15 MAY 1941, Page 15

The Church Under Fire

Under Fire : The Christian Church in a Hostile World. By A. M. Chirgwin. (S.C.M. Press. 5s.) ON the stage of the European scene the position of the Christian Church today might seem to the onlooker well-nigh desperate. It is a minority in a hostile world, under fire from all sides at once. Repudiated and openly attacked in the totalitarian states of neo-paganism in the countries still nominally Christian it is being undermined from within. The dominance of an all- pervading secularism combines 'with the pressure of economic forces, de-personalising and materialistic' to overwhelm a religious view of life. Rarely if ever before has the Church been attacked by so many and such powerful foes. Can it survive? By all human reckoning the forces arrayed against it are too mighty. It might well be believed that its days are numbered, and there are not wanting even Christian thinkers to predict that in its ancient homelands the Church will be driven back into the catacombs.

It is, therefore, encouraging to be reminded that the Western world is not the whole of Christendom. The whole centre of gravity is changed. as it is the object of this book to point out, by the arrival of the Younger Churches in the Far East, in India and Africa, which is "the most significant simple fact in the contemporary Christian world." The century which has seemed, from one angle, to mark the decline and fall of Christian influence and to be "the first post-Christian age," has been one of un- precedented growth and expansion of Christianity elsewhere. Never since the Church came into being has there been such a vast, world-wide output of evangelistic and educational enterprise. "Never before," says Professor Latourette, "has the world seen anything quite equal to it. Never before in the history of the race has any group of ideas, religious, social, economic or political, been propagated over so wide an area or among so many people by so many who have given their lives to the task. Never, moreover, has any movement of any kind, political, religious or otherwise, been supported by the voluntary gifts of so many individuals in so many different lands."

It is a heartening and impressive record. It has borne its fruit. For though almost everywhere Christianity is a minority move- ment still, yet its numerical growth has been startling. In ten years from 1928 the non-Roman Christians in the Mission field had advanced from eight to nearly thirteen millions ; an increase of 40 per cent. in China, 50 per cent. in India and Japan, and no less than too per cent. in Africa. Moreover, the influence of this minority in moral, cultural and social progress has been out of all proportion to its numbers. These younger Christian communities are increasingly effective forces, at once feared and welcomed by Governments.

Dr. Chirgwin, who writes out of expert knowledge, here tells the story of some of these Younger Churches. Familiar enough though it may be to the specialist, many of the facts which he records are quite unknown to the rank and file of church-people, especially those reported from the: Far East. There have been few chapters in Christian history more splendid than that of the Church in China, rallying and extending its forces to regenerate the soul of the people under the martyrdom of a frightful war. What scene in the record is more memorable than that of General Chiang Kai-shek publicly praying for Christians in Japan?