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PROLEGOMENA TO THE DISCIPLINE OF THE HISTORY OF DOGMA.
§©I. The Idea and Task of the History of Dogma.
1. The History of Dogma is a discipline of general Church History, which has for its object the dogmas of the Church. These dogmas are the doctrines of the Christian faith logically formulated and expressed for scientific and apologetic purposes, the contents of which are a knowledge of God, of the world, and of the provisions made by God for man’s salvation. The Christian Churches teach them as the truths revealed in Holy Scripture, the acknowledgment of which is the condition of the salvation which religion promises. But as the adherents of the Christian religion had not these dogmas from the beginning, so far, at least, as they form a connected system, the business of the history of dogma is, in the first place, to ascertain the origin of Dogmas (of Dogma), and then secondly, to describe their development (their variations).
2. We cannot draw any hard and fast line between the time of the origin and that of the development of dogma; they rather shade off into one another. But we shall have to look for the final point of division at the time when an article of faith logically formulated and scientifically expressed, was first raised to the articulus constitutivus ecclesia, and as such was universally enforced by the Church. Now that first happened when the doctrine of Christ, as the pre-existent and personal Logos of God, had obtained acceptance everywhere in the confederated Churches as the revealed and 2 fundamental doctrine of faith, that is, about the end of the third century or the beginning of the fourth. We must therefore, in our account, take this as the final point of division.11Weizsäcker, Gott. Gel. Anz. 1886, p. 823 f. says, “It is a question whether we should limit the account of the genesis of Dogma to the Antenicene and designate all else as a development of that. This is undoubted correct so long as our view is limited to the history of dogma of the Greek Church in the second period, and the development of it by the Œcumenical Synods. On the other hand, the Latin Church, in its own way and in its own province, becomes productive from the days of Augustine onwards; the formal signification of dogma in the narrower sense becomes different in the middle ages. Both are repeated in a much greater measure through theReformation. We may therefore in process, in opposition to that division into genesis and development, regard the whole as a continuous process, in which the contents as well as the formal authority of dogma are in process of continuous development.” This view is certainly just, and I think is indicated by myself in what follows. We have to decide here, as so often elsewhere in our account, between rival points of view. The view favoured by me has the advantage of making the nature of dogma clearly appear as a product of the mode of thought of the early church, and that is what it has remained, in spite of all changes both in form and substance, till the present day. As to the development of dogma, it seems to have closed in the Eastern Church with the seventh Œcumenical Council (787). After that time no further dogmas were set up in the East as revealed truths. As to the Western Catholic, that is, the Romish Church, a new dogma was promulgated as late as the year 1870, which claims to be, and in point of form really is, equal in dignity to the old dogmas. Here, therefore, the History of Dogma must extend to the present time. Finally, as regards the Protestant Churches, they are a subject of special difficulty in the sphere of the history of dogma; for at the present moment there is no agreement within these Churches as to whether, and in what sense, dogmas (as the word was used in the ancient Church) are valid. But even if we leave the present out of account and fix our attention on the Protestant Churches of the 16th century, the decision is difficult. For, on the one hand, the Protestant faith, the Lutheran as well as the Reformed (and that of Luther no less), presents itself as a doctrine of faith which, resting Catholic canon of scripture, is, in point of form, quite analogous to the Catholic doctrine of faith, has a series of dogmas in common with it, and only differs in a few. On the other hand, Protestantism 3has taken its stand in principle on the Gospel exclusively, and declared its readiness at all times to test all doctrines afresh by a true understanding of the Gospel. The Reformers, however, in addition to this, began to unfold a conception of Christianity which might be described, in contrast with the Catholic type of religion, as a new conception, and which indeed draws support from the old dogmas, but changes their original significance materially and formally. What this conception was may still be ascertained from those writings received by the Church, the Protestant symbols of the 16th century, in which the larger part of the traditionary dogmas are recognised as the appropriate expression of the Christian religion, nay, as the Christian religion itself.22See Kattenbusch. Luther’s Stellung zu den ökumenischen Symbolen, 1883. Accordingly, it can neither be maintained that the expression of the Christian faith in the form of dogmas is abolished in the Protestant Churches—the very acceptance of the Catholic canon as the revealed record of faith is opposed to that view—nor that its meaning has remained absolutely unchanged.33See Ritschl. Geschichte des Pietismus, I. p. 80 ff.: 93 ff., II. p. 60 f.: 88 f. “The Lutheran view of life did not remain pure and undefiled, but was limited and obscured by the preponderance of dogmatic interests. Protestantism was not delivered from the womb of the Western Church of the middle ages in full power and equipment, like Athene from the head of Jupiter. The incompleteness of its ethical view, the splitting up of its general conceptions into a series of particular dogmas, the tendency to express its beliefs as a hard and fast whole, are defects which soon made Protestantism appear to disadvantage in comparison with the wealth of mediæval theology and asceticism. . . The scholastic form of pure doctrine is really only the provisional, and not the final form of Protestantism.” The history of dogma has simply to recognise this state of things, and to represent it exactly as it lies before us in the documents.
But the point to which the historian should advance here still remains an open question. If we adhere strictly to the definition of the idea of dogma given above, this much is certain, that dogmas were no longer set up after the Formula of Concord, or in the case of the Reformed Church, after the decrees of the Synod of Dort. It cannot, however, be maintained that they have been set aside in the centuries that 4have passed since then; for apart from some Protestant National and independent Churches, which are too insignificant and whose future is too uncertain to be taken into account here, the ecclesiastical tradition of the 16th century, and along it the tradition of the early Church, have not been abrogated in authoritative form. Of course, changes of the greatest importance with regard to doctrine have appeared everywhere in Protestantism from the 17th century to the present day. But these changes cannot in any sense be taken into account in a history of dogma, because they have not as yet attained a form valid for the Church. However we may changes, whether we regard them as corruptions or improvements, or explain the want of fixity in which the Protestant Churches find themselves, as a situation that is forced on them, or the situation that is agreeable to them and for which they are adapted, in no sense is there here a development which could be described as history of dogma.
These facts would seem to justify those who, like Thomasius and Schmid, carry the history of dogma in Protestantism to the Formula of Concord, or, in the case of the Reformed Church, to the decrees of the Synod of Dort. But it may be objected to this boundary line; (1) That those symbols have at all times attained only a partial authority in Protestantism; (2) That as noted above, the dogmas, that is, the formulated doctrines of faith have different meanings on different matters in the Protestant and in the Catholic Churches. Accordingly, it seems advisable within the frame-work of the history of dogma, to examine Protestantism only so far as this is necessary for obtaining a knowledge of its deviations from the Catholic dogma materially and formally, that is, to ascertain the original position of the Reformers with regard to the doctrine of the Church, a position which is beset with contradictions. The more accurately we determine the relation of the Reformers to Catholicism, the more intelligible will be the developments which Protestantism has passed through in the course of its history. But these developments themselves (retrocession and advance) do not belong to the sphere of the history of dogma, because they stand in no comparable relation to the course 5of the history of dogma within the Catholic Church. As history of Protestant doctrines they form a peculiar independent province of Church history.
