A few weeks ago one of my friends recommended the writings of Elton Trueblood. I suggested getting it on Kindle and he just smiled. For these kinds of books are not on Kindle. In “Alternative to Futility” Trueblood explores a remedy to the futility experienced after WWII. It is a short book of 124 pages. I have read and re-read it and want to share some of his thoughts.
In the first Chapter entitled, “Beyond Diagnosis” he describes the characteristics that are essential for sustaining movements. In order to describe these characteristics he uses the movements of Naziism and Communism (I imagine it was quite provocative for a 1948 publication). So what is necessary for a movement?
“ … a faith which can dignify the average little life by grounding it in essential bigness, but without divisiveness of class, race or nation.”
When I read this for the first time, my friend JR Briggs reflected on the most important 4 minutes of a movie, I loved his post, I sometimes sit after watching a movie and reflect on all the names scrolling up the screen. Every name represents an investment in the story and I can imagine those people taking pride in their part in making the movie. It is the same with any successful movement, people get the chance to interpret their story in the bigger Story.
Trueblood continues in this chapter with his thoughts on a faith that becomes an alternative. For him this faith is not enshrined on individually professed beliefs but in a redemptive, embodied community. He wrote,
“The world needed a saving faith and the formula was that such a faith comes by a particular kind of fellowship. Jesus was deeply concerned for the continuation of his redemptive work after the close of his earthly existence, and his chosen method was the formation of a redemptive society(p29) … The idea of a redemptive fellowship, so amazingly central to Christianity, involves an entire philosophy of civilization. How is civilization changed? It is changed, early Christianity answers, by the creation of fellowships which eventually becomes infectious in the entire cultural order.” (p31)
I find this very compelling. How am I part of a redemptive society? How do I believe a society changes?
Trueblood then challenges any abstract engagement when he states,
“What we require is not intellectualising or even preaching but a demonstration. It is not enough to say simply “turn to Christ and all is well”. There’s only one way of turning loyally to Christ and that is by trying to create the kind of fellowship which He required of His followers. Abstract or unembodied Christianity is a fiction” (p33–34)
How do you think we can move from abstraction to demonstration? Do you have examples of this happening? I would love to hear your thoughts.