The Church of the Future -- Goethe and Isaiah
Isaiah 2:2-4
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains…

It is quite the fashion in these days for those who do not believe in the Christian religion to bestow on it their patronage. The Bible is full of delusion and falsehood, but they regard it, on the whole, as a book that deserves notice; parts of it are almost as good as the Rig-Veda. The Church has been the handmaid of bigotry and superstition, yet they find in the history of the Church some passages that are inspiring. Jesus of Nazareth was a teacher in whose doctrine they find many things to set right; yet, so rich were His contributions to ethical science that they feel themselves justified in bestowing on Him a qualified approval. This fashion of patronising Christianity may have been set by Goethe. Into that temple of the future which he describes in his Tale, the little hut of the fisherman, by which he symbolises Christianity, was graciously admitted. "This little hut had, indeed, been wonderfully transfigured. By virtue of the Lamp locked up in it [the light of reason] the hut had been converted from the inside to the outside into solid silver. Ere long, too, its form changed; for the noble metal shook aside the accidental shape of planks, posts and beams, and stretched itself out into a noble case of beaten, ornamented workmanship. Thus a fair little temple stood erected in the middle of the large one; or, if you will, an altar worthy of the temple." This is Goethe's view of the Church of the future. He has been magnanimous enough to provide a niche for it in the perfected temple of the Great Hereafter; it is to serve as a pretty decoration of that grand structure, as a dainty bit of bric-a-brac. About twenty. five centuries before Goethe's day another poet, dwelling somewhere in the fastnesses of Syria, had visions of the future in form and colour quite unlike this of the German philosopher. In Isaiah's sight of the latter day, the Church of God is not merely a feature — it furnishes the outline, it fills the whole field of vision. It is not merely a trait of the picture — it is the picture. Instead of putting the Church into a niche in the temple of the future, to be kept there as a kind of heirloom — a well-preserved antique curiosity — Isaiah insists that the Church in the temple, and that all stores and forces of good are to be gathered into it, to celebrate its empire and to decorate its triumph. The mountain of the Lord's house, the typical Zion on which the spiritual Church is builded, is to be exalted above all other eminences. Toward that all eyes shall turn; toward that all paths shall lead; toward that shall journey with joy all pilgrim feet. For the heralds of its progress, for the missionaries of its glad tidings it shall have many nations; it shall give to all the world the ruling law and the informing word. This is Isaiah's view of the Church of the future. When twenty-five centuries more shall have passed it will be easier to tell whether the Hebrew or the German was the better seer.

(Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

WEB: It shall happen in the latter days, that the mountain of Yahweh's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.

The Church of the Future
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