Tin: NUMINOUS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
I. the Gospel of Jesus we see the consummation of that process Icndinjr to rationalize, moralize, and humanize the i lea of God, which began with the earliest period of the old Hebrew tradition and became specially prominent as a living factor in the Prophets and tho Psalms, continually bringing the apprehension of the numinous to a richer fulfilment by recognizing in it attributes of clear and profound value for the reason. The result was the faith in 'the fatherhood of G 1 ' in that unsurpassable form in which it is peculiar to Christianity.
Put in this case, too, it would bo a mistake to think that such a rationalization means that ' the numinous ' is excluded or supersede 1. That is a misunderstanding into which we are led by the all too plausible delineations of ' Jesus's faith in the fatherhood of God' low prevalent, but it certainly misrepresent- the attitude of the first Christian congregations. The error is only possible if we disregard in the message of Christ that which it really purports to be, first, last, and all the time, viz. the Go-pel <;/ the Kingdum. As against all rationalizing attempts to tone it down into something less startling tho most recent research shows quite decisively that the ' kin dom ' is just greatness and marvel absolute, the ' wholly other 'heavenly' thing, set in contrast to the world of here and now 'the mysterious ' itself in its dual character as awe-compelling yet all-attracting, glimmering in an atmosphere of genuine "religious awe'. As such.it sheds a colour, a mood, a tone, upon whatever stands in relation to it, upon the men who proclaim it or prepare for it, upon the life and practice that are its precondition, upon the tidings of it, upon the congregation of those who await it and attain to it. All is made into a ' mystery'—all, that is, becomes ' numinous This is shown most strikingly in the name by which the company of the disciples call themselves collectively and each other individually, the numinous ' technical term' ot ayioi, the holy ones or 'the Saints'. It is manifest at once that this does not mean ' the morally perfect' people: it means the people who participate in the mystery of the final Day. Their title is the clear and unambiguous antithesis to the term ' the profane', which we have already met with. For this reason the early Christians are able later to call themselves also actually a ' priestly'—or sacerdotal—' people ', that is, a group of 1 consecrated' persons. But the precondition of all this was given with the Gospel itself and its claim to be the preaching of the coming Kingdom.
What of the lord of this kingdom, the ' heavenly Father' ? As its lord He is not less, but far more ' holy', ' numinous ', mysterious, ' qadosh', ayio y, 'sacer', and ' sanctus ' than His kingdom. He is all these in an absolute degree, and in this aspect of His nature He represents the sublimation and the consummation of all that the old Covenant had grasped by way of ' creature-consciousness ', ' holy awe', and the like. Not to realize this is to turn the Gospel of Jesus into a mere idyll. That these moments do not occur severally in Jesus's message in the form of special ' doctrines' is due to the circumstances already mentioned more than once. But apart from the inherent impossibility of teaching them, how could He have had need of 'teaching' what was simply the primary, self-evident fact to every Jew, and especially to every believer in ' the Kingdom ', namely, that God was' the Holy One in Israel'? Christ had rather to teach and to proclaim what was not self-evident to the Jews, but His own original discovery and revelation, that this very ' Holy One' is a ' heavenly Father'. This point of view necessarily occupied the whole of His ' teaching', and all the more so because it was the point of % iew thrust sharply into the foreground by the two opposed influences of His time, against both of which the Gospel caino historically as a reaction. On the one hand was Pharisaism, with its servitud» to Law; on the other, John the Baptist, with his harsh, aseetic interpretation of God; anil, in contrast to both, the Gospel of the Sonhood of man and the Fatherhood of God came as the easy yoke, the light burden. But though it is necessarily this new message that the parables and discourses and pronouncements of Jesus complete and fill out, it is in such a way that it always remains an overwhelming an 1 daring paradox, claiming our utmost homage, that He who is 'in heavt-n' is yet ' our lather'. That that 'heavenly Being of marvel and mystery and awe is Himself the eternal, beiligniut, gracious will: this is the resolved contrast that first brings out the deep-felt harmony in true Chri-tian experience; and the harmony cannot be heard ar',ht by the man whose ear does not detect always bounding in it. this sublimated 'seventh'.
It is significant, and yet again so natural, that the first petition in the prayer of the Christian fellowship is: ' Hallowed be Thy name.' What I have already said should make the meaning of this clear in its connexion with the Biblical meaning of the woi 1. And we can sometimes detect, even in the teaching of Jesus, notes still vibrating which seem to suggest a trace of that weird awe and shuddering dread before the mysteries of the transcendent of which we have already spoken. Such a passage is Matthew x. 28: 'But fear him w hich is able to dtatnft both soul tind tody in hill.'
