Christian Socialism and the Kingdom of God

The term "Socialism," now on all lips, is a new - one; what does it mean? As used by many, it means no more than philanthropy or beneficence directed to the removal or melioration of social evils; and particularly of poverty. But in the mouths of its leading representatives it means much more than this; it means a new social order, or radical reconstruction of society, the chief features of which are the enlargement of the functions of the State, and the legal equalization of property. Government is to take upon itself the control both of the production and distribution of wealth. In technical phrase, " Collectivism," or ownership of land and capital by the State, is substituted for "Individualism," or individual ownership. It is said by an accredited authority ( Schaffle, "Social Democracy," ) that "the Alpha and Omega of Socialism is the transformation of private and competing capital into a united and collective capital." As a preliminary step, the State must become democratic, for "Socialism is the economic side of Democracy." And not only are governments to become democratic, but all peoples are to become economically one, since the industrial interests of all are identical. Socialism looks beyond any single state or nation; it talks much of "the solidarity of the nations."

Socialism is thus a term of wide and deep import. It marks a new movement in human history, which, if carried out, will subvert most existing social institutions, and replace them by new ones; or at least greatly modify them. And what is the motive of this change? It is that the present social system is incompetent to attain the ends for which society exists. It has been tried for centuries, and now the burdens under which we are labouring are unbearable. We can get rid of poverty with its attendant evils, and of oppression, and injustice, and war, only by means of a new social organization, a new development of civilization. The end aimed at is a perfected society, a reign of righteousness upon the earth; in fine, the Kingdom of God.

With this general statement of its principles, and of its aims, let us consider that phase of it which is called Christian Socialism.

Its origin is easily explainable. The Church, accepting the false conception of the Kingdom of God already spoken of, and regarding as its mission the work of establishing it in the earth before the Lord's return, feels itself bound to fulfil it. We have seen that at no period of the past has this kingdom been a reality; the predictions of the prophets respecting the prosperity and peace of the nations under Messiah's rule, have never been fulfilled. The Church, therefore, is under obligation to fulfil them, and to fulfil them now, for we are confessedly come to a time of the distress and perplexity of nations as well as of individuals. Thus a Christian Socialist, Professor Ely, says: "It is believed by all competent observers in all civilized nations that this last quarter of the nineteenth century is a period

of one of the greatest crises in the world's history." All see that old institutions, religious, political, social, are giving way, as unable to meet the needs of humanity, and no one knows what to put in their place. It is not strange, therefore, that Christendom is calling with great earnestness upon the Church to do what it claims to be able to do,— to save it from the perils threatening it, and to bring in that blessed condition of society of which the prophets speak. If it cannot do this, if it has no remedy for present evils, if it cannot give in the future something far better than in the past, it is weighed in the balance and found wanting. It is condemned out of its own mouth, and the world will have no more of a Christianity that has so long deceived it with idle promises.

It is in response to this imperious call that we now hear so much of Christian Socialism. It is an attempt to realize those expectations of temporal prosperity which the current conception of the mission of the Church has awakened. It is an attempt to mediate between Socialism in its more advanced form and Christianity, and thus preserve the existing Christian institutions, and the social order based upon Christianity. Christian Socialists, at least for the most part, think only of the melioration of present social evils by the infusion of a more Christian spirit into legislation, and into the administration of existing laws and institutions, without any radical political or social changes. Christianity, it is said by them, when fully applied is able to remedy all social abuses and to overcome all economic as well as moral evils. Let us, therefore, address ourselves to these problems. Let Christianity remember its high mission, and put forth its full power and bring righteousness and peace into the earth. It is, they say, to the failure of the Church to arise to the greatness of its calling, that the present evil condition of Christian society is in great part due.

Thus, Christian Socialists think to solve these social problems by enlarging the sphere of Christian activity. In all Protestant churches — the Roman Church stands in a somewhat different position — we hear the cry: We have too much regarded the purely spiritual side of Christianity, and too little the practical; wc have looked too much to a future life, and too little to this; we have given too great a place to abstract doctrine, to Creeds and to Confessions of faith, and have neglected the application of Christian principles to the social and political evils around us. We have drawn too broad a line of distinction between the sacred and the secular, between the Church and the world. We must now change our mode of action. We must not ignore any question that affects human well-being. All sciences, arts, inventions, everything that aids in the culture of man or the improvement of society, comes properly within the Christian sphere.

