The Christian Social Vision

I hardly ever read books ahead of time when I travel.  I don’t know why.  Most people prepare.  I “postpare” I guess.  I’ve been reading “God’s Continent” by Philip Jenkins ( after coming back from our Europe trip and he says something that makes sense – in a way that concerns me about our own church in America.  What happens when the “Christian social vision” is accomplished but is detached from the church?  What happens when the way we define that vision leads the way to the demise of people being engaged in the church? 

“Living in a society that tries to achieve the Christian social vision – through a generous welfare state care for the poor and wide-ranging humanitarian ventures overseas – one no longer needs to participate in public rituals.  However skeptical other Christians would be of such claims they do reflect a perception of how thoroughly Christian values have penetrated European thought and formed cultural identity.”   

Os Guinness and I have had an exchange of emails about the trip and my ramblings on not only the well publicized dangers of secularism but the danger of a distortion of the Christian social vision.  He sent along this quote from Heinrich Heine’s book “Religion and Philosophy in Germany” written in 1834.  Only Os would have these kind of quotes! 

“Christianity – and this is its greatest merit – has somewhat mitigated the brutal German love of war but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman the cross be shattered the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often will once more burst into flame. This talisman is fragile and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals… Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder… [W]hen you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.” Heinrich Heine in “Religion and Philosophy in Germany.” 

Since coming back I have been thinking more and more about that “subduing talisman the cross” and what it would mean to drift toward the realization of a Christian social vision without it. 

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