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§ 9. Modern Forms of the Doctrine.
Dorner, in the first edition of his work on the “Person of Christ,” says that the Lutheran theology carried the attempt to preserve the unity of Christ’s person, on the Church assumption that He possessed two distinct natures, to the utmost extreme. If that attempt be a failure, nothing more remains. He holds it to be a failure not only because it involves the impossible assumption of a transfer of attributes without a change of substance, but also because it is one-sided. It refuses to admit of the communication of human attributes to the divine nature, whilst it insists on the transfer of divine perfections to the human nature. And moreover, he urges, that admitting all the Lutheran theory claims, the union of the two natures remains just as unreal as it is on the Church doctrine. Any distinction of natures, in the ordinary sense of the words, must, he says, be given up. It is on this assumption that the modern views of the person of Christ are founded. These views may be divided into two classes, the Pantheistical and the Theistical. These two classes, however, have a good deal in common. Both are founded on the principle of the oneness of God and man. This is admitted on all sides. “The characteristic feature of all recent Christologies,” says Dorner, “is the endeavour to point out the essential unity of the divine and human.”355355Dorner, div. II. vol. iii. p. 101. The heading of the section in which this admission occurs, is, “The Foundations of the New Christology laid by Schelling, Hegel, Schleiermacher.” This is equivalent to saying that the New Christology is founded on the principles of the pantheistic philosophy. Baur356356Die christliche Lehre von der Dreieingkeit und Menschwerdung Gottes in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung. Von Dr. Ferdinand Christian Baur, Tübingen, 1843, vol. iii. p. 751. says the same thing. He entitles the last division of his work on the Trinity, “Die gegenseitige Durchdringung der Philosophie und der Theologie,” i.e., The mutual interpenetration of Philosophy and Theology. The latter is merged into the former. Dr. Ullmann says, the doctrine of the oneness of God and man, which he represents as the fundamental idea of Schleiermacher’s 429theology and of Christianity itself, is not entirely new. It was inculcated by the German Mystics of the Middle Ages.357357Dr. Ullman, Essay in the Studien und Kritiken for 1846. Hegel says that what the Bible teaches of Christ is not true of an individual, but only of mankind as a whole; and Hegel’s Christological ideas, Dr. John Nevin of Mercersburg, says, “are very significant and full of instruction.”358358Mercersburg Review, January, 1851, pp. 58, 61, 73. Review of Liebner’s Christology, by Rev. John W. Nevin, D. D., Professor of Theology in the Seminary of the German Reformed Church. The objection that these principles are pantheistical, he pronounces “a mere sound without any force whatever,” and adds that we need a Christian pantheism to oppose the antichristian pantheism of the day. Schleiermacher says that a pantheism which holds to the formula “One and All” (“the all-one-doctrine”) is perfectly consistent with religion, and differs little in its effects from Monotheism! Similar avowals might be adduced without number. Theologians of this class deny that God and man are essentially different. They repeat, almost with every breath, that God and man are one, and they make this the fundamental idea of Christianity, and especially of Christology
As Christian theology purports to be an exhibition of the theology of the Bible, every theory which involves the denial of a personal God, properly lies beyond its sphere. In modern systems, however, there is such a blending of pantheistic principles with theistic doctrines, that the two cannot be kept entirely separate. Pantheistical and theistical theologians, of the modern school, unite in asserting “the oneness of God and man.” They understand that doctrine, however, in different senses. With the former it is understood to mean identity, so that man is only the highest existence-form of God; with the others, it often means nothing more than that “natura humana capax est naturæ divinæ.” The human is capable of receiving the attributes of the divine. Man may become God.
It follows, in the first place, from the doctrine, that God is the only real Being of which the world is the ever changing phenomenon, that “die Menschwerdung Gottes ist eine Menschwerdung von Ewigkeit.” The incarnation of God is from eternity. And, in the second place, that this process is continuous, complete in no one instance, but only in the whole. Every man is a form of the life of God, but the infinite is never fully realized or revealed in any one manifestation. Some of these philosophers were willing to 430say that God was more fully manifested in Christ than in any other individual of our race, but the difference between Him and other men is only one of degree. Others say that the peculiar distinction of Christ was that He had a clearer view and a deeper conviction of the identity of God and man than any other man. It all amounts to the summation of the doctrine as given by Strauss.359359Das Leben Jesu, § 149, 3d edit. Tübingen, 1839, vol. ii. pp. 766, 767; and Dogmatik, vol. ii. p. 214. “If,” says he, “the idea of the oneness of the divine and human natures, of God and man, be a reality, does it follow that this reality is effected or manifested once for all in a single individual, as never before and never after him? . . . . An idea is never exhibited in all its fulness in a single exemplar; and in all others only imperfectly. An idea is always realized in a variety and multiplicity of exemplars, which complement each other; its richness being diffused by the constant change of individuals, one succeeding or supplanting another. . . . . Mankind, the human race, is the God-man. The key to a true Christology is that the predicates which the Church applies to Christ, as an individual, belong to an idea, or to a generic whole.” So Blasche360360Quoted by Strauss, Dogmatik, edit. Tübingen, 1841, vol. ii. p. 214. says, “We understand by God’s becoming man, not the revelation of Himself in one or more of the most perfect of men, but the manifestation of Himself in the race of men (in der ganzen Menschheit).”
We have the authority of Dorner for saying that the modern speculations on Christology are founded on the two principles that there is but one nature in Christ, and that human nature is capax naturæ divinæ, is capable of being made divine. To this must be added a third, although Dorner himself does not hold it, that the divine is capable of becoming human.
The advocates of these principles agree, First, in admitting that there was a true growth of the man Christ Jesus. When an infant He was as feeble, as ignorant, and as unconscious of moral character as other infants. When a child He had no more intellectual or physical strength than other children. There is, however, a difference in their mode of statement as to what Christ was during the maturity of his earthly life. According to some, He had no superhuman knowledge or power. All He knew was communicated to Him, some say by the Father, others say by the Logos. The miracles which He wrought were not by his own power, but 431by the power of God. At the grave of Lazarus He prayed for power to restore his friend to life, or rather that God would raise him from the dead; and He gave thanks that his prayer was heard.
Secondly, they agree that the development of the humanity of our Lord was without sin. He was from the beginning holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Nevertheless He had to contend with all the infirmities of our nature, and to resist all the temptations arising from the flesh, the world, and the devil, with which his people have to contend. He was liable to sin. As He was subject to hunger, thirst, weariness, and pain, as He had feelings capable of being wounded by ingratitude and insult, He was liable to the impatience and resentment which suffering or injury is adapted to produce. As He was susceptible of pleasure from the love and admiration of others, He was exposed to the temptation of seeking the honour which comes from men. In all things, however, He was without sin.
Thirdly, they agree that it was only gradually that Christ came to the knowledge that He was a divine person, and into the possession and use of divine attributes. Communications of knowledge and power were made to Him from time to time from on high, so that both the knowledge of what He was and the consciousness of the possession of divine perfections came to Him by degrees. Christ’s exaltation, therefore, began and was carried on while He was here on earth, but it was not until his resurrection and ascension that He became truly and forever divine.
