The Gospel For An Age of Doubt

I picked up an old book yesterday published in 1896 by Henry Van Dyke who held degrees from Harvard, Princeton and Yale. The book is taken from a lecture series Van Dyke gave at Yale University speaking to Divinity students. The title of the book is “The Gospel For An Age of Doubt.” The following comes from the preface. It is amazing how timely are the words from earlier times.

The Gospel For An Age Of Doubt

The study of theology as a science is a very important study. The training of men in the art of preaching is a very valuable discipline. But the vital experience of faith is deeper and broader than the theories of theology. The art of preaching is worth little unless it serves to enrich and ennoble the larger art of living. And the power of religion to inspire and guide men to purer, stronger, happier, more beautiful lives, does not depend upon the modes and forms in which it is preached, but simply upon the concrete gospel, the good news about God and the world, which it brings into their hearts.

The audience in the Yale chapel appealed to me less as students of theology, than as young men with a life to live and a work to do in the modern world, in the present age. Around them I felt the pressure of those great, mysterious forces which are silently changing the current of human thought and the face of human society.

Behind them I saw the wider circle of the young men and women of the new generation, the children of this age, born into the turmoil and confusion, the intellectual stress and storm, of a period of transition. It was to this wider circle that I really wanted to speak, through the divinity students who composed the immediate audience.

I wanted to tell the men who were studying for the ministry that they must not let themselves be educated out of sympathy with the modern world; that they must understand the trials and difficulties of the present age in order to serve it effectively; that they must keep in touch with living men and women, outside of the circle of faith as well as within it, if they wished to help them.

But more than this. I wanted to show that there is a message of religion especially fitted to meet the needs of our times.

There is an aspect of Christianity which comes to the world today as glad tidings. There is a newness in the old gospel which shines out like a sunrise upon the darkness and despondency that overshadow so much of modern life. This aspect of Christianity centres in the person of Jesus Christ, the human life of God. This newness of the gospel lies in believing in Him as a real man, in whose sonship the Fatherhood of God is revealed and made certain to all men.

And the power of this message to enrich and ennoble life lies in the fact that those who receive it are set free from a threefold bondage:

First, from the heavy thought that they are creatures of necessity whose actions and destiny are determined by heredity and environment;

Second, from the haunting fear that the world is governed by blind chance or brute force; and

Third, from the curse of sin, which is selfishness. To see Christ as the true Son of God and the brother of all men, is to be sure that the soul is free, and that God is good, and that the end of life is noble service.

This is the message that I wanted to deliver in this book, as the true gospel for an age of doubt.


Stay tuned, I will likely post some more excerpts from this book as I read it over the next week or so. Good stuff.