As to the division of the history of dogma, it consists of two main parts. The first has to describe the origin of dogma, that is, of the Apostolic Catholic system of doctrine based on the foundation of the tradition authoritatively embodied in the creeds and Holy Scripture, and extends to the beginning of the fourth century. This may be conveniently divided into two parts, the first of which will treat of the preparation, the second of the establishment of the ecclesiastical doctrine of faith. The second main part, which has to portray the development of dogma, comprehends three stages. In the first stage the doctrine of faith appears as Theology and Christology. The Eastern Church has never got beyond this stage, although it has to a large extent enriched dogma ritually and mystically (see the decrees of the seventh council). We will have to shew how the doctrines of faith formed in this stage have remained for all time in the Church dogmas κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν. The second stage was initiated by Augustine. The doctrine of faith appears here on the one side completed, and on the other re-expressed by new dogmas, which treat of the relation of sin and grace, freedom and grace, grace and the means of grace. The number and importance of the dogmas that were, in the middle ages, really fixed after Augustine’s time, had no relation to the range and importance of the questions which they raised, and which emerged in the course of centuries in consequence of advancing knowledge, and not less in consequence of the growing power of the Church. Accordingly, in this second stage which comprehends the whole of the middle ages, the Church as an institution kept believers together in a larger measure than was possible to dogmas. These in their accepted form were too poor to enable them to be the expression of religious conviction and the regulator of Church life. On the other hand, the new decisions of Theologians, Councils and Popes, did not yet possess the authority which could have made them incontestable truths of faith. The third stage begins with the Reformation, which compelled the Church to fix its faith on 6the basis of the theological work of the middle ages. Thus arose the Catholic dogma which has found in the Vatican decrees its provisional settlement. This Roman Catholic dogma, as it was formulated at Trent, was moulded in express opposition to the Theses of the Reformers. But these Theses themselves represent a peculiar conception of Christianity, which has its root in the theology of Paul and Augustine, and includes either explicitly or implicitly a revision of the whole ecclesiastical tradition, and therefore of dogma also. The History of Dogma in this last stage, therefore, has a twofold task. It has, on the one hand, to present the Romish dogma as a product of the ecclesiastical development of the middle ages under the influence of the Reformation faith which was to be rejected, and on the other hand, to portray the conservative new formation which we have in original Protestantism, and determine its relation to dogma. A closer examination, however, shews that in none of the great confessions does religion live in dogma, as of old. Dogma everywhere has fallen into the background; in the Eastern Church it has given place to ritual, in the Roman Church to ecclesiastical instructions, in the Protestant Churches, so far as they are mindful of their origin, to the Gospel. At the same time, however, the paradoxical fact is unmistakable that dogma as such is nowhere at this moment so powerful as in the Protestant Churches, though by their history they are furthest removed from it. Here, however, it comes into consideration as an object of immediate religious interest, which, strictly speaking, in the Catholic Church is not the case.44It is very evident how the mediæval and old catholic dogmas were transformed in the view which Luther originally took of them. In this view we must remember that he did away with all the presuppositions of dogma, the infallible Apostolic Canon of Scripture, the infallible teaching function of the Church, and the infallible Apostolic doctrine and constitution. On this basis dogmas can only be utterances which do not support faith, but are supposed by it. But, on the other hand his opposition to all the Apocryphal saints which the Church has created, compelled him to emphasise faith alone, and to give it a firm basis in Scripture, in order to free it from the burden of tradition. Here then, very soon, first by Melanchthon, a summary of articuli fide was substituted for the faith, and the Scriptures recovered their place as a rule. Luther himself, however, is responsible for both, and so it came about that very soon the new evangelic standpoint was explained almost exclusively by the “abolition of abuses,” and by no means so surely by the transformation of the whole doctrinal tradition. The classic authority for this is the Augsburg confession (“hæc fere summa est doctrina apud suos, in qua cerni potest nihil inesse, quod discrepet a scripturis vel ab ecclesia Catholica vel ab ecclesia Romana . . . . sed dissensio est de quibusdam abusibus”). The purified catholic doctrine has since then become the palladium of the Reformation Churches. The refuters of the Augustana have justly been unwilling to admit the mere “purifying,” but have noted in addition that the Augustana does not say everything that was urged by Luther and the Doctors (see Ficker, Die Konfutation des Augsburgischen Bekenntnisse, 1891). At the same time, however, the Lutheran Church, though not so strongly as the English, retained the consciousness of being the true Catholics. But, as the history of Protestantism proves, the original impulse has not remained inoperative. Though Luther himself all his life measured his personal Christian standing by an entirely different standard than subjection to a law of faith; yet, however presumptous the words may sound, we might say that in the complicated struggle that was forced on him, he did not always clearly understand his own faith. The Council of Trent was simply wrung from the Romish Church, and she has made the dogmas of that council 7in a certain sense innocuous by the Vatican decrees.55In the modern Romish Church, dogma is, above all, a judicial regulation which one has to submit to, and in certain circumstances submission alone is sufficient, fides implicita. Dogma is thereby just as much deprived of its original sense and its original authority as by the demand of the Reformers, that every thing should be based upon a clear understanding of the Gospel. Moreover, the changed position of the Romish Church towards dogma is also shewn by the fact that it no longer gives a plain answer to the question as to what dogma is. Instead of a series of dogmas definitely defined, and of equal value, there is presented an infinite multitude of whole and half dogmas, doctrinal directions, pious opinions, probable theological propositions, etc. It is often a very difficult question whether a solemn decision has or has not already been taken on this or that statement, or whether such a decision is still necessary. Everything that must be believed is nowhere stated, and so one sometimes hears in Catholic circles the exemplary piety of a cleric praised with the words that “he believes more than is necessary.” The great dogmatic conflicts within the Catholic Church, since the Council of Trent, have been silenced by arbitrary Papal pronouncements and doctrinal directions. Since one has simply to accommodate oneself to these as laws, it once more appears clear that dogma has become a judicial regulation, administered by the Pope, which is carried out in an administrative way and loses itself in an endless casuistry. We do not mean by this to deny that dogma has a decided value for the pious Catholic as a summary of the faith. But in the Catholic Church it is no longer piety, but obedience that is decisive. The solidarity with the orthodox Protestants may be explained by political reasons, in order, from political reasons again, to condemn, where it is necessary, all Protestants as heretics and revolutionaries. In this sense, it may be said that the period of development of dogma is altogether closed, and that therefore our discipline requires 8a statement such as belongs to a series of historical phenomena that has been completed.
3. The Church has recognised her faith, that is religion itself, in her dogmas. Accordingly, one very important business of the History of Dogma is to exhibit the unity that exists in the dogmas of a definite period, and to shew how the several dogmas are connected with one another and what leading ideas they express. But, as a matter of course, this undertaking has its limits in the degree of unanimity which actually existed in the dogmas of the particular period. It may be shewn without much difficulty, that a strict though by no means absolute unanimity is expressed only in the dogmas of the Greek Church. The peculiar character of the western post-Augustinian ecclesiastical conception of Christianity, no longer finds a clear expression in dogma, and still less is this the case with the conception of the Reformers. The reason of this is that Augustine, as well as Luther, disclosed a new conception of Christianity, but at the same time appropriated the old dogmas.66See the discussions of Biedermann (Christliche Dogmatik. 2 Ed. p. 150 f.) about what he calls the law of stability in the history of religion. But neither Baur’s nor Kliefoth’s method of writing the history of dogmas has done justice to this fact. Not Baur’s, because, notwithstanding the division into six periods, it sees a uniform process in the development of dogma, a process which begins with the origin of Christianity and has run its course, as is alleged, in a strictly logical way. Not Kliefoth’s, because, in the dogmas of the Catholic Church which the East has never got beyond, it only ascertains the establishment of one portion of the Christian faith, to which the parts still wanting have been successively added in later times.77See Ritschl’s discussion of the methods of the early histories of dogma in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theologie, 1871, p. 181 ff. In contrast with this, we may refer to the fact that we can clearly distinguish three styles of building in the history of dogma, but only three; the style of Origen, that of Augustine, and that of the Reformers. But the dogma of the post-Augustinian Church, as well as that of Luther, does not 9in any way represent itself as a new building, not even as the mere extension of an old building, but as a complicated rebuilding, and by no means in harmony with former styles, because neither Augustine nor Luther ever dreamed of building independently.88In Catholicism, the impulse which proceeded from Augustine has finally proved powerless to break the traditional conception of Christianity, as the Council of Trent and the decrees of the Vatican have shewn. For that very reason the development of the Roman Catholic Church doctrine belongs to the history of dogma. Protestantism must, however, under all circumstances be recognised as a new thing, which indeed in none of its phases has been free from contradictions. This perception leads us to the most peculiar phenomenon which meets the historian of dogma, and which must determine his method.
Dogmas arise, develop themselves and are made serviceable to new aims; this in all cases takes place through Theology. But Theology is dependent on innumerable factors, above all on the spirit of the time; for it lies in the nature of theology that it desires to make its object intelligible. Dogmas are the product of theology, not inversely; of a theology of course which, as a rule, was in correspondence with the faith of the time. The critical view of history teaches this: first we have the Apologists and Origen, then the councils of Nice and Chalcedon; first the Scholastics, and the Council of Trent. In consequence of this, dogma bears the mark of all the factors on which the theology was dependent. That is one point. But the moment in which the product of theology became dogma, the way which led to it must be obscured; for, according to the conception of the Church, dogma can be nothing else than the revealed faith itself. Dogma is regarded not as the exponent, but as the basis of theology, and there-fore the product of theology having passed into dogma limits, and criticises the work of theology both past and future.99Here then begins the ecclesiastical theology which takes as its starting-point the finished dogma it strives to prove or harmonise, but very soon, as experience has shewn, loses its firm footing in such efforts and so occasions new crises. That is the second point. It follows from this that the history of the Christian religion embraces a very complicated relation of ecclesiastical dogma and theology, and that the 10ecclesiastical conception of the significance of theology cannot at all do justice to this significance. The ecclesiastical scheme which is here formed and which denotes the utmost concession that can be made to history, is to the effect that theology gives expression only to the form of dogma, while so far as it is ecclesiastical theology, it presupposes the unchanging dogma, i.e., the substance of dogma. But this scheme, which must always leave uncertain what the form really is, and what the substance, is in no way applicable to the actual circumstances. So far, however, as it is itself an article of faith it is an object of the history of dogma. Ecclesiastical dogma when put on its defence must at all times take up an ambiguous position towards theology, and ecclesiastical theology a corresponding position towards dogma; for they are condemned to perpetual uncertainty as to what they owe each other, and what they have to fear from each other. The theological Fathers of dogma have almost without exception failed to escape being condemned by dogma, either because it went beyond them, or lagged behind their theology. The Apologist, Origen and Augustine may be cited in support of this; and even in Protestantism, mutatis mutandis, the same of thing has been repeated, as is proved by the fate of Melanchthon and Schleiermacher. On the other hand, there have been few theologians who have not shaken some article of the traditional dogma. We are wont to get rid of these fundamental facts by hypostatising the ecclesiastical principle or the common ecclesiastical spirit, and by this normal hypostasis, measuring, approving or condemning the doctrines of the theologians, unconcerned about the actual conditions and frequently following a hysteron-proteron. But this is a view of history which should in justice be left to the Catholic Church, which indeed cannot dispense with it. The critical history of dogma has, on the contrary, to shew above all how an ecclesiastical theology has arisen; for it can only give account of the origin of dogma in connection with this main question. The horizon must be taken here as wide as possible; for the question as to the origin of theology can only be answered by surveying all the relations into which the 11Christian religion has entered in naturalising itself in the world and subduing it. When ecclesiastical dogma has once been created and recognised as an immediate expression of the Christian religion, the history of dogma has only to take the history of theology into account so far as it has been active in the formation of dogma. Yet it must always keep in view the peculiar claim of dogma to be a criterion and not a product of theology. But it will also be able to shew how, partly by means of theology and partly by other means—for dogma is also dependent on ritual, constitution, and the practical ideals of life, as well as on the letter, whether of Scripture, or of tradition no longer understood—dogma in its development and re-expression has continually changed, according to the conditions under which the Church was placed. If dogma is originally the formulation of Christian faith as Greek culture understood it and justified it to itself, then dogma has never indeed lost this character, though it has been radically modified in later times. It is quite as important to keep in view the tenacity of dogma as its changes, and in this respect the Protestant way of writing history, which, here as elsewhere in the history of the Church, is more disposed to attend to differences than to what is permanent, has much to learn from the Catholic. But as the Protestant historian, as far as possible, judges of the progress of development in so far as it agrees with the Gospel in its documentary form, he is still able to shew, with all deference to that tenacity, that dogma has been so modified and used to the best advantage by Augustine and Luther, that its Christian character has in many respects gained, though in other respects it has become further and further alienated from that character. In proportion as the traditional system of dogmas lost its stringency it became richer. In proportion as it was stripped by Augustine and Luther of its apologetic philosophic tendency, it was more and more filled with Biblical ideas, though, on the other hand, it became more full of contradictions and less impressive.
This outlook, however, has already gone beyond the limits fixed for these introductory paragraphs and must not be pursued 12further. To treat in abstracto of the method of the history of dogma in relation to the discovery, grouping, and interpretation of the material is not to be recommended; for general rules to preserve the ignorant and half instructed from overlooking the important, and laying hold of what is not important, cannot be laid down. Certainly everything depends on the arrangement of the material; for the understanding of history is to find the rules according to which the phenomena should be grouped, and every advance in the knowledge of history is inseparable from an accurate observance of these rules. We must, above all, be on our guard against preferring one principle at the expense of another in the interpretation of the origin and aim of particular dogmas. The most diverse factors have at all times been at work in the formation of dogmas. Next to the effort to determine the doctrine of religion according to the finis religionis, the blessing of salvation, the following may have been the most important. (1) The conceptions and sayings contained in the canonical Scriptures. (2) The doctrinal tradition originating in earlier epochs of the Church, and no longer understood. (3) The needs of worship and organisation. (4) The effort to adjust the doctrine of religion to the prevailing doctrinal opinions. (5) Political and social circumstances. (6) The changing moral ideals of life. (7) The so-called logical consistency, that is the abstract analogical treatment of one dogma according to the form of another. (8) The effort to adjust different tendencies and contradictions in the Church. (9) The endeavour to reject once for all a doctrine regarded as erroneous. (10) The sanctifying power of blind custom. The method of explaining everything wherever possible by “the impulse of dogma to unfold itself,” must be given up as unscientific, just as all empty abstractions whatsoever must be given up as scholastic and mythological. Dogma has had its history in the individual living man and nowhere else. As soon as one adopts this statement in real earnest, that mediæval realism must vanish to which a man so often thinks himself superior while imbedded in it all the time. Instead of investigating the actual conditions in which believing and intelligent men have been placed, a system of Christianity has been 13constructed from which, as from a Pandora’s box, all doctrines which in course of time have been formed, are extracted, and in this way legitimised as Christian. The simple fundamental proposition that that only is Christian which can be established authoritatively by the Gospel, has never yet received justice in the history of dogma. Even the following account will in all probability come short in this point; for in face of a prevailing false tradition the application of a simple principle to every detail can hardly succeed at the first attempt.
Explanation as to the Conception and Task of the History of Dogma.
No agreement as yet prevails with regard to the conception of the history of dogma. Münscher (Handbuch der Christl. D. G. 3rd ed. I. p. 3 f.) declared that the business of the history of dogma is “To represent all the changes which the theoretic part of the Christian doctrine of religion has gone through from its origin up to the present, both in form and substance,” and this definition held sway for a long time. Then it came to be noted that the question was not about changes that were accidental, but about those that were historically necessary, that dogma has a relation to the Church, and that it represents a rational expression of the faith. Emphasis was put sometimes on one of these elements and sometimes on the other. Baur, in particular, insisted on the first; V. Hofmann, after the example of Schleiermacher, on the second, and indeed exclusively (Encyklop. der theol. p. 257 f.: “The history of dogma is the history of the Church confessing the faith in words”). Nitzsch (Grundriss der Christl. D. G. I. p. I) insisted on the third: “The history of dogma is the scientific account of the origin and development of the Christian system of doctrine or that part of historical theology which presents the history of the expression of the Christian faith in notions, doctrines and doctrinal systems.” Thomasius has combined the second and third by conceiving the history of dogma as the history of the development of the ecclesiastical system of doctrine. 14But even this conception is not sufficiently definite, inasmuch as it fails to do complete justice to the special peculiarity of the subject.
Ancient and modern usage does certainly seem to allow the word dogma to be applied to particular doctrines, or to a uniform system of doctrine, to fundamental truths, or to opinions, to theoretical propositions or practical rules, to statements of belief that have not been reached by a process of reasoning, as well as to those that bear the marks of such a process. But this uncertainty vanishes on closer examination. We then see that there is always an authority at the basis of dogma, which gives it to those who recognise that authority the signification of a fundamental truth “quæ sine scelere prodi non poterit” (Cicero Quæst. Acad. IV. 9). But therewith at the same time is introduced into the idea of dogma a social element (see Biedermann, Christl. Dogmatik. 2 Edit. I. p. 2 f.); the confessors of one and the same dogma form a community.
There can be no doubt that these two elements are also demonstrable in Christian dogma, and therefore we must reject all definitions of the history of dogma which do not take them into account. If we define it as the history of the understanding of Christianity by itself, or as the history of the changes of the theoretic part of the doctrine of religion or the like, we shall fail to do justice to the idea of dogma in its most general acceptation. We cannot describe as dogmas, doctrines such as the Apokatastasis, or the Kenosis of the Son of God, without coming into conflict with the ordinary usage of language and with ecclesiastical law.
If we start, therefore, from the supposition that Christian dogma is an ecclesiastical doctrine which presupposes revelation as its authority, and therefore claims to be strictly binding, we shall fail to bring out its real nature with anything like completeness. That which Protestants and Catholics call dogmas, are not only ecclesiastical doctrines, but they are also: (1) theses expressed in abstract terms, forming together a unity, and fixing the contents of the Christian religion as a knowledge of God, of the world, and of the sacred history under the aspect of a proof of the truth. But (2) they have 15also emerged at a definite stage of the history of the Christian religion; they shew in their conception as such, and in many details, the influence of that stage, viz., the Greek period, and they have preserved this character in spite of all their reconstructions and additions in after periods. This view of dogma Cannot be shaken by the fact that particular historical facts, Miraculous or not miraculous are described as dogmas; for here they are regarded as such only in so far as they have got the value of doctrines which have been inserted in the complete structure of doctrines and are, on the other hand, members of a chain of proofs, viz., proofs from prophecy.
But as soon as we perceive this, the parallel between the ecclesiastical dogmas and those of ancient schools of philosophy appears to be in point of form complete. The only difference is that revelation is here put as authority in the place of human knowledge, although the later philosophic schools appealed to revelation also. The theoretical as well as the practical doctrines which embraced the peculiar conception of the world and the ethics of the school, together with their rationale, were described in these schools as dogmas. Now, in so far as the adherents of the Christian religion possess dogmas in this sense, and form a community which has gained an understanding of its religious faith by analysis and by scientific definition and grounding, they appear as a great philosophic school in the ancient sense of the word. But they differ from such a school in so far as they have always eliminated the process of thought which has led to the dogma, looking upon the whole system of dogma as a revelation and there-fore, even in respect of the reception of the dogma, at least at first, they have taken account not of the powers of human understanding, but of the Divine enlightenment which is bestowed on all the willing and the virtuous. In later times, indeed, the analogy was far more complete, in so far as the Church reserved the full possession of dogma to a circle of consecrated and initiated individuals. Dogmatic Christianity is therefore a definite stage in the history of the development of Christianity. It corresponds to the antique mode of thought, but has nevertheless continued to a very great extent in the 16following epochs, though subject to great transformations. Dogmatic Christianity stands between Christianity as the religion of the Gospel, presupposing a personal experience and dealing with disposition and conduct, and Christianity as a religion of cultus, sacraments, ceremonial and obedience, in short of superstition, and it can be united with either the one or the other. In itself and in spite of all its mysteries it is always intellectual Christianity, and therefore there is always the danger here that as knowledge it may supplant religious faith, or connect it with a doctrine of religion, instead of with God and a living experience.
If then the discipline of the history of dogma is to be what its name purports, its object is the very dogma which is so formed, and its fundamental problem will be to discover how it has arisen. In the history of the canon our method of procedure has for long been to ask first of all, how the canon originated, and then to examine the changes through which it has passed. We must proceed in the same way with the history of dogma, of which the history of the canon is simply a part. Two objections will be raised against this. In the first place, it will be said that from the very first the Christian religion has included a definite religious faith as well as a definite ethic, and that therefore Christian dogma is as original as Christianity itself, so that there can be no question about a genesis, but only as to a development or alteration of dogma within the Church. Again it will be said, in the second place, that dogma as defined above, has validity only for a definite epoch in the history of the Church, and that it is therefore quite impossible to write a comprehensive history of dogma in the sense we have indicated.