Fourthly, since his ascension and session at the right hand of God, He is still a man, and only a man. Nevertheless He is an infinite man. A man with all the characteristics of a human soul possessed of all the perfections of the Godhead. Since his ascension, as Gess expresses it, a man has been taken into the adorable Trinity. “As the glorified Son remains man, a man is thus received into the trinitarian life of the Deity from and by the glorification of the Son.”361361The Scripture Doctrine of the Person of Christ. Freely translated from the German of W. F. Gess, with many additions, by J. A. Reubelt, D. D., Professor in Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind. Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1870, p. 414. This work is admirably translated, and presents the clearest outline of the modern doctrine of Kenosis which has yet appeared. The author expresses his satisfaction that he is sustained in his views arrived at by the study of the Scriptures, by the authority of Liebner and Thomasius, who reached substantially the same conclusions by the way of speculation. There is ground for this self-congratulation of the author, for his book is far more Scriptural in its treatment of the subject than any other book of the same class with which we are acquainted. It calls for a thorough review and candid criticism. Thomasius says the same thing. “Die immanente 432Lebensbewegung der drei Personen ist nunmehr gewissermassen eine göttlich-menschhiche geworden; . . . . So tief ist in der Person Christi die Menschheit in den Kreis der Trinität hereingenommen — und zwar nicht auf vorübergehende Weise, sondern für immer. Denn der Sohn bleibt ewig Mensch.”362362Christi Person und Werk. Darstellung der evangelisch-lutherischen Dogmatik vom Mittelpunkte der Christologie aus. Von G. Thomasius, Dr. u. ord. Professor der Theologie an der Universität Erlangen. Zweite erweiterte Auflage, Erlangen, 1857, vol. ii. p. 295. That is: The immanent life movement of the three persons has now become in a measure divine-human; . . . . so deep has humanity in the person of Christ been taken into the sphere of the Trinity, — and that not in a temporary manner, but forever. For the Son remains man eternally. On the following page he says that humanity, or manhood (Menschsein), has become the permanent existence-form of God the Son. And again363363Ibid. p. 299. he says that humanity (das menschliche Geschlecht) is “exalted to full equality with God” (schlecht Gott selbst gleichgesetzt). This would be absolutely impossible were not human nature in its original constitution capable of receiving all divine perfections and of becoming absolutely divine. Accordingly, in this connection, Thomasius says that man is of all creatures the nearest to God.364364Ibid. p. 296. “He must from his nature be capable of full participation in the divine glory; he must be the organ into which the entire fulness of the divine love can be poured, and through which it can adequately act, otherwise we cannot understand how God could appropriate human nature as his own permanent form of existence.”
The result of the incarnation, therefore, is that God becomes man in such a sense that the Son of God has no life or activity, no knowledge, presence, or power outside of or apart from his humanity. In Christ there is but one life, one activity, one consciousness. Every act of the incarnate Logos is a human act, and every experience of the humanity of Christ, all his sorrows, infirmities, and pains, were the experience of the Logos. “The absolute life, which is the being of God, exists in the narrow limits of an earthly-human life; absolute holiness and truth, the essential attributes of God, develop themselves in the form of human thinking and willing; absolute love has assumed a human form, it lives as human feeling, as human sensibility in the heart of this man; absolute freedom has the form of human self-determination. The Son of God has not reserved for Himself a special existence form (ein besonderes Fürsichseyn), a special consciousness, a special sphere or power of action; He does not exist anywhere outside of the flesh (nec Verbum 433extra carnem nec caro extra Verbum). He has in the totality of his being become man, his existence-and-life-form is that of a corporeal-spiritual man subject to the limitations of time and space. The other side of this relation is that the human nature is taken up entirely into the divine, and is pervaded by it. It has neither a special human consciousness nor a special human activity of the will for itself in distinction from that of the Logos, just as the latter has nothing which does not belong to the former; in the human thinking, willing, and acting, the Logos thinks, wills, and acts. All dualism of a divine and human existence-form, of a divine and human consciousness, of a concomitancy of divine and human action, is of necessity excluded; as is also any successive communication (Hineinbildung) of one to the other; it is an identical living, activity, sensibility, and development, because it is one Ego, one divine human personality (unio, communio, communicatio, naturarum).”365365Thomasius, ut supra, pp. 201, 202.
As to the manner in which this complete identification of the human and divine in the person of Christ is effected, there are, as above intimated, two opinions. According to Dorner there is a human soul to begin with, to which the Eternal Logos, without subjecting Himself to any change, from time to time communicates his divinity, as the human becomes more and more capable of receiving the perfections of God, until at last it becomes completely divine. With this Dorner connected a philosophical theory concerning the relation of Christ to the universe, and especially to the whole spiritual world.366366Baur, in his Lehre von der Dreieinigkeit, vol. iii. p. 987, gives the following account of Dorner’s theory: Wie der Mensch das Haupt und die Krone der natürlichen Schöpfung sei, so sei auch die Menscheit als die auseinandergetretene Vielheit eines höhern Ganzen, einer höhern Idee, zu betrachten, nämlich Christi. Und wie die Natur sich nicht blos in der Idee eines Menschen zur Einheit versammle, sondern im wirklichen Menschen, so fasse sich auch die Menschheit nicht zusammen in einer blossen Idee, einem idealen Christus, sondern in dem wirklichen Gottmenschen, der ihre Totalität persönlich darstelle, und aller einzelnen Individualitäten Urbilder oder ideale Persönlichkeiten in sich versammle. Und wenn die erste Zusammenfassung zerstreuter Momente in Adam, wenn auch selbst noch ein Naturwesen, doch eine unendlich höhere Gestalt dargestellt habe, als jedes der einzelnen Naturwesen, so stehe auch der zweite Adam, obwohl in sich eine Zusammenfassung der Menschheit und selbst noch ein Mensch, doch als eine unendlich höhere Gestalt da, denn alle einzelnen Darstellungen unserer Gattung. Sei Adam das Haupt der natürlichen Schöpfung gewesen, als solches aber bereits hinüberreichend mit seinem Wesen in das Reich des Geistes und hinübergreifend über die natürliche Welt, so sei Christus das Haupt der geistigen Schöpfung, als solches aber schon hinüberweisend von der Menschheit auf eine kosmische oder metaphysiche Bedeutung seiner Person.
The other view of the subject is, that the Eternal Logos, by a process of self-limitation, divested Himself of all his divine attributes. He ceased to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. He 434reduced Himself, so to speak, to the dimensions of a man. While an infant, as before said, He had no knowledge or power which does not belong to any other human infant. He went through the regular process of growth and development, and had all the experiences of ordinary men, yet without sin. But as the substance of the Logos was the substance of the infant born of the Virgin, it continued to develop not only until it reached a height of excellence and glory to which no other man ever attained, but until it ultimately culminated in full equality with God.
