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I. The dogmatic conflicts in the East from the fourth up to the seventh century have this in common, that they centred almost entirely in Christology in the narrower sense, as well as in the incarnation of the Deity. Since men of all parties were meanwhile conscious that they were contending for the essence of Christianity, it follows that the conception of the salvation offered in the Christian religion is to be deduced from the formulas over which they fought, and which then made good their ground. This conclusion is, however, made further certain from the fact that the oriental Church took no interest in dogma, apart from those formulas, at least in the time of these conflicts.366366Very instructive in this respect is the Church History of Socrates. A man’s orthodoxy is completely decided for him by his attitude to the dogma of the Trinity (see H. E. III. 7, VI. 13, VII. 6, 11). The Cappadocians and the theologians after Socrates held similar views; see Gregory of Naz. Orat. XXVII. 10: “Philosophise about the world and worlds, matter, the soul, rational beings, good and bad alike, about resurrection, judgment, and retribution, and the sufferings of Christ. For if on these points you hit on the truth it is not without service, but if you fail, you can suffer no harm” (cf. Ullmann, Gregory of Naz., 1867, p. 217 f.). We have also to consider here the contents of the oriental symbols, creed-decalogues etc. The interest taken to an increasing extent from the fifth century in the tenets levelled against Origen was biblical and traditional. It only became dogmatic at a time when in theology and Christology the influence of “antiquity” had taken the place of that of dogma. On the place and importance of the doctrine of the Trinity in Gregory, see Ullman, p. 232 ff. Anything else, therefore, outside of the formulas, which was either fixed as matter of course, or maintained in ambiguous propositions in opposition to Manichæism, Fatalism, and Epicureanism, did not possess the value of a dogmatic 164declaration in the strict sense. Remembering this, there can be no doubt that the essence of the Christian religion, and therefore the contents of its creed, are summed up in the following proposition. The salvation presented in Christianity consists in the redemption of the human race from the state of mortality and the sin involved in it, that men might attain divine life, i.e., the everlasting contemplation of God, this redemption having already been consummated in the incarnation of the Son of God, and being conferred on men by their close union with him: Christianity is the religion which delivers from death and leads to the contemplation of God.367367I share fully the view of Kattenbusch ( Confessionskunde I., p. 296) that the dogma was not merely supported by one idea, and that in the Greek Church of to-day the idea of redemption held by the ancient Church no longer rules directly; but this view does not contradict the exposition given in the text. This proposition can be more precisely defined as follows: the highest blessing bestowed in Christianity is adoption into the divine sonship, which is assured to the believer, and is completed in participation in the divine nature, or more accurately, in the deification of man through the gift of immortality. This gift includes the perfect knowledge and the lasting vision of God, in a blessedness void of suffering, but it does not do away with the interval between Christ and the believer.368368The fact that the idea of deification was the ultimate and supreme thought is not a discovery of recent times, but it is only in recent times that it has been appreciated in all its importance. After Theophilus, Irenæus, Hippolytus, and Origen, it is found in all the Fathers of the ancient Church, and that in a primary position, We have it in Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Apollinaris, Ephraem Syrus, Epiphanius, and others, as also in Cyril, Sophronius, and late Greek and Russian theologians. In proof of it Psalm LXXXII. 6 is very often quoted — “I said ye are gods and all sons of the most High.” Just as often are θεοποίησις and ἀθανασία expressly combined. Some Fathers feel the boldness of the formula; but that is very rare. I select merely a few from my collection of passages: Athanas. de incarn. 