The outstanding trait of Kant's reflection upon religion is its supreme interest in morals and conduct. Metaphysician that he was, Kant saw the evil which intellectualism had done to religion. Religion was a profoundly real thing to him in his own life. Religion is a life. It is a system of thought only because life is a whole. It is a system of thought only in the way of deposit from a vivid and vigorous life. A man normally reflects on the conditions and aims of what he does. Religion is conduct. Ends in character are supreme. Religions and the many interpretations of Christianity have been good or bad, according as they ministered to character. So strong was this ethical trait in Kant that it dwarfed all else. He was not himself a man of great breadth or richness of feeling. He was not a man of imagination. His religion was austere, not to say arid. Hegel was before all things an intellectualist. Speculation was the breath of life to him. He had metaphysical genius. He tended to transform in this direction everything which he touched. Religion is thought. He criticised the rationalist movement from the height of vantage which idealism had reached. But as pure intellectualist he would put most rationalists to shame. We owe to this temperament his zeal for an interpretation of the universe 'all in one piece.' Its highest quality would be its abstract truth. His understanding of religion had the glory and the limitations which attend this view.
Between Kant and Hegel came another, Schleiermacher. He too was no mean philosopher. But he was essentially a theologian, the founder of modern theology. He served in the same faculty with Hegel and was overshadowed by him. His influence upon religious thought was less immediate. It has been more permanent. It was characteristically upon the side which Kant and Hegel had neglected. That was the side of feeling. His theology has been called the theology of feeling. He defined religion as feeling. Christianity is for him a specific feeling. Because he made so much of feeling, his name has been made a theological household word by many who appropriated little else of all he had to teach. His warmth and passion, his enthusiasm for Christ, the central place of Christ in his system, made him loved by many who, had they understood him better, might have loved him less. For his real greatness lay, not in the fact that he possessed these qualities alone, but that he possessed them in a singularly beautiful combination with other qualities. The emphasis is, however, correct. He was the prophet of feeling, as Kant had been of ethical religion and Hegel of the intellectuality of faith. The entire Protestant theology of the nineteenth century has felt his influence. The English-speaking race is almost as much his debtor as is his own. The French Huguenots of the revival felt him to be one of themselves. Even to Amiel and Scherer he was a kindred spirit.
It is a true remark of Dilthey that in unusual degree an understanding of the man's personality and career is necessary to the appreciation of his thought. Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher was born in 1768 in Breslau, the son of a chaplain in the Reformed Church. He never connected himself officially with the Lutheran Church. We have alluded to an episode broadly characteristic of his youth. He was tutor in the house of one of the landed nobility of Prussia, curate in a country parish, preacher at the Charite in Berlin in 1795, professor extraordinarius at Halle in 1804, preacher at the Church of the Dreifaltigkeit in Berlin in 1807, professor of theology and organiser of that faculty in the newly-founded University of Berlin in 1810. He never gave up his position as pastor and preacher, maintaining this activity along with his unusual labours as teacher, executive and author. He died in 1834. In his earlier years in Berlin he belonged to the circle of brilliant men and women who made Berlin famous in those years. It was a fashionable society composed of persons more or less of the rationalistic school. Not a few of them, like the Schlegels, were deeply tinged with romanticism. There were also among them Jews of the house of the elder Mendelssohn. Morally it was a society not altogether above reproach. Its opposition to religion was a by-word. An affection of the susceptible youth for a woman unhappily married brought him to the verge of despair. It was an affection which his passing pride as romanticist would have made him think it prudish to discard, while the deep, underlying elements of his nature made it inconceivable that he should indulge. Only in later years did he heal his wound in a happy married life.
The episode was typical of the experience he was passing through. He understood the public with which his first book dealt. That book bears the striking title, Reden ueber die Religion, an die Gebildeten unter ihren Veraechtern (translated, Oman, Oxford, 1893). His public understood him. He could reach them as perhaps no other man could do. If he had ever concealed what religion was to him, he now paid the price. If they had made light of him, he now made war on them. This meed they could hardly withhold from him, that he understood most other things quite as well as they, and religion much better than they. The rhetorical form is a fiction. The addresses were never delivered. Their tension and straining after effect is palpable. They are a cry of pain on the part of one who sees that assailed which is sacred to him, of triumph as he feels himself able to repel the assault, of brooding persuasiveness lest any should fail to be won for his truth. He concedes everything. It is part of his art to go further than his detractors. He is so well versed in his subject that he can do that with consummate mastery, where they are clumsy or dilettante. It is but a pale ghost of religion that he has left. But he has attained his purpose. He has vindicated the place of religion in the life of culture. He has shown the relation of religion to every great thing in civilisation, its affinity with art, its common quality with poetry, its identity with all profound activities of the soul. These all are religion, though their votaries know it not. These are reverence for the highest, dependence on the highest, self-surrender to the highest. No great man ever lived, no great work was ever done, save in an attitude toward the universe, which is identical with that of the religious man toward God. The universe is God. God is the universe. That religionists have obscured this simple truth and denied this grand relation is true, and nothing to the point. The cultivated should be ashamed not to know this. Then, with a sympathy with institutional religion and a knowledge of history in which he stood almost alone, he retracts much that he has yielded, he rebuilds much that he has thrown down, proclaims much which they must now concede. The book was published in 1799. Twenty years later he said sadly that if he were rewriting it, its shafts would be directed against some very different persons, against glib and smug people who boasted the form of godliness, conventional, even fashionable religionists and loveless ecclesiastics. Vast and various influences in the Germany of the first two decades of the century had wrought for the revival of religion. Of those influences, not the least had been that of Schleiermacher's book. Among the greatest had been Schleiermacher himself.
The religion of feeling, as advocated in the Reden, had left much on the ethical side to be desired. This defect the author sought to remedy in his Monologen, published in 1800. The programme of theological studies for the new University of Berlin, Kurze Darstellung des Theologischen Studiums, 1811, shows his theological system already in large part matured. His Der christliche Glaube, published in 1821, revised three years before his death in 1834, is his monumental work. His Ethik, his lectures upon many subjects, numerous volumes of sermons, all published after his death, witness his versatility. His sermons have the rare note which one finds in Robertson and Brooks.
All of the immediacy of religion, its independence of rational argument, of historical tradition or institutional forms, which was characteristic of Schleiermacher to his latest day, is felt in the Reden. By it he thrilled the hearts of men as they have rarely been thrilled. It is not forms and traditions which create religion. It is religion which creates these. They cannot exist without it. It may exist without them, though not so well or so effectively. Religion is the sense of God. That sense we have, though many call it by another name. It would be more true to say that that sense has us. It is inescapable. All who have it are the religious. Those who hold to dogmas, rites, institutions in such a way as to obscure and overlay this sense of God, those who hold those as substitute for that sense, are the nearest to being irreligious. Any form, the most outre, bizarre and unconventional, is good, so only that it helps a man to God. All forms are evil, the most accredited the most evil, if they come between a man and God. The pantheism of the thought of God in all of Schleiermacher's early work is undeniable. He never wholly put it aside. The personality of God seemed to him a limitation. Language is here only symbolical, a mere expression from an environment which we know, flung out into the depths of that we cannot see. If the language of personal relations helps men in living with their truth -- well and good. It hinders also. For himself he felt that it hindered more than helped. His definition of religion as the feeling of dependence upon God, is cited as evidence of the effect upon him of his contention against the personalness of God. Religion is also, it is alleged, the sentiment of fellowship with God. Fellowship implies persons. But to no man was the fellowship with the soul of his own soul and of all the universe more real than was that fellowship to Schleiermacher. This was the more true in his maturer years, the years of the magnificent rounding out of his thought. God was to him indeed not 'a man in the next street.' What he says about the problem of the personalness of God is true. We see, perhaps, more clearly than did he that the debate is largely about words. Similarly, we may say that Schleiermacher's passing denial of the immortality of the soul was directed, in the first instance, against the crass, unsocial and immoral view which has disfigured much of the teaching of religion. His contention was directed toward that losing of oneself in God through ideals and service now, which in more modern phrase we call the entrance upon the immortal life here, the being in eternity now. For a soul so disposed, for a life thus inspired, death is but an episode. For himself he rejoices to declare it one to the issue of which he is indifferent. If he may thus live with God now, he cares little whether or not he shall live by and by.
