- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Oct 1971, p. 33-45
- Ramsey, The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Arthur Michael, Speaker
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- A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
"Where are we going?" as a larger, global question addressed to the human race at large. Some universal concerns: affluence and poverty; pollution; risks of war; crime and violence; greed and selfishness. Possible sources for answers and why they will or won't work: communism; scientific humanism; Christianity. Christianity as defined by love versus selfishness. Issues of youth and freedom.
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- 18 Oct 1971
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- Full Text
- OCTOBER 18, 1971
Where Are We Going?
AN ADDRESS BY The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Arthur Michael Ramsey, P.C., D.D., D.C.L., D.LITT., ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, PRIMATE OF ALL ENGLAND
JOINT MEETING The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto
CHAIRMAN Mr. Welburn J. Adams, President, The Canadian Club of Toronto
The Chairman called on Mr. Henry N. R. Jackman, President of The Empire Club of Canada, to introduce the Guest of Honour.
It is my privilege to introduce to you today the Archbishop of Canterbury--the 100th since St. Augustine came to England some 1,374 years ago, not long after the Romans had left England and just at the dawn of the Saxon era.
It would be impossible in many more minutes than those allowed me today to begin to mark the milestones and achievements in the life and work of our guest. A great scholar in a family of scholars, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, ex President of the Cambridge Union . . . a man of many honours.
In welcoming Your Grace, it is not, I am sure, necessary to remind this audience of the great debt which this country owes to what we call the Anglican Church. Perhaps I should add that this debt was not always so universally acknowledged as it is at present.
Speaking as one whose antecedents are almost pure rural Ontario Wesleyan Methodist, I am sure that my greatgrandfather would turn over in his grave if he felt that his great-grandson would sit at the same table--let alone try to find something nice to say about an Archbishop of Canterbury.
As every Ontario schoolboy knows, the first fifty years of political struggle in this Province centred around the attempt to "establish" and then "disestablish" the Anglican Church, with all the attendant problems of education, clergy reserves, and the taxes on a pioneer farming community, which were felt necessary to support an Anglican episcopacy in a style that was then expected of an English bishop in the late 18th Century.
However, all this has now become simply a footnote to history--and what survives as part of the legacy which belongs to each and every one of us who have chosen to call ourselves Canadian is the debt which we all owe to the Anglican community. We are indebted for our oldest and finest educational institutions. We owe much for the generosity of the Church of England to its brethren in Canada, and for its unselfish noble army of missionaries. This nation will ever be mindful and ever grateful.
And now as we enter an age of increasing ecumenism one becomes perhaps more conscious than ever of the well and mainsprings of our faith--and the prestige and historical significance of the Office which our distinguished guest now holds.
We are reminded of the words of that very great Canadian, The Reverend John Strachan, the first Bishop of Toronto, who once said:
"We should begin to consider all the points about which we agree, instead of all the time contending about those on which we differ, for I believe that all who impartially study their own hearts would soon perceive that there is no true ground for division and animosity but much for unity and love".
It is in this spirit that our guest today has devoted his entire life. I have therefore the considerable honour in presenting to you the Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Arthur Michael Ramsay, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England.
THE MOST REV. AND RT. HON. ARTHUR MICHAEL RAMSAY:
Mr. Chairman and friends. I thank you from my heart for the lovely welcome which you have given to me. It was eight years ago in August that I was once before the guest of the Canadian Club and the Empire Club. I am thrilled to be here again and thrilled to be the guest of these Clubs, thrilled to be in Canada and thrilled to be in Toronto.
You have spoken, sir, of the continuing growing together of Christian Churches and denominations, and that growing together increases every year.
I was touched by your generous words about the service given to Canada by the Anglican Church. Let me say with all my heart how much the world-wide Anglican Church gains from this Canadian portion which brings so much to us in the way of spiritual comradeship and spiritual leadership. Just now the Anglican Church in Canada is pioneering in seeing its way toward further achievements in the cause of Christian unity and whatever the outcome of those efforts may be immediately, they certainly have the ardent admiration and understanding and sympathy of Anglicans in other parts of the world.
Let me, before I come to my special subject, just say that I am certain that Canada has an immense deal to give in the coming days to the whole of our world problem. After all the Commonwealth, a thing that still means a great deal to many of us, the Commonwealth was in origin a Canadian idea. It was in Canada that the idea was first worked out the family of diverse communities brought into a constitutional relationship with something at the centre but very big varities at the circumference, communities serving one another under a common umbrella. I am quite certain that history is right in saying that it was the working out of the Commonwealth idea on Canadian soil first that made possible the far wider working out of the Commonwealth idea to what originally we used to call the British Empire. If our country, the United Kingdom goes into Europe, as well it may to the great advantage of itself and of Europe, it will be more than ever necessary to keep alive the Commonwealth idea and Canada will go on helping and leading in that as she has done in the past.