Starting with the assumption that it is the Divinely appointed mission of the Church to make the Kingdom of God a reality before the coming of the King, this enlargement of its labours is certainly logical. Its sphere must embrace the whole range of human interests, and it has, therefore, the right to speak with authority. And herein the Church of Rome has had the courage of its convictions, and has vigorously attempted to extend its sway over all questions that affect man's welfare; seeking, indeed, the co-operation of the State, but giving it only a subordinate place. But Christian Socialists, coming chiefly from Protestant bodies, disclaim Church authority, and rely on the spirit of love manifesting itself in individual action. This spirit is to be infused into our modern civilization, and the spirit of selfishness purged out; and thus all men be brought to regard the interests of others as their own. Gradually, our present civilization will be Christianized, social discontent and discord will cease, and the Kingdom of God will come.

Practically, in this form of Christian Socialism there is little that passes beyond the teaching of the Gospel, for Christianity is the religion of love and beneficence. But, as in the present divided condition of the Church there can be no unity of action, even among Protestants, all that is done must be done by individuals singly, or through voluntary charitable organizations. No one can doubt the purity of motive or the self-sacrificing spirit of the Christian Socialist thus labouring; but it is plain that voluntary organizations in the many religious bodies, acting independently, can accomplish very little. They cannot reach the root of the evil; and charitable organizations, socalled, are more and more offensive to many whom they seek to benefit, and who say, " We are not willing to accept as alms what belongs to us as right. What we seek is not almsgiving, however liberal, but such an ordering of society as will make poverty and other like social evils impossible."

Thus, Christian Socialism, in order to effect any important and permanent results, feels itself forced to pass beyond the sphere of mere voluntary effort. How, then, shall it gain its ends?

We are told that the Christian Socialists must enlarge their conception of their mission. For the saving of individuals they must substitute "the saving of society," and to this direct their efforts. They must act upon the assumption that " society is an organism, and the individual a part of a larger whole "; and, therefore, we must consider the whole rather than the parts. In the words of Professor Tucker, (And. Rev.), "The conception of the Church is rapidly changing in the minds of those within as well as of those without. It no longer stands for the rescue of individuals; it stands, by growing consent, for the improvement, the regeneration of society. . . The Church must be instructed in its social duties, and led out into action." It is said by another: "Concern for the social whole is the one object of religion." And by another, that " social salvation means a never-ceasing attack on every wrong institution until the earth becomes a new earth, and all its cities cities of God."

But what shall we say in respect to these social changes, of the place of the State, which by its lawmaking power controls society? Suppose the State and the Church disagree as to what constitutes " social regeneration"? Is the Church to control the State? and how shall this be done? Shall it go down into the political arena, and make its representatives the legislators, and embody its principles in laws? Here Christian Socialists are not agreed. Some wish to keep a clear distinction between the ecclesiastical and civil spheres, between the sacred and the secular. But where shall the line be drawn? Accepting the fundamental principle that it is the mission of the Church to make the earth new, and all its cities cities of God, no department of human activity can be without its sphere; and if the State do not concur in its action with the Church, it must itself be reformed or reconstructed. It is said by Canon Fremantle: "If the Church is to realize God's Kingdom in the world, it must occupy itself with all human relations; it embraces the whole social and political life; it must use the State for this purpose." This seems to be the only logical and consistent position, but it raises anew the old and never-settled question of the relation of the Church and the State. Rome affirms that the Church is to control the State, but this class of Christian Socialists seem to look forward to the identification of the Church and the State. The aims of both are the same — the highest welfare of man — and no distinction of sacred and secular is to be taken, either as to work or to office.