On this point Thomasius says, First, that if the Eternal Son, after the assumption of humanity, retained his divine perfections and prerogatives, He did not become man, nor did He unite Himself with humanity. He hovered over it; and included it as a larger circle does a smaller. But there was no real contact or communication. Secondly, if at the moment of the incarnation the divine nature in the fulness of its being and perfection was communicated to the humanity, then Christ could not have had a human existence. The historical life is gone; and all bond of relationship and sympathy with us is destroyed. Thirdly, the only way in which the great end in view could be answered was that God Himself by a process of depotentiation, or self-limitation, should become man; that He should take upon Himself a form of existence subject to the limitations of time and space, and pass through the ordinary and regular process of human development, and take part in all the sinless experiences of a human life and death.367367Thomasius, Christi Person und Werk, vol. ii. pp. 141-143.
Ebrard puts the doctrine in a somewhat different form. He molds that the Logos reduced Himself to the dimensions of a man; but at the same time retained and exercised his divine perfections as the second person of the Trinity. In answer to the question, How human and divine attributes can be united in the same person, he says the solution of the difficulty is to be found in the original constitution and destiny of humanity. Man was designed for this supreme dominion, perfect holiness, and boundless knowledge. “The glorification of God as Son in time is identical with the acme of the normal development of man.” It is held by many, not by all of the advocates of this theory, that the incarnation would have taken place had men never sinned. It entered into the divine purpose in reference to man that he should thus attain oneness with Himself.435
As to the still more difficult question, How can the Son as the second person of the Trinity retain his divine perfections (as Ebrard holds that He does), and yet, as revealed on earth, lay them aside? “The one is world-ruling and omniscient, and the other is not,” he says we must understand the problem. It is not that two natures become one nature. “Two natures as two things (Stücken) are out of the question.” The Logos is not one nature, and the incarnate Son of God, Jesus, another; but the incarnate Son possesses the properties of both natures. The question only is, How can the incarnate Logos, since He has not the one nature, the divine, in the form of God (in der Ewigkeitsform), be one with the world-governing Logos who is in the form of God? This question, which is equivalent to asking, How the same individual mind can be finite and infinite at the same time, he answers by saying, first, that the continuity of existence does not depend upon continuity of consciousness. A man in a swoon or in a state of magnetic sleep, is the same person, although his consciousness be suspended or abnormal. That is true, but the question is, How the same mind can be conscious and unconscious at the same time, How th same individual Logos can be a feeble infant and at the same time the intelligently active world-governing God. Secondly, he admits that the above answer does not fully meet the case, and therefore adds that the whole difficulty disappears when we remember (dass die Ewigkeit nicht eine der Zeit parallellaufende Linie ist), that Eternity and Time are not parallel lines. But, thirdly, seeing that this is not enough, he says that the Eternal Logos overlooks his human form of existence with one glance (mit einem Schlage), whereas the incarnate Logos does not, but with true human consciousness, looks forward and backward. All this avails nothing. The contradiction remains. The theory assumes that the same individual mind can be conscious and unconscious, finite and infinite, ignorant and omniscient, at the same time.368368Christliche Dogmatik. Von Johannes Heinrich August Ebrard, Doctor und ord. Professor der ref. Theologie zu Erlangen. Königsberg, 1852, vol. ii. §§ 391-394, pp. 142-149.
Gess admits the contradiction involved in the doctrine as presented by Ebrard, and therefore adopts the common form of the theory. He holds that the Eternal Son at the incarnation laid aside the Godhead and became a man. The substance of the Logos remained; but that substance was in the form of an infant, and had nothing beyond an infant’s knowledge or power. In the 436Trinity, the Father is God of Himself; the Son is God by the communication of the divine life from the Father. During the earthly career of the Logos the communication of the divine life was suspended. The Logos reduced to the limitations of manhood, received from the Father such communications of supernatural power as He needed. When He ascended and sat down at the right hand of God, He received the divine life in all its fulness as He had possessed it before He came into the world. “The same substance,” he says, “slumbered in the womb of the Virgin, without self-consciousness, which thirty-four years after yielded itself a sacrifice, without blemish and spot, to the Father, having previously revealed to mankind the truth, which it had perfectly comprehended. At the time of this slumber there already existed in this substance that indestructible life by virtue of which it had a accomplished our redemption (Heb. vii. 16), as well as the power to know the Father as no other knows Him (Matt. xi. 27), but it was unconscious life. Moreover, the same substance which now slumbered in unconsciousness, had before existed with the Father as the Logos, by whom the Father had created, governed, and preserved the world, but it was no longer aware of this.”369369The Scripture Doctrine of the Person of Christ. Translated from the German by J. A. Reubelt, D. D., p. 342. On the opposite page, it is said, that it is the self-conscious will of a man that calls all his powers into action. “When this sinks into slumber, all the powers of the soul fall asleep. It was the substance of the Logos which in itself had the power to call the world into existence, to uphold and enlighten it; but when the Logos sank into the slumber of unconsciousness, his eternal holiness, his omniscience, his omnipresence, and all his really divine attributes were gone; it being the self-conscious will of the Logos through which all the divine powers abiding in Him had been called into action. They were gone, i.e., suspended, — existing still, but only potentially. Further, a man when he awakes from sleep is at once in full possession of all his powers and faculties; but when consciousness burst upon Jesus it was not that of the eternal Logos, but a really human self-consciousness, which develops by degrees and preserves its identity only through constant changes. . . . . It was this human form of self-conscious existence which the Logos chose in his act of self-divestiture. Hence it plainly appears that omniscience, which sees and knows all things at once, and from one central point, and the unchangeable merging of the will into the Father’s, or divine holiness, are not to be attributed to Jesus 437while on earth; and the same with the unchangeable bliss of the divine life. Nor was it only eternal self-consciousness which the Son laid aside, but He also ‘went out from the Father.’ We are not to understand that the indwelling of the Father, Son, and Spirit in each other had been dissolved, but that the Father’s giving the Son to have life in Himself, as the Father has, was suspended. Having laid aside his self-consciousness and activity, He lost with this the capacity of receiving into Himself the stream of life from the Father, and sending it forth again; in other words, He was no longer omnipotent. Equally lost, or laid aside, was his omnipresence, which must not, at all events, be considered as universally diffused, but as dependent on the self-conscious will.”370370The Scripture Doctrine of the Person of Christ, pp. 343, 344.
1. The first remark to be made on this theory in all its forms is that it is a departure from the faith of the Church. This objection turns up first on every occasion, because that is its proper place. If the Bible be the only infallible rule of faith and practice; and if the Bible be a plain book, and if the Spirit guides the people of God (not the external church, or body of mere professing Christians) into the knowledge of the truth, then the presumption is invincible that what all true Christians believe to be the sense of Scripture is its sense. The whole Christian world has believed, and still does believe, that Christ was a true man; that He had a real body and a human soul. The Council of Chalcedon in formulating this article of the common faith, declared that Christ was, and is, God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever; that according to the one nature He is consubstantial (ὁμοούσιος) within us, and according to the other He is consubstantial with the Father. There is no dispute as to the sense in which the Council used the word nature, because it has an established meaning in theology, and because it is explained by the use of the Latin word consubstantial, and the Greek word ὁμοούσιος. Nor is it questioned that the decisions of that Council have been accepted by the whole Church. This doctrine of two natures in Christ the new theory rejects. This, as we have seen, Dorner expressly asserts. We have seen, also, that Ebrard says, that the idea of two natures in the sense of two substances (Stücke, concrete existences) is out of the question. The Logos did not assume human nature, but human attributes; He appeared in the fashion of a man. Gess, in his luminous book, teaches over and over, that it was the substance 438of the Logos that was the human soul of Christ. He speaks of his “Logos-nature;” of the “Logos being the life, or life-principle” of his humanity. He says, in so many words,371371The Scripture Doctrine of the Person of Christ, p. 378. that the soul of Jesus was “not like that of other men, a soul created by God and for God, but the Logos in the form of human existence.” It is consonant, he says, “to the nature of Christ’s soul, as being the Logos existing in human form, that God should take possession of it in a peculiar manner.” This idea is the very essence of the doctrine. For if the Logos “emptied” Himself, if He laid aside his omnipresence and omnipotence, and became a human soul, what need or what possibility remains of another newly created soul?
