MODERN TENDENCIES IN THEOLOGICAL THOUGHT'
I Salute this great new institution, this infant Hercules, the achievements of whose cradle promise such wonders to come. The breadth of conception which determines its policy is no less admirable than the solidity of its material foundations. Whatever the term uersity may originally have meant, it has come to designate a collection of schools which teaches the whole circle of the sciences and is hospitable to all knowledge. There was a time when theology was counted the queen of the sciences, and was granted the central and commanding place among the various disciplines. Though that day is past, and the right of theology to lord it over the world is now as passionately denied as it was once passionately maintained, the greatest uersities have never done such discredit to the higher nature of man as to shut theology out. The Register of the Uersity of Chicago is witness that in your judgment theology has at least her equal claim to a hearing at the bar of enlightened reason. Her main contentions, however suspected and questioned they may be, still have power to awaken the deepest interest. Great movements in the world of faith have importance for us all. They have their influ
1 An address delivered at the Convocation of The Uersity of Chicago, October I, 1896.
ence not only upon practical life, but upon all other realms of knowledge. I trust then that I do not transcend the proprieties of this notable academic occasion when I take for my theme, "Modern Tendencies in Theological Thought."
Suffer a single word of preliminary statement with regard to the point of view from which my observations are conducted. Theology claims to be a science because it is the recognition, classification, and interpretation, by reason, of objective facts concerning God and concerning God's relations to the uerse. Theology, however, is a product of reason, not in the narrow sense of mere reasoning, but in the larger sense of the mind's whole power of knowing. Man does not consist of intellect alone, and, paradoxical as it may seem, man does not know with the intellect alone. States of the sensibility are needed to know music; a feeling for beauty is requisite to any understanding of plastic art; and the morally right is not rightly discerned except by those who love the morally right. In a similar way there are states of the affections which are necessary to know God. It is the pure in heart that see God. He that loveth God knoweth God; and this is the doctrine of Immanuel Kant: "This faith of reason," he says, "is founded on the assumption of moral tempers." If one were absolutely indifferent to moral laws, he continues, religious truths "would still be supported by strong arguments from analogy, but not by such as an absolutely skeptical bent might not be able to overcome."
Theology is based upon faith; but theology still claims to be a science, because faith is not speculation or im
agination, but the act of the integral soul, the exercise of reason in this larger sense. Faith is not only knowledge; it is the highest knowledge, because it is the insight not of one eye alone, but of the two eyes of the mind, intellect on the one hand and love to God on the other. With one eye you can see an object as flat, but if you wish to see around it and get the stereoptic effect, you must use two. It is not the theologian but the undevout astronomer whose science is one-eyed, and therefore incomplete. Faith brings us in contact with and gives us understanding of realities which to mere sense alone are as if they were not. The errors of the rationalist are the errors of defective vision. What he cannot see he declares to have no existence, and what he does see lacks truth and proportion. A woman of rank once said to Turner, the painter, that she could not see in nature such effects as he depicted upon his canvas. The artist replied: "Ah, madam, don't you wish you could?" He had a sense of beauty which she had not. So the Scripture speaks of the eyes of the heart, and intimates that they must be enlightened before we can come to a knowledge of religious truth.
Now theology is in large part the effort to justify to the one eye what was originally seen by the two; or, in other words, to find rational confirmation and explanation of the facts certified to us by faith. It is not wonderful, it is only natural, that with this two-fold origin of our religious knowledge there should be at different times a predominance of the one element over the other. Insight at one time overtops logic and logic at another time overtops insight. For this reason the history of theological thought is, like the history of thought in general, a history not of rectilinear but of spiral progress. Excessive confidence in one source of knowledge provokes revolt. Advocacy of the other goes to the extent of utter denial of the first. The next generation comes back to the element that had been denied, but grasps it now more intelligently in an organic synthesis with truth gotten from the other source. But theology stands now on a higher plane than it did before. It not only sees with both eyes, but the astigmatism that saw things double is corrected, and it is perceived that a true science is inseparable from religion.
