Sunday, December 21, 2008

Elliott on "The collapse of dogmatic Protestantism" (1893)

"The collapse of dogmatic Protestantism is our opportunity. Denominations, and 'creeds,' and 'schools,' and 'confessions' are going to pieces before our eyes. Great men built them, and little men can demolish them. This new nation cannot but regard with disdain institutions hardly double its own short life, and yet utterly decrepit; cannot but regard with awe an institution in whose life the Great Republic could have gone through its career nearly a score of times. I tell you that the vigor of national youth must be amazed at the freshness of perennial religion, and must soon salute it as divine. The dogmas of older Protestantism are fading out of our people's minds, or are being thrust out. It is not against the religion of men's ancestors, but against each one's religion of yesterday, as unsteady as it is recent in acquisition, that we have to contend--we who speak for Him who is of yesterday, and to-day, and the same for ever.
"Consider then, how it is with our noble-hearted friends: in their case it is religion wandering here and there in search of a church. How many earnest souls are about us, weary of doubtful teachings, glad to hearken to, ay and to believe, any one who promises them relief.
"See, too, and admire, how their religious instincts strive after organic life. As Calvinism dies, Christian Endeavor is born and counts a million members in a day--good works making little of faith, as at first faith made little of good works. See that while Methodism leaves the slums and is petrifying in lordly temples and in universities, the Salvation Army scours the gutters it has turned from with loathing."

Walter Elliott, "The missionary outlook in the United States," Catholic world 57, no. 342 (1893): 759 ( I am less interested in the Catholic triumphalism than the largely Newmanesque (?) insight into "The collapse of dogmatic Protestantism". How contemporary (if unoriginal) some of this sounds!

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