54: “Αὐτὸς ἐνηνθρώπησεν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς θεοποιηθῶμεν, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτὸν διὰ σώματος, ἵνα ἡμεῖς τοῦ ἀοράτου πατρὸς ἔννοιαν λάβωμεν, καὶ αὐτὸς ὑπέμεινεν τὴν παρ᾽ ἀνθρώπου ὕβριν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς ἀθανασίαν κληρονομήσωμεν, cf. Ep. ad Serap. I. 24, Orat. c. Arian. I. 38, 39, and often; Vita Antonii, c. 74, Ephraem, Comment. in Diatess., init. (ed. Moesinger, p. 1): “Quare dominus noster carnem induit? Ut ipsa caro victoriæ gaudia gustaret et dona gratiæ explorata et cognita haberet. Si deus sine carne vicisset, quæ ei tribuerentur laudes? Secundo, ut dominus noster manifestum faceret, se initio creationis nequaquam ex invidia prohibuisse, quominus homo fieret deus, quia maius est, quod dominus noster in homine humiliabatur, quam quod in eo, dum magnus et gloriosus erat, habitabat. Hinc illud: ‘Ego dixi, dii estis’.” Gregory of Nyss., Colloq. cum Macrina (ed. Oehler, p. 170): Τῶν οὖν τοιούτων ταῖς διὰ τοῦ πυρὸς ἰατρείαις ἐκκαθαρθέντων τε καὶ ἀφαγνισθέντων, ἕκαστον τῶν πρὸς τὸ κρεῖττον νοουμένων ἀντεισελεύσεται, ἡ ἀφθαρσία, ἡ ζωή, ἡ τιμή, ἡ χάρις, ἡ δόξα, ἡ δύναμις, καὶ εἴ τι ἄλλο τοιοῦτον αὐτῷ τε τῷ Θεῷ ἐπιθεωρεῖσθαι εἰκάζομεν. Gregory of Naz., Orat. 40, c. 45 (Decalogus fidei, ed Caspari, Alte und Neue Quellen, 1879, p. 21): πίστευε τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ . . . τοσοῦτον ἂνθρωπον διά σε, ὅσον σὺ γίνῃ δι᾽ ἐκεῖνον Θεός. So also Orat. I. 5: “We become like Christ, since Christ also became like us; we become gods on his account, since he also became man for our sake.” On the other hand, compare Orat. XLII. 17: μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν τὸ κτίσμα, τῶν οὐ Θεῶν· εἰ κτίσμα δέ, οὐ Θεός, and XXXIX. 17: "How should he not be God, to insert in passing a bold deduction, by whom thou also dost become God?" Apollinaris Laod., Κατὰ μέρος πίστις (ed. Lagarde, p. 110): φαμὲν ἄνθρωπον γεγενῆσθαι τὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγον, ἵνα τὴν ὁμοίωσιν τοῦ ἐπουρανίου λάβωμεν καὶ θεοποιηθῶμεν. Macar., hom. 39. Pseudo-hippolytus, Theophan. (ed. Lagarde, p. 41, 21): εἰ οὖν ἀθάνατος γέγονεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἔσται καὶ θεός. Dionys. Areopag., sæpissime, e.g., de cælesti hierar. c. 1: ἡ ἡμῶν ἀνάλογος θέωσις. Sophronius, Christmas Sermon (ed. Usener, Rhein. Mus. für Philologie, 1886, p. 505): θεωθῶμεν θείαις μεταβολαῖς καὶ μιμήσεσιν. Leo, Patriarch of Russia ( Pawlow, p. 126): ἐθεώθημεν Θεοῦ τῇ μεταλήψει. Gennadius, Confess. (ed. Kimmel, p. 10): “dixit deus: Induam me carne . . . et erit omnis homo tamquam deus non secundum naturam sed secundum participationem.” We have, however, to notice that this deification, as understood by the Greek Church, did not by any means signify roundly “Becoming like God”. The Greeks in the main did not connect any clear conception with the thought of the possession of salvation (felicity) further than the idea of imperishableness; and this very fact was their characteristic feature. It is the ineffable, the transcendent which may therefore be described as the θεία φύσις, because it is enjoyed for ever. The interval between Christ — who was born, and did not become, Son of God — and the sons by adoption is always very strongly emphasised; compare (the precise expositions in Augustine, De remiss. pace. II. 24) and above all, Athanasius’ third discourse against the Arians; further, Cyril Catech. II., ch. 4-7 and 19. Yet the θέωσις of Mary forms a kind of exception. The idea of deification is also found in Western writers, especially Augustine. But if I am not deceived Augustine himself brought it to an edifying end. From this 165it follows: (1) that redemption, as seen in its final effect, was conceived to be the abrogation of the natural state by a miraculous transformation of our nature; that accordingly (2) the supreme good was definitely distinguished from the morally good; and that (3) an atonement was not included in it. For atonement can only be thought of where the division between God and man is regarded as an opposition of the will. But it further follows from this that this theology, in agreement with the apologetic and old Catholic doctrine, admitted no independent object to our present life. The work of the Christian consisted wholly in preparing for death (τὸ ἔργον τοῦ Χριστιανοῦ οὐδὲν ἄλλο 166ἐστὶν ἢ μελετᾷν ἀποθνήσκειν In the present there only existed a preliminary possession of salvation. This was represented (1) in the knowledge of God and of the accomplished incarnation of the Son of God, and therewith in the certain hope of being deified; (2) in power over demons; (3) in the call to salvation and perfect acquaintance with the conditions of its reception; (4) in certain communications of divine Grace which supported believers in fulfilling those conditions—the forgiveness of sin in baptism, the power of certain holy rites, and holy vehicles, the example of the God-man etc.; and (5) in participation in the mysteries—worship and the Lord’s supper—and in the enjoyment of the consecration they imparted, as also, for ascetics, in a foretaste of the future liberation from the senses and deification.369369Athanasius (Ep. encycl. ad episc. Ægypt. et Lib. ch. I.) mentions as the gifts of grace already possessed by Christians: (1) the type of the heavenly mode of life, (2) power over demons, (3) adoption to be sons, (4) and what is exalted and rises high above every gift—the knowledge of the Father and the Word himself and the grant of the Holy Spirit. This list is not quite complete.
