During the 1950s it became very chic and fashionable (and a popular rite of passage, I suppose) for debutantes and other pretty young “things” from rich distinguished families to spend some time working in Africa, especially with the famous Dr. Schweitzer in his hospital in Lambaréné in Gabon, to try (if possible) to sample the highs and lows on the other side of the proverbial tracks or to find out how the other side lives and exists, if indeed they even cared or were concerned.
Today I tentatively suggest he is almost a forgotten man, although his hospital still bears his name and continues to flourish, treating some 30,000 patients each year.
During my prior research of this celebrity doctor for the monthly newsletter (did you know he had four doctorates?), I discovered that he was a complicated man to understand and attempt to relate to. I’m not sure I would have warmed to him in person, and I’m sure he would not have been on our theological page at Ex-Catholics For Christ. He was not a Biblical fundamentalist, you can be sure when it came to believing everything found in the Holy Bible.
In fact, he seemed to happily disclaim most of sacred Scripture throughout his long life, starting from the age of nine when he suggested that Noah’s flood as recorded in the book of Genesis was just “a local flood” or that the role of the shepherds at the birth of Christ was unexplained, questioning their movements afterwards or what happened to the gifts the three wise men brought to the manger from the east. He also suggested that the Jesus of the New Testament “…was not successful. He was too original, too far ahead of His time, and too optimistic.” All of these absurd ideas would later slide effortlessly into that dustbin and maze of clerical liberalism, along with so many other ideas of his. But the truth and scarcity of Holy Scripture can never die or be buried in the dust heap of history, even though most of today’s “theologians” desperately attempt to smother the “word of God.” Still, we know and are promised: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Amen to that!
I also suggest he did more harm and damage and destroyed more people’s questing of Biblical beliefs than Marx, Darwin or Stalin ever achieved in their rotten lifetime or beyond. Many thought Schweitzer resembled Stalin; it was the moustache, of course.
Albert Schweitzer possessed an analytical mind (not sure if this is a good thing or a drawback) and always needed to sharpen its limits by probing to examine and dissect, it seems, whatever he was working on. In his case, this seemed to be the Holy Bible. Of course, it was never Goethe, Kant or Hegel, though there is a very gentle rebuke of Kant in Schweitzer’s Stockholm speech of 1954. These dead men of the past, it seems, were untouchable as far as he was concerned. He also placed good old J.S Bach in that stable of his heroes, but then he was an organ scholar of repute with many fine recordings to show for it. What further sickens me about these religious men, however, is their arrogance and audacity as they take their serrated knives to the pages of the Holy Bible, and slice verses and chapters off as if they were carving slices of sauerkraut. He also informs us in his writings that the apostle Paul only penned “three of the fourteen epistles.” One wonders what else men such as Schweitzer doubted when they were preaching from the pulpits of Europe. It is very simple to become infatuated by your own conceit.
Now it seems to me, incidentally, that Schweitzer wore two hats: an academic soft slouch hat and a humanitarian tropical pith helmet. Very uncomfortable, I always thought, to sport in the typhoons or the tropics, but this is witnessed in so many pictures of him for all to see.
Albert was born in 1875 in the borderland between Germany and France. I do perhaps wonder if this can give a split personality to a person’s nationality. His was a religious family, his father the pastor of a liberal Protestant church, and naturally, in those days the sons would later follow their father into a profession, such as the law or the military, or perhaps the church if either of these failed them.
During his academic years, he would increase his academic degrees and not obtain his first proper paid job until he was 38 at the Lambaréné Hospital at Gabon in Africa. Incidentally, the hospital’s board of trustees at the time had serious doubts about his liberal Bible leanings but finally offered him a medical post in the mission hospital of “The Paris Mission Society.”
It seems, after examination, that much of the blusterous liberal theological reforms emanated in those years from German universities and seminaries (or cemeteries, as we prefer to call them, in view of their extensive damage to orthodox Christianity over the last two hundred years or so, even now continuing via the ecumenical movement and interfaith groups of these apostate churches). Schweitzer was just as guilty in promoting these tainted beliefs and methods. Others in this order of deception, I suggest, would be Tillich, Bultmann, Spong and maybe Bonhoeffer, as well as the late Bishop James Pike (please see my article about him if interested).
Yet praise has to be offered to Schweitzer for the laborious and humanitarian work he undertook in the long years of his service to the hospital at Lambaréné.
