|« Prev||I. First Side of the Antithesis: Unfolding of the…||Next »|
I. FIRST SIDE OF THE ANTITHESIS: UNFOLDING OF THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF SIN (§§ 65-84)
If it be attempted to set forth a doctrine of sin in and for itself, such a doctrine could not form a consistent whole with that, already exhibited, of the religious consciousness in general. First, as man’s own act it would appear contradictory to the tendency to the development of the God-consciousness as a living impulse in man, and inconsistent with the original perfection of human nature. Second, since in the 178 state of sin a man exists in his place within the world-whole, then sin, as not proceeding from the divine causality, would destroy the unity and integrity of Nature, because it would be an entity existing in opposition to the divine omnipotence. Third, if it be referred to the divine causality, then, that attribute which represents the divine causality in relation to sin must be out of harmony with other divine attributes, and so the unity of the divine nature would be destroyed. Finally, if sin has developed in man on occasion of receiving impressions from the world, the perfection of the world in relation to man is destroyed. If, therefore, we are to avoid both the Manichaean and Pelagian heresies, which in opposite ways denied the reference of sin to the divine causality, the Christian consciousness must be viewed in its unity, and sin must be considered only in reference to redemption, and only so can it have a place in dogmatics.
Section 1. Sin as the State of Man (§§ 66-74)
The method adopted in this work requires that sin be treated from the standpoint of the personal consciousness. Sin and the consciousness of sin are not to be separated. It is an experience of the God-consciousness being hindered by sensuousness from controlling the activities of life and it is expressed in a feeling of pain, dissatisfaction. But no activities of life, not even those which are governed by the impulses of religion, are without the appearing of sin in consciousness, at least in germ, in some way--179warning, presentiment, self-reproof, regret. Ami so we may say that in all the stages of human development, if we except the states of innocency and obduracy, a strife exists between the lower impulses and the higher--a struggle of flesh and spirit against each other.
Thus sin is a historical phenomenon in human consciousness and pertains to all peoples and ages. Its appearance indeed is the outcome of the perpetuation in some degree of an earlier sensuous state in which the higher functions of human nature had not yet been differentiated. Now, were the development of the capacities of human nature regular and unbroken, there would be no consciousness of the repression of the higher spiritual nature by the lower and sensuous; if the normal unfolding of the judgment were always accompanied by a parallel development of the powers of will, then there would be no consciousness of the control of spirit by flesh, no consciousness of sin, or, to state it in equivalent terms, no sin. But as a matter of fact judgment and will power are unevenly developed. Of that we are conscious as sin, and this very sin-consciousness is conditioned by the presence of the higher, the religious, consciousness. Therefore sin does not annul the original perfection of man. But for that original perfection there could be no sin. Sin is conditioned by the very capacity for the development of the God-consciousness: a bad conscience would be an impossibility but for the persistent consciousness of a 180something better. Yet it is the outcome of his former undeveloped sensuous state before the God-consciousness appeared.
But, on the other hand, sin is not conformable with that original perfection of human nature. Were it so, i.e., were it only a consciousness which we have of good, yet lacking when individual acts and states are held in mind, sin would be unavoidable. But this would be incompatible with the redemption, for we may feel the need of redemption and may be capable of receiving it only in case sin is unavoidable. There fore the defect of will-power in comparison with the judgment must be viewed as a confusion and damage produced in our nature. And since it is the Christian redemption which gives validity to the consciousness of sin (for sin is only in relation to redemption), the clear and full consciousness of sin cannot arise out of the precepts of the law, but from the appearing in history of a God-consciousness which developed to an absolute strength, i.e., from the manifestation in history of a sinlessly developed human perfection, which is seen in the person of the Redeemer. If this had not appeared in him, there could be no hope that it could ever appear in us.
While, however, it is true that we come to a consciousness of sin in connection with personal activities and as our own act, when the self-consciousness widens itself from the individual to the family, from the family to the state, and from the state to the race (for the self-consciousness in its widest range is a 181race-consciousness), the race-consciousness is seen to involve a sin-consciousness. Hence the final ground of sin is to be found, beyond the individual personal consciousness, in the race. Accordingly sin is to be considered first, as hereditary, and second, as empirical or actual.
1. Hereditary Sin
There is, then, a sinfulness already present in every man before he commits acts of sin, and coming from a source beyond his own individual existence. But in what does this sinfulness consist? It must consist in a relation to the possession of the God-consciousness as the good of man. It is not, there fore, something of positive nature in itself, but a defect consisting in a total inability to bring the activities of one’s nature under the control of the religious feeling, Not that a total incapacity in relation thereto, and so a total absence of all good, is thereby presupposed, for the redemption and the preaching of it imply such a capacity as the indispensable condition of its effectuation, and without it salvation would be such a total remaking of human nature as would render redemption unmeaning; or, were it impossible to remove that inability entirely, sin would be some thing infinite in itself and the redemption impossible. That capacity to receive the God-consciousness is, then, not: a good in itself, but a good in relation to the redemption and, as we shall see, the product of it; and so it cannot be reckoned in any sense as personal righteousness. That good in human nature is, however, 182 only receptive, and human activity cannot supply to that capacity a positive good.
