The True Pre-Existence

Sec. II.

According to Scripture, there is a pre-existence of man, although an ideal one; a pre-existence not only of man as such, but also of the individual and of all; a pre-existence not only of the human soul, but of the entire man, and not merely of the entire man in himself, but moreover of the individual, and of all, in the totality of their constitution and their history; a pre-existence in the divine knowledge, which precedes the existence in the individual consciousness; a pre-existence, moreover, by means of which man and humanity are not only a remotely future object of divine foresight, but a present object of divine contemplation in the mirror of wisdom. For let it be said at once, not only Philosophy and falsely celebrated Gnosis, but Scripture also, knows and speaks of a divine ideal-world, to which the time-world is related as the historical realization of an eternal design. That all which is realized in temporal history has existed from everlasting in God's sight as a spiritual pattern, and then as an idea in God, is not only taught in Plato, but also in kindred testimonies of sacred history, of which Plato knew nothing: Isaiah, for instance (xxii. 11, xxv. 1, xxxvii. 26, and throughout in chap, xl.-lxvi.); and the New Testament Scripture, which reveals the mystery in a way that was unattainable to the Old Testament. There are even two New Testament statements which in form recall the speculative Hellenic mode of expression. For when Paul (in Rom. iv. 17) describes God as Koxsiv To fir) ovra &>? ovra, this is literally Philo's formula of God the creator, ra fir) ovra eiiaXeaev ek To ehai; and although Paul, and Scripture in general, are as far removed as heaven itself from teaching an eternal vj, a fit) 6v in the Platonic sense, yet still Paul, no less intentionally than Philo, says (when he expresses himself punctiliously) fir) ovra, and not Ovk ovra, on the ground- that that which comes forward into historical existence is not previously an absolute nothing. Abraham, as a father of the nations, was an everlasting subject of divine knowledge, and as such is a firj Op, So long as he was waiting in readiness to come into existence forthwith, when the creative KaXeiv is uttered. The other passage is Heb. xi. 3, where it is said that the world-system in all its parts, of atu>ve<;, was created by God's word, eh To Fatj i/e <f>aivofievwv To fSXeirofievov yer/ovevai. Here, also, the writer purposely avoids saying Ovk e'£ ovrwv, as 2 Mace. vii. 28 (although this expression might have been justified, as in the sense of creatio ex nViilo, by way of excluding the idea of eternity of matter), but firj e'« if>aivofievwv. All that was created by God's word was, prior to that creation, a Fitj <f>aivofievov; that is, something which is not yet brought forward into manifestation, into temporal historical actuality. It existed only as a divine idea. Even when fiit is associated with yeyovivai, the meaning is the same, for the contrast implied in addition is aXK' «'k Votjtwv; and these vorjTa are the very eternal invisible exemplars, whence proceeded, as from their ideal source, by the divine fiat, the visible reality. And faith is precisely that which pierces through the phenomenal externality of the world to this its supersensuous essence, and to its production therefrom by means of the purely spiritual power of the divine creative word. Or could the author actually only mean to say, that no sensible material was at the source of the visible world? The mode of expressing an assertion in itself undoubtedly true, would be strangely chosen. The words themselves say, either that the visible did not proceed from that which was material (but spiritual), or else that it proceeded from the supersensual (spiritual). But what would be the contrary of this natural, or what would this supernatural be, other than the thoughts of that world one day to come into existence,—thoughts formed and established by decree from eternity,—soil, the divine ideas? Thus, at least, that passage was understood by Albertus Magnus of old, and in later times by Staudenmaier, although the latter has made it the business of his life to combat that which is unscriptural in Philo's doctrine of Ideas, and generally in that of the philosophers. But we are not at all in want of these two texts. What they declare, as we understand it, is—as we shall now proceed to show, in order to draw therefrom psychological conclusions— the fundamental view of the entire Scripture.