In his Monologues Schleiermacher first sets forth his ethical thought. As it is religion that a man feels himself dependent upon God, so is it the beginning of morality that a man feels his dependence upon his fellows and their dependence on him. Slaves of their own time and circumstance, men live out their lives in superficiality and isolation. They are a prey to their own selfishness. They never come into those relations with their fellows in which the moral ideal can be realised. Man in his isolation from his fellows is nothing and accomplishes nothing. The interests of the whole humanity are his private interests. His own happiness and welfare are not possible to be secured save through his co-operation with others, his work and service for others. The happiness and welfare of others not merely react upon his own. They are in a large sense identical with his own. This oneness of a man with all men is the basis of morality, just as the oneness of man with God is the basis of religion. In both cases the oneness exists whether or not we know it. The contradictions and miseries into which immoral or unmoral conduct plunges us, are the witness of the fact that this inviolable unity of a man with humanity is operative, even if he ignores it. Often it is his ignoring of this relation which brings him through misery to consciousness of it. Man as moral being is but an individuation of humanity, just as, again, as religious being he is but an individuation of God. The goal of the moral life is the absorption of self, the elimination of self, which is at the same time the realisation of self, through the life and service for others. The goal of religion is the elimination of self, the swallowing up of self, in the service of God. In truth, the unity of man with man is at bottom only another form of his unity with God, and the service of humanity is the identical service of God. Other so-called services of God are a means to this, or else an illusion. This parallel of religion and morals is to be set over against other passages, easily to be cited, in which Schleiermacher speaks of passivity and contemplation as the means of the realisation of the unity of man and God, as if the elimination of self meant a sort of Nirvana. Schleiermacher was a pantheist and mystic. No philosopher save Kant ever influenced him half so much as did Spinoza. There is something almost oriental in his mood at times. An occasional fragment of description of religion might pass as a better delineation of Buddhism than of Christianity. This universality of his mind is interesting. These elements have not been unattractive to some portions of his following. One wearied with the Philistinism of the modern popular urgency upon practicality turns to Schleiermacher, as indeed sometimes to Spinoza, and says, here is a man who at least knows what religion is. Yet nothing is further from the truth than to say that Schleiermacher had no sense for the meaning of religion in the outward life and present world.
In the Reden Schleiermacher had contended that religion is a condition of devout feeling, specifically the feeling of dependence upon God. This view dominates his treatment of Christianity. It gives him his point of departure. A Christian is possessed of the devout feeling of dependence upon God through Jesus Christ or, as again he phrases it, of dependence upon Christ. Christianity is a positive religion in the sense that it has direct relation to certain facts in the history of the race, most of all to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But it does not consist in any positive propositions whatsoever. These have arisen in the process of interpretation of the faith. The substance of the faith is the experience of renewal in Christ, of redemption through Christ. This inward experience is neither produced by pure thought nor dependent upon it. Like all other experience it is simply an object to be described and reckoned with. Orthodox dogmatists had held that the content of the Christian faith is a doctrine given in revelation. Schleiermacher held that it is a consciousness inspired primarily by the personality of Jesus. It must be connected with the other data and acta of our consciousness under the general laws of the operation of the mind. Against rationalism and much so-called liberal Christianity, Schleiermacher contended that Christianity is not a new set of propositions periodically brought up to date and proclaimed as if these alone were true. New propositions can have only the same relativity of truth which belonged to the old ones in their day. They may stand between men and religion as seriously as the others had done.
The condition of the heart, which is religion, the experience through Jesus which is Christianity, is primarily an individual matter. But it is not solely such. It is a common experience also. Schleiermacher recognises the common element in the Christian consciousness, the element which shows itself in the Christian experience of all ages, of different races and of countless numbers of men. By this recognition of the Christian Church in its deep and spiritual sense, Schleiermacher hopes to escape the vagaries and eccentricities, and again the narrowness and bigotries of pure individualism. No liberal theologian until Schleiermacher had had any similar sense of the meaning of the Christian Church, and of the privilege and duty of Christian thought to contribute to the welfare of that body of men believing in God and following Christ which is meant by the Church. This is in marked contrast with the individualism of Kant. Of course, Schleiermacher would never have recognised as the Church that part of humanity which is held together by adherence to particular dogmas, since, for him, Christianity is not dogma. Still less could he recognise as the Church that part of mankind which is held together by a common tradition of worship, or by a given theory of organisation, since these also are historical and incidental. He meant by the Church that part of humanity, in all places and at all times, which has been held together by the common possession of the Christian consciousness and the Christian experience. The outline of this experience, the content of this consciousness, can never be so defined as to make it legislatively operative. If it were so defined we should have dogma and not Christianity. Nevertheless, it may be practically potent. The degree in which a given man may justly identify his own consciousness and experience with that of the Christian world is problematical. In Schleiermacher's own case, the identification of some of his contentions as, for example, the thought that God is not personal with the great Christian consciousness of the past, is more than problematical. To this Schleiermacher would reply that if these contentions were true, they would become the possession of spiritual Christendom with the lapse of time. Advance always originated with one or a few. If, however, in the end, a given portion found no place in the consciousness of generation truly evidencing their Christian life, that position would be adjudged an idiosyncrasy, a negligible quantity. This view of Schleiermacher's as to the Church is suggestive. It is the undertone of a view which widely prevails in our own time. It is somewhat difficult of practical combination with the traditional marks of the churches, as these have been inherited even in Protestantism from the Catholic age.
In a very real sense Jesus occupied the central place in Schleiermacher's system. The centralness of Jesus Christ he himself was never weary of emphasising. It became in the next generation a favorite phrase of some who followed Schleiermacher's pure and bounteous spirit afar off. Too much of a mystic to assert that it is through Jesus alone that we know God, he yet accords to Jesus an absolutely unique place in revelation. It is through the character and personality of Jesus that the change in the character of man, which is redemption, is marshalled and sustained. Redemption is a man's being brought out of the condition in which all higher self consciousness was dimmed and enfeebled, into one in which this higher consciousness is vivid and strong and the power of self-determination toward the good has been restored. Salvation is thus moral and spiritual, present as well as future. It is possible in the future only because actual in the present. It is the reconstruction of a man's nature and life by the action of the spirit of God, conjointly with that of man's own free spirit.
