul’s day there were three major distinctive types of mind; the Jewish, the Greek, and the Roman. The Jews loved signs and wonders, ceremonies and ordinances, sacrifices and altars. That was their way of finding and expressing religion. The Greeks were enamored of rhetoric and reason, art and argument, mind and metaphysics. Religion was tested by these standards and was molded to these forms. The Romans were obsessed with law and authority, government and power, imperialism and dominion. Roman religion through the centuries has borne these characteristics.
The influence of these great types of mind upon the molds of Christian thought and action abides to this day. The Jew, the Greek and the Roman mind as expressed in that far off time may be found in every Christian organization in this land. They are distinctions which the years and changing conditions do not fully eliminate. That is a fact to be recognized when the divergence of views is being considered. Here is the man with his emphasis upon the ceremonial, the wonder-working, the miraculous, a true descendant of the Jew of St. Paul’s day. The literal appeals to him. The ritual, the litany, the sacraments, in mode and content are essentials in his system of thinking, and to his worship, and he cannot see why they are not just as much so to every other true Christian. Daniel and Ezekiel and Revelation are often habitations of his spirit and food to the imaginings of his heart. Religion to him is altogether in this sphere. Here is the man also whose emphasis is upon the authority of the church, ecclesiastical domination, control by councils. He gives great weight to the findings of the conferences, conventions, and assemblies. He lifts his voice for the subjection of the individual to the mind and will of the group and for expulsion upon disagreement. Then here is the man of philosophical temperament and attitude, a veritable Greek in his approach to truth. He exhalts reason, and holds that the rational is the real. He insists that man be not required to believe the unreasonable. The philosophy of religion is the realm of his thinking and the support of his faith. Finally, here is the man of scientific mind and method. Investigation has been the habit of his life. He is a seeker of facts, and upon the facts he builds his interpretation of truth. His one question always is, What are the facts and what do they show?
When will the Church recognize the fact that it is made up of people of these types? They do not think alike and they cannot think alike, and the Church would be the poorer if they did think alike. Shall one group, or any member thereof, say, “We only have the correct view; you are in error; leave the matter to us.” Such arrogance! Such folly! St. Paul says, “We are members one of another.” The Jew, the Greek and the Roman may have his church, but it will not be the full well-rounded Christian Church. The literalist, the ceremonialist, the sacerdotalist, the legalist, the rationalist (in the best sense), the scientist may have his church, but it will not be the Christian Church. The Church of Christ must be comprehensive enough for the human race, without sect, or nationality, wherein all men may seek and find a Lord of Life, a hope divine. Anything less will not satisfy the world’s need.
How shall such a Church be attained? Is it possible? It is becoming more and more evident that the unity of believers can never be attained through uniformity of beliefs. Such a uniformity is not a possibility and it would be of doubtful value if it were. The most hopeful thing about the divisions among Christians is that they are not due so much to questions of faith itself as to the formulations or expression of faith. Even denominational quarrels are largely over matters that may be considered petty when placed in their proper relations in the things of the Kingdom of God. The chief difficulty of most men is their confusion as to the vital realities in the Christian system. The accessories have been crowded in where only the essentials should be. The fundamentals have given place to the superficials so long that the superficials have become the fundamentals to great groups. Faith in theological dogmas has in many instances supplanted faith in the personal Christ. The voices of the Church have drowned out the voice of the Lord. Wherever there is confusion the Master is not being heard.
With the religious sense lost from a large part of the world, with the old ethnic faiths discounted, discredited and disowned by many of their former supporters, with Christianity failing to gain acceptance by the great leaders and thinkers in lands where it has shattered and overshadowed other religions, with divisions in the house of Christianity over many of its fundamental doctrines and with chaos and confusion and sometimes contentions among even Christians where there should be order and certainty, the religious leadership of this generation may well be appalled at the tremendous responsibility that presses upon them. This state of things cannot be academically accepted and calmly allowed to continue. Christianity can win. It has won wherever, and to the extent, that it has represented its Founder and Lord. The Christianity of the Church, with its inevitable human elements of imperfections, may fail as it has in many ways failed, but the Christianity of the Christ will triumph and has always triumphed. This is the eternal hope of the Church itself. The paramount question is how can the Church with its majestic forces and sublime teachings put and keep ever in the foreground the winning Christ.