But can there be personal guilt in relation to that which comes from beyond the individual himself? Not if this original sin fulness be sundered from connection with the actual sins in which it appears and be viewed as a something existing in itself. But that would remove it beyond the range of Christian piety (which is ever teleological), and therefore beyond the range of dogmatics. The guilt of sin is the individual’s because the act of sin is his, but the guilt is not the isolated individual’s, for the individual cannot be isolated. The self-consciousness in its full significance is a race-consciousness. The whole race is a unity, the constituent members of which propagate their activity everywhere and at all times. Every individual act of sin is, on the one hand, caused by other sins and, on the other hand, causative of other sins, it is both propagated by antecedent sin fulness and propagates sinfulness. The consciousness of sinfulness is a common, universal consciousness. The individual thus represents the whole race both in space and time; his act is the act of the race and his guilt a race guilt. (This is the truth which is relatively described in the common theological terms, reatus, corruptio naturae, vitium originis, morbus originis, etc.)
From the standpoint of the self-consciousness widened to a race-consciousness, the race-consciousness is a sin-consciousness. Yet the tendency to the God-consciousness is never wanting and the effort 183to realize it never vanishes. In this effort conjoined with a sense of helpfulness against the power of the flesh, there arises an anticipation of help coming from without--of redemption. As the guilt is a race-guilt, so we shall see the redemption is a race-redemption.
But the common doctrine that universal sin fulness in the race is the product of an alteration of human nature effected by an act of our first parents cannot be accepted. For if Adam’s nature before the fall were different from his nature afterward and from universal human nature now; then, in the first place, the unity of the race would be destroyed and there could be no race-consciousness; and, in the second place, it involves the impossible assumption that an individual can so operate upon his own nature and that of all succeeding generations as to destroy it. The impossibility of accounting in this way for the change appears in the attempts of theologians to account for the first sin by attributing it to unbelief, pride, lust, ambition, etc., all of which presuppose it. And this failure is inevitable since no individual can act from outside his own nature, but only within it. Or else such attempts involve the assumption of a hopelessly bad being, the devil, and so lead to Manichaeism. We cannot accept the unity of the race except on the ground of a common consciousness. Consequently Adam’s nature was related to his own sin in the same way as our nature to our sin. The derivation of our sinfulness from a first individual act of sin committed by our first parents can never 184 be an element of our redemption- faith, and a natural and unprejudiced exegesis of those passages of Scripture which are supposed to support that view will yield no such result. (See Rom. 5:12-21; I Cor. 15:21, 22; II Cor. ii 13.) The same is true of the Traducianist and the Covenant theory. The Mosaic narrative cannot be viewed as a historical account of the first act of sin; its value lies in its universally representative character. Wherefore the inborn sinfulness must have existed in the race from the very commencement. Apart from this there could be no universal capacity for redemption. “Sin in general and especially ‘original sin’ is the joint act and the joint-guilt of the whole race” (§§ 70-72).
2. Actual Sin
That hereditary sin is ever breaking forth in actual sin is an expression of the Christian consciousness. For first, the clearness with which we perceive that we are never free from sin is proportioned to the clearness with which the Redeemer is presented to our self-consciousness; and second, our consciousness of sin is not empirical or contingent, but universal and necessary. That is, it is not as isolated individuals we are conscious of sinning, but as a constituent part of the totality of mankind, and hence we are as certain that others constantly commit sin as we are of our own sinning. Thus the consciousness of universal sinfulness and of universal sinning are the same viewed from different points; were they really separable, our 185tendency to sin would be nothing actual, and our sinning would be traceable to external influences. Consequently, within the whole range of sinful humanity no activity is ever exerted in which the God-consciousness is pure and unopposed, and there is no form of sin which any man in himself is incapable of committing.
