Nikolai Berdyaev
1874 - 1948

The Worth of Christianity and
the Unworthiness of Christians

by N. A. Berdyaev


Boccaccio tells the story of a Jew whose Christian friend was trying to convert him. The Jew was on the point of agreeing, but before committing himself definitely he decided to go to Rome and see for himself in what manner the Pope and his cardinals lived, since they were the men at the head of the Church. This frightened the Christian, who thought that all his efforts would go for nothing and his friend certainly refuse baptism when he had seen the scandals of Rome. The Jew duly went there and observed the hypocrisy, depravity, corruption, and greed which were rife among the Roman clergy and in the papal court at that time, and on his return his Christian friend asked anxiously what impression had been made on him. The reply was as deeply understanding as it was unexpected: "Since all the wickedness and abominations that I have seen in Rome have been unable to overturn the Christian religion, since in spite of them all it continues to grow stronger, it must be the true faith." And the Jew became a Christian.

Whatever Boccaccio's idea may have been, this tale shows us the only way of vindicating Christianity. Christians themselves are the greatest objection to their religion; they are a scandal to those who are favourably disposed towards it. This argument has been grievously abused in our day. The present weakness of faith and spread of complete unbelief lead men to judge Christianity by Christians; formerly it was judged in the first place by its eternal truth, its doctrinal and moral teaching. Our age is too preoccupied with man and what is human, so that Christianity is not seen behind its mask of bad Christians; notice is taken of their wrongdoing and their deformations of the faith rather than of the religion itself; their excesses are more easily seen than the great Christian truth. Very many people to-day estimate the Christian religion by those whose profession of it is exterior and degenerate: Christianity is the religion of love and of freedom, but it is judged according to the hostility and hate and acts of violence of so many Christians, men who compromise their faith and are a stumbling-block to the weak.

We are often told that the representatives of other religions, Buddhists, Mohammedans, Jews, are better than Christians in that they are more faithful to their religious precepts; unbelievers, atheists, and materialists are pointed out who are more worthy of respect, more unworldly in their lives, more capable of sacrifice than are many Christians. But the whole of the unworthiness of these numerous Christians resides exactly in that they do not fulfil their religion, but rather alter and pervert it. They are judged by their inability to raise themselves to the heights of that which they profess. But how then can the shortcomings of Christians he imputed to Christianity when the reproach levelled at them is precisely that they are out of accord with the grandeur of their faith? These charges are clearly contradictory. If the followers of other religions are often more observant of them than Christians are of theirs, it is because these religions are more within the reach of man than are the heights of Christianity. It is indeed much more easy to be a good Mohammedan than a good Christian. The religion of love is not less exalted or less true because its realization in life is an exceedingly difficult task. It is not Christ's fault that his truth is not fulfilled and that his commandments are spurned.

Believing and practicing Jews are always ready to tell us that the law of their religion has the great advantage of being practicable; Judaism is more adapted to human nature and to the ends of human life and calls for less renunciation. Christianity, on the other hand, is the most difficult religion to put into practice, the most trying to human nature, requiring painful self-sacrifice at every turn; Jews look on it as an idealistic dream, useless in practical life and for that reason harmful. We too often measure the moral value of men by their religion and ideals. If a materialist is good according to his light, devoted to his idea and ready to make certain sacrifices for it, then we are impressed by his greatness of soul and cite him as an example. But it is infinitely harder for a Christian to keep abreast of his ideal, for it means that he has got to love his enemies, carry his cross bravely, and resist the temptations of the world unflinchingly -- things which neither the Jew nor the Mohammedan nor the materialist is called on to do. Christianity takes us along the line of greatest resistance, the Christian life is a crucifixion of self.


It is often claimed that Christianity has failed, that it has not been historically realized, and thence another argument is drawn: Not only Christians but the very history of their Church testifies against it. It must be recognized that the reading of ecclesiastical history can be an occasion of scandal to those whose faith is unsteady. These books tell us of the conflict within the Christian world, of human passions and temporal interests, of the corruption and disfigurement of truth in the consciousness of sinful mankind; very often they show periods of church-history which remarkably resemble those of civil governments, with their diplomatic relations, wars, and so on.

