That life is not easy for Christians in Western lands these days is obvious. Falling congregations in the churches and a confident movement of secular humanism in the community at large leave us in no doubt but that things are very different from what they once were. Christians have a battle on their hands.

Sometimes they make it harder for themselves by failing to recognize who their enemies are and who are their friends. Dr. W. A. Visser ’t Hooft points to those who see Goethe as “the first consistent representative of the Christianity of the future.” A little later he says, “A more recent example is to be found in Bishop Robinson’s Honest to God, where he quotes a typical passage from the Plumed Serpent, D. H. Lawrence’s restatement of the primitive Mexican paganism, and says that this comes near to what he (the bishop) has been saying. Even if the God is very different, there is a way through here to the transcendent in a world without religion. Lawrence would have been astonished to hear this and might well have asked what on earth he would have to write in order to be recognized not as a secret ally of Christianity, but as an honest-to-goodness adherent of a radically different, pagan religion.”

We can all recognize this. Christians like to put the best possible face on things. We sometimes claim victories in what seem to other people to be plain defeats. And we like to think that those who appear to be our enemies are deep down really friends. We remember that Jesus said, “He who is not against us is on our side” (Luke 9:50). We prefer to give less weight to the fact that Jesus also said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23).

The position is complicated by the fact that there are others who reverse the ...

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