The question of the right of such a thing as Systematic Theology to exist may be regarded as a question in general philosophy or as one within the limits of the theological disciplines themselves. If the former alternative be taken, we are confronted at once with such problems as these: Does God exist? May God be known? Have we trustworthy means of learning concerning Him, His nature, His works, His purposes? In other words, all the great questions with which Apologetics busies itself immediately loom before us. Theology is the science of God, and the right of a science of God to exist will depend on a favourable solution of such problems. They are, therefore, in every sense of the words, the fundamental problems with which the theologian has to deal. If we pass them by at present, it is because of no underestimation of their supreme importance. We may fairly be allowed, however, to assume at this point, the existence and
the knowableness of God and the accessibility of credible sources of knowledge of Him—in a word, the possibility and right of a theology, generically so called. This is after all not a very large assumption to make. It amounts only to asking to be permitted to raise a question to be discussed between men professing to be Christians, instead of one in debate between the Christian and non-Christian worlds.
The question, then, that we propose to consider lies within the limits of the theological disciplines. It assumes the right of theology at large, and inquires concerning the right of Systematic Theology in particular. He who says "Systematic Theology" says theological discipline, and calls to mind its correlates in the other theological disciplines. We may not find that the distinction is kept carefully in mind by all who raise objection to the right of Systematic Theology. We shall certainly find, on the contrary, that many of the objections urged against it would, if valid, cut deeper still and destroy Christianity itself. But this is a common incident in debate. And the clear recognition at the outset of the limits of the discussion will conduce to a proper estimate of those forms of objection to Systematic Theology in the mouths of Christian men, which, if really insisted upon, would render Christianity itself nugatory. Such arguments prove so much that for Christian men they prove nothing at all. They are disproved, in other words, by the whole mass of evidence which gives us Christianity.
We are accustomed to regard theology as the queen of the sciences, and Systematic Theology as queen among the theological disciplines. But these are not days in which lofty claims are readily allowed; and we need not be surprised to discover that those which Systematic Theology advances are not permitted to pass unchallenged. It is little that her sister theological disciplines are sometimes found resisting her high pretensions and declaring that they will no longer have her to rule over them: although no more here than elsewhere is the spectacle of conflict between sisters edifying, nor more here than elsewhere is it likely that a family will add much to its strength by becoming divided against itself. Systematic Theology may look on with an amused tolerance and a certain older-sister's pleased recognition of powers just now perhaps a little too conscious of themselves, when the new discipline of Bible Theology, for example, tosses her fine young head and announces of her more settled sister that her day is over. But these words have a more ominous ring in them when the lips that frame them speak no longer as a sister's but as an enemy's, and the meaning injected into them threatens not merely dethronement but destruction. The right of Systematic Theology to reign is not the only thing that is brought into question in these days: its very right to exist is widely challenged. There are few phenomena in the theological world which are more striking indeed than the impatience which is exhibited on every hand with the effort to define truth and to state with precision the doctrinal presuppositions and contents of Christianity.
The basis of this impatience is often a mere latitudinarian indifferentism, which finds its expression in neglect of formulated truth, and is never weary of girding at what it represents as the hairsplitting ingenuity of theologians and the unprofitableness of theological discussion. But this indifference is at root dislike; and the easy affirmation that doctrines are useless passes very readily into the heated assertion that they are noxious. Now, the contemptuous smile gives way to the flush of anger, and instead of an unconcerned expression of the opinion that theology is a more or less amiable weakness, we have the passionate assertion that theology is killing religion.
A certain relief often comes with the outbreak of open war. Dead indifference is frequently more difficult to deal with than the most lively assault. This is doubtless true in the present case also. It is not hard to show the folly of theological indifferentism: but just because it is indifferent, indifferentism is apt to pay little attention to our exhibition of its folly. If we only could get it to care! But let us reduce it to ever so much absurdity—it calmly goes on in indifference. This indifference to its own refutation by no means extends, however, to its own propagation. It has developed, on the contrary, a most widespread, persistent, and earnest propagandism. We cannot escape its wooing. Turn where we may, we are met with appeals, suggestions, assaults. The air is full of it. It presides over great religious enterprises; it colours the daily life and thought of social intercourse; it entrenches itself behind philosophical barriers; it finds a voice for itself in the lightest of current literature. It may not be surprising that it is the dominant note among the purveyors to the mere amusement of an idle hour, though the seriousness is worthy of note with which it is commended to us alike in even such novels of contemplation as Lanoe Falconer's Cecilia de Noel, and such novels of adventure as Dr. Conan Doyle's Micah Clark. It certainly is not surprising that a bright Jewish writer like Mr. Zangwill1 should include among the sparkling stories which he has gathered into his King of the Schnorrers a pathetic appeal to us to recognise that all the differences which divide Jew and Gentile, Eomanist and Protestant, fade into nothingness before the spectacle of human suffering and in presence of "the eternal mystery" of death.2 But we cannot
1 Mr. Claude G. Montefiori, for example, tells us that modern "Judaism teaches that God looks to character and conduct, and to these only, in His capacity as Judge. The religious dogmas which a man happens to be taught and to believe are of no account or importance in this regard: the good life is all. 'The righteous of all nations shall have a share in the world to come ;' that, according to the Jewish divine, is the doctrine of the Talmud and of modern Judaism" (The Jevrish Quarterly Review, January 1896, p. 202; of. pp. 210, 211).
2 The story referred to is that entitled "A Tragi-Comedy of Creeds," p. 176 sq. of the volume. It is only another form of the celebrated apologue of the "Three Rings " which Lessing made the core of his Nathan the Wise, concerning which it is worth while to consult Cairns' Unbelief in the Eighteenth Century, Lecture v. ii. ad finem.
miss its significance when, in the midst of the stirrings of soul with which we read of the doings in dear Drumtochty of those men of sturdy hearts whom "Ian Maclaren" has taught us to love, we find it slowly borne in upon us that the main purpose of this evangelical minister is to wring from us the confession that the Christianity approved of Eousseau is good enough for the world.1 Much of even the professed
1 Let it not be thought that we do injustice to this delightful and profoundly religious writer. An editorial in The British Weekly for October 31, 1895, puts most strikingly just what we conceive the attitude of his stories towards Christianity to be: "A parallel of profound interest is to be found in the place assigned to religion by the older sentimentalists and the new. The position of Ian Maclaren and Mr. Barrie seems to us exactly to coincide with Rousseau's. Rousseau always professed to be religious. He thought there was a certain want of moral depth and grandeur wherever religion was left out, and he would probably have said that this was necessary, for without religion the loftiest reaches of conduct were a form of insanity. At the close of his life Rousseau rejoiced that he had remained faithful to the prejudices of his childhood, and that he had continued a Christian up to the point of membership in the Universal Church. The words in italics precisely describe the religion that is glorified in Ian Maclaren's books. He is not unjust to Evangelicalism, and one of his noblest characters is Burnbrae, a Free Church elder. But he lingers with most love and understanding on the Moderates—Drumsheugh, Dr. Davidson, Dr. Maclure, and James Soutar. Maclure, who has the best means of knowing, declares that if there be a judgment, and books be opened, there will be one for Drumtochty, and the bravest page in it will be Drumsheugh's. There is very little sympathy here for modernity; the ministers who talk about two Isaiahs are laughed at. But there is just as little sympathy for extreme Evangelicalism. Plymouthism is treated as if it were hypocrisy of the grossest kind, and high Calvinism as almost too monstrous to be mentioned. The particular forms in which the religion of revivals expresses itself are described with evident dislike. All this is, of course, Ian Maclaren's limitation. We should not care to lend him our cherished volumes of the Earthen Vessel. Still the heart of things is here. 'Say the Name,' that is enough—the name of Jesus, in which every knee shall
literature of religion and its reflection on platform and in too many pulpits enforces the same lesson. When we read good Georgie Hesperton's description of the " conference at Honchester," we find ourselves recalling many another conference which it would fit without the need of her finessing. "Of course "—so runs her picture—" there was a tremendous crowd on the day when the Imperial High Commissioner gave his address, and everybody was so delighted with it. I am afraid I do not exactly remember what his subject was, but I know he said it seemed probable that nothing in particular was true, but that people could go on believing whatever they liked, which did just as well. And all the bishops said it was perfectly satisfactory. I hear his address is to be printed as a sort of tract, and no doubt you will read it; it was very earnest and convincing."1 The whole mass of popular religious literature seems surcharged with attacks on " Intellectualism" and "Dogmatism," and glowing with highly-coloured portraitures of "good Christians" of every name and no name, of every faith and no faith, under each of which stands the
bow. Beyond that nothing is needed to create the noblest character. Mr. Barrie does not glorify Moderatism, but, like Ian Maclaren, he declines a dogmatic religion, and is gently apologetic or humorous when speaking of what goes beyond the essence. Therein he differs from George Macdonald, whose books are full of theologoumena, and have suffered in consequence. But they side with Rousseau, who was wont to insist that the Christianity which appeals only to the moral conscience is alone comformable to the Spirit of Christ. Conduct, character—these were with him and are with them the great results and tests of true religion."
