Cled E. Wallace
It seems to be generally conceded that there is something radically wrong with a big parcel of what passes for modern religion. The remedies and operations suggested point to the fact that some of the professional experts are quacks or near-quacks. Religion is an inviting medium for quacks—low, medium, and high class.
Along comes a “Rev. Johnson” of the Methodist persuasion to Memphis, “down in Dixie,” and gets himself in the headlines in addition to tickling the fancy of a “nosy” news reporter, and this is not intended as a scornful dart aimed at reporters. Being “nosy” is part of their business. Streamlining the tale down to its lowest common denominator—this is “a streamlined era” in which we live, and the youth of our time are destined to ignore religion and let it go to everlasting shebang, if we do not streamline it and speed it up to the swing-time of light fantastic toes of our streamlined juveniles.
After reading a column or so along the line, the idea seems to be to disguise religion with a jazzy or some such highly entertaining make-up and lead “youth” into believing it is having a hilarious time instead of getting old-time religion. This is really not new enough to be news nor profound enough to be religion.
Considering the principles involved, it rates along with the soap-box oratory of a corn-cure quack who extols the virtues of his new and exclusive enemy of corndom. “Ladees and gent’lmun, you suffer needlessly. One drop of this magic oil will do the trick. You don’t even have to take off your shoes or wash your feet. Just drop a wee bit of it on your shoe and it will hunt the corn and chase it to regions where it can never return.” A drop of modern religion, diluted with a cup of entertainment and externally applied cannot cure what is the matter with either modern youth or age. It is a quack remedy for sin which can result in nothing more than polishing up the outside of the cup a bit. “Rev. Johnson” and his type of “streamlined” house cleaners are hasty and superficial. They neglect the closets and do not trouble themselves to sweep the corners or under the beds.
Why not “streamlined religion”? We like streamlined trains, automobiles, duties, and are so fast in other ways that the very word has magic in it, and even the devil passes unchallenged nearly everywhere “in this streamlined age,” for, behold, he, too, is streamlined. It may be taken for granted that if anything can be done to religion—Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or pagan—that can be palmed off for streamlining, it will speed quickly into the graces of “this streamlined era,” which is highly and hilariously allergic to the very suggestion of it.
I am jumping on this as a ready-made occasion to emphasize some divine warnings which the streamlined tap dancers in religion have overlooked or ignored. All efforts to “streamline” God’s commandments have led men to a rejection of God in all ages. Cain started it—no, his mother did, by lending her ear to the crafty suggestion of the devil. Cain follow suit by presenting a more reasonable offering to God than the bloody sacrifice He commanded.
The Israelites angered God by streamlining the government for more modern and acceptable effectiveness. Samuel was “old” and old fashioned. His sons were not what they should have been. They demanded and got what they wanted, and the streamlined nation sped smack into rebellion and ruin, king and all.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men (Rom. 16:17-19 ASV).
A lot of this streamlining talk is “smooth and fair,” but too often leads to a giddy mind and a full “belly” and absence of any true conviction of sin and full reliance on Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).
Now do not misunderstand or misjudge me. Man has a right to invent, build, improve, and streamline things. He has a heritage in his exploration and subjugation of nature and its forces to his legitimate uses. The first steamboat was a tubby, ugly, and unwieldy thing, but it was a triumph in its day. I prefer the grace, speed, and beauty of the modern mistresses with pretty names which glide swiftly through ocean lanes. The trains which first ran races with horses and buffaloes are relics, albeit worthy steppingstones in the march of progress, which developed streamlined streaks of speed which stride along stretches of soil at great velocity. And, they have taken wings and roar through the clouds above them at hundreds of miles per hour with scores of human beings seated in their bowels. Man is streamlining his inventions, and a little self-boasting may be pardoned.
Why should not religion be streamlined? The gospel is the divine work of God designed to restore the marred image of God, a sin-scarred horror in degenerate man. It came from heaven, perfect, lines and all. The original, certified gospel is only marred and perverted when men seek to improve it. The gravedigger of Shakespeare could as well touch up the effects of a Michaelangelo masterpiece as a modernist or theologian could improve the Sermon on the Mount or Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. The Gospel claims inspiration. If these claims are valid, it is God’s power to save, a perfect remedy for sin. What men inject into it is a poison virus. “For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12 ASV).
Forces were at work in Paul’s day, forces of compromise and disloyalty, which gathered momentum through the centuries and resulted in the modern mess which quack doctors in religion propose to streamline. Streamlining a perversion is a tragedy so great that a waste of time is an anticlimax. Even if it is suggestive of reform, such a reform is not what the situation calls for. We do not need a reformation of Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, or paganism. We need a complete restoration of the original Gospel and the original church, and “the pattern of sound words” is found in the New Testament.
Denominational parties, human creeds, speculative theories in conversion, and other fields are unauthorized plants which the Father “hath not planted.” They do not need pruning; rooting up is the most effective treatment that can be administered. They are human, added things which have not come “by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” “The simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3 ASV) is streamlined enough. Any religion today which needs streamlining owes its bulky awkwardness to the traditions of men. Its ideas and nomenclature arose this side of the New Testament after the days of inspiration were over.
The things that men must believe and do in becoming Christians and “the apostles’ doctrine” they should continue in are streamlined enough as found in the New Testament. The one thing that needs to be done is to reject all humanisms, parties, creeds, and speculations and go directly to the New Testament and accept its unfailing wisdom. It came from God.