Wells' Dream About Jesus Is But A Dream
By REV. CANON C. W. CHANDLER j
COR me, at least, walking into a bookshop is always an adventure. I never know what I shall encounter, nor do I know how far-reaching will be the effects of whatever fresh approach to truth I may find in the books which I purchase. On a recent visit to a bookshop I did not as much as glance at the "digests" on the first counter. I prefer to do my own digesting so far as reading is concerned and to know much about a few things rather than a little about many things. Nor did I pause to discover the latest "book of the month," for I am thus far an Emersonian in that when hearing of a new book I always feel like reading an old one. Furthermore, I think that far too many people read for entertainment only rather than for instruction. The cinema and the radio, in an enlightened community, should, and do, provide* all that is needed in the way of mental distraction, Let's do a little thinking on our own account. We've been allowing others to think for us long enough. Mental laziness is a prevalent disease and it leads to slavery of mind and body, and that of the worst totalitarian kind. The modern drift is all in that direction and progress is seen to consist in a constantly improving standard of living (as desirable as that may be) without so much as a thought about the true nature of man as a child of God. " The Happy Turning " Then I passed a counter whereon a pile of war books were being displayed at greatly reduced prices, together with a number of military manuals about the use of bayonets and tommy guns. The first book that caught my eye at the next counter was "The Happy Turning," by H. G. Wells. "You'll not like that," said one of the young ladies behind the counter, with all the simple honesty that her countenance betrayed. That made me all the more anxious to discover what was distasteful about it. "Impudently blasphemous, that's what I call it," she continued. My curiosity knew no bounds. Glancing at the chapter headings I soon discovered the bone of contention. "Jesus of Nazareth Discusses His Failure." What an absurd- contention. How could He have failed if our encyclopaedic friend Wells at the age of 78 feels an itch to write about Him? Men will have ceased to write about Wells before this century has passed, in spite of his evident genius.
It's a book of dreams. The dreamer, presumably Wells himself, encounters Jesus in Dreamland and they discuss Christianity. "His scorn and contempt for Christianity go beyond my extremest vocabulary," says Wells. "Gods! how he hated priests, and how he hates them now!" The wonder is that such blasphemous nonsense could find a publisher, and were it not for the fact that the same firm has handled his books for the past halfcentury I doubt very much whether they would have published this latest work of one whose contribution to honest thought and social progress has been considerable. Of course those of us who have read "Crux Ansata" can in a measure understand how. much of Wells and how little of Jesus there is in the thoughts expressed in this latest book. That Jesus began His career "as a good illiterate patriotic Jew in indignant revolt against the Roman rule and the Quisling priests who cringed to it" is sufficiently true and sufficiently untrue to be as dangerous as it is useless as a considered statement. The vapounngs of a septuagenarian in" a twilight sleep—that's how I would describe this book. Say what you like about Jesus and it's bound to sell, for as Son of Man and Son of God He was and is such a glorious success. An Antidote Just then I brushed up against an Auckland solicitor of my acquaintance. He was at the same counter. "Have you read this, Padre?" he asked, while handing me a copy of Lord Elton's "Saint George or The Dragon." "There are a dozen sermons in this book," he said, which of course for one of my calling was the very best thing he could have said about any book. I bought it on the spot and have hardly been able to put it down since. It isn't a new book in the very modern sense of the term. It was first published in 1942, but it is a book that , will be perennially new because it deals with an eternal theme in a truly reverent manner. I find it a healthy antidote 'to Wells' latest, which I also purchased because I have such a high regard and even love for the author himself and could not pass him by any more than I could pass by the first flower of spring or the last rose of summer, without wanting to bury my nose in its- "printed" petals.
Lord Elton finds in the war that is gradually subsiding "the supreme arbitrament of our fitness for survival." Nor does he think we have any right to hope to survive ."unless we are worthy to survive— and to shape the new world." He contends that changes, however sweeping, should have their roots in the past. He is not in favour of shattering things entire as was Omar Khayyam, but would seek to build the New Jerusalem upon what he conceives to be the sure foundation of the Christian faith. ." He believes in the doctrine of the fall of man and contends that every one of us falls daily in the perpetual struggle betwixt good and evil which ,is constantly going on in our lives. The. philosophy of a "good time" which <has long since been, exploded remains very largely the philosophy of our day, and in so far as it does we have no right to expect anything in the nature of a new age. It is in obedience to a "new commandment" (John 13:34) and by walking in "a new and living way" (Heb. 10:20) that "new creatures" are made (11. Cor. 5:17). For, as Lord Elton concludes, "the reform of industry (and of banking) must in.a real sense be secondary to the reform of ourselves, since any system whatever controlled by disinterested Christians will be preferable to any system whatever controlled by selfseeking atheists." Why Men Don't Go To Church I want to thank the 100-odd men who have written to me under this Head. I appreciate their confidence, and am in the process of tabulating the reasons given, some of which will form the substance of next week's article. — G.W.C.
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Auckland Star, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 189, 11 August 1945
Wells' Dream About Jesus Is But A Dream Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 189, 11 August 1945
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