We perceive and acknowledge on scriptural ground, (1) that the idea of man as such is an eternal idea of God; for when Elohim says (Gen. i. 26), "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," that is no decision come to in time, but only the revelation of an eternal purpose: for the whole six days' work was a prion intended to concentrate itself finally on man, and man as such was thus the substance of God's plan even before the beginning of the temporal carrying into effect of this plan. What is true generally of the entire agency of God in time (Acts xv. 18), yvwatov air al5>vos Tw Kvpiw To epyov ainov, is true especially in reference to man, the great object of the creative work. But (2) not only was man, as such, an integral element of the divine plan: moreover, every individual, in the totality of his nature and of his life's history, was a subject of eternal divine knowledge, and on that account also of eternal divine will, as says the Psalmist (cxxxix. 16), "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, the days which at first should be fashioned,1 when as yet there was none of them," for which the Keri reads, "and His (God's) is every one of them," i.e. " He had eternally in His sight every one of their days before it came into being." What the Psalmist here acknowledges, Jehovah says Himself in another place to Jeremiah, "Before" (D^?, properly, in the time when it was still to be expected that) "I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee;" whereby it is not only said that from the beginning Jehovah knew the person of Jeremiah, but since, in accordance with the just observation of the fathers, the word jTV usually indicates a nosse cum effectu et affectu, that He chose this Jeremiah from everlasting for the prophetic office (comp. Gal. i. 15), into which He now calls the man who is manifested on the stage of temporal history. But still more, as (3) the Scripture says to all who believe in Christ that God has pre-appointed and foreseen them irpb Kara^oXrjs Koafiov for the relation of children in which they stand (Eph. i. 4; 1 Pet. i. 1); that the calling, justification, and glorification, by means of which He leads them from

1 Or, moreover, "The days already formed, and while still there was none of them" (that is to say, actually manifested). At all events, "ijf> has the same meaning as in Isa. xxii. 11, xxxvii. 26, and elsewhere,— what is realized in time exists already long before as a spiritual type, i.e. an idea in God.

temporal foretaste to eternal enjoyment of blessedness, was preceded by an eternal irpoyvaivai and irpooplaai (Rom. viii. 28-30); that all the grace which they experience is only the cf>cu>4pwaK of a grace bestowed upon them according to a divine purpose of love in Christ irpb xpovwv alwviwv (2 Tim. i. 9); that all who are faithful here below are ordained, rera^/fievoi, to eternal life (Acts xiii. 48, where the participle passive, according to the Hellenistic usus loquejidi, e.g. Jer. xviii. 16, 2 Kings x. 27, LXX., can be understood in no other way), and assuredly from everlasting; for only those escape condemnation whose names have been written dirb Karafio\fj<; Kuafiov in the Lamb's book of life (Apoc. xiii. 8, xvii. 8; comp. Isa. iv. 3). What is thus spoken of Jeremiah in reference to his office, is true of all believers in reference to their standing in grace. And it is true not only of the church of believers in Christ in its entirety, but of every one of its individual members. All these, with their future temporal relation, were everlastingly present to the knowledge of God, and the subject of His election, of His predestination, and briefly of His special loving purpose. We say of His special loving purpose, because there is also in Scripture a frequent and earnest testimony to a general purpose of love, in virtue of which He wills the happiness of all men, without exception; and this general purpose of love, not less eternal than the other, is the presupposition or postulate of that special one. But the speciality of the general purpose of love has its reason in the fact that God does not merely contemplate men as such, but in their entire future ethical destination, although this divine foreknowledge of their future actual use of freedom is to us absolutely inconceivable.1 Scripture, however, expressly affirms this foreknowledge, as indeed the idea of God in itself requires it. For that very reason the election has a non-election, a reprobation, as its reverse side. The godless and unbelieving are not only so called, whose names are not inscribed from the foundation

1 When Hofmann, in the Schriftbeweis, i. 218, 257 (compare also MeckknburgUches Kirchcnblatt, 1845, iii. S. 209), says that the eternal will of God operates not in Tespect of individual man, or of men as individuals, but in respect of man and of manhood, the distinction between a general and a particular will of God is thereby denied, but in my opinion wrongly.

