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Perhaps the most important fact for the following development of the history of Dogma, the way for which had already been prepared in the Apostolic age, is the twofold conception of the aim of Christ's appearing, or of the religious blessing of salvation. The two conceptions were indeed as yet mutually dependent on each other, and were twined together in the closest way, just as they are presented in the teaching of Jesus himself; but they began even at this early period to be differentiated. Salvation, that is to say, was conceived, on the one hand, as sharing in the glorious kingdom of Christ soon to appear, and everything else was regarded as preparatory to this sure prospect; on the other hand, however, attention was turned to the conditions and to the provisions of God wrought by Christ, which first made men capable of attaining that portion, that is, of becoming sure of it. Forgiveness of sin, righteousness, faith, knowledge, etc., are the things which come into consideration here, and these blessings themselves, so far as they have as their sure result life in the kingdom of Christ, or more accurately eternal life, may be 130regarded as salvation. It is manifest that these two conceptions need not be exclusive. The first regards the final effect as the goal and all else as a preparation, the other regards the preparation, the facts already accomplished by Christ and the inner transformation of men as the main thing, and all else as the natural and necessary result. Paul, above all, as may be seen especially from the arguments in the epistle to the Romans, unquestionably favoured the latter conception and gave it vigorous expression. The peculiar conflicts with which he saw himself confronted, and, above all, the great controversy about the relation of the Gospel and the new communities to Judaism, necessarily concentrated the attention on questions as to the arrangements on which the community of those sanctified in Christ should rest, and the conditions of admission to this community. But the centre of gravity of Christian faith might also for the moment be removed from the hope of Christ's second advent, and would then necessarily be found in the first advent, in virtue of which salvation was already prepared for man, and man for salvation (Rom. III.–VIII.). The dual development of the conception of Christianity which followed from this, rules the whole history of the Gospel to the present day. The eschatological view is certainly very severely repressed, but it always breaks out here and there, and still guards the spiritual from the secularisation which threatens it. But the possibility of uniting the two conceptions in complete harmony with each other, and on the other hand, of expressing them antithetically, has been the very circumstance that has complicated in an extraordinary degree the progress of the development of the history of dogma. From this follows the antithesis, that from that conception which somehow recognises salvation itself in a present spiritual possession, eternal life in the sense of immortality may be postulated as final result, though not a glorious kingdom of Christ on earth; while, conversely, the eschatological view must logically depreciate every blessing which can be possessed in the present life.
It is now evident that the theology, and, further, the Hellenising, of Christianity, could arise and has arisen in connection, 131not with the eschatological, but only with the other conception. Just because the matters here in question were present spiritual blessings, and because, from the nature of the case, the ideas of forgiveness of sin, righteousness, knowledge, etc., were not so definitely outlined in the early tradition, as the hopes of the future, conceptions entirely new and very different, could, as it were, be secretly naturalised. The spiritual view left room especially for the great contrast of a religious and a moralistic conception, as well as for a frame of mind which was like the eschatological in so far as, according to it, faith and knowledge were to be only preparatory blessings in contrast with the peculiar blessing of immortality, which of course was contained in them. In this frame of mind the illusion might easily arise that this hope of immortality was the very kernel of those hopes of the future for which old concrete forms of expression were only a temporary shell. But it might further be assumed that contempt for the transitory and finite as such, was identical with contempt for the kingdom of the world which the returning Christ would destroy.
