The Cross in Christian faith is the myth of the truth of the ideal of love. The Christ of Christian faith is both human and divine. His actions represent both human possibilities and the limits of human possibilities. But the possibilities which transcend the human are relevant to human experience and every moral experience suggests these ultimate possibilities. Therefore parental affection is a symbol of the love of God. ("If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to them that ask him.")
The transcendent source of the meaning of life is thus in such relation to all temporal process that a profound insight into any process or reality yields a glimpse of the reality which is beyond it. This reality can be revealed and expressed only in mythical terms. These mythical terms are the most adequate symbols of reality because the reality which we experience constantly suggests a center and source of reality, which not only transcends immediate experience, but also finally transcends the rational forms and categories by which we seek to apprehend and describe it.
IN the famous third chapter of his Four Stages of Greek Religion Gilbert Murray characterizes the period from 300 B.C. through the first century of the Christian era as marked by "a failure of nerve." This failure of nerve exhibited itself in "a rise of asceticism, of mysticism, in a sense, of pessimism; a loss of self- confidence, of hope in this life and of faith in normal human efforts; a despair of patient inquiry, a cry for infallible revelation; an indifference to the welfare of the state, a conversion of the soul to God."
A survey of the cultural tendencies of our own times shows many signs pointing to a new failure of nerve in Western civilization. Its manifestations are more complex and sophisticated than in any previous time. It speaks in a modern idiom and employs techniques of expression and persuasion that reflect the ways of a secular culture. But at bottom it betrays, except in one respect, the same flight from responsibility, both on the plane of action and on the plane of belief, that drove the ancient world into the shelters of pagan and Christian supernaturalism.
There is hardly a field of theoretical life from which these signs of intellectual panic, heralded as portents of spiritual revival, are lacking. No catalogue can do justice to the variety of doctrines in which this mood appears. For purposes of illustration we mention the recrudescence of beliefs in the original depravity of human nature; prophecies of doom for Western culture, no matter who wins the war or peace, dressed up as laws of social-dynamics; the frenzied search for a center of value that transcends human interests; the mystical apotheosis of "the leader" and elites; contempt for all political organizations and social programs because of the ob
Sidney Hook, "The New Failure of Nerve," Partisan Review, Vol. X, No. 1, January-February 1943, pp. 2-17, 20-23. Copyright, 1943 by Partisan Review. Reprinted by permission.