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PRESUPPOSITIONS AND CONCEPTIONS REGARDING MAN AS THE RECIPIENT OF SALVATION.
§ 1. Introductory.
According to the ideas of the Fathers, the doctrines of the condition and destiny of man belonged to Natural Theology. This appears from the fact that, starting from their Cosmology, they all strove to ascertain, from the original state of man, the nature of Christian redemption, in other words, the state of perfection. At the same time the reservation held good, that we should receive more than we could think or expect, and, in fact, that which was expected, and was deduced from the religious and ethical value which man had come to put upon himself in the course of history, was only carried back into his original state. The following propositions contain everything that can be stated as embodying a common conviction and common presupposition of all further conceptions, which in this matter turned out very different, in accordance with the speculative and empirical studies of the Fathers, and the object of their investigations for the time. Man made in the image of God is a free self-determining being. He was endowed with reason by God, that he might decide for the good, and enjoy immortality. He has fallen short of this destiny by having voluntarily yielded and continuing to yield himself—under temptation, but not under compulsion—to sin, yet without having lost the possibility and power of a virtuous life, or the capacity for immortality. The possibility was strengthened and immortality restored and offered by the Christian revelation which came to the aid of the darkened reason with complete knowledge 256of God. Accordingly, knowledge decides between good and evil. Strictly taken, the will is morally nothing. On this basis very different views were possible. It was asked, first, what was original endowment, and what destiny, in the case of man; secondly, in connection with this, how much was to be claimed as human nature, and how much as a gift of grace originally bestowed; and thirdly, in keeping with the above, how far and how deep the consequences of sin extended. The question was put, in the fourth place, whether bare freedom constituted man’s character, or whether it did not correspond to his nature to be good. Fifthly, the philosophical question as to the constitution of man was here introduced and answered in various ways [dichotomically, trichotomically, the extent and scope of the flesh (σάρξ) in human nature, in its relation to the spirit (πνεῦμα) and to sin]. Sixthly, the relation of the creaturely spirit (πνεῦμα) to the divine, in other words, the origin of the human spirit, was discussed. Seventhly, lastly, and above all, men possessed two sources of knowledge: the account in Genesis with a realistic exposition, which seemed to pour scorn on all “spiritual” conceptions, but had nevertheless to be respected; and the relative section from Origen’s theology, which was felt to an increasing extent to be intolerable to the Church, and which yet expressed the scientific, religious conviction of the Fathers, in so far as their thought was scientific. Under such circumstances different conceptions, compromises of all sorts, necessarily arose; but hardly anywhere was an advance made in the end on the views already presented by Irenæus. In the latest results, as they are to be found in the Dogmatics of John of Damascus, there is much that is more realistic than in Irenæus, but on the whole a type of doctrine is obtained which is more inadequate and confused, and less valuable. In what follows we intend to enter in detail only into the most important points.
§ 2. The Anthropology.
Since the end of the creation of the world was held to consist in the creation of rational beings, who could exhibit 257the image of God and share in his blessedness, it followed that the power of free self-determination and the capacity for immortality belonged to the notion of man, and that they were therefore regarded as inalienable. All the doctors of the Church, however, comprehended, in the idea of innate freedom, the conceptions of the rational and moral plan of man’s nature as a whole, and they defined this natural disposition to be the power to know God’s will accurately, to follow it, and thus to rise above nature. While it was left in doubt whether this whole natural plan implied that man possessed bare freedom or freedom directed to the good, it certainly characterised man as a spiritual being, and for that very reason as an image of God. Being such, man was independent as regards God. In other words, the fact that he was an “image” did not directly establish a lasting dependence on God, nor did it find expression in such a dependence. On the contrary, it established his freedom in relation to God, so that man, being independent, was now only subject to the law of God, i.e., to that dispensation in virtue of which he was either rewarded or punished according as he behaved. The connection with God was thus exhausted in the noble constitution of man fixed once for all, but was supremely valued and acutely felt as a gift of divine grace, in the comparison with irrational animals. Meanwhile, the Fathers differed from one another. Some—like Athanasius, see even Tatian—assigned to human nature, in the strictest sense of the term, only the creaturely and sensuous state of being, in respect of which man is perishable, and they described everything else as a gift of divine grace inherent in human nature. Others embraced in this nature the moral capacity, endowment of reason, and knowledge of God;—so the majority; and very strenuously John of Damascus who repeatedly characterises the good as the natural: see De fide orthod. II. 30, III. 14. The third class, finally, included even immortality, as a possession and not merely as a destiny, among the natural attributes of the human soul. These distinctions, which, however, are not particularly important for dogmatics, since all ultimately held nature to be a gift of grace, and the gift of grace to be a natural provision, were due partly to the different 258psychological conceptions of the Fathers, partly to the standpoint from which they investigated the problems; they might—as e.g., Athanasius—start from the doctrine of redemption or depend on moral, or empirical philosophical considerations. In psychology, the only point settled was that the fundamental form of human nature was twofold, spiritual and corporeal. This conception existed even where the soul itself was represented as something corporeal, or as only “as nearly as possible incorporeal” (ἐγγύτατα τοῦ ἀσωμάτου). Very many Greek Fathers, however, followed the view of Plato and Origen, according to which man consists of spirit, body, and soul—the soul uniting the other two. Consistently carried out, this opinion constantly led them back to the conception of Origen (Philo) that the spirit in man alone constituted his true nature, that it had its own, even a pretemporal, history, that in itself it belonged to the supernatural and divine sphere, and that the body was only a prison which had to be stripped off before the spirit could present itself in its true being. In order to escape these consequences, which were already discredited in the controversy with Neoplatonism and Manichæism, different methods were adopted. Among these occurred that already alluded to above, the conception of the spirit solely as a “superadded gift” (donum superadditum), a religious principle, to be found exclusively in the pious. But this expedient was seldom chosen; the whole question, so important and crucial, was rather stifled in a hundred questions of detail, tortured out of, or read into, the account in Genesis. The ever increasing restriction of the allegorical and spiritualising method of interpreting Gen. I. ff., led the Fathers nolens-volens to opinions remote from their scientific thought on religion The only passage in that account, moreover, which seemed to support the spiritualistic conception—“God breathed his own breath into man”—proved too much, and had therefore to be let alone.521521Augustine’s exposition in Ep. CCV. 19, was ultimately the opinion of most of the Greek Fathers, so far as they were not completely devoted to Neoplatonism. “Vis etiam per me scire, utrum dei flatus ille in Adam idem ipse sit anima. Breviter respondeo, aut ipse est aut ipso anima facta est. Sed si ipse est, factus est . . . In hac enim quaestione maxime cavendum est, ne anima non a deo facta natura, sed ipsius dei substantia tamquam unigenitus filius, quod est verbum eius, aut aliqua eius particula esse credatur, tamquam illa natura atque substantia, qua deus est quidquid est, commutabilis esse possit: quod esse animam nemo non sentit, qui se animam habere sentit.” But the thought which underlay the last saying of the dying Plotinus (Porphyr., Vita Plot., ch. 2): πειρῶμαι τὸ ἐν ἡμῖν θεῖον ἀνάγειν πρὸς τὸ ἐν τῷ παντὶ θεῖον was not entirely surmounted by many Greek Fathers. Origen’s idea, that the 259body was a prison of the soul, was contrasted with the other, also ancient, that man was rather a microcosm, having received parts from the two created worlds, the upper and under.522522Therefore the great controversy lasting for centuries, whether the skins with which God clothed Adam and Eve were real skins, or bodies. He who agreed with Origen taught the latter; he who looked on man as a microcosm, the former. Yet here also there were composite forms: e.g., the skin meant only the fleshly body. But this conception, the only one which contained a coherent theory of equal value formally with the doctrine of Origen, could not fail to remain a mere theory, for the ethics corresponding to it, or its ethical ideal, were not supported by the final aims of the dominant theology. When anthropological questions or the Biblical narrative were not directly taken into account, it becomes everywhere obvious, that the old Platonic antithesis of spirit and body was regarded by the Fathers as the antithesis between that which was precious and that which was to be mortified, and that the earthly and creaturely in man was felt to be a hampering barrier which was to be surmounted. Monachism and the eschatological prospect of deification are examples which show how thoroughly practical ideas and hopes were determined by the dualistic view, though its point had been blunted by the tenet of the resurrection of the body. Meanwhile the theoretical doctrines as to the nature of man continued to be beset by a profound inconsistency, and ultimately, in consequence of Biblicism, became aimless and barren.523523Scriptural proofs in support of the pre-existence of souls were not wanting: see John IX. 2. Jerome held to the doctrine for a time. Even Augustine was uncertain, and up to the time of Gregory the Great its flat rejection had not been determined on in the West (see Ep. VII. 53).