1 Jane Barlow's Maureen's Fairing, p. 148.
legend written that since good Christians arise under every form of faith or no faith alike, it cannot be of much importance what men believe. "Let others wrangle over this or that," is the common cry—" it is all of no consequence: let us leave them to their disputes and for ourselves be Christians." The late Professor John Stuart Blackie's lines quite embody the sentiment of the hour—
'' Creeds and confessions? High Church or the Low?
I cannot say; but you would vastly please us
If with some pointed Scripture you could show
To which of these belonged the Saviour, Jesus.
I think to all or none. Not curious creeds
Or ordered forms of churchly rule He taught,
But soul of love that blossomed into deeds,
With human good and human blessing fraught.
On me nor priest nor presbyter nor pope,
Bishop nor dean, may stamp a party name;
But Jesus with His largely human scope
The service of my human life may claim.
Let prideful priests do battle about creeds,
The church is mine that does most Christ-like deeds."
The inconsequence of this reasoning is, of course, colossal, and the line of thought that is thus lightly adopted, when pushed to its legitimate conclusion, would obviously banish Christianity from the earth. For if doctrine be of no value, because some, who theoretically deny or neglect it, nevertheless exhibit the traits of a good life, what truth will remain to which we can attach importance? It would not be difficult to discover good men who deny severally every doctrine of even the most attenuated Christianity; and we should soon find ourselves forced to allow that not only those doctrines which divide Christian sects, but those also which constitute the very elements of Christianity, are of no real moment. But let us ask a brilliant young French theologian to make this clear to us. Says M. Henri Bois:1—
'' Doctrine is of little importance, what is of importance is life, we are told. But, it being admitted that life is the essential thing—a matter which is as incontestable as it is uncontested, and which, when it is admitted, saves us from Intellectualism in the only censurable sense of the word—the question is precisely whether certain doctrines are not necessary for the production and maintenance of a certain life. Doctrines are not life! Assuredly not. No one ever said they were. But does it follow from that that they are not indispensable to life 1 Doctrines are not the cause of life! On that we are agreed. Does it follow from that that they are not one of the conditions of life?
"Here recourse is had to a notable argument. Such and such a great Christian is adduced who does not profess some doctrines which we profess. And at once the consequence is drawn to the uselessness of these doctrines. You see this scholar, as pious as he is learned: he rejects these doctrines, and that does not prevent him from being pious. Therefore these doctrines serve no purpose—or else, you must refuse to see a Christian in your brother, you must anathematise him, condemn him.
"It will be wise to observe whither this argument leads. Apply it well, and it will not be easy to discover what it will leave subsisting: for, after all, who of us does not know rationalists who lead a life as moral and spiritual as some evangelicals—sometimes more so? Therefore, since it is conduct, life, sentiment, which is of supreme importance, there is no need to be evangelical. More than that, who of us does not know free-thinkers, unbelievers, superior in morality at least, if we hesitate to say in spirituality, to such and such Christians? Therefore, there is no need to be a Christian.
"'Well, yes,' our honourable opponents will reply, 'there is no need to be a Christian, in the sense you mean; there is no need to be evangelical in the sense you mean—that is, in the doctrinal sense.
1 Le Bogme Grec (Paris, 1893), pp. 40-42. We shall have occasion during the course of this paper to draw very largely from two admirable books by Prof. Henri Bois—his Le Bogme Oree and his De la Connaissance Eeligieuse. Let us express here our appreciation of the value of these works as well as our indebtedness to them. 2
True religion is life.'—And then, if you press them, they will tell you with a fine air that they know perfectly what they mean by 'life,' however little you may believe it. Well, tell us, then, what it is, if you know it, we reply; communicate your happy knowledge to us !—But take good care! If you open your mouth you will become at once Intellectualists—Intellectualists on your own account!
"This exaggerated aversion to Intellectualism leads logically to rendering incapable of transmission and to isolating in the silence of the individual consciousness, a life which doctrines alone have rendered possible, and which without them would not exist."
In one word, the whole latitudinarian position is built up upon the fancy that the product of the religious sentiment is Christianity; and it is destined to a rude awakening whenever it discovers that religious sentiment is the natural possession of man, and performs its appropriate work in every atmosphere, and under the tutelage of every faith. The fetish-worshipper, no less than the vested priest serving at some gorgeous altar at Eome or Moscow, possesses his religious nature, and may through it attain a high degree of religious development. If, then, we take the ground that nothing is needed but a deep religious sentiment and its fruits, we have cut up Christianity, in any intelligible sense, by the roots. So poor Francis W. Newman found when in his half-taught zeal he stood before the Moslem carpenter at Aleppo,1 and his heart
1 The striking scene is described in Phases of Faith (London, 1870), p. 32. The reader of Mr. James Macdonald's Religion and Myth (London, 1893) will feel that Mr. Macdonald has gone through some such experience, in a less acute form, as Mr. Newman's. He, too, has discovered that even the lowest savages have a religious consciousness, and exercise religious faith and enjoy religious certitude, and is led by it to a theory of the origin of Christianity which amounts to pure naturalism. Cf. J. Macbride Sterrett's Season and Authority in Religion for some good remarks on this point.
The Right of Systematic Theology 2 3 •
was forced to recognise in him a man of deeper religious nature and of higher religious attainments than he himself possessed—he who had come to teach to him and such as him the "true religion." With the premises which had taken possession of his mind, what could he do but what he did—give distinctive Christianity up? What, after all, is peculiar to Christianity is not the religious sentiment and its working, but its message of salvation—in a word, its doctrine. To be indifferent to doctrine is thus but another way of saying we are indifferent to Christianity.
It is, of course, easy to say that in reasoning thus we have pressed the latitudinarian idea to an unwarrantable extreme. It is quite possible to look with indifference upon doctrinal differences within the limits of essential Christianity, without thinking of no consequence those great fundamental truths which constitute essential Christianity. But the answer is equally easy. To refuse to follow the latitudinarian idea to this extreme is to abandon altogether the principle of the uselessness, the indifference of doctrines. If there be some doctrines to which, as Christian men, we cannot be indifferent, then it is no longer true that doctrines as such are matters of indifference. There may be some doctrines which we esteem as less important than others, or even as of no importance in the framing of a specifically Christian life; but so long as there remain others, the maintenance of which we esteem essential to the very existence of Christianity, our attitude towards doctrine as such cannot be that of amused contempt. The very centre of the debate is nowshifted. And so little can doctrine be neglected on this new ground, that a serious attempt becomes at once imperative to distinguish between essential and unessential doctrines. Men may conceivably differ as to the exact point at which the line of discrimination between these classes should be drawn. But the very attempt to draw it implies that there are doctrines which are useful, important, necessary. And the admission of this yields the whole point in debate. If there be any doctrines, however few, which justly deserve the name of essential doctrines, and stand at the root of the Christian life as its conditions, foundations, or presuppositions, it surely becomes the duty as well as the right of the Christian man to study them, to seek to understand them in themselves and in their relations, to attempt to state them with accuracy and to adjust their statement to the whole body of known truth—in a word, the right and function of Systematic Theology is vindicated.
The extent of this Systematic Theology may remain an open question; but a content is already vindicated for it, and a place and function among the necessary theological disciplines, so soon as the conception of "essential doctrines," however limited, once emerges into thought. He who goes only so far, in a word, becomes at once an "Intellectualist" in the only sense in which the Systematic Theologian is an Intellectualist—that is, he recognises that Christianity is truth as well as life, and as such addresses itself to the intelligence of men, and has claims upon their belief as well as upon their obedience. He becomes at once a " Dogmatist" in the only sense in which the Systematic Theologian is a Dogmatist—that is, he recognises the objective validity of a body of religious truth and its imperative claims upon all for acceptance, and is therefore prepared to press this truth upon the attention of all alike as the condition of their religious life. In fine, he who only goes so far becomes in spite of himself, himself a Systematic Theologian: and once having come to look upon any doctrines as "essential," and to attempt to set them forth in an orderly manner, he will hardly fail gradually to enlarge the circle of truths which he will admit to his systematic treatment. Let us say that only the " essential" doctrines are to be included: but surely, in a systematic treatment of these, we cannot exclude the statement and development of those other truths which, while not "essential" in and of themselves, are yet necessary to the integrity and stability of these "essential " doctrines, and so are, in a secondary and derived sense, themselves "essential." And so on in the tertiary and quaternary rank. Thus the body of doctrine will grow until it will be hard if we do not find ourselves at last in possession of a pretty complete Systematic Theology.