The outward history of the Church is visible and can be set out so that it is accessible to all. But her inward and spiritual history, the turning of men to God, the development of holiness, cannot be seen so easily; it is more difficult to write about them because they are in a way obscured and sometimes even overwhelmed by exterior history. Men detect evil more easily than good, they are more conscious of the outer than of the inner aspect of life; we have no difficulty in learning about the externals of our fellows, their commercial undertakings, their politics, their domestic and social institutions. But do we think much about the way in which men pray to God, how they relate their inner life to the divine world, in what manner they war spiritually with temptation?

Very often we know nothing, do not even suspect the existence, of a spiritual side to those whom we meet -- at the most we are conscious of it only in those whom we know particularly well. We are quick to note the exterior manifestations of evil passions that anyone can see, but as for what lies behind them, the spiritual struggles, the reachings out to God, the toilsome endeavours to live the truth of Christ -- we do not know them, we may even not want to know them. We are told not to judge our neighbour, but we judge him continually, by his outward actions, by the expression of his face, without ever looking within.

It is just the same with the history of Christianity. It cannot be judged by external facts, by the human passions and human sins that disfigure its image. We have got to recall to our minds what Christian people have had to contend with in the course of ages and their bitter struggles to get the better of "the old man," of their ancestral heathenism, of their age-long barbarity, of their grosser instincts; Christianity has had to work its way through the matter which put up such a solid resistance to the spirit of Christ, it has had to raise up to a religion of love those whose appetites were all for violence and cruelty. Christianity is here to heal the sick not the whole, to call sinners not the righteous, and mankind, converted to Christianity, is sick and sinful. It is not the business of the Church of Christ to organize the external part of life, to overcome evil by material force; she looks for an inner and spiritual rebirth from the reciprocal action of human freedom and divine grace. It is an essential quality of Christianity that it cannot get rid of self-will, the evil in human nature, for it recognizes and respects the freedom of man.

Materialistic socialists are given to proclaiming that Christianity is not a success, that it has not made the kingdom of God actual; it is nearly two thousand years since the Redeemer of the world appeared on earth and evil still exists, it even increases: the world is saturated with suffering and the burdens of life are no less for all that our salvation has been accomplished. These socialists promise to do, without God and without Christ, what Christ himself could not bring about: the brotherhood of man, justice in social life, peace, the kingdom of God on earth -- these unbelievers willingly use that expression, "the kingdom of God on earth"!

The only experience that we have of materialistic Socialism in practice is the Russian experiment, and that has not given the expected results. But there is no solution of the question in it. Socialism's promise to make justice rule on earth and to get rid of evil and suffering does not rest on human freedom but on the violation of it; its ends are to be realized by an enforced social organization which shall make external evil impossible by compelling men to virtue, righteousness, and justice--and it is this constraint that constitutes the great difference between Socialism and Christianity. The so-called "failure of Christianity in history" is a failure dependent upon human freedom, upon resistance springing from our Christ-given freedom, upon opposition by the ill will which religion will not compel to be good. Christian truth supposes freedom, and looks to an interior and spiritual victory over evil. Exteriorly the State can set a limit to the manifestations of wickedness and it is its duty to do so, but evil and sin will not be overcome in that way. There is no such dilemma for the socialist, because he knows no problem of sin or of the spiritual life; the only question facing him is that of suffering and social injustice and their elimination by means of an organization of life from without. God does not use force, for he desires man's freedom and not merely an exterior triumph of righteousness. In that sense it may be said that he maintains evil and uses it for good ends. In particular, the righteousness of Christ cannot be actualized by force. But the justice of Communism is to be attained by compulsion, and this can be done the more easily because any freedom of spirit is denied.

The argument based on a historical defeat of Christianity cannot be sustained. The kingdom of God cannot be imposed; if it is to be brought about we must be born again, and that supposes complete freedom of spirit. Christianity is the religion of the Cross, and it sees a meaning in suffering. Christ asks us to take up our own cross and carry it, to shoulder the load of a sinful world. In Christian consciousness the notion of attaining happiness, justice, and the kingdom of God on earth without cross or suffering is a huge lie: it is the temptation that Christ rejected in the wilderness when he was shown the kingdoms of the world and invited to fall down and worship. Christianity does not promise its own necessary realization and victory here below; Christ even questioned whether he will find any faith on earth when he comes again at the end of time, and foretold that love itself will have grown cold.

Tolstoy believed that Christ's commands could be easily fulfilled simply by recognizing their truth. But that was a mistake of his over-rationalizing consciousness; the mysteries of freedom and of grace were beyond him, his optimism contradicted the tragic depths of life. "The good which I will I do not," says the apostle Paul, "but the evil which I will not, that I do. Now if I do that which I will not it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." This testimony of one of the greatest of all Christians unveils the innermost part of the human heart, and it teaches us that the "failure of Christianity" is a human failure and not a divine defeat.


In the course of history there has been a triple betrayal of Christianity by Christendom. Christians first of all deformed their religion, then separated themselves from it, and finally -- and this was the worst wrong of all--began to blame it for the evils which they had themselves created. When Christianity is adversely criticized it is the sins and vices of Christian men and women that are criticized, their non-application and perversion of Christ's truth, and it is to a great extent because of these human perversions, sins, and wickednesses that the world abandons the faith.

Man perverts Christianity in some respect and then turns upon both the perversion and the real thing; the matters of which the detractors of Christianity complain cannot be found in the words of Christ, in his precepts, in the holy Scriptures, in sacred Tradition, in the Church's teaching, or in the lives of the saints. An ideal principle must be opposed by another, an actual fact must be met with another actual fact. It is possible to defend the cause of Communism by showing that it has been perverted and never properly applied, just as can be done for Christianity. Communists shed blood and denaturalize truth to gain their ends just as Christians have done, but to assimilate the two systems one to the other in consequence of this would be an obvious fallacy.

In the gospels, in the words of Christ, in the teaching of the Church, in the example of the saints, and in other perfect manifestations of Christianity, there can be found the good news of the coming of God's kingdom, calls to love of one's neighbour, to gentleness, to self-denial, to cleanness of heart; but nothing can be found there in favour of violence, hostility, revenge, hate, or greed. On the other hand, in the ideology of Marx, which is the breath of Communism, you can find appeals to revenge, to the malicious animosity of one class for another, to the war for personal interests, but nothing at all about love, sacrifice, forbearance, or spiritual purity. Christians have often committed these crimes and professedly under the banner of Christ, but in so doing they have never been fulfilling his commandments. Our adversaries delight in saying that Christians have often resorted to force for the defence or spreading of their religion. The fact is incontestable; but it only shows that these men were blinded by passion, that they were still unenlightened, that their sinfulness perverted the most righteous and sacred cause, that they did not understand of what spirit they were. When Peter drew his sword in defence of Jesus and smote off the ear of the high priest's servant, Jesus said to him: "Put up again thy sword into its sheath, for all that take the sword .shall perish by the sword."

The Christian revelation and religious life, like all revelation and all religious life, suppose the existence of man as well as the existence of God. And man, although enlightened by the light of grace which comes from God, accommodates this divine light to the eye of his own spirit and imposes on revelation the limitations of his own nature and consciousness.

We know from the Bible that God revealed himself to the Jews. But he was more than the wrathful, jealous, and avenging God reflected in the consciousness of the Jewish people. Men limited Christian truth too, and deformed it as well. Thus God was often represented at some eastern potentate, an arbitrary monarch, and the dogma of the Redemption was interpreted as the cessation of his judicial proceedings, begun because he was aggrieved against mankind, the transgressor of his will. It was this perverted understanding and human limiting of its doctrines that led men to give up Christianity. Even the idea of the Church was spoiled. It was made solely an external thing, solely identified with a hierarchy, with ceremonial observances, with the transgressions of "parochial Christian," and it was looked on first, foremost, and above all as an institution. The deeper and more inward understanding Of the Church as a spiritual organism, the mystical body of Christ (as St. Paul defines it), was forced almost out of sight and became accessible only to the few. The liturgy and the Sacraments were treated only as external rites, for their profound and hidden meaning completely escaped these pseudo-Christians. And so people left the Church, shocked by the vices of the clergy, by the mistakes of ecclesiastical organizations, by a too close likeness to a government department, by the hypocritical sham piety or the too ostentatious devoutness of the rank-and-file.

It must always be remembered that the life of the Church is theandric, there is a divine element and a human element, and these elements interact. Her foundation is eternal and infallible, sacred and sinless, it cannot be altered, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The divine element in the Church is Christ, her head, the fundamental structure of our religion, the dogmas of divine revelation, the evangelical moral teaching, the sacraments, the action of the grace of the Holy Spirit. But on the human side the Church is fallible and subject to change: there can be deformation, disease, failure, alteration, just as there can be creative activity, development, enrichment, rebirth. The sins neither of mankind in general nor of the ecclesiastical hierarchy in particular are the sins of the Church taken in her divine essence and they do not lessen her holiness. Christianity requires that human nature be enlightened and transfigured: human nature resists and tends to pervert its religion. In the continuous tension between the two elements sometimes the one is in the ascendant, sometimes the other.

