Saturday, May 25, 2013

PART TWO Vision for the Lost or Lost Vision - PART TWO

Vision for the Lost or Lost Vision: William Booth's Legacy
100 years on (Part Two)

Booth did imagine scenes other than of hell; visions of the millennium, and of heaven. He speculated in 1900 that London could become the New Jerusalem, with Hyde Park roofed over to become “The World’s Great Grand Central Temple”.[1] His vision of the Millennium looked remarkably like a Salvation Army International Congress. And like those grand Congress occasions, the purpose of his sharing this vision was to motivate his followers to greater efforts on behalf of the lost. He visited heaven and interviewed participants in the Acts 2 account of Pentecost in order to bring back a hurry-up message from the Apostles and Saints to shirkers in the ranks. The focus was not the attainment of bliss but the compulsion to rescue people from hell.

But there was a further vision. Although acts of mercy and service were part of Booth’s Wesleyan dna and long featured in the Christian Mission’s agenda, from the late 1880s on Booth was persuaded that the depth of social deprivation the Army encountered made it too difficult for many people to hear and understand the message of Salvation. He had to do something about hell on earth as well as hell hereafter. While the Army was already engaged in social action, Booth came to see the need for more fences at the tops of cliffs as well as more ambulances at the bottom. Sometimes he even tried to do something about the levelling cliffs themselves. He saw that society, as well as the individuals comprising it, needed to be saved.

So he began to describe another, extended vision. Here’s an example, as reported by former Commissioner Alex Nicol:

In one of his most inspired moments he delivered an address to his Staff upon the Salvation Army of the future. He called it a vision. He saw:
Homes for the Detention of Tramps.
Transportation Agencies for Removing Slum Dwellers from one part of the world to another.
Steamers owned and chartered by the Salvation Army for the purpose.

Stupendous factories, splendid stores, colossal workshops, and vast industrial enterprises.
Inebriates' Home for “men and women who drink distilled damnation in the shape of intoxicants.”
Rescue Operations of many orders for the deliverance of fallen women.

Land Colonies evolving into Salvation cities.
Orphanages becoming villages and Reformatories made into veritable paradises.

The working out of my idea for a World’s University for Humanity.

A Salvation Citadel in every village, town, and city.[2]

The post-millennial character of the Army’s vision is evident in this 1895 American article:
When we consider in our times, and appreciate the fact that we are in the very beginning of the glorious Millennium, we have cause to rejoice… It has not been the reconstruction of society and government – the paternal – modelled after Bible times and practised by General Booth in his early Army – I say it has not been these improvements, although they have helped. The great power, as we are all aware, is the fact that people have been saved and cleansed from all sin by the Blood of Jesus. This is the power that has brought about this reign of unselfishness and love among the people of the earth. This is the reason the entire world speaks the same language, and the word “foreigner” is obsolete… It was upon the debris of social ruin that The Salvation Army built up a grander civilization – one that honored [sic] and served God… The Lord was with His Army as He promised (Joel 2:11). In the year 1900 A.D., The Salvation Army numbered 20,000 field officers, in 1925 A.D., 200,000, when every city, village, and hamlet in the entire world had corps. Whole cities had been converted. … In 1950 the world was about conquered and the devil so discouraged that he gave up the fight.[3]

So what was Booth’s vision? A vision of hell. But by late in Booth’s life his vision encompassed not only Salvation from hell in this world for heaven in the next but the Salvation of this world as well.

What do we now see?

Admitting that the 1950 millennial prediction was a tad premature, does what we now see look like Booth’s vision?

To begin with, how about saving people from hell? An early-days Salvationist was an uncomfortable person with whom to share a railway compartment. You would be ear-bashed on the subject. Today, many of us are more anxious to demonstrate our inoffensive normality. The fact that many Salvationists have become less motivated to engage in personal evangelism probably indicates a slackening commitment to the doctrines underlying such activity. A diminished conviction that our neighbour is going to hell renders us less inclined to risk giving offence by trying to save him from it.

But lest we think this only came in with Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, here’s ex-Commissioner Nicol again, a hundred and one years ago. Commenting on the Fifth Doctrine, “We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocence, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners totally depraved and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God,” Nicol wrote, “The Army is committed for all time to this doctrine and many others equally contentious, and some of which Staff officers no more believe in than they do that Bacon wrote Shakespeare.”[4]

Really? Perhaps Nicol had the integrity to resign because he no longer believed those doctrines. Perhaps many of us have since found ways of re-interpreting them to our satisfaction, just as Anglican clergy once pledged a token adherence to the long-outmoded Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571.