It is, I believe, in the interest of no sect or school, but only in the interest of simple scientific truth, that I speak to-day of recent tendencies of theological thought. I call your attention to them because the element of truth in them gives to them a certain value, though the element of error needs to be eliminated if we would get from them an unqualified result of good. We must acknowledge that the exaggerations of mediaeval and of post-Reformation theology, and its pretense to a knowledge beyond what is written, have by a natural reaction given place to a questioning of much that is true and fundamental. Gnosticism has given place to agnosticism, not so much with regard to the existence of God as with regard to the person and work of Christ. The raw sailor who was ordered to steer toward the north star was found to have lost his course and to be driving his vessel toward quite a different quarter of the heavens, but his excuse was that he "had sailed by that star." Current theology for the last twenty years in Germany, and now at length in this country, has sailed by the pole star that used to guide
it,—the deity and atonement of our Lord,—and it becomes a serious question whether the star has changed its place or whether theology has gotten off its proper track.
Though this theology presents a conception of our Lord quite new to this generation, its watchword nevertheless is: "Back to Christ." This phrase expresses a revolt from the old orthodoxy, and at the same time suggests a reason for the result. Supernaturalism on the one hand and dogma on the other are held to be accretions, if not excrescences, upon original Christianity. Science, it is thought, must strip off these integuments and go back to the earlier Jesus, who was only a moral teacher and the best of men. Some would call this Jesus the historical Christ, others would call him the ideal Christ, but both classes would agree that we must give up the Christ of supernaturalism and dogma, and must go back to a Christ who can stand the tests of modern scientific investigation.
When Professor Blackie, of Edinburgh, was asked to go back for his church government to the Fathers, he replied that he had no objection to antiquity, but that he preferred to go back still farther to the grandfathers, namely, the apostles. So there is a great truth in this phrase, "Back to Christ," and the main purpose of my address is to vindicate it. I too would go back to Christ, but in a larger and deeper sense than the phrase commonly bears. I would go back to Christ as to that which is original in thought, archetypal in creation, immanent in history; to the Logos of God, who is not only the omniscient reason, but also the personal conscience and will, at the heart of the uerse. I would go back farther than to the birth of the Son of Mary, namely, to the ante-mundane life of the Son of God. I would go back to Christ, but I would carry with me and would lay at his feet all the new knowledge of his ( greatness which philosophy and history have given. I would reach the true Christ, not by a process of exclusion, but by a process of inclusion. And this I claim to be an application of the methods of science, when science possesses herself of all accessible facts and uses all her means of knowledge.
We must judge beginnings by endings and not endings by beginnings. Evolution only shows what was the nature of the involution that went before. Nothing can come out that was not, at least latently, in the germ. I must interpret the acorn by the oak, not the oak by the acorn. Only as I know the glory and strength of the mighty tree can I appreciate the meaning and value of the nut from which it sprang. "We can understand the Amoeba and the Polyp," says Lewes, "only by a light reflected from the study of man." It is only an application of this method of interpreting the germ by what comes out of it, when Christian faith sees in Christ the source of the whole modern movement toward truth and righteousness, makes his historic appearance upon earth the beginning of a spiritual kingdom of God, and so recognizes him as divine Wisdom and Love incarnate. I would go back to Christ, but I would let nature and humanity and the church tell the true nature of him from whom they all derived their being and in whom they all consist.
There is an insight of Christian love which rejects the conception of Christ as a merely ethical teacher, a CHRIST NO MERE ETHICAL TEACHER 143
teacher who made no claim to supernatural knowledge and power, and to this testimony of experts science must give heed. It is very plain that the Christ to whom recent theology bids us go back is not the Christ on whom the church has believed and who has wrought the transformations which have been witnessed in individual lives and in Christian history. It is not such a Christ as this to whom the penitent has looked for forgiveness and the sorrowing for comfort. It is not for such a Christ as this that the martyrs have laid down their lives. The insight of love has through all the ages recognized Christ as a miraculous and divine Saviour. Can that be a true theology which ignores the testimony of these centuries of Christian experience? Is it not more likely that the naive impressions of a two-eyed reason may be more trustworthy than the critical perceptions of a one-eyed intellect? I do not quarrel with efforts to bring incarnation and resurrection within the domain of a higher order. To say that "all's love" does not prevent us from saying in the same breath that "all's law." All I claim is that there is as much evidence of divine freedom as there is of human freedom; that nature does not prevent surprising and unique acts of God any more than it prevents surprising and unique acts of man; and that intellect enlightened by love cannot only recognize but defend the rationality of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, and of an atonement for the sins of men made by him who is the original author and the continuous upholder of their being.
The Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament afford trustworthy evidence that these Christian convictions have a sound historical basis; are justified by the actual teachings and events of Jesus' life; conform to the essential beliefs of the earliest followers of Christ. Of all our present Gospels, the Gospel according to Mark is acknowledged to represent most nearly the first Christian tradition. If Christ has been what the recent theology supposes, of what sort should we expect Mark's Gospel to be? Surely it should consist mainly of an account of Jesus' life; it should be devoid of miracle; it should be replete with moral teaching. But what are the facts? The Sermon on the Mount, the fullest statement of our Lord's ethical instruction, is wholly lacking in Mark's Gospel. Miracles are crowded into it so thickly that it is justly called the Gospel of the Wonder-worker. Instead of the life of Christ being the dominant thought, the reader gets the impression that Jesus is hurrying onward to his death, and that his death instead of his life is the work which he came to accomplish. If we are to determine what Christianity originally was by the testimony of the earliest Gospel, it would appear that its main characteristics were not our Lord's holy life and ethical teaching, but rather his supernatural power and his atoning death.
If it be said that even Mark gives us more than the original gospel, and that we cannot absolutely rely on anything in him which is not also found in the other synoptics, I call attention to the fact that the briefer triple tradition, vouched for by all three evangelists, contains the narratives of the healing of the leper and the paralytic, the casting out of the Gadarene demons, the raising of Jairus' daughter, the multiplying of the THE FOUR GREAT EPISTLES OF PAUL 145
loaves, the walking on the sea, and the transfiguration. All three Gospels declare Christ's power to forgive sins, his lordship over the Sabbath, his giving of his blood for his disciples. They predict his resurrection, his second coming, the eternal validity of his words, the final triumph of his kingdom. Here is dogma as well as miracle; in fact, the words deity and atonement are only the concrete statement of the impressions which these facts and utterances make upon us. Unless then the whole of this earliest study was fraud or delusion, to go back to Christ is to go back to a Being of supernatural power whose mission is not so much moral teaching as it is dying for men's sins.
In the four great Epistles of Paul we have even earlier witnesses than the Gospel according to Mark, for these Epistles were composed before Mark put the gospel story into written form. Paul indeed wrote at a time when there were still living a multitude of persons who had seen Jesus and who could contradict any erroneous account of him. Yet Paul asserts Christ's resurrection as an indubitable fact, the one fact indeed upon which Christianity itself was based. Not only is this greatest of miracles declared, but it is made comprehensible by Paul's teaching with regard to our Lord's divinity and incarnation. In Paul we have already the germs of the Logos-doctrine of John's Gospel. The Epistle to the Philippians tells us that before the incarnation Christ was in the form of God; the Epistle to the Colossians tells us that it was he through whom the uerse was made and upheld. Though the Epistle to the Hebrews is not directly from Paul's hand, it only sets forth the substance of Paul's doctrine
when it expressly gives to Christ the name of God. Nor is there in all these utterances any evidence that such doctrine was new. They declare only what was matter of common faith in the days of the apostles.
When we come to John's Gospel, therefore, we find in it the mere unfolding of truth that for substance had been in the world for at least sixty years. That the beloved disciple, after a half-century of meditation upon what he had seen and heard of God manifest in the flesh, should have penetrated more deeply into the meaning of that wonderful revelation is not only not surprising,—it is precisely what Jesus himself foretold. Our Lord had many things to say to his disciples, but then they could not bear them. He promised that the Holy Spirit should bring to their remembrance both himself and his words, and should lead them into all the truth. And this is the whole secret of what are called accretions to original Christianity. So far as they are contained in Scripture, they are inspired discoveries and unfoldings, not mere speculations and inventions. They are not additions but elucidations, not vain imaginings but correct interpretations. If the Platonizing philosophy of Alexandria assisted in this genuine development of Christian doctrine, then the Alexandrian philosophy was a providential help to inspiration. The microscope does not invent; it only discovers. Paul and John did not add to the truth of Christ; their philosophical equipment was only a microscope which brought into clear view the truth that was there already. Human reason does impose its laws and forms upon Scripture and upon the uerse, but in so doing it only interprets their real meaning.
