The Entering Wedge

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The Entering Wedge
by James P. McNaughton

It has become an axiom that the Moslem problem is to-day the most difficult facing the Christian Church. Its points of weakness and its points of strength unite to make this true. The moral code of Islam is eminently suited to our fallen nature. The religion that permits an almost unbounded Ucense in the moral sphere is the religion that is sure to be popular in aU but highly- ci\ahsed races. A religion that asserts deficiencies in the very nature of woman, not found in man, is sure to be received with favour b\^ savage and semi-savage peoples, among whom woman has never been admitted to her proper rights.

In conversation, recently, with a sheikh of the Mevlevi, or whirling dervish order, we gradually drifted to the question of female education. He had, two days before, attended the Christmas exercises of our girls' school. He asked me why we did not introduce manual training into our curriculum. I replied that we hoped some day to do so, but at present we could not under- take more than we were doing. For, he continued, a woman should not know more than enough to read, and possibly to write, that she might be able to pen a line or two to her husband when absent from home ; more than that would probablly fit her for her proper sphere. She was bom to serve man, she should be taught manual trades so that she could help her husband support the family, and assume the whole burden when he was called to military service.

I contended that the future of the race depended, to a large extent, on the intelligence of the mothers, to whose training and under whose influence the earh^ years of the child are committed. " But," he repUed, " it is not a question as to what we consider wise ; the salient question is, what is wTitten in the Book of God, i,e., the Koran. Everv word of that must be taken literallv, and that asserts woman's inferiority, therefore advanced education offered to women is pearls thrown before swine."

Lord Cromer, in "Modern Egypt," writes : "Islam keeps woman in a position of marked inferiority. Islam, speaking not so much through the Koran as through traditions which cluster round the Koran, crj^stallises religion and law into one inseparable and immutable whole, with the result that all elasticity is taken away from the social system." Further, its intolerance of other faiths, its haughty pride engendered by the thought that it is the depository of the last revelation given by God to man, a revelation that supersedes ever}' past revelation, the fifteenth century method of dealing with all who do not conform to the belief in the Koran, combine in unfitting it for the reception of progressive ideas.

Christianity is conspicuous in its splendid adaptive - ness to every changing condition of the race. It is ready, even if its followers are not always ready, to incorporate every advance in scientific development that proves itself truly scientific. Islam is fixed forever in the mould given it by the prophet of Arabia. There is no room for progress, no possibility of adaptation. Stagnation is the word that most fittingly characterises it.

Logically, Islam denies all secondary causes. Fatalism is one of its important doctrines. God is the supreme cause of everything ; nature, animate and inanimate, is the stage upon which his functions are exercised. His prerogative controls every thought, every word, and every act. Every possible motion in the life of every man is written down in the Book of God. There can be no deviation from what is written, even in the smallest detail. This would preclude the exercise of the medical art, as it would be blasphemous for man to interfere in what is already settled and foreordained by God. While Christ is a prophet. He is not divine ; less, indeed, in the heavenly realm than Mohammed, who was guilty of the breach of nearly, if not every law in the decalogue.

Although ninety names are used in characterising God, Father is not one of them. Moslems have no con- ception of God in the capacity of fatherhood ; their idea is more that of an Oriental despot, merciful, if you will, but arbitrary to the last degree. It ofiers no hope of salvation except through personal merit ; no Saviour, no atonement. The prophet justified l^ing, to a woman, in war and to reconcile friends. Now, a reUgion that permits falsehood under any conditions is one that will find adherents. Lying, licentiousness, cheatmg, poly- gam}', divorce and heaven is a progranmie that so completely suits fallen man, that it can be no wonder that Islam is gaining followers rapidly in a country Hke Africa.

