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The Predicament of Modern Man by Elton Trueblood

Elton Trueblood is Professor at Large at Earlham College (1944). He is the author of more than twenty books, including The People Called Quakers and The Lord’s Prayers. Published by Harper and Row in 1944, New York, N.Y. 10016, this material was prepared for Religion-Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

Most of our talk about post-war reconstruction misses the point in that the treaties, political organizations, and economic arrangements, are only surface phenomena. It is heartening that a philosophy is emerging to which many are led who are more concerned with the problems at the center than they are with those at the periphery.

Chapter 1: The Sickness of Civilization
What we seek is a situation in which we so combine scientific and technical skill with moral and spiritual discipline that the products of human genius shall be used for the welfare of the human race rather than their harm and destruction.

Chapter 2: The Failure of Power Culture
There can be no enduring or generally satisfying civilization apart from ethical foundations. A mere power culture will eventually cease to be a culture at all.

Chapter 3: The Impotence of Ethics
The only experience we know that is revolutionary enough both to support the downcast nation and to chasten the victorious nation is the sense of existing under the eternal Providence of the Living God. It is religion and religion alone that does this for men. For this reason we can never have a real civilization without it.

Chapter 4: The Insufficiency of Individual Religion
What is needed is something that can set our souls on fire, and what can do this is that hypocritical, bickering organization that we call the church.

Chapter 5: The Necessity of a Redemptive Society
We believe that we can survive a civilization gone rotten and that the essential faith of Western man can be restored to this end. The moral decay of imperial Rome was overcome by the gospel for that day, and the moral decay of Western civilization will be likewise overcome by the gospel for our day. If modern man can be made to see and understand the predicament he is in, that very recognition may be amazingly salutary.

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