This week I had a very interesting conversation with professor H.K. about Barth and Schweitzer. I find the latter a very intriguing figure, one I cannot utterly comprehend. Schweitzer wrote a few masterful theological works, was a consummate musician, and famously worked as a missionary in Africa for a long time. For most of us, it’s hard enough to get a small measure of accomplishment in one field, let alone three! I am amazed that he could achieve so much during a period marked by two world wars, so much disease, dissolution of values and death.
I have read large chunks of his The Quest of the Historical Jesus and now I am browsing through his Out of My Life and Thought. Here is one excerpt which deserves special mention. Emphasis is mine.
The Gospel of Jesus that tells us to expect the end of the world turns us away from the path of immediate action towards service in behalf of the Kingdom of God. It urges us to seek true strength through detachment from this world in the spirit of the Kingdom of God. The essence of Christianity is an affirmation of the world that has passed through a negation of the world. Within a system of thought that denies the world and anticipates its end, Jesus sets up the eternal ethic of active love!
I find that stimulating because, as a Pentecostal, I find myself surrounded by people who are so much eschatologically-oriented, that they tend to neglect the „ethic of active love”. Small religious communities living on the verge of the eschaton tend to negate so much (and sometimes so violently) the world, that they have no time for Bach’s music or for medical ministry in Africa. Schweitzer’s interpretation of the Gospel feels so compelling because it was embodied in a robust and authentic manner by a man who, though perceived as „liberal” by his detractors, strikes me as a Christ-like figure who was passionate for the truth and who lived a life worthy of his Master.
Here is another excerpt:
The true understanding of Jesus is the understanding of will acting on will. The true relation to Him is to become His. Christian piety of any and every sort is valuable only insofar as it means the surrender of our will to Him.
Analyze your will scrupulously in light of this quotation and, if you are honest, you will be dismayed upon realizing how much „unsurrendered” will there is left in the recesses of your heart!