CHRIST THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD I47
When the later theology, then, throws out the supernatural and dogmatic, as coming not from Jesus but from Paul's Epistles and from the fourth Gospel, our claim is that Paul and John are only inspired and authoritative interpreters of Jesus, seeing themselves and making us see the fullness of the Godhead that dwelt in him. If we go back to Christ, we must go back with all the light upon his being and his mission which Paul and John have given. Instead of stripping him of supernatural and dogmatic elements, we must clothe him with them, for they are his own. Without them, indeed, Christ is no Saviour. Mrs. Browning said well in "Aurora Leigh ":
The Christ himself had been no Lawgiver,
Unless he had given the Life too with the Law.
He could not give the life unless he were the Life. Those who would go back to Christ, in the sense of discarding the supernatural and the dogmatic, deprive us of the very essence of Christianity and leave it without authority or efficacy. They give us simple law instead of gospel, and summon us before a tribunal that damns us. To degrade doctrine by exalting precept is to leave men without the motive or the power to obey the precept. The Alexandrian philosophy enabled Paul and John to interpret Christ better than this; it enabled them to see in him the life of God, and so the life of man. Not only the Alexandrian philosophy, but all subsequent philosophy—yes, all science, all history, all art—has its part to play in enlarging and classifying our conceptions of him. And so we come to our proper task. Let us go back to Christ with the new understanding of him which modern thought has given us. We propose to go back from deism to Christ, the Life of Nature; from atomism to Christ, the Life of Humanity; from externalism to Christ, the Life of the Church.
Deism represents the uerse as a self-sustained mechanism, from which God withdrew so soon as he had created it, and which he left to a process of selfdevelopment. It insists on the inviolability and sufficiency of natural law as well as on the exclusively mechanical view of the world. The solar system is regarded as a sort of "perpetual motion," which God made, indeed, but which does not need God to uphold it. I do not claim that the Christian church or the Christian pulpit has consciously adopted this view, but I do claim that both church and pulpit have unconsciously been far too greatly influenced by it. We have fallen in with modes of thinking caught from the skepticism of the past century, and are only gradually coming to realize how irrational and unscriptural they are. Modern science and modern philosophy have been teaching us better. The fact of the dissipation of energy shows that the uerse can be no "perpetual motion," and that mere mechanism can never explain the forces which are presupposed in it. Force itself can never be understood except as the exercise of will. Dead things cannot act. God must be in his uerse in order to any movement or life. The living God must be the constant source of power.
Thus the thought of the world inclines more and more to the conviction that no merely mechanical explanation of the uerse suffices; that biology is more CHRIST THE LIFE OF NATURE
fundamental than physics; and that underneath physics must be psychology. The system of things cannot be conceived as a uerse without postulating an omnipresent reason and will. The Christian believer goes further than this. He instinctively identifies this omnipresent reason and will with him from whom he receives the forgiveness of sins, who dwells as a living presence in his soul, and before whom he bows in unlimited worship and adoration. In all this he only follows the lead of Scripture, for the Scripture too identifies the omnipresent, living, and upholding God, with Jesus Christ. In other words, the eternal Word through whom the uerse was created is still the life and sustainer of it, and this eternal Word took bodily form and manifested his fullness in Jesus Christ. The deism that separated nature from God and virtually denied his omnipresence is demonstrated to be error only when we recognize Christ as Immanuel, God with us. It is none other than the Creator and Upholder of the uerse that has died to save us. All nature assumes new significance now, as instinct with the same love and care that led our Lord to endure the cross. Nature is not itself God, and we are not pantheists. But nature is the constant expression of God. In it we hear the same divine voice that spake from Sinai under the Old Dispensation and that uttered the Sermon on the Mount under the New. Ruskin once wrote:
The divine mind is as visible in its full energy of operation on every lowly bank and mouldering stone as in the lifting of the pillars of heaven and settling the foundations of the earth, and to the rightly perceiving mind there is the same infinity, the same majesty, the same power, the same unity, and the same perfection manifested in the casting of the clay as in the scattering of the cloud, in the mouldering of dust as in the kindling of the day star.
