Written By: Magnus C. Ratter Reviewed Edition: The Beacon Press, Boston, 1950 Hardcover, 214 pages No ISBN Shown Quotes Table of Contents
Ratter also forcefully points out the enormity of Schweitzer's decision to abandon his previous endeavors at the age of 30 and devote the rest of his life to missionary medical work. In what Ratter calls the Threefold Sacrifice, Schweitzer the renowned organist sacrificed his budding fame and playing ability (for his fingers were sure to lose their ability after years in the jungle); Schweitzer the pastor and lecturer sacrificied his pulpit and audience; and Schweitzer the fierce independent sacrificed his financial freedom for a life dependent on the charity of his friends. Of course, the first two of these sacrifices turned out not be completely required of Schweitzer; his organ playing if anything was enhanced by years of practice on a donated jungle-hardened piano, and after several decades in the jungle his books were better and more in demand than before. But Schweitzer had no way of knowing of any of this at the time of his decision, and he was convinced that the sacrifice was required and worthwhile.
Ratter clearly holds Schweitzer in the highest possible regard, and
does nothing to hide that fact (as more modern biographers are expected
to do). His writing is clear and easily read, although he makes frequent,
brief comparisons between Schweitzer's work and analogous efforts--mostly
in writing and art--by famous people, many of whom I've never even heard
of. I very much enjoyed this book. While it is somewhat dated
and certainly hard to find, I recommend it to anyone with an interest in
"To the young man [Schweitzer at 24], a pilgrim of eternity, though he would not himself use the Dantesque title, there was no final help in the profound, sometimes obscure, but always serious writings of Kant. Schweitzer admired the ordered life of the Konigsberg philosopher, felt kinship with his passion for work,but was not persuaded that he had written a consistent philosophy."
[Quoting Schweitzer from Christianity and the Religions of the World]
"For ten years, before I left for Africa, I prepared boys in the parish of St. Nicholas, in Strassburg, for confirmation. After the [First World War] some of them came to me and thanked me for having taught them so definitely that religion was not a formula for explaining everything. They said it had been that teaching that kept them from discarding Christianity, whereas so many others in the trenches discarded it, not being prepared to meet the inexplicable. When you preach, you must lead men out of the desire to know everything to the knowledge of the one thing that is needful, to the desire to be in God, and thus no more to conform to the world but to rise above all mysteries as those who are redeemed from the world."
"From our vantage view, forty-four years later, when success has justified the chosen course, it needs imagination to sense how untoward it appears in 1904, sympathy to sense that the [Threefold Sacrifice] demanded was most real."
"So where some others go to the heathen to proclaim the saving power of Christ (their motive to increase the number of the redeemed), Schweitzer goes to do penance for the wrongs that Africa has suffered at the hands of the whites, moved by compassion to relieve their suffering."
"Jesus went into retirement with his disciples, still the appointed number, to Tyre and to Caesarea Philippi. He did not flee, as his journey to the north is often interpreted. One who later went so determinedly to death was not the one to flee his enemies. In the wilderness, retired from active ministry, enlightenment came: the passage concerning the suffering servant, as written by Isaiah, gave to him his understanding."
"The effect of a first knowledge of the Jesus of history is often, on both Fundamentalist and Liberal, that of a volcanic eruption, destroying with a fierce heat everything once held precious, leaving only a dull dead ash. Yet in time this yields a richer vineyard than flourished before. To those who give time to the Schweitzer study a final insight will come. To experience the Jesus of history as spiritually alive, is vivid as any conversion; it is a spiritual birth with John's Gospel as a birthday card."
"Schweitzer insists that men should think. Nothing should be accepted contrary to reason. He requires that men should will to do the right. In order to know the right, men must think. The ethic of reverence for life is Schweitzer's answer to the questions men ask when they take a long walk in the country."
"Though his friends are many, Schweitzer is not yet [circa 1949] a public figure. This is our loss, for if he could be as popular as Gandhi was, our spiritual life would gain. It will come. That hundreds of thousands know of G.B. Shaw, approving his enthusiasm for a sensibly ordered state, whereas only hundreds know of Schweitzer, is history repeating itself: the popular organist was Frescobaldi, who merited his passing reputation, but the true musician was Bach. In confidence we wait."
Table of Contents of Albert Schweitzer Life and Message
- Moral Adventure
- Music and the Organ
- The Dynamic Jesus
- Reverence for Life
- One of the Illuminati
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