Shadow of the Third Century, a Revaluation of Christianity

By Alvin Boyd Kuhn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
PRIMEVAL CHRISTIANITY

Voltaire once remarked that it might be a very fine thing if Europe some time decided to try Christianity. He was intimating, of course, that there had never been a serious undertaking anywhere in the Christian world to put into practice the Christly code of ethics as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. He was assuming that Europe knew well enough what Christianity was, but lacked the moral strength to put its cardinal principles to work.

It is suggested here that the philosopher would have made a far more pertinent observation if he had said that it might be well if Europe at some time really learned what true Christianity was. This essay ventures to go beyond Voltaire and make the assertion that not only had Europe never tried Christianity, but that it never had it. Not only had the Occidental world never tried living its professed and dominating religion of Christianity, but never at any time in its historical period had it even possessed the true religion to which the name of Christianity had been attached. Failure of Christendom to put its nominally accepted religious systernatism into living operation in its centuries of historical life was not mainly due to its want of moral stamina, but stemmed, as this work will assert, from the simple fact that it did not have the Christianity that should have gone with the name. Cutting many a Gordian knot of entangled debate and likewise cutting a straight path through a jungle of theological presuppositions, this work will begin with the bald bold declaration that the Western world of Europe and America has never held true Christianity in its possession, has never had knowledge of it.

"There is no such thing as a religion called 'Christianity' -- there never has been such a religion. There is and always has been the Church." -- Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies, p. 246.

If these assertions embody substantial truth, the obvious inference must be that the West, while under the illusion that it possessed and

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