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LECTURE 2 NOTE D.—P. 47.
CONCESSIONS OF RITSCHLIANS ON THE PERSON OF CHRIST.
In this school, as stated in the Lectures, the attribution of Divinity to Christ is regarded as a simple religious judgment—a judgment of value—with no metaphysical meaning behind it. It simply expresses the value which Christ has to the believer as the Revealer of God to him in His grace and truth, and tells us nothing of what Christ is in Himself. How Christ came to be what He was, or what lies 394in the constitution of His Person behind this Revelation, it is no part of the business of theology to inquire. This is the original Ritschlian position, but it is significant that Ritschl’s followers feel the need of some modification of it, and have already made several significant concessions. “It is increasingly recognised,” as I have stated elsewhere, “that we cannot stand simply dumb before the Revelation which it is acknowledged we have in Christ, and refuse to ask who this wonderful Person is that hears the Revelation, and whose personal character and relation to the kingdom of God is so unique. We cannot rest with simply formulating the value of Christ to us; we must ask what He is in Himself. . . . The mind will not stay in the vagueness of expressions about Christ’s ‘God-head,’ to which the suspicion constantly attaches that they are mere metaphors. Thus, in spite of their wishes, the Ritschlians are forced to declare themselves a little further, and it is significant that, so far as their explanations go, they are in the direction of recognising that metaphysical background in Christ’s Person against which at first protest was entered.882882Art. on “The Ritschlian Theology,” in The Thinker, August 1892.
Thus, in a remarkable passage in his Der Verkehr des Christen mit Gott, Herrmann says: “It may be unavoidable that this wonderful experience should excite in us the question, how a man can win this importance for us. And it appears to me as if, for all who wish to go back on this question, and follow out the representation of a union of the Divine and human natures in Christ, the Christological decisions of the ancient Church still always mark out the limits within which such attempts must move” (p. 46, 1st ed., 1886).
In his earlier work, Die Religion im Verhältniss zum Welterkennen und zur Sittlichkeit, Herrmann had expressed himself, if possible, still more decidedly. “I have certainly the conviction,” he says, “the grounds of which I do not need to state here further, that faith in Christ was led in a natural progress to the representation of a preexistence of Christ, and indeed of a personal, and not an ideal, preexistence. The assumption of a so-called ideal pre-existence seems to me unjustified. It is still clearly the Person of the exalted Lord, whose worth for the Church and for the kingdom of God is expressed by saying that He did not come into being under earthly conditions as we have done, but that, independently of the world, which represents the perfectly dependent sphere of His Lordship, He is. This thought finds, in the expression of a personal preexistence of the Lord, an expression very full of contradictions indeed, but still the only one which stands at our command, which, therefore, must also have its salutary truth. The contradiction will be removed, if once a solution is found of the problem of time, in which we now view our existence....Faith is led to this, to regard the Redeemer, whom it knows as the Revelation of God, as preexistent.”—Die Religion, etc., pp. 438, 439 (1879).
Yet more positively do Bornemann, in his Unterricht im Christenthum (1891), and Kaftan, in his various works, demand a real “Godhead” of Christ, though still with much criticism of “the 395old dogma,”883883The contrast between the “old” and the “new” is expressed by Kaftan thus: “The eternal relation of Jesus Christ to the Father is in the old dogma the peculiar and whole object of the doctrine; it accords with evangelical Christianity, on the other hand, to know His Godhead in its living present relations to us and to our faith” (Brauchen wir, etc., p. 54). But this is not an absolute opposition, nor are the standpoints necessarily exclusive. and the repudiation of all speculative or metaphysical theologising.
The former says: “Faith in the Godhead of Christ is in a certain sense the sum of the whole gospel; the aim and the whole content of the Christian life. Its marks are the same as those of the Godhead of the heavenly Father.”—Unterricht, p. 91.
Kaftan’s views are most fully exhibited in his Brauchen wir ein neues Dogma? (1890), (“Do we need a New Dogma?”).
In a section of this pamphlet, under the heading, “What think says: “Man ye of Christ?” he says: “Many will object that all has no basis and no guarantee of truth, if it is not established that Jesus has His origin and the beginning of His earthly life from above, and not from below. And in this lies something, the truth of which cannot be gainsaid, At least it is in my view also a consequence we cannot refuse of faith in the Godhead of the Lord, that He, that His historical Person, stands in a connection of nature with God perfectly unique and not capable of being repeated. We know not how we can call a man ‘God,’—the word is too great and too weighty,—if we do not truly mean that the eternal God Himself has come to us in Him, and in Him converses with us....Do we believe in the Godhead of the Lord, then we believe also in His origin from above, out of God.”—Brauchen wir, etc., p. 58. Cf. the statements in his original work, Des Wesen, etc., pp. 308 ff. (1st ed.).
This movement cannot fail to go further, and work itself into clearer relations with the old dogma which it condemns.884884Wendt, on the other hand, in his Inhalt der Lehre Jesu, refuses to see in Jesus anything but an ethical Sonship (pp. 450–476).
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