This is not Apollinarianism; for Apollinaris taught that the Logos supplied the place of a rational soul in the person of Christ. He did not become such a soul, but, retaining in actu as well as in potentia, the fulness of the divine perfections, took its place. Nor is it exactly Eutychianism. For Eutyches said that there were two natures before the union, and only one after it. The two were so united as to become one. This the theory before us denies, and affirms that from the beginning the Logos was the sole rational element in the constitution of the person of our Lord. It agrees, however, with both these ancient and Church-rejected errors in their essential principles. It agrees with the Apollinarians in saying that the Logos was the rational element in Christ; and it agrees with the Eutychians in saying that Christ had but one nature.
The doctrine is in still more obvious contradiction to the decisions of the Council of Constantinople on the Monothelite controversy. That Council decided that as there were two natures in Christ, there were of necessity two wills. The new theory in asserting the oneness of Christ’s nature, denies that He had two wills. The acts, emotions, and sufferings of his earthly life, were the acts, emotions, and sufferings of the Logos. So far as Christian interest in the doctrine is concerned, it was to get at this conclusion the theory was adopted if not devised. It was to explain how that more than human value belongs to the sufferings of Christ, and more than human efficacy to his life, that so many Christian men were led to embrace the new doctrine. The Church doctrine. however, does not consider either the sufferings or the life of Christ as those of a mere man. He was a divine person, God manifest in the flesh; and his sufferings and life were those of that person. 439Christians can say, and always have said, with an intelligent and cordial faith, that God purchased the Church with his blood. It was because the person who died was possessed of an Eternal Spirit that his blood cleanses from all sin.
2. The arguments from Scripture in support of the theory are for the most part founded on the neglect of the principle so often referred to, that anything can be predicated of the person of Christ that can be predicated either of his human or of his divine nature. That the one person is said to be born and to suffer and die, no more proves that the Logos as such was born and suffered and died, than saying of a man that he is sick or wounded proves that his soul is diseased or injured. The same remark, of course, applies to the exaltation and dominion of the risen Redeemer. It is the one person who is the object of the worship of all created intelligences, and to whom their obedience is due; but this does not prove that Christ’s human nature is possessed of divine attributes. Indeed, according to the modern doctrine of Kenosis, He has no human nature, as already proved.
3. The theory in question is inconsistent with the clear doctrine both of revealed and natural religion concerning the nature of God. He is a Spirit infinite, eternal, and immutable. Any theory, therefore, which assumes that God lays aside his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, and becomes as feeble, ignorant, and circumscribed as an infant, contradicts the first principle of all religion, and, if it be pardonable to say so, shocks the common sense of men.
4. Instead of removing any difficulties attending the doctrine of the incarnation, it greatly increases them. According to Dorner’s view we are called upon to believe that a human soul receives gradually increasing measures of the divine fulness, until at last it becomes infinite. This is equivalent to saying that it ceases to exist. It is only on the assumption that Dorner, when he says that the essential nature of God is love, and that the communication of the Godhead is the communication of the fulness of the divine love, means that God is purely ethical, an attribute, but not a substance, that we can attach any definite meaning to his doctrine. According to Ebrard we are required to believe that the one divine and infinite substance of the Logos was finite and infinite; conscious and unconscious; omnipresent, and confined within narrow limits in space; and that it was active in the exercise of omnipotence, and as feeble as an infant at one and the same time. According to the more common view of the subject, we are called upon to believe 440that the infinite God, in the person of his Son, can become ignorant and feeble, and then omniscient and almighty; that He can cease to be God, and then again become God. Gess says that God is not omnipotent unless He has power over Himself, power, that is, to cease to be God. If this be true of the Son it must be true of the Father and of the Spirit; that is, it must be true that the Triune Jehovah can annihilate Himself. And, then, what follows?
5. This doctrine destroys the humanity of Christ. He is not and never was a man. He never had a human soul or a human heart. It was the substance of the Logos invested with a human body that was born of the Virgin, and not a human soul. A being without a human soul is not a man. The Saviour which this theory offers us is the Infinite God with a spiritual body. In thus exalting the humanity of Christ to infinitude it is dissipated and lost.
The prevalent Christology among a numerous and distinguished class of modern theologians, though not professedly pantheistic, is nevertheless founded on the assumption of the essential oneness of God and man. This class includes the school of Schleiermacher in all its modifications not only in Germany, but also in England and America. Schleiermacher is regarded as the most interesting as well as the most influential theologian of modern times. He was not and could not be self-consistent, as he attempted the reconciliation of contradictory doctrines. There are three things in his antecedents and circumstances necessary to be considered, in order to any just appreciation of the man or of his system. First, he passed the early part of his life among the Moravians, and imbibed something of their spirit, and especially of their reverence for Christ, who to the Moravians is almost the exclusive object of worship. This reverence for Christ, Schleiermacher retained all his life. In one of the discourses pronounced on the occasion of his death, it was said, “He gave up everything that he might save Christ.” His philosophy, his historical criticism, everything, he was willing to make bend to the great aim of preserving to himself that cherished object of reverence and love.372372When in Berlin the writer often attended Schleiermacher’s church. The hymns to be sung were printed on slips of paper and distributed at the doors. They were always evangelical and spiritual in an eminent degree, filled with praise and gratitude to our Redeemer. Tholuck said that Schleiermacher, when sitting in the evening with his family, would often say, “Hush, children: let us sing a hymn of praise to Christ.” Can we doubt that he is singing those praises now? To whomsoever Christ is God, St. John assures us Christ is a Savior. Secondly, his academic culture led 441him to adopt a philosophical system whose principles and tendencies were decidedly pantheistic. And, thirdly, he succumbed to the attacks which rationalistic criticism had made against faith in the Bible. He could not receive it as a supernatural revelation from God. He did not regard it as containing doctrines which we are bound to believe on the authority of the sacred writers. Deprived, therefore, of the historical Christ, or at least deprived of the ordinary historical basis for faith in Christ, he determined to construct a Christology and a whole system of Christian theology from within; to weave it out of the materials furnished by his own religious consciousness. He said to the Rationalists that they might expunge what they pleased from the evangelical records; they might demolish the whole edifice of Church theology, he had a Christ and a Christianity in his own bosom. In the prosecution of the novel and difficult task of constructing a system of Christian theology out of the facts of Christian experience, he designed to secure for it a position unassailable by philosophy. Philosophy being a matter of knowledge, and religion a matter of feeling, the two belonged to distinct spheres, and therefore there need be no collision between them.
He assumed, (1.) That religion in general, and Christianity in particular, was not a doctrine or system of doctrine; not a cultus, or a discipline; but a life, an inward spiritual power or force. (2.) That the true Christian is conscious of being the recipient of this new life. (3.) That he knows that it did not originate in himself, nor in the Church to which he belongs, because humanity neither in the individual nor in any of its organizations is capable of producing what is specifically new and higher and better than itself. (4.) This necessitates the assumption of a source, or author of this life, outside of the race of ordinary men or of humanity in its regular development. (5.) Hence he assumed the actual historical existence of a new, sinless, and absolutely perfect man by a new creative act. (6.) That man was Christ, from whom every Christian is conscious that he derives the new life of which he is the subject. (7.) Christ is the Urbild, or Ideal Man, in whom the idea of humanity is fully realized. (8.) He is nevertheless divine, or God in fashion as a man, because man is the modus existendi of God on the earth. In ordinary men, even in Adam, God, so to speak, was and is imperfectly developed. The God-consciousness, or God within, is overborne by our world-consciousness, or our consciousness as determined by things seen and 442temporal. (9.) In Christ this was not the case. In Him, without struggle or opposition, the God-consciousness, or God within, controlled his whole inward and outward life. (10.) Christ’s preëminence over other men consisted in his absolute sinlessness and freedom from error. Of Him it is to be said, not simply potest non peccare, but non potest peccare. He could not be tempted for temptation supposes the possibility of sin, and the possibility of sin supposes less than perfection. (11.) The redeeming work and worth of Christ consists not in what He taught or in what He did, but in what He was. What He taught and what He did may be explained in different ways, or even explained away, but what He was, remains, and is the one all important fact. (12.) As He was thus perfect, thus the ideal and miraculously produced man, He is the source of life to others. He awakens the dormant God-consciousness in men, and gives it ascendency over the sensibility, or sensuous element of our nature, so that believers come to be, in the same sense, although ever in a less degree, what Christ was, God manifest in the flesh. This being the work of Christ, and this redeeming process being due to what He was, his resurrection, ascension, session at the right hand of God, etc., etc., may all be dispensed with. They may be admitted on historical grounds, good men having testified to them as facts, but they have no religious import or power. (13.) The new life of which Christ is the author, which in this country is commonly denominated “his human divine life,” is the animating and constituting principle of the Church, and it is by union with the Church that this life passes over to individual believers.
Objections to this Theory.
This is a meagre outline of Schleiermacher’s Christology. His doctrine concerning Christ is so implicated with his peculiar views on anthropology, on theology, and on the relation of God to the world, that it can neither be fully presented nor properly appreciated except as an integral part of his whole system.
Gladly as Schleiermacher’s theory was embraced as a refuge by those who had been constrained to give up Christianity as a doctrine, and great as have been its popularity and influence, it was assailed from very different quarters and judged from many different standpoints. Here it can only be viewed from the position of Christian theology. It should be remembered that as the idealist does not feel and act according to his theory, so the inward life of a theologian may not be determined by his speculative doctrines. This does not render error less objectionable or less dangerous. It 443is nevertheless a fact, and enables us to condemn a system without wounding our charity for its author. Schleiermacher, however, was an exceptional case. As a general rule, a man’s faith is the expression of his inward life.
1. The first objection to Schleiermacher’s theory is that it is not and does not pretend to be Biblical. It is not founded upon the objective teachings of the Word of God. It assumes, indeed, that the religious experience of the Apostles and early Christians was substantially the same, and therefore involved the same truths, as the experience of Christians of the present day. Schleiermacher even admits that their experience was so pure and distinctly marked as to have the authority of a standard by which other believers are to judge of their own. But he denies that the interpretation which they gave of their experience has normal authority for us, that is, he says that we are not bound to believe what the Apostles believed. His appeals to the Scriptures in support of his peculiar doctrines are extremely rare, and merely incidental. He professes to build up a system independent of the Bible, founded on what Christians now find in the contents of their own consciousness.
2. The system is not what it purports to be. Schleiermacher professed to discard speculation from the province of religion. He undertook to construct a theory of Christianity with which philosophy should have nothing to do, and therefore one against which it could have no right to object. In point of fact his system is a matter of speculation from beginning to end. It could never have existed except as the product of a mind imbued with the principles of German philosophy. It has no coherence, no force, and indeed no meaning, unless you take for granted the correctness of his views of the nature of God, of the nature of man, and of the relation of God to the world. This objection was urged against his system by all parties in Germany. The supernaturalists, who believed in the Bible, charged him with substituting the conclusions of his own philosophy for the dictates of Christian consciousness. And the philosophers said he was true neither to his philosophy nor to his religion. He changed from one ground to the other just as it suited his purpose. On this subject Strauss373373Dogmatik, Tübingen, 1841, vol. ii. p. 176. says that Schleiermacher first betrayed philosophy to theology, and then theology to philosophy; and that this half-and-halfness is characteristic of his whole position. Although this was said in a spirit of unkindness, it is nevertheless true. His speculative opinions, i.e., the conclusions at which he arrives by the way of speculation, are the basis of his 444whole system; and therefore those who adopt it receive it on this authority of reason, and not on that of revelation. It is a philosophical theory and nothing more. This will become apparent as we proceed.
Founded on Pantheistic Principles.
3. A third objection is that the system is essentially pantheistic. This is, indeed, an ambiguous term. It is here used, however, in its ordinary and proper sense. It is not meant that Schleiermacher held that the universe is God, or God the universe, but that he denied any proper dualism between God and the world, and between God and man. He held such views of God as were inconsistent with Theism in the true and accepted meaning of the word. That is, he did not admit the existence of a personal, extramundane God. This is a charge brought against his system from the beginning, even by avowed pantheists themselves. They say that while denying the existence of a personal God he nevertheless teaches doctrines inconsistent with that denial, i.e., with what they regard as the true view of the relation of the infinite to the finite. Theists brought the same objection. Dr. Braniss374374Ueber Schleiermacher’s Glaubenlehre, ein kritischer Versuch, p. 182. says, “Die Annahme eines persönlichen Gottes ist in diesem System unmöglich,” i.e., “The admission of a personal God is, in this system, impossible.”375375See Gess, Uebersicht über Schleiermacher’s System, p. 185. This he proves, among other ways, by a reference to what Schleiermacher teaches of the attributes of God, which with him are not predicates of a subject; they tell us nothing as to what God is, they are only forms or states of our own consciousness, as determined by our relation to the system of things in their causal relation. Strauss, from another standpoint, says that Schleiermacher could never reconcile himself to the acknowledgment of a personal, extra-mundane God. Christ was the only God he had; and this, alas! was little more than an ideal God; one who had been; but whether He still is, he leaves undetermined, at least theoretically. Baur presents the inconsistency of Schleiermacher in different points of view. In one place he says that he swung to and fro between the idealism of Kant and Fichte, and the pantheism of Spinoza and Schelling, which he regarded only as the different poles of the same system (derselben Weltanschauung).376376Baur’s Lehre von der Dreieinigkeit, vol. iii. p. 842. Again he says that the essential element of Schleiermacher’s doctrine of God is the same immanence of God in the world that Spinoza taught.377377Ibid. p. 850. He endorses the criticism of Strauss, that all the main positions of the 445first part of Schleiermacher’s Glaubenslehre are intelligible only when translated into the formulas of Spinoza, whence they were derived; and adds that he made no greater difference between God and the world than Spinoza made between the natura naturans and the natura naturata.378378Baur’s Lehre von der Dreieinigkeit, vol. ii. p. 851. A Schleiermacher wrote at the time when the dispute between the Rationalists and Supernaturalists was at its height. The one referred all events to natural causes; the other contended for the possibility of miracles and of a supernatural revelation. Both parties being Theists, the Rationalists had no ground to stand on. For if the existence of an extramundane, personal God, the creator of the world, be admitted, it is utterly unreasonable to deny that He may intervene with his immediate agency in the sequence of events. Schleiermacher cut the knot by denying the difference between the natural and supernatural. There is really no extramundane God, no other sphere of divine activity than the world, and no other law of his action than necessity.379379See Baur, p. 858, who quotes Zeller (Theol. Jahrb. Bd. 1, H. 2, S. 285) as saying that these principles, which appear everywhere in Schleiermacher’s Dogmatik, contain the whole secret of Spinozism.
