In honor and recognition of today being the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended fighting on land, sea, and air between the Allied forces and Germany in World War I (though it wasn’t called that at the time), today we run excerpts from “The World’s New Day,” an editorial from page 10 of the November 16, 1918, issue of CHRISTIAN STANDARD.
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The World’s New Day
The long, black night has passed, and the enthusiasm, inspired by the early dawn, has abated. The sun is rising! The day of work, of reconstruction, of opportunity, has been ushered in—the most exacting day of all history, because it presents the most universal, complicated, stubborn, vital problems ever encountered by the human race. It is a day in which the truly great, in positions of affluence and authority, in humble life, in the literary sphere, in the pulpit and classrooms and on the platform, and in every capacity of human experience and endeavor, will have to be on constant guard—pointing out the true paths and admonishing the multitudes to turn not into the by-ways.
. . . People not familiar with the Scriptures, or not adept in Scripture interpretation, will be easily led into the wilds of dangerous speculation by the post-war visionaries. This will be the case in perhaps every community—especially in America.
In this great country, owing to the fact that the war has not completely prostrated us in sackcloth and ashes, the philosophies and theories that squarely contradict the fundamental teachings of the Christian religion still fascinate preachers and teachers and writers who are ambitious to be thought wise beyond their day and generation; . . .
The veil of smoke, which has so long hidden Germany from the eyes of the world, is now being rapidly torn away; the civilized peoples of earth will soon begin to look into the bleeding heart of a nation torn to pieces by the sharp claws of its own unbelief, and they will likewise analyze the conditions which plunged the world into a cruel, awful midnight of more than four years’ duration. Eventually, the destructive teaching—the primal cause of the war—will be lifted into the bright light of serious, well-balanced reason and exhibited in all its faith-killing ugliness. Then, even here in America, the people will begin to turn away from the preachers and teachers and writers whose stately affirmations, contrary to Scriptural teaching, are labeled “assured scholarship.”
A great daily newspaper recently said, editorially: “It is to be hoped that somewhere out of the present train of events there will be a chance for the Kaiser to revise his frightful conception of God.” . . .
Germany is now in a state of turmoil—the inhabitants of that ill-fated land are hungry, disappointed, crushed, insane. However, order will eventually obtain, and the people, under whatever form, or forms, of government the situation evolves, will bend their backs to the burden, under which they are to stagger for generations, and start life anew. . . .
That the map of Europe will be quickly and permanently changed is a foregone conclusion. However, the changing of the map is the job of neither the preacher, teacher, nor religious editor. . . .
In these early morning hours of the great new day, every man should be on his own job. All preachers and religious teachers and writers who accept the Bible as God’s Book should give themselves, without reserve, to the one task—that of emphasizing the gospel message, without addition or subtraction or interrogation points. And the great army of men and women, not called to preach or teach or write, but who accept, without question, the message of the Book, should support only those agencies which loyally enunciate the foundation principles of the Christian religion.
The gospel of Christ, if conscientiously, consistently and systematically supported by all to whom it is precious, will permeate the entire realm of human endeavor, supplant false philosophies and theories and fads, and ultimately govern the affairs and conduct of men and nations the world around.
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The editorial struck me as a little odd. I guess I expected it to be more upbeat.
In condensing the editorial, I deleted two paragraphs that immediately followed mention of the Kaiser and his “frightful conception of God.” That section referenced Wilhelm Wundt, the “father of experimental psychology.” Wundt, a vocal early supporter of the German war effort, had expressed a belief in the superiority of German science and culture.
The editorial writer said,
“The modern psychologists, all disciples of Professor Wundt, of Germany, think and write of God as only a ‘conception’ in the human mind. . . .
“The German people, tutored by so-called advanced scholars for several generations, acquired a misconception of God, which resulted, as it always does, in a misconception of religion and ethics and life.”
CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s editorial writer—most likely editor George Perry Rutledge—worried that a similar “misconception of God” could take root elsewhere, and especially America, for “the atmosphere of the average American university is German inbreathed. . . .”
Less than 20 years later, the world was again at war. And over the past 100 years, the American university and American culture . . . well, I’ll leave it for the reader to assess what has happened.
(Click to download a pdf of the entire WWI editorial Note: The cover image used to illustrate this article is from the June 29, 1918, issue; the words say: “Liberty, Democracy, Christianity.”)
—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard