AN IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND ALL OTHER RELIGIONS
By Erica Carle
July 5, 2002
While most of the speakers who attended the World Parliament of Religions at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago brought non-Christian and anti-Christian messages, there were some who came to speak for and defend the Christian faith. One of these was the Reverend Joseph Cook, an independent editor, speaker, and writer. He explained clearly and forcefully the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions. His explanation is especially valuable today when millions of poorly-instructed Christians are allowing their minds and consciences, and those of their children, to be weakened, and even destroyed by drugs, hypnotism, transcendental meditation, invasive psychology and sociology, humanitarianism, libertarianism, Unitarianism, Theosophy, Witchcraft, phalicism, spiritualism, pantheism, animism, etc.
Not only are these doctrines and methods being practiced privately and in voluntary groups, but some are being publicly financed and forced on children through tax-supported schools and government programs. Ignorant of the damage being done, too many people ignore, and even go along with the government’s attack on Christianity.
Christians are not yet treated as they were after 1936 in Nazi Germany when, according to William L. Shirer’s, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Pastor Niemoeller's Protestant group addressed a courteous but firm memorandum to Hitler protesting against the anti-Christian tendencies of the regime, denouncing the government’s anti-Semitism and demanding an end to state interference with the churches.
The result was: Frick, the Nazi Minister of the Interior, responded with ruthless action. Hundreds of ‘Confessional Church’ pastors were arrested, one of the signers of the memorandum, Dr. Weissler, was murdered in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the funds of the ‘Confessional Church’ were confiscated and it was forbidden to make collections.
In 1937 some 807 other pastors and leading laymen of the ‘Confessional Church’ were arrested. By 1938 all Pastors were required to take an oath of allegiance to the Fuhrer binding themselves legally and morally to obey the commands of the dictator.
Hitler always had a certain contempt for the Protestants, who, though a tiny minority in his native Catholic Austria, comprised two thirds of the citizens of Germany. ‘You can do anything you want with them,’ he once confided to his aides. ‘They will submit . . . they are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them.’
Attempts are now being made to unite all the world’s religions. To do this without destroying Christianity and our country is not only an impossibility, but a giant step backward for all of civilization. Now is not the time to ‘sweat with embarrassment or to be submissive as dogs.’ It is the time to explain politely, and with candor why Christianity is important to the very survival of civilization. The following is the Reverend Cook’s address explaining the difference between Christianity and all other religions. It was delivered on the fourth day of the World Parliament of Religions in 1893.
STRATEGIC CERTAINTIES OF COMPARATIVE RELIGION
(An address delivered by the Reverend Joseph Cook at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893)
William Shakespeare is supposed to have known something of human nature and certainly was not a theological partisan. Now Shakespeare, you will remember, tells us in The Tempest of two characters who conceived for each other a supreme affection as soon as they met. At the first glance they have changed eyes, he says. The truly religious man is one who has changed eyes with God. It follows from this definition and as a certainty dependent on the unalterable nature of things that only he who had changed eyes with God can look into his face with peace. A religion of delight in God, not merely as Savior but as Lord also, is scientifically known to be a necessity to the peace of the soul whether we call God by this name or the other, whether we speak of him in the dialect of this or that of the four continents, or this or that of the ten thousand isles of the sea. It is a certainty, and a strategic certainty, in all religion that we must love what God loves and hate what God hates, or we can have no peace in his presence. If we love what God hates and hate what he loves, it is ill with us and will continue to be ill until the dissonance ceases.
What is the distinction between morality and religion, and how can the latter be shown by the scientific method to be a necessity to the peace of the soul? I do not undervalue morality and the philanthropies, but this is a Parliament of Religions strictly so called, and I purpose to speak of the strategic certainties of comparative religion.
From the very center of the human heart and in the presence of all the hundred names of God, conscience demands that what ought to be should be chosen by the will, and it demands this universally. Conscience is that faculty within us which tastes intentions. A man does unquestionably know whether he means to be mean, and he inevitably feels mean when he knows that he means to be mean. If we say I will not to that still, small voice which we call conscience, and that whispers Thou oughtest there is a lack of peace in us. Until we say I will, and delight to say it, there is no harmony within our souls. Delight in saying I will, whenever the still, small voice whispers Thou oughtest, is a correct general definition of religion. Merely calculating selfish obedience to that still, small voice saves no man. This is the first commandment of absolute science: Thou shall LOVE the Lord thy God with all thy mind and might and heart and strength.
When Shakespeare's two characters met, curiosity as to each others qualities did not constitute the changing of eyes. That mighty capacity which exists in human nature to give forth a supreme affection was not the changing of eyes. Let us not mistake a capacity for religion, which every man has, for religion itself. Natural sonship and moral sonship of man are often confused with each others in our careless speech. We must not only have a capacity to love God: we must adore and obey God. Half the loose, limp, lavender liberalisms of the world mistake mere admiration of God for adoration of God. It is narrowness to refuse mental hospitality to any scientific truth. Assembled in the name of science, and of every grave purpose, we ought to be ready to promote such self-surrender to God as shall amount to delight in all known duty and in all his attributes, and make us affectionately and irreversibly choose God, not as Saviour only, but as Lord also, and not as Lord only, but as Saviour also.
