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The Church and Modern Life   By: (1836-1918)

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Transcriber's Note: Footnotes have been renumbered and moved to the end of the book.

The Church and Modern Life


Washington Gladden



"The time is come," said a New Testament prophet, "for judgment to begin at the house of God." Perhaps that time ought never to pass, but if, in any measure, the criticism of the church has of late been suspended, it is certainly reopened now, in good earnest. Nor is this criticism confined to outsiders; the church is forced to listen in these days to caustic censures from those who speak from within the fold.

That such self criticism is needed these chapters will not deny. That the church is passing through a critical period must be conceded. But the way of life is not obscure, and it seems almost absurd to indulge the fear that the church, which has been providentially guided through so many centuries, will fail to find it.

These pages have been written in the firm belief that the Christian church has its great work still before it, and that it only needs to free itself from its entanglements and gird itself for its testimony to become the light of the world. Something of what it needs to do to make ready for this great future, this little book tries to show.

Through all this study the thought has constantly returned to the young men and women to whom the future of the church is committed; and while the book is most likely first to fall into the hands of their pastors and teachers, the author hopes that ways will be found of conveying its message to those by whom, in the end, its truth will be made effective.

W. G.

First Congregational Church, Columbus, Ohio, December 17, 1907.


I. The Roots of Religion II. Our Religion and Other Religions III. The Social Side of Religion IV. The Business of the Church V. Is the Church Decadent? VI. The Coming Reformation VII. Social Redemption VIII. The New Evangelism IX. The New Leadership

The Church and Modern Life


The Roots of Religion

The church with which we are to deal in the pages which follow is the Christian church in the United States, comprising the entire body of Christian disciples who are organized into religious societies, and are engaged in Christian work and worship.

This church is not all included in one organization; it is made up of many different sects and denominations, some of which have very little fellowship with the rest. Among these groups are some who claim that their particular organizations are the true and only churches; that the others have no right to the name. Such is the claim of the Roman Catholic church and of the High Church Episcopalians. Their use of the word church would confine it to those of their own communions. Others would apply the term more broadly to all who profess and call themselves Christians, and who are united in promoting the teachings and principles of the Christian religion.

The church, as thus defined, has no uniform and authoritative creed, and no ruling officers or assemblies who have a right to speak for it; it is difficult, therefore, to make any definite statements about it. It is possible, nevertheless, to think of all these variously organized groups of people as belonging to one body. In some very important matters they are united. They all believe in one God, the Father Almighty; they all bear the name of Christ; they all acknowledge him as Lord and Leader; they all accept the Bible as containing the truth which they profess to teach. The things in which they agree are, indeed, far more important than the things in which they differ, and it is our custom often to speak of this entire body of Christian disciples as "the church," forgetting their differences and emphasizing their essential unity. This is the meaning which will be given to "the church" in these discussions.

The church is concerned with religion... Continue reading book >>

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