It is intelligible in Schleiermacher's context that Jesus should be spoken of as the sole redeemer of men, their only hope, and that the Christian's dependence upon him should be described as absolute. As a matter of fact, however, the idea of dependence upon Christ alone has been often, indeed, one may say generally, associated with a conception of salvation widely different from that of Schleiermacher. It has been oftenest associated with the notion of something purely external, forensic, even magical. It is connected, even down to our own time, with reliance upon the blood of Christ, almost as if this were externally applied. It has postulated a propitiatory sacrifice, a vicarious atonement, a completed transaction, something which was laid up for all and waiting to be availed of by some. Now every external, forensic, magical notion of salvation, as something purchased for us, imputed to us, conferred upon us, would have been utterly impossible to Schleiermacher. It is within the soul of man that redemption takes place. Conferment from the side of God and Christ, or from God through Christ, can be nothing more, as also it can be nothing less, than the imparting of wisdom and grace and spiritual power from the personality of Jesus, which a man then freely takes up within himself and gives forth as from himself. The Christian consciousness contains, along with the sense of dependence upon Jesus, the sense of moral alliance and spiritual sympathy with him, of a free relation of the will of man to the will of God as revealed in Jesus. The will of man is set upon the reproduction within himself, so far as possible, of the consciousness, experience and character of Jesus.
The sin from which man is to be delivered is described by Schleiermacher thus: It is the dominance of the lower nature in us, of the sense-consciousness. It is the determination of our course of life by the senses. This preponderance of the senses over the consciousness of God is the secret of unhappiness, of the feeling of defeat and misery in men, of the need of salvation. One has to read Schleiermacher's phrase, 'the senses' here, as we read Paul's phrase, 'the flesh.' On the other hand, the preponderance of the consciousness of God, the willing obedience to it in every act of life, becomes to us the secret of strength and of blessedness in life. This is the special experience of the Christian. It is the effect of the impulse and influence of Christ. We receive this impulse in a manner wholly consistent with the laws of our psychological and moral being. We carry forward this impulse with varying fortunes and by free will. It comes to us, however, from without and from above, through one who was indeed true man, but who is also, in a manner not further explicable, to be identified with the moral ideal of humanity. This identification of Jesus with the moral ideal is complete and unquestioning with Schleiermacher. It is visible in the interchangeable use of the titles Jesus and Christ. Our saving consciousness of God could proceed from the person of Jesus only if that consciousness were actually present in Jesus in an absolute measure. Ideal and person in him perfectly coincide.
As typical and ideal man, according to Schleiermacher, Jesus was distinguished from all other founders of religions. These come before us as men chosen from the number of their fellows, receiving, quite as much for themselves as for others, that which they received from God. It is nowhere implied that Jesus himself was in need of redemption, but rather that he alone possessed from earliest years the fulness of redemptive power. He was distinguished from other men by his absolute moral perfection. This excluded not merely actual sin, but all possibility of sin and, accordingly, all real moral struggle. This perfection was characterised also by his freedom from error. He never originated an erroneous notion nor adopted one from others as a conviction of his own. In this respect his person was a moral miracle in the midst of the common life of our humanity, of an order to be explained only by a new spiritually creative act of God. On the other hand, Schleiermacher says squarely that the absence of the natural paternal participation in the origin of the physical life of Jesus, according to the account in the first and third Gospels, would add nothing to the moral miracle if it could be proved and detract nothing if it should be taken away. Singular is this ability on the part of Schleiermacher to believe in the moral miracle, not upon its own terms, of which we shall speak later, but upon terms upon which the outward and physical miracle, commonly so-called, had become, we need not say incredible, but unnecessary to Schleiermacher himself. Singular is this whole part of Schleiermacher's construction, with its lapse into abstraction of the familiar sort, of which, in general, the working of his mind had been so free. For surely what we here have is abstraction. It is an undissolved fragment of metaphysical theology. It is impossible of combination with the historical. It is wholly unnecessary for the religious view of salvation which Schleiermacher had distinctly taken. It is surprising how slow men have been to learn that the absolute cannot be historic nor the historic absolute.
Surely the claim that Jesus was free from error in intellectual conception is unnecessary, from the point of view of the saving influence upon character which Schleiermacher had asserted. It is in contradiction with the view of revelation to which Schleiermacher had already advanced. It is to be accounted for only from the point of view of the mistaken assumption that the divine, even in manifestation, must be perfect, in the sense of that which is static and not of that which is dynamic. The assertion is not sustained from the Gospel itself. It reduces many aspects of the life of Jesus to mere semblance. That also which is claimed in regard to the abstract impossibility of sin upon the part of Jesus is in hopeless contradiction with that which Schleiermacher had said as to the normal and actual development of Jesus, in moral as also in all other ways. Such development is impossible without struggle. Struggle is not real when failure is impossible. So far as we know, it is in struggle only that character is made. Even as to the actual commission of sin on Jesus' part, the assertion of the abstract necessity of his sinlessness, for the work of moral redemption, goes beyond anything which we know. The question of the sinlessness of Jesus is not an a priori question. To say that he was by conception free from sin is to beg the question. We thus form a conception and then read the Gospels to find evidence to sustain it. To say that he did, though tempted in all points like as we are, yet so conduct himself in the mystery of life as to remain unstained, is indeed to allege that he achieved that which, so far us we know, is without parallel in the history of the race. But it is to leave him true man, and so the moral redeemer of men who would be true. To say that, if he were true man, he must have sinned, is again to beg the question. Let us repeat that the question is one of evidence. To say that he was, though true man, so far as we have any evidence in fact, free from sin, is only to say that his humanity was uniquely penetrated by the spirit of God for the purposes of the life which he had to live. That heart-broken recollection of his own sin which one hears in The Scarlet Letter, giving power to the preacher who would reach men in their sins, has not the remotest parallel in any reminiscence of Jesus which we possess. There is every evidence of the purity of Jesus' consciousness. There is no evidence of the consciousness of sin. There is a passage in the Discourses, in which Schleiermacher himself declared that the identification of the fundamental idea of religion with the historical fact in which that religion had its rise, was a mistake. Surely it is exactly this mistake which Schleiermacher has here made.
It will be evident from all that has been said that to Schleiermacher the Scripture was not the foundation of faith. As such it was almost universally regarded in his time. The New Testament, he declared, is itself but a product of the Christian consciousness. It is a record of the Christian experience of the men of the earlier time. To us it is a means of grace because it is the vivid and original register of that experience. The Scriptures can be regarded as the work of the Holy Spirit only in so far as this was this common spirit of the early Church. This spirit has borne witness to Christ in these writings not essentially otherwise than in later writings, only more at first hand, more under the impression of intercourse with Jesus. Least of all may we base the authority of Scripture upon a theory of inspiration such as that generally current in Schleiermacher's time. It is the personality of Jesus which is the inspiration of the New Testament. Christian faith, including the faith in the Scriptures, can rest only upon the total impression of the character of Jesus.
In the same manner Schleiermacher speaks of miracles. These cannot be regarded in the conventional manner as supports of religion, for the simplest of all reasons. They presuppose religion and faith and must be understood by means of those. The accounts of external miracles contained in the Gospels are matters for unhesitating criticism. The Christian finds, for moral reasons and because of the response of his own heart, the highest revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Extraordinary events may be expected in Jesus' career. Yet these can be called miracles only relatively, as containing something extraordinary for contemporary knowledge. They may remain to us events wholly inexplicable, illustrating a law higher than any which we yet know. Therewith they are not taken out of the realm of the orderly phenomena of nature. In other words, the notion of the miraculous is purely subjective. What is a miracle for one age may be no miracle in the view of the next. Whatever the deeds of Jesus may have been, however inexplicable all ages may find them, we can but regard them as merely natural consequences of the personality of Jesus, unique because he was unique. 'In the interests of religion the necessity can never arise of regarding an event as taken out of its connection with nature, in consequence of its dependence upon God.'
It is not possible within the compass of this book to do more than deal with typical and representative persons. Schleiermacher was epoch-making. He gathered in himself the creative impulses of the preceding period. The characteristic theological tendencies of the two succeeding generations may be traced back to him. Many men worked in seriousness upon the theological problem. No one of them marks an era again until we come to Ritschl. The theologians of the interval between Schleiermacher and Ritschl have been divided into three groups. The first group is of distinctly philosophical tendency. The influence of Hegel was felt upon them all. To this group belong Schweitzer, Biedermann, Lipsius, and Pfleiderer. The influence of Hegel was greatest upon Biedermann, least upon Lipsius. An estimate of the influence of Schleiermacher would reverse that order. Especially did Lipsius seek to lay at the foundation of his work that exact psychological study of the phenomena of religion which Schleiermacher had declared requisite. It is possible that Lipsius will more nearly come to his own when the enthusiasm for Ritschl has waned. The second group of Schleiermacher's followers took the direction opposite to that which we have named. They were the confessional theologians. Hoffmann shows himself learned, acute and full of power. One does not see, however, why his method should not prove anything which any confession ever claimed. He sets out from Schleiermacher's declaration concerning the content of the Christian consciousness. In Hoffmann's own devout consciousness there had been response, since his childhood, to every item which the creed alleged. Therefore these items must have objective truth. One is reminded of an English parallel in Newman's Grammar of Assent. Yet another group, that of the so-called mediating theologians, contains some well-known names. Here belong Nitzsch, Rothe, Mueller, Dorner. The name had originally described the effort to find, in the Union, common ground between Lutherans and Reformed. In the fact that it made the creeds of little importance and fell back on Schleiermacher's emphasis upon feeling, the movement came to have the character also of an attempt to find a middle way between confessionalists and rationalists. Its representatives had often the kind of breadth of sympathy which goes with lack of insight, rather than that breadth of sympathy which is due to the possession of insight. Yet Rothe rises to real distinction, especially in his forecast of the social interpretation of religion. With the men of this group arose a speculation concerning the person of Christ which for a time had some currency. It was called the theory of the kenosis. Jesus is spoken of in a famous passage of the letter to the Philippians; as having emptied himself of divine qualities that he might be found in fashion as a man. In this speculation the divine attributes were divided into two classes. Of the one class it was held Christ had emptied himself in becoming flesh, or at least he had them in abeyance. He had them, but did not use them. What we have here is but a despairing effort to be just to Jesus' humanity and yet to assert his deity in the ancient metaphysical terms. It is but saying yes and no in the same breath. Biedermann said sadly of the speculation that it represented the kenosis, not of the divine nature, but of the human understanding.
RITSCHL AND THE RITSCHLIANS
If any man in the department of theology in the latter half of the nineteenth century attained a position such as to entitle him to be compared with Schleiermacher, it was Ritschl. He was long the most conspicuous figure in any chair of dogmatic theology in Germany. He established a school of theological thinkers in a sense in which Schleiermacher never desired to gain a following. He exerted ecclesiastical influence of a kind which Schleiermacher never sought. He was involved in controversy in a degree to which the life of Schleiermacher presents no parallel. He was not a preacher, he was no philosopher. He was not a man of Schleiermacher's breadth of interest. His intellectual history presents more than one breach within itself, as that of Schleiermacher presented none, despite the wide arc which he traversed. Of Ritschl, as of Schleiermacher, it may be said that he exerted a great influence over many who have only in part agreed with him.
Albrecht Ritschl was born in 1822 in Berlin, the son of a bishop in the Lutheran Church. He was educated at Bonn and at Tuebingen. He established himself at Bonn, where, in 1853, he became professor extraordinarius and in 1860 ordinaries. In 1864 he was called to Goettingen. In 1874 he became consistorialrath in the new Prussian establishment for the Hanoverian Church. He died in 1888. These are the simple outward facts of a somewhat stormy professional career. There was pietistic influence in Ritschl's ancestry, as also in Schleiermacher's. Ritschl had, however, reacted violently against it. His attitude was that of repudiation of everything mystical. He had strong aversion to the type of piety which rested its assurance solely upon inward experience. This aversion is one root of the historic positivism which makes him, at the last, assert the worthlessness of all supposed revelations outside of the Bible and of all supposed Christian experience apart from the influence of the historical Christ. He began his career under the influence of Hegel. He came to the position in which he felt that the sole hope for theology was in the elimination from it of all metaphysical elements. He felt that none of his predecessors had carried out Schleiermacher's dictum, that religion is not thought, but religious thought only one of the functions of religion. Yet, of course, he was not able to discuss fundamental theological questions without philosophical basis, particularly an explicit theory of knowledge. His theory of knowledge he had derived eclectically and somewhat eccentrically, from Lotze and Kant. To this day not all, either of his friends or foes, are quite certain what it was. It is open to doubt whether Ritschl really arrived at his theory of cognition and then made it one of the bases of his theology. It is conceivable that he made his theology and then propounded his theory of cognition in its defence. In a word, the basis of distinction between religious and scientific knowledge is not to be sought in its object. It is to be found in the sphere of the subject, in the difference of attitude of the subject toward the object. Religion is concerned with what he calls Werthurtheile, judgments of value, considerations of our relation to the world, which are of moment solely in accordance with their value in awakening feelings of pleasure or of pain. The thought of God, for example, must be treated solely as a judgment of value. It is a conception which is of worth for the attainment of good, for our spiritual peace and victory over the world. What God is in himself we cannot know, an existential Judgment we cannot form without going over to the metaphysicians. What God is to us we can know simply as religious men and solely upon the basis of religious experience. God is holy love. That is a religious value-judgment. But what sort of a being God must be in order that we may assign to him these attributes, we cannot say without leaving the basis of experience. This is pragmatism indeed. It opens up boundless possibilities of subjectivism in a man who was apparently only too matter-of-fact.
There was a time in his career when Ritschl was popular with both conservatives and liberals. There were long years in which he was bitterly denounced by both. Yet there was something in the man and in his teaching which went beyond all the antagonisms of the schools. There can be no doubt that it was the intention of Ritschl to build his theology solely upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. The joy and confidence with which this theology could be preached, Ritschl awakened in his pupils in a degree which had not been equalled by any theologian since Schleiermacher himself. Numbers who, in the time of philosophical and scientific uncertainty, had lost their courage, regained it in contact with his confident and deeply religious spirit. A wholesome nature, eminently objective in temper, concentrated with all his force upon his task, of rare dialectical gifts, he had a great sense of humour and occasionally also the faculty of bitterly sarcastic speech. His very figure radiated the delight of conflict as he walked the Goettingen wall.