Involves the Rejection of the Doctrine of the Trinity.
4. Schleiermacher’s system ignores the doctrine of the Trinity. With him God in the world, is the Father; God in Christ, the Son; God in the Church, the Spirit. All personal preëxistence of Christ is thus necessarily excluded. The Scriptures and the Church teach that the eternal Son of God, who was with the Father from eternity; who made the worlds; who could say, “Before Abraham was I am,” became man, being born of a woman, yet without sin. This Schleiermacher denies. There was no Son of God, before the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. Then only, Christ began to be as a distinct person; He had no preëxistence beyond that which is common to all men.
5. This system makes Christ a mere man. He is constantly represented as the Ideal man, Urbild, a perfect man. In Him the idea of humanity is said to be fully realized. His life is said to be one; and that one a true human life. There was in Him but one nature, and that nature human. Now it matters little that with these representations Christ is said to be divine, and his life a divine life; for this is said on the ground that the divine is human, and the human divine. God and man are one. The difference between 446Christ and other men is simply one of degree. He is perfect, we are imperfect. He is, as Baur said, simply primus inter pares. Christ is the Urbild or archetypal man. But “the actuality of the archetypal does not go beyond our nature.”380380Dorner’s Person of Christ, div. II. vol. iii. p. 301. Even in the modified form in which his doctrine has been adopted in this country, this feature of the system has been retained. Dr. Nevin in his “Mystical Presence” is abundant in his assertion of the simple humanity of Christ. He says He had not one life of the body and another of the soul; nor one life of his humanity and another of his divinity. It is one life throughout, and it “is in all respects a true human life.”381381The Mystical Presence, Philadelphia, 1846, p. 167. “Christ is the archetypal man in whom the true idea of humanity is brought to view.” He “is the ideal man.” Our nature is said to be complete only in Him. This also is the staple of the “Mercersburg Review” in all its articles relating either to Anthropology or Soteriology. It is everywhere assumed that God and man are one; that divinity is the completed development of humanity. “The glorification of Christ was the full advancement of our human nature itself to the power of a divine life.” There is nothing in Christ which does not belong to humanity. Steudel therefore says of the Christology of Schleiermacher that it makes Christ only “a finished man.” Knapp says, that he deifies the human and renders human the divine.382382Gess’s Uebersicht über Schleiermachers System, p. 225. Dorner says, “He believed the perfect being of God to be in Christ; and for this reason regarded Him as the complete man. And so, vice versa, because He is the complete man, the consciousness of God has become a being of God in Him.”383383Dorner, ut supra, II. vol. iii. p. 194. That is, because He is a perfect man, He is God. And Strauss says, that according to Schleiermacher the creation of man imperfect in Adam was completed in Christ; and as Christ did not assume a true body and a reasonable soul, but generic humanity, human nature as a generic life is raised to the power of divinity, not in Him only but also in the Church. The incarnation of God is not a unique manifestation in the flesh, in the person of Christ, appearing on earth for thirty-three years and then transferred to heaven. This, it is said, would have been only “a sublime avatar, fantastically paraded thus long before men,” without any further effect. On the contrary, it is the introduction of the life of God into humanity rendering it divine. It is natural that those who thus deify themselves, should look upon those who regard themselves as “worms of the dust,” as 447very poor creatures.384384At a session of the Academic Senate of the University of Berlin, Marheinecke called Neander a blockhead, and asked him, What right had he to an opinion on any philosophical question? Neander, on the other hand, said that Marheinecke’s doctrine, Hegelianism, was to him ein Greuel, a disgusting horror. And no wonder, for a doctrine which makes men the highest existence form of God, is enough to shock even Satan. The objection, however, to this system now in hand is not so much that it deifies man, as that it makes Christ nothing more than an ideal man. It is therefore utterly at variance with the teachings of Scripture, the faith of the Church, and the intimate convictions of the people of God.
6. As the system under consideration is unscriptural in what it teaches concerning the nature of God, and the person of Christ, it is no less contrary to the Scriptures in what it teaches concerning man. Indeed, the theology and anthropology of the system are so related that they cannot be separately held. According to the Bible and the common faith both of the Church and of the world, man is a being created by the word of God’s power, consisting of a material body and an immaterial soul. There are, therefore, in the constitution of his person, two distinct subjects or substances, each with its own properties; so that although intimately united in the present state of being, the soul is capable of conscious existence and activity, out of the body, or separated from it. The soul of man is therefore a distinct individual subsistence, and not the form, or modus existendi of a general life. According to Schleiermacher, “Man as such, or in himself, is the knowing (das Erkennen) of the earth in its eternal substance (Seyn) and in its ever changing development. Or the Spirit (der Geist, God) in the way or form in which it comes to self-consciousness in our earth.” Der Mensch an sich ist das Erkennen der Erde in Seinem ewigen Seyn und in seinem immer wechselnden Werden: oder der Geist, der nach Art und Weise unserer Erde zum Selbstbewusstseyn sich gestaltet.385385Dorner, first edition, p. 488. By the Mercersburg writers the idea is set forth in rather different terms but substantially to the same effect.386386In the Mercersburg Review, 1850, p. 550. Thus it is said, “The world in its lower view is not simply the outward theatre or stage on which man is set to act his part as a candidate for heaven. In the widest of its different forms of existence, it is pervaded throughout with the power of a single life, which comes ultimately to its full sense and force only in the human person.” And387387Page 7 of the same volume. “The world is an organic whole which completes itself in 448man; and humanity is regarded throughout as a single grand fact which is brought to pass, not at once, but in the way of history, unfolding always more its true interior sense, and reaching on to its final consummation.” Again, “It is a universal property of life to unfold itself from within, by a self-organizing power, towards a certain end, which end is its own realization, or in other words, the actual exhibition and actualization in outward form of all the elements, functions, powers, and capacities which potentially it includes. Thus life may be said to be all at its commencement which it can become in the end.”