The certainty of faith in the future deification, however, because its possibility and reality, rested exclusively on the fact of the incarnation of the Son of God. The divine had already appeared on earth and had united itself inseparably with human nature.
This conception formed the universal foundation for the development of dogmas in the fourth to the seventh century, though all might not equally understand it or see its consequences clearly. Only thus can we comprehend how the Church could perceive, define, and establish the nature of salvation in the constitution of the incarnate Son of God. Faith simply embraces the correct perception of the nature of the incarnate Logos, because this perception of faith includes the assured hope of a change of human nature analogous to the divinity of Jesus Christ, and therewith everything worth striving for. ‘We become divine through him, because for our sake he became man’. But the dogmatic formulas corresponding to this conception only established their position after severe fights; they never arrived at a perfectly exact expression; and they never obtained the exclusive supremacy which they demanded.167
The reasons for this delay, inexactness, and failure to obtain supremacy are numerous and various. The most important deserve to be emphasised.
Firstly, every new formula, however necessary it might appear, had the spirit of the Catholic Church against it, simply because it was new; it could only gain acceptance by deceiving as to its character of novelty, and as long as the attempt to do so was unsuccessful, it was regarded by the pious with suspicion.370370See above, p. 137, f. Secondly, the ability of the Catholic Fathers really to explain their faith, and to deduce dogmatic consequences, was extremely slight. Grown up in the schools of philosophy and rhetoric, they never clearly felt it to be their duty to give an abstract account of their faith, however they might understand it. Far from describing the system of doctrine as a statement of the nature and contents of Christian piety, and from evolving the latter from its distinctive conditions, they found it difficult even to make a simple inference from their conception of salvation to the person of Christ and vice versa. Their reasoning was always being disturbed by apologetic or other considerations foreign to it. Energetic men, to whom the matter of religion should be all in all, were accordingly required, if an advance were to take place in the work of formulating it. But such men have been extremely rare. There have been few in all periods of the history of dogma who clearly perceived and duly appreciated the final interests which moved themselves. This is true of the ancient Church, though then matters were a little better than in later centuries. Thirdly, the formulas required conflicted with every kind of philosophy; they amounted to an offence to the thought of the schools. This circumstance undoubtedly might afterwards prove an advantage; it was possible to show the divinity and sacredness of the formulas by referring to their inscrutability and therefore to the mystery that surrounded them. But as long as the formula was still new, this confirmation encountered doubts, and even afterwards, in spite of the ‘mystery’, it was impossible to do without a philosophy which should interpret it, and should restore confidence, 168as to the contradictions, by new combinations of categories. Now, as long as no such philosophy was created, faith was not satisfied, and the formula was not guaranteed permanence. Fourthly, it was of the highest importance that by almost all the Fathers their conception of the salvation procured by the God-man (deification) was appended to, or bolstered up by, the system of ‘natural theology’. But under this system knowledge and virtue were the highest blessings, and God was exclusively the judge who rewarded the good and punished the wicked. Now, it was undoubtedly possible so to combine these two lines of thought that neither was prejudiced, and we will see that such a combination alone corresponded to the ideas of those Christians, and was actually brought about. But it was impossible to prevent natural theology from intruding more and more into dogmatics, and from interfering with the success of the mystical doctrine of redemption—for so we may well name it. Men were not in a position to strike at the roots of those views of Christian salvation which did not definitely conceive the latter to be distinctive, and which therefore did not sufficiently differentiate it from virtue and the natural knowledge of God.