This is not to say that modern Salvationists do not believe, or that sinners are no longer brought to salvation by our witness – they are, thank God – but Booth would probably consider some of us to be people “who do not seem to have any care – that is, any agonising care” – for the lost.

And what of Booth’s other vision, of the salvation of society?

All over the world, battalions of Salvationists and employees are engaged in alleviating social distress. Sometimes they not only attend to the consequences of social evil but also seek to engage with its structural causes. For many years this last was somewhat understated, partly because of the increasing social conservatism of the Army’s constituency and a fear of all things “political”, but in recent years it has been given a more prominent place in our mission. The mission statement of the Army in New Zealand is, “Caring for people, transforming lives, reforming society”.

Any hesitations? Booth’s “Darkest England” scheme of “social salvation” in this life was intended to support, to complement, not to replace, his commitment to “spiritual salvation” for the next life. He feared that service could become an end in itself. Today many of those working for the Army in this field are not Salvationists, and need not be Christians, and may not be particularly in sympathy with that aspect of the Army’s mission. In 2004 some New York employees sued the Army for insisting on it. They claimed that “When the Salvation Army’s religious mission was made mandatory in our work place, it changed the climate in a way that caused us fear and concern about our ability to ethically deliver services.”[5]

Although Salvation Army leaders have always been reluctant to allow donors, government or private, to determine our policies and values, we cannot resist the bait of those assiduously cultivated funds. Booth would take money from the devil himself and wash it in the tears of the widows and orphans – but the devil usually has his terms.[6] I know that there is a strong argument that our mission must be holistic, not confined to “saving souls”, and that even giving a cup of water in Jesus’ name contributes to the salvation of the world, but would Booth have been entirely satisfied that his vision was being embodied in all we do, both Word and Deed? 

So, has the evangelical imperative become diluted? If that’s what we now see, and if it be thought that we have lost the vision,

How did that happen?

We naturally idealise the early Army as a time of exponential growth, but statistically, the Australasian flood tide had peaked by 1900. In barely a generation the initial energy had begun to dissipate, the vision begun to fade. Reinhold Niebuhr echoed Luther in writing that, “By its very nature the sectarian type of organisation is valid for only one generation… Rarely does a second generation hold the convictions it has inherited with a fervour equal to that of its fathers, who fashioned these convictions in the heat of conflict and at the risk of martyrdom.”[7] The children and grandchildren of those who had experienced the miracle of the changing of beer into furniture did not necessarily enjoy the same kind of vital conversion experience of their own. They grew up within the world of the Salvation Army and it was their familiar sub-culture, but they did not necessarily inherit the evangelical imperative. Many found the sub-culture restrictive and they began to slip away.

Major Harold Hill
New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory

[1] William Booth, “The Millennium; or, The Ultimate Triumph of the Salvation Army Principles”, All the World, August 1890, 337-43.
[2] A. M. Nicol, General Booth and The Salvation Army (London: Herbert and Daniel, 1911) 136-137. The speech here summarised by Nicol may be found in William Booth, International Staff Council Addresses (London: Salvation Army, 1904) 47-58.
[3] The War Cry (USA) 12 January 1895, p. 4, quoted in Allan Satterlee, Turning Points: How the Salvation Army Found a Different Path. (Alexandria VA: Crest, 2004) 79.
[4] Nicol, General Booth,  93-5.
[6] See for example an address to the 1921 International Social Conference by Commissioner Adelaide Cox in Social Problems in Solution (London: The Salvation Army, 1921) 39-41;  Clarence Wiseman in “Call to Renewal and Change”, in John Waldron (Ed.) Creed and Deed: Towards a Christian Theology of Social Services in The Salvation Army (Toronto: The Salvation Army, 1986) 280;  Dennis Garland, “The Salvation Army and the State of Welfare: An analysis of Text and Narrative.” MA (Hons) Thesis, University of Western Sydney, 2004, iii.
[7] H. Richard Niebuhr, Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York: Meridian, [1929] 1957) 20.


Anonymous said...

Hmmmm..... So much to say here....

There is a real danger in living in the past. One of the reasons that an organisation or movement loses its' effectiveness in less than a generation is that the next generation does not live in the same world as the previous generation did. The previous generation changed it, so the world is different, and so needs to be engaged differently. If we engaged in the same kind of evangelism that was engaged in in Booth's day, then TSA would be no more than a quaint little minor organisation - little more than a few thousand world wide.