Supplement.—The different psychological views of the Fathers are reflected in the various theories as to the origin of individual souls. The oldest of these was the traducian theory of Tertullian, which was also represented by a few Greeks—Gregory of Nyssa, Anastasius Sinaita. According to 260it the soul was begotten along with the body. Its extreme opposite was Origen’s idea of pre-existence which had still many adherents in the fourth century, but fell more and more into discredit, until, finally, it was expressly condemned at the Synod of Constantinople, A. D. 553. According to this doctrine, all souls were created at once by God along with the upper world, and fell successively into the lower world, and into their bodies. The middle view—an expedient of perplexity—was the creatian which gradually gained ground all through the fourth century, and can be characterised as the most wide-spread, at least in the West, from the beginning of the fifth. It taught that God was ever creating souls and planting them in the embryos. The East contented itself with disowning Origen’s theory. Augustine, the greatest theologian of the West, was unable to come to any fixed view regarding the origin of the soul.
The different views of the Fathers are further reflected in the different conceptions of the image of God in man. Religious and moral speculation were to be harmonised at this point; for the former was, indeed, never wholly wanting. Apart from such theologians as saw the image of God, somehow or other, even in the human figure, almost all were convinced that it consisted in reason and freedom. But with this it was impossible to remain perfectly satisfied, since man was still able to break away from God, so as in fact to become unlike him, and to die. On the other hand, theologians were certain that goodness and moral purity never could be innate. In order to solve the problem, different methods were adopted. Some abandoned the premise that the possession of the divine image was inalienable, and maintained that as it resided in the spirit that had been bestowed it could be completely lost through sinful sensuousness. The spirit returned to God, and the man relapsed to the level of the beasts. But this solution seemed unsatisfactory, because it was necessary, in spite of it, to retain the freedom that still, under all circumstances, existed to choose the good. Accordingly, it was impossible to treat this theory with any real seriousness. Others saw the possession of the Divine image, resting on reason and freedom, in the destiny of man to virtue and immortality, yet without stating what 261change in that case was actually made by falling short of this destiny. The third section, finally, distinguished, after the example of Origen, between “image” (εἰκών) and “likeness” (ὁμοίωσις) and saw the former in the inalienable spiritual plan of man, the latter in moral similarity to God, which was, indeed, one always to be gained on the basis of natural endowments. The Fathers were unwilling, as this review shows, to rest content with the thought that the inalienable spiritual natural endowment of man constituted the divine image, but they found no means of getting beyond it. Their conception of moral goodness as the product of human freedom hindered them. All the more strongly did they emphasise and praise, as a kind of set-off, the goodness of God as Creator revealed in the natural constitution of man.
The different views of the Fathers are finally reflected in their conception of the primitive state. Christianity restores man to his state of ideal perfection. This state must, however, have already existed in some form at the beginning, since God’s creation is perfect, and Genesis teaches, that man when created was good, and in a condition of blessedness (Paradise). On the other hand, it could not have been perfect, since man’s perfection could not be attained except through freedom. The problem resolves itself into a complete contradiction, which, indeed, was already clearly to be found in Irenæus: the original condition of man must coincide with the state of perfection, and yet it must only have been preliminary. The Fathers tried various ways of solving this crucial and insoluble difficulty, in which again the empirical and moral philosophical conception combined with a religious one. An attempt was made by very many Fathers to limit somewhat the blessedness of the Paradisaical state, or to give a form to their conceptions of it different in quality—fanciful and material—from that of their ideas of the final perfection; accordingly, it was explained—by Gregory of Nyssa—that God himself, looking to the Fall, had not ordained the Paradisaical state to be perfect. By some, again, the inconsistencies were glossed over, while others determined, following Origen, wholly to abandon the historical interpretation of the state in Paradise, and to construct independently 262a primitive state for themselves. The last method had the advantage, in combination with the assumption of the preexistence of souls, that it could transfer all men mystically into the original state. However, this radical solution conflicted too strongly with the letter of revelation, and the spirit of the Church tradition. It was rejected, and thus the problem remained in its obscurity. Therefore men contented themselves more and more with disregarding the main question: they set down incongruities side by side, and extracted separate points from the account in Genesis. To the latter belonged especially those which were believed to recommend virginity and asceticism, and to prove that these formed the mode of life (habitus) which corresponded to the true nature of man. Nor were opinions wanting that characterised asceticism as a salutary means of correcting the deterioration of the human state. “Asceticism and its toils were not invented to procure the virtue that comes from without, but to remove superinduced and unnatural vileness, just as we restore the natural brightness of iron by carefully removing the rust, which is not natural, but has come to it through negligence” (John of Damascus, De fide orth. III. 14).
The principles of ethics were, as a rule, discussed in connection with the original state of man. But even in reference to the blessedness enjoyed in that state no clear conception was reached; for if man’s distinctive nature was based on bare freedom, what sort of blessedness could there be for him? What could be bestowed on him which he did not possess already, or which, if bestowed, did not once more call in question the original possession? What could fall to his lot except an arbitrarily chosen reward? Again, as regards ethics, nothing certain could be established. While negative morality, asceticism, was conceived, as a rule, to be the natural and destined condition of man, yet an effort was made to construct an ideal of positive morality, in which the virtues of philosophy appeared in a rather superficial connection with those of religion.524524See here even the Latins. Ambrosius learned the combination, as carried out by him in his De officiis, from the Cappadocians; see also the remarkable opening of his work De pœnit. I. 1: “If the final and supreme aim of all virtue is to minister as far as possible to the spiritual benefit of our fellow-man, we may characterise benevolent moderation as one of the finest virtues.” For the popular conceptions of Greek Christians, see Socr. H. E. III. 16, in connection with Rom. I. On the other hand, Augustine attempted to derive the philosophic virtues from man’s dependence on God, from love; see, above all, the splendid exposition, Ep. CLV., ch. 12. Negative and positive morality each looked up, after 263all, to a different supreme good, in the one case immortality, in the other the loftiest virtue. Therefore they could not be combined. The assumption of works of supererogation, which the Christian could accomplish while remaining in the world, formed the bridge between the two ethical ideals, but one which it must be admitted, contributed to flight from the one sphere to the other, rather than their connection. All attacks on the theory that ascetic achievements were especially valuable and meritorious were regarded as the outcome of moral laxity, and it is certain that in many cases they actually were.
§ 3. Ethics. Sin.
