What then is the role of the Church in such a world as this? Surely it is still what it was before—to be the soul of society, “the salt of the earth.” If we, Christ’s people, are carrying on, year in and year out, a quiet, persistent witness by word and life to “the things that are more excellent,” the unseen things which are eternal, we too shall be “holding the world together,” and opening before society the vista of a genuine progress. This is the supreme and incommunicable task of the Church; this is the priceless service which we can render to the nation.
The position is defensible, for it is one that has been held by the saints, and dangerous indeed is the spirit of materialism in the region of social reform. But does not one miss from the Bishop’s attack upon the social reformer something much deeper than successful logic, something which expresses itself in the works of other men by the language of sympathy and charity, something which hungers and thirsts to shed light and to give warmth, something which makes for the eventual brotherhood of mankind under the divine Fatherhood of God?
Some such spirit as this, I think, is to be found in the writings of Mr. R.H. Tawney, who, however much he may err and go astray in his economics, cherishes at least a more seemly vision of the human family than that which now passes for civilisation. Is it not possible that the day may come when a gigantic income will seem “ungentlemanly”? Is it not a just claim, a Christian claim, that the social organisation should be based upon “moral principles”?
Christians are a sect, and a small sect, in a Pagan Society. But they can be a sincere sect. If they are sincere, they will not abuse the Pagans . . . for a good Pagan is an admirable person. But he is not a Christian, for his hopes and fears, his preferences and dislikes, his standards of success and failure, are different from those of Christians. The Church will not pretend that he is, or endeavour to make its own Faith acceptable to him by diluting the distinctive ethical attributes of Christianity till they become inoffensive, at the cost of becoming trivial.
. . . so tepid and self-regarding a creed is not a religion. Christianity cannot allow its sphere to be determined by the convenience of politicians or by the conventional ethics of the world of business. The whole world of human interests was assigned to it as its province (The Acquisitive Society).
It must not be supposed that the Bishop has no answer to this criticism of his attitude. He would say, “Produce your socialistic scheme, and I will examine it, and if it will work and if it is just I will support it; but until you have found this scheme, what moral right do you possess which entitles you to unsettle men’s minds, to fill their hearts with the bitterness of discontent, and to turn the attention of their souls away from the things that are more excellent?”