I discovered a lengthy tract in my office, written by F.W. Mattox, best-known as the author of the book, The Eternal Kingdom. This tract is the text of a speech given at Harding College, showing how the problems of the American marketplace could be solved if people would apply Christian principles.
We will be presenting the text of this speech in several installments (so as not to make your eyes cross reading the whole thing in one sitting on the computer).
On October 25, 1949, Dr. F. W. Mattox spoke at the regular daily chapel service at Harding College. Many of the men attending the fourth Freedom Forum were present, several of whom requested the speech in printed form.
Believing that the true objectives of labor and management are identical; that there is desperate need for a better understanding of this fact; and that the application of Christian principles to industrial problems offers the only hope of long preserving our present standard of high wages, Harding College readily consented to print the message for the benefit of a wider audience.
-George S. Benson President
Christian Solutions To Modern Problems
By Dr. F. W. Mattox
In modem literature, there are many criticisms of attempts to apply first century principles to 20th century problems. Yet many of us are convinced that the solution to our modem problems is to be found in the application of the teachings of Christ.
Our purpose here is to examine briefly the applications of Christianity to the pressing problems of today in the light of its critics. The conclusions are of vital importance to our concept of government, society, business management, and labor.
1. THE PHILOSOPHY OF AMERICANISM
There exists in America today a strong influence designed to revamp the American way of life. Its purpose is to exalt the state and mold society according to a visionary concept. In order to accomplish these ends there must be a change in the philosophy that supports American society.
No institution exists without an underlying philosophy. Whether stated or not, there is a concept that supports each institution as a foundation does the superstructure of a building and as roots support a tree. If this basic idealism is not harmonious the institution can stand no better than can a building on a faulty foundation. This means that the reason given for doing a thing affects the way the thing is done. If men do not agree upon the why, one cannot expect them to agree upon the how.
The cause for the chief problems in America is a lack of agreement in regard to this underlying philosophy. With the encroachment of naturalism and relativity, the spiritual concepts of the Bible that gave unification to America in its formative period are being challenged. This has resulted in confusion of ideals and purposes, not only in regard to religion, but also in sociology, economics, and government.
Americanism is a word that denotes such ideas as freedom, progress, enlightenment, scientific know-how, mass production, invention and change. To many, this concept is entirely contrary to the ideas of the Christian religion. For the Bible is thought of as supporting the status quo. Its principles of permanent truth and uncompromising idealism are looked upon to support the heritage of the past and are expected to resist change.
That we are living in a world of change is not denied. Professor Whitehead was correct in reminding us that before 1914 there was in the world more of constancy than of change, but since the First World War, there has been more of change than of constancy. Let it be clearly understood, however, that the Bible is not a defender of the status quo. The ideals of the Bible have never been achieved in any society and every student of Church History has thrilled with the heroic fight of the saints of old in their struggles for social change.
It is the contention here that change in the right direction must grow out of timeless principles of truth. There must be a firm base for a great building and fertile soil for luxuriant growth. The Bible provides this base, the soil of which greatness grows. This is clearly seen by the following examination.
What are the requirements for a permanent and progressive society?
First there must be a feeling of brotherhood. A stable society cannot exist without its members working closely together. That man’s native gregariousness is not sufficient to provide this need is seen through a glance at class strife and human selfishness. The Bible develops this cohesive need by emphasizing the brotherhood of man. It is being claimed that Communism also emphasizes a brotherhood of man, but such claims are soon seen to be without foundation in fact. Brotherhood presupposes equality. Not equality of possession, as the Communists strive for, but a recognition of the equal worth and dignity of each member. Americanism is based upon this concept but apart from the Bible the concept itself is without foundation.
The second requirement for a permanent progressive society is in regard to production. Each member must contribute his fair share. Communism, finding that work is not cheerfully given, attempts to force this contribution through the existence of a police state, with its exile and forced labor camps the motivating influence. Where the state controls the production of each worker, incentive and initiative are killed and force and fear are the only alternatives.
In the American system, production is held to the highest level found anywhere in the world, by the principle of individual freedom. This freedom to plan, to work and to enjoy the fruits of labor, rests upon the requirement that each member of society assumes responsibility. This is the key to the problem. How can men be taught to assume responsibility? The Bible has the only answer. Obligation to God requires the assumption of personal and social responsibility. The Christian religion requires one to be loyal, dependable, honest, trustworthy, and unselfish. The degree to which these principles are accepted is the degree of responsibility assumed.
America has done well under this philosophy. Her present greatness is its result. To return to an earlier figure, any tree bearing abundant fruit should not have its roots molested. An attempt to replace the roots of a tree would unavoidably result in disaster. Accordingly, would it be reasonable to suppose that we could change the basic philosophy of our national life and maintain the same desirable ends? It would not. Different roots will produce different fruit. And the fruits so far produced by non-Christian roots are all of the undesirable variety.