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The natural body, as the physical basis on which the spirit develops itself to its full reality, has not a purpose in and of itself; but only for the spirit, namely, to be the perfectly-answering and absolutely-subserving organ of the spirit’s relations to nature. This embraces three points:—1. The sensuous corporeality is, despite its seemingly trammeling power over the freedom of the spirit, per se absolutely good, and there is neither any thing evil in it nor is it the cause of any evil whatsoever; and as the body must, in so far as it is normal, be in harmony with the spirit and with nature, hence there is in it no sort 60of ground for any trammeling of the spiritual life—for any pain.
The moral significance of the sensuous nature, the corporeality, of man is a very important point in the Christian world-theory, and can in no wise be regarded as non-essential. It is, in fact, one among the living questions of the day,—questions which are being warmly agitated even outside of the church, and in relation to which the bearing of the Christian consciousness is, in many respects, entirely misunderstood. As early as the fourth century there infected the Christian church (partly under the prompting, or at least the countenance of non-Christian influences) a spiritualistic view of the naturally-sensuous,—a practical disesteeming of the same in comparison with the spiritual; and the Middle Ages followed in general the same tendency; the Reformation returned to the primitive Christian and biblical view. The recent rationalistic philosophy of the understanding developed, in contrast to the Middle Ages, the theoretical rather than the practical phase of spiritualism, and conceived the sensuously-corporeal life, not merely as the cause of sin, but as per se and originally a trammeling of the spiritual life,—as the real source and seat of sin, and hence as a mere transitory and soon entirely-to-be-thrown-off evil,—and interpreted, utterly erroneously, the New Testament term, σάρξ, referring it to the natural corporeality. Death, which had previously been viewed as the wages of sin, was now regarded as the emancipator from the seductive and spirit-burdening corporeal life,—as the divinely appointed normal beginning of the untrammeled life of the spirit. Sensuousness is here the not inherited, but innate, and not guilty, but guilt-generating malum originis—an evil, the origin of which was not free responsibly-sinning man, but the divine creative will itself; in getting rid of corporeality therefore man gets rid at the same time also of his (so-regarded) scarcely-imputable sinfulness. Sin consists essentially in the predominating of the sense-life over the spirit; the spirit per se would have little or no occasion for sin. The doctrine of a resurrection of a glorified body is rejected as belonging to a crude, unspiritual world-view; it is only the pure disembodied spirit that is free and 61perfect. In opposition to this view, the more recent and now spreading irreligious Materialism has exalted the sensuously-corporeal nature above the spirit, and conceived of the spirit as merely a transient force-manifestation of organized matter.
The evangelically-Christian view is neither the above spiritualistic nor this materialistic one. Christianity, though so often charged by worldlings with a one-sided spiritualism, places in fact a much higher moral worth on the corporeal nature than was ever done by heathenism. The body is destined, it is true, to absolute subserviency to the spirit; but it has precisely in this, its perfect service, also a share in the high moral significancy of the spirit,—it is not only not to be discarded as a trammeling of the spirit, but is a very essential part of the moral person. As the eye cannot say to the hand: “I have no need of thee” [1 Cor. xii, 21], neither also may the spirit thus speak to the body. As the nature-side of man, corporeality mediates the action of the spirit upon nature, so that nature becomes thrown open to the spirit as an object both of knowledge and of action. The spirit stands in living relation not only to spirit, but essentially also to nature, and virtualizes also therein its Godlikeness.
The normal relation of the body to the spirit cannot be directly inferred from the present actual state of humanity; for if we assume, even preliminarily, the possibility that the moral spirit of the race has fallen away from its harmony with God, we yet thereby render it unsafe to infer that relation from the present state of things, since from the disturbed harmony of man with God follows also the disturbance of his harmony with himself, and especially of that between spirit and body. The true original relation can be educed only, on the one hand, from Scriptural declarations and from the living example of Christ, and, on the other, from the Christian idea of creation. The simple fact that all that God creates is good, is itself proof that the corporeality created for the spirit can neither be a trammeling nor a natural source of suffering for the same. Suffering and pain are indeed means of educative chastening for man as sinful, but for the unsinful their presence would be the reversing of all moral order. In God’s good-created world, men, were they 62unfallen, would receive their moral training through manifestations of love, without the intervention of suffering and pain; to deny this would be to deny either God’s love or his power.
The sensuous corporeality in its uncorrupted primitiveness can disturb neither the moral life by really immoral appetites, nor the feeling of happiness by pains and sickness,—the aequale temperamentum qualitatum corporis (equipoise of the qualities of the body) of the Apologia (i, 17);—in that which was created good there can be no antagonism between the life of the spirit and that of the body, nor between the body and nature; but every suffering, every pain, is evidence of an antagonism, of an evil in its subject. In the Scriptures all bodily sufferings are expressly traced back to sin [Gen. iii, 16, 19; Rom. v, 12-21]; this is the only possible “theodicy” in regard to human suffering. The body of the rational spirit is under the dominion of that spirit, and not under that of unspiritual nature; and the spirit is under the power of itself, and not under that of a nature-bound body; and it is only such a spirit as is free in every respect,—one that is not rendered unfree by a hampering corporeality,—that is in a condition to fulfill the whole of moral duty. In proportion as the now actually spirit-hampering sensuous corporeality is held to be the normal condition, and to answer to the divine creative idea, in the same proportion must the moral life-task also be lowered. And when Rationalism finds the true freedom and moral emancipation of the spirit only in the freeing of the same from the body, there is at least this much of truth in the position, namely, that it is an admission that the present bondage of the spirit under the manifoldly-hampering power of the body is not in harmony with the true life of the moral spirit. But whereas the evangelically-Christian consciousness refers this antagonism in God’s world to the guilt of man, Rationalism casts the responsibility for this condition (which itself admits to be in contradiction to the moral idea) upon God, and thereby, in fact, undermines the Christian idea of God, and hence also the unconditional obligatoriness of moral duty. Ultra posse nemo obligatur (Obligation does not transcend ability); this is an ancient truth valid not only in the sphere of jurisprudence but also in that of morality.63
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