But how much more sacred and beautiful does the world become when we get back to Christ, its Maker and its Life. When we recognize him therein, nature may well be called a great sheet let down from God out of heaven, wherein is nothing common or unclean. The smallest diatom that clings to the waving reed is worthy of profound study, because the wisdom and will of Christ are displayed in it, and the Milky Way is but the dust thrown aloft by the invisible chariot wheels of the infinite Son of God as he rides forth to subdue all things unto himself.
In this recognition of Christ as the Life of Nature I see the guarantee that theology and science will come to complete accord. They are but pictures of Christ's working taken from different points of view. Theology tells us the Why, while Science tells us the How. We need have no fear of evolution, for evolution is only the common method of Christ, a method, however, which does not fetter him, because his immanence in nature is qualified by his transcendence above nature. Immanence alone would be Christ imprisoned, as transcendence alone would be Christ banished. Reason and faith are not antagonistic to each other. They are working toward the same end—the discovery and unfolding of the truth as it is in Jesus. When the great tunnel of St. Gothard was constructed, workmen bored simultaneously from either side of the Alps. For nearly ten years they worked on in the dark. But in 1881 one of the parties began to hear, through the CHRIST THE LIFE OF HUMANITY I 51
lessening thickness of the intervening rock, the sounds of the hammer and the voices of the workmen from the other side. Then it was a small matter to break through the barrier and to clasp hands. It was a wonderful feat of engineering to bring together those two sets of workmen in the heart of the mountain and in the center of a tunnel nine and one-half miles long. But Christ our Lord is accomplishing a greater wonder in bringing together in himself the forces of reason and of faith, of theology and of science, that through all the Christian centuries have been blindly approaching each other. Their union is possible, simply because theology has been seeking Christ and Christ is the truth, while science has been seeking the truth and the truth is Christ.
As I proposed to go back from our modern deism to Christ the Life of Nature, so I now propose to go back from our modern atomism to Christ the Life of Humanity. Atomism, in my use of the word, may be denned as that system of thought which regards men merely as individuals, and which ignores the organic unity of mankind on the one hand, and its connection with God on the other. The New England theology is a striking illustration of the lengths to which this atomism could go. It came to regard each human being as an isolated unit, completely detached from others. The members of the race, if indeed there could be said to be a race, were separated from each other as bricks set up on end that tumble only as they are influenced from without, or as grains of sand that have no other union than that of mere juxtaposition. A sign of this method of thought was creationism, with its origination of each human soul by separate divine fiat. Another sign was the maxim that all sin consists in sinning—a denial that there can be any corporate sin, or race responsibility, or organic unity in the primal transgression. And still another sign was the declaration that each man must make his own atonement, which means that there can be no atonement at all; for, unless Christ shares our humanity and we share his, there can be no escape from our own personal guilt and penalty.
Modern science and philosophy have been gradually undermining this atomistic system. Evolution, with its doctrine of the common origin of the race; traducianism, with its declaration that soul as well as body is derived from our ancestry; sociology, with its recognition of corporate good and evil ; political ethics, with its attribution to the State of a quasi-personality; all these have been working to the advantage of Christian theology. Visiting the sins of the fathers on the children was thought to be most irrational, so long as it was seen only in Scripture; but, now that it takes the name of heredity, it is just as vigorously applauded. It once seemed harsh to say that the soul that sinneth it shall die, but when this is called the reign of law, the only danger is that even God will be denied the power to save the sinner. We have taken at least this step forward: We see that humanity is one, that it has a common origin, a common evil, a common destiny. Realism has superseded the scheme of arbitrary imputation. Humanity is a great tree which is not to be viewed from above, as a collection of separate leaves rustling in the breeze, but from beneath, as the outgrowth of one trunk and root, and as throbbing with one common life. HUMANITY LIVES ONLY IN CHRIST 153
Thus far we have gotten, but there is another step to take, and to take that step is to furnish the principle of unification to both philosophy and theology. This common life is the life of God in Christ. Humanity is not a congeries of independent units,—it is an organic whole because the life of Christ is in it, and it is a manifestation of himself. What Origen in the third century said of the uerse at large we can apply to humanity:
As our body, while consisting of many members, is yet an organism which is held together by one soul, so the uerse is to be thought of as an immense living being which is held together by one soul, the power and Logos of God.