The history of dogma has to shew how the old eschatological view was gradually repressed and transformed in the Gen-tile Christian communities, and how there was finally developed and carried out a spiritual conception in which a strict moralism counterbalanced a luxurious mysticism, and wherein the results of Greek practical philosophy could find a place. But we must here refer to the fact, which is already taught by the development in the Apostolic age, that Christian dogmatic did not spring from the eschatological, but from the spiritual mode of thought. The former had nothing but sure hopes and the guarantee of these hopes by the Spirit, by the words of prophecy and by the apocalyptic writings. One does not think, he lives and dreams, in the eschatological mode of thought; and such a life was vigorous and powerful till beyond the middle of the second century. There can be no external authorities here; for one has at every moment the highest authority in living operation in the Spirit. On the other hand, not only does the ecclesiastical christology essentially spring from the spiritual way of thinking, but very specially also the 132system of dogmatic guarantees. The co-ordination of λόγος θεοῦ, διδαχή κύριου, κήρυγμα τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων [word of God, teaching of the Lord, preaching of the twelve Apostles], which lay at the basis of all Gentile Christian speculation almost from the very beginning, and which was soon directed against the enthusiasts, originated in a conception which regarded as the essential thing in Christianity, the sure knowledge which is the condition of immortality. If, however, in the following sections of this historical presentation, the pervading and continuous opposition of the two conceptions is not everywhere clearly and definitely brought into prominence, that is due to the conviction that the historian has no right to place the factors and impelling ideas of a development in a clearer light than they appear in the development itself. He must respect the obscurities and complications as they come in his way. A clear discernment of the difference of the two conceptions was very seldom attained to in ecclesiastical antiquity, because they did not look beyond their points of contact, and because certain articles of the eschatological conception could never be suppressed or remodelled in the Church. Goethe (Dichtung und Wahrheit, II. 8,) has seen this very clearly. “The Christian religion wavers between its own historic positive element and a pure Deism, which, based on morality, in its turn offers itself as the foundation of morality. The difference of character and mode of thought shew themselves here in infinite gradations, especially as another main distinction co-operates with them, since the question arises, what share the reason, and what the feelings, can and should have in such convictions.” See, also, what immediately follows.
2. The origin of a series of the most important Christian customs and ideas is involved in an obscurity which in all probability will never be cleared up. Though one part of those ideas may be pointed out in the epistles of Paul, yet the question must frequently remain unanswered, whether he found them in existence or formed them independently, and accordingly the other question, whether they are exclusively indebted to the activity of Paul for their spread and naturalisation in Christendom. What was the original conception of 133baptism? Did Paul develop independently his own conception? What significance had it in the following period? When and where did baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit arise, and how did it make its way in Christendom? In what way were views about the saving value of Christ's death developed alongside of Paul's system? When and how did belief in the birth of Jesus from a Virgin gain acceptance in Christendom? Who first distinguished Christendom, as ἐκκλησία τοῦ θεοῦ, from Judaism, and how did the concept ἐκκλησία become current? How old is the triad: Apostles, Prophets and Teachers? When were Baptism and the Lord's Supper grouped together? How old are our first three Gospels? To all these questions and many more of equal importance there is no sure answer. But the greatest problem is presented by Christology, not indeed in its particular features doctrinally expressed, these almost everywhere may be explained historically, but in its deepest roots as it was preached by Paul as the principle of a new life (2 Cor. V. 17), and as it was to many besides him the expression of a personal union with the exalted Christ (Rev. II. 3). But this problem exists only for the historian who considers things only from the outside, or seeks for objective proofs. Behind and in the Gospel stands the Person of Jesus Christ who mastered men's hearts, and constrained them to yield themselves to him as his own, and in whom they found their God. Theology attempted to describe in very uncertain and feeble outline what the mind and heart had grasped. Yet it testifies of a new life which, like all higher life, was kindled by a Person, and could only be maintained by connection with that Person. “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” These convictions are not dogmas and have no history, and they can only be propagated in the manner described by Paul, Gal. I. 15, 16.