It would seem, then, that a mere doctrinal indifferentism cannot sustain itself as over against the claims of Systematic Theology. If the right of theology to exist is to be denied, it must be on some more positive ground than that which merely affirms that doctrines lack all significance. It is only when the widely diffused dislike of doctrines takes the more directly polemic form of declaring them not merely useless but actively noxious, that the real controversy begins. And of late this stronger assertion has become exceedingly common. Christ, we are told, did not come to teach a doctrine or to institute a hierarchy; He came to found a religion. To His simple followers, to whose pious hearts His holy living communicated a deep religious impulse, the elaborate ecclesiastical machinery of Eome was no more foreign than the equally elaborate theological constructions of the dogmatists. In their toils faith is imprisoned, straitened, petrified: if it is ever to regain its freedom and flexibility, its primitive fecundity and power of reproduction, it must be stripped of all the artificial envelopes in which it has been swathed by the perverse ingenuity of men, and permitted once more to work on men in its naked simplicity, as faith and not dogma. Theology is killing religion, we are told; and the hope of the future rests on our killing theology first that religion may live.
There are naturally many forms taken by this somewhat violent hostility to doctrine — or to "dogma," as its opponents like to call it — and many grounds on which it seeks to support itself. No doubt it is often only the expression of an innate antipathy to clear thinking and of a not very rare incapacity for truth—a sort of colour-blindness to truth. The late Mr. James Anthony Froude, for example, suffering from what Mr. Andrew Lang speaks of as his "lamented and constitutional inaccuracy,"1 exhibited a similar antipathy to formulated truth in the spheres in which he dealt. "Truth itself," he wrote, " becomes distasteful to me when it comes in the shape of a proposition. Half the life is struck out of it in the process." 2 How much more trustworthy he would have been as a historian if he could only have had more taste for exact fact! There are many theologians to whom truth in propositional form is in like manner distasteful, and half, or all, its life seems dissipated, for the same reason—because they too are afflicted with a lamentable and constitutional inaccuracy. No wonder that upon such minds exact statement seems to act like an irritant, and theology appears to be an enemy of religion. Men like these must be classified as deficients; and
1 "In Mr. Froude's wine there were no dregs. To the last he had the same captivating power, despite his lamented and constitutional inaccuracy " (Andrew Lang, The Cosmopolitan (magazine), September 1895, p. 576).
2 "The Fortnightly Review, about which you ask, is an advanced radical publication. Many good men write in it. But it is too doctrinaire for my taste. The formulas of advanced English politicians are as stiff and arrogant as the formulas of theology. Truth itself becomes distasteful to me when it comes in the shape of a proposition. Half the life is struck out of it in the process" (J. A. Froude, letter to Gen. Cluseret, in The Independent, August 8, 1895).
we can no more yield the right of theology in obedience to their outcries than the physicist can consent to refuse all discussion of colour to please the colour-blind, or the musician all study of harmony lest he should bore those who have no ear for music. Men who have no faculty for truth will always consider an appeal to truth an evil. But the assault upon doctrinal Christianity is far from being confined to those whom we must believe to possess reason, indeed, for they too are men, but who seem very chary of using it. On the contrary, it is being carried on to-day by the very leaders of Christian thought—by men whose shining intellectual gifts are equalled only by their trained dialectical skill and the profundity of their theological learning. "Theology is killing religion" is not merely the wail of those who are incapable of theology and would nevertheless fain preserve their religion. It is the reasoned assertion of masters of theological science whose professed object is to preserve Christianity in its purity and save it from the dangers which encompass it in this weak and erring world. It is a position, therefore, which deserves our most respectful consideration, and if we still feel bound to refuse it, we owe it to ourselves to give a reason for the faith that is in us.
There are two chief points of view from which the right of doctrinal Christianity is denied by leading theologians of our day. The watchword of one of these schools of thought is that Christianity consists of facts, not dogmas: that of the other is that Christianity consists of life, not doctrine. Let us see in turn what is meant by these phrases and what is to be said with reference to the modes of conceiving Christianity which they represent.
Christianity, then, we are told, consists of facts, not of dogmas. What we rest upon for our salvation is not a body of theories, intellectual constructions, speculative ideas, but a series of mighty acts of God, by which He has entered into the course of human history and wrought powerfully for the salvation of our lost race. Thus, He chose for Himself a people in Abraham and gradually moulded them into a matrix in which salvation might be prepared for all the world; and when the fulness of time had come, He descended into their midst in the person of His Son, was born of a woman, lived and suffered and died for our salvation, and having died for our sins, rose again for our justification, and now ever lives to make intercession for us. This—this mighty series of divine acts—this is Christianity: by the side of these facts all human theories are only so many impertinences. It is not by any theory of the person of Christ that we are saved—it is by the great fact of the incarnation: it is not by any theory of the atonement that we are saved—it is by the great fact of Christ's death for us; it is not by any theory of His heavenly high-priesthood that we are saved, but by the great fact that He sits at the right hand of the Majesty on High and reigns over all things for His Church. Let us, then, renounce all our wire-drawn theories and take our stand once for all upon these great facts which really constitute Christianity. Christianity consists of these facts, not of dogmas: and it is the sole business of the theologian to establish these facts, not to invent dogmas.1 In this, moreover, he will be imitating the writers of Scripture: for "the Bible Bimply recounts the facts without pretending to the least shadow of authority."2
The truth that underlies these representations is very obvious; and we cannot wonder that they have exercised an influence far beyond the limits of the class of thinkers whose watchword they are intended to justify. Accordingly nothing has become more common of late than an appeal from the doctrines of Christianity to its facts. All revelation is reduced to the patefaction of God in the series of His great redemptive acts, to the exclusion—entire or partial— of revelation by word, which is sometimes represented, indeed, as in the nature of the case impossible. Churches are exhorted to lay aside their " theological" creeds and adopt "religious" ones—that is, creeds which consist in the mere enumeration of the great facts which lie at the basis of Christianity, the advocates of this procedure usually having something like the Apostles' Creed in mind. In still broader
1 "La theologie doit peutetre se bonier a constater des faits" (Stapfer, Jesus de Nazareth et le diveloppeweiit de sa pensie sur luimime, p. 156; quoted by H. Bois, Le Dogme Grec, p. 225).
2 "La Bible raconte simplement les faits, sans pr^tendre a la moindre ombre d'autorite"" (AstW, in Evangile et LiberU, Dec. 26, 1890; quoted by H. Bois, De la Connaissance Religieuse, p. 342).
circles, it has become very customary to distinguish between what is called the fact and the theory when dealing with special doctrines, and to profess belief in the fact of sin, of the incarnation, of the atonement, and the like, while despairing of discovering any tenable explanation of them. A recent example of this now fashionable mode of dealing with fundamental elements of Christianity may be found in the essay on the Atonement which was contributed to the volume called Faith and Criticism, by Dr. E. F. Horton, of London—a brilliant preacher, who, however, must not be taken too seriously as a theologian.1 Such a mental attitude, as Dr. James Denney points out,2 in a striking passage in the lectures which he
1 Faith and Criticism. Essays by Congregationalists. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1893. V. The Atonement, pp. 188, 222, 237: "It is the object of the present essay to advocate this sobriety of assertion in dealing with the question of the atonement. It may be a duty on the one hand to maintain that the death of Christ is the means by which sin is pardoned and reconciliation between God and man effected; and yet, on the other, to own that no real explanation of it can be found." "The New Testament has no theory about the atonement . . . nor is the case fully stated when we deny that the New Testament contains a theory; there is a strong reason for suspecting that the several New Testament writers . . . differed," etc.
2 Studies in Theology, p. 106: "In spite, too, of confident assertions to the contrary," he adds, "this distinction of fact and theory—this pleading for the fact as opposed to the theory—is very far from finding support in the New Testament. For my own part, I have no doubt the New Testament does contain a theory, or, as I should prefer to say, a doctrine of the atonement," etc. One may suspect that Dr. Denney had precisely Mr. Horton's essay in mind in penning this portion of his discussion; certainly he traverses with very great convincingness the contentions and illustrations alike put forward by Dr. Horton. The statement in the late Dr. Henry B. Smith's System of Christian Theology, p. 460, may well be compared. "When we say
recently delivered before the students of the Chicago Theological Seminary, is certainly not easy to understand, and cannot possibly be final: but it is an attitude in which not only do many acquiesce to-day, but some even seem to glory. Dr. John Watson, for example, in a delightful "little book on religion," in which, like Mr. Horton, he emphasises the importance of Christ's death for salvation, yet seems to take considerable pride and to find great comfort in the idea that it is entirely inexplicable how His death could make for salvation. "Had one questioned the little band that evening,"—the evening of the last supper,—he says in his customarily striking way, "how Christ's death would be of any good unto them or the world, then it is probable that St. John himself had been silent. Much has been written since by devout scholars, and some of their words have helped and some have hindered, and the reason of the great mystery of sacrifice has not yet been declared. . . . There is one modern crucifixion which is perfectly satisfying because it leaves everything beyond Jesus and the soul to the imagination. It is a space of black darkness, with some dim strokes of light, and as you try to pierce the gloom they suggest the form of a crucified Man. The face is faintly visible and a ray from the forehead striking downwards reveals a kneel
that the death of Christ was instead of our punishment, and that it made expiation for our sins, we are not stating theories but revealed facts. . . . We do not suppose that anything which can properly be called a theory is involved in any one of the points that we have presented in respect to the doctrine of sacrifices."
ing figure at the foot of the cross. Within the secret place of this mystery the human soul and Jesus meet and become one."1 Is it, then, indeed true that Christianity loves darkness more than light, and thrives best where it is least understood?