The Moslem problem is difiicult of solution on account of its strong points. A rehgion containing some of the cardinal truths of our faith is much harder to influence than that which is burdened with the crude conceptions of fetishism or crass idolatry. The Moslem holds much truth mixed up with much error. He beheves in one God, maker of heaven and earth ; he beheves that Christ was a prophet, but not divine ; he beheves in the forgiveness of sins, in the resurrection and life ever- lasting. Now, a man holding in firm conviction so much that is strong cannot be expected to abandon his fortress without a great struggle ; indeed, he thinks his fortress stronger than yours. We find men in the homeland say, " Why do you not leave the Mohammedan alone ? His rehgion is good enough for liim." Is it ? Hear what Sclilegel, the German scholar, has to say of it : " A prophet without miracles, a rehgion without mysteries, and a morahty ^^ithout love, which has encouraged a thirst for blood, and wliich began and ended in unbounded sensu- ahty." We have seen its cruelties, its deceptions, its imblushing disloyalty to promises and the most sacred treaties. Its accommodation to human weakness cannot alone account for the impressive fact that it has made its appeal, with such striking success, to so great a variety of peoples. It is not at all hkely that a faith could have triumphed over so many types of rehgion unless it was girded with elements of great strength. I think it may safely be predicted that the strength of any rehgion will depend on that religion's conception of God. The higher the conception, the purer the rehgion ; the higher the conception, the stronger the hold rehgion takes of a people. Now Islam's conception of God is vastly higher than that of any idolatrous people. Its splendid mono- theism, with all its deficiencies, simply towers above any- thing we find in any other faith with the exceptions of Judaism and Christianity. It is in its conflict with these that it has utterly failed, except where a choice between apostasy and death was given, and few, if any, except those who had no strong convictions, hesitated to brave the edge of the sword.

A religion that stands for the unity and sovereignty of God is a religion that is to be reckoned with. The true Moslem stands for these with a conviction that would put to shame many of the so-called Christians of to-day. It is in the deficiency of the conception that Islam fails. God is not a God of love ; and sovereignty without love is little more than arbitrarj^ force. Its great strength appeals to people who are all their lives in bondage to the belief in evil spirits that rule the destinies of men. It is a great relief to the poor pagan, suffering the terror of innumerable unfriendly, jealous spirits, to find a faith that presents a God that is of infinite power, under whose jurisdiction all created beings, of whatever realm, are in complete subjection. One can appreciate what this means, and with what convincing power the Moslem fanatic approaches the devil-worshipper of Africa and exorcises all demons by the splendid evangel of an omnipotent God.

Now why does not the Moslem accept Christianity that presents so much richer a monotheism ; not only a God of infinite power, but a God of infinite love, interpreted to us through the blessed incarnation ?

It is just here that the difficulty appears. The pre- sentation of Christ in His divinity is a direct attack upon monotheism. The Trinity to the Moslem is tritheism. It is the disintegration of the great thought of God's oneness. The false presentation of the Koran, giving the prophet's crude idea of Christianity, utterly misrepre- sents the Christian idea. The Koran is of divine origin, therefore must be taken literally, and so there is no hope that the Moslem will entertain anything so blasphemous as the division of his splendid Oriental God, reigning eternally in a realm inaccessible to the most fervent human appeal. And thus has developed that rigid legalism observed in rite and ceremony, where correctness of posture and genuflection is of more importance than attitude of soul and mind.

Is there, then, any hope for the solution of the problem ? The title of this paper, " The Entering Wedge," will find its significance in what follows. There are promises in God's Word that are individual, some that are national, but all having to do with the Kingdom of God are universal.

"The world shaU be filled v,ith the glory of God." " Ask of me, and I shaU give thee the heathen for thine inlieritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." I need not dwell on the thought that the Moslem is included in God's purpose for the salvation of mankind. Christ's last commission is most pertinent here. " And He said unto them, Go ye into aU the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Has the Church obeyed this command ? Making full allow- ance for aU that has been done, we must confess, with confusion, that the Church has in a very meagre way obeyed her Lord. If you apply the commission to the Moslem problem, the Church must confess disloyalty. The question is a difficult one, so difficult that the great Cathohc Church has not dared it. The Moravian Church, ever seeking the difficult fields of the world, has made no attempt to answer it. But God has not for- gotten the sons of Ishmael. He has wTOught in many ways to prepare the Mohammedan world for the reception of Christ.