Some go further in this direction than others. It is said by one, Professor Ely: "All legislators, magistrates, and governors are as truly ministers in God's Church as any bishop or archbishop." *

It will be well for us at this point to keep in mind the four chief theories as to the relations of the Church and the State which have found advocates.

1. That each is of Divine appointment, having the same end, the preparation of men for the Kingdom of God, but with separate and distinct spheres of action, and corresponding ministries; and neither should intrude into the sphere of the other. This is the doctrine of the Lord and of His Apostles.

* It is to be noted that Mr. Maurice, who may be regarded as the father of modern Christian Socialism, through a series of tracts published by him in 1850, made the Church to embrace all men without exception. He does not deny orders of ministry in it distinct from those of the State, but by his fundamental principle he effaces the distinction between the two, the religious and the secular, and so makes the ministers of each to have substantially the same sphere and duties. He could, therefore, say: "Christian Socialism seems to me the assertion of God's order." (Life, Vol. I.) This order when realized makes Church ana State one.

That the Church, now representing the King in heaven, and Divinely commissioned by Him to rule for Him on earth, has authority over all secular rulers in all matters of faith and morals. The Church is to the State what the soul is to the body. This is the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.

3. That the State has supreme jurisdiction in all matters pertaining to the social and political life of a nation, and recognizes religion only as personal and individual. The Church, if organized as a distinct community, must be wholly subordinate to the State, and teach and act only as the State shall judge conducive to the public welfare. This is the doctrine of the advanced Socialists.

4. That the objects aimed at by the Church and the State being one, the training of men in righteousness, and both being instruments of God to this end, they are to be identified and regarded as one. When this is realized the Kingdom of God has fully come. This is the doctrine of the Christian Socialists.

We are here concerned with the last. Assuming that the identity of Church and State, as to the end aimed at by each — the establishment of a kingdom of righteousness — is of God, and that this end cannot be attained till this identity of action is reached; the question arises, how it can be reached. I f the State refuse to co-operate with the Church in its proposed measures, what will the Christian Socialists do? Some affirm that they must reconstitute the State, and put it upon a Christian and Socialistic basis. Thus it is said by one that" the gospel of the kingdom is to be realized on earth in the reconstruction of human society." And by another: "The present order and Christianity are enemies. . . This order, like the natural heart, is enmity against God." The Church must, therefore, give itself to the work of bringing the State into harmony with it, or of establishing a new social order.

But most Christian Socialists do not take this extreme position. They regard it as their duty to Christianize the State, so that it will carry out all social reforms. And as this can be done only by moral suasion, it is their duty continually to teach that the sphere of the Church embraces the secular as well as the spiritual life. As said by one: "It comes within the province of the Church to rectify and adjust all the relations of men with men." This is plainly opening a very large field of labour, and draws the attention of Christians to matters of great practical difficulty, both secular and religious. Applied Christianity, it is said, must take charge of such problems as these: the duties of States to one another; peace or war; the reciprocal obligations of governments and citizens; the rights of property ; the relations of the rich and the poor, and of labour and capital; taxation; rate of wages; rights of women, and extension of suffrage; marriage and divorce; the State in its duties to children; religious or secular education, — and many other problems of like kind. And to these we may add all which concern the health of a community, sanitary and dietetic.

This enlargement of the sphere of the Church to take in almost all earthly interests, and her occupation of it, is held by the more progressive Christian Socialists as sure to be followed by such a period of peace and righteousness as Christendom has never yet seen. We are told by some that" the whole creation travails in pain together with the birth of a new Era." "We have reached the period when all conditions are prepared for the perfecting of society." "In the order of human progress, we have passed through three stages: first, Theology, or knowledge of God; second, Anthropology, or knowledge of man; third, Soteriology, or relation of man to God. We have now come to the fourth, or relation of man to man." This, therefore, is distinctly " the Sociological age "; the last and highest.