It was recognised by all the Fathers that the human race had turned from the good and thus degenerated from its origin, i.e.,—according to the view of the majority—from Adam. This universality of sin was throughout explained, not from an innate wicked power in man impelling him necessarily to sin, nor from matter in itself, still less from complicity on the part of the Deity.525525Even the subtle way in which Origen justified evil as an element in the best possible world (see Vol. II., p. 343 f.) was seldom repeated. Yet see Augustine, De ordine II. 11 sq. (one of his oldest writings): “mala in ordinem redacta faciunt decorem universi.” Nor, on the other hand, was it as a rule ascribed to a direct inheritance of Adam’s sin, for inherited sin is a contradiction in itself; Adam was the type, but not the ancestor, of sinners. The true explanation was found in the misuse of freedom, caused by the seductions of wicked demons, and the transmission of wicked customs. Along with this, the majority undoubtedly cherished the secret idea, which was not surmounted, that the incentive to revolt from God526526Sin was described as something negative not only by Augustine, but by all thinking Greeks before him. Their conception was undoubtedly based on a philosophical view that God was not only the originator of being, but really the sole being. On the other hand, a distinction was made between the eternal being and the creaturely, which came from God. came to a certain extent 264necessarily from the sensuous nature and creaturely infirmity of man, and resulted from his composite constitution, and his liability to death, whether that was acquired naturally or by transgression, or inherited. Decay and death were especially held to constitute an inducement to and cause of continuance in sin. With natural sensuousness the fate of death was conjoined. Both drove man from God. But in spite of this view the assumption was retained of unaltered freedom. If on the one hand stress was laid on sensuousness being a natural endowment of man, the unnaturalness of wickedness was emphasised on the other, and thus bare freedom received a closer relation to goodness, which, of course, was conceived as repressed by sin. The good was the natural, but, again, in view of man’s sensuousness, unnatural evil was also natural to him. The essence of sin, since wickedness was held to be something purely negative, was universally seen in alienation from God, being and goodness; but all that this meant positively was that man had subordinated his will to his sensuousness, and thereby lost the feeling, desire, and knowledge of the divine. The consequences of sin were held to be the following: First, by the majority, the universal mortality which had prevailed from Adam, or the loss of the true life;527527The Antiochenes thought differently (see under), and so did the author of the App. Const., who is exceedingly lax in his views; see, e.g., V. 7, p. 132 (Ed. Lagarde). The latter regards death as an original divine institution, which makes it possible for God to punish or reward. The resurrection was due to the rational soul from God. secondly, the obscuration of the knowledge of God, and with it of religion in general. This darkening made it possible for the demons to seduce man from the true God, to gain him to their own service, and the idolatry of the creature, in the form of polytheism, and so even to exercise an almost complete dominion over him, and the earth associated with humanity. A third consequence of sin was found in a certain weakening of freedom, which, though still existing, yet only in rare cases succeeded, without new divine influences, in reaching a morally good, perfect life.265
Supplement.—The view taken by Irenæus and Tertullian of the fundamental importance of the first Fall for the whole future race, was imperilled by Origen’s theory of a fall on the part of spirits in their preëxistent state. It once more gradually won acceptance as an authoritative Biblical doctrine, but it never obtained the same certainty, clearness, or importance among the Greek Fathers as among the Latin (i.e., after Ambrose); see Book II. of our description. The explanation which the theory of original sin furnished for the phenomenon of universal sinfulness was in form similar to Origen’s, but was inferior to it in intelligibility, and was never unreservedly accepted by the Orientals. The later Greeks indeed, doubtless under the influence of the West, recognised original sin, but this only resulted in a contradiction; for the thought that each man was born in puris naturalibus, was, while no longer strictly formulated, never actually condemned. The old dilemma remained, that each man sinned either from a necessity of his nature or in virtue of his freedom; and the former opinion was at all times held in the East to be Manichæan. Inherited death, due to Adam, was taught as a rule; yet even in this matter certain views were never wholly obliterated which are only intelligible if death was regarded as something natural. From the point of view of the doctrine of redemption especially, it could seem more pertinent to hold death to be the natural destiny of man, from which, however, redemption delivered him. Accordingly, after Origen’s theory had been abandoned on account of its want of Biblical support, all that was got in exchange for it was a contradiction: death was something natural and again unnatural. We cannot wonder at this contradiction; in the same way, no one really held the immortality assigned to the primitive state to be something indisputably natural, but neither was it regarded as absolutely supernatural.
§ 4. The Fall and Original Sin. Doctrine of Redemption.
This is the place to define more precisely the influence which this Natural Theology gained on Dogmatics, i.e., on the conceptions of redemption through Jesus Christ. In so doing we 266must keep firmly in mind, that, in spite of this influence, the feeling remained uppermost that redemption was something superlatively exalted, something unmerited, a pure gift of God to humanity. This feeling was, however, more and more encouraged also by the fact that the simple tenets of Natural Theology fell into confusion and became less impressive through the enjoined and ever increasing attention to Biblical texts realistically interpreted, and the necessity of repelling the system of Origen. To this was added the constantly growing reluctance to reflect independently at all, as well as the grand impressions made by the divine dispensation which culminated in the incarnation of the Son of God, and was brought to view in the mysteries.
In the first place, the conviction of the lofty and, at bottom, inalienable dignity of man roused the idea that man receives through redemption that which corresponds to his nature. If adoption to the sonship of God and participation in the divine nature appeared on the one hand as a gift above all reason and expectation, yet it was looked at on the other as corresponding to the nature of man already fixed in his creation. For man is God’s image, and exalted as he is above the lower animals by his constitution, rises as a spiritual being into the heavenly sphere.
Secondly, the last word that Natural Theology has to say of man is that he is a free and rational being, introduced into the opposition of good and evil. Such a being has really to do with God only in his capacity of creator and rewarder. All other points of contact must necessarily always resolve into that. Again, for such a being there can only exist one good, that is knowledge, which includes virtue, and besides this certain rewards alone find a place; for his nature requires that he should be independent in all his movements, nay, these only possess any value through such independence. The Deity stands at the beginning and the close of the history of free men as the power that creates and rewards. But the intervening space is not occupied by the Deity himself in order to govern man, and to preserve his allegiance. On the contrary, man has to deal solely with divine knowledge and rules in accordance with 267which his freedom is meant to evince itself; for this freedom, while in itself a liberty of choice, was given to him that he might achieve, in a zealous pursuit of virtue based on rational knowledge, the moral perfection possessed by the Deity Himself.