Fifthly, the complete acceptance of the mystical doctrine of redemption was imperilled from another side, and this menace also could never be completely averted. The picture of the life of Jesus contained in the Gospels, in spite of all the arts of exegesis, contradicted in a way it was impossible to disregard the Christological formulas called for by the doctrine. The life even influenced the form given to the dogma of the incarnation and its consequences371371In the introductory fourth Catechism in which Cyril summarises the, main points of the faith, he says (ch. IX.): πίστευε δὲ ὅτι οὗτος ὁ μονογενὴς υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ διὰ τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν ἐξ οὐρανῶν κατῆλθεν ἐπι τῆς γῆς. (ch. X.): οὗτος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν. Nothing is said of the abolition of death. So also in the Homilies of Chrysostom who generally tried to follow Paul, sin comes to the front. The saying “Let us not fear death, but only sin,” is often repeated with variations by Chrysostom. Alexander of Alex. also in his letter to Alexander (Theodoret H. E. I. 4) gives as the only ground of the incarnation of the Son of God, that he came εἰς ἀθέτησιν ἁμαρτίας, but he is unable to carry out the thought. to an extent which, from the standpoint of the theory of redemption, was questionable; and it subsequently always accompanied the dogmatic formulas, 169keeping alive in the Church the remnant of a conception of the Redeemer’s personality which did not agree with them. The Church indeed never lost recollection of the human individuality of Jesus in its simple loftiness, its heart-winning love, and its holy earnestness; it never forgot the revelation of God in humanity. Scripture reading and, in part also, preaching preserved the memory, and with and by it thought was ever again led to the simplest and highest of facts, the love of God which is loftier than all reason, the rendering of service to our neighbour, sincere humility, and patience. But as the gospel prevented dogma from obtaining an exclusive supremacy, so also Pauline theology, and kindred views found in Holy Scripture, exerted an important influence, which maintained its ground side by side with the dogma, and often very strongly decided its exposition. That the work of Christ consisted in what he achieved, culminating in his sacrificial death, and signifying the overcoming and removal of guilt; that salvation accordingly consisted in the forgiveness, justification and adoption of men, are ideas absolutely wanting in none of the Church Fathers, and very prominent in a few, while in the majority they find their way into the exposition of the dogma of redemption. They do not agree with the latter, nay, in this combination can hardly be held to have deepened the conception in any point; for they rather menaced the finality of the fundamental dogmatic thought in which men lived. In fact they wrought mischief, i.e., they led to moral laxity, as in all cases where they are only allowed a secondary authority. But their existence must be expressly stated if our view is to be complete. New Testament reminiscences and thoughts and in general Biblical theological ideas of the most varied kind, always accompanied and impinged on dogma growing or full-grown.372372The contradictions and inconsistencies were not felt if it was possible to support the separate propositions by an appeal to Holy Scripture: see on this Vol. II., p. 331, n. 1. They helped to delay its reduction into formulas, and prevented the mystical doctrine of redemption and its corresponding dogmas obtaining a completely exclusive supremacy in the Eastern Churches.