The theory is that there is an infinite, absolute, and universal something, spirit, life, life-power, substance, God, Urwesen, or whatever it may be called, which develops itself by an inward force, in all the forms of actual existence. Of these forms man is the highest. This development is by a necessary process, as much so as the growth of a plant or of an animal. The stem of the tree, its branches, foliage, and fruit, are not formed by sudden, creative acts, accomplishing the effect, by way of miracle. All is regular, a law-work, an uninterrupted force acting according to its internal nature. So in the self-evolution of the spirit, or principle of life, there is no room for special intervention, or creative acts. All goes on in the way of history, and by regular organic development. Here there is a fault in Schleiermacher’s doctrine. He admitted a creative, supernatural act at the creation. And as the quantum of life, or spirit, communicated to man at first was insufficient to carry on his development to perfection, i.e., until it realized, or actualized all that is in that life of which he is the manifestation (i.e., in God), there was a necessity for a new creative act, by which in the person of Christ, a perfect man was produced. From Him, and after Him, the process goes on naturally, by regular development.388388Schleiermacher (Zweites Sendschreiben zu Lücke; Works, edit. Berlin, 1836, first part, vol. ii. p. 653), says: “Where the supernatural occurs with me, it is always a first; it becomes natural as a second. Thus the creation is supernatural, but afterwards it is a natural process (Naturzusammenhang). So Christ is supernatural as to his beginning, but He becomes natural as a simple or pure human person. The same is true of the Holy Spirit and of the Christian Church.” In like manner Dr. Nevin repeatedly says, “The supernatural has become natural.” This inconsistency in Schleiermacher’s system, this collision between his philosophy and his theology is dwelt upon by all his German critics. Thus Schwarz (Geschichte des neuesten Theologie, p. 254), says, “Schleiermacher steht in seiner Ontologie und Kosmologie, in Dem, was er über das Verhältniss Gottes zur Welt in seiner Dialektik feststellt, ganz und gar auf dem Boden einer einheitlichen und zusammenhängenden Weltanschauung. Ebenso in der Lehre von der Schöpfung und Erhaltung der Welt, wie sie die Dogmatik ausführt. Gott und die Welt sind untrennbare Correlata; das Verhältniss Gottes zur Welt ist ein nothwendiges, stetiges, zusammenhängendes. Für ausserordentliche Actionen, für ein vereinzeltes Handeln Gottes auf die Welt ausserhalb des Naturgesetzes oder gegen dasselbe ist nirgends ein Ort. . . . . Aber — es ist zuzugeben, — diese die philosophische Grundanschauung bildende Immanenz wird von dem Theologen Schleiermacher nicht streng innegehalten, das aus der Ontologie und Kosmologie verbannte Wunder dringt durch die Christologie wieder ein. Die Person Christi in ihrer religiössittlichen Absolutheit ist ein Wunder, eine Ausnahme vom Naturgesetz, sie stehet einzig da. Ihr Eintreten in die Menschheit erfodert trotz aller Anschliessungen nach rückwärtz wie nach vorwärtz einen besondern göttlichen Anstoss, sie ist aus der geschichtlichen Entwickelung nicht hervorgegangen und nicht zu begreifen. Und dieser übernaturliche Anstoss ist es, welcher, so sehr er auch wieder in die Natürlichkeit einlenkt, doch mit dem religiös-moralischen Wunder auch die Möglichkeit der damit zusammenhängenden physischen Wunder offen lässt und so den ganzen Weltzusammenhang durchbricht.” The life-power, the spirit, is quantitively increased 449and henceforth develops itself historically in the form of the Church. The Church, therefore, consists of those to whom this elevated principle of life has been communicated, and in whom it develops itself until it realizes all it includes. That is, until the essential oneness of God and man is in the Church fully realized.
There is another mode of representation current with the disciples of Schleiermacher, especially in this country. its advocates speak of humanity as a generic life. They define man to be the manifestation of this generic life in connection with a special corporeal organization, by which it is individualized and becomes personal. It was this generic humanity which sinned in Adam, and thenceforth was corrupt in all the individual men in whom it was manifested. It was this generic humanity that Christ assumed into personal union with his divinity, not as two distinct substances, but so united as to become one generic human life. This purified humanity now develops itself, by an inward force in the Church, just as from Adam generic humanity was developed in his posterity. All this, however, differs only in words from Schleiermacher’s simpler and more philosophic statement. For it is still assumed as the fundamental idea of the gospel, that God and man are one. This generic humanity is only a form of the life of God. And as to its sinning in Adam, and being thenceforth corrupt, sin and corruption are only imperfect development. God, the universal life principle, as Dr. Nevin calls it, so variously manifested in the different existences in this world, is imperfectly or insufficiently manifested in man generally, but perfectly in Christ, and through Hun ultimately in like perfection in his people. Christ, therefore, according to Dorner, is a universal person. He comprises in Himself the whole of humanity. All that is separately revealed in others is summed up in Him. In this system “Der Mittelpunkt,” says Schwarz, “christlicher Wahrheit, der christologische Kern der ganzen Dogmatik ist die Göschel-Dorner’sche monströse Vorstellung von der Allpersönlichkeit Christi, die ihm als dem Urmenschen zukommt. Es ist ‘die Zusammenfassung des ganzen gegliederten 450Systems der natürlichen Gaben der Menschheit.”389389Schwarz, Geschichte der neuesten Theologie, p. 260. “The middle point of Christian truth, the kernel of dogmatic theology is Goschel’s and Dorner’s monstrous idea of the All-personality of Christ which belongs to Him as the Urmensch or archetypal man. He comprehends within Himself all the diversified forms or systems of the natural gifts of mankind.” Göschel and Dorner, adds Schwarz, were driven to this view because they conceded to their opponent Strauss, that the Absolute could only reveal itself in the totality of individuals; and therefore as the Absolute was in Christ, he must embrace all individuals, because (the Gattungsbegriff) the true and total idea of humanity, the ideal man, or Urmensch, was revealed in Christ. The objection is constantly urged by his German critics, as Baur, Strauss, and Schwarz, that Schleiermacher admits that the Absolute is revealed in perfection in the totality of individuals, and yet is revealed perfectly in Christ, which according to Schleiermacher’s own philosophy they pronounce to be a contradiction or impossibility.390390Baur’s Christliche Lehre von der Versöhnung, p. 621-624.
The design of the preceding paragraphs is simply to show the unscriptural character of Schleiermacher’s Christology in all its modifications, because it is founded on a view of the nature of man entirely at variance with the Word of God. It assumes the oneness of God and man. It takes for granted that fully developed humanity is divine; that Christ in being the ideal, or perfect man, is God.
Schleiermacher’s Theory perverts the Plan of Salvation.
