A Tree Without Roots, A Generation Without a Creed

The prodigal son didn’t run out of money on his first day out of the home, Doug Wilson once pointed out to Christopher Hitchens. His point—his warning—was that secular humanism can only run so long on the fumes left over from a Christian worldview. It might take some years, but sooner or later the Christian capital will be overspent.

Over the weekend I found some interesting comments in the epilogue of a book from 1946, How Heathen is Britain? The author is B.G. Sandhurst. The foreword is written by C.S. Lewis.

For those who want a little more info on Sandhurst, he is listed in the book Evangelicals in the Church of England 1734-1984. Though, according to one website devoted to the writings and legacy of Lewis, Sandhurst was “a pseudonym for Charles Henry Green, a lieutenant-colonel attached to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.”

The topic of the book is to consider why so many British college students were ignorant of the doctrines of Christianity. The concern of the book is that Christian values would have an expiration date once Christianity had been forgotten, doubted, and denied. Sandhurst (and Lewis in the foreword) sought to sound an alarm and call upon Christians to intentionally evangelize and equip college students to stand for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Here’s Sandhurst’s epilogue in its entirety. It’s worthy of your time to read. It’s timely, in my humble opinion (emphasis mine):

I should like to end with a renewed disclaimer. In spite of appearances I am not trying to teach my betters their job. I am quite sure that there are many betters ways of teaching young men the evidences of the Christian Faith. All I claim for the one I have adopted is that, in its limited way, it does work, and that it needs doing most desperately. I have now held what I like to regard as an unofficial chair of philosophy for well over two years and have had nearly four thousand boys through my hands. With that experience behind me I do claim to know the pitifully inadequate mental equipment with which most of them have to defend their faith, and their gratitude at being given something more solid upon which they can base it. This is not so much a criticism of schools as of the spirit of the age. Forty years ago Christianity was taken for granted. It was one of those things which were just not mentioned. The conspiracy of decent silence led to its being forgotten, doubted, and finally denied, through sheer ignorance. The Creed faded into the background. The code which was once based upon it remained in operation—for a time. 

The code is even now disintegrating before our eyes; it would have gone anyhow, for it has long lacked an authority on which it can be based. I have just finished a discussion on the standards of good and evil, and on the possibility of knowing the purpose and destiny of life. Out of thirty answers, twenty-two state categorically that the standards are shifting and that human purpose and destiny are a matter of guess-work. You who read this may disagree, but I think that is a shattering result. You may say that they will not act up—or rather down—to their lack of conviction. Perhaps not, or at least not yet. The “old school tie” code has still a certain validity, for which we may be devoutly thankful, but it is painfully limited in its scope; increasingly derided, and devoid of intellectual foundation. It was founded by and large on the Christian ethic, which derived in turn from the ancient Faith. The code cut off from the Creed is as a tree without roots. It is already looking sickly and it will surely die.

This small book is already badly dated. In the introduction to the first period it is said that we are emerging from an evil period. That was written shortly before V-day, when victory was certain and hopes were high. Today it looks as if we might be entering another period worse in some ways than the last. Whether it is or not depends upon the rising generation. For good or evil they will build the civilization of the future. It is for us of the last generation to decide whether we dare allow them to face their task without a code, because we are too indifferent to teach them the creed upon which it depends.