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Visions Of Hope: Christianity

"There was a tentative knock on my door at University College, Oxford. The door opened and one of our undergraduates entered the room. I was shocked by his appearance. His face was ashen white. Clearly something was seriously wrong. I invited him to sit down and made him a cup of tea,'' writes William Sykes.

He was someone I hardly knew. He was in his second year and I had only just arrived. I was aware that he was a gifted flautist and the recent winner of a much coveted university English essay prize. He could hardly speak to start off with. 'You are the chaplain aren't you,' he stammered out, 'and you are here to help?' 'Yes,' I said quietly, 'what seems to be the problem?'

He had been through a very bad patch—four days of utter darkness and terror. I listened carefully to his account, and suggested he see the college doctor. It looked to me as though he was anaemic and had been through some kind of a breakdown. He was in need of professional medical help. This meeting was the start of a valuable friendship. It took him some time to recover but over the next few months we became firm friends. He had a very dry sense of humour and a marvellous way of expressing himself, often reducing me to helpless laughter. Eventually he took a step of faith and shared with me a valuable insight he had discovered in this awful experience. 'Bill,' he said, 'Christianity is not the easy way out, it's the difficult way in.'

The quotes in this section have been selected with this in mind. They are true to the cross and the crown of Christianity.

Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.'
Mark 16:14-15

For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 1:16

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me, if I do not preach the gospel!
1 Corinthians 9:16

Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 3

Love is the hardest lesson in Christianity; but for that reason, it should be most our care to learn it.
William Penn, Fruits of Solitude, A.W. Bennett, 1863, page 65

Christianity... had come into the world with a double purpose, to offer men the vision of God, and to call them to the pursuit of that vision.
Kenneth E. Kirk, The Vision of God, Longmans, Green and Co., 1932, page 1

Unless Christianity be viewed and felt in a high and comprehensive way, how large a portion of our intellectual and moral nature does it leave without object and action!
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Table Talk and Omniana of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Oxford University Press, 1917

Christianity, as I see it, is first and foremost the response to Christ's invitation to live in the Kingdom; from within that Kingdom there can be no moral answers, only imaginative and loving living.
W.B.J. Martin, Five Minutes to Twelve, William Collins Sons & Co., 1957, page 121

Again there are signs that organised Christianity is unaware, or perhaps afraid of, the treasure that lies at its heart, and it might be that others may find it and live in the light of it before the guardians of the treasure see what it is they guard. Maybe this is the way the harlots go first into the kingdom of God.
Monica Furlong, The End of our Exploring Hodder and Stoughton, 1973, page 21

One of the distinctive marks of Christianity at its best is that it teaches men to hold a very lofty opinion of themselves. They are children of God, made in his image, destined for his character. Not an outward temple, but an inward shrine of man's personality with all its possibilities and powers is seen to be infinitely sacred.
Harry Emerson Fosdick, Twelve Tests of Character, Hodder and Stoughton, 1923, page 47

... Christianity is the most encouraging, the most joyous, the least repressive and the least forbidding of all the religions of mankind. There is no religion which throws off the burden of life so completely, which escapes so swiftly from sad moods, which gives so large a scope for the high spirits of the soul, and welcomes to its bosom with so warm an embrace those things of beauty which are joys for ever... Christianity does not brood upon the sorrows of mankind. It is always music that you hear, and sometimes dancing as well.
L.P. Jacks, The Lost Radiance of the Christian Religion, The Lindsay Press, 1921, pages 5 and 15

At a time when a great part of mankind is beginning to lay aside Christianity, it is worth while to realize clearly why it was ever actually accepted. It was accepted in order to escape at last from the brutality of antiquity. If we put Christianity aside, then that wantonness appears again of which life in our great modern cities gives us an impressive foretaste. This step is not progress but regression. It is like the case of an individual who lays aside some form of transference and has no new form; he will unfailingly regress to the old path of transference, to his own great detriment, for the surrounding world will have changed considerably in the meantime.
C.G. Jung, Psychological Reflections, selected and edited by Jolande Jacobi, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953, page 306

Christianity, by that I understand a distinctive belief and way of life connected with the Bible, the belief that there is one God, supreme and righteous, who created the world, and therein the human race, which is distinct from the Creator in its utter creaturely dependence upon him, yet akin to him as made 'in his own image' for fellowship with him; that mankind has wilfully deviated from the divine will and brought catastrophe upon itself; that Jesus Christ came as the perfect revelation of God and as—by his death and resurrection and the gift of the Spirit—the restorer of mankind; that Jesus Christ is the living, contemporary Lord, through whom we have eternal life here already and beyond the grave.
Michael Ramsey, in Margaret Duggan, editor, Through the Year With Michael Ramsey, Hodder and Stoughton, 1975,
page 215

We too often forget that Christian faith is a principle of questioning and struggle before it becomes a principle of certitude and of peace. One has to doubt and reject everything else in order to believe firmly in Christ, and after one has begun to believe, one's faith itself must be tested and purified. Christianity is not merely a set of foregone conclusions. The Christian mind is a mind that risks intolerable purifications, and sometimes, indeed very often, the risk turns out to be too great to be tolerated. Faith tends to be defeated by the burning presence of God in mystery, and seeks refuge from him, flying to comfortable social forms and safe conventions in which purification is no longer an inner battle but a matter of outward gesture.
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Burns & Oates, 1968, page 58