If, indeed, it were necessary to distinguish, as sharply as this theory bids us, between the doctrines and facts of Christianity, there is none who would not find the essence of Christianity in the facts. The fact of the incarnation, the atonement, the heavenly high-priesthood—here undoubtedly is the centre of Christianity, about which its doctrines revolve. And if it were possible not merely to distinguish between them, but to separate the doctrines from the facts, then of course it would be to the facts alone that we could flee. We may cherish doubts as to the value of facts without their interpreting doctrines, but we cannot but be sure that doctrines to which no facts correspond can be nothing other than myths—let us say it frankly, lies. It is to the force of this suggestion that the representations under discussion owe their influence. But the antithesis thus drawn is a wholly false one. No one would contend that Christianity consists in doctrines as distinguished from
1 The Upper Room. London, 1895, p. 75. "A mystic," says Dr, Watson, admiringly (p. 60), "gathers truth as a plant absorbs the light, in silence and without effort." It is certainly easy enough to refuse to make the requisite effort to obtain the truth : and were it only indubitable that thus the truth would be absorbed, the pathway to knowledge would be royal indeed. It seems to be the characteristic of our modern mystics, however, to stop short of obtaining the truth and to proclaim it to be unnecessary, if indeed not positively undesirable.
facts, far less that it consists in doctrines wholly unrelated to facts. But neither ought anyone contend that it consists in facts as distinguished from doctrines, and far less that it consists in facts as separated from doctrines. What Christianity consists in is facts that are doctrines, and doctrines that are facts. Just because it is a true religion, which offers to man a real redemption that was really wrought out in history, its facts and doctrines entirely coalesce. All its facts are doctrines and all its doctrines are facts. The incarnation is a doctrine: no eye saw the Son of God descend from heaven and enter the virgin's womb: but if it be not a true fact as well, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins. The resurrection of Christ is a fact: an occurrence in time level to the apprehension of men and witnessed by their adequate testimony: but it is at the same time the cardinal doctrine of Christianity. Dr. James Orr, in his noble Kerr Lectures, brings out the truth here in a most satisfactory manner.1 He says:—
"Christianity, it will be here said, is a fact-revelation—it has its centre in a living Christ and not in a dogmatic creed. And this in a sense is true. . . . The gospel is no mere proclamation of 'eternal truths,' but the discovery of a saving purpose of God for mankind, executed in time. But the doctrines are the interpretation of the facts. The facts do not stand blank and dumb before us, but have a voice given to them and a meaning put into them. They are accompanied by living speech, which makes their meaning clear. When John declares that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh and is the Son of God, he is stating a fact, but he is none the less enunciating a doctrine.
1 Cf. Dr. James Orr's The Christian View of God and the World, p. 25.
When Paul affirms, 'Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,' he is proclaiming a fact, but he is at the same time giving an interpretation of it."
It will be of use to us to consider for a moment the effect of the sharp antithesis which is drawn in the declaration that Christianity does not consist in dogmas, but in facts. What is a fact that is wholly separated from what is here called "dogma"? If doctrines which stand entirely out of relation to facts are myths, lies, facts which have no connection with what we call doctrine could have no meaning to us whatsoever. It is what we call doctrine which gives all their significance to facts. A fact without doctrine is simply a fact not understood. That intellectual element brought by the mind to the contemplation of facts, which we call "doctrine," "theory," is the condition of any proper comprehension of facts. It constitutes the elements of what the Herbartians call "apperception," and by means of it alone is a fact capable of passing into our minds as a force and in any measure influencing our thought and life. And therefore Dr. James Denney, in the passage to which we have already had occasion to allude,—where he is expressing his surprise that anyone should seem to glory and triumph in inability to discover the theory of a fact fundamental to Christianity—adds with the most complete justice:1—
'' A fact of which there is absolutely no theory is a fact which stands out of relation to everything in the universe, a fact which has no con
1 Studies in Theology, p. 106. Cf. the remark of Coleridge, in Anima Poetoe, p. 125: "'Facts—stubborn facts! None of your theory!' A most entertaining and instructive essay might be written on this text, and the sooner the better. Trace it from the most nection with any part of our experience; it is a blank unintelligibility, a rock in the sky, a mere irrelevance in the mind of man. There is no such thing conceivable as a fact of which there is no theory, or even a fact of which we have no theory; such a thing could not enter our world at all; if there could be such a thing, it would be so far from having the virtue in it to redeem us from sin that it would have no interest for us and no effect upon us at all."
So closely welded are those intellectual elements— those elements of previous knowledge, or of knowledge derived from other sources—to facts as taken up into our minds in the complex act of apperception, that possibly we have ordinarily failed to separate them, and consequently, in our worship of what we call so fluently " the naked facts," have very little considered what a bare fact is, and what little meaning it could have for us. M. Naville has sought to illustrate the matter by an incident from his own experience. Even, he says1—
absurd credulity—e.g. in Fracastorius' De Sympathid, cap. i., and the Alchemy Book—even to that of your modern agriculturists, relating their own facts and swearing against each other like ships' crews. Oh! it is the relations of the facts—not the facts, friend!" From the point of view of the historian, Professor Woodrow Wilson (The Century Magazine, September 1895, pp. 787, 788) speaks to somewhat the same effect: "' Give us the facts, and nothing but the facts,' is the sharp injunction of our age to its historians. Upon the face of it, an eminently reasonable requirement. To tell the truth, simply, openly, without reservation, is the unimpeachable first principle of all right living; and historians have no licence to be quit of it. Unquestionably they must tell us the truth." . . . But "an interesting circumstance thus comes to light. It is nothing less than this, that the facts do not of themselves constitute the truth. The truth is abstract, not concrete. It is the just idea, the right revelation of what things mean. It is evoked only by such arrangements and orderings of facts as suggest meanings."
1 Le timoignage du Christ et Vunite du monde Chritien, pp. 293, 294; quoted by H. Bois, De la Connaissance Religieuse, p. 343.
"The things which we ourselves see have their meaning and their import only through the adjunction of ideas taken upon testimony. One day, at Paris, I saw on the quay which runs alongside the Tuileries, the Emperor Napoleon m. pass by in a cabriolet which he himself was driving. Here is a fact which I verified for myself. But let us reduce this fact to the elements of personal perception, separated from the ideas which came from another source. I saw a large building: how did I know that this building bore the name of the Tuileries, and that it was the residence of the sovereign of France? By the testimony of others. I saw a man pass: how did I know that this man was called Napoloon m. and that he was the Emperor of the French. By testimony. If I reduce the fact to the data of my personal perceptions, here is what is left: I saw, near a large building, a man who drove a cabriolet—nothing more. The facts that pass under our eyes have their meaning and value only by the intervention of ideas which we owe to the affirmations of our fellows."
If, then, we are to affirm that Christianity consists of facts, wholly separated from those ideas by which these facts obtain their significance and meaning and which it pleases us to call " dogmas "—what shall we do but destroy all that we know as Christianity altogether? The great facts that constitute Christianity are just as " naked" as any other facts, and are just as meaningless to us as any other facts, until they are not only perceived but understood, i.e. until not only they themselves but their doctrinal significance is made known to us. The whole Christianity of these facts resides in their meaning, in the ideas which are involved in them, but which are not independently gathered from them by each observer, but are attributed to them by those who interpret them to us—in a word, in the doctrines accompanying them. For what are the great facts that constitute Christianity? Strip them free from " dogma," from that interpretation which has transformed them into doctrine, and what have we left at the most but this: that once upon a time a man was born, who lived in poverty and charity, died on the cross and rose again. An interesting series of facts, no doubt, with elements of mystery in them, of the marvellous, of the touching; but hardly in their naked form constituting what we call Christianity. For that they require to receive their interpretation. This man was the Son of God, we are told; He came in the flesh to save sinners; He gave Himself to death as a propitiation for their sins; and He rose again for their justification. Now, indeed, we have Christianity. But it is not constituted by the " bare facts," but by the facts as interpreted, and indeed by the facts as thus interpreted, and not otherwise. Give the facts no interpretation, and we cannot find in them what we can call Christianity; give them a different interpretation, and we shall have something other than Christianity. Christianity is constituted, therefore, not by the facts, but by the "dogmas"—i.e. by the facts as understood in one specific manner. Surely it is of importance, therefore, to the Christian man to investigate this one Christian interpretation of the great facts that constitute Christianity: and this is the task of Systematic Theology.
