The Effective Blend Of The Old And The New Evangelism -- By: Francis Little Hayes
BSac 64:256 (Oct 1907) p. 726
The Effective Blend Of The Old And The New Evangelism
The term “evangelism” refers to methods of working and to substance of truth presented for the purpose of winning people to Christ and the Christian life. There is on the one hand, even within the church itself, a widespread distrust of the old evangelistic methods; and, on the other hand, an anxious fear of the new setting and the change of emphasis now given, in many quarters, to the truths of the gospel. There is a general disposition to apply to the field of evangelism the view expressed in Lowell’s familiar lines: —
“New occasions teach new duties;
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still and onward
Who would keep abreast with truth.”
But the old evangelism has done good; the new is comparatively untried. How much of the old must be retained if we are not to lose the success of the past? How much of the new must be accepted in order to continue and enlarge that success in the future?
There are three general principles that bear upon this question.
(a) History has taught that it is unsafe to surrender unreservedly to the leadership of the Zeitgeist. “The consciousness of the age” —in other words, the tendency of the times in the realm of philosophy and religion—is untrustworthy, because, like the swing of a pendulum, it goes to
BSac 64:256 (Oct 1907) p. 727
extremes; it is never the ultimate truth, being always subject to reaction; it stands, therefore, ever in need of correction. Nevertheless, there is always something in it to be reckoned with, because it is a struggle, more or less vague, to correct an error in the prevailing conception of truth.
(b) There is an historical progress, but there is also an historical continuity. To-day is the offspring of yesterday. You cannot cut the present apart from the past. The old is not abandoned, but reset in the framework of the living present, so that both truth and institutions have ever the freshness of youth, with the authority and prestige of age.
(c) There is a Freshman stage of intellectual independence. Its cry is, I know it all; my elders are wrong. Wisdom was born with my generation; former generations are discredited. But this is ever the callow cry of a stage of development to be outgrown.
These principles, taken together, establish the axiom that the old can never be independent of the new, and the new can never be independent of the old. It follows that the old evangelism that is not also new and the new; evangelism that is not also old can never be effective. The truly open mind must have windows both in ...
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