My contention is that besides the combative Catholic and Protestant elements in the Churches, there has always been a third element, with very honourable traditions, which came to life again at the Renaissance, but really reaches back to the Greek Fathers, to St. Paul and St. John, and further back still. The characteristics of this type of Christianity are—a spiritual religion, based on a firm belief in absolute and eternal values as the most real things in the universe—a confidence that these values are knowable by man—a belief that they can nevertheless be known only by whole-hearted consecration of the intellect, will, and affections to the great quest—an entirely open mind towards the discoveries of science—a reverent and receptive attitude to the beauty, sublimity, and wisdom of the creation, as a revelation of the mind and character of the Creator—a complete indifference to the current valuations of the worldling.
W.R. Inge, The Platonic Tradition in English Religious Thought, Longmans, Green and Co., 1926, page 33

The essential element in Christianity as it was preached by Jesus and as it is comprehended in thought, is this, that it is only through love that we can attain to communion with God. All living knowledge of God rests upon this foundation: that we experience Him in our lives as Will-to-Love.
Anyone who has recognized that the idea of Love is the spiritual beam of light which reaches us from the Infinite, ceases to demand from religion that it shall offer him complete knowledge of the supra-sensible. He ponders, indeed, on the great questions: what the meaning is of evil in the world; how in God, the great First Cause, the will-to-create and the will-to-love are one; in what relation the spiritual and the material life stand to one another, and in what way our existence is transitory and yet eternal. But he is able to leave these questions on one side, however painful it may be to give up all hope of answers to them. In the knowledge of spiritual existence in God through love he possesses the one thing needful.—
'Love never faileth: but ... whether there be knowledge it shall be done away,' says S. Paul.
The deeper piety is, the humbler are its claims with regard to knowledge of the supra-sensible.
Albert Schweitzer, My Life and Thought, translated by C.T. Campion, George Allen & Unwin, 1933, page 277

As I understand it, Christianity is above all religions, and religion is not a method, it is a life, a higher and supernatural life, mystical in its root and practical in its fruits, a communion with God, a calm and deep enthusiasm, a love which radiates, a force which acts, a happiness which overflows. Religion, in short, is a state of the soul. These quarrels as to method have their value, but it is a secondary value; they will never console a heart or edify a conscience. This is why I feel so little interest in these ecclesiastical struggles. Whether the one party or the other gain the majority and the victory, what is essential is in no way profited, for dogma, criticism, the Church, are not religion; and it is religion, the sense of a divine life, which matters. 'Seek ye first the
kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' The most holy is the most Christian; this will always be the criterion which is least deceptive. 'By this ye shall know my disciples, if they have love one to another.'
As is the worth of the individual, so is the worth of his religion. Popular instinct and philosophic reason are at one on this point. Be good and pious, patient and heroic, faithful and devoted, humble and charitable; the catechism which has taught you these things is beyond the reach of blame. By religion we live in God; but all these quarrels lead to nothing but life with men or with cassocks. There is therefore no equivalence between the two points of view. Perfection as an end,—a noble example for sustenance on the way,—the divine proved by its own excellence,—is not this the whole of Christianity? God manifest in all men, is not this its true goal and consummation?
Henri Frederic Amiel, Amiel's Journal, translated by Mrs Humphry Ward, Macmillan & Co., 1918, page 121

... to come to the plain words of Jesus of Nazareth, Christianity is a simple thing, very simple. It is absolute, pure morality; absolute, pure religion; the love of man; the love of God acting without let or hindrance. The only creed it lays down is the great truth which springs up spontaneous in the holy heart—there is a God. Its watchword is, Be perfect as your Father in heaven. The only form it demands is a divine life; doing the best thing in the best way, from the highest motives; perfect obedience to the great law of God. Its sanction is the voice of God in your heart; the perpetual presence of him who made us and the stars over our head; Christ and the Father abiding within us. All this is very simple—a little child can understand it; very beautiful—the loftiest mind can find nothing so lovely. Try it by reason, conscience, and faith—things highest in man's nature—we see no redundance, we feel no deficiency. Examine the particular duties it enjoins; humility, reverence, sobriety, gentleness, charity, forgiveness, fortitude, resignation, faith, and active love; try the whole extent of Christianity, so well summed up in the command, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind—thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; and is there anything therein that can perish? No, the very opponents of Christianity have rarely found fault with the teachings of Jesus. The end of Christianity seems to be to make all men one with God as Christ was one with him; to bring them to such a state of obedience and goodness, that we shall think divine thoughts and feel divine sentiments, and so keep the law of God by living a life of truth and love. Its means are purity and prayer; getting strength from God, and using it for our fellow-men as well as ourselves. It allows perfect freedom. It does not demand all men to think alike, but to think uprightly, and get as near as possible at truth; not all men to live alike, but to live holy, to a life perfectly divine.
Theodore Parker, The Transient and Permanent in Christianity, British and Foreign Unitarian Association, 1908, page 32


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