Christianity raises man and sets him at the centre of the universe. The Son of God took on our flesh and by so doing sanctified our nature. The Christian religion points out to man the highest aim in life and appeals to his exalted origin and great mission. But, unlike other religions, it does not flatter human nature: it calls on man heroically to overcome his fallen and sinful state.

Human nature, undermined by original sin, is but little receptive: it cannot contain the divine truth of Christianity and has difficulty in grasping the theandric notion involved in the coming of Christ, God-man. He teaches us to love God and to love man, our neighbour, and the love of the one and the other are indissolubly bound together. We love our brethren through God, through the Father, and by our love for them we evince our love for God. "If we love one another God abideth in us and his charity is perfected in us." Christ was both Son of God and Son of man and he revealed to us the perfect union of God and man, the humanity of God and the divinity of man. But the natural man finds this fulness of a divine and human love difficult in practice. Sometimes he veers towards God and away from man, ready for divine love but indifferent and cruel to his fellows: it was thus in the Middle Ages. At other times he is all agog to love and serve man but without reference to God, even opposing the very idea of him as mischievous and contrary to the good of mankind: it is thus in the new age, with its Humanism and humanitarian Socialism. Then, when they have rejected the theandric truth and disassociated love of man from love of God, people proceed to attack Christianity and arraign it for their own misdeeds.


The intolerance, fanaticism, and cruelty that Christians have so often displayed are products of the difficulty, to which I have referred, that human nature finds in containing the fulness of Christian truth, its love and freedom. Men assimilate a part of the truth and are content with that; the full light reaches only a few. Man has a capacity for perverting anything, even absolute truth, and turning it into an instrument to serve his own passions. The very apostles themselves, the companions of Christ in the flesh, enlightened directly by him, understood his truth only in part and in too human a way, adapting it to their limited Jewish ideas.

To reproach the Christian religion for the fires of the Inquisition and the fanaticism, intolerance, and cruelty of the Middle Ages is to tackle the problem the wrong way round. An attack on medieval religion, founded on a statement of indisputable (but sometimes exaggerated) facts, is not an attack upon Christianity but upon people: it is man attacking man. The theocratic principle was proper to medieval Catholicism; in virtue of it the Church was considered over-much as a State, and some even conferred on the Pope a sovereignty over the whole world. But it was the barbarous nature of man, not the Catholic Church, that was responsible for the accompanying cruelty and intolerance. The world at that era was shot through with violent and bloody instincts, and the Church set herself to organize, tame, and christianize this anarchically-inclined world. The resistance of unenlightened human nature was so strong that she did not always succeed; the medieval world may be regarded as formally Christian but it was in essence half-Christian, half- pagan, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy itself was often enough sinful, bringing ambition and other human passions into the life of the Church and so disfiguring the truth of Christ. But the divine element continued intact and enlightening; the evangelical voice of our Lord was always there to be heard in its unalloyed purity. Had it not been for the Christian Church the world of the Middle Ages would have been drowned in blood, and spiritual culture would have perished altogether in Europe, for the best achievements of the culture of Greco-Roman antiquity were conserved by her and handed on to succeeding ages. The scholars, philosophers, and "intellectuals" of those days were all monks, and it is Christianity we have to thank for the type of chivalric knight, who made rude vigour gentle and its rough strength noble. And anyway, the natural ferocity of medieval man was sometimes better than the mechanization of his contemporary descendant.

Fanaticism did not so much characterize the Eastern Orthodox Church, which knew no Inquisition or similar violences in questions of religion and conscience. Her historical faults were due to a too great submission to the civil power.

There were human perversion and sin both in the Catholic Church and in the Orthodox Church, but the errors of Christianity as practised in the world were always the errors of individual Christians, arising from their natural weakness. If we do not live according to unsullied truth it is we who are to blame, not truth.

Men require freedom and are not willing to be constrained to goodness. Nevertheless, they charge God with the consequences of the unlimited freedom that he has given them.

Is either Christ or Christianity responsible for the fact that human life is full of evil?

Christ never taught the things that people criticize and repudiate in Christianity; if we had followed his precepts there would have been no reason for revolt against his religion.