This whole view, which is familiar to us from the Apologists, was never completely lost by the Greek Fathers. Its first consequence was that henceforth the whole of religion could be,—as already in the case of the Apologists—and was, looked at from the point of view of knowledge and law. It appeared as a morality based on pure knowledge of God and the world, one to which nothing could be added. Along with freedom, the natural moral law was implanted in man, that is, the sure consciousness of the rules, by which he had to prove what was in him. The rules corresponded ultimately to the laws of the universe set in operation and maintained by God as supreme First Cause. This natural law, when it had been obscured in the mind of man, was repeated in the Decalogue by an external legislation, and, on account of the hard-heartedness of the Jews, was supplemented with burdens, temporary commandments and it was finally reduced by Jesus Christ to the simplest of formulas, set in operation by the impressive preaching of rewards and punishments, and perfectly fulfilled by Jesus. He revealed the perfect knowledge of God, and restored the natural moral law—these two statements being really identical, for in both God appears as the supreme cause.528528We perceive the Greek conception most clearly from the law in Apost. Const. VI. 19-24. The section begins with the words: γνόντες γὰρ Θεὸν διὰ Ἰὴσοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ τὴν σύμπασαν αὐτοῦ οἰκονομίαν ἀρχῆθεν γεγενημένην, ὅτι δέδωκε νόμον ἁπλοῦν εἰς βοήθειαν τοῦ φυσικοῦ καθαρόν, σωτήριον, ἅγιον, ἐν ᾧ καὶ τὸ ἴδιον ὄνομα ἐγκατέθετο. The Decalogue is meant; it was given to the nation before its revolt, and God had no intention of adding sacrificial regulations, but tolerated sacrifices. After the revolt (of the golden calf) he himself, however, gave the ceremonial law: “He bound the people with irremovable fetters, and imposed heavy burdens and a hard yoke upon them, that they might abandon idolatry and turn again to that law which God had implanted by nature in all men” (ch. XX.). These “branding irons, lancets, and medicines” were, however, only for the sick. Christians who voluntarily believed in one God were delivered by him, above all, from the sacrificial service. Christ has fulfilled (κυρώσας) the law, but removed the additions, “if not all, yet the more irksome”; this is the opposite of Tertullian’s opinion. He restored man’s right of self-determination, and in doing so confirmed the natural law (τὸν φυσικὸν νόμον ἐβεβαίωσεν). More rigorous conditions are only apparent. Just vengeance is even yet permitted, toleration is only better: οὐ τὰ φυσικὰ πὰθη ἐκκόπτειν ἐνομοθέτησεν ἀλλὰ τὴν τούτων ἀμετρίαν (This is not the usual Greek view, but a conception peculiar to this lax author). But Christ himself abolished what had been “added” solely by fulfilling it first in his life and death, or by transforming the ceremonies into spiritual rites. The respect which Irenæus, as distinguished from the older teachers, had already entertained for the ceremonial law is shown even more clearly here. In this statement 268we have already mentioned the second consequence of the speculation: all grace can only possess the character of a support, of a rectification of knowledge. The whole of the operations of God’s grace are in the end, crutches offered to feeble man. In offering them, God reveals a goodness which, after what he has already done in creation, is without any fixed limit. Grace is therefore not absolutely necessary for every man.529529Yet see what is said below on Macarius. God, again, by no means reveals himself in it even as the blessing which man requires, but he simply imparts complete knowledge, and thus explains, and strengthens the motives for observing, the rules of conduct which man had long possessed. But in the third place, it follows from the speculation, that sin is nothing but the transgression, induced by imperfect knowledge, of those rules, whose observance does not exhibit man’s dependence on God, but his independence and freedom. Sin subjects man to the judgment of God. Punishment is the gravest result of sin. But God would not be just, if he were not an indulgent judge. His goodness which supports man, has its counterpart in the indulgence which overlooks the time of ignorance of the individual, and leaves unpunished the sins of men whenever they feel penitent.530530Forgiveness of sins was a conception which in this connection could hardly be carried out by the Fathers. The passing over of the time of ignorance and the acceptance of the reparation involved in penitence constituted forgiveness. Hardly another teacher from and after the fourth century, has expressed it so clearly as Clemens Alex.: τῶν προγεγενημένων Θεὸς δίδωσιν ἄφεσιν, τῶν δὲ ἐπιόντων αὐτὸς ἕκαστος ἑαυτῷ (Quis div. salv. 40, cf. Strom. II. 14, 58, and elsewhere); but the statement as to Christ in Pædag. I. 3, 7: τὰ μὲν ἁμαρτήματα ὡς Θεὸς ἀφιείς, εἰς δὲ τὸ μὴ ἐξαμαρτάνειν παιδαγωγῶν ὡς ἄνθρωπος, formed a part of the fundamental view of the following age. We cannot wonder at this. Between mechanical expiations and penitence there is in fact no third term, as soon as the forgiveness of sins is applied to individual cases. Only where faith in forgiveness is the faith itself, is it more than a word, and yet not magical. Since it is impossible in this whole 269question that there can be any suggestion of a restoration of man to that communion with God which he had forsaken, since on the contrary, the sole point was that man, to whom it was always possible to return, should not be impeded while striving and yet stumbling, the view was, in fact, inevitable that God remits punishment to every penitent. God would not appear just, but harsh and unloving, if he did not accept sincere penitence as an equivalent for transgressions. It was accordingly agreed that, although men are sinners, they become just in the sight of God through virtue and penitence, and redemption to eternal life through Christ can only benefit such as have acquired this righteousness through their independent efforts. The sacraments initiated men into this effort to obtain virtue, and they had also an indescribable influence upon it. But personal fulfilment of the law was still something thoroughly independent. Finally, it followed from this moral view, that it was impossible to gain a clear idea of the state of perfection. A state of freedom and a perfect virtue based on perfect knowledge cannot be raised higher than they are, and that which is given to reward the latter can never be intrinsically connected with it. The complete vacuity of the conceptions held of the final state, apart from the effect of the hope of an ever increasing knowledge, i.e., vision of God, was accordingly also the natural consequence of the conviction that man, because he is free, is dependent on no one, and that he is always at the goal when he fulfils the law of God.
Thirdly, the rationalistic exposition of the doctrine of God and creation could not fail to impel apologists to expound the reasonableness of the doctrines of the Trinity, the resurrection of the body, etc. As a matter of fact the attempt was even made to prove the existence of a general agreement, a “common sense”, as to the doctrine of the Trinity, and references were especially made to heathen philosophers, though, on the other hand, when it seemed expedient, the Greeks were denied any knowledge of the Trinity. Such references were all the more natural, since Neoplatonic philosophers, and at an earlier date Numenius, had constructed a kind of trinity. Cyril, again, in his Catechisms, supported 270the resurrection of the body to a very large extent on rational grounds, and others followed his example. For the extent to which even the doctrine of the Incarnation was included in Natural Theology, see following chapter.
Fourthly, from all this it followed, that man could ultimately receive nothing from history which he could not, nay, had not to, wrest for himself. But the Logos in the flesh (λόγος ἔνσαρκος) belonged to history. Accordingly, it was impossible wholly to get rid of the view that there was a standpoint for which the historical Christ, since he was merely the edifying teacher, meant nothing. This view was, as we know, expressed perfectly plainly by Origen (see Vol. II., p. 342, n. 1); and in this he by no means stood alone. It was not only repeated by half-heathen theologians, like Synesius, but it runs like a hidden thread through the conceptions of all Greek theologians, as long as they continued to think independently. It is the negative complement of the idea that the knowledge accompanied by virtue, which transcends all that is visible, and therefore all that is historical, includes blessedness in itself, and moreover, that it can be achieved from our own resources through a direct afflatus divinus. But still further: even in Augustine this view was not wholly surmounted. The man, who perceived the Deity, and had gained faith, love, and hope, stood beside the throne of God, and was with the Father of light and his essential Word; the historical Christ lay beneath him.531531Augustine, De doctr. I. 34. Further, even opponents of Origen, like Methodius and his successors, the mystics, had arrived at the same conception (see Vol. III., p. 110). For the ascetic mystic history passed away along with the world; he might cast aside all crutches, traversing independently the long, mysterious path from the extreme outside to the inmost recess of the spiritual. At the end of this path there stood, not Jesus Christ, but the unembodied Logos (λόγος ἄσαρκος), since he was pure truth and pure life. An incarnate Christ (ἔνσαρκος) was born in each who traversed this path. He in whom Christ was born, however, no longer needed the historical Christ.532532See even Augustine, on John, tract. 21, n. 8: “Gratulemur et gratias agamus non solum nos Christianos factos esse, sed Christum . . . admiramini gaudete: Christus facti sumus.”271
Rationalism, or Christianity as the moral law which is freely fulfilled, and mysticism are regarded as opposites, and so they are before the tribunal of philosophy. But before that of positive religion they are not, they are rather akin, at least in the form in which they confront us in antiquity.533533Bigg (The Christian Platonists of Alex., 1886, p. 51 f.) has also correctly perceived this; he is speaking of the attitude of Clement and of the Alexandrians generally: “On one side Rationalist, on another Mystic.” “Though there is in them a strong vein of Common Sense or Rationalism, they were not less sensible of the mystic supernatural side of the religious life than Irenaeus. The difference is that with them the mystical grows out of the rational.” Mysticism of course embraces germs which when unfolded will resist rationalism. But at first it is nothing but rationalism applied to a sphere above reason (ratio). The admission that there was such a sphere formed the difference. It was mysticism as much as rationalistic moralism which secretly formed an opposition to the Christianity proclaimed by Jesus Christ to be the way and the truth for all men and for every grade. The most vital piety of the Greek Fathers, and the strenuous effort to make themselves at home in religion, insured them at least against losing the historical Christ.