I have chosen as the title of my talk: "Where are we going to?" by "we" I don't just mean Canadians or Englishmen or Anglicans or Wesleyan Methodists, I mean our human race. Where are we going to as a human race? In posing the question to you I try to imagine myself watching it all from another planet because what is happening to our human race and the planet we are on is certainly all very strange indeed. Where are we going to?
We are living in a time of vast material progress. Air travel: we are able to get about the globe more rapidly than might at one time have seemed possible. Radio and television: News travels around the globe in a matter of seconds. Do anything in Toronto and the rest of the world knows about it within seconds. Atomic power: The immense discovery and release of new forces that can be used for power in industry and can also be used, if we so wished, to blow civilization to pieces in a few hours. And then last but not least man travelling far beyond his own planet exploring the universe, invading the moon. What immense material progress is happening. It goes on happening and how dazzling it is.
And yet what frustrations we find ourselves in as a human race. Think of some of these frustrations. First affluence and poverty. In some parts of the world a very high and growing standard of living that can fairly be called wealth. In other parts of the world ghastly poverty, populations living below the real survival line as regards nutrition, actual starvation. I shall never forget having had a glimpse of that in the City of Calcutta with my own eyes some years ago. There is a frustration for us: The contrast of affluence and poverty and starvation all within the same human family, a human family that gets smaller and smaller in the ways we have been describing.
A second frustration: Pollution. I hear a lot about your concern for this in Canada. It is possible for us to exploit nature for certain immediate advantages in order to get this, that or the other done and in so doing to poison the air and to poison the water and to invent new hazards for the life of our descendants. Pollution is a very terrible problem. In exploiting the earth we are introducing poison for ourselves and our descendants.
A third frustration: The risks of war. We know nowadays that if a war starts on a big scale it rapidly becomes a conflagration because weapons that lie at hand are weapons equally for the destruction of foes and for the destruction of oneself and no one wants war; certainly no man or woman or child as a man or woman or child wants war. I believe also that no country wants war because every country knows that war can mean its own destruction as rapidly as the destruction and the gaining power over anybody else. As long as terrible weapons of war exist the risk is at least there and again and again the attempts to eliminate the risk by agreed disarmament seem to fail.
Another great frustration: The problem of race. That is a problem that seems year by year to become more formidable and more tragic. The supremacy of white races had a long history and it is not surprising that black races emerging in knowledge and power and self consciousness are not willing to go on tolerating white supremacy. Of course it is not surprising that we find black races saying to themselves "Well, those white people often used violence and war and revolution to overthrow tyranny and to achieve their own progress. They overthrew the French aristocracy in the French Revolution and they overthrew Napoleon and they overthrew Hitler and why should they be so shocked when we try to overthrow those whom we regard as tyrants". It is possible for us indeed to say that it is hard to see how revolutionary violence can achieve anything at all except the most horrible suffering. Perhaps first of all for those it is designed to help. We can say that and say it truly yet at the same time we must understand the feelings, the feelings and motives that lie behind some of the ideas about violence today, however terrible the outcome might be.
Then one third frustration: While knowledge has grown so greatly and prosperity in our western civilization what about reality? What about crime and violence and the sort of ruthless greed and selfishness that leads to crime and violence? Isn't the most serious aspect of the moral situation the undermining of the family, the undermining of marriage and the family, because in Christian civilization marriage and the family has been so much the place of moral security and moral wholesomeness and influence in the community and it is when marriage and the family are undermined that so much else that is good is undermined as well.
Well, where are we going? Where are we going?
I described some of the great frustrations that exist in our world and yet while we are all conscious of these frustrations and there is no country in the world however Christian, however prosperous, however happy that does not encounter them in one way or the other, is it not true that while we are all conscious of these frustrations we are also conscious of the many signs of the innate goodness of men and women and children and this can be said of every country in the world and every race in the world. What goodness, what kind heartedness, what care for people there is. So often it happens that people of the utmost goodness and kindness in their own personal relations are somehow caught into a kind of cosmic situation of frustration and indeed wrong that they are not able to surmount or to overcome.
So then where are we going? Well, when humanity wants to know where it is going it asks its guides and philosophers to tell us. There are plenty of guides and philosophers ready to tell us which way we should go. Let me mention two or three of them.