In one of H. G. Wells's books there is a dialogue between men and God. The men complain that life is full of wickedness and suffering, wars, excesses of all sorts, so that it becomes unbearable, and God replies: "If you don't like these things, don't do them." This remarkably simple passage is very instructive. Christianity on earth has to operate in a land of darkness, surrounded by the forces of wickedness, both natural and supernatural; the might of Hell is arrayed against Christ and his Church. These evil powers are at work inside as well as outside the Church and Christianity, seeking to corrupt the one and change the other; but though the abomination of desolation is set up in the holy place this none the less remains holy, and even shines more brilliantly. Those who have spiritual sight see perfectly clearly that to pervert Christianity and then blame it for that for which it is not responsible is to crucify Christ anew. He gives his blood eternally for the sins of the world, for those who deny and crucify him.

Truth cannot be gauged by the behaviour of men, especially of the worst of them. Truth must be looked in the face and seen by its own light, and among the human reflections of that truth judgement must be made according to the best of them; the Christian religion must be judged by its apostles and martyrs, by its heroes and saints, and not by the mass of half-Christian-half-pagans who do all they can to deform the image of their faith.

Two greats tests were given to Christian mankind, persecution and victory. The first was surmounted, and by its martyrs and confessors under the Romans Christianity triumphed in its beginnings as it does under communist persecution in Russia to-day. But tile test of victory is harder, and when the Emperor Constantine bowed down before the Cross and Christianity became the official religion of the Empire there began a very long test of that kind. And it was surmounted less successfully than the other. Christians often changed from persecuted into persecutor, they let themselves succumb to the temptations of the kingdoms of this world and their power; it was then that there crept into Christianity those perversions of its truth that have been made the source of accusations against it. Christianity is not responsible for that which its critics do not understand, the joy of earthly victory. Christ: was crucified once more, for those who looked on themselves as his servants while they did not know of what Spirit they were.


The men of to-day who are so far from Christianity are fond of saying that the Church ought to be made up of perfect people, saints, and complain of her that she includes so many faulty persons, sinners, and pseudo-Christians. It is the standing argument against Christianity, and it is one that betrays non-comprehension or forgetfulness of the nature and essence of the Church. The Church exists before all else for sinners, for imperfect and wandering beings. Her origins are in Heaven and her principle is eternal, but she operates on the earth and in time, among elements submerged in sin; her first business is to succour an erring world at grips with suffering, to save it for eternal life and raise it to the heavens. The essence of Christianity is a union of eternity and time, of Heaven and earth, of the divine and the human, and not any separation between them: the human and temporal are not to be despised and rejected but enlightened and transfigured.

In the early days of Christianity there was a sectarian movement called Montanism, which claimed that the Church ought to consist exclusively of righteous and godly beings and that all others should be rejected by her; she was for the Montanists a community of those who had received special gifts from the Holy Spirit and by far the greater part of mankind, being sinful, was to be completely repudiated by her. Ecclesiastical consciousness condemned Montanism and upheld the Church as the home of sinners who repent. The saints are the Church's bulwark and buttress, but she does not depend on them alone, for the whole of mankind, a mankind seeking salvation, contributes in varying degrees to her perfecting. The Church on earth is the Church Militant warring with evil and iniquity, she is not yet the Church Glorified. Christ himself consorted with publicans and sinners, and the Pharisees criticized him for it. His Church has to be like him. A Christianity that extended its recognition only to good people would be a pharisaical Christianity. Compassion, forgiveness, charity towards one's neighbour with all his shortcomings are the work of Christian love and the means towards its perfection. To accuse Christianity of the shadow which darkens the destiny of the Church is a product of pharisaism.

Montanism is an example of false maximizing; it is spiritual pride, false morality, lack of love. The falsehood of maximizing consists in requiring the most from others but not from oneself, we accuse them of not achieving a perfection of goodness that we have not thought of attempting. Those who have reached holiness are not in the habit of accusing others. Christianity, the religion of love, unites austerity, strictness, exactingness towards self with sympathy, charity, and gentleness towards one's neighbour. The charges of our contemporaries are only pretexts for their animosity against Christianity, attempted justifications of their own treachery towards it: they shelter behind a false morality.