But choice in relation to persons means love. What we choose we love. Conscience reveals a holy Person, the author of the moral law, and conscience demands that the Person should not only be obeyed but loved. This is the unalterable demand of an unalterable portion of our nature. As personalities, we must keep company with the part of our nature and its demands while we exist in this world and in the next. The love of God by man is inflexibly required by the very nature of things. Conscience draws an unalterable distinction between loyalty and disloyalty to the ineffable, holy Person whom the moral law reveals and between the obedience of slavishness and that of delight. Only the latter is obedience to conscience. Religion is the obedience of affectionate gladness. Morality is the obedience of selfish slavishness. Only religion, therefore, and not mere morality, can harmonize the soul with the nature of things. A delight in obedience is not only a part of religion, but is necessary to peace in God’s presence. A religion consisting in the obedience of gladness is, therefore, scientifically known to be indispensable to the peace of the soul with itself.
It will not be tomorrow or the day after that these propositions will cease to be scientifically certain. Out of them multitudinous inferences flow, as Niagaras from the brink of God’s palm.
Demosthenes once made the remark that every address should begin with an incontrovertible proposition, It is a certainty and no guess that a little while ago we were not in the world, and that a little while hence we shall be here no longer. Lincoln, Garfield, Seward, Grant, Beecher, Gough, Emerson, Longfellow, Tennyson, Lord Baeaconsfield, George Eliot, Carlyle, Keshub Chunder Sen, Okubo, I know not how many Mohammeds are gone, and we are going. Man’s life means tender teens, teachable twenties, tireless thirties, fiery forties, forcible fifties, serious sixties, sacred seventies, aching eighties, shortening breath, death, the sod, God. The self-evident truths in religion are certainties that will endure unchanged
Till the heavens are old, and the stars are cold, And the leaves of the judgment book unfold.
The world expects to hear from us in this Parliament no drivel, but something fit to be professed face to face with the crackling artillery of the science of our time. I know I am going hence, and I know I wish to go in peace. I hold that it is a certainty, and a certainty founded on truth absolutely self-evident, that there are three things from which I can never escape: my conscience, my God, and my record of sin in an irreversible past. How am I to be harmonized with that unescapable environment? Such harmonization is the condition of my place.
Here is Lady Macbeth.
See how she rubs her hands.
Out damned spot! Will these hands ne’er be clean?
All the perfumes of Arabia could not sweeten this little hand.
And her husband in a similar mood says:
This red, right hand, it would the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green, one red.
What religion can wash Lady Macbeth’s right hand? That is a question I propose to the four continents and all the isles of the sea. Unless you can answer that inquiry you have not come hither with a sufficiently serious purpose to a Parliament of Religions.
I take Lady Macbeth on my right arm and her husband on my left and we three walk down here to the benches of the skeptics of our time who are not represented in this Parliament. Anti-Christian literature in our day is usually half-chaff and half-chaffing. But I put to infidels the question:
Can you wash our red, right hands? So help me God, I mean to ask a question this afternoon that shall go in some hearts across the seas and to the antipodes, and I ask it in the name of what I hold to be an absolutely self-evident truth that unless a man is washed from the love of sin and the guilt of sin, he cannot be at peace in the presence of Infinite Holiness.
Old man and blind, Michael Angelo in the Vatican used to go to the Torso, so-called--a fragment of the art of antiquity--and he would feel along the marvelous lines chiseled in by-gone ages, and tell his pupils that thus and thus the outline should be completed. I turn to every faith on earth except Christianity, and I find every such faith a Torso. But if its lines were completed it would be a full statue corresponding in expression with Christianity.
The necessary truths recognized everywhere as self-evident, if carried out consistently in theory and practice by the non-Christian faiths, would inevitably enlarge those systems into an assertion of the indispensableness of man’s deliverance from the love and the guilt of sin. The occasion is too grave for mere courtesy without candor. Some of the faiths of the world are marvelous as far as they go, but if they were completed along the lines of the certainties of the religions themselves they would go up and up to an assertion of the necessity of the new birth to deliver the soul from the guilt of sin.
There is no peace anywhere in the universe for a soul with bad intentions, and there ought not to be. We are all capable of changing eyes with God, but until we do change eyes with him, it is impossible for us to meet him in peace. Nothing can ever deliver us from the necessity of good intentions if we would attain the peace of the soul with its environments, nor from exposure to penalty for deliberately bad intentions.
It is clear that we cannot escape from conscience and God and our record of sin. It is a certainty and a strategic certainty that, except Christianity, there is no religion under heaven or among men that effectively provides for the peace of the soul by the harmonization with itself, its God, and its record of sin.
© 2002 Erica Carle - All Rights Reserved
Erica Carle is an independent researcher and writer. She has a B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin. She has been involved in radio and television writing and production, and has also taught math and composition at the private school her children attended in Brookfield, Wisconsin. For ten years she wrote a weekly column, "Truth In Education" for WISCONSIN REPORT, and served as Education Editor for that publication. Her books are available through Education Service Council, P. O. Box 271, Elm Grove, Wisconsin 53122.
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