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Beschreibung des Verlags
RELIGION AS ENERGY
Religion is an experience which no definition exhausts. One writer with expert knowledge of anthropology tells us what it is, and we know as we read his account that, however true it may be as far as it goes, it yet leaves untouched much undiscovered territory. We turn next to the trained psychologist, who leads us “down the labyrinthine ways of our own mind” and tells us why the human race has always been seeking God and worshiping Him. We are thankful for his Ariadne thread which guides us within the maze, but we feel convinced that there are doors which he has not opened—“doors to which he had no key.” The theologian, with great assurance and without “ifs and buts,” offers us the answer to all mysteries and the solution of all problems, but when we have gone “up the hill all the way to the very top” with him, we find it a “homesick peak”—Heimwehfluh—and we still wonder over the real meaning of religion.
We are evidently dealing here with something
like that drinking horn which the Norse God Thor tried to drain. He failed to do it because the horn which he assayed to empty debouched into the endless ocean, and therefore to drain the horn meant drinking the ocean dry. To probe religion down to the bottom means knowing “what God and man is.” Each one of us, in his own tongue and in terms of his own field of knowledge, gives his partial word, his tiny glimpse of insight. But the returns are never all in. There is always more to say. “Man is incurably religious,” that fine scholar, Auguste Sabatier, said. Yes, he is. It is often wild and erratic religion which we find, no doubt, but the hunger and thirst of the human soul are an indubitable fact. In different forms of speech we can all say with St. Augustine of Hippo: “Thou hast touched me and I am on fire for thy peace.”
In saying that religion is energy I am only seizing one aspect of this great experience of the human heart. It is, however, I believe, an essential aspect. A religion that makes no difference to a person’s life, a religion that does nothing, a religion that is utterly devoid of power, may for all practical purposes be treated as though it did not exist. The great experts—those who know from the inside what religion is—always make
much of its dynamic power, its energizing and propulsive power. Power is a word often on the lips of Jesus; never used, it should be said, in the sense of extrinsic authority or the right to command and govern, but always in reference to an intrinsic and interior moral and spiritual energy of life. The kingdom of God comes with power, not because the Messiah is supplied with ten legions of angels and can sweep the Roman eagles back to the frontiers of the Holy Land, but it “comes with power” because it is a divine and life-transforming energy, working in the moral and spiritual nature of man, as the expanding yeast works in the flour or as the forces of life push the seed into germination and on into the successive stages toward the maturity of the full-grown plant and grain.
The little fellowship of followers and witnesses who formed the nucleus of the new-born Church felt themselves “endued with power” on the day of Pentecost. Something new and dynamic entered the consciousness of the feeble band and left them no longer feeble. There was an in-rushing, up-welling sense of invasion. They passed over from a visible Leader and Master to an invisible and inward Presence revealed to them as an unwonted energy. Ecstatic utterance,
which seems to have followed, is not the all-important thing. The important thing is heightened moral quality, intensified fellowship, a fused and undying loyalty, an irresistible boldness in the face of danger and opposition, a fortification of spirit which nothing could break. This energy which came with their experience is what marks the event as an epoch.
St. Paul writes as though he were an expert in dynamics. “Dynamos,” the Greek word for power, is one of his favorite words. He seems to have found out how to draw upon energies in the universe which nobody else had suspected were even there. It is a fundamental feature of his “Aegean gospel” that God is not self-contained but self-giving, that He circulates, as does the sun, as does the sea, and comes into us as an energy. This incoming energy he calls by many names: “The Spirit,” “holy Spirit,” “Christ,” “the Spirit of Christ,” “Christ in you,” “God that worketh in us.” Whatever his word or term is, he is always declaring, and he bases his testimony on experience, that God, as Christ reveals Him, is an active energy working with us and in us for the complete transformation of our fundamental nature and for a new creation in us.
All this perhaps sounds too grand and lofty,
too remote and far away, to touch us with reality. We assume that it is for saints or apostles, but not for common everyday people like ourselves. Well, that is where we are wrong. The accounts which St. Paul gives of the energies of religion are not for his own sake, or for persons who are bien né and naturally saintly. They are for the rank and file of humans. In fact his Corinthian fellowship was raised by these energies out of the lowest stratum of society. The words which he uses to describe them are probably not over strong: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name [i.e. the power] of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
It is to be noticed, further, that St. Paul does not confine his list of energies to those mighty spiritual forces which come down from above and work upon us from the outside. Much more often our attention is directed to energies which are potential within ourselves—even in the most
ordinary of us—energies which work as silently as molecular forces or as “the capillary oozing of water,” but which nevertheless are as reconstructive as the forces of springtime, following the winter’s havoc. If the grace of God—the unlimited sacrificing love of God revealed in Christ—is for St. Paul the supreme spiritual energy of the universe, hardly less important is the simple human energy which meets that centrifugal energy and makes it operate within the sphere of the moral will. That dynamic energy, by which the man responds to God’s upward pull and which makes all the difference, St. Paul calls faith.