The Church of Rome, as we have said, has always affirmed that the moral relations of men to men were under her charge by Divine appointment, and, therefore, she has the right in this respect to control the State. The novelty of Rome's present position is, that it stands face to face with a proposed new social order, in which all Church authority, if not absolutely set aside, is greatly limited. Rome accepts, or rather tolerates, popular supremacy and democratic institutions; it remains to be^seen how far it will give countenance to the new socialistic theories which assign to it a wholly subordinate place. But it is plain that, if Rome will hold the leadership of the peoples, it must present some solution of the problems now everywhere agitating the public mind. Thus far its policy is mediating, as shown by the late papal Encyclicals; and this policy will doubtless be held till some event forces it to a decided step. It is, however, to be noted that Rome, by its numerical superiority, its antiquity, its unity, its past supremacy, and present authority, is not obliged to propitiate popular favour in the same degree as the Protestant churches. It is still such a spiritual and ethical power in Christendom that Socialism, in its most advanced forms, is forced to listen to its utterances with respect.

If we turn to the Protestant churches, they live so much in the breath of popular opinion that, if they hope to reform society, they must yield more or less to the prevalent socialistic tendencies, even if antichristian in spirit; and this is seen to be the case in an increasing degree. Concessions are made more and more to the hostile spirit of the time. Obnoxious doctrines are given up or put in the background, and the Church is popularized by minimizing its claims as a Divine institution, and by effacing in a great degree its distinction from the world. The outer walls are given up, that the citadel may be preserved. By these concessions Christian Socialism thinks to save Christianity from the attacks of its enemies, and by its enlarging beneficent labours to draw to it universal popular support.

We now ask, What is the attitude which the Socialists par excellence take toward the Christian Socialists? It is, for the most part, one of hostility or of a halfcontemptuous indifference. They see clearly that Christianity, as a religion for the salvation of men from sin and their spiritual preparation for a future life, and Socialism, which looks only to the improvement of earthly conditions, have wholly different aims and are essentially antagonistic. They speak of the establishment of chairs of Sociology in theological seminaries as a weak effort to meet social evils, and an attempt to perpetuate Christianity under the guise of philanthropy. What they wish is to put away the Church, and its teachings of sin and judgment, of heaven and hell, altogether; and to centre the thoughts of men on the improvement of the world and melioration of its present social condition. A few extracts from leading socialistic writers will sufficiently show this.

"Christian socialism has for its basis trade cooperation, and presupposes the prevailing industrial anarchy, and is in fact anti-socialistic." "Christian socialism mutilates Christianity, emptying it of all its original and obvious meaning." "Socialism utterly despises the other world. ... It brings back religion from heaven to earth. ... It looks to a higher social life in this world. . . . The social creed is the only religion of the socialist." "Socialism has no sympathy with the morbid and transcendent morality of the Gospel. A family or a nation is far more sacred than any church." It is said by Bax (" The Religion of Socialism"): "The establishment of society on a socialistic basis would imply the definite abandonment of all theological cults." And by Tolstoi ("My Religion"): "The Church has fulfilled its mission, and is useless."

It is true, indeed, that the name of Jesus is mentioned by some Socialists with honour, but it is because He is looked upon as having been a friend of the poor, a Jewish social reformer.* One writer says: "As centuries roll on, the name of Jesus will be more and more venerated precisely on account of His social teaching. ... He proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven, and Secularism will bring it in." But the true Socialists, those who best represent the sociological spirit of to-day, see clearly that this pre

We are told that some French Socialists have placed upon the wall of their assembly-room a picture of Christ, with the inscription, "Jesus of Nazareth, the first representative of the People."

sentation of Him cannot be maintained; and that His teachings are, in fact, an obstacle in their way rather than a help. It is plain upon the face of the Gospel that He came, first of all, to save men from their sins, and to call all to repentance; but genuine Socialism acknowledges no sinfulness, and needs no Divine Saviour. Says one: "Socialism sees in Him at best a weak and impulsive personality. Higher types are now to be found on earth." It does not find in Him the socialistic ideal. We need not quote in detail. Every one familiar with socialistic writings knows that to set aside His authority is a necessary step to the diffusion of genuine socialistic ideas. That He lives, and has anything to do personally with the development of society and the progress of nations, would seem to most Socialists the idlest of fancies. We may be sure that Socialism, if triumphant, will have no place for One who taught the sinfulness of humanity, the need of atonement, and affirmed that all men must stand before His judgment-seat.