Well first there is the communist system. I have no doubt that the Marxist communist believes that they have a philosophy which is a kind of recipe for human troubles achieving what they call the classless society. Well, I only make one comment on the communist philosophy and system and it is this: By rejecting God on principle, and their philosophy is intrinsically materialistic and atheistic, by rejecting God on principle they reject equally the ultimate worth and dignity of the individual man and woman, not believing that the individual man and woman has a supreme irreducible worth and dignity through being God's creature and through being an heir of eternity, the individual man and woman is regarded as subordinate to the State, subordinate to the system, and if the State or the system calls for the sacrificing of the individual very well then the individual can be got out of the way with the utmost ruthlessness and no regard for his sanctity in order that the system may go on.
I think that in saying that I am putting my finger on the deep weakness and wrongness of communism as a philosophy and its total inadequacy to give an answer to the human predicament because it is based on a radical non-understanding of the essential position, meaning and dignity of man himself.
Now let me refer to another philosopher who claims to point the way and this is a philosopher of a very different kind, one who has an honoured place within our own human western civilization. I mean the scientific humanist. I refer to him with great respect because as a Christian, I would say that I share with the scientific humanist a great regard for man, for human dignity, for human worth and human freedom and I believe that Christians and scientific humanists have much in common in terms of their belief in the dignity of man and the service of mankind. But we part company on this. The scientific humanist believes that if the knowledge of the sciences develops as it should and if all the sciences duly developed are applied to human affairs in the right way then the human race can be made a more progressive, better organized, more comfortable, more happy and indeed more moral as well. The scientific humanist will reject religion, religious dimension altogether as being an unnecessary drag upon the rightful scientific progress which of itself can put the human race to rights.
My criticism of that philosophy is this: that the evidence seems to show that the human race can become increasingly advanced in the knowledge of the sciences and the application of the sciences to human affairs but can still go on being proud and selfish and cruel and insensitive and the tragic thing is that in the century in which the sciences have made the most stupendous strides we have also seen the most terrible reactions in mass hysterical cruelty and selfishness. My criticism here would be that the diagnosis does not go deep enough, that the trouble with man is not just that he is not sufficiently progressive or scientifically enlightened, but that man is too deeply estranged from his Creator and needs to be reconciled to his Creator in awe and humility to be cured of his deep pride and selfishness.
I recall the words of the prophet: "What doth the Lord thy God require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God" . . . do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God. It is the Christian emphasis, the emphasis of the Jewish-Christian tradition upon the last of those phrases "walk humbly with thy God" which we believe to be the key to the whole.
Well, our communist philosopher seems to lead us, to point to an alley that is very blind indeed. Indeed an evil one. The scientific humanist seems to me to point to an alley that doesn't have the right diagnosis of the problem of where we want to get from and where we want to get to. So I come to the Christian philosopher and want to hear what the Christian philosopher has to say about it.
The Canadian Club and the Empire Club don't include sermons in their curriculum and you are not going to thank me if I provide you with one; but I am not going to provide you with one. I am just going to provide you with a thought or two about the Christian diagnosis of the human predicament.
Now it is often said that the main Christian issue is the issue of love versus selfishness and I think that that fundamentally stands. It is love versus selfishness that is the problem for every human being and therefore the problem for the whole human race. Having said that I would go on and say that I believe in the present human predicament the really immediate point is not about love versus selfishness so much as about fear and power. I believe that the problem of power is the intractable human problem at the moment and the question of fear is the spiritual problem that goes with it.
Our human race is so frustrated because we are a human race that is afraid and human fears are, I believe, largely fears about power, about having it or about not having it. Those who have power on the human scene, economic or political or personal, or the power of a nation or a class or a group, are frightened, frightened that they may be going to lose their power. The people who have not got any power are frightened of those who have power and are thus kept in a kind of half conscious tremble. I believe that that is so.
Take race. Races that are on top are frightened that the other race might come on top instead and have its revenge. Nations are frightened of losing their power to other nations. Groups, classes, trade unions, anybody who enjoys power is frightened of losing it and it is the complex of power and fear, fear and power, that I believe lies at the bottom of our human frustration and here I believe that the Christian message and thesis is not only a message about love, as sermon after sermon has said in the past quite rightly, but the Christian message is also a message about power.
