David McCasland in Eric Liddell: Pure Gold says there was “a wide social and philosophical divide…separat[ing] those [foreigners] whose enterprise was tobacco or mining [i.e., “secular” businessmen] from those whose venture was faith [i.e., “sacred” missionaries]” in China.
The business folks thought the missionaries were “native, piggish, and morally judgmental.” The missionaries thought the business folks were “affluent, morally corrupt and unconcerned for the Chinese people.”
The sacred-secular divide has been around for a long time, it seems.
I love how David McCasland ends this particular passage: “There was behavioral evidence to support both views.”
David McCasland in Eric Liddell: Pure Gold says, “[f]or Eric, there was a great feeling of joy [for winning the gold in 400 meter race in the 1924 Paris Olympics] but no sense of receiving God’s blessing for refusing to run on Sunday. He had won — that’s all. Decisions based on principle needed no circumstantial vindication.” Indeed, he was a man who understood sabbath, who was not enslaved to his work even when the work held out the possibility of an Olympic gold in a 100 meter race.
Do you know what else? As Tim Keller put it, he was not running to chase away his sense of insignificance. “It never occurred to him that he was the only member of the British team to have won two medals in individual races. Part of what endeared him to others was his ability to enjoy his success while being completely detached from any sense that he was responsible for it.”
David McCasland describes how Eric Liddell thought about his own future when he was at the height of his fame as a Scottish rugby player in Eric Liddel: Pure Gold:
What Eric was certain about as he pondered his future was that he wanted to serve Christ with whatever gifts he had been given. But he had no idea how this athletic ability could be put to use for the kingdom of God. In his own eyes, he seemed to possess so few of the skills he thought necessary for Christian ministry. Not only was he not an orator, he dreaded the thought of speaking in public. Forty thousand shouting fans in a stadium didn’t bother him at all, but forty people sitting quietly in a church hall terrified him.
Then he accepts an invitation from Glasgow Students’ Evangelistic Union to speak to miners in Armadale. After two weeks of “Christian campaign” with no success, GSEU was hoping Eric Liddell’s celebrity might draw the miners.
Here’s Eric Liddell, after speaking to about eighty men on a Friday night about what Jesus meant to him, “quietly and simply”:
My whole life had been one of keeping out of public duties but the leading of Christ seemed now to be in the opposite direction, and I shrank from going forward. At this time I finally decided to put it all on Christ — after all if He called me to do it, then He would have to supply the necessary power.