Christianity must not be confused with Tolstoyism, which is an abstract moralism. Tolstoy criticizes the historical so-called Christianity radically and cruelly, and his criticism is not without justification, for it is founded on facts. He claims that the Christian religion was professed as an abstraction, without any actualization of it in life and conduct. For him our Lord's moral teaching constituted the whole of the Christian religion: he was ignorant of or opposed to its hidden mystical sides. He believed that everything depends on the truth of a concept, and that once it is conceived it is a simple matter to put it into practice; if one recognizes the veritable law of the master of life, that is, of God, it will be easy, by virtue of that recognition, to actualize it. Tolsloy did not recognize man's freedom or see the evil lurking in the depths of human nature: he imagined the source of wickedness to be in the consciousness instead of in the will and its freedom. Accordingly he did not have recourse to the help of divine grace for the overcoming of evil but looked to a modification of consciousness. Jesus Christ was for him not a saviour and redeemer but a great educator for life, a moral legislator, and Tolstoy thought Christianity easy of realization because it is simpler, more advantageous, and wiser to live according to a law of love than according to the law of hatred favoured by the world. He had an idea that Christ teaches us "not to do silly things." He attributed the blame for the fact that the religion of Christ is not made real in life to theological teaching which concentrates attention on our Lord himself, building up all things on the redemption accomplished by him and on divine grace. Tolstoy attacked the Church at her foundations.

He was right to demand that Christianity be taken seriously and that Christ's precepts be translated into action, but he was mistaken in believing that this is easy and that it can be done simply by means of an enlightened consciousness, without Christ our Saviour or the grace of the Holy Spirit. In asking men to make this attempt Tolstoy fell into the error of moral maximizing. For the rest, he did not succeed in realizing in his own life the doctrine that he upheld. The only Christianity that he recognized as authentic was his own personal brand, which convicted the majority of men of immorality because they did not renounce their private property, because they did not work with their hands, because they ate flesh-meat and smoked tobacco. But he was not strong enough to realize moral maximization for himself; love became for him a law without grace, a source of indictment. Tolstoy had a well-balanced critical faculty, he could diagnose sin and describe well the unchristian character of his contemporary society and culture; but he did not see Christianity itself, hidden behind the sinfulness, imperfections, and deformities of Christians. Pride in his own reason prevented him from becoming interiorly Christian, Christ remained an external teacher and could not be welcomed within. But Tolstoy was a man of genius, great in his search for divine truth. Many. men who have neither his genius nor his thirst for truth attack both Christianity and Christians without trying to realize any perfection in their own existence and without the problem of the meaning and justification of life causing them any suffering, much or little.


It is a mistake to suppose that it is easy to live according to our Lord's commands, and to condemn his teaching because Christians do not practise it. But it is also a mistake to suppose that there is no need to realize the fulness of Christianity in the whole of life. At every moment of his existence the Christian ought to seek a perfection like to that of his heavenly Father and to lay claim to the divine Kingdom; all his life is subject to the words "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." The fact that our nature is sinful and that the ideal is in every way unattainable on earth must not paralyse our striving after perfection or quench our longing for the kingdom and righteousness of God. Man has to try to apply divine truth without worrying about how it will be realized in the fulness of life. The truth of Christ must be so realized, though little may be accomplished on earth, though a man may give but an hour of his life to it; and the right way is found in the effort to fulfil it and to find the heavenly kingdom without criticizing our neighbour.

Christianity is entering upon an entirely new era. Henceforth it will be impossible to live the faith only exteriorly, to stop short at a ceremonial devotion; believers will have to take the full actualization of their religion more seriously, they will have to defend it by their own personalities, by their lives, by their faithfulness to Christ and his principles, by meeting hatred with love.

In the Orthodox Church to-day the better elements, those most sincere and enthusiastic, most capable of self-sacrifice and faithfulness to our Lord, are coming to the front, while she is being abandoned by those who were Orthodox only outwardly or from habit, without understanding of their faith and what it committed them to. It may be said that the age of a confused Christianity and paganism is at an end and that a new and better one has begun. Christianity had become a dominating, an established, State religion, and the Church was tempted by the sword of Caesar: she even used it against those whose faith was not in agreement with that of the orthodox rulers. It was for this reason, because Christianity had become associated with the idea of persecutor rather than that of persecuted, that the conscience of many judged it to have ceased to be the religion of the Cross; it was too often interpreted as a sanctification of heathen customs that did not call for any real illumination and transfiguration. The time has now come when Christianity is persecuted anew, and a greater heroism, a greater expiatory love, a more complete and conscientious confession of the faith are asked for from Christians. We shall no longer be a stone of offence in the path of our religion.