But it was only a danger that here threatened. We may not say more. The Deity had come down to earth, God had become man, and that in the historical Jesus—faith in this stupendous fact, “the newest of the new, nay, the only new thing under the sun,” limited all rationalism. It imperatively demanded the investigation, on the one hand, of the ground and cause, on the other, of the fruit and blessing, of this divine dispensation. It was necessary to find the relation of the latter to the mystery and horror of death. It was indeed impossible to make the “naturalness” of death credible; for all nature, higher and lower, rebelled against it. And the consciousness of a capacity for perfect knowledge and goodness underlay in practical life the sense of incapacity. Hence the conviction that man must be redeemed, and through Jesus Christ is redeemed. The doctrines of innate freedom, the law, and the independent achievement of virtue were not abandoned; 272but they were counterbalanced by faith in the necessity and reality of redemption. And this combination, unsatisfactory as it seems to us, was yet capable of forming men of Christian character. Such men were never wanting in any century of the older Greek Church after Athanasius and Chrysostom, although their theology lacked the confession of the Psalmist: “It is good for me to cleave to God” (Mihi adhærere deo bonum est).534534The text is indeed quoted by Macarius (Ep. I. fin) as the sum of all knowledge. But even to this theologian, who came nearest Western thought in some paraenetic remarks, and frequently drew the sharpest contrast between nature and grace (see Hom. I. 10, IV. 7-9), the “cleaving to God” meant nothing but the independent decision for God. The following passage (Hom. IV. 5) proves how remote Macarius was from Augustine: “How should God treat a man who, in the exercise of free will, devotes himself to the world, lets himself be seduced by its pleasures, or revels in dissipations? God only sends his help to him who renounces worldly pleasures, and preserves himself completely from the snares and traps of the sensuous world,” etc. Here we see that the contrast between nature and grace was not so seriously meant. The same is the case with “law and gospel.” No Greek Father was able to regard these as contrasted in the same way as we see them in the writings of Paul and Augustine.
Instead of multiplying details we may here give the views on freedom, sin, and grace, of four eminent Greek Fathers, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and John of Damascus.
(1) Athanasius.—The conceptions formed by Athanasius of the original state of man, of sin and grace, show especially his inability to distinguish between nature and grace. In his work “De incarnatione”535535On its authenticity, see the next chapter. he strove to prove that the incarnation was a necessity on the part of God. Therefore he emphasises strongly the destiny of man, and distinguishes it sharply from his empirical condition; for this destiny sets God a task which he must carry out under all circumstances, if his goodness (ἀγαθότης) is to remain in force. Therefore, in many of the arguments of this work, human nature appears as the creaturely and sensuous constitution, while everything else, including the endowment of reason, takes the form of a donum superadditum, potentially given in the original state, and binding on God himself, a gift of grace, which was meant to rise to complete 273knowledge of God through the free moral development of man.—for that was the goal. [Athanasius uses very different expressions for this in his writings: φαντασία περὶ Θεόυ (power of conceiving God), γνῶσις (knowledge) κατανόησις (perception) κατάληψις (comprehension) θεωρία τῶν θείων (theory of divine things) θεωρία τῶν νοητῶν (—of the intelligible) θεωρία περὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ (science of God) ἔννοια τῆς εἰς πατέρα γνώσεως (concept of knowledge as to the Father)]. The change which took place in man through sin, or through death, is accordingly conceived as a loss of the divine. God is at the same time supremely interested in preventing man, once destined to obtain perfect divine knowledge, from becoming a prey to his lower nature, and being destroyed.536536De incarn. IV.: ἡ παράβασις τῆς ἐντολῆς εἰς τὸ κατὰ φύσιν αὐτοὺς ἐπέστρεψεν.. Accordingly, everything is supernatural which raises man above the level of nature.
But even in the De incarn., and to a still greater extent in his later anti-Arian writings, Athanasius defends the idea that the rational spirit (ψυχὴ λογική—Athanasius being a dichotomist) belongs to man’s constitution, is immortal, and at bottom also inalienable. This ψυχὴ λογική can gradually recognise the Logos and God from creation; it is, accordingly, not only an inalienable religious talent, but also an inalienable religious factor. Its power extends so far that there have been holy men in all ages (c. gent. 2; c. Arian. III: 33: πολλοὶ γὰρ οὖν ἃγιοι γεγόνασι καθαροὶ πάσης ἁμαρτίας). The reconciliation of the two contradictory statements,’ that the higher endowment appears first as grace, then as nature, is to be found in the following points. (1) The ψυχὴ λογική is only rational (logical) because it participates in the Logos, is his image, possesses a shadow of him (De incarn. 3), and retains its power only when steadfastly connected with him. For this reason it can be termed, although a natural provision, an “external” (c. Arian. II. 68: “Adam was outside before his transgression, having received grace and not having had it adapted to his body”; ὁ Ἀδὰμ πρὸ τῆς παραβάσεως ἔξωθεν ἧν, λαβὼν τὴν χάριν καὶ μὴ στνηρμοσμένην ἔχων αὐτὴν τῷ σώματι.). (2) It is only in the apologetic arguments of the treatise De incarn. that Adam’s fall and its consequence appear as forming a tremendous cleavage, and the state before 274and after the fall as a contrast. That was not the characteristic view of Athanasius,537537Against Wendt Die christl. Lehre von der menschlichen Volkommenheit (1880), p. 47 f. as is shown by other arguments in the same writing, and the rest of the tractates. He contemplates not a loss once for all, but a gradual enfeeblement. Mankind has more and more lost, from generation to generation, the consciousness of God, i.e., through the darkening of his mind. That which above all burdened humanity, however, was not sin, but the sentence of death pronounced by God on the sinner—see next chapter. The faculties for knowing God, and thus for attaining the goal, remained, but there was no corresponding power actually to reach the goal. A Catholic investigator has expressed this as follows:538538Atzberger, Die Logoslehre des h. Athainasius. (1880), p. 156. “Sinful man gradually lost, according to Athanasius, what was supernatural in his prerogatives, and retained only what was natural. Supernatural were moral goodness on the one hand, the correct consciousness and due use of rationality and immortality on the other; while rationality and immortality generally were natural.” The intrusion here of the modern Catholic categories of “natural and “supernatural” is incorrect; for the spiritual nature of man was held by all the Fathers to be supernatural. But the idea is correct. But we must go further. The difference here is exclusively quantitative; it is only qualitative from the fact that what remains of higher powers is as a rule of less than its initial value, i.e., is no longer capable of reaching the goal. The same Catholic scholar is therefore perfectly correct, when—expressing himself with due caution—he finds (p. 159 f.) that Athanasius “does not seem to treat” the punishment of sin—better, sin—“with sufficient gravity”. “He teaches, indeed, that the spiritual gifts of man were lost through sin, but he conceives this ruin as gradual in time and degree, depending on the extent to which men had turned from the contemplation of the spiritual and to the sensuous”; i.e., Athanasius simply follows an empirical and natural line of thought, in virtue of which he finds in mankind very different grades of moral and intellectual position. That this was a consequence of human freedom constituted 275a sufficient explanation in itself and freed the Deity of all blame. But it did not explain the universality of death, and left out of account Gen. I.—III. The above empirical view, which ultimately, indeed, cast a certain shadow on the Deity, and these chapters of the Bible compelled him to secure, somehow or other, a historical beginning for the present condition and therewith an original state of man. But the relations of the present to that beginning are really exhausted in the continuance of the once pronounced sentence of death;539539All men were lost in Adam’s transgression,” c. Arian. II. 61. and the primitive state, which is clearly enough described (c. gentes 2, De incarn. 3, 4) as a destiny—Adam himself having not yet attained what his endowments fitted him for, continued in this sense; nay, it ultimately embraced the idea that God was under the necessity of bringing the sentence of death to an end.