I hardly need to point out how greatly this relation to one another and to Christ exalts our human nature. We are inter-related, because we are related to Christ, who is the life of humanity. Pelagianism saw man's dignity in isolation. It was man's declaration of independence—independence of his fellows and independence of God. But that independence was a false independence—it was sin itself, separating the creature in will and purpose from the Creator. The true dignity of man is in his union with God, and that union both natural and moral is mediated only by Christ. We are coming to see that man lives, moves, and has his being only in Christ, the Word and Life of God. The individual, so far as his activities are rational and normal, is only a part and a manifestation of a greater whole. His ideals, his conscience, his inspiration, when he is inspired, come from a higher and larger reason than his own. Freedom and holiness are found only in voluntary union with Christ. As we are one with him by creation, and receive from him a physical and natural life, so we may become one with him by re-creation, and receive from him a moral and spiritual life. In his light alone we see light, and without his life our spirits die.
This is not the place to expound the relations of my theme to atonement and to justification, though I am greatly tempted to undue expansion here. I feel assured that, when we get back to Christ and recognize him as the life of humanity, we have found the key to these deepest problems of theology. I have hope for theology when I read in a recent non-theological review1 such words as the following:
Christ is not only the goal of the race which is to be conformed to him, but he is also the vital principle which molds each individual of that race into its own similitude. The perfect type exists potentially through all the intermediate stages by which it is more and more nearly approached, and, if it did not exist, neither could they. There could be no development of an absent life. The goal of man's evolution, the perfect type of manhood, is Christ He exists and has always existed potentially, in the race and in the individual, equally before as after his visible incarnation, equally in the millions of those who do not, as in the far fewer millions of those who do, bear his name. In the strictest sense of the words he is the life of man, and that in a far deeper and more intimate sense than he can be said to be the life of the rest of the uerse.
This quotation prepares us for still another statement. As we have tried to go back from deism to Christ the Life of Nature, and from atomism to Christ the Life of
'Emma Marie Caillard, on "Man in the Light of Evolution," in the "Contemporary Review," December, 1893; pp. 873-881.
CHRIST THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH 155
Humanity, so we now propose to go back from externalism to Christ the Life of the Church. Humanity is not itself the church, although many recent theologians would almost identify the one with the other. And humanity is not itself Christ, although some would almost persuade us that there is no Christ but the gradually developing divine idea in human nature. Both of these views fail to take seriously the fact of sin. Sin is confounded with weakness or disease or ignorance, instead of being regarded as self-perversion. It is regarded as the result of heredity and environment, the survival of animal traits, the negative condition of progress, instead of being frankly recognized as willful violation of law and departure from God. In short, the blame of sin is laid upon the Creator. But sin comes not from the Creator,—it comes from the creature. It is not a manifestation of Christ, but of the individual will. It is self-chosen moral separation from Christ, the soul's true life. But the Christ, from whom the soul cannot physically and naturally separate itself, still works within to enlighten the conscience and to renew the will. There is an original grace as well as an original sin. And Pfleiderer has well said in reply to Kant's sole dependence upon the individual will:
The Christian doctrine of redemption is that the moral liberation of the individual is not the effect of his own natural power, but the effect of the divine Spirit, who, from the beginning of human history, put forth his activity as the power educating to the good, and especially created for himself in the Christian community an organ for the education of the peoples and of individuals.1
1 "Philosophy of Religion," Vol. I., p. 261.
This divine Spirit we would call Christ. The church is valuable as representing him; but when we hear the church spoken of as if it were the one organ through which Christ manifests himself, we see in this an externalism against which we feel called to protest. We would go back of the church to the life hid with Christ in God which the church only expresses. Not first the church and then Christ, but first Christ and then the church. Not church ordinances make men Christians, whether the water of baptism or the wine of the supper, but only the regenerating Spirit of Christ within the soul. Man can destroy himself, but life and holiness can come only from another and a higher than himself. While it takes only one to do evil, it takes two to do good. King Alfred a thousand years ago expressed it with laboring quaintness of phrase: "When the good things of this life are good, then they are good through the goodness of the good man that worketh good with them,—and he is good through God." And Oliver Wendell Holmes, with all his dislike for Calvinism, could write:
Our midnight is thy smile withdrawn;
Our noontide is thy gracious dawn;
Our rainbow arch thy mercy's sign;
All, save the clouds of sin, are thine.
