There are two reasons why I agreed to the publication of a book of sermons at this time. Many of my students and friends outside the Seminary have told me of the difficulty they have met in trying to penetrate my theological thought. They believe that through my sermons the practical or, more exactly, the existential implications of my theology are more clearly manifest. I should like to think that the sermons included here help to show that the strictly systematic character of a theology does not need to prevent it from being "practical"that is to say: applicable to the personal and social problems of our religious life.
There is, however, a more important reason for the publication of this volume. A large part of the congregation at the Sunday services came from outside the Christian circle in the most radical sense of the phrase. For them, a sermon in traditional Biblical terms would have had no meaning. Therefore, I was obliged to seek a language which expresses in other terms the human experience to which the Biblical and ecclesiastical terminology point. In this situation, an "apologetic" type of sermon has been developed. And, since I believe that this is generally the situation in which the Christian message has to be pronounced today, I hope that the publication of some attempts to meet this situation may not be useless.
The sermons in this collection are printed as they were delivered, with only minor changes; I did not rewrite them for publication. Most of them were delivered at Union Theological Seminary, either in the Sunday chapel service or in daily chapel. Only those sermons are included which evoked such a response from the students that the sermons had to be mimeographed.
The Biblical texts are taken from several different translations: the King James, the Moffatt, the Smith and Goodspeed, the Revised Standard Version, and some commentaries. For permission to use the last three versions I am indebted respectively to Harper & Brothers, The University of Chicago Press, and The International Council of Religious Education. In many cases I have combined several different translations to form the text given.
I wish to acknowledge my thanks to Christendom for permission to reprint the sermon, "Nature, Also, Mourns for a Lost Good"; to The Protestant for permission to reprint "The Escape from God"; and to the Union Review for permission to reprint "The Theologian" and "The Two Servants of Jahweh."
The volume could not have been published without the intensive work of several of my former students in revising and organizing the sermons with great understanding and creative criticism. I wish to express my deep thanks to Miss Mary Heilner, Miss Elizabeth Cooper, Miss Caroline Speer, the Reverend William O. Fennell and the Reverend William R. Coleman.