This is what St. Paul did. His method of bringing order out of religious chaos and certainty out of confusion was by making a confident, stalwart, yet reasonable proclamation of his faith in Jesus Christ. He narrated his experience on the Damascus road and elsewhere with assurance and exultation. “I know whom I have trusted,” was his triumphant note, and it has been the triumphant note wherever and whenever genuinely sounded. The apostolic Church called upon men to believe in Jesus Christ. That was the full extent of its demand. The day came however when they were asked to believe theological statements about Him as essential to salvation, and that day has not yet come to its setting. But the element in the Christian religion that that makes its undisputed appeal to all men is the Christ. Gandhi of India has his criticism of Christianity as manifested now in the world, but he has only words of admiration and adoration for the Christ. Christianity may be identified with a certain type of civilization, but Christ is identified with the heart interests, longings and hopes of humanity. Christianity may become the religion of a race or a nation, but Christ is the contemporary of all peoples and a national in all lands. Christianity may have its divisions, but loyalty to a common Lord will give unity to his followers and bond to his believers. With Jesus Christ, like a sun, at the center, planets and constellations of religious thought and experience will take their proper place in the celestial system and the whole will reveal the Glory of God.
When men have beclouded Christianity with their disputations, as they often do, great souls have always cried, “Back to Christ.” He is the controlling fact for faith. He is the explanation of all that he did, and the interpretation of all that he said. His personality is the essence of his Saviourhood. “Christ in you is the hope of glory.” Doctrines about him get their preëminent support from the life that was in Him. What men find of divine personality in Christ determines their attitude toward the teachings of the representatives of Christianity. Jesus Christ is the fixed star of human faith, and when low visibility leaves it in uncertainty safety is gone from the sea of life. The moral and religious disasters now common in society and in the world are largely due to the intellectual fog that hangs over religion and bewilders the people. Religious chaos has always and will inevitably work moral havoc in humanity. A true and adequate faith firmly established and valiantly promoted is essential to human stability and progress.
The outstanding need today of society, civilization, human thought and religious activity is a new certainty in religious faith. Stabilization is now a religious necessity. The men in the past who have torn out the channels of religious life have been men of religious certitude. Men who are wandering about intellectually, philosophically, theologically, religiously, spiritually may be quite entertaining, but leadership cannot be intrusted to them nor the determination of vital issues. They lack sense of direction in a world of divine realities. The new apologetics must come from those who have new and commanding assurance of the adequateness of Jesus Christ for human Lordship and world leadership. Neither domineering dogmatism nor illusive liberalism can furnish the remedy. One is as incompetent as the other. They both lack the necessary life emphasis. There must be a new positiveness of faith, but it can be based only upon personality with all the life elements which it involves. Personality is Christianity’s solution to the world’s problems, personality at its highest and best, and the religion of Christianity has its true meaning and redemptive power in the person of Jesus Christ. So long as Christianity has the Christ in Jesus, so long has humanity an immortal hope.
Whatever St. Paul may have learned in the Schools of the Greek philosophers of Tarsus, or at the feet of Gamaliel, the wise man of the Sanhedrin, or in all the dialectics of his day, he came to mastery only as he learned Christ. He learned Him, His mind, His attitude, His will, His sensibilities, His method, His program, His power. He kept company with Him and brought his mind to run along with his Master’s. No man said nay when he boldly declared, “I know Him; and I trust Him with the supreme interests of my soul to the end of the ages, because I know Him.” Here is the rugged assurance and commanding certitude which creates confidence, stabilization, leadership and power. Through the centuries many have undertaken to speak for Christ; this is a day when Christ should be allowed to speak for Himself.