We must not fail to emphasise that the conclusion at which we have thus arrived implies that there lies at the basis of Christianity not only a series of great redemptive facts, but also an authoritative interpretation of those facts. Amid the perhaps many interpretations possible to this series of facts, who will help us to that one through which alone they can constitute Christianity? In the ordinary affairs of life we are enabled to arrive at the true interpretation of the facts that meet us, by the explanations of those who have knowledge of their meaning and who have a claim upon our belief when they explain them to us. For example, in the instance cited from M. Naville, he could be assured that the man he saw driving the cabriolet was Napoleon 111. by anyone whose knowledge of the Emperor he could trust. These great facts of Christianity—is there anyone who has knowledge of their meaning and who has a right to our belief when he explains them to us? who, in a word, has authority to declare to the world what this series of great facts means, or in other words, what Christianity is? It is evident that we are face to face here with an anxious question. And it means nothing less than this, that the existence of a doctrinal authority is fundamental to the very existence of Christianity. We find that doctrinal authority ultimately, of course, in Christ. In Him we discern one in whose knowledge of the meaning of the great series of Christian facts in which He was chief actor, we can have supreme confidence; and to whom, with the apostles whom He appointed to teach all nations, we may safely go for the interpretation of the Christian facts. In the teachings of Christ and His apostles, therefore, we find authoritative Christian doctrine— "dogma" in the strictest sense of the word: and this "dogma" enters into the very essence of Christianity.1
But we are told, as may perhaps be remembered, that the Bible does not contain " dogmas." M. Asti6, for example, has allowed himself to affirm, in a passage already quoted, that "the Bible simply recounts the facts without pretending to the least shadow of authority." It is a question of fact; and every Bible reader may be trusted to resolve it for himself.2 Obviously the Bible does not give us a
1 Cf. M. Henri Bois, Le Dogme Grec, pp. 110-117: "Christianity is, therefore, without being this exclusively, a combination of facts and ideas. . . . The fact does not suffice. The fact by itself is nothing, serves no purpose. That it should avail anything, there is needed the interpretation of the fact, the idea. . . . Who will tell us in what the true interpretation of the Christian fact consists? . . . Jesus Christ Himself and those whom He Himself chose, prepared and inspired to make Him known to the world. . . . The mission of the apostles was to recount and interpret the Christian facts to the world. ... If God wrought certain definite acts for the whole of humanity together, it seems to us altogether natural that He should have given also, in a definite fashion, by His Son, Jesus Christ, Author of these acts, and by the apostles, witnesses of these acts, formed in the school of Christ and penetrated by His Spirit, an interpretation of these acts, valid for all humanity. God acted once for all, in a definite fashion: but the first essential sense of this act does not change, since the act itself, the past act, remains accomplished, immutable. There are therefore definitive ideas by the side of definitive facts. . . . We affirm, therefore, that the writings of the witnesses of the Christian facts, their accounts and their interpretations, have authority."
2 Prof. Henry Wace, in his Bampton Lectures on The Foundations of Faith (p. 121), neatly exhibits the nature of the frequent assertion that the Bible contains no "dogmas" in a characteristic incident or two. "It is the favourite contention of those who impugn the faith of the Church," he says, "that the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is purely moral and independent of theology. 'It is undeniable,'
bare list of "naked facts"; but a rich account and development of significant facts held in a special meaning—of facts understood and interpreted. With the interpretation of these facts, rather than with their mere record, a large part of the Bible is solely employed, as, for example, the epistles of Paul: and
says the author of Supernatural Religion, with characteristic strength of assertion, 'that the earliest teaching of Jesus recorded in the gospel which can be regarded as in any degree historical is pure morality, almost, if not quite, free from theological dogmas. Morality was the essence of His system ; theology was an afterthought.' Two pages later this writer states with perfect correctness, but with complete unconsciousness of inconsistency, that Christ's system 'confined itself to two fundamental principles, love to God and love to man.' But is there no theology involved in teaching love to God? No theology in the belief that God is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, and that in spite of all the difficulties, perplexities, and cruelties of the world, He is worthy of the whole love and trust of our hearts! Why, this is the very theological problem which has racked the heart and brain of man from the dawn of religious thought to the present moment. On these two commandments—to which; in the curious phrase just quoted, Christ's system is said to have ' confined itself,' as though they were slight or simple—on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. They are the germ from which has sprung the whole theological thought of the Christian Church, and to which it returns; and no theologian can wish to do more than to deepen his own apprehension of them and to strengthen their hold upon others. With similar inconsistency, M. Rdnan declares that 'we should seek in vain for a theological proposition in the gospel,' and yet states elsewhere that 'a lofty notion of the Divinity was in some sort the germ of our Lord's whole being.' 'God,' he adds, 'is in Him; He feels Himself in communion with God; and He draws from His heart that which he speaks of His Father.' These are strange inconsistencies. But there is nothing, perhaps, more fitted to warn a thoughtful mind, at the threshold of sceptical speculations, of their essential shallowness, than the manner in which the vastest conceptions and the profonndest problems are thus passed over, as it were, dryshod by such writers as have just been quoted." The fine passage on pp. 194-198 on the influence of doctrine on life should also be read.
even when the immediate object is the record of the facts themselves, they are not set down nakedly, but in a distinct doctrinal context. Dr. James Denney is thoroughly justified in his rebuke to expositors who would neglect this context:1—
"A mere exegete is sometimes tempted," he says, "to read New Testament sentences as if they had no context but that which stands before him in black and white ; they had from the very beginning, and have still, another context in the minds of Christian readers which it is impossible to disregard. They are not addressed to minds in the condition of a tabula rasa; if they were, they could hardly be understood at all; they were addressed to minds that had been delivered—as Panl says to the Romans: a church, remember, to which he was personally a stranger—to a type or mould of teaching ; such minds have in this a criterion and a clew to the intention of a Christian writer; they can take a hint, and read into brief words the fulness of Christian truth. I have no doubt that it was in this way such expressions were interpreted as we find all through the New Testament: 'Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many'; 'He loosed us from our sins by His blood'; 'Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world'; 'He is the propitiation for our sins.' To say that words like these express a fact but not a theory—a fact as opposed to a theory—is to say they mean nothing whatever. A member of the apostolic Church would be conscious of their meaning without any conscious effort; what they suggested to him would be precisely that truth which is so distasteful to many of those who plead for the fact as against 'theory,' that in Christ's death our condemnation was endured by Him. This theory is the fact; there is nothing else in these various expressions either to accept or to contest."
If there be any justice in these remarks at all—and surely their justice lies on their face—it would be truer to say of the Bible that it contains nothing but "dogmas," than to say that it contains only " facts"
1 Studies in Theology, pp. 119, 120. Cf. the wise remarks of Dr. Cairns, apropos of Semler, in his Unbelief in the Eighteenth Century, Lecture v. ii., near the beginning.
and no " dogmas ": all the facts given to us by Scripture are given as "dogmas," that is, as facts that have a specific meaning for our souls. Doubtless part of the extremity of such deliverances as M. Astie's is due to a failure on the part of their authors to strip the Christian facts bare enough. It is the fact as interpreted and not the naked fact itself that they call the fact. But it will scarcely do to prove that Christianity consists in facts to the exclusion of "dogmas," by calling all the dogmas which enter into the essence of Christianity facts. No doubt they are facts, but not in the sense intended by these writers; and thus the whole centre of the debate would be shifted. The contention would no longer be that no "dogmas" enter into the essence of Christianity, but merely that only such "dogmas" enter into the essence of Christianity as are rooted in fact, to the exclusion of such as have no basis in fact—in other words, of myths and lies. This no one will dispute. But it does not avail to show that Christianity consists of facts and not dogmas, but only that the dogmas which enter into Christianity are true.
The antipathy to external authority in religion is much too deeply rooted, however, to die with ■ the mere exhibition of the necessity of interpretation to render facts of any import or value to man. There are some to whom it will still seem that the necessity of interpretation may be allowed, and yet the existence of an external doctrinal authority be denied. M. Rivier may be taken as an example of this type of thought. "Certainly," he says1—
"Certainly to verify a historical fact is far from comprehending its religious and supernatural sense. An event whose significance remains foreign to us cannot have the least direct importance for our salvation, even though it may be ineffably rich in divine lessons and in religious motives. In order that we may know God, it evidently is not sufficient that lie should act, it is necessary further that He should speak."
So far, everything runs along satisfactorily: it is just the contention we have been making. But M. Rivier proceeds at once to take the significance out of his admission. "Only," he continues, and the word "only" is ominous—
"Only it is necessary that he should speak to us. For we could never recognise His activity in a historical fact unless its explication made us personally verify a divine element in it. Now this interpretation God commonly gave, according to the biblical narratives, to the witnesses of the events. Whilst we, in order to understand these facts, are to be reduced to the more or less exact report of their authentic interpretation!"
"Therefore," comments M. Henry Bois, with his inimitable point2—
"Therefore, in what the Bible and history transmit to us, there is nothing but the raw facts for us to take into consideration. The rest is of no value: it is of little consequence to us what God has said to others; that alone is of consequence to us which has been said to us. . . i Nevertheless, it is allowed that the facts without ideas are of no value for salvation. . . . Consequently what history and the Bible transmit to us has no value for salvation: value resides principally, fundamentally, in what God says to us, at present, in our revelations,
1 fttude sur la revelation chrMienne, p. 44 ; quoted in H. Bois' Lt Dogme Grec, p. 114.