3. It was of the utmost importance for the legitimising of the later development of Christianity as a system of doctrine. that early Christianity had an Apostle who was a theologian, and that his Epistles were received into the canon. That the doctrine about Christ has become the main article in Christianity 134is not of course the result of Paul's preaching, but is based on the confession that Jesus is the Christ. The theology of Paul was not even the most prominent ruling factor in the transformation of the Gospel to the Catholic doctrine of faith, although an earnest study of the Pauline Epistles by the earliest Gentile Christian theologians, the Gnostics, and their later opponents, is unmistakable. But the decisive importance of this theology lies in the fact that, as a rule, it formed the boundary and the foundation—just as the words of the Lord himself—for those who in the following period endeavoured to ascertain original Christianity, because the Epistles attesting it stood in the canon of the New Testament. Now, as this theology comprised both speculative and apologetic elements, as it can be thought of as a system, as it contained a theory of history and a definite conception of the Old Testament,—finally, as it was composed of objective and subjective ethical considerations and included the realistic elements of a national religion (wrath of God, sacrifice, reconciliation, Kingdom of glory), as well as profound psychological perceptions and the highest appreciation of spiritual blessings, the Catholic doctrine of faith as it was formed in the course of time, seemed, at least in its leading features, to be related to it, nay, demanded by it. For the ascertaining of the deep-lying distinctions, above all for the perception that the question in the two cases is about elements quite differently conditioned, that even the method is different,—in short, that the Pauline Gospel is not identical with the original Gospel and much less with any later doctrine of faith, there is required such historical judgment and such honesty of purpose not to be led astray in the investigation by the canon of the New Testament,138138What is meant here is the imminent danger of taking the several constituent parts of the canon, even for historical investigation, as constituent parts, that is, of explaining one writing by the standard of another and so creating an artificial unity. The contents of any of Paul's epistles, for example, will be presented very differently if it is considered by itself and in the circumstances in which it was written, or if attention is fixed on it as part of a collection whose unity is presupposed. that no change in the prevailing ideas can be hoped for for long years to come. Besides, critical theology 135has made it difficult to gain an insight into the great difference that lies between the Pauline and the Catholic theology, by the one-sided prominence it has hitherto given to the antagonism between Paulinism and Judaistic Christianity. In contrast with this view the remark of Havet, though also very one-sided, is instructive, “Quand on vient de relire Paul, on ne peut méconnaître le caractère élevé de son œuvre. Je dirai en un mot, qu'il a agrandi dans une proportion extraordinaire l’attrait que le judaïsme exerçait sur le monde ancien” (Le Christianisme, T. IV. p. 216). That, however, was only very gradually the case and within narrow limits. The deepest and most important writings of the New Testament are incontestably those in which Judaism is understood as religion, but spiritually overcome and subordinated to the Gospel as a new religion,—the Pauline Epistles, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Gospel and Epistle of John. There is set forth in these writings a new and exalted world of religious feelings, views and judgments, into which the Christians of succeeding centuries got only meagre glimpses. Strictly speaking, the opinion that the New Testament in its whole extent comprehends a unique literature is not tenable; but it is correct to say that between its most important constituent parts and the literature of the period immediately following there is a great gulf fixed.
But Paulinism especially has had an immeasurable and blessed influence on the whole course of the history of dogma, an influence it could not have had if the Pauline Epistles had not been received into the canon. Paulinism is a religious and Christocentric doctrine, more inward and more powerful than any other which has ever appeared in the Church. It stands in the clearest opposition to all merely natural moralism, all righteousness of works, all religious ceremonialism, all Christianity without Christ. It has therefore become the con-science of the Church, until the Catholic Church in Jansenism killed this her conscience. “The Pauline reactions describe the critical epochs of theology and the Church.”139139See Bigg, The Christian Platonist of Alexandria, pp. 53, 283 ff. One might 136write a history of dogma as a history of the Pauline reactions in the Church, and in doing so would touch on all the turning-points of the history. Marcion after the Apostolic Fathers; Irenæus, Clement and Origen after the Apologists; Augustine after the Fathers of the Greek Church;140140Reuter (August. Studien, p. 492) has drawn a valuable parallel between Marcion and Augustine with regard to Paul. the great Reformers of the middle ages from Agobard to Wessel in the bosom of the mediæval Church; Luther after the Scholastics; Jansenism after the council of Trent:—everywhere it has been Paul, in these men, who produced the Reformation. Paulinism has proved to be a ferment in the history of dogma, a basis it has never been.141141Marcion of course wished to raise it to the exclusive basis, but he entirely misunderstood it. Just as it had that significance in Paul himself, with reference to Jewish Christianity, so it has continued to work through the history of the Church.
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