Friday, September 14, 2007

Anders Nygren on Evangelical Christianity

The following citation is from Anders Nygren's Essence of Christianity, first published in 1960. It is amazing to read this in light of subsequent political and social developments within evangelical Christianity (namely, the establishment of the "Religious Right." We can be hopeful that in the years ahead, evangelicalism will resemble more what he describes here.

“Evangelical Christianity agrees with Luther’s view, and it too puts religion at the center of life. There is no moment in life which in itself falls outside the sphere of religion. Religion seeks to permeate everything—not by domination from without, like Catholicism, but by leavening from within. That is why Evangelical Christianity has no social or political program of its own to offer as an alternative to other forces which seek to construct society on another pattern. It is convinced that the Christian religion will transform social life, since it is the ultimate force in the universe. But it will not do so directly by setting up a Christian social and political program which it could try, from its own higher standpoint, to impose upon society from without. Harm is always done to Christianity when it is confused with a social movement.

The primary task of Christianity is purely religious—as Evangelical Christianity has fortunately never been able to forget. Its task is primarily to transform men, to fill their lives with eternal content. It is only by the roundabout way of this religious task that Christianity can succeed in working indirectly towards the transformation of social life. When it has created men filled with eternity, each one of whom serves God in his own vocation, there must inevitably be a gradual transformation and Christianization of society. Christianity has no completed programme suited to all times and circumstances. What it can do, however, is to set the circumstances, that vary so greatly from age to age, in the light of an eternity which is necessary and valid for them all alike; and it can create men who know how to solve the problems of their time with all the seriousness of eternity, men who in the very act of doing this stand in the presence of God as His servants." (67-68)


Silas said...

Does this not sound alot like the passion of the applied post-liberal project?

Arjun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arjun said...

Nygren produced several important books, one on the scientific foundations of systematic theology, another on philosophical and Christian ethics. In 1924 he became professor of systematic theology, a post which he held until 1948, when he was made bishop of Lund Diocese. Bring became professor in 1933 as Aulen's successor. Aulen, Nygren, and Bring were the three scholars forming the triumvirate called "the Lundensian school of theology.