A devoted pupil, writing immediately after Ritschl's death, used concerning Schleiermacher a phrase which we may transfer to Ritschl himself. 'One wonders whether such a theology ever existed as a connected whole, except in the mind of its originator. Neither by those about him, nor by those after him, has it been reproduced in its entirety or free from glaring contradictions.' It was not free from contradictions in Ritschl's own mind. His pupils divided his inheritance among them. Each appropriated that which accorded with his own way of looking at things and viewed the remainder as something which might be left out of the account. It is long since one could properly speak of a Ritschlian school. It will be long until we shall cease to reckon with a Ritschlian influence. He did yeoman service in breaking down the high Lutheran confessionalism which had been the order of the day. In his recognition of the excesses of the Tuebingen school all would now agree. In his feeling against mere sentimentalities of piety many sympathise. In his emphasis upon the ethical and practical, in his urgency upon the actual problem of a man's vocation in the world, he meets in striking manner the temper of our age. In his emphasis upon the social factor in religion, he represents a popular phase of thought. With all of this, it is strange to find a man of so much learning who had so little sympathy with the comparative study of religions, who was such a dogmatist on behalf of his own inadequate notion of revelation, the logical effect of whose teaching concerning the Church would be the revival of an institutionalism and externalism such as Protestantism has hardly known.
Since Schleiermacher the German theologians had made the problem of the person of Christ the centre of discussion. In the same period the problem of the person of Christ had been the central point of debate in America. Here, as there, all the other points arranged themselves about this one. The new movement which went out from Ritschl took as its centre the work of Christ in redemption. This is obvious from the very title of Ritschl's great book, Die Christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versoehnung. Of this work the first edition of the third and significant volume was published in 1874. Before that time the formal treatises on theology had followed a traditional order of topics. It had been assumed as self-evident that one should speak of a person before one talked of his work. It did not occur to the theologians that in the case of the divine person, at all events, we can securely say that we know something as to his work. Much concerning his person must remain a mystery to us, exactly because he is divine. Our safest course, therefore, would be to infer the unknown qualities of his person from the known traits of his work. Certainly this would be true as to the work of God in nature. This was not the way, however, in which the minds of theologians worked. The habit of dealing with conceptions as if they were facts had too deep hold upon them. So long as men believed in revelation as giving them, not primarily God and the transcendental world itself, but information about God and the transcendental, they naturally held that they knew as much of the persons of God and Christ as of their works.
Schleiermacher had opened men's eyes to the fact that the great work of Christ in redemption is an inward one, an ethical and spiritual work, the transformation of character. He had said, not merely that the transformation of man's character follows upon the work of redemption. It is the work of redemption. The primary witness to the work of Christ is, therefore, in the facts of consciousness and history. These are capable of empirical scrutiny. They demand psychological investigation. When thus investigated they yield our primary material for any assertion we may make concerning God. Above all, it is the nature of Jesus, as learned on the evidence of his work in the hearts of men, which is our great revelation and source of inference concerning the nature of God. Instead of saying in the famous phrase, that the Christians think of Christ as God, we say that we are able to think of God, as a religious magnitude, in no other terms than in those of his manifestation and redemptive activity in Jesus.
None since Kant, except extreme confessionalists, and those in diminishing degree, have held that the great effect of the work of Christ was upon the mind and attitude of God. Less and less have men thought of justification as forensic and judicial, a declaring sinners righteous in the eye of the divine law, the attribution of Christ's righteousness to men, so far at least as to relieve these last of penalty. This was the Anselmic scheme. Indeed, it had been Tertullian's. Less and less have men thought of reconciliation as that of an angry God to men, more and more as of alienated men with God. The phrases of the orthodoxy of the seventeenth century, Lutheran as well as Calvinistic, survive. More and more new meaning, not always consistent, is injected into them. No one would deny that the loftiest moral enthusiasm, the noblest sense of duty, animated the hearts of many who thought in the terms of Calvinism. The delineation of God as unreconciled, of the work and sufferings of Christ as a substitution, of salvation as a conferment, caused gratitude, tender devotion, heroic allegiance in some. It worked revulsion in others. It was protested against most radically by Kant, as indeed it had been condemned by many before him. For Kant the renovation of character was the essential salvation. Yet the development of his doctrine was deficient through the individualistic form which it took. Salvation was essentially a change in the individual mind, brought about through the practical reason, and having its ideal in Jesus. Yet for Kant our salvation had no closer relation to the historic revelation in Jesus. Furthermore, so much was this change an individual issue that we may say that the actualisation of redemption would be the same for a given man, were he the only man in the universe. To hold fast to the ethical idealism of Kant, and to overcome its subjectivity and individualism, was the problem.
The reference to experience which underlies all that was said above was particularly congruous with the mood of an age grown weary of Hegelianism and much impressed with the value of the empirical method in all the sciences. Another great contention of our age is for the recognition of the value of what is social. Its emphasis is upon that which binds men together. Salvation is not normally achieved except in the life of a man among and for his fellows. It is by doing one's duty that one becomes good. One is saved, not in order to become a citizen of heaven by and by, but in order to be an active citizen of a kingdom of real human goodness here and now. In reality no man is being saved, except as he does actively and devotedly belong to that kingdom. The individual would hardly be in God's eyes worth the saving, except in order that he might be the instrumentality of the realisation of the kingdom. Those are ideas which it is possible to exaggerate in statement or, at least, to set forth in all the isolation of their quality as half-truths. But it is hardly possible to exaggerate their significance as a reversal of the immemorial one-sidedness, inadequacy, and artificiality both of the official statement and of the popular apprehension of Christianity. These ideas appeal to men in our time. They are popular because men think them already. Men are pleased, even when somewhat incredulous, to learn that Christianity will bear this social interpretation. Most Christians are in our time overwhelmingly convinced that in this direction lies the interpretation which Christianity must bear, if it is to do the work and meet the needs of the age. Its consonance with some of the truths underlying socialism may account, in a measure, for the influence which the Ritschlian theology has had.
As was indicated, Ritschl's epoch-making book bears the title, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation. The book might be described in the language of the schools as a monograph upon one great dogma of the Christian faith, around which, as the author treats it, all the other doctrines are arranged. The familiar topic of justification, of which Luther made so much, was thus given again the central place. What the book really offered was something quite different from this. It was a complete system of theology, but it differed from the traditional systems of theology. These had followed helplessly a logical scheme which begins with God as he is in himself and apart from any knowledge which we have of him. They then slowly proceeded to man and sin and redemption, one empirical object and two concrete experiences which we may know something about. Ritschl reversed the process. He aimed to begin with certain facts of life. Such facts are sin and the consciousness of forgiveness, awareness of restoration to the will and power of goodness, the gift of love and of a spirit which can feel itself victorious even in the midst of ills in life, confidence that this life is not all. These phrases, taken together, would describe the consciousness of salvation. This consciousness of sin and salvation is a fact in individual men. It has evidently been a fact in the life of masses of men for many generations. The facts have thus a psychology and a history from which reflection on the phenomenon of faith must take its departure. There is no reason why, upon this basis, and until it departs from the scientific methods which are given with the nature of its object, theology should not be as truly a science as is any other known among men.