Sovereign power ultimately belongs to God alone but God in the design of the creation has allowed to man a certain limited power. Man has under God a wonderful power over nature, over all the earth's resources, man has the power to use the world and exploit the world but always on two conditions: One that he remembers that God's sovereign power is over him and his own power is not ultimate and when he dies it will be stripped from him altogether. Second, the proviso that man exists to use his power not for the aggrandizement of a particular nation or race or group or individual but in mutual unselfish service and that is the true conception of power. Alas through the centuries man has come to use power, enjoying it, forgetting it is all subject to God's ultimate power and forgetting that he has his power not as a freehold but something on loan, something lent to him to use under God for mutual benefit of the human community. It is the distortion of power and the assumption that we all have unlimited spheres of power belonging to ourselves that is the great disease and the root of our trouble and because the human race has distorted its use of power by treating it as ultimate and not as leasehold from the Creator. Instead of ruling the world and its processes we have largely come to be ruled and governed by them. Men are meant to control things for the mutual benefit of mankind and for the glory of God but through missing the point about power men have come to be ruled by things instead of ruling them and so it is that we are in the grips of forces, including economic forces, that we do not know how to control and we are being swept along by them when we like to suppose that we are really ruling them.
The Christian message, and I haven't time to develop it further, is a message not only about love and unselfishness it is also a message about power and about fear and we get back to the true belief in the power of God and in the kind of power of which Christ said to the Apostles "The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them but it shall not be so with you".
I am almost at the end but I want to add this. I suppose that we in this gathering are on the whole a rather elderly lot and that means that fortunately the answer to all this is not going to lie with us. It is going to lie increasingly with the up and coming younger generation and I want to end with just a word or two about the up and coming younger generation, those who the newspaper and textbooks describe as youth with a capital Y--and how they must hate it.
Well, there are so many generalizations about youth and youth are very, very much maligned. No doubt the now young generation can be criticized just as our generation can be criticized in turn. I only want to note three things that I believe are really true and important about the people we call the young generation.
First of all is this: That they won't take things on authority just because they have been handed down and because they have been told. No. They will take things they discover to be true from their own experience and we just have to face the fact that that is so. The upshot is that when it comes to Christianity young people don't take Christianity as a traditional thing handed down to them, especially if it is put to them in a negative form of you mustn't do this and you mustn't do that. I believe that young people can respond wonderfully to Christianity if it is put to them as an exciting adventure, serving God and serving humanity in ways that they are going to discover for themselves. Let them have their adventure and bless them with it.
The second thing that I haven't the slightest doubt is true amongst young people, it is true in England and I haven't the slightest doubt it is true in Canada and most other countries: There is in young people an intense care about human suffering and the desire to serve those who suffer and to care for them and to help in heart breaking human situations. I believe that the young people today have that sense far, far more than young people had when I was one myself and that is a very great quality and a great ground of hopefulness for the future. In religious terms they will understand Christianity only if there is a strong emphasis on the practical outcome of religion, practical service: The second great commandment of love and service to their neighbour.
The third characteristic of the young I am sure is this: They don't like institutions, religious institutions or other institutions. When some of them say to me, as they sometimes do say to me "We are ready for Christianity. We are ready to follow Jesus Christ but we think poorly of your institution that professes to represent Christianity in the world". My answer is "Very well. Do it in your own way. Do it in your own way but make sure that it is Christianity and make sure that you do it better and not worse than the way in which we are trying to do it". So they are challenged to live up to their own ideal, the ideal that they are stating.
The quest of freedom has itself a big question mark and dilemma. We all love freedom and the new up and coming generation have a particularly strong love for freedom and it is the right kind of love to have; but it is all too easy to think that freedom means freedom to do just what we like and that is a blind alley concept of freedom because if people think of freedom to do just what they like they get entangled in knots and end up doing not what they like at all. We need a deeper sense of freedom and that freedom does not mean doing what we like. Freedom means freedom to become what we are meant to become. Freedom to become what we are meant to become. That is a deep freedom that can only come from the consistent disciplined pursuit of great and high ideals and that is the kind of freedom which the human race all so badly needs.
Now I am really going to close. My final remark is this:
We have been talking cheerfully about the older and the younger and we like to think that the world has existed for a very long time and that we ourselves know a great deal about its management having had what we choose to call long, long years of experience, but in the millennia that may lie ahead in the Creator's purpose the world may still fortunately be very young indeed and we are not as clever or as knowing as we think we are, any of us. We are as a human race still a young and very immature human race who have made a few bad shots at running the planet on which we live and if we only realize our immaturity in a humble enough spirit, there is no reason why we should not in the future learn by God's help to make a far, far better job of it than we have been making heretofore.
Dr. Ramsey was thanked on behalf of the joint meeting by the Chairman, Mr. W. J. Adams, President of the Canadian Club of Toronto.