of the world in the book of life of the Lamb slain (Apoc. xiii. 8). Scripture does not hesitate also to say positively that they are appointed to condemnation, aKevrj 6py,/? KaTrjprtafieva els airaiKeiav (Rom. ix. 22). Still not in the sense of a purely arbitrary prcedestinatio duplex, but in the sense that God has men everlastingly before Him, in the entire future actuality of their self-destination; and in conformity with it, yea, according as He finds them in Christ, or out of Christ, and adverse to Christ, He includes them in His love or in His wrath; and thus they minister to the future histoiy of His glorification as vessels of mercy or of wrath in His household,—an everlasting irpoeroifid^eiv and Karapri^eiv, which is so far absolutely free, as it precedes all temporal self-determination of man, but still, moreover, not absolutely unconditioned, since it has as its object the foreseen man, not in the position of indifference, but in the condition arising out of his entire self-determination. For the everlasting purpose of love generally in God embraces even the godless and unbelieving; it comprehends, moreover, humanity as humanity foreseen to be sinful. God the Father loves humanity from everlasting in His Son, or, as Scripture almost everywhere expresses it, in Christ. For (4) the eternal Son of God may rightly be called Jesus Christ in His relation to the future humanity, because the fact of the incarnation happening in time is for God an eternally present fact. In this sense Scripture speaks of a grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus irpb yjpovwv aiwvuov (2 Tim. i. 9), and names the New Testament work of redemption the airoKaKinfri? and <f>avepwais of a mystery existing from eternity, but hidden and kept secret (Rom. xvi. 25; Col. i. 26). It is thus an eternal event that came to pass by the reciprocally acting energy of the Father and of the Son, that the Son occupied a relation to humanity while yet future, but eternally present to the Godhead, which was that of a covering ("i■?) for its sins; so that, instead of being an object of the wrath of the Father, it is the object of His love, in that He looks upon it no otherwise than in Him, the Beloved. There appertains as well to humanity and to men as to the man Jesus Christ, an absolute pre-existence, which, although an ideal one, is still so real and genuine, that Scripture refers all temporal events in the whole and in individuals to that everlasting root. It has been objected to me, that, strictly speaking, preexistence is not the true conception, since in the view of God the ideal-world is an eternal object of contemplation, and therefore the existences that pass thence into history cannot by possibility leave this ideal-world or vanish therefrom. In such a case there is thus obtained a double-world, the drama of history is twice represented, and the fear occurs to one that the divine government may be only concerned with that upper world which is thus repeated and played over again here below; so that in our life we are detached from the heart of God, who strictly is only interested in the ideal-world. These objections concern the Scripture itself, which neither regards the history of this world pantheistically as a constituent part of the divine proceeding itself, or as a segment of the infinity within which it is developed; nor—as here and there the modern Theism does—does it teach a self-limitation of the divine omniscience, lest the creative freedom should become a mere illusion. Scripture acknowledges a supra-mundane God exalted above the world, which began in time, who from everlasting has willed the world, and, in creative effectuation of this will, in time realized the world; a God whose eternal omniscience comprehends not alone that which was general, but also that which was most special of this world, thus eternally willed and temporally to be made actual, and not alone has surveyed all the possibilities arising out of the use of freedom by the personal Being to be created, but has, moreover, looked through the future realization of this Free-being, even into its most individual and secret nature; a God who, by means of this allcomprehending and all-penetrating knowledge exercising that formative power over the mundane relations which appertained to Him, without qualifying the freedom of the creature, moulded this eternally willed future world into a whole, issuing forth for the triumph of His love into a unity comprehended in Christ (Eph. i. 10)—the everlasting Son prepared for incarnation. It is just this whole that we call the ideal-world. Pre-existence is a conception rightly applied to it, because it is the decreed purpose rather than its actualization: the salvation which comes into historical manifestation was already determined irpo KarafioXrjs Koa/iov (Eph. i. 4), and even in some measure promised irpb ypovwv aUaviwv (Tit. i. 2) and granted (2 Tim. i. 9), to wit in Christ, the eternally beloved, who stands in the presence of the omniscience of everlasting love as the reconciler of the world (1 Pet. i. 20). Scripture is so little afraid of thus detaching us from the heart of God, that it rather reveals to us by this means how dear we are to the heart of God. And assuredly we need not fear that our temporal history will thus become only a docetic reflection of that eternally ideal tissue of events. The realization of that which has been eternally known does not indeed happen below the sphere of God's care: it is a self-movement of God, even to the depth of His heart. Every stage of history which absorbs into realization the ideality of that which has been decreed, is sympathetically experienced by God. And if similarly we say, with Dorner,1 God's doing is eternally decreed, as His knowledge of the present does not date from to-day, still there occurs for it the moment of living effectual interference, which even for God is something more than the mere purpose; and this does not occur till the actually existing present. Thus God Himself does not pass through the ideal that is everlastingly present to Him in His counsel historically, until the world does; and He interweaves into it His agency according to that purpose, and now also with corresponding meaning and motive, as, on the other hand, in the divine counsel the moments of realization are inwoven into the world of His thoughts of love.

