Typos p. 563: The great danger [= "The great danger]
Jesus Christ *
Anthony M. Ludovici
The New English Weekly 3, 1933, pp. 562563
- p. 562 -
Years ago, in his "Vie Cachée de Jésus," Guignebert finally shattered my last remaining faith in the reliability of the Gospel records by showing that there were not the smallest grounds for believing that Jesus ever said anything he was alleged to have said. And here Dr. W. F. Geikie-Cobb, with creditable candour, gets as near giving a Churchman's support to this view as, I presume, he possibly can. He says: "We are reminded correctly that we cannot be sure that in any Gospel text we have the verba ipsissima of Jesus himself"; while the Rev. Dr. H. Gow goes a little further and says: "In the face of modern unbiassed historical criticism, orthodoxy, however self-confident as it may appear, is waging a losing battle. The Creeds are less and less believed. Arguments from miracles and prophecy are antiquated and unconvincing."
It would be extortionate to demand more from people who are still engaged in trying to make a good show of the old religion, and it is a triumph of Bible scholarship to have compelled them to admit as much.
What unbelievers, Nietzscheans, and, in fact, all those who have done with Christianity or with any compromise either with Jesus or his alleged divine Father should, however, now understand is that, in opposing Christianity in any form, and in opposing Deism, Uni-
* "Jesus Christ XIX Centuries After." (The Search Symposium by Leaders of the Great World Faiths.) Published by the Search Publishing Co., 1933. 3s. 6d. net.
"On Dreams." Heinemann, 1924. p. 85.
Truth to tell, it amounts to this, that since Christianity is really only Platonism for the many, modern Christians, and all those who, while calling themselves Unitarians or Deists, etc., believe in the "extreme beauty" of Christian ethics, although not in the divine parentage of Jesus, or His virgin birth and resurrection all these people need the Socratic outlook.
Socrates was a monster in a world of beauty. He and his type could not thrive without transvaluing values. He did not scruple, therefore, to perpetrate one of the most impudent hoaxes ever perpetrated on a single generation of people. He convinced Plato, and heaven only knows how many more or less intelligent people, that man was really a sort of magic portmanteau, consisting, like all portmanteaus, of two halves; hut, in the case of man, one half only was visible, and the other invisible, and the real, valuable, and, in fact, higher, man was to be sought not in the visible but in the invisible half. Xenophanes perhaps bears the responsibility of having in Europe started this ingenious but absurd "journalistic stunt" to use an anachronism in order to place in a well-known class the "news value" of Socratic sophistry in the fifth century B.C.
But whereas, in the time of Socrates, there was probably only a small percentage of men who could see the immense advantage to themselves of this superior bunkum, at the present moment humanity has reached such a monstrous state that probably three-quarters of the biological proletariat of the civilised world can hardly see or understand any other point of view. As for the intellectuals among them, it is only those who are scrupulously honest who deliberately relinquish the standpoint despite the advantage it would mean to them.
So that it amounts to this: there is a huge majority to-day who insist on having Platonism of some kind, whether in the transcendental form of Christianity, or in the secular and rational form supplied by philosophy. They do not care very much about either Jesus or Socrates. They do not know that Christianity has been to humanity a sort of colossal cold-storage apparatus, keeping in a state of preservation all that was on the point of becoming ftid, decomposed, and putrescent in antiquity, and doling it out as the "Eternal" instead of "Canterbury" Lamb, to every fresh generation. And if they are told this they do not care. They want to believe malgré tout, and this symposium on Jesus Christ is an excellent demonstration of the fact.
If, however, the divinity of Jesus can no longer be accepted, except by such people as insist on having: a divine authority for turning: the tables on those more favourably endowed than themselves; if, in short, as the Rev. H. Hamilton Maughan says, "Christ be no more than a super-Plato," then, as the same writer continues, "it is open to anyone who, in the main, may accept His moral code to-day, to say, 'On this or that particular point I am not in agreement with the teaching of Christ!'" And he adds: "That is, in fact, exactly what has happened in many directions already."
And, of course, it will continue to happen. Modern weaklings, expecting their bread to be buttered for them on both sides and round the edges as well, will give up just as much of the alleged code of Jesus as they find interferes with their comfort. To the extent, however, to which they feel and know themselves to be in need of high-falutin excuses for not being despised, they will be sure to cling to those aspects of their Master's supposed teaching which excuses and even ennobles degeneracy and general botchedness.
True, they could find these excuses just as easily in Plato. But it is not every border-line case that knows Plato, whereas every lunatic (in these islands at least) knows the New Testament.
Perhaps the most readable, because the clearest and most honest, of the contributions to this symposium, are those by Manloi Abdul Majid (Jesus as a Muslim sees Him) and the Rev. H. Hamilton Maughan (Dogma or Decadence).
The former is a plain man's reasoned statement of his difficulties in swallowing the story of the divinity of Jesus, of the Atonement, and of Jesus as the founder of a new dispensation. The latter is a cogent argument to the effect that to relinquish the dogmata of Christianity, i.e., the Godhead, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection of Jesus, is "to relegate Him to the Pantheon where Buddha and Confucius, Aristotle and Plato, have their honoured shrines as great and inspired teachers of mankind."
"If," adds the Rev. H. Hamilton Maughan, "the dogmas which safeguard the absolute and irresistible authority of the Lawgiver are set aside as unimportant. or even as doubtful and perhaps positively untrue, how long will it be possible to maintain intact the whole fabric of the Law which He gave 'as one having authority and not as the scribes'?"
This seems to me a very difficult question to answer for those churchmen who, in trying to keep Christianity abreast of these scientific times, all too hastily abandoned its dogma while hoping to uphold and teach its ethics; and were it not, as I suggest above, that the modern world has grown sufficiently monstrous to display in its sentiments a congenital affinity to Platonism and its mob-adaptation, Christianity, such churchmen would find it a thankless task to continue to expound the law while denying its alleged divine authority.
As the Rev. Dr. H. Gow says: The great danger for modern Christianity is that in the breakdown of the orthodox conception of Christianity and the infallibility of the Bible, the life and teaching: of Jesus of Nazareth may seem to lose all value." But he forgets the factor to which I call attention degeneration, which will always guarantee to the Christian Church a sufficiently large number of people ready to accept without any too close a scrutiny the values which promise them an important place in public esteem.