The dark and awful ring of this saying cannot be missed, and it is a rationalization of it merely to refer it to the Judge and His judgement on the List Day. The same note rings out again cleaiiy in the saving in Hebrews x. 31 : ' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God'; and in Hebrews xii. 29: ' Our God is a con-uining fire.' (Here the adaptation of Deuteronomy iv. 24: ' Hie Lord is a consuming lire' into'Our God is a con $J|ming fire' gives a contrast whose effect enhances the horror of the saying.) And when occasion demands it the Old '1 estament God of ' vengeance' recurs even in the teaching of Jesus Himself, unveiled and in Híh own authentic character; as, for instance, in ilatthew xxi. 41: ' He will miserably destroy' those wicked men.'
Finally, it is in the light of, and with the background of, this numinous experience, with its mystery and its awe— its myderium tremendum—that Christ's Agony in the n:ght of Gethsemane must be viewed, if we are to comprehend or realize at all in our own experience what the import of that agony was. What is the cause of this ' sore amazement' and ' heaviness', this soul shaken to its depths, ' exceeding sorrowful even unto death', and this sweat that falls to the ground like great drops of blood 1 Can it be ordinary fear of death in the case of one who had had death before his eyes for weeks past and who had just celebrated with clear intent his death-feast with his disciples'? No, there is more here than the fear of death; there is the awe of the creature before the ' mysterium tremendum', before the shuddering secret of the numen. And the old tales come back into our mind as strangely parallel and, as it were, prophetically significant, the tales of Yahweh who waylaid Moses by night, and of Jacob who wrestled with God ' until the breaking of the day'. 'He had power with God . .. and prevailed', with the God of 1 Wrath' and 'Fury', with the numen, which yet is itself ' My Father'. In truth even those who cannot recognize ' the Holy One of Israel' elsewhere in the God of the Gospel must at least discover Him here, if they have eyes to see at all.
I have no need to dwell upon the numinous atmosphere pervading the writings of St. Paul. ' God dwelleth in a light that none may come nigh.' The ' over-aboundingness' of the idea of God and the feeling of God leads with Paul to the special terminology and experiences of Mysticism.1 But it is
1 As a provisional definition of Mysticism I would suggest that, while sharing the nature of religion, it shows a preponderance of its non-rational elements and an over-stressing of them in respect to the' overabounding' aspect of the 'numen'. A type of religious experience acquires 'mystical colouring' if it shows an inclination to Mysticism. In this sense Christianity since St. Paul and St. John is not Mysticism, but religion with a mybtical colouring. And this is justified.
not coniinerl to these: it can be seen alive through all his utterances in the feelings of exalted enthusiasm and his spiritual terminology of the •pneuma', which are alike far removed from the merely rational side of Christian pietj. Ilis dualistic depreciation of 1 the Flesh ', as of all that pertains to ereaturehood, is that numinous self-disvaluation spoken of on pp. 52 ff. carried to its extreme. These catastrophes and sudden reversals that befall the. religious consciousness, the tragedy of sin and guilt, or again the glow of b-atitic joy. are only possible and intelligible on the basis of numinous experience. And just as the opyrj &tov with St. Paul is more than the mere reaction of righteous retribution, just as it is permeated by the ' awefulness' of the numinous, so on the other side is the ' fascination' of the experienced love of God, that bears the spirit beyond its l>oundaries into the third heaven, more than the mere consummation of the natural human feeling of a child for its parent. The opyr/ Otuv is potently and \ividly present in the gra- 1 pa-sage in Romans i. 18ff. where we recognize directly the jealous, passionate Yaliwoh of the Old Testament, here grow n to a God of the I niverse of fearful power, who pours out the blazing \ iuls of His wrath over the whole world. In this passage there is an intuition, genuinely non-rational in character. the sublimity of which has an almost horrible quality: that the commission of sin is the angry God's punishment for tin. St. Paul reiterates this thought so intolerable, if considered 'rationally'- in three separate verses. 'Wherefore God also gave them up to uneleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themse'.v es ' (Romans i. 2 t); 'I or this cause God gave them up unto vile atlections ' (i. 20); ' God gave them over to a reprobate mind, .. . being filled with all unrighteousness', Ac.
To feel the full weight and force of this intuition it is neees ary to escape as far as possible from the mmtal atmosphere of our dogmatic interpretations and judiciously toned-down catechisms, and to try to recapture the awe that could be felt by the Jew toward the fury of Yahweh, by the
Hellenistic Greek toward the horror of Heimarmene or Destiny, and by primitive man in general toward the ' ira deorum' or anger of the gods.
There is one other point in the teaching of Paul that demands notice in this connexion—his doctrine of predestination. It is perhaps precisely the ' rationalist' who feels most directly that with the idea of predestination we are standing on downright non-rational ground. Nothing remains so alien to the rationalist as this doctrine. And from his point of view he is quite right; from the standpoint of the rational this notion of predestination is a sheer absurdity, an absolute offence. Let him acquiesce in all the paradoxes of the Trinity and Christology, predestination will yet remain perpetually to confront him as a stumbling-block.