Apart from their relation to the redemption, there are no distinctions of worthiness among men in respect to sin, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. When, for example, one man appears better than another on the ground of possessing a more powerful religious consciousness, on the other hand he must appear worse, so soon as we consider that the actual sins he does commit indicate a stronger opposition to the spirit on the part of the flesh. The disposition to separate ourselves as better than others disappears with a vivid conception of the person of the Redeemer, for with it we become vividly conscious of our implication in the universal sinfulness and equally conscious that the Redeemer stands out of connection with it. But there is a distinction between men according as they partake of the Redeemer’s God-consciousness or are destitute of it. In all men the God-consciousness and the sin-consciousness so exist, only in the case of the redeemed the God-consciousness gradually prevails over the sin-consciousness, rendering all the activities of the nature good; while in the case of the unredeemed the case is the reverse. Hence the sins of the redeemed are pardonable because l86 they are the reaction from a sinful state whose power is diminishing and finally to disappear, and therefore they tend not to multiply or to reproduce themselves in other people; while with the sins of the unredeemed the case is the reverse. With the former good works are prevalent, while their sins are, as it were, the shadows of the sins of their earlier state; but with the latter sinful works are prevalent, while their good deeds are the still remaining, but gradually diminishing, anticipations of a better state, the reflection only of what is a living power in others (§§ 73-75).
Section 2. The Nature of the World in Relation to Sin: Doctrine of Evil (§§ 75-78)
Since a doctrine of the world has a place in dogmatics only in so far as regards the world’s relations to man, there can be no discussion here of sin as affecting the constituent elements of the world, but only of the relations which exist between man and the world on account of sin. Those relations may be comprehended in the two statements: that on account of sin the world appears different to man, and that the effect of sin is to destroy the original harmony between man and the world. According to the doctrine, al ready set forth, of the original perfection of man and of the world, human life is not opposed or hindered in the exercise of its energies by the forces of nature, but all that is in the world in its operation upon human nature, even when it produces weakness, sickness, and death, must be promotive of the higher consciousness, 187the religious life. But whenever in experience the flesh prevails over the spirit (i.e., when sin enters into the life) then these things appear as opposed to the development of human energies, that is, they appear as evil. In this respect we may speak of natural evil in the world. But evil is also social (a preferable expression to “moral” evil, which includes the bad) in that the operations of sin in one individual become productive of evil to others. Thus sin and evil are correlated. The human race is the locus of sin; sin is, in its totality, the act of the race. Correspondingly, the whole world in relation to men is the locus of evil and evil in its totality constitutes the suffering of the entire race.
Sin and evil are therefore related to each other as cause and effect. To reverse this relation and make evil the cause of sin is to contradict the teleological nature of Christianity, to turn ethic into aesthetic, and to deny the Christian conception of God. Evil is the effect, and, as referred to the divine causality (for it cannot be referred to the operation of any being or force outside of God), the punishment of sin--social evil, immediately, on account of the directness of men’s relations to one another, and natural evil, mediately. But this is incapable of application to the individual in his isolation from the rest of mankind. For as sin, properly understood, is the act of the race in its entirety, and as the guilt is a race-guilt, so also evil in its totality is the punishment of the race in its unity. Otherwise the true conception 188 of the relation between sin and evil would be found in that of heathenism, and, in a degree, of Judaism--namely, that magical view which represents suffering and misfortune as punishment for the individual’s sins--which would make vicarious suffering an impossibility.
Section 3. The Attributes of God Which are Related to the Consciousness of Sin (§§ 70-85)
In the religious consciousness all experience is referred to the absolute causality of God; therefore sin and evil as elements of that consciousness imply divine attributes which are comprehended in the divine causality or omnipotence. For us sin exists as a universal fact of consciousness. Therefore there is a sense in which God is the author of sin; but, on the other hand, in the Christian consciousness sin and grace are antithetical, and therefore, if there is not an antithesis within the divine nature, God cannot be the author of sin in the same sense in which he is the author of grace.
Now it has been shown that neither sin nor grace exists in and for itself but each only in relation to the other; both are implicated in redemption. The solution of the difficulty in connection with the reference of sin to God cannot, therefore, be found by making a distinction between God’s permission and God’s decree, for these are equivalent to his preservation and creation, which for the religious consciousness are the same. But the solution is found thus: In 189redemption there is the consciousness of special divine communication in regard to sin--a communication of power to overcome it. But with the reception of this communication the sin-consciousness does not disappear instantaneously, but only gradually, and therefore to our actual experience never entirely. It is, therefore, God’s will that sin should gradually be banished through grace, but this is to say that it is God’s will that sin should exist (for us, not for him), else the redemption could not occur. So that the conclusion of the matter is: God is the author of sin, but the author of sin only in the sense that it should exist as gradually disappearing in the presence of grace.