However, Athanasius did arrive at positive conclusions as to the specific grace bestowed in the Christian redemption, in his polemic against the Arians. It is not to be wondered at that the discussion of grace in connection with creation and the natural endowments of man only resulted, on the premises stated by the Fathers, in tautologies. But against the Arians, where Athanasius was not interested in cosmology, he shows that we have received from grace what was by nature peculiar to the Son, and he definitely distinguishes between grace in creation and in redemption. Deut. XXXII. 6, 7, 18, where it is said that God created and begot men, he interprets as follows: “By creating, Moses describes the natural state of men, for they are works and beings made; by begetting, he lets us see the love of God to them after their creation” (c. Arian. II. 58). Similarly on John I. 12, 13: “John makes use of the words ‘to become’ because they are called sons, not by nature, but by adoption; but he has employed the word ‘begotten’, because they in any case have received the name of son . . . The goodness of God consists in this, that he afterwards becomes, by grace, the father of those whose creator he already is. He becomes their father, however, when—as the Apostle says—the men who have been created receive into their hearts the Spirit of his Son, which calls, ‘Abba, Father.’ But the latter 276consist of all who have received the Word and have obtained power from him to become children of God. For since by nature they are creatures, they can only become sons by receiving the spirit of the natural and true Son. In order that this may happen the Word became flesh, that men might be made capable of receiving the Deity. This conception can also be found in the Prophet Malachi, who says: ‘Did not one God create you? Have you not all one Father?’ For here again he says in the first place ‘created’, and in the second ‘father’, in order similarly to show that we are first, and by nature, creatures, but afterwards are adopted as sons, God the creator becoming also our father,” etc. (c. Arian. II. 59). These expositions are certainly worth noting, but we must not overestimate them; for in the same discourses against the Arians they are modified to the effect that our sonship depends on the Logos dwelling in us, i.e., it receives a cosmological basis (see c. Arian. III. 10). In some passages it indeed looks as if the Logos only dwelt in us in consequence of the incarnation (see above and l. c. IV. 22); but it is quite clear in others that Athanasius thought of an indwelling before the incarnation, an indwelling wholly independent of it. With the recollection that there were sons of God in the O. T., Athanasius proves that the Logos was eternal. Accordingly, it is with him as with Clement of Alexandria: when the Fathers are not dealing with apologetic theology, and disregard the O. T., they are able to comprehend and describe the grace due to the historical Christ in its specific significance; but when they reason connectedly everything ultimately resolves into the natural endowment fixed once for all.
Literature.—See, besides the works quoted of Atzberger and Wendt, Möhler, Athanasius, I. p. 136 ff. Voigt, Athanasius, p. 104 ff., and Ritschl, Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, 2 Ed. Vol. I. p. 8 ff.
(2) Gregory of Nyssa.—Gregory’s theories also appear to be hampered by a contradiction because they are sketched from two different points of view. On the one hand he regards the nature of man in spirit and body as constituting his true being. To him, as opposed to Origen, the whole earthly world is 277good, a mirror of divine wisdom and power, a place meant to be pervaded by the divine. Before this could be possible “it was necessary that a union should be effected between its essential elements and the higher spiritual and divine nature, whereby first the divine shone as through a glass into the earthly world, after which the earthly, elevated with the divine, could be freed from liability to decay, and be transfigured. This central significance, this part of constituting a bond between two worlds in themselves opposed, was assigned to man, who stood at the head of the ascending scale of earthly creatures, which he comprehended like a microcosm, while he also as λογικὸν ζῶον (a rational being) projected into the invisible world, in virtue of his nature made in the image of God, i.e., spiritual and moral, and, especially, ethically free. This nature of man, besides, being created, possessed nothing of itself, but only like the sun-loving eye turned ever of its own accord to the eternal light, living on it, and interpreting it to the earthly world to which it essentially belonged.”540540See Catech. mag. 5, 6, and the work, περὶ ψυχ. κ. ἀναστας., as also περὶ κατασκ. ἀνθρωπ. 2 ff. 16. Möller in Herzog R.-E., 2 Ed. Vol. V., p. 401, and his work, Gregorii Nyss. de natura hom. doctr. illustr. et cum Origeniana comparata, 1854. But on the other hand, though Gregory rejected Origen’s theories of the pre-existence of souls, the pre-temporal fall, and the world as a place of punishment (περὶ κατασκευῆς ἀνθρώπων, ch. 28, 29), regarding them as Hellenic dogmas and therefore mythological, yet he was dominated by the fundamental thought which led Origen to the above view. The spiritual and the earthly and sensuous resisted each other. If man was, as Scripture says, created in the image of God,541541Orat. I. T. I., p. 150: Κατ᾽ εἰκόνα ἔχω τὸ λογικὸς εἶναι καθ᾽ ὁμοίωσιν δὲ γίνομαι ἐν τῷ Χριστιανὸς γενέσθαι. The “image” cannot consist in the bodily. The latter is at most a copy of the “image,” see περὶ κατασκ. ἀνθρωπ. 8, 12. But the “image” itself implies that it can only really be completely produced by free self-determination on the part of man. “If any compulsion obtained, the image would not be realised.” (Catech. mag. 5). then he was a spiritual being, and his being so constituted his nature (see l.c. ch. 16-18). Man was a self-determining, but, because created, a changeable spirit, meant to share in all the blessings of God. So far as he had a sensuous side, and was mortal, he was not an 278image of God. Gregory now laid stress on man (homo)—as he conceived it, humanity—having been first created, and then having been fashioned into male and female. He concluded from this that the earthly and sensuous side of man was ἐπιγεννηματική, a subsequent creation, that, accordingly, the spiritual in man was conceptually the primary, and his sensuous and bodily nature the secondary, part of him.542542We have, however, to make a distinction here. As a creaturely spirit man necessarily has a body, just as every picture has a material foundation, and every mirror a back. This body, therefore, belonged, according to Gregory, to the notion of man’s nature; it was the phenomenon of the soul as the latter was the noumenon of the body. But Gregory distinguishes this body from the sensuous and sexually differentiated one. He further concluded that man was originally designed to live a sexless life like the angels, that God would have multiplied men as he did the angels by his power “in a noble fashion” (περὶ κατασκ., 17), and that the proper and natural dwelling-place of men was the pure and incorporeal future state.
But near as he was to consequences drawn by Origen,543543Gregory borders very closely upon them, not only in περὶ κατασκ., but also in other writings. The fall does not, indeed, take the form of an event in the experience of individual men actually to be found in a pre-existent state, but of a kind of “intelligible collective deed of all humanity.” Gregory rejected them. The destiny of man sketched above was an ideal one. In other words, God, looking to the Fall, at once created and added the earthly and sensuous nature of man; nay, this was not merely due to the Fall, but, as is shown by the first line of thought given above, the earthly nature of man had also, since it was possessed by divine energies and transfigured, a lasting significance. But the Paradisaical state in which men lived before the Fall, was not the highest; for the body was not transfigured, though it had not yet been stained by sexual intercourse. The highest state, in so far as it was brought about by the resurrection (εἰς τὸ ἀρχαῖον τῆς φύσεως ἡμῶν ἀποκατάστασις), was that which notionally preceded the life in Paradise, but had never till now been concretely realised. It was life in its incorporeal abode after the fashion of the angels.544544See περὶ κατασκ. ἀνθρωπ. 16-18. The incarnation of God had procured this state 279for all who, in virtue of their freedom, led a holy life, i.e., who lived as man did in Paradise before the Fall; for that was possible to man even when on earth. In all this we must remember that Gregory’s hold on the traditional dependence on Gen. I.-III. was very loose: he does not speak of Adam, but always of us. All men had the same freedom as Adam.545545Gregory here carries his speculation still further: God did not first create a single man, but the whole race in a previously fixed number; these collectively composed only one nature. They were really one man, divided into a multiplicity. Adam—that means all (περὶ κατασκ. 16, 17, 22). In God’s prescience the whole of humanity was comprised in the first preparation. All souls really passed through Adam’s history. Above all, no transference of sin took place, although Gregory is a Traducian (see περὶ κατ. ανθρ. ch. 29); every man sinned, because in virtue of his freedom he could sin, and by his sensuous nature (πάθη) was induced to sin. By this means a state of depravity and death was introduced—sin also being death—from which man in fact could not deliver himself. Nothing but the union of God with humanity procured redemption. Redemption was, in harmony with the speculations as to Adam, strictly objective, and the question as to its appropriation was therefore, at bottom, no question. A new condition was revealed for all men without any co-operation on their part, but it became real only to those who led a holy life, i.e., who abstained entirely from sin.
