Facing the Modern Audience

The gen­eration to whom we now go with the message of truth for this hour has undergone a tragic change in thought and mental attitude toward those great fundamentals which gripped the minds of their forebears.

By L. K. DICKSON, President, Pcwiic Union Conference

As ministers and teachers of truth, we need to sense what we are facing. The gen­eration to whom we now go with the message of truth for this hour has undergone a tragic change in thought and mental attitude toward those great fundamentals which gripped the minds of their forebears. We need to recog­nize and appreciate this fact and adjust our­selves to it.

When this message was first given, almost all, from earliest childhood, were brought up in an atmosphere of traditional Christianity. They read, learned, and to some extent, in­wardly digested, the Bible. Weekly church attendance was more nearly universal, and sermons were heard and believed which pos­tulated the divinity of Christ, eternal prin­ciples of right and wrong, a personal God, and a life beyond. Life, at that time, derived its meaning largely from the teachings of Jesus.

Back there, people were educated to think that man is superior to animals, that he is a free agent capable of choosing between good and evil, and that good and evil are positive, tan­gible realities. But those who are now seated in our audiences have, in their modern educa­tion, progressively lost their grip upon Chris­tianity, and have scarcely, if ever, glanced at the Bible. When we refer to eternal verities and absolute declarations of truth, they are likely to recall the lesson their instructor in sociology drove home—that morals are relative to time and place, and that what is good in one society is bad in another.

Such teaching borders very closely on the view that there can be no such thing as sin. They have been taught by their professors of natural science, philosophy, and ancient his­tory that religions are the product of myth and superstition, and that men create gods in their own image ; that if there is such a thing as a converted heart, no scientist has ever isolated it in the laboratory.

We must take this modern attitude into account as we prepare our sermons, and we must train ourselves by reading and study to meet such people on terms of their own concep­tions. To them there seems no reason, in the light of present, so-called knowledge, for con­tinuing to accept any form of Christianity. "If the implications of our modern education are what they appear to be," say they, "was not Jesus of Nazareth an ordinary human being whose naive outpourings reveal a sad ignorance of politics and economics, whose precepts con­stitute a fanatical repudiation of human na­ture?" Further, if it is correct to infer from sociology that sin is nonexistent, they cannot see why they should cultivate any restraints or tolerate any inhibitions.

Within our ministry for others there must be found assistance to establish the old faith in God and the Bible, in spite of the handicaps of the teachings of modern education. Our pres­entation of truth must somehow be strong enough and wise enough to meet these issues in the minds of the modern generation to whom we are now preaching.

We must now, through our richness of per­sonal experience in the things we are teaching and our achievements in the right kind of research and study, be enabled to comment helpfully and convincingly on that which, in spite of preconceived modern notions, firmly establishes faith in the verities of eternal truth. Brethren of the ministry, we cannot measure up to these grave responsibilities without the profoundest kind of study and research. The call of God today is for a better-informed ministry. We cannot effectively cope with modern attitudes and philosophies without a deeper spiritual guidance than was ever neces­sary before.

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By L. K. DICKSON, President, Pcwiic Union Conference

March 1942

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