Booth understood the necessity of finding out what met the needs of the people, how to meet that need at that time, and doing it - whatever it was. He would changed on a pin-head. Just look at how he came to accept the military structure of TSA, or how he came to accept secular music to get the message out.

If we dwell in the past, we will be anachronistic at best, and not belong in either world.

Having secular employees in many parts of the world in our work, and accepting secular policies, is not only a legal requirement to do the work, but can itself be evangelical as we then have employees to witness to as well as clients.

Any organisation, if it wants to to last more than one generation, needs to re-invent itself at least once each generation - preferable more than 3 times in each generation. It needs to be continually changing. I've been in one secular (very large international) company in London for 5 years, and it has completely re-invented itself and it's approach etc 3 times in those 5 years - all in order to stay relevant to the current, changing, society. Otherwise it would have lost out completely to it's competitors.

If we want to stay relevant, and grow, then we need to regularly change, re-interpret ourselves, and re-discover our identity - almost on an annual basis.

It can be done, but do we want to? By nature, church groups tend to attract people who need something that doesn't change, who by nature are emotionally conservative. If we stay like that, then we have reached our maximum already. There is no more room for growth.

I believe visionaries like Booth would almost disown us today when they see that we are trying to recapture the old days, and live in the old days, and haven't changed sufficiently to be relevant to the people of the day.

Yours in Christ,
Graeme Randall
Former Australian East in London

John Sullivan said...

I have the greatest respect, even admiration for Major Harold Hill. In the past I have read things that he has written, and they have caused me to re-examine some of my own presuppositions. In many ways, I think he has been underestimated by the Army, as I have heard people dismiss him as a "radical" or for being "reactionary". I also understand the fact, that people do not make such comments without having some ground in reality.

The Major says it all in the first sentence of his article: "I am a historian and not a theologian"! That explains it. He sees things through the perspective and limitations of his own peculiar "spyglass". To say that not seeing our neighbours as candidates for Hell diminishes our zeal for evangelism is to see through Booth's eyes of a different day and age. Secular people in the Victorian era believed in Hell. Even seventy years ago, there were enough people living who could be saved by "scaring the Hell out of them".

I can remember as a child, standing in my bare feet on the burnt grass of a Canadian prairie in scorching heat, feeling Hell burning right through my soles, to say nothing of my soul. Hell was real. Just as Heaven was up, Hell was down. The three story universe was still a reality in The Salvation Army. My dear loving officer father, bless his heart, with all the antics of a Billy Sunday or Jimmy Swaggart, could cause an atheist to tremble at the thought of his or her future.

By the time I was twenty and a CO, things had begun to change: belief in Hell was no longer universal. Being an evangelist required a different tactic than scaring people into the Kingdom. I can still remember an assistant arriving fresh out of the Training College saying that his Principal had suggested that officers should see every human being who wasn't saved "as a candidate for Hell". Talk about being offensive: how could that be theologically correct, when we are all made in "the image of God"? I said to the assistant, who is now in glory, "I see every human being as a future member of the Kingdom of God".

I've said this before in another article, but I will say it again: In all the years of ministering in another denomination, I have never found anyone who believed in a literal Hell. If they are out there in our Canadian society they must already be "saved" and attending fundamentalist churches. I am not saying there is no Hell, I am simply suggesting that as a category it would not play a useful approach in evangelism with the people I know, and I can say fairly accurately that they pretty much reflect a cross section of the world I live in.

Major Hill "is a historian, not a theologian". It is the work of the historian to remind us of the past; it is the work of the theologian to rephrase the gospel so that it will resonate with the present. As Graeme has already enunciated, every generation is different from its predecessors. To ignore that would result in the Church's message being totally irrelevant. The problem is not that the present generation is fearing of witnessing because they do not want to offend their neighbors. The problem is that the Church, at least the one I belong to, hasn't been doing the work of evangelism for decades, and like Rip Van Winkle, has finally awakened to the fact, that unless it gets its act together soon, it itself will not only "diminish", but disappear altogether!

Joseph Smith (Major) said...

John Sullivan, my brother in the Lord and valued new friend, regarding hell,

It seems odd to argue that because most people no longer believe in hell that we follow the herd. We must, as you indicate, find language, which does not sound ridiculous when we refer to the eternal consequences of failing to repent and be converted. I cannot understand what a realm of existence such hell is like. But if it exists it cannot be compared to pain, abandonment, mental anguish or other types of suffering we can face in this life. If we believe Jesus meant what he said we have to imagine a realm filled with people who, during life, have rejected forgiveness extended to all and the all - surpassing attractiveness of Christlikeness.