Literature.—See, besides Möller’s work, Wendt, l.c., P. 49 f.; Herrmann, Gregorii Nyss. sententiæ de salute adipiscenda, 1875; Bergades, De universo et de anima hominis doctrina Gregorii Nyss., Thessalonich, 1876; Stigler, Die Psychologie des hl. Gregor von Nyssa, Regensburg, 1857; Ritschl., l.c. Vol. I. p. 12 ff.; Hilt, Des hl. Gregor von Nyssa Lehre vom Menschen, Köln, 1890.
(3) Theodore.—Even in Irenæus546546See Vol. II., p. 267 ff. two inconsistent conceptions of the result of redemption stood side by side. It was held, on the one hand, to restore man to the original state from which he had fallen, and, on the other, to raise him from the primitive natural state of childhood to a higher stage. The 280majority of the Greek Fathers were not in a position to decide bluntly for either of these ideas; yet the former, under the influence of Origen, prevailed. It was only in the school of Antioch that it was really rejected, that the other view was emphatically avowed, and thus the most decided attitude adopted of opposition to Origen’s theology.547547It is instructive that Marcellus also thinks of a glory presented through redemption, which is ὑπὲρ ἄνθρωπον. The view of the Antiochenes was teleological—but there was an entire absence of any religious view of sin. In this respect it was directly opposed to Augustine’s system.
According to Theodore,548548See Kihn, Theodor von Mops., p. 171 ff. Also the examples partly taken from Theodore’s commentaries on Genesis, Job, and Paul’s epistles (see Swete, Theodori in epp. Pauli comment. 1880, 1881), partly from fragments of other writings of Theodore; cf. also Dorner, Theodori de imagine dei doctrina, 1844. God’s plan included from the beginning two epochs (“Καταστάσεις”), the present and future states of the world. The former was characterised by changeableness, temptation, and mortality, the latter by perfection, immutability, and immortality. The new age only began with the resurrection of the dead, its original starting-point being the incarnation of the Son of God. Further, there was a spiritual and a sensuous. Man was composed of both, the body having been created first, and the soul having then been breathed into it. This is the opposite of Gregory of Nyssa’s view. Man was the connecting link between the two spheres; he was designed to reveal the image of God in this world. “Like a king, who, after building a great city and adorning it with works of every kind, causes, when the whole is completed, a fine statue of himself to be erected, in which all the inhabitants may gratefully revere the constructor, so the Creator of the world, after he had elaborated his work, finally produced man to be his own image, and all creatures find in him their centre, and thus contribute to the due glorification of God.” Now although man is equipped with all the powers of reason and of will, yet, from the very nature of his Present condition, he is changeable, is defeated in the conflict, and is mortal. Not till the new principle of life was imparted by means of Christ 281could the changeable nature be raised to immutability. Till then, accordingly, man was exposed to temptation, and as a being made up of spirit and body was necessarily mortal. The threat of death in Paradise did not mean that death was the consequence of sin—it was rather natural; but it was designed to inspire man with as great a hatred of sin, as if the latter were punished by death. Death, natural in itself, was a divine means of education, and accordingly salutary. “God knew that mortality would be beneficial to Adam, for if they had been invested with immortality, men, when they sinned, would have been exposed to eternal destruction.” But even the permission of sin was salutary, and formed part of the divine plan of education. God gave a command, and thereby elicited sin, in order that he might, like a loving Father, teach man his freedom of choice and weakness. “Man was to learn that while he was in a state of moral changeableness, he would not be capable of sustaining an immortal existence. Therefore death was announced to him as the penalty of disobedience, although mortality was from the beginning an attribute of human nature.”549549Kihn, l. c., p. 174. No sin without a command, but also no knowledge of good and evil, of the possession of spiritual faculties, finally, no conflict. Accordingly, God gave the command in order to raise Adam above the stage of childhood, and it necessarily provoked conflict and defeat.
Adam is, however, to be thought of here, not as the ancestor, but as the type, of the human race. The law was given with the same object to all his descendants, to teach them to distinguish between good and evil, and to know their own powers and weakness. In the history of Adam we become acquainted with our own natural disposition. “In keeping with this we are under the necessity in our present life of rendering obedience to laws by which our natural power of making distinctions is awakened, we, meanwhile, being taught from what we ought to abstain and what to do, that the principles of reason may be active in us. Only when we find ourselves in the future state (Katastasis) will we be able with slight effort to perform what we recognise as good. Without law, therefore, 282we would have had no distinction between good and evil, and no knowledge of sin, and like irrational animals we would have done whatever occurred to us.” In this state knowledge and fighting are required to obtain the victory, but we are constantly hampered by the body, the source of temptations. Christ first gave us redemption from death, an immortal nature, which, therefore, will obtain the victory without effort (on Rom. V. 18).
Theodore was able to explain away the Pauline passages which support a transmission of the death worked by sin, just as he ignored the life of the first man in Paradise before the Fall. All men died because of their own sinful actions; but even this was meant figuratively. They died because of their natural constitution, in which sin was latent. He opposed Augustine’s and Jerome’s doctrine of original sin in an independent work, fragments of which have been preserved by Marius Mercator. “Adam was created mortal whether he sinned or not. For God did not say, ‘Ye will be mortal,’ but ‘Ye will die.’” Theodore quoted Ps. CIII. 15, and Rome. II. 6. Against original sin he appealed to the case of saints like Noah, Abraham, and Moses. If God had passed sentence of death on all as the punishment of sin, he would not have made Enoch immortal. Accordingly, Baptism did not, according to Theodore, remove inherited sin, but initiated the believer into sinless discipleship of Christ, and at the same time blotted out the sins he had himself committed. In the former sense it had its use even for children; for Baptism, like all grace emanating from the incarnation, raised man to a new stage, elevated him above his present nature, and prepared him for the future state (Katastasis). This is most strongly emphasised by Theodore, and here his teaching is distinguished from the doctrines of Pelagius and Julian of Eclanum,550550See Kihn, l. c., p. 179 f. who subordinated redemption through Christ completely to the rationalistic theory. That Theodore did not do. While he was thoroughly convinced, with Pelagius, that in the present state everything turned on men’s own actions which rested on knowledge, freedom, effort, and heroic fighting, yet he was equally certain on the other hand, 283that human nature did not attain immutability, immortality, and sinlessness through this conflict—it was merely a condition—but only through redemption. For this reason Christ came. He did not restore, but produced a new, a higher state. He did not heal, but transfigured.551551Chrysostom agrees entirely with Theodore in the opinion that man’s free will takes the first step, which is then seconded by God with his power, in the appropriation of the good; see his notes on Rom. IX. 16, in Hom. 16; in ep. ad Heb., Hom. 12; in Ev. Joh., Hom. 17, etc. The passages are reproduced in Münscher, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (1832), p. 363 ff.