In fact, when he first arrived in 1913, he was performing operations in a chicken coop, it seems. One of the first depictions he witnessed in his youth, which would perhaps influence his decision to journey to Africa, was the statue of a Negro slave he came across as a young man. Fredric Bartholdi, who had earlier finished the famous Statue of Liberty in New York, had produced the sculpture. He was also a prominent Freemason. So too was Gustav Eiffel, the architect of the famous Parisian tower. Schweitzer would himself study at the famous Sorbonne University. And were you cognisant of the fact that the United Grand Lodge in Germany presented the doctor with a Masonic medal in 1960 on his 85th birthday, apparently the first non-member ever to receive such an honour? I assume he accepted it. But I doubt very much if he shared the plan of salvation with such a “distinguished” group of gentlemen.
Concerning the numerous attacks that lay waiting for him in his later life he would say rather nonchalantly that: “My strategy is never to answer any attacks regardless of its nature….no one will be able to fight silence in the long run, it is invisible…also there is no need for anybody to defend me.”
Schweitzer would describe the native African as “his brother, but a junior brother,” an unkind analogy but probably believed by other Darwinists at the time. Many also remember him in later years as gruff and never suffering fools gladly (but then who does?). There is no doubt to me that at Lambaréné he was monarch of all. He basked in this and, of course, it would naturally propel his name to an international post-war audience hungry for new humanitarian heroes, eventually leading the King of Sweden to award him the Nobel Peace Prize.
As regards that coveted award, I recently bought a cheap second-hand book on Schweitzer to research this article, and amongst the pages was an original 1954 full newspaper copy of his acceptance speech in Oslo. Yet quietly and amazingly, Schweitzer did not mention the “Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ” even once in his long acceptance speech.
Believe it or not, I went through his speech three times to see if it had even a brief mention of the blessed Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly there was no mention at all, can you believe, of the Lord, or even of the Father or the Holy Spirit. Strange but not surprising, I suggest, from an apostate.
In my opinion, doctor “Al” was no more a Bible-believing Christian than my barber is. It seems to me that these men are so quick to destroy the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and demean Him to the status of just “a good guy who swam way out of His depth and paid the price.” Rubbish indeed!
In later life, Schweitzer seemed to be searching for the common denominator that binds all religions together in a dangerous and grotesque dance of death. But did not Jesus say: “No man cometh unto the father, but by me” (John 14:6)? Very important and life-saving words for the sinner to ponder and act upon. Today Schweitzer would certainly have approved and accepted the ecumenical and inter-faith “prayer” groupings that, in my opinion, lead only to spiritual death and eternal destruction.
I doubt if the doctor ever went into the jungle in darkest Africa or onto the mean streets of Stockholm or Aspen with a pack of King James Bibles strapped to his back to distribute to the lonely and lost.
At this point of the article, I must offer a hypothesis which cannot be proved by myself or anyone else, namely that the Schweitzers were unaware of the lasting effects they were to experience after being twice forcibly detained during the First World War in shockingly cramped conditions with others.
Some years ago, I read about the childhood of a famous modern English writer. She had, it seems, grown up in a very deprived background in Birmingham (or maybe Glasgow or Liverpool, I cannot now remember) where her family of five barely survived in a crumbling, rat-infested tenement block of flats and over 40 families were forced to share one unhygienic toilet!
She wrote graphically about the frequent need they felt when her family and herself were forced to use that toilet, and how often the more aggressive families almost commandeered it for their own uses, treating it rather like their own private property. Naturally, there would be fights and shoving from the other less vocal and weaker families who were her neighbours. In other words, that thin veneer of civilisation in this matter that we all know about would be erased away, as only the cunning and fittest would survive, usually being settled by the fist or by a handy weapon. To me, this is purely selfish Darwinism of the worst kind, as only the fittest can and will survive. A situation that can happen anytime where the weakest are bullied and abused by the strongest.
Years later, this author would wake up in cold sweats from frequent nightmares in which she had to frequently run the gauntlet of jeering young males who would try to force open the toilet door at different times of the day or night while she was inside. Frequently, the flimsy lock meant to offer privacy to the occupant would be broken and force her to keep the door shut with her foot if she could. She was never able to forget this humiliation and fear from her early years; it would scar her forever, it seems. Only later at school did she make a special friend who invited her to use their own family bathroom after classes before she returned to that disgusting tenement block. She also revealed in her autobiography that when she was in her home and alone in Switzerland where she lived and at the height of her fame, she still amazingly secured the bathroom door, even though the house was empty of family or minimal staff. And who can blame her for this paranoia that still scarred her deep subconscious? Some fears never leave you.
