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Religion and society (“Real Christianity”)

religion and politics Chapter 5 – The Excellence of Real Christianity

Major doctrines of faith should agree with its practical precepts.

While nominal Christianity “is satisfied with a tolerable appearance of virtue,” recommending love and charity, but tolerating pride and vanity, true Christianity “seeks the actual substance which will stand the scrutinizing eyes of God.”

It prefers moral rather than intellectual excellence, conducting its followers “to the higher heights of virtue than of knowledge.”

Chapter 6 – A Brief Inquiry into the Present State of Christianity

Summary: Christian behaviors bring out the best in a culture, and thus are politically advantageous as well as morally advantageous. Don’t pursue Christianity solely for its benefits, but expect those natural, positive effects to result.

Wilberforce laments the fall of morals in England in his time (late 1700’s). Some causes?

1. Too little persecution
As persecution usually quickens the opinion that it seeks to destroy, so in the lack of persecution, the “soldiers of the church militant will tend to forget they are at war.”

2. Pampered lifestyles
“The multiplication of large cities, and of luxury within them, also contributes to the decline in morals....The spirit of commercialism does not favor the maintenance of the religious spirit in a virile and lively state.”

3. Tolerated vices
Christianity declines when “those elements that are incompatible by nature, such as pride, luxury, and worldly-mindedness are allowed to increase.”

If man turns Christianity into a mere system of ethics instead of undergirding it with theological foundations, God is forgotten, his providence is explained away, and his hand is unseen.

The mark of a true Christian is his desire to please God in all his thoughts, words, and actions. He is to “adorn the doctrine he professes.” Such a motive allows him to carry on his vocation with vigor.

“His foremost concern would not be so much to succeed as it would be to have a principled life before God. So he would not be liable to the same disappointments as men who are active in labor for worldly gain or fame. And thus he would possess the true secret of a life that was both useful and happy.”

The disease of selfishness short-circuits this process. It prevents “the life’s breath of the state” to stay active and vigorous in reaching its true greatness and glory. This can be counteracted with the proper humility that Christianity encourages.

Wilberforce ends chapter 6 urging his readers to understand that political motives alone should not prompt us to act properly, but as we live out true Christianity, society improves as a natural consequence.

More thoughts from Chapters 5,6

1 comment:

Jude St.John said...

Too little persecution, pampered lifestyles, tolerated vices...hmmm...sounds like a place I know.

Followed you over from Challies.

Your summaries are helpful.


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