Theodore’s doctrine of man was strictly rationalistic and Aristotelian; it surpassed the theories of all the rest of the Greek Fathers in intelligibility and consistency. But for that very reason it did not correspond to all the ideas and desires embraced in the tradition of the Church.
(4) John of Damascus.—The doctrines taught by this dogmatist became final in the Greek Church, the later Symbols being substantially at one with them,552552See Gass, Symbolik d. griech. Kirche, p. 150 ff. because he combined the conceptions of the Cappadocians with the Antiochene tradition, in the modified form assumed by the latter in Chrysostom, and at the same time did justice to the constantly increasing tendency to refrain as much as possible from allegorising Gen. I. ff. Briefly, John taught as follows:553553De fide orthod. II. 2 ff., 11 ff. 24-30; III. 1, 14, 20; IV. 4, 11, 19-22, and the Homily in “ficum arefactum,” as also the Dialogue against the Manichæans. Langen. l. c., p. 289 ff.; Wendt, l. c., p. 59 ff.—
Since God, “overflowing with goodness”, was not satisfied with the contemplation of himself, but desired to have some one to whom he could do good, he created the universe, angels, and men. Even the angels were immortal, not by nature, but by grace; for everything which has a beginning has necessarily an end. But immortality being a gift became natural to spiritual beings, and therefore also to men. Men were created by God from nature, visible and invisible, in his own image, to be kings and rulers of the whole earth. Before their creation God had prepared Paradise for them to be as it were a royal castle, “set by his hands in Eden, a store-house of all joy and delight, situated to the East, and higher than the whole earth, but 284tempered and illumined by the finest and purest air, planted with ever blossoming flowers, filled with perfume, full of light, surpassing every idea of earthly grace and beauty, a truly divine place.”554554Accordingly we have here a recrudescence to some extent of what the older Greek Fathers called “Judaism” or “earthly conceptions,” cf. Peter’s Apocalypse. But it was only with his body that man was supposed to live in this material Paradise; he inhabited with his spirit at the same time the “spiritual” Paradise, which is indicated by the tree of life.555555Two traditional, inconsistent ideas are combined here; John was not quite clear as to the tree of life. He gives different explanations of it in De fide II. 11 and IV. 11. Of the tree of knowledge he was not at first to eat; for knowledge, while good for the perfect, is bad for the imperfect. The result of knowledge in the case of the imperfect was to make man, instead of devoting himself to the contemplation and praise of God, think of himself: Adam, immediately after eating, noticed that he was naked. “God intended that we should be free from desire and care, and occupied solely with luxuriating in the contemplation of himself.” The eating “of all the trees” denoted the knowledge of God from the works of nature. In created man—the union of visible and invisible nature—the image of God consisted in power of thought and freedom of will, likeness to him in similarity in virtue, so far as that was possible. Soul and body (as against Origen) were created together. Man was originally innocent, upright, and adorned with all virtues;556556This is strongly emphasised by John (II. 12, IV. 4); but he has carefully avoided stating how God could on his part adorn men with virtues. It cannot be proved that this is to be attributed to the influence of the West. Such an assumption is not necessary, for we also find in the older Greek Fathers rhetorical glorifications of the primitive state which do not harmonise with the system of doctrine. his being so was a gift of grace; but so also was the fact that he was spiritual. He was spiritual that he might endure and praise his benefactor; corporeal, that he might be disciplined by suffering and the recollection of suffering; he was too proud of his greatness. Man was created a being who ruled in this present life, and was transferred to another.557557These are the two states (katastaseis) of the Antiochenes. He was finally to be made divine by submission to God: his deification 285consisting in participation in the divine glory, not in a transformation into the divine essence.
Actually, i.e., according to the logical development of the system, the innocence of primitive man consisted in his power to be innocent, and, with the support of divine grace, to abide by and advance in goodness. A necessary converse of this was the power to revolt; “for it is no virtue which is done under compulsion”. Man, “that little world”, retained, however, along with his spiritual attributes, those of irrational nature; even in his soul there was an irrational part, which was partly capable of submitting to the rational, but was partly independent of it (the vital functions). The former embraced the desires, some of which were within limits permitted, while the others were not. But, the vital functions apart, over all was placed free will. It is in our power to choose, and man decides on his own actions. His origin alone is God’s affair. “But error was produced by our wickedness for our punishment and benefit For God did not make death, nor did he delight in the ruin of the living; on the contrary, death was due to man, i.e., to Adam’s transgression, and so also were the other penalties.”558558The significance of Adam’s fall for his posterity is recognised (II. 28), but it is noteworthy, only cursorily. John has no separate chapter on the Fall in his great work. Even II. 30, only discusses it under a more general heading. It was not right to attribute everything to divine providence; “for that which is in our power is not the affair of providence, but of our own free will.” God, certainly, in virtue of his omniscience, knows everything from all eternity; he therefore assists by his grace those who, he knows, will avail themselves of it. They alone are also predestinated; their decision to be and do good is known to God. Those are damned to whom all the supports of grace are in vain.559559See, l. c., II. 29, 30; IV. 22. With all this it remains true that all virtue comes from God; for by him it was implanted in nature, and by his support alone it is maintained. Accordingly, we have once more the principle that nature, rational and free, is a gift of grace; to be natural is to be virtuous, and conversion is the return from the unnatural.560560II. 30.286
Man was created male. Woman was formed merely because God foresaw the Fall, and in order that the race might be preserved in spite of death.561561L. c., see Gregory of Nyssa. Man did not allow reason to triumph; he mistook the path of honour, and preferred his lusts. Consequently, instead of living for ever, he fell a prey to death and became subject to tribulation and a miserable life. For it was not good that he should enjoy immortality untempted and unproved, lest he should share the pride and condemnation of the devil. “Accordingly, man was first to attest himself, and, made perfect by observance of the commandment when tempted, was then to obtain immortality as the reward of virtue. For, placed between God and matter, he was to acquire steadfastness in goodness, after he had abandoned his natural relation to things, and become habitually united to God.” But, seduced by the devil who enviously grudged man the possession which he had himself lost, man turned to matter, and so, severed from God, his First Cause, became subject to suffering, and mortal, and required sexual intercourse. (The fig-leaves denote the tribulations of life, and the skins the mortal body). Death, come into the world through sin, henceforth, like a hideous wild beast, made havoc of human life, although the liberty to choose good as well as evil was never destroyed.562562II. 26 ff. But God did not leave himself without a witness, and at last sent his own Son, who was to strengthen nature, and to renew and show and teach by his action the way of virtue which led from destruction to eternal life. The union of Deity with humanity was “the newest of the new, the only new thing under the sun.”563563III. 1. It applied, moreover, to the whole of human nature in order to bestow salvation on the whole.564564III. 6. This union resulted in the restitutio to the original state, which was perfect in so far as man, though not yet tested, was adorned with virtues. Christ participated in the worst part of our nature in order, by and in himself, to restore the form of the image and likeness, and to teach us further by virtuous conduct, which by his aid 287he made light for us. Then he overcame death, becoming the first-fruits of our resurrection, and renewing the worn-out and cast-off vessel.565565IV. 4, II. 12.
It has been pointed out above (p. 240) that natural theology underwent no development in the Greek Church. We must premise, however, that the course of the history of philosophy is of greater moment for the development of the system, or for systematic monographs. Without anticipating we may here make the following remark. The Fathers of orthodox dogma in the fourth and fifth centuries were Platonists. Aristotelianism always led in this period to a heterodox form of dogma—Lucian, the Arians, the Antiochenes, etc. But a theological system constructed by the aid of Platonism could not fail at that time to become equally heterodox. After Platonism had done its work on dogma, and certain notions and conceptions were generally fixed, an orthodox system could only be created by means of Aristotelianism. Any further use of Platonism led to questionable propositions.
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