My point is that the Schweitzer would have been subject to this violence and possible some pre-planned sexual abuse against his wife. Being the kind of people that they were, they must have suffered in silence because of this brutal invasion of their privacy. This is why I suggest that both suffered damaging mental breakdowns or stress and that some form of eccentric behaviour could also have been witnessed by family and friends in these matters as well. His wife perhaps never ultimately recovered, and perhaps he himself would lose or abandon whatever faith he had once savoured and known and shared with others.
Interestingly, his biographers Marshall and Poling state on page 283 of their book that: “With the passing of the years, doctor Schweitzer had in some way come to think of himself as a philosopher, scientist or doctor, rather than as a minister or theologian.” Well, there you have it! They also reveal quite alarmingly “that a portrait of Charles Darwin hung on the wall of his room, rather than a likeness of Kant, Goethe, Zwingli, or Luther.” Personally, I think I would rather have the good old Marx Brothers adorning my wall if I had a choice than this old fraud Schweitzer. Oh, and by the way, I also disapprove of the depiction of Darwin’s face on the English £10 note. I do wonder: who at the Treasury had this bright idea in the first place?
As the 1960s progressed in advances in medicine, transportation and aviation, the enquiring world and others of the media would flock to the hospital in Lambaréné (incidentally Schweitzer never learned to drive a car or ever flew in an aircraft, it seems). One such notable visit in the 1960s was from a commissioned BBC camera crew who reported back about the open sanitation and the numerous cats and dogs that roamed freely, it seems, throughout the hospital buildings and operating rooms. Dramatically, this would result some time later in a severe epidemic of rabies that was rife on the hospital grounds, resulting in having the canines and felines being put down. His decision meant the loss even his own beloved dog, and I’m sure that dog owners can sympathise with this sad personal decision he had to make.
Of interest to me is how the hospital boasted of no religious chapel. Instead, there would be an outdoor sermon/service held on the hospital grounds, presumably on Sunday mornings. And this is the present-day tragedy of these pseudo-theologians practising in these end times who, at the drop of a pith helmet, will attack the Bible almost with glee and intolerance, yet seem to hesitate from plunging the pen of poison into the reputation of third-rate atheistic philosophers. Um, I wonder why!
Personally, I found the doctor’s theological books difficult to grasp and understand, but then I suppose they were penned for learned theologians to debate and perhaps destroy the subjects he so passionately wrote about, with a sting in the tail of course (Jesus and Paul were especially in his sights). Yet Paul is definitely the greatest of the theologians of the Bible, and interestingly I can easily understand and learn from him in his Biblical letters. Strange, isn’t it?
Schweitzer’s biographers inform us that: “He was led in time to reject the very bases of Christian religion as well as those of the philosophical systems of Europe…he began early to speak for himself.” Yet does not the Holy Bible trustfully warn us to avoid this? “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8)? Obviously, Schweitzer refused to take heed to these words and instead regurgitated empty and worthless rhetoric.
Perhaps the final words should come from the man himself who wrote almost pathetically on looking back on his long life that: “In my own life anxiety, trouble and sorrow have been allotted to me at times in such abundant measure, that had my nerves not been so strong, I must have broken under the weight.”
Yet, the Holy Bible truthfully informs us: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
He later had dangerous doubts about the Lord’s blood sacrifice for atonement saying: “I find I can no longer endorse this view.”
Sadly, I can only suggest that Albert Schweitzer died a lost, sad, lonely man devoid of any faith that might once have believed and shared, but now with only fear to look forward to as that mythical grim reaper prepared to appear before him.
We have repeated so many times at this ministry that: “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
What more do people need to hear and be informed about? Life is short!
In Matthew 7:13-14, the Lord Jesus explained the meaning of destruction for many, compared to salvation for few via the straight gate. I fear Schweitzer will be consigned to the wide gate. We can never be certain, of course, in these serious matters, but we all have free choice and each person must make that choice themselves before it is too late. There is no going back.
Albert Schweitzer expired quietly on September 4th, 1965 in the now enlarged Lambaréné hospital. Later there was a short religious service performed by the hospital administrator (I am surprised they even bothered to have such a religious service) who read the psalm (I wonder which one was selected by him) and offered a prayer. Then I suppose it was back to business as usual in the wards because hospitals never close their doors, do they? And naturally, they are never short of patients either. Life and death goes on regardless of whether it’s a celebrity or a commoner.
Today Albert Schweitzer is buried in the hospital grounds alongside the ashes of his wife Helene.
There is an interesting design on the simple wooden cross over his grave. Not sure what it means or what it is supposed to symbolize.
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Schweitzer, Marshall and Polling
Albert Schweitzer: The Man and his Mind, George Seaver
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