Book Review: The New Citizenship

The New Citizenship: The Christian Facing a New World Order by A. T. Robertson. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1919; reprinted by Kessinger Publishing. 157 pp., paperback. $20.00
citizenship-cvr.jpgOf all the many books authored by Baptist Greek scholar A. T. Robertson, this is by far the most politically—and contemporaneously—focused and consequently the most dated and now “quaint” (indeed, I am unaware of any other book by Robertson that has any similar focus).

In 1919, when the book was published, the “Great War” (World War I) had just concluded; the Central Powers, particularly Germany, had been defeated and were about to be utterly humiliated in the Treaty of Versailles that President Woodrow Wilson was then negotiating (even as Robertson wrote) in France. The massive carnage of “the war to end all wars” and “to make the world safe for democracy” was still horrifyingly fresh in memory. Wholesale revision of the map of Europe and the Mediterranean world was underway: the Turks had been driven out of Palestine and their Eur-Asian empire dissolved; the huge ethnically diverse Austro-Hungarian Empire was in shambles (and about to be re-organized as numerous separate and much smaller nations), and the German Empire was much reduced in size and influence. Czarist Russia had fallen to Menshevik and then Bolshevik control (and utter social chaos). The democracies had defeated the militarists and were heady with victory. Woodrow Wilson was being lionized as the third in a Triumvirate of great Presidents, the peer of Washington and Lincoln. A new world order was dawning, so it was believed.

Robertson addresses from a quasi-Christian perspective this new political and social order, as it promised to affect society and the Christian (a great many of the quotations he reproduces came from “social Gospel-ites” such as Walter Rauschenbush, Shailer Mathews, H. C. Vedder and others who were to a man theological liberals; they often misled his thinking). Among topics addressed are the recently approved Prohibition, women’s suffrage and rights, education, children, crime, government, the prospective “League of Nations,” pacifism and patriotism. Robertson reveals a too-optimistic view of human nature, of Woodrow Wilson, of the possibilities of co-operative international achievement, and the potential benefits of education. Before Robertson’s death in 1934, he must have seen that a great deal of what he hoped for in this volume was a pipe dream.

Quotes from The New Citizenship

“The philosophy of Nietzsche that the might is right came to be the orthodox doctrine of the German state. Nietzsche brutally stated that Jesus was the greatest calamity that had ever befallen the race because He taught mercy and spared the weak. He set up Thor in the place of Christ” (p. 24).

“It is cowardly for one to wish to enjoy the blessing of freedom and not to be willing to preserve and defend liberty when attacked. The citizen owes it to the State that protects him to defend the State against aggression” (p. 31).

“God is the Father of men in two senses. In one sense He is the Father of the race, while in the other special sense He is the Father of the redeemed. The two senses can and should be kept distinct. It is misleading to confuse them. All men are children of God, the author of their being, the Father of their spirits. Man was made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). But only the redeemed belong to the family of God in the special sense of the term” (p. 33).

“Child mortality has even been defended as the law of nature, as nature’s way of weeding out the weak and securing the survival of the fittest in the development of the race. But that cynical view will not satisfy the modern Christian spirit. Jesus pronounced a woe upon those who caused ‘one of these little ones to stumble’ (Mark 9:42)” (pp. 81-82).

“Churches have run away from the down-town sections and left the people there to the devil save for an occasional rescue mission” (p. 126; and you thought this was a new phenomenon in the last half of the 20th century!).

“One can respect the Quakers who have long had religious scruples about war who are yet willing to help the government in other ways to win the war if not compelled to bear arms. But those who suddenly became professional pacifists were open to the suspicious charge of trying to escape the perils of war to save their own precious lives like the cowards that they are or of seeking to hinder the government in its war work like the traitors that they are at heart. It is curious how many men all at once became conscientious objectors to war, or wished to get married with the hope of hiding behind a woman’s skirt” (p. 135).

“So the Christian, under the leadership of Jesus, does not agree with Nietzsche, Treitschke, Bernhardi, et id omne genus [Latin: “and all that kind”], that war is good, glorious, and great in itself. That doctrine is repulsive to the Christian. But neither can he side with the pacifist who says that all war is wrong and that it is a sin for a Christian patriot to defend his country against attack or his home against a burglar or his wife against rape” (p. 139; the basis for the Nietzschean claim that war is inherently good is biological Darwinism applied to human existence, namely that human conflict promotes human progress, and therefore the greatest conflict—war—will promote the greatest progress. This viewpoint was expressly adopted by at least some in the German high command before World War I, who welcomed the opportunity for war as a chance to prove German racial superiority over others. World War I, as World War II, Marxism, and many other social evils are the natural and rational fruit of Darwinism—editor).

kutilek.jpgDoug Kutilek is editor of www.kjvonly.org, a website dedicated to exposing and refuting the many errors of KJVOism, and has been researching and writing about Bible texts and versions for more than 35 years. He has a B.A. in Bible from Baptist Bible College (Springfield, MO), an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati), and a Th.M. in Bible exposition from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). A professor in several Bible institutes, college, graduate schools, and seminaries, he edits a monthly cyber-journal, As I See It. The father of four grown children and four granddaughters, he and his wife, Naomi, live near Wichita, Kansas.
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