JOS. FE. MOLITOE ON J. BOHME'S DOCTEINE OF THE NATUEE IN GOD.
I.—From a Letter of the 22d Sept. 1858.1
I Gbeatly regret that, through my ill health, we were prevented from going more deeply into the essence of God's nature. If the Bohme-Baaderish view of the nature in God were well founded, it would follow that in God's essence there subsists, as the fundamental basis of its existence, a dim natural impulse, or a dim natural instinct, which must, as in man, be overcome by the ideal or principle of freedom, and glorified from eternity to a higher spirituality. I think that this view could in no wise be adopted by a theologian; for it assumes too much of what is finite and naturally necessary in the nature of God, and degrades it therefore wholly into the range of finite existence. A God wholly distinct from nature— a spiritualistic Divinity—cannot be assumed: this view plainly contradicts the words of Holy Scripture. But still the nature in God can just as little depend upon a blind, dark, instinctive impulse, which originally is antagonistic to the Spirit, and which, in the eternal process of the divine life, just as in the temporal process of the life of the creature, has to be overcome and elevated by the Spirit. But the nature in God, which can
1 The following was written with trembling hand by the grey-haired man, now at rest, when he was eighty years of age, and with a frame weakened by repeated attacks of apoplexy, but with a clear spirit, and a heart which desired for itself no higher good than "the grace of perfect submission and inward conformity to the most holy will of God." On the 23d March 1860 he fell asleep. "Jesus, my love," were his last words.— Evany. K. Z. I860, No. 52.
be nothing else than the objective counterpart of the eternally subjective divine Ideality, can only depend upon an inner free absolute necessity, of such a kind that, in the Godhead, we are not entitled to speak of an overcoming and reconciling of contraries, as we may in the creature, since the Godhead is originally, in an absolute manner that, after which the creature is bound to aspire: therefore in God the oppositions of life are all established in original harmony; whereas in the creature they require to be first of all combined into harmony. As this question of the nature in God is a matter of the deepest interest to theology and philosophy, I am very desirous of having your judgment on this view thus submitted to you.
II.—From a Letter of the 21st Jan. 1859.
It is undoubtedly certain that there can be nothing in created existence which has not in some manner, in the nature of the Godhead, its source of origination and of manifestation, inasmuch as the Godhead is the archetype of the creature. Only the question occurs, Does the creature form the direct or the inverted likeness of the Godhead? Since the Godhead has its source in itself, while the creature subsists by the Godhead, the creature and the Godhead appear to stand to one another in an inverted relation, of such a kind that what in the Godhead is the positive and primitive, without respect to time, in the creature is the secondary and subordinate. Thus, in the creature predominates ordination, externality, and conflict of contraries, or, generally, the natural aspect of things: it advances successively from a minus activity to a plus activity, from externality to internality, from the rough, rude, constrained rigour of nature, to the inward, gentle, free, higher ideality; whilst in the Godhead, which has its own origin freely from itself, the inverted current of life appears to find a place, in that, here, receptivity, externality, natural ordination, are the product of the actuality that constitutes the ideal. Thus, moreover, there is not, in the nature of the Godhead, even conformably to the ideal, a blind, impelled law of nature, which cannot be overcome except in the divine process of life (certainly still only according to the idea), but, in the peculiar nature of the Godhead intrinsically, everything seems to me to be originally harmony, which, merely operating externally, comes into relation to the opposing condition of sinners, as inharmonious action. According to the doctrine of Bohme, the process of life in the Godhead is conditioned in a precisely similar manner as that of the creature, and it depends only on a difference of degree—that the former is infinite and not related to time, while the latter is finite and temporal. As a result of this view, there appears, therefore, according to J. Bohme, in the procession of the Trinity, the Father, as the dark, rigorous principle of nature, which is propitiated by the Son as the gentle ideal principle. But this view, harmonizing as it does with the most inward fundamental nature of the doctrine of Bohme, is utterly false: —in the Father subsists the same principle of compassion as in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. The same is true also of the principle of strict righteousness. Yet, because the Divine Son, as the outworking principle, became man, in order to reconcile the fallen humanity, the notion has been indulged by many Christians, that the Son represents the love, and the Father the severity, of the Godhead.