The Christian faith tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and divine perfection, but it will have nothing to do with day-dreaming, utopias, or false imagination: it is realist, and the Fathers of the Church are always appealing for spiritual sobriety. Christian consciousness has a clear perception of all tile difficulties that beset the way of perfection, but it knows that "the kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force." Christianity teaches us to work from within to the outward anti not vice versa; the perfect life, whether individual or social, cannot be attained through any programme imposed externally: spiritual rebirth is essential and it proceeds from freedom and grace. Compulsion will never make good Christians or a Christian social order; there must be an effective and real change in the hearts of persons and of peoples, and the realization of this perfect life is a task of infinite difficulty and endless duration.

The negation of Christianity due to the shortcomings of Christians is essentially the ignoring and misunderstanding of original sin. Those who are conscious of original sin see in the unworthiness of Christians not a flat contradiction of the worth of Christianity but a confirmation of it. It is the religion of`redemption and salvation, and is not forgetful that the world finds pleasure in sin. There are many teachers who claim that the good life can be compassed without any real overcoming of evil, but Christianity does not think so: it insists on this victory, a rebirth; it is radical and more exacting.

Many men and things in history were decked out with Christian emblems that they did not deserve. There is nothing baser than lies, simulation, and hypocrisy, and this state of things provoked protest and revolt. The State bore the name and symbols of Christianity without being effectively Christian, and the same could be said of everything else, science, art, economics, law, the whole of "Christian culture." There were even those who tried to uphold the rich and great of this world and the social exploitation of man by man by an appeal to Christianity! The heathen man still lived on in Christendom; he was called to take his part in the building up of Christian life but meanwhile the old evil passions continued to stir within him: the Church influenced him interiorly but she could not alter his nature by force--the process had to be inward and hidden, God's kingdom comes imperceptibly. A vast amount of hypocrisy, falsehood, convention, and empty rhetoric accumulated in Christendom, and insurrection against it was inevitable. The revolt against and rejection of Christianity often represented simply a sincere wish for the outside to be like the inside: if there is no interior religion then there should be none exterior, if the State and society and culture are not Christian then they should not be called so; there is no need to sham and tell lies. Such a protest has its positive side in hatred of falsehood and love of truth; but along with its truth and sincerity, its protest against lies and hypocrisy, there went a new lie and a new hypocrisy.

Starting from the premise that men and society were in fact only imitation Christian the stage was reached where it was affirmed that Christianity itself is untrue and a myth, that the failure of men means the exploding of their religion. The critics then began to flatter themselves that they had reached a higher level, a greater perfection, a more authentic profession of faith. Thus anti- Christian hypocrisy took the place of Christian hypocrisy, and the adversaries of Christianity esteemed themselves, as such, more virtuous and enlightened and understanding of truth than mere Christians can be. Actually, these people were led astray by the worldly view which denies truth because it is more impressed by its perversions than by its reality. In that they have lost the sense of sin they are inferior to Christians. Nietzsche fought Christianity passionately because he looked only at degenerate and outward Christians; as for the Christian religion, he never began to try to understand it.

The Christian world is undergoing a crisis which is shaking it to its foundations. The day of sham, outward, rhetorical religion is past and henceforward it will be impossible to wed the externals of Christianity with a deceitful paganism. An age of effective realism is beginning which is tearing away the veils that hide the primordial realities and bringing the human soul face to face with the mysteries of life and death. Social conventions, political and governmental forms have lost all significance; men want to penetrate to the depths of life, to learn what is essential and what useful, to live in truth and righteousness.

Under the influence of contemporary upheavals souls are born thirsting above all for an unobscured and undeformed truth. Man is tired of falsehood and conventions and all the forms and appearances that have taken the place of reality; he wants to see the truth of Christianity, shorn of the deceptions which bad Christians have imposed on it; he wants to come to Christ himself. The Christian renaissance will be above all an appeal to Christ and to his truth freed from all human perversion and adaptation. Man's renewed consciousness of the permanent fact of original sin need not weaken consciousness of his responsibility towards the work of our Lord in the world or nullify endeavours for the forwarding of that work. To make the truth and commands of Christ real sometimes seems a desperate, impossible undertaking, and Christianity itself tells us that it is a task that: cannot be achieved by our unaided human powers. But what is impossible for man is possible for God. He who believes in Christ knows that he is not alone: he knows that he is called to realize the truth of Christ in company with Christ himself, his saviour.


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Last revised: January 1, 1999