This science starts with man, who in the object of many other sciences. It confines itself to man in this one aspect of his relation to moral life and to the transcendent meaning of the universe. It notes the fact that men, when awakened, usually have the sense of not being in harmony with the life of the universe or on the way to realisation of its meaning. It notes the fact that many men have had the consciousness of progressive restoration to that harmony. It inquires as to the process of that restoration. It asks as to the power of it. It discovers that that power is a personal one. Men have believed that this power has been exerted over them, either in personal contact, or across the ages and through generations of believers, by one Jesus, whom they call Saviour. They have believed that it was God who through Jesus saved them. Jesus' consciousness thus became to them a revelation of God. The thought leads on to the consideration of that which a saved man does, or ought to do, in the life of the world and among his fellows, of the institution in which this attitude of mind is cherished and of the sum total of human institutions and relations of which the saved life should be the inward force. There is room even for a clause in which to compress the little that we know of anything beyond this life. We have written in unconventional words. There is no one place, either in Ritschl's work or elsewhere, where this grand and simple scheme stands together in one context. This is unfortunate. Were this the case, even wayfaring men might have understood somewhat better than they have what Ritschl was aiming at.
It is a still greater pity that the execution of the scheme should have left so much to be desired. That this execution would prove difficult needs hardly to be said. That it could never be the work of one man is certainly true. To have had so great an insight is title enough to fame. Ritschl falls off from his endeavour as often as did Schleiermacher -- more often and with less excuse. The might of the past is great. The lumber which he meekly carries along with him is surprising, as one feels his lack of meekness in the handling of the lumber which he recognised as such. The putting of new wine into old bottles is so often reprobated by Ritschl that the reader is justly surprised when he nevertheless recognises the bottles. The system is not 'all of one piece' -- distinctly not. There are places where the rent is certainly made worse by the old cloth on the new garment. The work taken as a whole is so bewildering that one finds himself asking, 'What is Ritschl's method?' If what is meant is not a question of detail, but of the total apprehension of the problem to be solved, the apprehension which we strove to outline above, then Ritschl's courageous and complete inversion of the ancient method, his demand that we proceed from the known to the unknown, is a contribution so great that all shortcomings in the execution of it are insignificant. His first volume deals with the history of the doctrine of justification, beginning with Anselm and Abelard. In it Ritschl's eminent qualities as historian come out. In it also his prejudices have their play. The second volume deals with the Biblical foundations for the doctrine. Ritschl was bred in the Tuebingen school. Yet here is much forced exegesis. Ritschl's positivistic view of the Scripture and of the whole question of revelation, was not congruous with his well-learned biblical criticism. The third volume is the constructive one. It is of immeasurably greater value than the other two. It is this third volume which has frequently been translated.
In respect of his contention against metaphysics it is hardly necessary that we should go into detail. With his empirical and psychological point of departure, given above, most men will find themselves in entire sympathy. The confusion of religion, which is an experience, with dogma which is reasoning about it, and the acceptance of statements in Scripture which are metaphysical in nature, as if they were religious truths -- these two things have, in time past, prevented many earnest thinkers from following the true road. When it comes to the constructive portion of his work, it is, of course, impossible for Ritschl to build without the theoretical supports which philosophy gives, or to follow up certain of the characteristic magnitudes of religion without following them into the realm of metaphysics, to which, quite as truly as to that of religion, they belong. It would be unjust to Ritschl to suppose that these facts were hidden from him.
As to his attitude toward mysticism, there is a word to say. In the long history of religious thought those who have revolted against metaphysical interpretation, orthodox or unorthodox, have usually taken refuge in mysticism. Hither the prophet Augustine takes refuge when he would flee the ecclesiastic Augustine, himself. The Brethren of the Free Spirit, Tauler, a Kempis, Suso, the author of the Theologia Germanica, Molinos, Madame Gayon, illustrate the thing we mean. Ritschl had seen much of mysticism in pietist circles. He knew the history of the movement well. What impressed his sane mind was the fact that unhealthy minds have often claimed, as their revelation from God, an experience which might, with more truth, be assigned to almost any other source. He desired to cut off the possibility of what seemed to him often a tragic delusion. The margin of any mystical movement stretches out toward monstrosities and absurdities. For that matter, what prevents a Buddhist from declaring his thoughts and feelings to be Christianity? Indeed, Ritschl asks, why is not Buddhism as good as such Christianity? He is, therefore, suspicious of revelations which have nothing by which they can be measured and checked.
The claim of mystics that they came, in communion with God, to the point where they have no need of Christ, seemed to him impious. There is no way of knowing that we are in fellowship with God, except by comparing what we feel that this fellowship has given us, with that which we historically learn that the fellowship with God gave to Christ. This is the sense and this the connexion in which Ritschl says that we cannot come to God save in and through the historic Christ as he is given us in the Gospels. The inner life, at least, which is there depicted for us is, in this outward and authoritative sense, our norm and guide.
Large difficulties loom upon the horizon of this positivistic insistence upon history. Can we know the inner life of Christ well enough to use it thus as test in every, or even in any case? Does not the use of such a test, or of any test in this external way, take us out of the realm of the religion of the spirit? Men once said that the Church was their guide. Others said the Scripture was their guide. Now, in the sense of the outwardness of its authority, we repudiate even this. It rings devoutly if we say Christ is our guide. Yet, as Ritschl describes this guidance, in the exigency of his contention against mysticism, have we anything different? What becomes of Confucianists and Shintoists, who have never heard of the historic Christ? And all the while we have the sense of a query in our minds. Is it open to any man to repudiate mysticism absolutely and with contumely, and then leave us to discover that he does not mean mysticism as historians of every faith have understood it, but only the margin of evil which is apparently inseparable from it? That margin of evil others see and deplore. Against it other remedies have been suggested, as, for example, intelligence. Some would feel that in Ritschl's remedy the loss is greater than the gain.
This historical character of revelation is so truly one of the fountain heads of the theology which takes its rise in Ritschl, that it deserves to be considered somewhat more at length. The Ritschlian movement has engaged a generation of more or less notable thinkers in the period since Ritschl's death. These have dissented at many points from Ritschl's views, diverged from his path and marked out courses of their own. We shall do well in the remainder of this chapter to attempt the delineation in terms, not exclusively of Ritschl, but of that which may with some laxity be styled Ritschlianism. The value judgments of religion indicate only the subjective form of religious knowledge, as the Ritschlians understand it. Faith, however, does not invent its own contents. Historical facts, composing the revelation, actually exist, quite independent of the use which the believer makes of them. No group of thinkers have more truly sought to draw near to the person of the historic Jesus. The historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, is the divine revelation. That sums up this aspect of the Ritschlian position. Some negative consequences of this position we have already noted. Let us turn to its positive significance.