2 Le Dogme Grec, p. 114 sq.
in our illuminations, in our fantasies, in our dreams. For having wished to discard the apostolic explications of the historic fact, we find ourselves quite naturally brought to discarding the historical fact itself.
"And, indeed, we shall ask M. Rivier: Why this different mode of treating the fact and the idea 1 'In order that we may know God, it evidently is not sufficient that He should act: it is necessary further that He should speak. Only it is necessary that He should speak to us.' So far so good. But why not say also: 'Only it is necessary that He should act for us, by us, and in us'? It is of no use to make God speak historically? Be it so. But why make Him act historically? Are we to be reduced to the more or less exact and more or less authentic reports of the facts of which certain men were witnesses many centuries ago? No, it is necessary that God should act for us and in us. The apostolic interpretation of the Christian facts is given us by tradition, that fatal tradition, that nightmare of so-called independent minds? It is true. But by what, then, if you please, are you furnished with the facts, if not by this same tradition? You ■declare that tradition reporting ideas needs later commentaries, and you exclaim, 'Is the latest commentary too clothed with a divine authority?' We should like you to tell us if tradition reporting facts has no need of criticism: will criticism, perchance, then be clothed with a divine authority?
"In short, he who says fact, history, says at the same time witness, tradition, authority. The more authority, the more tradition—the more fact."
We could scarcely have a neater or completer refutation by the method of reduction to absurdity. The pity is that everybody does not see that the reduction is to absurdity. For the absurd position to which M. Bois would thus drive M. Eivier, that very position is voluntarily assumed by others. Would M. Bois show that by parity of reasoning with that by which M. Eivier would refuse to be bound by the doctrines of the Bible, the facts, too, may be refused? Undoubtedly, replies, for example, Mr. G. Frommel: religion cannot consist of, or rest upon, external facts any more than upon external doctrines :1—
"By their very nature historical facts lack the special evidence which is indispensable for faith. The most certain of them are only probable. Their probability, by the accumulation of evidences and the weight of the testimony, may increase until it grazes certitude, but it never attains it. The best evidenced historical facts rest on intermediary witnesses, with regard to whom doubt remains permissible. Were they even absolutely proved, they would remain in essence incapable of forming authority for faith, the object of which cannot in any case be a historical fact—and, above all, not a past fact —and which demands for its establishment the discernment in history of a divine activity, the initiative and permanent character of which forms upon one a directly accessible impression."
That is to say, past facts can enter into the essence of Christianity just as little as past dogmas: the essence of Christianity must be found wholly in what is present to the soul here and now. In reducing to absurdity the position of those who cry that Christianity consists of facts, not dogmas, M. Bois has only driven them to the position of another class who equally refuse to allow the validity of Christian doctrine,—those whose cry is that Christianity consists in life, not doctrine. This position comes before us thus as the logical outcome of the demands of those who will have Christianity consist only of facts, and not at all of dogmas.
Before we turn to the consideration of this new position, however, there is an extreme form of the contention that Christianity consists of facts, not doctrines, which claims our attention. This is that
1 La Crise du protcstantisme, in OvangUe et Libcrti, 27th May, 1892 ; quoted by Henri Bois, Le Dogme Grec, p. 72.
curious religious positivism which has gained such vogue of late through the vigour of the followers of Albrecht Eitschl, and which occupies a sort of transitional position between the type of thought which declares that Christianity consists in facts, not dogmas, and that which represents it as consisting in life, not doctrine. The extremity of this position resides in the circumstance that, while it agrees in general that Christianity consists not in dogmas but facts, it reduces these facts to a single fact: Christianity consists, it says in effect, in one sole fact.
That no dogmas lie at the root or enter into the essence of Christianity, the proper Eitschlite is perfectly assured. Eeligion is one thing, he tells us, and metaphysics is another; and Christianity is in essence religion, while dogmas are metaphysical products. The service which Jesus did the world was not that He presented it with a revealed metaphysic, but that He gave it a religion. The metaphysical element came into historical Christianity when, in its advance from its primitive centre and from its primitive simplicity, it came into contact with and bondage to the Greek mind, which at once seized upon it and, according to the inherent Greek tendency, philosophised it, and thus wrought out what we call the fundamental Christian dogmas. These, therefore, so far from being essential to Christianity, are corruptions of Christianity. And if we would have Christianity in its purity, we must strip off from it every remnant of "Greek dogma," or, to speak more broadly, every "metaphysical" element which has in the course of the ages attached itself to it. More, if we would save Christianity from entire destruction in the searching criticism of these modern times, we must separate from it those metaphysical accretions by its connection and consequent confusion with which it is brought into conflict with modern knowledge. If it is to be entangled with an outworn metaphysics, it cannot live in the light of modern thought. But let it be freed from all such entangling alliances, we are told, and stand forth in its purity as a simple religion, and philosophy and science will find that, as Satan found with Christ, they "have nothing in it." The effect desired to be obtained by this sharp distinction between the religious and the metaphysical, it will be seen, is the security of Christianity in the forum of the world's thought. The whole realm of the metaphysical is at once abandoned to the world, while that of the purely religious alone is retained for Christianity; and the two spheres are represented practically as mutually exclusive. Eeligion cannot properly intrude into the region of metaphysics, and metaphysics cannot invade the region of pure religion. Thus Christianity will be safe from attack on this side. But it is not only on the side of metaphysics that Christianity is attacked in these days. It is attacked also on the side of history. It is not only her "dogmas" that are assaulted, but also her "facts." When we yield up her " dogmas" to the mercy of the metaphysician, are we to defend at all hazards her " facts "? Is Christianity to be represented as standing or falling with them? No, says the Eitschlite. Christianity has no more need of its so-called "facts" than of its so-called "dogmas"; one fact alone will suffice for it, the one great fact of Christ. Let historical criticism do its worst, let it evaporate into the mist of myth every fact on which men have been accustomed to found Christianity, Christianity will remain untouched: it is constituted by this one fact only—Jesus Christ.
Such, then, is the Eitschlite position, in, at least, its most characteristic form. That there are elements of truth and power in it is obvious on the face of the statement. It is much to protest against the identification of Christianity with the changing metaphysics of the schools; and it is undeniable that Christianity has often been confounded by the Hegelian with his Hegelianism, by the Aristotelian with his Aristotelianism, by the Platonist with his Platonism, and has thus been subjected to unwarranted suspicion and distrust. It is something also to realise that Christianity may survive the loss of many of her "facts "; that though her history is true and is worthy of her, and being worthy of her, is part of her being and one of her supports and stays, yet she does not draw all her sap from this one root. Above all, it is a great thing to have our eyes focused on Jesus Christ as the great, the constitutive fact of Christianity, about whom all else gathers, from whom all else receives its significance, whom to have is indeed to have all. Through its insistence on such points as these, Eitschlisrn has often wrought a good work in the theological circles of Germany, and earned for itself a good degree. But, unfortunately, the theory it has put forward goes in its logical implications fatally beyond insistence on such points as these.
It is hard to take seriously the sharp discrimination that is proposed between religious and metaphysical knowledge; and it is hard to take patiently the complacent abandonment of the whole body of Christian doctrine which is proposed on the basis of this distinction. One is tempted to look upon it all as "playing to the galleries," as merely a clumsy flattery offered to the tendencies of an age essentially positivist. In an era when even our psychologists seek to steer clear of metaphysics, it is possibly not to be wondered at that a theology also should be attempted which shall be free from "metaphysical" conceptions. And certainly it can not be wondered at that the failure is even more complete. M. Fouillee warns us that if we question those who reject "metaphysics" we shall very quickly discover that they reject it in the name of a metaphysical system, which naturally is their own.1 It is so in the present case also. The whole Eitschlite system is the outgrowth of metaphysical theories drawn from Kant through the mediation of Lotze. On the basis of these metaphysical theories, we are asked to
1 " Interrogez ceux qui rejettent la m^taphysique; vous reconnaitrez bien vite qu'ils la rejettent an nom d'un systeme m^taphysique, qui est natnrellement le leur" (Alf. Fouillee, L'Avenir de la mitaphysique fondie sur I'exptrience, p. 275 ; quoted by H. Bois, Le Dogmt Qrcc, p. 51, note).
eviscerate Christianity of its whole doctrinal content as being mixed with metaphysical elements! Nor do we, in saying the "whole doctrinal content" of Christianity, overstate the matter. For what truth concerning God and the soul can come to expression without involving metaphysical conceptions? Every religious truth, however primary, contains a metaphysical element. M. Bois is therefore within the limits of fact when he says1 that—
"Those who thus repel metaphysics do not understand themselves. For if it is certain that all that is metaphysical is not on that account religious, it is no less certain that all that is religious is on that account metaphysical. If you wish to be rid of metaphysics at any cost, abstain from speaking of God. Whoever says, 'I believe in God,' deals with metaphysics."