As to the first objection, there can of course be no doubt that the Christian religion is founded on a message, the contents of which are a definite belief in God and in Jesus Christ whom he has sent, and that the promise of salvation is attached to this belief. But faith in the Gospel and the later dogmas of the Church are not related to each other as theme and the way in which it is worked out, any more than the dogma of the New Testament canon is only the explication 17of the original reliance of Christians on the word of their Lord and the continuous working of the Spirit; but in these later dogmas an entirely new element has entered into the Conception of religion. The message of religion appears here Clothed in a knowledge of the world and of the ground of the World which had already been obtained without any reference to it, and therefore religion itself has here become a doctrine Which has, indeed, its certainty in the Gospel, but only in part derives its contents from it, and which can also be appropriated by such as are neither poor in spirit nor weary itnd heavy laden. Now, it may of course be shewn that a philosophic conception of the Christian religion is possible, Ind began to make its appearance from the very first, as in the case of Paul. But the Pauline gnosis has neither been simply identified with the Gospel by Paul himself (I Cor. III. 2 f.: XII. 3: Phil. I. 18) nor is it analogous to the later dogma, not to speak of being identical with it. The characteristic of this dogma is that it represents itself in no sense as foolishness, but as wisdom, and at the same time desires to be regarded as the contents of revelation itself. Dogma in its conception and development is a work of the Greek spirit on the soil of the Gospel. By comprehending in itself and giving excellent expression to the religious conceptions contained in Greek philosophy and the Gospel, together with its Old Testament basis; by meeting the search for a revelation as well as the desire for a universal knowledge; by subordinating itself to the aim of the Christian religion to bring a Divine life to humanity as well as to the aim of philosophy to know the world: it became the instrument by which the Church conquered the ancient world and educated the modern nations. But this dogma—one cannot but admire its formation or fail to regard it as a great achievement of the spirit, which never again in the history of Christianity has made itself at home with such freedom and boldness in religion—is the product of a comparatively long history which needs to be deciphered; for it is obscured by the completed dogma. The Gospel itself is not dogma, for belief in the Gospel provides room for knowledge only so far as it is a state of feeling and 18course of action, that is a definite form of life. Between practicl faith in the Gospel and the historico-critical account of the Christian religion and its history, a third element can no longer be thrust in without its coming into conflict with faith, or with the historical data--the only thing left is the practical task of defending the faith. But a third element has been thrust into the history of this religion, viz., dogma, that is, the philosophical means which were used in early times for the purpose of making the Gospel intelligible have been fused with the contents of the Gospel and raised to dogma. This dogma, next to the Church, has become a real world power, the pivot in the history of the Christian religion. The transformation of the Christian faith into dogma is indeed no accident, but has its reason is in spiritual character of the Christian religion, which at all times will feel the need of a scientific apologetic.1010Weizsäcker, Apostolic Age, Vol. I. p. 123. “Christianity as religion is absolutely inconceivable without theology; first of all, for the same reasons which called forth the Pauline theology. As a religion it cannot be separated from the religion of its founder, hence not from historical knowledge. And as Monotheism and belief in a world purpose, it is the religion of reason with the inextinguishable impulse of thought. The first gentile Christians therewith gained the proud consciousness of a gnosis.” But of ecclesiastical Christianity which rests on dogma ready made, as produced by an earlier epoch, this conception holds good only in a very qualified way; and of the vigorous Christian piety of the earliest and of every period, it may also be said that it no less feels the impulse to think against reason than with reason. But the question here is not as to something indefinite and general, but as to the definite dogma formed in the first centuries, and binding even yet.
This already touches on the second objection which was raised above, that dogma, in the given sense of the word, was too narrowly conceived, and could not in this conception be applied throughout the whole history of the Church. This objection would only be justified, if our task were to carry the history of the development of dogma through the whole history of the Church. But the question is just whether we are right in proposing such a task. The Greek Church has no history of dogma after the seven great Councils, and it is incomparably more important to recognise this fact than to 19register the theologoumena which were later on introduced by Individual Bishops and scholars in the East, who were partly Influenced by the West. Roman Catholicism in its dogmas, though, as noted above, these at present do not very clearly characterise it, is to-day essentially—that is, so far as it is religion—what it was 1500 years ago, viz., Christianity as Understood by the ancient world. The changes which dogma has experienced in the course of its development in western Catholicism are certainly deep and radical: they have, in point of fact, as has been indicated in the text above, modified the position of the Church towards Christianity as dogma. But as the Catholic Church herself maintains that she adheres to Christianity in the old dogmatic sense, this claim of hers cannot be contested. She has embraced new things and changed her relations to the old, but still preserved the old. But she has further developed new dogmas according to the scheme of the old. The decrees of Trent and of the Vatican are formally analogous to the old dogmas. Here, then, a history of dogma may really be carried forward to the present day without thereby shewing that the definition of dogma given above is too narrow to embrace the new doctrines. Finally, as to Protestantism, it has been briefly explained above why the changes in Protestant systems of doctrine are not to be taken up into the history of dogma. Strictly speaking, dogma, as dogma, has had no development in Protestantism, inasmuch as a secret note of interrogation has been here associated with it from the very beginning. But the old dogma has continued to be a power in it, because of its tendency to look back and to seek for authorities in the past, and partly in the original unmodified form. The dogmas of the fourth and fifth centuries have more influence to-day in wide circles of Protestant Churches than all the doctrines which are concentrated around justification by faith. Deviations from the latter are borne comparatively easy, while as a rule, deviations from the former are followed by notice to quit the Christian communion, that is, by excommunication. The historian of to-day would have no difficulty in answering the question whether the power of Protestantism as a Church lies 20at present in the elements which it has in common with the old dogmatic Christianity, or in that by which it is distinguished from it. Dogma, that is to say, that type of Christianity which was formed in ecclesiastical antiquity, has not been suppressed even in Protestant Churches, has really not been modified or replaced by a new conception of the Gospel. But, on the other hand, who could deny that the Reformation began to disclose such a conception, and that this new conception was related in a very different way to the traditional dogma from that of the new propositions of Augustine to the dogmas handed down to him? Who could further call in question that, in consequence of the reforming impulse in Protestantism, the way was opened up for a conception which does not identify Gospel and dogma, which does not disfigure the latter by changing or paring down its meaning while failing to come up to the former? But the historian who has to describe the formation and changes of dogma can take no part in these developments. It is a task by itself more rich and comprehensive than that of the historian of dogma, to portray the diverse conceptions that have been formed of the Christian religion, to portray how strong men and weak men, great and little minds have explained the Gospel outside and inside the frame-work of dogma, and how under the cloak, or in the province of dogma, the Gospel has had its own peculiar history. But the more limited theme must not be put aside. For it can in no way be conducive to historical knowledge to regard as indifferent the peculiar character of the expression of Christian faith as dogma, and allow the history of dogma to be absorbed in a general history of the various conceptions of Christianity. Such a “liberal” view would not agree either with the teaching of history or with the actual situation of the Protestant Churches of the present day: for it is, above all, of crucial importance to perceive that it is a peculiar stage in the development of the human spirit which is described by dogma. On this stage, parallel with dogma and inwardly united with it, stands a definite psychology, metaphysic and natural philosophy, as well as a view of history of a definite type. This is the conception of the 21world obtained by antiquity after almost a thousand years’ labour, and it is the same connection of theoretic perceptions and practical ideals which it accomplished. This stage on which the Christian religion has also entered we have in no way as yet transcended, though science has raised itself above it.1111In this sense it is correct to class dogmatic theology as historical theology, as Schleiermacher has done. If we, maintain that for practical reasons it must be taken out of the province of historical theology, then we must make it part of practical theology. By dogmatic theology here, we understand the exposition of Christianity in the form of Church doctrine, as it has been shaped since the second century. As distinguished from it, a branch of theological study must be conceived which harmonises the historical exposition of the Gospel with the general state of knowledge of the time. The Church can as little dispense with such a discipline as there can be a Christianity which does not account to itself for its basis and spiritual contents. But the Christian religion, as it was not born of the culture of the ancient world, is not for ever chained to it. The form and the new contents which the Gospel received when it entered into that world have only the same guarantee of endurance as that world itself. And that endurance is limited. We must indeed be on our guard against taking episodes for decisive crises. But every episode carries us forward, and retrogressions are unable to undo that progress. The Gospel since the Reformation, in spite of retrograde movements which have not been wanting, is working itself out of the forms which it was once compelled to assume, and a true comprehension of its history will also contribute to hasten this process.
1. The definition given above, p. 17: “Dogma in its conception and development is a work of the Greek spirit on the soil of the Gospel,” has frequently been distorted by my critics, as they have suppressed the words “on the soil of the Gospel.” But these words are decisive. The foolishness of identifying dogma and Greek philosophy never entered my mind; on the contrary, the peculiarity of ecclesiastical dogma seemed to me to lie in the very fact that, on the one hand, it gave expression to Christian Monotheism and the central significance of the person of Christ, and, on the other hand, comprehended this religious faith and the historical knowledge 22connected with it in a philosophic system. I have given quite as little ground for the accusation that I look upon the whole development of the history of dogma as a pathological process within the history of the Gospel. I do not even look upon the history of the origin of the Papacy as such a process, not to speak of the history of dogma. But the perception that “everything must happen as it has happened” does not absolve the historian from the task of ascertaining the powers which have formed the history, and distinguishing between original and later, permanent and transitory, nor from the duty of stating his own opinion.
2. Sabatier has published a thoughtful treatise on “Christian Dogma: its Nature and its Development,” I agree with the author in this, that in dogma—rightly understood—two elements are to be distinguished, the religious proceeding from the experience of the individual or from the religious spirit of the Church, and the intellectual or theoretic. But I regard as false the statement which he makes, that the intellectual element in dogma is only the symbolical expression of religious experience. The intellectual element is itself again to be differentiated. On the one hand, it certainly is the attempt to give expression to religious feeling, and so far is symbolical; but, on the other hand, within the Christian religion it belongs to the essence of the thing itself, inasmuch as this not only awakens feeling, but has a quite definite content which determines and should determine the feeling. In this sense Christianity without dogma, that is, without a clear expression of its content, is inconceivable. But that does not justify the unchangeable permanent significance of that dogma which has once been formed under definite historical conditions.
3. The word “dogmas” (Christian dogmas) is, if I see correctly, used among us in three different senses, and hence spring all manner of misconceptions and errors. By dogmas are denoted: (1) The historical doctrines of the Church. (2) The historical facts on which the Christian religion is reputedly or actually founded. (3) Every definite exposition of the contents of Christianity is described as dogmatic. In contrast with this the attempt has been made in the following presentation to 23use dogma only in the sense first stated. When I speak, therefore, of the decomposition of dogma, I mean by that, neither the historical facts which really establish the Christian religion, nor do I call in question the necessity for the Christian and the Church to have a creed. My criticism refers not to the general genus dogma, but to the species, viz., the defined dogma, as it was formed on the soil of the ancient world, and is still a power, though under modifications.
§©2. History of the History of Dogma.