Here are unconsciously proclaimed the doctrines of grace. And the God who cannot be tempted of evil and who tempteth no man, but who is the only source of redemption and of righteousness, is Jesus Christ Even Pfleiderer, with his exaggerated naturalism and idealism, can say:
That the divine idea of man as "the son of his love,' and of humanity as the kingdom of this Son of God, is the immanent final cause of all existence and development even in the prior world of nature. This has been the fundamental thought of the Christian gnosis since the apostolic age, and I think that no philosophy has yet been able to shake or to surpass this thought,— the corner-stone of an idealistic view of the world.1
I am not now concerned to point out the exaggerations of which this doctrine is susceptible. It is possible to make ideal humanity rather than the divine Christ the center and source of redemption. It is possible to call the whole of humanity an Immanuel and Son of God and its whole history a continual incarnation of God, while at the same time denying the actual pre-existence and the essential deity of Jesus Christ, and refusing to give to him the divine name. But the power that works in uersal humanity for good cannot be simply the power of an idea. It must be the power of a present living person, with his people according to his promise, even unto the end of the world. As it is possible to substitute for this present Christ a mere abstract and ideal conception, so it is possible to substitute for him a historical Christ, in the sense of a Christ of the past, a remembered Christ, who now exists only in the fancy or imagination of the believer, with no more present life and power than the ideal Christ of whom we have been speaking. What else, indeed, can the so-called historical Christ be but an imaginary Christ, when the history of that Christ in the Gospels is accounted mere legend and myth? Those who would take us back to this ideal Christ or to this
1 " Philosophy of Religion," Vol. I., p. 272.
historical Christ, in the senses in which they use these terms, ignore Christ's exaltation and give us only the humbled Son of God. The Christ to whom I would go back is a different Christ from either of these. He is not simply a being of the past. He is Lord of the present and Judge of the future. He is the Eternal Word of God, the King of the Ages, the Prince of Life, the Worker of all Good, the same yesterday and to-day and forever. The militant church, filled with his Spirit and moving forward to the conquest of the world, is proof that he is risen from the dead, and that all power in heaven and earth is given into his hands.
So from deism we go back to Christ the Life of Nature; from atomism to Christ the Life of Humanity; from externalism to Christ the Life of the Church. I would have you notice that I have not used the word substance, but the word life. It is a mark of progress in philosophy that it has outgrown the old scholastic terminology of substance and qualities, essence and accidents, and has gone back to the far simpler and more scriptural category of life and its powers. It is good to get back to Christ, for he is the Life. Christ has his representatives, indeed. Church and ministry, Bible and doctrine, are his servants. But the servants have sometimes taken the vineyard for themselves and have driven out the Lord. Church and ministry, Bible and doctrine, are not themselves Christ, and they cannot save. It is only Christ who is the Light, and they are worthy of reverence only because they reflect his light and lead to him. Just so far as they usurp his prerogative and claim for themselves the honor and the power that belong to him, they injure his cause and substitute
a subtle idolatry for the worship of the true and living God. A large part of the unbelief of the present day has been caused by the unwarranted identification of these symbols and manifestations with Christ himself. Neither church nor ministry, Bible nor creed, is perfect. To discover imperfection in them is to prove that they are not in themselves divine. The remedy for unbelief is the frank confession that perfection lies not in these, but in him of whom they are the finite and incomplete representatives. So Tennyson:
They are but broken lights of Thee,
And Thou, O Lord, art more than they.
From all these means and agencies our Lord draws our thought to himself. "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life"—the Way and the Truth, because he is the Life. "I am the Resurrection and the Life"—the miracle and doctrine of the resurrection are possible, only because Christ is the Life.