One outstanding and massive argument, that has had, perhaps, a greater influence than we can ea^sity estimate, has been the fact that the followers of Christ have con- trolled the destinies of the world for more than three hundred years. Any hope of Moslem domination, except, perhaps, among the fanatical element, has gradually waned until now, even among loyal Moslems, the hope of the fifteenth century is no longer even a dream, and wliile the Islamic propaganda is steadily marching south in Africa, the world \asion gives the command of the future to the Christian Church. Even now, a compara- tively small portion of the Moslem world is under the sway of the Caliph of the Prophet, and that a rapidly diminishing portion. If the convictions of a man so thoroughly acquainted with conditions in Turkey as Professor Ramsay, the eminent archaeologist of Aberdeen, are to be seriously entertained, then Asia Minor is in a fair way of being divided between Germany and Russia. Present conditions in Arabia strongly point to the severance of that peninsula from the political sway of the Sultan. If Arabia gain her independence, it is not at all likely that it will long remain autonomous. The remnants of the great Turkish Empire are passing under Christian sovereigns.

Again, practically all modern improvements, such as railroads, telegraphs, the reconstruction of the postal and customs departments, the use of modern mechanical and even household utensils, all wearing apparel, even to the fez, are of Christian invention and of Christian manufacture. The old Turkish soldier is no longer seen. The army is modelled after the German type and the navy after that of Britain. Any comparison made between Europe or America and Turkey brings confusion to the loyal Turk. Moslem States are rapidly adopting Christian political institutions. Despotism and the paternal form of administering justice are giving way before the demand of a limited monarchy, controlled by a constitutional government. If one were asked five years ago, when would Turkey and Persia adopt modern methods in their political systems, what answer would probably be given ? The most sanguine enthusiast, or most rabid revolutionist would hardly dare suggest a date earlier than from fifty to a hundred years. And yet almost without observation, forces were at work that were surely, and much more rapidly than could easily be imagined, changing sentiment and conviction.

The general awakening of the Orient from ages of slumber was felt in every eastern land ; but perhaps the first conspicuous result was seen in the revolution in Japan in 1867. This rude change from a despotic feudalism to a liberalism wholly unknown in any Oriental land, sent an electric thrill through the body pohtic of every people of Asia. This great change accelerated the movement towards free institutions. WTien Japan was thoroughly awakened to her possibihties she unostenta- tiously went to work to set her house in order, at monumental sacrifice and energy, resulting in a develop- ment of patriotism, inteUigence, and material prosperity, perhaps unparalleled in the liistory of the world. One would almost think that all this was planned for the subsequent successful struggle mth Russia. This victory was the climax to Oriental ambition — to defeat a great Western nation with her oa^ti weapons. No single event in recent history has had so remarkable an influence in stirring to the depths patriotic sentiment of a Uberal character. And so we find Persia and Turkey daring to ask the question : Is our destiny forever sealed in the unchanging mould of a fixed despotism ? To ask such a question was to suggest the answer.

Another force that quietly entrenched itself in the very heart of the nation was the missionary propaganda. The Sultans of Turkey have had remarkable success in quelling discord among their Christian subjects by pitting the members of one community against those of another. The welcome extended to, and protection afforded the early missionaries by the Tmrkish Government, were due largely to the expectation that successful mission work would raise a Protestant community at the expense of the other Christian bodies, that Protestants would be converted Greeks, Armenians, and Catholics, and instead of three Christian sects there would be four weaker bodies and thus easier to control. It did not seem to have occurred to the rulers that their own co-reHgionists might one daj^ be influenced by these foreign missionaries, and the great reason whj^ they were working among the members of the old churches was that through them the Moslem problem might be solved. The work of the mission was divided, for the sake of convenience and efficiency, into four departments : —

1. The evangelistic, including the preaching of the Gospel, the teaching of the Bible in the dsij and Sunday schools, and the work of evangeUsts and Bible-women.

