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§ 12. Analogical Ideas among the Heathen.

Moreover, inferences in favour of the accounts of the miraculous conception, as well as against them, may be obtained by comparing them with the ancient myths of other religions. The spirit of the pagan mythology could not have penetrated among the Jews, and therefore cannot be assigned to explain the similarity between the Christian and pagan views. We must seek that explanation rather in the relations that subsist between mythical natural religion and historical revealed religion; between the idea, forming, from the enslaved consciousness which it sways, an untrue actualization; and the idea, grounded in truth, and developing itself therefrom into clear and free consciousness.

The truth which the religious sense can recognize at the bottom of these myths, is the earnest desire, inseparable from man’s spirit, for communion with God, for participation in the Divine nature as its true life—its anxious longing to pass the gulf which separates the God-derived soul from its original—its wish, even though unconscious, to secure that union with God which alone can renew human nature, and which Christianity shows us as a living reality. Nor can we be astonished to find the facts of Christianity thus anticipated in poetic forms (imbodying in imaginative creations the innate yet indistinct cravings of the spirit) in the mythical elements of the old religions, when we remember 18that human nature itself, and all the forms of its developement, as well as the whole course of human history, were intended by God to find their full accomplishment in Christ. But the genius of Christianity is mistaken by those who despise the simplicity of the Gospel history, and contrast it with the poetry of religion. The opposition, apparently essential to the mere natural man, between poetry, transcending the limits of the actual, and the prose of common reality, is taken away by the manifestation of Christ, and will be done away wherever Christianity passes into flesh and blood. The peculiarity of Christian ethics is indeed founded upon this.

The characteristic difference between the religion of Theism and that of the old mythology lies in this one point: that in the evangelical histories the Divine power is represented as operating immediately, and not by the interposition of natural causes; while, in the mythical conceptions, the Divine causality is made coefficient with natural agencies; the Divine is brought down to the sphere of the natural, and its manifestation is thus physically explained.3737   Baumgarten-Crusius has noticed this distinction in his Biblical Theology, p. 397; but Strauss denies it, and asserts that the expression υἱὸς Θεοῦ in Luke i., 35, is to be taken entirely in a physical sense. There is no such meaning in the passage; it predicates the terms “the holy one,” “the Son of God,” of Christ, on the ground of the special agency of the Holy Spirit in his birth. He who was conceived under such an agency must stand in a special relation to God. Not merely the Jewish mode of thinking on the subject, bus also the fact that Jesus is designated both as the Son of David and the Son of God, exclude the physical interpretation. Thus the Gospel histories, precisely as a just idea of Christ would lead us to presuppose, attribute to the creative agency of God alone the introduction of that new member of humanity through which the regeneration of the race is to be accomplished.

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