It must be admitted, however, that the Eitschlites, having placed their brand upon metaphysics in religion, do make the boldest possible effort to cleanse their skirts of it altogether. And herein, for us, lies their severest reproach. For at the bidding of this theory, some have not hesitated to discard the most elementary truths of religion. M. Bois says that we cannot even say, " I believe in God," without a tinge of metaphysics. We fully believe it. And the Bitschlite perceives it also, and actually raises the question whether we may validly even say so much as this, " I believe in God!" What do we, after all, as Christian men, know of God, it is asked. That he is infinite? Certainly not. That He is a person? No. That he exists? Not even this. We only know that he is, as Eitschl 1 Le Dogme Gree, pp. 51, 52.
himself once put it, a "Hiilfsvorstellung"—a useful postulate for the validating of our practical ends.1 "God, in other words "—as Dr. Denney2 brings out Eitschl's idea—
"God, in other words, is a necessary assumption of the Christian's view of man's chief end; but, scientifically,—in its bearing on the interpretation of nature and history, for example,—it may be left an open question whether there be a God or not."
1 Prof. Otto Eitschl thinks that his father's former employment of the term Hiilfsvorstellung in this connection ought not to be remembered against him. But with the excision of the term we do not see that the conception has been changed. God still remains for Eitschl and Ritschlism a heuristic postulate. The case is the same, of course, with the Deity of Christ and its implications, as, for example, His pre-existence, which Ritschl similarly spoke of as a Hiilfslinie for the traditional conception,—comparing it thus with the imaginary lines assumed in geometrical reasonings, which have no reality, and are intended to have none. We note Prof. Otto Ritschl's welcome declaration that it might as well be asserted of his father that he denied the existence of God and taught atheism, as that he did not intend to teach the Deity of Christ as a reality; and we rejoice in this testimony to Ritschl's personal faith in two matters which do indeed stand for him in similar relations. We rejoice, too, in the concessions which Ritschlites have been led to make in the matter of the proper Deity of Christ (see them exhibited in Orr, as cited, p. 448 sq.). But we are not here concerned with Ritschl's personal convictions, nor with the indications in his followers of a not unnatural recoil from the full rigour of his teaching, but with the logical implications of that teaching itself. And there is after all a considerable difference between God as a working hypothesis and the ak-qSivbs Bebs of the New Testament. For one thing, those to whom God is a working hypothesis are apt to conceive of Him as their creature who cannot be permitted to wander from the place and function He was called into being to fill and serve. The extremity of this feeling was startlingly exhibited by Heine, who, when asked in his anguish whether he had hope of forgiveness, replied, "Oh, certainly: that is what God is for." The distance between this attitude and the Christian conception of God is measured by the contrast between looking upon God as existing for us and realising that we exist only for Him.
2 Studies in Theology, p. 8; cf. Orr, Christian View, etc., p. 45.
In similar spirit, Herrmann teaches that for "the maintaining of the impulse of religious faith," " it does not matter whether our conception of the world is theistic, pantheistic, or materialistic."1 This is what we may come to when we refuse every metaphysical element in religion, and insist that all we need know of God is what is involved in the residuum of religious knowledge. It is the old idea of regulative truth brought back, in the extreme form which includes the implication that what is postulated as true for the needs of our practical life may in the sphere of theoretical knowledge be at the same time recognised as false.2
And this mode of dealing with the foundations of Christianity is carried by this school, also, as we have said, into the domain of " facts." Dr. Denney quotes 3 a characteristic example from Harnack when dealing with the miracles of Jesus. "The historian," says Harnack,4
"is not in a position to reckon with a miracle as a certainly given historical event; for in doing so he destroys that very method of looking at things on which all historical investigation rests. Every
1 See Orr, Christian View of God and tlie World, pp. 46 sq.
2 Cf. Orr, as above, p. 29: "Under the plea of expelling metaphysics from theology, the tendency is at present to revive this distinction in a form which practically amounts to the resuscitation of the old doctrine of a 'double truth'—the one religious, the other philosophical; and it is not held necessary that even where the two overlap they should always be found in agreement."
3 Studies in Theology, p. 12.
4 Dogmengeschichte, Ed. 1, i. 50, note 4 ; cf. E. T. i., p. 65, note 3, where, however, the concluding words are quite different: "This conclusion itself belongs to the province of religious faith: though single miracle remains, historically, entirely dubious ; and no summation of the dubious can ever amount to a certainty. If, in spite of this, the historian convinces himself that Jesus Christ has done what is extraordinary, and even in the strict sense miraculous, he argues from an ethico-religious impression which he has received of this person, to a supernatural power belonging to Him. This inference belongs itself to the domain of religious faith. We may conceive, however, a strong religious faith in the teleological reign of the divine and the good in the world, which does not need such an inference."
That is to say, as Dr. Denney points out, " since it belongs to the domain of religious faith, it cannot belong to the domain of assured fact," and it is only to those of little faith that the supernatural power and miracles of Jesus are not matters of indifference. From passages like this we may begin to learn the real import of the constant Eitschlite appeal to the historical Jesus—that fervent and devout appeal to the very central fact of Christianity which gives their writings such attractiveness to us all.
By the emphasis which they place upon the "historical Christ," who, according to them, is the one great constitutive fact of Christianity, the Ritschlites intend first of all to exclude from consideration the exalted Christ—the Christ who, according to His promise, is with His followers always, even to the end of the world, the living source of all their strength and the fountain of all their life. For this school of
there has seldom been a strong faith that would not have drawn it." The German of Ed. 1 (which alone is accessible to us as we write) runs: "Dieser Schluss gehbrt selbst dem Gebiet des religibsen Glaubens an. Es lasst sich aber ein starker religioser Glaube an die Herrschaft und Zwecksetzung des Gbttlichen und Guten in der Welt denken, welcher eines solchen Schlusses nicht bedarf."
thought, which piques itself on its positivism, has no greater antipathy to what it calls "metaphysics" in religion than to what it calls "mysticism." It would indeed be introducing ." metaphysical" elements to conceive of Jesus, dead for two thousand years, yet ruling the world from the throne of God and instilling life by some magical process into the hearts of men. No! we can know nothing but the " historical Christ," the Christ who lived and died in Galilee, and by His life of pure faith has left an indelible impression upon the world. He, at least, is a fact; and a fact of such magnitude that face to face with Him we cannot escape the conviction which was the spring of His life and which, from the spectacle of His life, is communicated to us, that there is a God who loves us, and that we are not merely the " step-children of time."
Yet we must guard ourselves from supposing that this historical Christ to which we have thus been pointed is the Christ of the historical documents which have preserved the memory of His life and deeds to us. For, by the emphasis which they place on the "historical Christ," the Eitschlites intend, in the next place, to exclude all " unhistorical" elements from the picture they would bring before us. It is not the Christ of legend to which they would direct our eyes, but the Christ of sober history: and they are willing to relegate to the domain of legend all that the most exigent criticism would ask of them. It is not the Christ who was born of a virgin, who was welcomed by angels, who wrought wonders, who, having died for our sins, rose again from the dead and ascended in bodily form into heaven—it is not this Christ who, according to them, is the one great constitutive fact of Christianity. It is the Christ of critical history: of whom we can say but this—that He lived and died and left behind Him the aroma of a life of faith. This is the one fact of which Christianity consists. We cannot rid ourselves of the impression which this historical figure makes upon us, of the lesson of faith which His life teaches us: in its light we can walk our allotted pathway in life and see the hand of Jesus' God in the events that befall us, and so live, like Jesus, in communion with the God of providence: the religion of Jesus is thus ours, and we are Christians. Who Jesus was, what He was, what He did—all this is indifferent to us: His life of love in the world has begotten religion in our souls; and this is enough. It is to this that the Eitschlite point of view would reduce the "historical Christ"— the one fact that constitutes Christianity. And if we find it hard to take patiently their complacent abandonment of the whole sum of Christian doctrine on the plea that it is metaphysical, shall we not find it impossible to take patiently their equally complacent abandonment of the whole series of Christian facts, on the ground that it is unhistorical?
The inconsistency of the Eitschlite procedure here has often been commented on. First, in their antimetaphysical bias, they insist on the historical character of Christianity: Christianity is not metaphysics but fact: it is to the historical Christ, and not to the Christ of theological construction, that we are to go—the Christ that actually lived and died in Galilee, not the Christ of the Nicene Greeks or of the scholastics. And then this historical Christ Himself is calmly handed over to the tender mercies of unbelieving critics, with permission to do with Him what they list. It is more to our present purpose, however, to note the effect of this double dealing, in the evaporation of the whole essence of Christianity. We all desire a Christianity which is secure from the assaults of the unbelieving world, whether those assaults are made in the name of philosophy and science, or in the name of history and criticism. But this security is to be sought and can be found only in a Christianity whose facts and doctrines are so intrenched against the inevitable assault that, whatever else falls, they shall stand. What fatuity it is to seek it rather by yielding to the assault all it chooses to demand, and contracting Christianity into dimensions too narrow to call out the world's antipathy and too weak to invite its attack. Such an eviscerated Christianity may no longer be worth the world's notice, and by that same token is no longer worth the Christian's preservation. It has been reduced to a vanishing point, and is ready to pass away. It is entirely fatuous to suppose that the spheres of religion and thought, of religion and history, can be kept apart: what is true in metaphysics is true in religion, .and what is true in religion is true in history, or, in one word, we shall profess ourselves willing to confess a false religion. We may acquiesce in the implications of the persistent activity of our religious sentiment. Let metaphysics decide the problems of being as it may, let criticism decide the problems of history as it may, man is a religious animal. But to say that the special form and direction which have been given to the action of this religious sentiment by a specific body of convictions and a specific body of facts are independent of philosophical and historical determinations, passes beyond the apparent absurdity of paradox into the actually absurd. It sounds very well to ask, as M. Lobstein asks1—
"To declare that the full and complete satisfaction of the needs of the conscience and the aspirations of the heart is involved in the solution of a problem of historical criticism of whatever importance—is this not to cast souls into trouble and to expose them to the loss of that crown which they are exhorted to hold fast?"
