Written By: Albert Schweitzer
Translated By: Johanna Powers
Reviewed English Edition: Macmillan, 1951
Original English Edition: Macmillan, 1923
Hardcover, 86 pages
No ISBN Shown
Table of Contents
This volume contains a series of lectures which Albert Schweitzer presented to the theology and missionary students at Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham, England, during February 1922. Schweitzer briefly compares Christianity to Brahmanism, Buddhism, Hinduism and the Chinese religions, concentrating on the theological underpinings rather than actual impact of each religion. He is particularly concerned with contrasting the ethical foundations of the religions. In essence, his view is that all these except Christianity are fundamentally world- and life-negating religions and therefore are unable to establish as basis for ethical action in the world.
Schweitzer discusses these topics in much greater detail in Indian Thought and Its Development. However, this much shorter volume avoids much of the scholarly discussion of that book while providing a clear, consistent account of the ethical character of major world religions.
"From my youth I have held the conviction that all religious truth must in the end be capable of being grasped as something that stands to reason. I, therefore, believe that Christianity, in the contest with philosophy and with other religions, should not ask for exceptional treatment, but should be in the thick of the battle of ideas, relying solely on the power of its own inherent truth."
"The [Graeco-Oriental religions are] concerned with liberation from the world only; it is not a dynamic ethic. Jesus, on the contrary, like the prophets and like Zarathushtra, who has much in common with the prophets, demands that we should become free from the world, and at the same time that we should be active in the world. The only experience the religious mind of the Graeco-Oriental type knows is the longing after the spiritual; but according to the teaching of Jesus men are to be gripped by God's will to love, and must help to carry out that will in this world, in small things as in great things, in saving as in pardoning. In this imperfect world already to be glad instruments of God's love is the service to which men are called, and it forms a preparatory stage to the bliss that awaits them in the perfected world, the Kingdom of God."
"Indian religion likes to represent itself as the religion of universal sympathy. It talks a good deal about the compassion which we should feel for all creatures. At the same time, however, it preaches the ideal of being absolutely without interest and of ceasing from all activity, and maintains that even the enthusiasm for doing good must be considered as a passion which in the end has to be overcome. ... One more point, which reveals a significant difference--the Brahmans' and Buddha's doctrine of redemption is for priests and monks only, for they alone are in a position to live out this religion of withdrawing from the world."
"[Representatives of the Indian religions] are aware of the peculiar weakness of the modern Christian piety. We are too much inclined to imagine that Christianity is merely activity. We do not have enough inwardness, we are not sufficiently preoccupied with our own spiritual life, we lack quietness; and this not only because in our exacting, busy existence it is difficult to obtain, but because, ignoring its importance, we do not take pains to secure it, being too easily contented with living our lives as unrecollected men who merely aim at being good."
"Let me tell you that to become acquainted with these thinkers was for me a vital experience; especially Lao Tsz and Meng Tsz fascinated me. They are much nearer to us than the Indian philosophers, for they do not move in an atmosphere of arrogant negation of life and the world, but are battling with philosophy, therein to attain to really ethical piety. Chinese religion, unlike Brahmanism and Buddhism, bears not only an outward resemblance to the Gospel of Jesus, but, being moved by the great commandment of love, it has in many respects true spiritual affinity with the Gospel. ... In so far as the Chinese philosophers are ethical, they idealize the natural forces at work in the world, and ascribe to them ethical character."
"Every rational faith has to choose between two things: either to be an ethical religion or to be a religion that explains the world. We Christians choose the former, as that which is of higher value. We turn away from the logical, self-contained religion. To the question, how a man can be in the world and in God at one and the same time, we find this answer in the Gospel of Jesus: 'By living and working in this world as one who is not of the world."
"All problems of religion, ultimately, go back to this one--the experience I have of God within myself differs from the knowledge concerning Him which I derive from the world. In the world He appears to me as the mysterious, marvelous creative Force; within me He reveals Himself as ethical Will. In the world He is impersonal Force, within me He reveals Himself as Personality. The God who is know through philosophy and the God whom I experience as ethical Will do not coincide. They are one; but how they are one, I do not understand."
Foreword (by Nathaniel Micklem) Christianity and the Religions of the World
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