The history of dogma as a historical and critical discipline had its origin in the last century through the works of Mosheim, C. W. F. Walch, Ernesti, Lessing and Semler. Lange gave to the world in 1796 the first attempt at a history of dogma as a special branch of theological study. The theologians of the Early and Mediaeval Churches have only transmitted histories of Heretics and of Literature, regarding dogma as unchangeable.1212See Eusebius’ preface to his Church History. Eusebius in this work set himself a comprehensive task, but in doing so he never in the remotest sense thought of a history of dogma. In place of that we have a history of men “who from generation to generation proclaimed the word of God orally or by writing,” and a history of those who by their passion for novelties, plunged themselves into the greatest errors. This presupposition is so much a part of the nature of Catholicism that it has been maintained till the present day. It is there-fore impossible for a Catholic to make a free, impartial and scientific investigation of the history of dogma.1313See for example, B. Schwane, Dogmengesch. d. Vornicänischen Zeit, 1862, where the sense in which dogmas have no historical side is first expounded, and then it is shewn that dogmas, “notwithstanding, present a certain side which permits a historical consideration, because in point of fact they have gone through historical developments.” But these historical developments present themselves simply either as solemn promulgations and explications, or as private theological speculations. There have, indeed, at almost all times before the Reformation, been critical efforts in the domain of Christianity, especially of western Christianity, efforts which in some cases have led to the proof 24of the novelty and inadmissibility of particular dogmas. But, as a rule, these efforts were of the nature of a polemic against the dominant Church. They scarcely prepared the way for, far less produced a historical view of, dogmatic tradition.1414If we leave out of account the Marcionite gnostic criticism of ecclesiastical Christianity, Paul of Samosata and Marcellus of Ancyra may be mentioned as men who, in the earliest period, criticised the apologetic Alexandrian theology which was being naturalised (see the remarkable statement of Marcellus in Euseb. C. Marc. I. 4: τὸ τοῦ δόγματος ὄνομα τῆς ἀνθρωπίνης ἔχεται βουλῆς τε καὶ γνώμης κ.τ.λ., which I have chosen as the motto of this book). We know too little of Stephen Gobarus (VI. cent.) to enable us to estimate his review of the doctrine of the Church and its development (Photius Bibl. 232). With regard to the middle ages (Abelard “Sic et Non”), see Reuter, Gesch. der relig. Aufklärung im MA., 1875. Hahn Gesch. der Ketzer, especially in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, 3 vols., 1845. Keller, Die Reformation und die alteren Reform-Parteien, 1885. The progress of the sciences1515See Voigt, Die Wiederbelebung des classischen Alterthums, 2 vols., 1881, especially vol. II. p. 1 ff. 363 ff. 494 ff. (“Humanism and the science of history”). The direct importance of humanism for illuminating the history of the middle ages is very little, and least of all for the history of the Church and of dogma. The only prominent works here are those of Saurentius Valla and Erasmus. The criticism of the scholastic dogmas of the Church and the Pope began as early as the 12th century. For the attitude of the Renaissance to religion, see Burckhardt, Die Cultur der Renaissance, 2 vols., 1877. and the conflict with Protestantism could here, for the Catholic Church, have no other effect than that of leading to the collecting, with great learning, of material for the history of dogma,1616Baronius, Annals Eccles. XIi. vol. 1588-1607. Chief work: Dionysius Petavius, Opus de theologicis dogmatibus. 4 vols. (incomplete) 1644-1650. See further Thomassin, Dogmata theologica. 3 vols. 1684-1689. the establishing of the consensus patrum et doctorum, the exhibition of the necessity of a continuous explication of dogma, and the description of the history of heresies pressing in from without, regarded now as unheard-of novelties, and again as old enemies in new masks. The modern Jesuit-Catholic historian indeed exhibits, in certain circumstances, a manifest indifference to the task of establishing the semper idem in the faith of the Church, but this indifference is at present regarded with disfavour, and, besides, is only an apparent one, as the continuous though inscrutable 25guidance of the Church by the infallible teaching of the Pope is the more emphatically maintained.1717See Holtzmann, Kanon und Tradition, 1859. Hase, Handbuch der protest, Polemik. 1878. Joh. Delitszch, Das Lehrsystem der röm. Kirche, 1875. New revelations, however, are rejected, and bold assumptions leading that way are not favoured: See Schwane, above work p. 11: “The content of revelation is not enlarged by the decisions or teaching of the Church, nor are new revelations added in course of time. . . . Christian truth cannot therefore in its content be completed by the Church, nor has she ever claimed the right of doing so, but always where new designations or forms of dogma became necessary for the putting down of error or the instruction of the faithful, she would always teach what she had received in Holy Scripture or in the oral tradition of the Apostles.” Recent Catholic accounts of the history of dogma are Klee, Lehrbuch der D.G. 2 vols. 1837, (Speculative). Schwane, Dogmengesch. der Vornicänischen Zeit, 1862, der patrist. Zeit, 1869; der Mittleren Zeit, 1882. Bach, Die D.G. des MA. 1873. There is a wealth of material for the history of dogma in Kuhn’s Dogmatik, as well as in the great controversial writings occasioned by the celebrated work of Bellarmin; Disputationes de controversiis Christianæ fidei adversus hujus temporis hæreticos, 1581-1593. It need not be said that, in spite of their inability to treat the history of dogma historically and critically, much may be learned from these works, and some other striking monographs of Roman Catholic scholars. But everything in history that is fitted to shake the high antiquity and unanimous attestation of the Catholic dogmas, becomes here a problem, the solution of which is demanded, though indeed its carrying out often requires a very exceptional intellectual subtlety.
It may be maintained that the Reformation opened the way for a critical treatment of the history of dogma.1818Historical interest in Protestantism has grown up around the questions as to the power of the Pope, the significance of Councils, or the Scripturalness of the doctrines set up by them, and about the meaning of the Lord’s supper, of the conception of it by the Church Fathers; (see Œcolampadius and Melanchthon.) Protestants were too sure that the doctrine of justification was taught in the scriptures to feel any need of seeking proofs for it by studies in the history of dogma, and Luther also dispensed with the testimony of history for the dogma of the Lord’s supper. The task of shewing how far and in what way Luther and the Reformers compounded with history has not even yet been taken up. And yet there may be found in Luther’s writings surprising and excellent critical comments on the history of dogma and the theology of the Fathers, as well as genial conceptions which have certainly remained inoperative; see especially the treatise “Von den Conciliis und Kirchen,” and his judgment on different Church Fathers. In the first edition of the Loci of Melanchthon we have also critical material for estimating the old systems of dogma. Calvin's depreciatory estimate of the Trinitarian and Christological Formula, which, however, he retracted at a later period is well known. But even in Protestant Churches, at first, historical investigations remained 26under the ban of the confessional system of doctrine and were used only for polemics.1919Protestant Church history was brought into being by the Interim, Flacius being its Father; see his Catalogus Testium Veritatis, and the so-called Magdeburg Centuries, 1559-1574; also Jundt., Les Centuries de Magdebourg, Paris, 1883. Von Engelhardt (Christenthum Justin’s, p. 9 ff.) has drawn attention to the estimate of Justin in the Centuries, and has justly insisted on the high importance of this first attempt at a criticism of the Church Fathers. Kliefoth (Einl. in d. D.G. 1839) has the merit of pointing out the somewhat striking judgment of A. Hyperius on the history of dogma. Chemnitz, Examen concilii Tridentini, 1565. Forbesius a Corse (a Scotsman). Instructiones historico-theologiæ de doctrina Christiana, 1645. Church history itself up to the 18th century was not regarded as a theological discipline in the strict sense of the word; and the history of dogma existed only within the sphere of dogmatics as a collection of testimonies to the truth, theologia patristica. It was only after the material had been prepared in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries by scholars of the various Church parties, and, above all, by excellent editions of the Fathers,2020The learning, the diligence in collecting, and the carefulness of the Benedictines and Maurians, as well as of English, Dutch and French theologians, such as Casaubon, Vossius, Pearson, Dalläus, Spanheim, Grabe, Basnage, etc. have never since been equalled, far less surpassed. Even in the literary, historical and higher criticism these scholars have done splendid work, so far as the confessional dogmas did not come into question. and after Pietism had exhibited the difference between Christianity and Ecclesiasticism, and had begun to treat the traditional confessional structure of doctrine with indifference,2121See especially, G. Arnold, Unpartheyische Kirchen- und Ketzerhistorie, 1699 also Baur, Epochen der kirchlichen Geschichtsschreibung, p. 84 ff.; Floring, G. Arnold als Kirchenhistoriker, Darmstadt, 1883. The latter determines correctly the measure of Arnold’s importance. His work was the direct preparation for an impartial examination of the history of dogma, however partial it was in itself. Pietism, here and there, after Spener, declared war against scholastic dogmatics as a hindrance to piety, and in doing so broke the ban under which the knowledge of history lay captive. that a critical investigation was entered on.