Not, as need hardly be said, in the form in which it has been put forward since the time of Schleiermacher, following the tradition of Leibniz and Spinoza. That is simply a capitulation to Natural Law and ' causae secundaea surrender to the claim of modern Psychology that all human resolves and actions are subject to the compelling force of motives, so that a man is unfree and predetermined thereby. And so, this predetermination by nature, having been identified with the all-embracing efficacy of God, in the end the outcome of the profound and purely religious intuition of divine predetermination—which has no concern at all with ' laws of nature '—is the comparatively trivial' scientific ' notion of universal causal connexion. There can be no more spurious product of theological speculation, no more fundamental falsification of religious conceptions than this ; and it is certainly not against this that the Rationalist feels an antagonism, for it is itself a piece of solid rationalism, but at the same time a complete abandonment of the real religious idea of ' predestination'.
This false ' scientific' interpretation of ' predestination ' having been put aside, it may be shown that as a religious idea it springs from two sources and has two quite distinct aspects, which should be distinguished by separate names. The one is 'election', the other—striking an essentially different note —' predestination' proper.
The idea of 1 election'—i. e. of having been chosen out and pre-ordained by God auto salvation—is an immediate and pure expression of the actual religious experience of grace. The recipient of divine grace feels and knows ever more and more surely, as he looks back on his past, that ho has not grown into his present self through any achievement or effort of Lis own, and that, apart from his own will or power, grace was imjarted to Biro, grasped him, impelled, and led him. And even the resolves and decisions that were most his own and most free become to him, without losing the element of freedom, something that he experienced rather than did. Before every dei . of his own he sees love the dePverer in action, seeking and selecting, and acknowledges that an eternal gracious ] urpose lis watching over his life. But this * preordainment is purely a preordainment unto salvation and lias in itself nothing to do with the ' praedestinatioambigua', the predetermination of all men either to be saved or to be damned. The rational and logical conclusion of course would be that, if he is elected of God but others are not, God, in appointing the elect to bliss, determines also the rejected for damnation. But this conclusion is not, and must not be, drawn, for what we are concerned with is a religious intuition which, as such, stands alone and is only warrant for itself, and which indeed is outraged by any attempt to weave it into a system or make it yield a series of inferences. Iii this respect Sehleier-iriacher is quite right v hen he says in his Discourses u/xm licllijion1: 'Every (sc. religious) intuition is a self-subsistent work . . . knowing nothing of derivation and point of connexion.
So much for ' election '. From it must be distinguished predest¡nation ' proper, ¡is it appears in St. Paul, e. g Romans Ik. 1H : Therefore hath Ho mercy on whom lie will, and w horn lie will He hardeneth.'
It in true that the thought, of 'election', prominent m St. Paul, can be detected here as well. I!ut the reflection in v. 20 is ifflviEpsly the utterance of quite a different frame, of mind : Nay, but, 0 man, who art thou that repliest against
1 Srhk'iermiU'.her, Rede» ilbtrdir Jltligion, ed. K Otto, 4th ed., pp. 37 8.
God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ?' That is a line of thought wholly out of keeping with the set of ideas centring ahout 'election'. And yet even less can it be derived from any abstractly theoretic 'doctrine' of the all-causing nature of God. Such a doctrine we find in Zwingli, and with him it does indeed give rise to a ' doctrine of predestination', but one that is rather the artificial product of philosophical speculation than the result of immediate religious experience. The true ' predestination ', springing directly from religious intuition, has its origin beyond question in St. Paul. But in him it is easily recognized as the numinous feeling in face of the ' mysterium tremendum'; and that unique phase of it that we met with above (pp. 9 if.) in the narrative of Abraham recurs here in a signally intensified form. For the religious conception in the notion of predestination is nothing but that ' creature-consciousness', that self-abasement and the annulment of personal strength and claims and achievements in the presence of the transcendent, as such. The numen, overpoweringly experienced, becomes the all in all. The creature, with his being and doing, his 'willing' and 'running' (Rom. ix. l(i), his schemes and resolves, becomes nothing. The conceptual expression to indicate such a felt submergence and annihilation over against the numen is then—here impotence and there omnipotence -here the futility of one's own choice, there the will that ordains all and determines all.