We also have to imagine a realm in which the presence of God is absent, where despair is the universal attitude because there is no hope of things getting better.

I cannot go on with this list. It breaks my heart to even think about this. However I am sure of the following:

That it is not within the revealed nature of our God to torture people; He will not be orchestrating horrors of physical pain on people.

That it is not within the revealed nature of our God to taunt people in their despair.

That it is not within the revealed nature of our God to endlessly remind people of their sins, with no possibility of repentance.

That it is not within the revealed nature of our God to enforce glimpses of (‘heaven’) which these people might have enjoyed.

In addition to the above I hope that after death there will be a chance for repentance before the final judgement is passed. But there is no Scriptural warrant for this hope, and I hope that, if there must be a separation of those who chose Christlikeness, from those who have rejected Christlikeness, that the latter group should cease to exist. But there is no Scriptural warrant for this hope.

I believe that God has done everything possible to make the eternal blessing of Salvation a reality for the all who repent and are converted. How can anyone argue that he has done less that all that he could do? In addition to doing all that God could do he has also mandated and entrusted Christians to make this Good News known by our personal witness to what Jesus has already done for us. He has also provided gifts that can effectively equip us for building the Kingdom. To fail to remind our congregations about this seems to be colluding with their misguided thinking, assuming, of course that what Jesus said is true.

Respect and warm regards. Joseph

Joseph Smith (Major) said...

Major Harold Hill, you are an officer in The Salvation Army so you need not be a Christian theologian to speak with conviction about Gods calling, his place of redemption or his choice of Booth & the Salvation Army to help him fulfil his purposes.

My reading and service as an officer in TSA lead me to the following understandings:

Booth was a product of his time, just as every commentator on him is a product oh their time. The unrelenting question that he faced was "what must be done? He was an activist to his very core and questions demanded action. This action demanded a taskforce, this taskforce became The Salvation Army: For as long as he lived he never ceased to see the SA as a Taskforce.

He abandoned denominational status, when he changed our name from the Christian Mission to The Salvation Army, because denominationalism was part of a self - limiting paradigm that had failed him and his fellow Missioners. He knew that to reach the 'masses' and to achieve national and international results he must abandon any pretence towards democracy and mission wide consultation before he acted. He knew that task completion required that he personally should be able to control and utilise his taskforce. The military paradigm provided the model for this.

His son was not able to enforce his will as effectively as Booth was. The compromise following the enforced removal from power of Bramwell in 1929, ensured that Booths paradigm, could never again become the controlling paradigm for TSA.

So we now find that Booth's successors recognise that most of our members reject our identity as a taskforce, with a leadership structure designed for maximum effect. They have come to terms with the inevitability that our 'Army' with it's unique historical development, its militaristic terminology, uniforms, ranks etc.. must change its identity from a taskforce to a church and must sacrifice its operations freedoms, and hope to thrive within a denominational paradigm.

I think that The War College in Canada represents a last ditch effort to turn back the tide.

Meanwhile the insistent question remains " What is to be done"..?

Respect and regards: Joseph.

John Sullivan said...

Preach it brother Joseph! A very well thought out post indeed. The God you portray is a much more compassionate one than the punitive God of yesterday.

I should hope all that you say is true indeed. Whether or not you would run through all that with every unsaved person as part of witnessing to the fullness of life that Christ has to offer is another thing.

I will always remember a home spun professor I had at a Nazarene University after I had left the work. In a similar context of witnessing but with a completely different perspective he said: "I hear some of our preachers telling their congregations that if they are going to follow Jesus they had better prepared to make some sacrifices."

Then he went on, "Can you imagine a father taking his son to buy a pair of shoes and the shoe clerk saying to the father: 'Do you, realize that these shoes are going to cost you a week's wages? Are you sure you can afford them, before I waste my time letting you try on the shoes in my store?'

We all laughed, but got the point!

I am in the job of evangelism, a sales pitch of sorts. I want people to enjoy all the joys of life that I find in Christ. I figure I can do it best by extolling the quality of life that Christians have and that they themselves are missing, and I don't threaten them with the fact that if they don't believe me that they are going to suffer the consequences.

But keeping posting Joseph, the more you post, the more I see that we are on exactly the same page, but if you weren't it wouldn't make any difference because I respect the fact that you have a first rate mind and know "in whom you have believed".

Your brother in Christ, John

Joseph Smith (Major) said...


Knowing me as you now do you will realise that I believe our first doctrine. Because I hold this position I accept that Christian beliefs must be scrutinised and justified on the basis of Scriptural teaching. If there is uncertainty about what Scripture teaches I look to the teaching of Jesus.

