THE INTERNAL CONFLICTS OF THE CHURCH (2)
The Struggle for an Ethical Ideal.--The primitive Church was "of one heart and of one soul," or, in the words of a very early document, it was among the Christians: "A life in the flesh but not according to the flesh" (Epist. ad Diognet.). But the restless human spirit soon dug out difficult questions and conflicts concerning the ethical life of the Church members. Of course the Lord Himself was the supreme moral ideal, but men felt themselves to be too small and too narrow to grasp this ideal both in its purity and its broadness and inclusiveness. Therefore we see not only in the primitive Church but throughout Church history extreme and exclusive propositions to solve the problem. For instance, asceticism with celibacy and flight from the world was regarded by some people in the primitive Church as the highest ideal of morality. The deserts were populated with the ascetics. The same ideal has been strongly accentuated in Russia even in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, chastity has been preferred as an ideal by many others.
Another problem was: what were more salvatory, faith or works? Or another: whether we are saved or condemned by God's predestination or by our free will (libertarian, arbitrarian, Augustinianism, and Pelagianism; Jansenism and Ultramontanism)? Or another: in our moral perfection how much is God's grace operating and how much our human collaboration? Or another: what part worship plays in our salvation (the problem known in theology as opus operatum)? Or another: what should be the normal relation of the Church and State, the Church and social life, the Church and education, the Church and the manifold needs and tribulations of mankind?
All these problems, and many others here unmentioned, moved every part of the Christian Church in the East and West. Your Church history too is full of a moving and dramatic struggle for light in all these problems, from the day when the first Roman missionaries brought the new Gospel o
your country up to our days.
The Church, inclusive in wisdom, has had the most dramatic history in the world. Struggling against Patriotism, she pleaded for humanity; and struggling against Imperialism, she pleaded for spirituality. And again: struggling against heretics, she pleaded for unity, and struggling against worldly philosophers, she pleaded for a sacred and pragmatic wisdom. She looked sometimes defeated and on her knees before her enemies, but she rose again and again like the phoenix from its ashes. In her dramatic struggle through the world and against the world the internal voice of her Founder comforted and inspired her. The harder struggles she fought the louder was the comforting and inspiring voice. The more comfortable she made herself in this world, the less was His magic voice heard. His life was a scheme of her life: his crucifixion and resurrection a prophecy of her history to the world's end. Whenever she became satisfied with herself and with the world around her she was overshadowed and eclipsed. Whenever she feared struggle and suffering she became sick, on the dying bed. He then stood, meek and sorrowful, at her bed and called: Arise, my daughter!
The Church's craving for comfort is indeed her craving for death. Like a noble knight who descends into a prison to liberate the enchained slaves, to whom the prison is painful and liberation still more painful, so is the Church's position in this world. But how regrettable should it be if the noble knight accommodated himself in the prison among the slaves and forgot the light from which he had descended and to which he ought to return! "He is one of ourselves," the slaves will say. So might say to-day all the worldly institutions about the Christian Church in this valley of slavery: "She is one of ourselves." She is destined to quicken the world end, and she is postponing it. One millennium is past, another is near by, yet the Church does not think of the world end: she loves this world; that is her curse. The world still exists because of the Church's hesitation and fear. Were she not hesitating and fearing she had been dramatically struggling and suffering, and a new heaven and a new earth should be in sight. Why has the Church stopped being a drama? Why is she hesitating and fearing? Doubts and comfort have weakened the Church. The most tragical religion has climbed from Golgotha to Olympus and is now lying there comfortably, in sunshine and
forgetfulness, while Chronos, appeased, continues to measure the time by thousands of years, as before.