The man who was the Erasmus of the 18th century, neither orthodox nor pietistic, nor rationalistic, but capable of appreciating all these tendencies; familiar with English, French and Italian literature; influenced by the spirit of the new English 27Science,2222The investigations of the so-called English Deists about the Christian religion contain the first, and to some extent a very significant free-spirited attempt at a critical view of the history of dogma (see Lechler, History of English Deism, 1841). But the criticism is an abstract, rarely a historical one. Some very learned works bearing on the history of dogma were written in England against the position of the Deists, especially by Lardner: see also at an earlier time Bull, Defensio fidei nic. while avoiding all statements of it that would endanger positive Christianity: John Lorenz Mosheim, treated Church history in the spirit of his great teacher Leibnitz,2323Calixtus of Helmstädt was the forerunner of Leibnitz with regard to Church history. But the merit of having recognised the main problem of the history of dogma does not belong to Calixtus. By pointing out what Protestantism and Catholicism had in common he did not in any way clear up the historical-critical problem. On the other hand the Consensus repetitus of the Wittenberg theologians shews what fundamental questions Calixtus had already stirred. and by impartial analysis, living reproduction, and methodical artistic form raised it for the first time to the rank of a science. In his monographic works also, he endeavours to examine impartially the history of dogma, and to acquire the historic stand-point between the estimate of the orthodox dogmatics and that of Gottfried Arnold. Mosheim, averse to all fault-finding and polemic, and abhorring theological crudity as much as pietistic narrowness and undevout Illuminism, aimed at an actual correct knowledge of history, in accordance with the principle of Leibnitz, that the valuable elements which are everywhere to be found in history must be sought out and recognised. And the richness and many-sidedness of his mind qualified him for gaining such a knowledge. But his latitudinarian dogmatic standpoint as well as the anxiety to awaken no controversy or endanger the gradual naturalising of a new science and culture, caused him to put aside the most important problems of the history of dogma and devote his attention to political Church history as well as to the more indifferent historical questions. The opposition of two periods which he endeavoured peacefully to reconcile could not in this way be permanently set aside.2424Among the numerous historical writings of Mosheim may be mentioned specially his Dissert ad hist. Eccles. pertinentes. 2 vols. 1731-1741, as well as the work: “De rebus Christianorum ante Constantinum M. Commentarii,” 1753; see also “Institutions hist. Eccl.” last Edition, 1755. In Mosheim’s sense, but without the 28spirit of that great man, C. W. F. Walch taught on the subject and described the religious controversies of the Church with an effort to be impartial, and has thus made generally accessible the abundant material collected by the diligence of earlier scholars.2525Walch, “Entwurf einer vollständigen Historie der Ketzereien, Spaltungen und Religionsstreitigkeiten bis auf die Zeiten der Reformation.” II Thle (incomplete), 1762-1785. See also his “Entwurf einer vollständigen Historie der Kirchenversammlungen,” 1759, as well as numerous monographs on the history of dogma. Such were already produced by the older Walch, whose a Histor. theol. Einleitung in die Religionsstreitigkeiten der Ev. Luth. Kirche,” 5 vols. 1730-1739, and “Histor.-theol. Einleit. in die Religionsstreitigkeiten welche sonderlich ausser der Ev. Luth. Kirche entstanden sind 5 Thle,” 1933-1736, had already put polemics behind the knowledge of history (see Gass. “Desch. der protest. Dogmatik,” 3rd Vol. p. 205 ff.). Walch, moreover, in the “Gedanken von der Geschichte der Glaubenslehre,” 1756, gave the impulse that was needed to fix attention on the history of dogma as a special discipline. The stand-point which he took up was still that of subjection to ecclesiastical dogma, but without confessional narrowness. Ernesti in his programme of the year 1759, “De theologiæ historiæ et dogmaticæ conjungendæ necessitate,” gave eloquent expression to the idea that Dogmatic is a positive science which has to take its material from history, but that history itself requires a devoted and candid study, on account of our being separated from the earlier epochs by a complicated tradition.2626Opusc. p. 576 f.: “Es quo fit, ut nullo modo in theologicis, quæ omnia e libris antiquis hebraicis, græcis, latinis ducuntur, possit aliquis bene in definiendo versari et a peccatis multis et magnis sibi cavere, nisi litteras et historiam assumat.” The title of a programme of Crusius, Ernesti’s opponent, “De dogmatum Christianorum historia cum probatione dogmatum non confundenda,” 1770, is significant of the new insight which was steadily making way. He has also shewn in his celebrated “Antimuratorius,” that an impartial and critical investigation of the problems of the history of dogma, might render the most effectual service to the polemic against the errors of Romanism. Besides, the greater part of the dogmas were already unintelligible to Ernesti, and yet during his lifetime the way was opened up for that tendency in theology, which, prepared in Germany by Chr. Thomasius, supported by English writers, drew the sure principles of faith and life from what is called 29reason, and therefore was not only indifferent to the system of dogma, but felt it more and more to be the tradition of unreason and of darkness. Of the three requisites of a historian ; knowledge of his subject, candid criticism, and a capacity for finding himself at home in foreign interests and ideas, the Rationalistic Theologians who had outgrown Pietism and passed through the school of the English Deists and of Wolf, no longer possessed the first, a knowledge of the subject, to the same extent as some scholars of the earlier generation. The second, free criticism, they possessed in the high degree guaranteed by the conviction of having a rational religion; the third, the power of comprehension, only in a very limited measure. They had lost the idea of positive religion, and with it a living and just conception of the history of religion.
In the history of thought there is always need for an apparently disproportionate expenditure of power, in order to produce an advance in the development. And it would appear as if a certain self-satisfied narrow-mindedness within the progressing ideas of the present, as well as a great measure of inability even to understand the past and recognise its own dependence on it, must make its appearance, in order that a whole generation may be freed from the burden of the past. It needed the absolute certainty which Rationalism had found in the religious philosophy of the age, to give sufficient courage to subject to historical criticism the central dogmas on which the Protestant system as well as the Catholic finally rests, the dogmas of the canon and inspiration on the one hand, and of the Trinity and Christology on the other. The work of Lessing in this respect had no great results. We to-day see in his theological writings the most important contribution to the understanding of the earliest history of dogma, which that period supplies; but we also understand why its results were then so trifling. This was due, not only to the fact that Lessing was no theologian by profession, or that his historical observations were couched in aphorisms, but because, like Leibnitz and Mosheim, he had a capacity for appreciating the history of religion which forbade him to do violence to that history or to sit in judgment on it, and because his 30philosophy in its bearings on the case allowed him to seek no more from his materials than an assured understanding of them; in a word again, because he was no theologian. The Rationalists, on the other hand, who within certain limits were no less his opponents than the orthodox, derived the strength of their opposition to the systems of dogma, as the Apologists of the second century had already done with regard to polytheism, from their religious belief and their inability to estimate these systems historically. That, however, is only the first impression which one gets here from the history, and it is everywhere modified by other impressions. In the first place, there is no mistaking a certain latitudinarianism in several prominent theologians of the rationalistic tendency. Moreover, the attitude to the canon was still frequently, in virtue of the Protestant principle of scripture, an uncertain one, and it was here chiefly that the different types of rational supernaturalism were developed. Then, with all subjection to the dogmas of Natural religion, the desire for a real true knowledge was unfettered and powerfully excited. Finally, very significant attempts were made by some rationalistic theologians to explain in a real historical way the phenomena of the history of dogma, and to put an authentic and historical view of that history in the place of barren pragmatic or philosophic categories.
The special zeal with which the older rationalism applied itself to the investigation of the canon, either putting aside the history of dogma, or treating it merely in the frame-work of Church history, has only been of advantage for the treatment of our subject. It first began to be treated with thoroughness when the historical and critical interests had become more powerful than the rationalistic. After the important labours of Semler, which here, above all, have wrought in the interests of freedom,2727Semler, Einleitung zu Baumgartens evang. Glaubenslehre, 1759: also Geschichte der Glaubenslehre, zu Baumgartens Untersuch. theol. Streitigkesten, 1762-1764. Semler paved the way for the view that dogmas have arisen and been gradually developed under definite historical conditions. He was the first to grasp the problem of the relation of Catholicism to early Christianity, because he freed the early Christian documents from the letters of the Canon. Schröckh (Christl. Kirchengesch., 1786) in the spirit of Semler described with impartiality and care the changes of the dogmas. and after some monographs on the history 31of dogma,2828Rössler, Lehrbegriff der Christlichen Kirche in den 3 ersten Jahrb., 1775; also, Arbeiten by Burscher, Heinrich, Stäudlin, etc., see especially, Löffler’s “Abhandlung welche eine kurze Darstellung der Entstehungsart der Dreieinigkeit enthält, 1792, in the translation of Souverain’s Le Platonisme devoilé, 1700. The question as to the Platonism of the Fathers, this fundamental question of the history of dogma, was raised even by Luther and Flacius, and was very vigorously debated at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, after the Socinians had already affirmed it strongly. The question once more emerges on German soil in the church history of G. Arnold, but cannot he said to have received the attention it deserves in the 150 years that have followed (see the literature of the controversy in Tzsohirner, Fall des Heidenthums, p. 580 f.). Yet the problem was first thrust aside by the speculative view of the history of christianity. S. G. Lange for the first time treated the history of dogma as a special subject.2929Lange. Ausführ. Gesch. der Dogmen, oder der Glaubenslehre der Christl. Kirche nach den Kirchenvater ausgearbeitet. 1796. Unfortunately, his comprehensively planned and carefully written work, which shews a real understanding of the early history of dogma, remains in-complete. Consequently, W. Münscher, in his learned manual, which was soon followed by his compendium of the history of dogma, was the first to produce a complete presentation of our subject.3030Münscher, Handb. d. Christl. D. G. 4 vols. first 6 Centuries 1797-1809; Lehrbuch, 1st Edit. 1811; 3rd Edit. edited by v. Cölln, Hupfeld and Neudecker, 1832-1838. Planck’s epoch-making work: Gesch. der Veränderungen und der Bildung unseres protestantischen Lehrbegriffs. 6 vols. 1791-1800, had already for the most part appeared. Contemporary with Münscher are Wundemann, Gesch. d. Christl. Glaubenslehren vom Zeitalter des Athanasius bis auf Gregor. d. Gr. 2 Thle. 1789-1799; Münter, Handbuch der alteren Christl. D. G. hrsg. von Ewers. 2 vols. 1802-1804; Stäudlin, Lehrbuch der Dogmatik und Dogmengeschichte, 1800, last Edition 1822, and Beck, Comment. hist. decretorum religionis Christianæ, 1801. Münscher’s compendium is a counterpart to Giesler’s Church history; it shares with that the merit of drawing from the sources, intelligent criticism and impartiality, but with a thorough knowledge of details it fails to impart a real conception of the development of ecclesiastical dogma. The division of the material into particular loci, which, in three sections, is carried through the whole history of the Church, makes insight into the whole Christian conception of the different epochs impossible, and the prefixed “General History 32of Dogma,” is far too sketchily treated to make up for that defect. Finally, the connection between the development of dogma and the general ideas of the time is not sufficiently attended to. A series of manuals followed the work of Münscher, but did not materially advance the study.3131Augusti, Lehrb. d. Christl. D. G. 1805. 4 Edit. 1835. Berthold, Handb. der D. G. 2 vols. 1822-1823. Schickedanz, Versuch einer Gesch. d. Christl. Glaubenslehre, etc. 1827. Rüperti, Geschichte der Dogmen, 1831. Lenz, Gesch. der Christl. Dogmen. 2 parts. 1834-1835. J. G. V. Engelhardt, Dogmengesch. 1839. See also Giesler, Dogmengesch. 2 vols. edited by Redepenning, 1855: also Illgen, Ueber den Werth der Christl. D. G. 1817. The compendium of Baumgarten Crusius,3232Baumgarten Crusius, Lehrb. d. Christl. D. G. 1852: also conpendium d. Christl. D. G. 2 parts 1830-1846, the second part edited by Hase. and that of F. K. Meier,3333Meier, Lehrb. d. D. G, 1840, 2nd Edit. revised by G. Baur 1854. stand out prominently among them. The work of the former is distinguished by its independent learning as well as by the discernment of the author that the centre of gravity of the subject lies in the so-called general history of dogma.3434The “Special History of Dogma,” in Baumgarten Crusius, in which every particular dogma is by itself pursued through the whole history of the Church, is of course entirely unfruitful. But even the opinions which are given in the “General History of Dogma,” are frequently very far from the mark (Cf. e.g., § 14 and p. 67), which is the more surprising as no one can deny that he takes a scholarly view of history. The work of Meier goes still further, and accurately perceives that the division into a general and special history of dogma must be altogether given up, while it is also characterised by an accurate setting and proportional arrangement of the facts.3535Meier’s Lehrbuch is formally and materially a very important piece of work, the value of which has not been sufficiently recognised, because the author followed neither the track of Neander nor of Bauer. Besides the excellences noted in the text, may be further mentioned, that almost everywhere Meier has distinguished correctly between the history of dogma and the history of theology, and has given an account only of the former.