2. The educational, comprising a thoroughly graded school system, frbm the kindergarten through to the college, theological seminary and medical school, in all of these the Bible being a regular text-book.

3. Medical work, including that of the itinerating doctor, that of the resident hospital physician, and the training of nurses.

4. Publication work, issuing school text-books in the earty days of the mission, religious books and tracts, and weekly and monthly papers.

The Bible Societies attended to the translation and printing of the Bible. Knowing the permeating quality of the Gospel, and all this mission work meant the Gospel, what must inevitably follow ?

The Moslem, vainly imagined that so long as Moham- medans were not allowed to attend foreign schools or Protestant places of worship, they would be quite safe from the influences exerted. And, as this young evangelical body began to grow and to exercise an influence altogether out of proportion to the number of its members, the proud Turk would smile and remark : " Let those giaours alone ; they have not enough sense to see that they are eating each other up." Large numbers of young men and maidens, of the most promising type, flock to the mission schools and, after years of discipline and study, emerge from these institutions with changed characters, changed outlook, changed ideals, and withal changed vision, to return to their own cities, towns and hamlets and enter the teaching, legal and medical professions, each one a power to reckon with.

Would it be possible to confine all that pent-up intellectual and moral dynamic within the narrow compass of individual, communal, or national life ? It was bound to overflow, and it did, till Moslems in large numbers, quite unconsciously, imbibing large draughts of that wine of life that inspires freedom, became literally intoxicated with the ambition that their fair country, too, might enjoy the inestimable blessings of the lands from which these foreigners came. It has freely been acknowledged by intelligent Moslems, that one of the controlling factors that inspired and hastened the bloodless revolution of 1908 was the enlightening influences of the missions, schools, and colleges ; indeed, some enthusiasts would go so far as to say that they were the cliief factor. However that may be, a rapidly develop- ing school system, of modern mould, attracting an increasingly large attendance, until an army of 25,000 of the most intelligent and ambitious young lives in the empire were gathered into the Protestant schools of Asia Minor alone, must exercise an immense influence on the destinies of an awakening nation. I need hardlj^ here emphasise the superlative power of the medical and pubUcation work in breaking do^\Ti barriers of prejudice and fanaticism. The doctor is welcomed everywhere, even in the secluded harem ; the book and tract and weekly publication, with the most rehable world news and the Gospel message, find their way into homes never entered b}' the foreigner or his native associate.

Scholarly pastors and teachers, settled in many of the strategic centres of the country, with the frequent visits of the missionary, were elements of transforming power that are hard to estimate. In many cities of importance, after the revolution, the pastors were among the leaders who devoted themselves to the dissemination of all kinds of useful knowledge to an ignorant populace, and guided those rude souls in their quest for light and life.

A further consideration is found in the fact that nearly every large centre throughout the Moslem world has been invaded by the Christian missionary or his native associates. The IMoslem world is being honey- combed by Christian missions. An increasingh' large number of Moslem cliildren are attending mission scliools. The impact of pure Christianity, for the first time, is being brought to bear upon the Mohammedan problem, and it is felt. The Pan-Islamic movement is defensive. In the recent Moslem conferences, the causes of the failure of Islam were freely discussed, and the question asked, how can the decay be stopped ? One learned hod j ah gave fifty-seven reasons for the failure, but I doubt if the real cause was even suggested.

Recently a Moslem chief justice, in speaking to one of our pastors, said : " Islam has nothing to fear from the Greek and Armenian Churches, Islam has nothing to fear from the Catholic Church ; but it fears the Protestant Church, for we see that the Protestants live the principles they profess — this is the power that threatens Islam."

Now Christianity is bringing to bear upon the Moslem problem its commerce, its manufactures, its inventions, its free institutions, free speech, free press, free Gospel ; its poUtical, military and naval systems ; its representa- tive forms of government ; its education and its medical science. These tremendous forces converging to a point are rending Islam in twain, and what is needed for a final glorious victor^'^ is an enthusiastic faith, brought into persistent contact with this great rock, that must disintegrate under the rain of God's grace and the sunshine of His presence.