Sixthly and finally, the scheme of Christology, distinctive of the 170West, forced on the Church by the policy of the emperors, brought a disturbing and confusing influence into the Eastern history of dogma. The Eastern Church, left to itself, could only, if it had simply given expression to its own idea of redemption, have raised to a dogma the one nature, made flesh, of God, the Logos (μία φύσις θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη), and must have left the paradox standing that the humanity of Christ was consubstantial (ὁμοούσιος) with ours, and was yet from the beginning not only without sin, but free from any kind of corruption (φθορά). This dogma was condemned as heretical in the process, as we know, of forming an exclusive authoritative doctrine, and another was set up in its place which it required the most elaborate efforts of theologians to connect closely with the idea of redemption. Conversely, as regards the doctrine of the Trinity in the fourth century, while the correct formula—correct, i.e., when gauged by the conception of redemption—triumphed, yet the considerations springing from natural theology and science were here so strong that the Eastern Church could only reconcile itself to the doctrine by the aid of a complicated theology, which in this case, however, was really heterodox, because it weakened the meaning of the formula. In the fourth century the correct formula triumphed, but the triumph was procured by a theology really heterodox; in the fifth and up to the seventh an incorrect formula, if gauged by the idea of redemption, became supreme, but theology was able to treat it orthodoxly. In view of these incongruities one is almost tempted to believe in the ‘cunning of the idea’; for this development alone made possible, or demanded, the application of the whole apparatus of Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy to dogma. Neither the conception of the ὁμοούσιοσ (consubstantial) as given by Athanasius, nor the strictly Monophysite form of the incarnation dogma, would have conjured philosophy anew to its aid, and to a greater extent than was contained in the dogma itself. This happened and could not but happen, because men would not understand ομοούσιος as ταυτούσιος (of the same substance); and because they were forced to fit the two natures into their system. Dogmatics (the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation) became the high school of Philosophy. By them the Middle Ages 171received all that they ever did of philosophical thought. And these facts were due to the circumstance that the idea of redemption was not expressed purely and absolutely in dogma, that rather in the doctrine of the Trinity, as well as in the Christology, the formula overlapped its support, or the support the formula, and therefore necessarily called for endless exertions. Where would Plato and Aristotle have been in the Church or the Middle Ages if the East had honoured Athanasius and Julian of Halicarnassus as the sole authoritative Fathers of the Church, and how nearly was this the case with both! How much the East owes to the interference of the West, and yet, on the other hand, how greatly did the same West disturb it! But it is to be described as a gain from another point of view, that the correct formulas—those which corresponded to the Greek idea of redemption—did not establish their position. The evangelical conception of Christ was preserved to a greater degree in the Byzantine and Nestorian Church, based on the doctrine of the two natures, than in the Monophysite Churches. The latter only prove that the consistent development of the materialistic idea of redemption reduces Christianity to barbarism. The Arabians taught Aristotle to the Nestorians and not to the Monophysites. But those Churches also show that the Christ who possessed one incarnate nature—that phantom—reduced the historical Christ almost to the vanishing point. All the features of the man Christ of history, which the Byzantine and Nestorian Church still kept alive in their communities, are so many evidences that the old idea of redemption was forced to submit to limitations.
But in spite of this the dogma of the God-man which sprang from the doctrine of redemption assumed a unique and predominant position and alone constituted dogma in the strict sense. Theology = the doctrine of the Trinity, Economy = the idea and realisation of the Incarnation. The course of development also shows by its inner logic, which indeed, as already pointed out, was not so stringent as more recent scholars would have us believe, that it was in this dogma that the strongest interest was taken. After Athanasius had proved the necessity and realisation of redemption through the incarnation of the 172Son of God, the consubstantiality (Homoousia) of the Son of God with God himself was first established. Then the fact was emphasised that the Incarnate was constituted similarly with man, and finally, the unity of deity and humanity in the incarnate Son of God was settled. The historian of dogma has here simply to follow the course of history. It is in this connection by no means clear how besides this the work of the God-man is to be treated. As regards the work of Christ we can only deal with ‘conceptions’ which are not firmly allied to the dogma. But we have to remark finally, that not only in theory was the dogma planned eschatologically, i.e., with a view to the future life, but that also in practice faith in the imminent approach of the end of the world still influenced the pious. In a few Fathers this faith undoubtedly held a subordinate place; but yet it formed the rule, and the storms caused by the invasion of the tribes as well as the political revolutions constantly gave it strength.
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