The great spiritual revolution at the beginning of our century, which must in every respect be regarded as a reaction against the efforts of the rationalistic epoch, changed also the conceptions of the Christian religion and its history. It appears therefore plainly in the treatment of the history of dogma. The advancement and deepening of Christian life, the zealous 33study of the past, the new philosophy which no longer thrust history aside, but endeavoured to appreciate it in all its phenomena as the history of the spirit, all these factors co-operated in begetting a new temper, and accordingly, a new estimate of religion proper and of its history. There were three tendencies in theology that broke up rationalism; that which was identified with the names of Schleiermacher and Neander, that of the Hegelians, and that of the Confessionalists. The first two were soon divided into a right and a left, in so far as they included conservative and critical interests from their very commencement. The conservative elements have been used for building up the modern confessionalism, which in its endeavours to go back to the Reformers has never actually got beyond the theology of the Formula of Concord, the stringency of which it has no doubt abolished by new theologoumena and concessions of all kinds. All these tendencies have in common the effort to gain a real comprehension of history and be taught by it, that is, to allow the idea of development to obtain its proper place, and to comprehend the power and sphere of the individual. In this and in the deeper conception of the nature and significance of positive religion, lay the advance beyond Rationalism. And yet the wish to understand history, has in great measure checked the effort to obtain a true knowledge of it, and the respect for history as the greatest of teachers, has not resulted in that supreme regard for facts which distinguished the critical rationalism. The speculative pragmatism, which, in the Hegelian School, was put against the “lower pragmatism,” and was rigorously carried out with the view of exhibiting the unity of history, not only neutralised the historical material, in so far as its concrete definiteness was opposed, as phenomenon, to the essence of the matter, but also curtailed it in a suspicious way, as may be seem for example, in the works of Baur. Moreover, the universal historical suggestions which the older history of dogma had given were not at all, or only very little regarded. The history of dogma was, as it were, shut out by the watchword of the immanent development of the spirit in Christianity. The disciples of Hegel, both of the 34right and of the left, were, and still are, agreed in this watch-word,3636Biedermann (Christl. Dogmatik. 2 Edit. I vol. p. 332 f.) says, “The history of the development of the Dogma of the Person of Christ will bring before us step by step the ascent of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to its metaphysical basis in the nature of his person. This was the quite normal and necessary way of actual faith, and is not to be reckoned as a confused mixture of heterogeneous philosophical opinions. . . . The only thing taken from the ideas of contemporary philosophy was the special material of consciousness in which the doctrine of Christ’s Divinity was at any time expressed. The process of this doctrinal development was an inward necessary one.” the working out of which, including an apology for the course of the history of dogma, must be for the advancement of conservative theology. But at the basis of the statement that the history of Christianity is the history of the spirit, there lay further a very one-sided conception of the nature of religion, which confirmed the false idea that religion is theology. It will always, however, be the imperishable merit of Hegel’s great disciple, F. Chr. Baur, in theology, that he was the first who attempted to give a uniform general idea of the history of dogma, and to live through the whole process in himself, without renouncing the critical acquisitions of the 18th century.3737Baur, Lehrbuch der Christl. D. G. 1847. 3rd Edit. 1867: also Vorles. über die Christl. D. G. edited by F. Baur, 1865-68. Further the Monographs, “Ueber die Christl. Lehre v. d. Versöhnung in ihrer gesch. Entw.” 1838: Ueber die Christl. Lehre v. d. Dreieinigkeit u. d. Menschwerdung.” 1841: etc. D. F. Strauss, preceded him with his work: Die Christl. Glaubenslehre in ihrer gesch. Entw. 2 vols. 1840-41. From the stand-point of the Hegelian right we have: Marheineke, Christl. D. G. edited by Matthias and Vatke, 1849. From the same stand-point, though at the same time influenced by Schleiermacher, Dorner wrote “The History of the Person of Christ.” His brilliantly written manual of the history of dogma, in which the history of this branch of theological science is relatively treated with the utmost detail, is, however, in material very meagre, and shews in the very first proposition of the historical presentation an abstract view of history.3838See p. 63: “As Christianity appeared in contrast with Judaism and Heathenism, and could only represent a new and peculiar form of the religious consciousness in distinction from both, reducing the contrasts of both to a unity in itself, so also the first difference of tendencies developing themselves within Christianity, must be determined by the relation in which it stood to Judaism on the one hand, and to Heathenism on the other.” Compare also the very characteristic introduction to the first volume of the “Vorlesungen.” Neander, whose “Christliche Dogmengeschichte,” 1857, is distinguished 35by the variety of its points of view, and keen apprehension of particular forms of doctrine, shews a far more lively and therefore a far more just conception of the Christian religion. But the general plan of the work, (General history of dogma—loci, and these according to the established scheme), proves that Neander has not succeeded in giving real expression to the historical character of the study, and in attaining a clear insight into the progress of the development.3939Hagenbach’s Manual of the history of dogma, might be put alongside of Neander’s work. It agrees with it both in plan and spirit. But the material of the history of dogma, which it offers in superabundance, seems far less connectedly worked out than by Neander. In Shedd’s history of Christian doctrine the Americans possess a presentation of the history of dogma worth noting, 2 vols. 3 Edit. 1883. The work of Fr. Bonifas. Hist. des Dogmes. 2 vols. 1886, appeared after the death of the author and is not important.
Kliefoth’s thoughtful and instructive, “Einleitung in die Dogmengeschichte,” 1839, contains the programme for the conception of the history of dogma characteristic of the modern confessional theology. In this work the Hegelian view of history, not without being influenced by Schleiermacher, is so represented as to legitimise a return to the theology of the Fathers. In the successive great epochs of the Church several circles of dogmas have been successively fixed, so that the respective doctrines have each time been adequately formulated.4040No doubt Kliefoth also maintains for each period a stage of the disintegration of dogma, but this is not to be understood in the ordinary sense of the word. Besides, there are ideas in this introduction which would hardly obtain the approval of their author to-day. Disturbances of the development are due to the influence of sin. Apart from this, Kliefoth’s conception is in point of form equal to that of Baur and Strauss, in so far as they also have considered the theology represented by themselves as the goal of the whole historical development. The only distinction is that, according to them, the next following stage always cancels the preceding, while according to Kliefoth, who, moreover, has no desire to give effect to mere traditionalism, the new knowledge is added to the old. The new edifice of true historical knowledge, according to Kliefoth, is raised on the ruins of Traditionalism, Scholasticism, Pietism, Rationalism and Mysticism. Thomasius (Das Bekenntniss der 36evang.-luth. Kirche in der Consequenz seines Princips, 1848) has, after the example of Sartorius, attempted to justify by history the Lutheran confessional system of doctrine from another side, by representing it as the true mean between Catholicism and the Reformed Spiritualism. This conception has found much approbation in the circles of Theologians related to Thomasius, as against the Union Theology. But Thomasius is entitled to the merit of having produced a Manual of the history of dogma which represents in the most worthy manner4141Thomasius’ Die Christl. Dogmengesch. als Entwickel. Gesch. des Kirchl. Lehrbegriffs. 2 vols. 1874–76. 2nd Edit. intelligently and carefully edited by Bonwetsch. and Seeberg, 1887. (Seeberg has produced almost a new work in vol. II.) From the same stand-point is the manual of the history of dogma by H. Schmid, 1859, (in the 4th Ed. revised and transformed into an excellent collection of passages from the sources by Hauck, 1887) as well as the Luther. Dogmatik (Vol. II. 1864: Der Kirchenglaube) of Kahnis, which, however, subjects particular dogmas to a freer criticism. the Lutheran confessional view of the history of dogma. The introduction, as well as the selection and arrangement of his material, shews that Thomasius has learned much from Baur. The way in which he distinguishes between central and peripheral dogmas is, accordingly, not very appropriate, especially for the earliest period. The question as to the origin of dogma and theology is scarcely even touched by him. But he has an impression that the central dogmas contain for every period the whole of Christianity, and that they must therefore be apprehended in this sense.4242See Vol. I. p. 14. The presentation is dominated throughout by the idea of the self-explication of dogma, though a malformation has to be admitted for the middle ages,4343See Vol. I. p. 11. “The first period treats of the development of the great main dogmas which were to become the basis of the further development (the Patristic age). The problem of the second period was, partly to work up this material theologically, and partly to develop it. But this development, under the influence of the Hierarchy, fell into false paths, and became partly, at least, corrupt (the age of Scholasticism), and therefore a reformation was necessary. It was reserved for this third period to carry back the doctrinal formation, which had become abnormal, to the old sound paths, and on the other hand, in virtue of the regeneration of the Church which followed, to deepen it and fashion it according to that form which it got in the doctrinal systems of the Evangelic Church, while the remaining part fixed its own doctrine in the decrees of Trent (period of the Reformation.).” This view of history, which from the Christian stand-point, will allow absolutely nothing to be said against the doctrinal formation of the early Church, is a retrogression from the view of Luther and the writers of the “Centuries,” for these were well aware that the corruption did not first begin in the middle ages. and therefore the formation of dogma is almost everywhere justified as the testimony of the Church represented as completely hypostatised, and the outlook on the history of the time is put into the 37background. But narrow and insufficient as the complete view here is, the excellences of the work in details are great, in respect of exemplary clearness of presentation, and the discriminating knowledge and keen comprehension of the author for religious problems. The most important work done by Thomasius is contained in his account of the history of Christology.