Thus we come back to the point whence we started, that there- actually is, according to Scripture, an ideal-world, and indeed such an one as that of which the Son of God made Himself the centre by virtue of His incarnation—ideal in like manner. The mistake of all speculation, which, though pantheistic, has still claimed to be biblical, consists in having identified this eternal ideal-world with the eternal Son or Logos. But there is an infinite distinction between the two. The Son is God of God, the essential image of the Father veiling Him

1 See the beautiful argument in the Jahrbb. fur Deutsche Theologie,

1858, pp. 592-605. Elsewhere, Stahl, Die Luth. Kirche trad die Union,

1859, p. 226: "Our life is pre-existent in the sight of God, that is, it appears, according to His point of view of eternity, not as subsequent to His decrees, but as contemporaneously with them." Accordiug to this, the conception of an seternitas a parte ante would be unjustifiable. But it results necessarily from the creation beginning in time, as we said in sec. i. The life of God historically involved in the world, is to be distinguished from His eternal life.

self with His nature; but the ideal-world is one which exists indeed in eternity, but still not according to its existence an infinite essence of divine forms of thought of finite nature and its history: for since God knows Himself from eternity, He knows Himself moreover from eternity as the possible ground of a world which is not Himself; and the Ideal-world is just the thought apprehended and shaped forth of this possible Other-world, which is not God.1 Therefore also Scripture calls this Ideal-world nowhere uto? or X070?, but nD3n, crocf>ia. For Scripture knows the Wisdom not only as an attribute of God the only and all-wise (Rom. xvi. 27); but, moreover, as the objective eternal reflection in God of the world-plan, in that it distinguishes this wisdom in the elementary scheme (sapientia sciagraphica) unmistakeably from that peculiar wisdom. When it is said by Job, at the conclusion of the twenty-eighth chapter, that God, when He made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder, beheld wisdom, and declared it; He prepared it, yea, and searched it out, and said unto man, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom," etc.; the meaning is, that God in the creation of the world took for an object the wisdom remote from man, by its pattern formed the world, and gave to man the fear of God for the law, by conforming to which he has his appointed portion in wisdom. The wisdom that is attainable to man is even here plainly distinguished from the wisdom which alone is known to God, and by which He brings the creatures into being, ordaining to every one a relative portion therein. Thus Prov. viii. 22-31, where the acknowledgment of this wisdom is still further advanced. It is here personified, and speaks in its own character, saying, that God brought it forth before all creatures, as the first-fruits of His way of revelation, and in the beginning anointed it as a queen; that when He created the worM, it was partaking in that work; and as from everlasting, so always, it is God's pleasure, and it rejoiced always before Him. That here the wisdom is not meant only as an attribute, but that an everlasting essentially divine fact is announced, the ancients probably perceived: their mistake was only in taking generally the birth of the Logos to be this fact. It is not the person of the Logos which

1 See Dorner, in the Jdhrbb. fur Deutsche Theologie, 1856, pp. 369-372, whereby the above will be understood.

here proclaims its origin from God, but the Wisdom which is impersonal, and nevertheless existing still for itself, which is the eternal reflection of the world-plan of the Godhead; eaoirrpov aicrjXlSwrov Tt}s Tov Qeov evepyelas, as the book of Wisdom beautifully and pertinently says: for the Greek apocryphal writers, and generally the Alexandrian school, have prosecuted this knowledge offered to them by the Scripture more deeply, and yet not even they without confusing aofyia and X07o?; for it was not till the incarnation of the Logos in Jesus Christ that this mystery was cleared up, and the error of such avoided. On the ground of such disclosures, we say (5) that man and humanity are an everlastingly present object of divine contemplation in the mirror of Wisdom. The apostolic word assures us of this, in saying (Eph. iii. 10), that for the angelic powers of heaven is made known in the earthly church fj iroXvKoUCKos ao<f>la Tov Qeov' Kara irpoOeaiv T5)v alwviwv, $)v eirobrjaev iv Xpiorw 'ijj<tov Tw Kvpicp fjfiwu. For that in this divine wisdom, which on account of the riches of its contents (comp. Bom. xi. 33) the apostle calls iroXvirolKiKos, not only the creation in time, but also the redemption in time, has an eternal ideal objectivity before God, we need not, after what has been said above, be at any further pains to prove.

We have now pointed out in what scriptural sense a preexistence assuredly belongs to humanity, and to every individual of it. The whole history of time, with every being that enters upon it, and its development from the beginning to the end, in which divine providence and creative freedom so marvellously weave into one another, is present from eternity before God, and that in so concrete, although ideal, an objectivity, that even from eternity the Son of God has given Himself to be the centre of this history. As the Christ He is the centre of this objective eternal wisdom; and it is called with reason the mother of all things, for it bears them all before they exist, even every human soul, in its womb. It stands indeed below the Son, for without the Son the Father would not be Father; but it is an image of the Tri-personal purpose of love, and the Trinity would without it be what it essentially is. Nevertheless, although not the image of the divine nature in such a way as to be of the same nature with it, it is still in its manner an image of God, and man is even called before other creatures

the likeness of God. We must thus seek to have a clear understanding of how far the Trinity itself is the original type which comes to representative manifestation in that wisdom, and especially in man, in order that we may understand the nature of man.