Herrmann is the one of the Ritschlians who has dealt with this matter not only with great clearness, but also with deep Christian feeling in his Verkehr des Christen mit Gott, 1886, and notably in his address, Der Begriff der Offenbarung, 1887. If the motive of religion were an intellectual curiosity, a verbal communication would suffice. As it is a practical necessity, this must be met by actual impulse in life. That passing out of the unhappiness of sin, into the peace and larger life which is salvation, does indeed imply the movement of God's spirit on our hearts, in conversion and thereafter. This is essentially mediated to us through the Scriptures, especially through those of the New Testament, because the New Testament contains the record of the personality of Jesus. In that our personality is filled with the spirit which breathes in him, our salvation is achieved. The image of Jesus which we receive acts upon us as something indubitably real. It vindicates itself as real, in that it takes hold upon our manhood. Of course, this assumes that the Church has been right in accepting the Gospels as historical. Herrmann candidly faces this question. Not every word or deed, he says, which is recorded concerning Jesus, belongs to this central and dynamic revelation of which we speak. We do not help men to see Jesus in a saving way if, on the strength of accounts in the New Testament, we insist concerning Jesus that he was born of a virgin, that he raised the dead, that he himself rose from the dead. We should not put these things before men with the declaration that they must assent to them. We must not try to persuade ourselves that that which acted upon the disciples as indubitably real must of necessity act similarly upon us. We are to allow ourselves to be seized and uplifted by that which, in our position, touches us as indubitably real. This is, in the first place, the moral character of Jesus. It is his inner life which, on the testimony of the disciples, meets us as something real and active in the world, as truly now as then. What are some facts of this inner life? The Jesus of the New Testament shows a firmness of religious conviction, a clearness of moral judgment, a purity and force of will, such as are not found united in any other figure in history. We have the image of a man who is conscious that he does not fall short of the ideal for which he offers himself. It is this consciousness which is yet united in him with the most perfect humility. He lives out his life and faces death in a confidence and independence which have never been approached. He has confidence that he can lift men to such a height that they also will partake with him in the highest good, through their full surrender to God and their life of love for their fellows.
It is clear that Herrmann aims to bring to the front only those elements in the life of Jesus which are likely to prove most effectual in meeting the need and winning the faith of the men of our age. He would cast into the background those elements which are likely to awaken doubt and to hinder the approach of men's souls to God. For Herrmann himself the virgin birth has the significance that the spiritual life of Jesus did not proceed from the sinful race. But Herrmann admits that a man could hold even that without needing to allege that the physical life of Jesus did not come into being in the ordinary way. The distinction between the inner and outward life of Jesus, and the declaration that belief in the former alone is necessary, has the result of thus ridding us of questions which can scarcely fail to be present to the mind of every modern man. Yet it would be unjust to imply that this is the purpose. Quite the contrary, the distinction is logical for this theology. Redemption is an affair of the inner life of a man. It is the force of the inner life of the Redeemer which avails for it. It is from the belief that such an inner and spiritual life was once realised here on earth, that our own faith gathers strength, and gets guidance in the conflict for the salvation of our souls. The belief in the historicity of such an inner life is necessary. So Harnack also declares in his Wesen des Christenthums, 1900. It is noteworthy that in this connexion neither of these writers advances to a form of speculation concerning the exalted Christ, which in recent years has had some currency. According to this doctrine, there is ascribed to the risen and ascended Jesus an existence with God which is thought of in terms different from those which we associate with the idea of immortality. In other words, this continued existence of Christ as God is a counterpart of that existence before the incarnation, which the doctrine of the pre-existence alleged. But surely this speculation can have no better standing than that of the pre-existence.
Sin in the language of religion is defection from the law of God. It is the transgression of the divine command. In what measure, therefore, the life of man can be thought of as sinful, depends upon his knowledge of the will of God. In Scripture, as in the legends of the early history of the race, this knowledge stands in intimate connexion with the witness to a primitive revelation. This thought has had a curious history. The ideas of mankind concerning God and his will have grown and changed as much as have any other ideas. The rudimentary idea of the good is probably of social origin. It first emerges in the conflict of men one with another. As the personalised ideal of conduct, the god then reacts upon conduct, as the conduct reacts upon the notion of the god. Only slowly has the ideal of the good been clarified. Only slowly have the gods been ethicised. 'An honest God is the noblest work of man.' The moralising and spiritualising of the idea of Jahve lies right upon the face of the Old Testament. The ascent of man on his ethical and spiritual side is as certain as is that on his physical side. Long struggle upward through ignorance, weakness, sin, gradual elevating of the standard of what ought to he, growingly successful effort to conform to that standard -- this is what the history of the race has seen.
Athwart this lies the traditional dogma. The dogma took up into itself a legend of the childhood of the world. It elaborated that which in Genesis is vague and poetic into a vast scheme which has passed as a sacred philosophy of history. It postulated an original revelation. It affirmed the created state of man as one of holiness before a fall. To the framers of the dogma, if sin is the transgression of God's will, then it must be in light of a revelation of that will. In the Scriptures we have vague intimations concerning God's will, growingly clearer knowledge of that will, evolving through history to Jesus. In the dogma we have this grand assumption of a paradisaic state of perfectness in which the will of God was from the beginning perfectly known.
In the Platonic, as in the rabbinic, speculation the idea must precede the fact. Every step of progress is a defection from that idea. The dogma suffers from an insoluble contradiction within itself. It aims to give us the point of departure by which we are to recognise the nature of sin. At the same moment it would describe the perfection of man at which God has willed that by age-long struggle he should arrive. Now, if we place this perfection at the beginning of human history, before all human self-determination, we divest it of ethical quality. Whatever else it may be, it is not character. On the other hand, if we would make this perfection really that of moral character, then we cannot place it at the beginning of human history, but far down the course of the evolution of the higher human traits, of the consciousness of sin and of the struggle for redemption. It is not revelation from God, but naive imagination, later giving place to adventurous speculation concerning the origin of the universe, which we have in the doctrine of the primeval perfection of man. We do not really make earnest with our Christian claim that in Jesus we have our paramount revelation, until we admit this. It is through Jesus, and not from Adam that we know sin.
So we might go on to say that the dogma of inherited guilt is a contradiction in terms. Disadvantage may be inherited, weakness, proclivity to sin, but not guilt, not sin in the sense of that which entails guilt. What entails guilt is action counter to the will of God which we know. That is always the act of the individual man myself. It cannot by any possibility be the act of another. It may be the consequence of the sins of my ancestors that I do moral evil without knowing it to be such. Even my fellows view this as a mitigation, if not as an exculpation. The very same act, however, which up to this point has been only an occasion for pity, becomes sin and entails guilt, when it passes through my own mind and will as a defection from a will of God in which I believe, and as a righteousness which I refuse. The confusion of guilt and sin in order to the inclusion of all under the need of salvation, as in the Augustinian scheme, ended in bewilderment and stultification of the moral sense. It caused men to despair of themselves and gravely to misrepresent God. It is no wonder if in the age of rationalism this dogma was largely done away with. The religious sense of sin was declared to be an hallucination. Nothing is more evident in the rationalist theology than its lack of the sense of sin. This alone is sufficient explanation of the impotency and inadequacy of that theology. Kant's doctrine of radical evil testifies to his deep sense that the rationalists were wrong. He could see also the impossibility of the ancient view. But he had no substitute. Hegel, much as he prided himself upon the restoration of dogma, viewed evil as only relative, good in the making. Schleiermacher made a beginning of construing the thought of sin from the point of view of the Christian consciousness. Ritschl was the first consistently to carry out Schleiermacher's idea, placing the Christian consciousness in the centre and claiming that the revelation of the righteousness of God and of the perfection of man is in Jesus. All men being sinners, there is a vast solidarity, which he describes as the Kingdom of Evil and sets over against the Kingdom of God, yet not so that the freedom or responsibility of man is impaired. God forgives all sin save that of wilful resistance to the spirit of the good. That is, Ritschl regards all sin, short of this last, as mainly ignorance and weakness. It is from Ritschl, and more particularly from Kaftan, that the phrases have been mainly taken which served as introduction to this paragraph.