We are so accustomed to the use of the word in a spurious sense that we are slow to apprehend the immense significance of this human energy which lies potentially within us. Unfortunately trained young folks and scientifically minded people are apt to shy away from the word and put themselves on the defensive, as though they were about to be asked to believe the impossible or the dubious or the unprovable. Faith in the sense in which St. Paul uses it does not mean believing something. It is a moral attitude and response of will to the character of God as He has been revealed in Christ. It is like the act which closes
the electric circuit, which act at once releases power. The dynamic effect which follows the act is the best possible verification of the rationality of the act. So, too, faith as a moral response is no blind leap, no wild venture; it is an act which can be tested and verified by moral and spiritual effects, which are as real as the heat, light, and horse power of the dynamo.
Faith has come to be recognized as an energy in many spheres of life. We know what a stabilizer it is in the sphere of finance. Stocks and bonds and banks shift their values as faith in them rises or falls. Morale is only another name for faith. Our human relationships, our social structures, our enjoyment of one another, our satisfaction in books and in lectures rest upon faith and when that energy fails, collapses of the most serious sort follow. We might as well try to build a world without cohesion as to maintain society without the energy of faith.
We have many illustrations of the important part which faith plays in the sphere of physical health. The corpuscles of the blood and the molecules of the body are altered by it. The tension of the arteries and the efficiency of the digestive tract are affected by it. Nerves are in close sympathetic rapport with faith. It is never
safe to tell a strong man that he is pale and that he looks ill. If two or three persons in succession give him a pessimistic account of his appearance, he will soon begin to have the condition which has been imagined. Dr. William McDougall gives the case of a boy who was being chased by a furious animal and under the impulse of the emergency he leaped a fence which he could never afterwards jump, even after long athletic training. The list of similar instances is a very long one. Every reader knows a case as impressive as the one I have given. The varieties of “shell-shock” have furnished volumes of illustrations of the energy of faith, its dynamic influence upon health and life and efficiency.
Faith in the sphere of religion works the greatest miracles of life that are ever worked. It makes the saint out of Magdalene, the heroic missionary and martyr out of Paul, the spiritual statesman of the ages out of Carthaginian Augustine, the illuminated leader of men out of Francis of Assisi, the maker of a new world epoch out of the nervously unstable monk Luther, the creator of a new type of spiritual society out of the untaught Leicestershire weaver, George Fox. Why do we not all experience the miracle and find the rest of ourselves through faith? The
main trouble is that we live victims of limiting inhibitions. We hold intellectual theories which keep back or check the outflow of the energy of faith. We have a nice system of thought which accounts for everything and explains everything and which leaves no place for faith. We know too much. We say to ourselves that only the ignorant and uncultured are led by faith. And this same wise man, who is too proud to have faith, holds all his inhibitory theories on a basis of faith! Every one of them starts out on faith, gathers standing ground by faith, and becomes a controlling force through faith!
There are many other spiritual energies, some of which will be dealt with specifically or implicitly in the later chapters of this book. Not often in the history of the modern world certainly have spiritual energies seemed more urgently needed than to-day. Our troubles consist largely now of failure to lay hold of moral and spiritual forces that lie near at hand and to utilize powers that are within our easy reach. Our stock of faith and hope and love has run low and we realize only feebly what mighty energies they can be.
I hope that these short essays may help in some slight way to indicate that the ancient realities by which men live still abide, and that the invisible
energies of the spirit are real, as they have always been real. We have had an impressive demonstration that a civilization built on external force and measured in terms of economic achievements cannot stand its ground and is unable to speak to the condition of persons endowed and equipped as we are. We are bound to build a higher civilization, to create a greater culture, and to form a truer kingdom of life or we must write “Mene” on all human undertakings. That is our task now, and it is a serious one for which we shall need all the energies that the universe puts at our disposal. I am told that when the great Hellgate bridge was being built over the East River in New York the engineers came upon an old derelict ship, lying embedded in the river mud, just where one of the central piers of the bridge was to go down through to its bedrock foundation. No tug boat could be found that was able to start the derelict from its ancient bed in the ooze. It would not move, no matter what force was applied. Finally, with a sudden inspiration one of the workers hit upon this scheme. He took a large flat-boat, which had been used to bring stone down the river, and he chained it to the old sunken ship when the tide was low. Then he waited for the great tidal energies to do their
work. Slowly the rising tide, with all the forces of the ocean behind it and the moon above it, came up under the flat-boat, raising it inch by inch. And as it came up, lifted by irresistible power, the derelict came up with it, until it was entirely out of the mud that had held it. Then the boat, with its subterranean load, was towed out to sea where the old waterlogged ship was unchained and allowed to drop forever out of sight and reach.
There are greater forces than those tidal energies waiting for us to use for our tasks. They have always been there. They are there now. But they do not work, they do not operate, until we lay hold of them and use them for our present purposes. We must be co-workers with God.