But it is surely one thing for the soul to be sure with
an immovable surety that the conceptions—that is,
the "dogmas"—and the facts that underlie its faith
and are implicated in it cannot be shaken by any
criticism whatever: and quite another thing for one to
imagine that he can lightly surrender them at the
demand of any criticism you will and yet retain his
faith undiminished. Accordingly, M. Bois justly fixes
his eye on the extremity of M. Lobstein's language:
that faith cannot depend on the solution of a problem
of historical criticism, no matter wlmt its importance
1 Quoted by H. Bois, Le Voyme Grcc, p. 54,
"Will it be indifferent, then, to the Christian faith," he demands,1 "for it to be demonstrated that we do not possess a single authentic writing of Paul's that the Fourth Gospel is the work of a forger, and that the Synoptics are only a tissue of legends and traditions without the least historical value? Will it, then, be indifferent to the Christian faith for it to be proved to us, for example, that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead or even that He never existed? We should very much like to know what will remain to Christianity when there have been excluded from it the ideas (since metaphysics must be excluded) and the facts (since we must be independent of historical criticism). Note that thus the person of Christ is completely eliminated from Christianity, and it is reduced to vague, obscure, doubtful sentiment—to sentiment in its pure estate. On the other side, do we not know that the school of Ritschl does not wish to hear the mystical union spoken of, that is to say, internal, personal and living relations between the soul and its Saviour? What then is left of Christianity? Nothing at all—except, perhaps, the maxim of certain mediaeval monks: Bene dicere de priore, facere officium suum taliter qualiter, sinere mundum ire quomodo vadit. In all ways, the reaction against intellectualism, pushed to the complete proscription of doctrine, of metaphysics, brings us to nihilism in the matter of religion."
Thus we see that the Eitschlian tendency also reduces itself to absurdity in the extremes to which it must go in order to save its principle. For to these extremes it must go or else admit a metaphysical, a truly dogmatic element at the very heart of Christianity. Eecoil from them ever so slightly, and the centre of the debate is at once shifted: we no longer are discussing whether "dogma" enters into the essence of Christianity, but what " dogmas " may be rightly recognised as holding that position. Jesus Christ alone constitutes Christianity; in Him is included all that can be asked for, for the perfect religion. So be it. What Jesus Christ? The Jesus of the Gospels? Or
the Jesus of Strauss? The Logos Jesus of John's Gospel? The heavenly Jesus of the Apocalypse? Or the purely earthly Jesus of Pfleiderer and Kenan? Or even perchance the entirely imaginary Jesus of Pierson and Naber and Loman? It is an insult to our intelligence to tell us that it makes no difference to Christianity how these queries be answered. But the first beginnings of an answer to them introduce the dogmatic element. From which it follows at once that Christianity cannot exist without the dogma which it is the business of Systematic Theology to investigate and state. As M. Henri Bois1 eloquently puts it—
"Christianity is the person of Jesus Christ. Still we must enter into relations with this person. In order that two moral subjects should communicate with one another there must needs be manifestations between them. A person manifests himself clearly to us only by his acts and his words ; and he has value for us only as we form for ourselves a certain idea of him. Christianity is therefore essentially, above all, a person ; but on pain of reducing it to a magic, which would no longer possess any ethical and, consequently, no longer possess any religious quality, we must needs grant that Christianity, precisely because it is essentially a person, is also a body of facts and of ideas.
'' For the contemporaries of Jesus Christ, who could see and hear Him, the teaching that fell from His lips, and the deeds performed by Him, constituted this necessary middle term between Jesus Christ and them. For us, with no wish certainly to deny the personal, present, and living relations of Jesus Christ with the soul of the redeemed, \ye cannot, without opening the door to the most dangerous mysticism, reduce Christianity to these relations, in derogation of the acts and revelations of the historical Christ, which we have neither seen nor heard, but which have been transmitted to us by tradition, by the Bible; this would be equivalent to cutting down the tree at its roots, under pretext of being thus better able to gather its fruit."
1 Le Dogme Grec, p. 107.
On pain, then, of cutting down Christianity at its roots, under the pretext that we shall thus be better able to gather its fruits, we must admit a doctrinal element at its very basis. Christianity consists not merely of "Jesus Christ," but of that Jesus Christ which the apostles give us—in a word, of the Jesus of the apostolical "dogma," and not of any Jesus we may choose to fancy in this nineteenth century of ours.1 Are there "metaphysical" elements in this apostolical dogma? Then metaphysical elements enter into the very essence of Christianity. Are there traces of Greek thought perhaps in these apostolical interpretations of the Christian facts? Of what importance is that to us? M. Bois says truly—
"Whether there be in these interpretations Greek elements or not, is a very secondary question, and one wholly without the importance that it is sought to give it. There is no good reason known to us for rejecting a teaching of St. Paul's or of St. John's, under the pretext that it has a Hellenic colour."
The apostolic interpretation is an inseparable element in the fundamental fact-basis of Christianity; and it cannot be rejected because a part of the providentially formed peculiarity of the apostolic mode of thought is distasteful to us.2 Call it metaphysical, call it Greek,
1 "I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and Him as crucified," said the apostle, defining a special doctrine of Jesus as the essence of Christianity.
2 Dr. E. L. Hicks' suggestive paper on "St. Paul and Hellenism," which opens the fourth volume of the Oxford Studio, Biblica et Ecclesiastica, will well repay consulting on this matter. "Greek thought," he says, "had provided for St. Paul a vocabulary, and a set of ideas as well as phrases, wherein to express his doctrine—a doctrine in nowise borrowed from Hellenic thought, but which could hardly be made in
if you will. But remember that it is of the essence of Christianity.
By no means, the answer comes back to us at once: Christianity is a life, not a doctrine; he is a Christian man in whom this life is implanted; and the Bible itself is in the first instance a means of grace, not a text-book of theology. Thus we are brought back once more to that extremest of all anti-doctrinal positions which proposes a Christianity which shall be independent of both facts and doctrines. We have already had a glimpse of it now and again; and it is probably clear by this time that, if the onset on doctrinal Christianity is to succeed at all, it must be under this banner. It is towards it indeed that every other tendency of thought inevitably drifts, as it seeks to defend an anti-doctrinal position. According to its mode of thinking, the sole immediate purpose of the Bible is to quicken life, not to satisfy curiosity, and we divert it from its proper use when we go to it as anything else than the living and abiding word through which we are begotten again—than the implanted word which is able to save our souls. When it has performed this function its immediate employment is at an end; its dogmas and its facts may alike
telligible to the minds of his time, or to our own minds to-day, unless Greek thought had prepared the human mind for such grand and farreaching ideas: 6 yip (pt\6<ro<pos (rvvmriKbi Tis." "The influence of Hellenism began, in fact, with the first preaching of the gospel; and St. Paul is the foremost representative of the process. That influence was of course indirect and unconscious, and did not involve any deliberate adoption of Hellenic practices, but it had been a leaven working in the Church from the first."
be passed by in indifference when we possess the life —that Christ-life which, being once formed in us, surely renders us superior to all extraneous aid. And for the inception of this life we cannot be dependent on any book or on any dogmas or facts whatever, laid hold of by the intellect and embraced in knowledge. Its source can only be the Fountain of Life—our living and loving God Himself; and He cannot be supposed to grant it only to shining intellectual gifts, or to exceptional intellectual opportunities, or to the knowledge which is the fruit of these things. The poorest is as the richest before Him, and poverty of understanding is no bar to His grace; while that poverty of spirit which is seldom conjoined with great knowledge —for knowledge rather puffeth up—is precious in His sight. Christianity is ill-conceived if it is thought to consist in or to rest upon either facts or dogmas; it is a life, and for this life we depend solely on God, the ever-living Source of all life.1
It will go without saying that a manner of thinking like this, which has commended itself to a multitude of the leading minds of our time, and which has extended its influence so far beyond the circle of its own proper adherents that it may be truly said to have coloured all modern religious thought, has much to say for itself. We need only turn over in our minds its characteristic modes of expression to find enshrined in them the deepest truths of Christianity.
1 Cf. Dr. Orr's discussion of this mode of statement in his Christian View, etc., pp. 18 sq.