For the work of God through Christ, in the salvation of men from the guilt and power of sin, various terms have been used. Different aspects of the work have been described by different names. Redemption, regeneration, justification, reconciliation and election or predestination -- these are the familiar words. This is the order in which the conceptions stand, if we take them as they occur in consciousness. Election then means nothing more than the ultimate reference to God of the mystery of an experience in which the believer already rejoices. On the other hand, in the dogma the order is reversed. Election must come first, since it is the decree of God upon which all depends. Redemption and reconciliation have, in Christian doctrine, been traditionally regarded as completed transactions, waiting indeed to be applied to the individual or appropriated by him through faith, but of themselves without relation to faith. Reconciliation was long thought of as that of an angry God to man. Especially was this last the characteristic view of the West, where juristic notions prevailed. Origen talked of a right of the devil over the soul of man until bought off by the sacrifice of Christ. This is pure paganism, of course. The doctrine of Anselm marks a great advance. It runs somewhat thus: The divine honour is offended in the sin of man. Satisfaction corresponding to the greatness of the guilt must be rendered. Man is under obligation to render this satisfaction; yet he is unable so to do. A sin against God is an infinite offence. It demands an infinite satisfaction. Man can render no satisfaction which is not finite. The way out of this dilemma is the incarnation of the divine Logos. For the god-man, as man, is entitled to bring this satisfaction for men. On the other hand, as God he is able so to do. In his death this satisfaction is embodied. He gave his life freely. God having received satisfaction through him demands nothing more from us.
Abelard had, almost at the same time with Anselm, interpreted the death of Christ in far different fashion. It was a revelation of the love of God which wins men to love in turn. This notion of Abelard was far too subtle. The crass objective dogma of Anselm prevailed. The death of Christ was a sacrifice. The purpose was the propitiation of an angry God. The effect was that, on the side of God, a hindrance to man's salvation was removed. The doctrine accurately reflects the feudal ideas of the time which produced it. In Grotius was done away the notion of private right, which lies at the basis of the theory of Anselm. That of public duty took its place. A sovereign need not stand upon his offended honour, as in Anselm's thought. Still, he cannot, like a private citizen, freely forgive. He must maintain the dignity of his office, in order not to demoralise the world. The sufferings of Christ did not effect a necessary private satisfaction. They were an example which satisfied the moral order of the world. Apart from this change, the conception remains the same.
As Kaftan argues, we can escape the dreadful externality and artificiality of this scheme, only as redemption and regeneration are brought back to their primary place in consciousness. These are the initial experiences in which we become aware of God's work through Christ in us and for us. The reconciliation is of us. The redemption is from our sins. The regeneration is to a new moral life. Through the influence of Jesus, reconciled on our part to God and believing in His unchanging love to us, we are translated into God's kingdom and live for the eternal in our present existence. Redemption is indeed the work of God through Christ, but it has intelligible parallel in the awakening of the life of the mind, or again of the spirit of self-sacrifice, through the personal influence of the wise and good. Salvation begins in such an awakening through the personal influence of the wisest and best. It is transformation of our personality through the personality of Jesus, by the personal God of truth, of goodness and of love. All that which God through Jesus has done for us is futile, save as we make the actualisation of our deliverance from sin our continuous and unceasing task. When this connexion of thought is broken through, we transfer the whole matter of salvation from the inner to the outer world and make of it a transaction independent of the moral life of man.
Justification and reconciliation also are primarily acts and gifts of God. Justification is a forensic act. The sense is not that in justification we are made just. We are, so to say, temporarily thus regarded, not that leniency may become the occasion of a new offence, but that in grateful love we may make it the starting point of a new life. We must justify our justification. It is easy to see the objections to such a course on the part of a civil judge. He must consider the rights of others. It was this which brought Grotius and the rest, with the New England theologians down to Park, to feel that forgiveness could not be quite free. If we acknowledge that this symbolism of God as judge or sovereign is all symbolism, mere figure of speech, not fact at all, then that objection -- and much else -- falls away. If we assert that another figure of speech, that of God as Father, more perfectly suggests the relation of God and man, then forgiveness may be free. Then justification and forgiveness are only two words for one and the same idea. Then the nightmare of a God who would forgive and cannot, of a God who will forgive but may not justify until something further happens, is all done away. Then the relation of the death of Jesus to the forgiveness of our sins cannot be other than the relation of his life to that forgiveness. Both the one and the other are a revelation of the forgiving love of God. We may say that in his death the whole meaning of his life was gathered. We may say that his death was the consummation of his life, that without it his life would not have been what it is. This is, however, very far from being the ordinary statement of the relation of Jesus' death, either to his own life or to the forgiveness of our sins.
The doctrinal tradition made much also of the deliverance from punishment which follows after the forgiveness of sin. In fact, in many forms of the dogma, it has been the escape from punishment which was chiefly had in mind. Along with the forensic notion of salvation we largely or wholly discard the notion of punishment. We retain only the sense that the consequence of continuing in sin is to become more sinful. God himself is powerless to prevent that. Punishment is immanent, vital, necessary. The penalty is gradually taken away if the sin itself is taken away -- not otherwise. It returns with the sin, it continues in the sin, it is inseparable from the sin. Punishment is no longer the right word. Reward is not the true description of that growing better which is the consequence of being good. Reward or punishment as quid pro quo, as arbitrary assignments, as external equivalents, do not so much as belong to the world of ideas in which we move. For this view the idea that God laid upon Jesus penalties due to us, fades into thin air. Jesus could by no possibility have met the punishment of sin, except he himself had been a sinner. Then he must have met the punishment of his own sin and not that of others. That portion which one may gladly bear of the consequences of another's sin may rightfully be called by almost any other name. It cannot be called punishment since punishment is immanent. Even eternal death is not a judicial assignment for our obstinate sinfulness. Eternal death is the obstinate sinfulness, and the sinfulness the death.
It must be evident that reconciliation can have, in this scheme, no meaning save that man's being reconciled to God. Jesus reveals a God who has no need to be reconciled to us. The alienation is not on the side of God. That, being alienated from God, man may imagine that God is hostile to him, is only the working of a familiar law of the human mind. The fiction of an angry God is the most awful survival among us of primitive paganism. That which Jesus by his revelation of God brought to pass was a true 'at-one-ment,' a causing of God and man to be at one again. To the word atonement, as currently pronounced, and as, until a half century ago, almost universally apprehended, the notion of that which is sacrificial attached. To the life and death of Jesus, as revelation of God and Saviour of men, we can no longer attach any sacrificial meaning whatsoever. There is indeed the perfectly general sense in which so beautiful a life and so heroic a death were, of course, a grand exemplification of self-sacrifice. Yet this is a sense so different from the other and in itself so obvious, that one hesitates to use the same word in the immediate context with that other, lest it should appear that the intention was to obscure rather than to make clear the meaning. For atonement in a sense different from that of reconciliation, we have no significance whatever. Reconciliation and atonement describe one and the same fact. In the dogma the words were as far as possible from being synonyms. They referred to two facts, the one of which was the means and essential prerequisite of the other. The vicarious sacrifice was the antecedent condition of the reconciling of God. In our thought it is not a reconciliation of God which is aimed at. No sacrifice is necessary. No sacrifice such as that postulated is possible. Of the reconciliation of man to God the only condition is the revelation of the love of God in the life and death of Jesus and the obedient acceptance of that revelation on the part of men.