In his outlines of the history of Christian dogma (Grundriss der Christl. Dogmengesch. 1870), which unfortunately has not been carried beyond the first part (Patristic period), F. Nitzsch, marks an advance in the history of our subject. The advance lies, on the one hand, in the extensive use he makes of monographs on the history of dogma, and on the other hand, in the arrangement. Nitzsch has advanced a long way on the path that was first entered by F. K. Meier, and has arranged his material in a way that far excels all earlier attempts. The general and special aspects of the history of dogma are here almost completely worked into one,4444This fulfils a requirement urged by Weizsäcker (Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. 1866, p. 170 ff.). and in the main divisions, “Grounding of the old Catholic Church doctrine,” and “Development of the old Catholic Church doctrine,” justice is at last done to the most important problem which the history of dogma presents, though in my opinion the division is not made at the right place, and the problem is not so clearly kept in view in the execution as the arrangement would lead one to expect.4545See Ritschl’s Essay, “Ueber die Methode der alteren Dogmengeschichte” (Jahrb. f. deutsche Theol. 1871. p. 191 ff.) in which the advance made by Nitzsch is estimated, and at the same time an arrangement proposed for the treatment of the earlier history of dogma which would group the material more clearly and more suitable than has been done by Nitzsch. After having laid the foundation for a correct historical estimate of the development of early Christianity in his work “Entstehung der Alt-Katholischen Kirche,” 1857, Ritschl published an epoch-making study in the history of dogma in his “History of the doctrine of justification and reconciliation,” 2 edit. 1883. We have no superabundance of good monographs on the history of dogma. There are few that give such exact information regarding the Patristic period as that of Von Engelhardt “Ueber das Christenthum Justin’s,” 1878, and Zahn’s work on Marcellus, 1867. Among the investigators of our age, Renan above all has clearly recognised that there are only two main periods in the history of dogma, and that the changes which Christianity experienced after the establishment of the Catholic Church bear no proportion to the changes which preceded. His words are as follows (Hist. des origin. du Christianisme T. VII. p. 503 f.):—the division about the year 180 is certainly placed too early, regard being had to what was then really authoritative in the Church.—“Si nous comparons maintenant le Christianisme, tel qu’il existait vers l’an 180, an Christianisme du IVe et du Ve siècle, au Christianisme du moyen âge, an Christianisme de nos jours, nous trouvons qu’en réalité it s’est augmente des très peu de chose dans les siècles qui ont suivis. En 180, le nouveau Testament est clos: it ne s’y ajoutera plus un seul livre nouveau(?). Lentement, les Épitres de Paul ont conquis leur place à la suite des Evangiles, dans le code sacré et dans la liturgie. Quant aux dogmes, rien n’est fixé; mais le germe de tout existe; presque aucune idée n’apparaitra qui ne puisse faire valoir des autorités du 1er et du 2e siècle. Il y a du trop, il y a des contradictions; le travail théologique consistera bien plus á émonder, à écarter des superfuites qu’à inventer du nouveau. L’Église laissera tomber une foule de choses mal commencées, elle sortira de bien des impasses. Elle a encore deux cœurs, pour ainsi dire; elle a plusieurs têtes; ces anomalies tomberont; mais aucun dogme vraiment original ne se formera plus.” Also the discussions in chapter 28–34 of the same volume. H. Thiersch (Die Kirche im Apostolischen Zeitalter, 1852) reveals a deep insight into the difference between the spirit of the New Testament writers and the post-Apostolic Fathers, but he has overdone these differences, and sought to explain them by the mythological assumption of an Apostasy. A great amount of material for the history of dogma may be found in the great work of Böhringer, Die Kirche Christi und ihre Zeugen, oder die Kirchengeschichte in Biographien. 2 Edit. 1864. Nitzsch has freed himself from that speculative view of the history of dogma which reads ideas into it. No doubt idea and motive on the one hand, form and expression on the other, must be distinguished for every period. But the historian falls into vagueness as 38soon as he seeks and professes to find behind the demonstrable ideas and aims which have moved a period, others of which, as a matter of fact, that period itself knew nothing at all. Besides, the invariable result of that procedure is to concentrate the attention on the theological and philosophical points of dogma, and either neglect or put a new construction on the most concrete and important, the expression of the religious faith itself. Rationalism has been reproached with “throwing out the child with the bath,” but this is really worse, for here the child is thrown out while the bath is 39retained. Every advance in the future treatment of our subject will further depend on the effort to comprehend the history of dogma without reference to the momentary opinions of the present, and also on keeping it in closest connection with the history of the Church, from which it can never be separated without damage. We have something to learn on this point from rationalistic historians of dogma.4646By the connection with general church history we must, above all, understand, a continuous regard to the world within which the church has been developed, The most recent works on the history of the church and of dogma, those of Renan, Overbeck (Anfänge der patristischen Litteratur). Aube, Von Engelhardt (Justin), Kühn (Minucius Felix). Hatch (“Organization of the Early Church,” and especially his posthumous work “The influence of Greek ideas and usages upon the Christian Church,” 1890, in which may be found the most ample proof for the conception of the early history of dogma which is set forth in the following pages), are in this respect worthy of special note. Deserving of mention also is R. Rothe, who, in his “Vorlesungen über Kirchengeschichte,” edited by Weingarten,” 1875, 2 vols., gave most significant suggestions towards a really historical conception of the history of the church and of dogma. To Rothe belongs the undiminished merit of realising thoroughly the significance of a nationality in church history. But the theology of our century is also indebted for the first scientific conception of Catholicism, not to Marheineke or Winer, but to Rothe (see Vol. II. pp. 1–11 especially p. 7 f.). “The development of the Christian Church in the Græco-Roman world was not at the same time a development of that world by the Church and further by Christianity. There remained, as the result of the process, nothing but the completed Church. The world which had built it had made itself bankrupt in doing so.” With regard to the origin and development of the Catholic cultus and constitution, nay, even of the Ethic (see Luthardt, Die antike Ethik, 1887, preface), that has been recognised by Protestant scholars, which one always hesitates to recognise with regard to catholic dogma: see the excellent remarks of Schwegler, Nachapostolisches Zeitalter, Vol. I. p. 3 ff. It may be hoped that an intelligent consideration of early christian literature will form the bridge to a broad and intelligent view of the history of dogma. The essay of Overbeck mentioned above (Histor. Zeitschrift N. F. XII. p. 417 ff.) may be most heartily recommended in this respect. It is very gratifying to find an investigator so conservative as Sohm, now fully admitting that “Christian theology grew up in the second and third centuries, when its foundations were laid for all time (?), the last great production of the Hellenic Spirit.” (Kirchengeschichte im Grundriss. 1888, p. 37). The same scholar in his very important Kirchenrecht. Bd. I. 1892. has transferred to the history of the origin of Church law and Church organization, the points of view which I have applied in the following account to the consideration of dogma. He has thereby succeeded in correcting many old errors and prejudices; but in my opinion he has obscured the truth by exaggerations connected with a conception, not only of original Christianity, but also of the Gospel in general, which is partly a narrow legal view, partly an enthusiastic one. He has arrived ex errare per veritatem ad errorem; but there are few books from which so much may be learned about early church history as from this paradoxical “ Kirchenrecht.” But progress is finally dependent on a true perception of what the Christian religion originally was, for this perception alone enables us to distinguish that which sprang out of the inherent power of Christianity from that which it has assimilated in the course of its history. For the historian, however, who does not wish to serve a party, there are two standards in accordance with 40which he may criticise the history of dogma. He may either, as far as this is possible, compare it with the Gospel, or he may judge it according to the historical conditions of the time and the result. Both ways can exist side by side, if only they are not mixed up with one another. Protestantism has in principle expressly recognised the first, and it will also have the power to bear its conclusions ; for the saying of Tertullian still holds good in it; “Nihil veritas erubescit nisi solummodo abscondi.” The historian who follows this maxim, and at the same time has no desire to be wiser than the facts, will, while furthering science, perform the best service also to every Christian community that desires to build itself upon the Gospel.
After the appearance of the first and second editions of this Work, Loofs published, “Leitfaden für seine Vorlesungen über Dogmengeschichte,” Halle, 1889, and in the following year, “Leitfaden zum Studium der Dogmengeschichte, zunächst für seine Vorlesungen,” (second and enlarged edition of the first-named book). The work in its conception of dogma and its history comes pretty near that stated above, and it is distinguished by independent investigation and excellent selection of material. I myself have published a “Grundriss der Dogmengeschichte,” 2 Edit. in one vol. 1893. (Outlines of the History of Dogma, English translation. Hodder and Stoughton). That this has not been written in vain, I have the pleasure of seeing from not a few notices of professional colleagues. I may mention the Church history of Herzog in the new revision by Koffmane, the first vol. of the Church history of Karl Müller, the first vol. of the Symbolik of Kattenbusch, and Kaftan’s work. “The truth of the Christian religion.” Wilhelm Schmidt, “Der alte Glaube und die Wahrheit des Christenthums,” 1891, has attempted to furnish a refutation in principle of Kaftan’s work.
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