7. It need hardly be remarked that the plan of salvation according to Schleiermacher’s doctrine is entirely different from that revealed in the Bible and cherished by the Church in all ages. It is, in Germany at least, regarded as a rejection of the Church system, and as a substitute for it, and only in some of its forms as a reconciliation of the two, as to what is deemed absolutely essential. The system in all its forms rejects the doctrines of atonement or satisfaction to the justice of God; of regeneration and sanctification by the Holy Spirit; of justification as a judicial or forensic act; of faith in Christ, as a trusting to what He has done for us, as distinguished from what He does in us; in short, of all the great distinctive doctrines not merely of the Reformation but of the Catholic faith. By many of the followers of Schleiermacher these doctrines are rejected in so many words; by others the terms are more or 451less retained, but not in their received and established meaning. For the Scriptural system of salvation, another is substituted. Christ saves us not by what He teaches, or by what He does, but by what He is. He infuses a new principle of life into the Church and into the world. The universal life as communicated to, or revealed in Adam, has been struggling on, imperfectly developed in all his descendants. In Christ a new influx of this life is communicated to, or infused into the veins of humanity. From this as a new starting point, humanity enters on another stage of development, which is to issue in the full actualization of the divine life in the form of humanity. As from Adam human nature was developed from within by an inward force in a regular historical process; so from Christ, there is the same historical development from within. All is natural. There is nothing supernatural but the initial point; the first impulse, or the first infusion of the divine life. There is no place in the system for the work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the very existence of the Holy Spirit as a personal being is by Schleiermacher expressly denied. By the Spirit he means the common life of the Church, that is, the divine life, or God as revealed in the Church. As we derive from Adam a quantitively deficient, and in that sense corrupt, nature, and have nothing more to do with him; so from Christ we receive a larger measure of life, spirit, or divine nature, and have nothing more to do with Him. His whole redeeming work is in the new leaven he has introduced into humanity, which diffuses itself in the way of natural development. This, as Baur says, comes after all to little more than the impression which his character has made on the world. He draws a parallel between Schleiermacher and Kant, between the “Glaubenslehre” of the former, and “Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft” of the latter; the clear rationalism of the one and the mystical obscurity of the other. Both admit that there is a good and a bad principle. Both say that man’s redemption consists in the triumph of the good principle. Both say that the deliverance from evil or the work of redemption, is a purely natural process. Both refer the success of the struggle to the influence of Christ. The one says that He imparts to men a new life, the other says that He awakens the dormant good that is already in man’s nature. Everything admits of a simple and of a mystical explanation.391391The writer was once sitting with Tholuck in a public garden, when the latter said, “I turn my eyes in the opposite direction, and still I am conscious of your presence. How is that?” The reply was, “You know the fact that I am here; and that knowledge produces the state of mind, you call a consciousness of my presence.” Tholuck good naturedly rejoined, “O how stupid that is. Don’t you believe that there is an influence which streams forth from me to you and from you to me?” The only answer was, “Perhaps so.” Of all the genial, lovely, and loving men whom the writer in the course of a long life has met, Tholuck stands among the very first. The writer derived more good from him than from all other sources combined during his two years sojourn in Europe. In every great epoch some one 452man not only impresses his character and infuses his spirit into the men of his generation, but also transmits his influence from age to age. The whole body of Lutherans are what they are because Luther was what he was. The spirit of Ignatius Loyola is just as active in the Jesuits of our day as it was in his own person. The Scotch are what they are because of John Knox; and the Wesleyans owe not only their doctrines and discipline but their whole animus and character to John Wesley. To this category do the merciless German critics of Schleiermacher reduce his theory of the redemption of man by Jesus Christ. It is a matter of personal influence like that of other great men. This will be regarded by his disciples as a most degrading and unjust view of his doctrine. And it doubtless is unjust. For whatever may be true of his mere speculative system, he unquestionably in his heart regarded Christ as infinitely exalted above other men, and as the proper object of adoration and trust.
This Vermittelungstheologie (the mediating-theology), as it is called in Germany, is confessedly an attempt to combine the conclusions of modern speculation with Christian doctrine, or rather with Christianity. It is an attempt to mix incongruous elements which refuse to enter into combination. The modern speculative philosophy in all its forms insists on the denial of all real dualism; God and the world are correlata, the one supposes the other; without the world there is no God; creation is the self-evolution or self-manifestation of God: and is therefore necessary and eternal. God can no more be without the world, than mind without thought. The preservation, progress, and consummation of the world is by a necessary process of development, as in all the forms of life. There is no possibility of special intervention, on the part of God. Miracles whether spiritual or physical are an absurdity and an impossibility.392392“Eigentliche Mirakel anzunehmen, d. h. Unterbrechungen oder Aufhebungen der Naturordnung, dazu wird kein philosophischer Denker sich herablassen.” J. H. Fichte, by Schwarz, p. 319. So is any agency of God in time, or otherwise than as a general life-power. This precludes the efficacy of prayer except as to its subjective influence. Schleiermacher shared in this horror of the supernatural, and this rejection of all miracles. In the case of Christ, he was forced to admit “a new creative act.” But he apologized for this admission by representing it as only the completion 453of the original act of creation, and by saying that it was only for a moment, and that all thenceforth was natural.
Schwarz, himself a great admirer, although not a disciple of Schleiermacher, characterizes this “mediating theology” as an utter failure. It is neither one thing nor the other. It is neither true to its speculative principles, nor true to Christianity. It virtually rejects the Church system, yet endeavours to save Christianity by adopting at least its phraseology. Schwarz says it is a system of “phrases;” which endeavours to heal the wounds of orthodoxy by words which seem to mean much, but which may be made to mean much or little as the reader pleases. It speaks constantly of Christianity as a life, as the life of God, as developing itself organically and naturally, not by supernatural assistance, but by an inward life-power, as in other cases of organic development. It assumes to rise to the conception of the whole world as an organism, in which God is one of the factors; the world and God differing not in substance or life, but simply in functions. It concedes to “speculation” that the fundamental truth of philosophy and of Christianity is the oneness of God and man. Man is God living in a certain form, or state of development. While “the mediating theology” concedes all this, it nevertheless admits of a miraculous or supernatural beginning of the world and of the person of Christ, and thus gives up its whole philosophical system. At least the members of one wing of Schleiermacher’s school are thus inconsistent; those of the other are more true to their principles.
As Christian theology is simply the exhibition and illustration of the facts and truths of the Bible in their due relations and proportions, it has nothing to do with these speculations. The “mediating theology” does not pretend to be founded on the Bible. It does not, at least in Germany, profess allegiance to the Church doctrine. It avowedly gives up Christianity as a doctrine to save it as a life. It is founded on “speculation” and not upon authority, whether of the Scriptures or of the Church. It affords therefore no other and no firmer foundation for our faith and hope, than any other philosophical system; and that, as all history proves, is a foundation of quick-sand, shifting and sinking from month to month and even from day to day. Schleiermacher has been dead little more than thirty years, and already there are eight or ten different classes of his general disciples who differ from each other almost as much as from the doctrines of the Reformation. Twesten and Ullmann, Liebner and Thomasius, Lange and Alexander, 454Schweizer, are wide apart, each having his own philosophical solvent of the doctrines of the Bible, and each producing a different residuum.
The simple, sublime, and saving Christology of the Bible and of the Church universal is: “That the eternal Son of God became man by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul and so was and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever.”455
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