The Pelagian attempts at a solution by attributing sin and grace, as regards the exertion of energy in them, to man alone, abandons a practical (ethico-religious) interest, which postulates the impartation of a perfectly pure moral impulse, in the divine omnipotence to a theoretical interest, which advocates a similar relation to God on the part of all forms of living activity; for the denial of the operation of divine causality in redemption makes the redemption a mere seeming. The Manichaeans, on the contrary, sacrifice the theoretical interest to the practical by confining the exercise of divine causality to grace and denying it to sin (which supposes the operation of another will independently of the divine and limiting its operation), so that the feeling of absolute dependence, and with it, the absolute divine causality, is lost.190
Hence if we are not, with the Manichaeans, to ascribe to sin an existence in itself, independent and op posed to God; or, with the Pelagians, to minimize and gradually annul the antithesis of sin and grace, the ecclesiastical doctrine that God is not the author of sin but that it is founded in human freedom, needs amendment. For while it is true that every act of sin is the definite act of the individual himself and is neither to be charged to a nature which is common to all men nor to other individuals, yet human freedom, to be real, must be grounded in the divine causality, and consequently human sin, if it be mere appearance, must have the same ground. The consciousness of sin, and therefore sin itself, pertains to the truth of our existence--but only in relation to redemption. The consciousness of sin is the consciousness of an opposition to the divine will that is to be removed. These conditions, namely, that the God-consciousness is to be developed in men through the gradual annulling of an opposition in man to the divine will, have themselves been appointed by God. For an absolute contradiction to the will of God, i.e., absolute obduracy, does not pertain to human existence. That is, God has ordered sin as that which makes the redemption necessary. Sin is ordered of God because otherwise the redemption also could not be ordered of him, and, therefore, not sin in-and-for-itself, but sin in reference to the redemption. . . . . It is ordered of God that natural imperfections should be apprehended by us as evil in the measure in which the 191God-consciousness is not yet dominant in us (82:2). Or, if we may distinguish between God’s commanding will which requires the absolute control of all energies by the religious feeling, and God’s producing will, in accordance with which the power of the God-consciousness is only gradually realized and therefore always defective in actuality, then we may say, God has ordered that that defect in the lordship of the spirit over the flesh should be sin to us, i.e., that it should produce in us a consciousness of the need of redemption.
From this the doctrine of evil follows naturally. Sin being the joint guilt of the race, evil is its joint punishment. Evil is thus produced by human freedom, but is grounded ultimately in the divine causality. But evil is not in-and-for-itself, but only in reference to sin, as sin also is only in reference to the redemption. Consequently evil becomes a source of a stimulus to the consciousness of the need of redemption. Other wise evil would seem to be joined to sin by arbitrary divine determination.
Since all divine attributes must be viewed as modes of the divine causality, and sin and evil are ultimately grounded in the divine causality, the divine attributes which correspond with sin and evil will be the divine holiness and righteousness.
1. God is Holy
Those actions which flow from the God-consciousness possess such a worth in our self-consciousness 192 that every deviation from them in action is apprehended as a limitation of life, i.e., as sin. The activity of the self-consciousness as the apprehension of this inequality of judgment and will is what we mean by conscience. Without this inequality there would not be conscience, and without conscience the acts which result from this inequality would not be sin. Sin therefore, as the universal human state of the need of redemption, implies the activity of conscience in all mankind. This is the purely Christian expression of the need of redemption, but it is in nowise to be under stood as if we would admit the existence of conscience only when the need of redemption is acknowledged. To put it differently: implicated in the consciousness of sin by conscience is the apprehension of the divine causality as legislative for all mankind; this legislative divine causality is what we mean by holiness; holiness in God Is that attribute whose reflection is conscience in man. The usual and popular definition of holiness in the liturgical and homiletical field to the effect that it is the divine pleasure in the good and displeasure with the bad, assuming as it does that “good” and “bad” are to be understood as the actions of finite free beings, is open to the objection that it implies passivity in God, and since a state of God is thus determined by human actions he is placed in a relation of reciprocity with men. Such a static attribute of God is no predicate of our religious consciousness (§ 83).193
2. God is Righteous
Similarly the righteousness of God is that attribute which corresponds to our consciousness of the connection between actual sins and evil. Evil is indeed the effect of the universal sin fulness, as has been shown; but evil is apprehended as evil, i.e., as punishment of sin, only in and with the consciousness of actual sin. But with this consciousness of actual sin is involved the universal sin fulness of man and hence universal desert of punishment in man. Hence the divine righteousness is the divine causality apprehended as producing in the human soul the consciousness of the desert of punishment. And as the idea of desert of punishment, or the idea of evil as necessarily connected with sin, has meaning only in reference to the redemption, so also it is only in reference to the redemption that the divine righteousness is fully to be understood. If it be objected that this definition makes no room in the idea of righteousness for the reward of well doing, among other things we may say in reply that the Christian consciousness admits no actual rewards but regards all rewards as undeserved and therefore referable to the divine grace.
Our exposition brings out the truth that the divine holiness and righteousness cohere but at the same time are differentiated (§§ 84, 85).
|« Prev||I. First Side of the Antithesis: Unfolding of the…||Next »|