While Christian Socialists affirm that through the application of Christian principles, society will be reconstructed and perfected, the real socialistic leaders regard it as a part of their mission to emancipate men from their long bondage to religious systems of every kind; and especially from the fear of the Christian God, which prevents the true development of humanity. Socialism is itself held up as a religion, based upon the second great commandment, "love to men." It does not regard it necessary to obey the first commandment in order to obey the second. Indeed, any obedience of the first, any love to God, is impossible. If a God is admitted to exist, it is for the most part only in a pantheistic or evolutionary sense; and He cannot be an object of love.

Socialism borrows from Christianity its conception of a happy future for man on earth, but eliminates from it all distinctively Christian elements. There is to be a perfected society, a kingdom of righteousness, but it is to be a kingdom of man, hot of God. Humanity, not through any Divine interposition or help but in virtue of its natural goodness, steadily developes itself, and advances from lower to higher planes. While Rome thinks to bring all the world to a recognition of its authority, and Protestantism to convert it by the preaching of the Gospel, Socialism affirms that it will bring in the golden age by the establishment of a new social order, when all men will be equal, and which shall embrace all nations. As said by one of them: "When the socialistic Commonwealth is fully evolved, it is equality that will establish the kingdom of heaven in the earth."

In this belief as to the future of man, the leading Evolutionists are at one with the Socialists, though they may in part reject the idea of social reconstruction, and look chiefly to the gradual evolution of humanity under the law of the survival of the fittest. The evolutionary process may be slow, but the result is sure; only the best survive. The perfecting of man is, as we are told by Mr. John Fiske, to be "the glorious consummation of nature's long and tedious work." And Science also looks forward to the same consummation by bringing man into harmony with nature through knowledge of its laws. As said by one: "The future happiness of the race, which the prophets hardly ventured to hope for, Science boldly predicts." If this be the attitude of Socialism towards Christianity and the Church, its increase in Christendom is a matter of highest moment.

The Christian Socialists attempt to hold a mediating position; ready to give up much that the Church has held as to the distinction of the sacred and secular, of the natural and the supernatural, of the Church and the world; and yet are desirous to retain its fundamental doctrines as to the Trinity, the Incarnation, sin, atonement, and final judgment. But this is a position in which they cannot long stand. Some will doubtless give up their Christianity altogether, for the Kingdom of God substituting the kingdom of humanity, and finally join themselves to the Antichrist; others, seeing where they are tending, will draw back, and giving up their own plans of establishing the kingdom of God, will look for His return who alone can establish it.

It is obvious, without special remark, that the socialistic ideal of a kingdom of perfected humanity through a new social order, will greatly help Antichrist in the establishment of his rule over the nations. The eyes of all are now turned forward, their minds are full of vague but ardent expectations; there is a golden age in the future, and not far distant. Nothing supernatural, indeed, is to be looked for, no returning Jesus, no resurrection from the dead, no glorified and immortal humanity. Antichrist appears; he will fulfil these expectations. He will reconstruct society, he will give to all their rights. And men see in him one who can realize their hopes. It is not to be expected that the new order will peacefully triumph; the roots of the old run too deep. Such radical changes as Socialism proposes can be carried through only by force; there must be a stormy transition period. But Socialism will serve as a powerful lever by which Antichrist may overthrow the existing political governments, and the field be cleared for the final contest. When the tempest of war now darkening the heavens has passed over Christendom, it needs no prophetic light to see that it will be another Christendom than ours.

"The look of England is to me abundantly ominous; the question of labour and capital growing ever more anarchical, insoluble by the notions hitherto applied to it, pretty certain to issue in petroleum some day, unless some other gospel than that of the Dismal Science comes to illuminate it." (T. Carlyle.)

There are some who refuse the name of Christian Socialists as implying that they are Collectivists — which they deny. For these no distinctive term can easily be found. In a large sense all may be called Christian Socialists who think it the mission and duty of the Church to perfect society, and so establish the Kingdom of God.