What then is the relation of theology to Scripture on the one hand and to philosophy on the other? Some would say that no theology is valid which is based upon either. Others would make theology a mere form of philosophy. But the solution of this problem, as of every other, is found in Christ. The grain of truth in both these views is their protest against the elevation of media to the place of source, of means to the place of ends. The fault of current evangelical theory is that it treats Scripture as the original source of truth, instead of regarding it as the mere expression of Christ, who alone is the truth. The result is that we have had a double standard, and Scripture has been played against Christ and Christ against Scripture. There can be but one standard of truth or of right, even as there can be but one standard of commercial values. Not creed, but Christ; not conscience, but Christ; not Scripture, but Christ.
Now Christ is not shut up, for the expression of himself, to Scripture. Philosophy and science are expressions of him as well as Scripture. Our rational being is his work; his life pulsates through our mental processes; our ideals, our aspirations, our sympathies, just so far as they are just and true, are his voice. Because Christ is immanent in all men, their visions of truth and beauty and righteousness reveal him who from the beginning has been the light of the world. Sin has curtailed and perverted these sources of truth, and therefore Scripture furnishes a rectifying principle, and we test our conclusions by comparing them with the law and the testimony. But that is not to say that Scripture is itself the only and the perfect source of doctrine. Even Scripture is the incomplete manifestation of One who is greater than it,—even Christ, who alone is the wisdom and the truth of God.
To the man who has wearied himself in seeking for the truth amid abstract doctrines and formal creeds, it is an unspeakable relief to find that the truth is a personal Being, and that Christ himself is the Truth. This, as I interpret his book, was the experience of Berdoe. He was a student of medicine. He became an agnostic. Entangled in the toils of unbelief, yet eager to find some satisfaction for conscience and heart, he asked a certain theological professor where he could find light. And the professor wisely said to FIRST CHRIST, THEN SCRIPTURE l6l
him: "Buy a set of Robert Browning." Browning's continual insistence that Love is the central secret of the uerse, and that this love is demonstrated in Christ, turned the medical student from an agnostic into a believer, aud his recent book entitled "Robert Browning and the Christian Faith" is his own confession of faith. It is an illustration of the extent to which Christ is entering into modern literature and is turning poets into prophets. Not first doctrine and then Christ; not first creed and then Christ; not first inspiration and then Christ; not first Scripture and then Christ; but first Christ and then Scripture, inspiration, doctrine, creed ; this is both the order of logic and the order of experience. Only Christ in us, a principle of life, makes Scripture, inspiration, doctrine, creed, intelligible; only the Truth within enables us to understand the truth without.
We need not only truth, but power. If truth be not a person, if it be not one with the life and will at the center of the uerse, then it is only vain poetizing to say:
Truth crushed to earth will rise again,
The eternal years of God are hers;
While error, wounded, writhes in pain
And dies amid her worshipers.
Truth, without God, is an abstraction and not a
power. In all moral conflicts there is an inward unsus
ceptibility, arising from the perversity of the affections
and the will, which renders the work of truth's advocate
long and arduous. When we look within and without
we shall be pessimists, unless we believe that this truth
is one with the reason and will of God which has been
manifest in Jesus Christ. Only they have a right to say that truth is mighty and will prevail who believe in the cross as God's judgment against moral evil and in the resurrection as God's pledge that this evil shall be overcome.
He who goes back to Christ as the life and power of God can have no doubt as to the issue of the struggle between good and evil, truth and error, for the secrets of all hearts are known to Christ, and he is the omnipotent force that works for good in human history. The solid globe is in his grasp, and when our prayer touches the hand that upholds the western hemisphere, the other hand can instantaneously answer that prayer in India or in Japan. His will is the electric current that throbs through the uerse, and the faith of the humblest Christian can work wonders simply because it brings the soul into connection with that inexhaustible source of power. Light and movement are possible to the church of God, because the faith of the church, like the trolley, lays hold of him in whom is all the fullness of the Godhead, and to whom all power in heaven and earth is given. And we have hope for the race, hope for a kingdom of God in human society, hope for a purified nationality and State, hope for a parliament of man and federation of the world, because our Christ is not confined to the church, but is the uersal life of humanity, the principle of all ethical and spiritual evolution, the one and only revealer of God in the uerse.