The “Meaning Of Life” “ “Cultus Dei’” -- By: Werner Petersmann

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 090:359 (Jul 1933)
Article: The “Meaning Of Life” “ “Cultus Dei’”
Author: Werner Petersmann


The “Meaning Of Life” “
“Cultus Dei’”

The view-point of a “Cult”—Theocentric Theism (A Lecture Sermon)

Prof. Werner Petersmann

1. The “Question”

Christian preaching as well as Christian theology must ever be on the alert. It must keep its eyes open to the times and must ever look out for the categories and terms, for the problems and needs of the Spirit of the Age. It must try to discern the “question” vital to the day and must try to furnish an equally vital “answer” from the Gospel. This “inductive”1 method will really meet the situation and actually strike home.

We live in an age of “crisis.” external and internal. In the war and post-war disillusionment about rational evolutionary progressivism, when Oswald Spengler prophesied the “Decline of the West,” relativism and scepticism raised their head high on the European Continent. It was a veritable head of Medusa that was raised. The Medusa, however, changed into the Sphinx, the ancient consecrated guardian of the temple. Thus, there arose the elemental experience of “tragic fate.” Oswald Spengler reflects this experience and elaborates it in his momentous philosophy of history, a glowing exponent of the “Zeitgeist.” It was then that Werner Elert made the masterful attempt to proclaim the Evangel “inductively,” starting with and interpreting this determining conflict between man’s will for freedom and lordship and the sovereign power of “fate.”2 The ghost of “Crisis” has entered even the continent of prosperity. It “upsets the whole world” and “has come

here too!” (Acts 17, 7). None can tell to what extent this magician’s wand will affect even the land of optimistic, human “pioneering.” Should perhaps (mutatis mutandis) Eugene O’Neill’s Morning Becomes Electra (1931) ominously anticipate a similar approaching experience of “tragic fate,” as did Franz Werfel’s translation of Euripides’ Women of Troy (1915) for the “unprosperous” antipodes across the Atlantic?

The “crisis,” however, is “ecumenically” at its work. The faith and activism of the “Social Gospel” programs of yesterday are no longer handed down to today and tomorrow with the same enthusiasm. An earthquake shakes its foundations very critically. The “new age” of the “Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man” did not appear as the result of the great war which was waged “to ma...

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