A OF THE
BUCHMANISM is swinging away into Humanitarianism, if by the latter we mean the service of our fellowmen and thereby the establishment of a perfect state of society here as the be-all and end-all of human existence. Quite certainly it has ceased, if it ever seriously professed it, to be a Christian revivalist movement of the pre-War type. Many had hoped it " should have redeemed Israel," have swung our country back to
By Fr. Eustace Dudley
Christ, to the recognition of Sin, Redemption, Heaven or Hell, as the inescapable conditions of self-realisation and spiritual development.
However erroneously that past school of evangelists, such as Torrey and Alexander, conceived of the working of grace and its conditions, they emphatically believed in its existence and necessity and in its gratuitous nature, and in the utter helplessness of man without it, so far as the bettering of his relations with God and the securing of his eternal destiny were concerned. And the source of that grace was Calvary, the application of the Blood of the God-man Christ to the individual soul. This was with them the only way to God, not a way as with the Buchmanites.
Both "Evangelicalism " and Buchmanism stake everything on " experience and the consequent immediate change of life, with the latter the attainment of " the four superlatives." But while the " evangelist " built on a revealed theological basis—at least as he interpreted it—the Buchmanite, whether Jew, Mohammedan or Christian, storms Heaven with the "Prayer of Quiet " —since "Powerful Radiograms are always Yours "—and relegates theology to "The Churches " and to private opinion.
That the Oxford Group Movement in no way raises the individual above the natural, that it requires nothing but natural theology as the basis of our highest spiritual attainments, is clearly evidenced in the popular books connected with the Movement, such as Mr. Beverley Nichols's " The Fool Hath Said," as well as in the " testimony " of its more enthusiastic members; and finally in the undenominational make-up of its inner circle or " team," who arc not, for example, enthusiastic " Anglo-Catholics."
One had hoped to seein the Oxford Groups a sort of clearing house for the various denominations—" we give you a sound philosophy of life, help you to realise your supreme value as an immortal being, and something of the purpose of human creation. if you think there is more, a definite revelation for example, go where you say it is to be found." I know there are cases where they have acted on this principle, but there is also a growing tendency in the Movement to mere sectarianism, to its perversion into one of those esoteric circles for the " Elites," a form of modern Buddhism, or, as a distinguished convert remarked to me, of its degenerating into " a purely psychological process."
So much for destructive criticism. And now, if possible, for a little constructive thought; for I believe there are most valuable lessons we Catholics can learn from the movement, especially in our approach to the non-Catholic mind and in devising better methods of presenting the Faith.
Unquestionably Buchmanism derives from Evangelicalism, but is its last flicker, a last effort to save " The Churches," only to find they have gone dry, that is, doctrineless. " And we shall never have another real evangelical movement till doctrine is recovered," my friend above-mentioned added; and recovered from where alone it is preserved in all its primitive purity, and present-day perfection, in the only divinely guaranteed body established by Jesus Christ, the God-man, on earth, the Church of Peter and his successors.
Non-Catholic Christianity was dying in this country long before the War—it was like a badly guttering candle before the blasts of scepticism and indifference, speeding to its decease. And in the War it just went out; to use the similes of Mr. Belloc, like a candle in the dark, or like blotting paper absorbs water. And Buchmanism, we repeat, is the final flicker of the old order of Protestant Britain.
An Evangelical movement Buchmanism certainly has been, not one of the Gospel of Christ indeed, but " the good news " of man's natural worth and dignity as made " in the image of God," possessed of the God-like faculties of reason and free-will, and so able to feel after, know and love God. In the communion of prayer indeed to know something of His love and purpose for man, but only something. But of the Good News of man's supernatural likeness, men raised through Calvary and the Sacraments, to be conscious sharers for eternity in the divine nature itself, the pledge and essence of which is ours now in Baptism, Penance and the Holy Eucharist —of this they cannot be expected to know, or at best, to know only in the twilight of confusion and uncertainty. And that is just why and where the old order merges in the new; why and where we Catholics as in a relay race must carry on this baton of natural truth, in our hands enjewelled, crowned, and transformed with the supernatural, and as our life apostolate.
" I want to see the evangelistic note sounded in our pulpits and books," my friend continued; and it should be added on our C.E.G. platforms and wherever the Catholic Faith is presented to the unbelieving, indifferent and forgotten masses. We Catholics are mistakenly shy of the term " evangelical "; we think of " revivalist " meetings, of scenes in our youth when amidst a deathly silence in some Protestant drawing-room, where all heads were buried in the cushions of comfortable armchairs, someone suddenly rose from his knees and bore witness to a changed life, and perhaps
also to a hair-raising past. We think, maybe, of evangelicalism as sob-stuff, or as the battle set in array—" Experience versus Authority," or " The Gospel versus Rome."
In point of fact the distinction between evangelicalism and apologetics is mistaken and artificial, as applied to two methods of presenting the faith, which ought to work in perfect juxtaposition. If the doctrine we are presenting is not evangelical in the proper sense of the word, " according to the doctrine of the gospel," it is certainly not Catholic. The self-styled "evangelist" preacher may be giving his audience " the good news," the good news of salvation by faith only or the Bible only, but it is not the good news of the New Testament. Now, of course, he gives the good news of good works only. And what a terrible mess they have made in consequence of the Gospel news.
But that is no reason why we should not be evangelical. Because someone in the orchestra is playing the euphonium badly, we shall probably make things worse if we throw the instrument out of the window instead of playing it ourselves, more especially when we know all about it, or should, considering it , has been in the family for generations, and in fact authentic records exist to show that the names engraved upon the instrument are quite definitely ancestors of ours.