PRIMEVAL CHRISTIANITY
Voltaire once remarked that it might be a very fine thing if Europe some time
decided to try Christianity. He was intimating, of course, that there had never
been a serious undertaking anywhere in the Christian world to put into practice
the Christly code of ethics as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. He was
assuming that Europe knew well enough what Christianity was, but lacked the
moral strength to put its cardinal principles to work.
It is suggested here that the philosopher would have made a far more pertinent
observation if he had said that it might be well if Europe at some time really
learned what true Christianity was. This essay ventures to go beyond Voltaire
and make the assertion that not only had Europe never tried Christianity, but
that it never had it. Not only had the Occidental world never tried living its
professed and dominating religion of Christianity, but never at any time in its
historical period had it even possessed the true religion to which the name of
Christianity had been attached. Failure of Christendom to put its nominally
accepted religious systematism into living operation in its centuries of
historical life was not mainly due to its want of moral stamina, but stemmed, as
this work will assert, from the simple fact that it did not have the Christianity
that should have gone with the name. Cutting many a Gordian knot of
entangled debate and likewise cutting a straight path through a jungle of
theological presuppositions, this work will begin with the bald bold declaration
that the Western world of Europe and America has never held true Christianity
in its possession, has never had knowledge of it.