I have had a long on-and-off relationship with the Salvation Army, from Corps Cadets youth group as a teenager, through working (for most of my working life) at THQ in London, to infrequent attendance at various Salvation Army Corps around the country wherever I’ve been living. But this year I am planning to cement our relationship by becoming a soldier – more on that as my application progresses – and I am setting out to read some classic Salvationist texts.
‘Aggressive Christianity’ is a series of addresses given by Catherine Booth. It wouldn’t be quite fair to call her the wife of the Founder, as her influence was substantial, and from the outset women were allowed equal status, rights and responsibilities in the Salvation Army.
The sermons were collected in 1880, but have a surprisingly pertinent, modern feel to them. Excusing the use of some archaic language (which I like actually, as I happen to be a KJV fan), Catherine Booth’s arguments seem just as relevant over 130 years later.
She talks with passion about the imperative for Christians to be at work rescuing people out of the ‘flames of hell’ – she wasn’t just talking of alcoholism, drugs, prostitution and the like of course, but of a real possible future eternity in ‘hell’. Whether or not Christians today believe in future damnation, there are still people for whom life is a living hell, who could be helped if Christians were willing to go out and rescue them. But what if? What if the modern sensitivity and rejection of the whole idea of hell is misplaced? How motivated should a church that believed in hell be to make sure that nobody would perish?
Aggressive Christianity is also a round rejection of ‘easy-believism’, emphasising the imperative for repentance and holiness. A modern discussion would certainly want to explore what is meant by the terms, but Catherine Booth’s passion is infectious, and although many Christians may take issue with some Salvationist Theology, (not only their belief in hell, but also their rejection of Communion and Baptism, and their belief that salvation once gained can subsequently be lost, which appears to be a works-based salvation), I’m inclined to think that this little volume should be required reading for anybody considering going into ministry, and perhaps for all Christians.