I do not think this is because of a limited capacity to recognise and value different viewpoints. I have simply learned from Scripture and my professional experience, and history that people are prone justify what they believe, even though it is inconsistent with other beliefs they hold and, contrary to their core values.

This is evidenced in the church by the way that ideas are introduced and enforced which are the opposite to what Jesus taught.

For this reason I am concerned about your former professor. He should not have implied that we can build the Kingdom of God with values that are contrary to the values of the Kingdom of God.

This will fail because on an experiential level every Christian will discover that Christlikeness involves self denial at times. It will then appear that the church has used subterfuge, not honesty, to 'win' the convert. This then becomes a trust issue, "what else is being held back by my Christian leaders?"

This also underestimates the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, and the attractiveness of Jesus. You know that your call to officership meant a huge amount of sacrifice, but this did not stop you from responding to the call.I did the same, and would do it again. Sometimes it is the challenges, not an easy life, which make our calling attractive.

My biggest concern is that Jesus make a special effort to teach us that we must consider the demands of discipleship before we start down this path. He warned of the danger of realising the cost later and turning back because of this.

I know that you love your people and that you do not want to put any stumbling blocks, of any kind, in their way. But as Christian leaders we are not unlike loving fathers wanting our children to be able to commit to important choices holding the potential for difficulties as well the benefits expected.

With respect and warm regards. Joseph

John Sullivan said...


Once again there is nothing I would dispute in what you have written except for one thing and that is your comment to me "that your call to officer-ship meant a huge sacrifice". No it didn't; on the contrary to quote James, I "considered it nothing but joy".

Born into the home of missionary officers, an only child, I think of my life has having been a great adventure. My parents were an odd couple. My father was Army to the bone, and my mother would rather have stayed in the Church of Ireland. They were older than any of the parents of my peers, and they gave me total freedom to be me.

When I was seven I expressed an interest in the piano and immediately was given piano lessons. I was saved when I was nine, enrolled as a junior soldier, and thereafter wore a red sweater emblazoned with the Army crest to school. When I was ten I was playing the piano for Directory Class and the Company Meeting, playing tenor horn and later trombone in the senior Band, playing for the meetings when I was twelve and the songster pianist when I was fifteen. At seventeen I was a delegate to the International Youth Congress, and at eighteen a candidate, and at nineteen in The Training College. The Army was the only life I had known.

At Commissioning, the TC offered to pay my way to university if I would get a B.S.W. degree. I refused, and my first appointment was as the Youth Office to a large Youth Centre in Montreal. A few months later there was a break down in the field, and I was a CO at twenty. I loved everything about being an officer.

I was then appointed to a French Corps on the understanding that I would be able to go to university and major in French. Coming from the West I couldn't imagine it, and turned it down. Today, I realize that it was a visionary offer on the part of the D.C.

I was then appointed to a Corps back in the West where my parents had been stationed. It was there that I decided to leave the work over the doctrinal issues of Holiness and the lack of the sacraments. Even then the DC offered me an appointment as his secretary so that I could take university courses at night. The Salvation Army did everything they could to keep me, and I have absolutely no regrets.

Everything I learned in the Army has stood me good stead in the ministry, and the only sacrifice I made was when I decided to leave. That's when the sacrifice began, but I never gave it a second thought, I was doing what I thought was the will of God and "considered it nothing but joy". The word sacrifice had never entered my mind until I read it in your post.

This year I am celebrating the 60th anniversary of my Commissioning and the 50th of ordination, and I praise the Lord that I am still alive and allowed to pastor and play the piano every Sunday at the age of eighty!

Warm blessings to you,

Joseph Smith (Major) said...

John, I am so glad to hear that officership was a positive experience for you.

When I was commissioned in the UK, officership meant a very low income which could only be taken after all the corps bills were paid. It was not guaranteed. A pension was not provided and there was no choice about appointment or even the country in which your served! For the majority of women officers it meant a celibate life, denial of the love of a husband, denial of motherhood. It meant being everything the corps needed, from cleaner, to teacher and everything in between. The opportunity to attend university was not even considered possible for your first five years, and then only if needed for missionary work. This is in complete contrast to conditions of 'employment' that now exist! But as you say these 'sacrifices' were secondary to the joy of being and doing what the Lord wanted.

I should not have assumed that officership meant a sense of sacrifice for you, I must confess that at times it did seem like a sacrifice to me, but your joy as an officer just reinforces my point that we need not be afraid to tell the whole truth to converts, blessings and challenges.

Wishing you every blessing this week. Joseph.