It is next to be noted that ' predestination ' in this sense, as identical with the absolute supremacy of the numen, has nothing whatever to do with the 'unfree will' of 'Determinism'. Rather, it finds very frequently precisely in the ' free will' of the creature the contrast which makes it stand out so prominently. ' Will what thou wilt and how thou canst; plan and choose; yet must all come about as it shall and as is determined': that is the earliest and most genuine expression of the matter. In face of the eternal power man is reduced to nought, tugelher with his free choicc and action. And the eternal power waxes immeasurable just because it fulfils its decrees dtsj/ite the freedom of human will. This is the aspect of the mutter designed]}- thrust ;nto the foreground in many typical Mohammedan narratives which profess to display! the inflexibility of the decrees of Allah. In these, men are utile to devise and decide and reject; but, however they choose or act, Allah's eternal will is accomplished to the very day and hour that was ordained. The purport of this is precisely, not that God and God alone is an active cause, but rather that the activity of the creature, be it never so vigorous and free, is overborne and determined absolutely by the eternal operative purpose.1 The thought of the deity as the absolutely sole and all-embracing active cause first occurs where the creature-feeling is intemified still further, and is at the same time combined with theoretic considerations. It then leads to Mystie m ; and it is only again a further consequence if the speculations about Being, peculiar to and characteristic of Mysticism, become then attached to the thought of God as sole cause. To the creature then is denied, not merely efficacy as a cau-e, but true reu/<'?/and complete being, and all existence and fullness of being is ascribed to the absolute entity, who alone really is, hile all ' being' of creatures is either a function of this absolute Being which brings them into existence—or
Fy. t-i mere idusion. This sequence of ideas is found in particularly explicit form in the Mysticism of Geulincx and the Occa-sionalists. ' Ubi nihil vales, ibi nihil velis.' Sometimes wo hear the same mystical chord in St. Paul also, as in his mysterious saying about the linal issue of all things, whero
1 The story told by Beidhavi, an expositor of the Koran, illustrates this: Once when Asrael, the angel of Death, came before Solomon he directed his gaze upon one of the king's companions. 'Who is that?' asked the man. "The angel of Death,' replied Solomon. ' He seems to be looking at me,' continued the other, 'so command the wind that it bear me hence and iet foe down in India.' Solomon did so. Then said the Angel, ' I gazed upon him for so lung out of astonishment, seeing it had been commanded me to fetch his soul out of Ina! i, while he was yet with thee in Canaan.' This is a predestination which presupposes free will just as its toil. However freely man makes his plans, Allah has always set his countermine.
[This story is told in verse by Leigh Hunt in his poem 'The Inevitable'; cf. Oxford e'd. (l'J22), pp. 0.1 6. (7/o»s.)]
' God shall be all in all '. But the passage in Romans is different. It goes no farther than the thought of predestination itself; and predestination we have found to be nothing but the intensified 'creature-feeling' in conceptual expression, and to be altogether rooted in the numinous consciousness.
A further consideration may make it plainer that this must be so. If it be really true that the consciousness of the numinous, as ' creature-feeling ', is the root of the predestination idea, then we should expect that the form of religious faith marked by an undue and exaggerated insistence on the non-rational elements in the idea of God would also lean most markedly to predestination. And such is obviously the case. No religion has such a leaning to predestination as Islam ; and the special quality of Islam is just that in it, from its commencement onwards, the rational and specifically moral aspect of the idea of God was unable to acquire the firm and clear impress that it won, e. g., in Christianity or Judaism. In Allah the numinous is absolutely preponderant over everything else. So that, when Islam is criticized for giving a merely ' fortuitous ' character to the claim of morality, as though the moral law were only valid through the chance caprice of the deity, the criticism is well justified, only ' chance ' and fortuitousness have nothing to do with the matter. The explanation is rather that the numinous in Allah, nay, even his uncanny and daemonic character, outweighs what is rational in him. And this will account for what is commonly called the ' fanatical ' character of this religion. Strongly excited feeling of the numen, that runs to frenzy, untempered by the more rational elements of religious experience—that is everywhere the very essence of Fanaticism.
The above interpretation of the notion of predestination gives at the same time our estimate of it. It is an attempted statement, in conceptual terms and by analogy, of something that at bottom is incapable of explication by concepts. Fully justified in this sense as an analogical expression, it is wholly unjustified ('summum jus' becoming ' summa injuria') if its character as analogy is missed, so that it is taken as an adequate formulation of theological theory. In that case it is disastrous and intolerable to a rational religion like Christianity, in spite of the attempts that are made to render it innocuous by all the arts of evasion and mitigation.
There is another element in the thought of Paul besides his notion of predestination that is rooted 'n the numinous: I raft r to his utter depreciation of ' the Flesh '. ' The Flesh ' with Paul is simply the condition of the creature in general. And this is utterly disparaged and depreciated by the numinous consciousness (as we saw on pp. 'J if., 52 fF.) in contrast to the transeen 3( :it, both in regard to its existence and its value; in respect to the first as 'Dust and ashes', 'nothingness', in-sutlicient weak, transient, and perishing, and in respect to the secoti 1 as the ' profane ', the impure, wRich is unable to assume the worth of holiness or to come into its presence. We tind these two same sorts of depreciation among the ideas of Paul, and the specifically Pauline feature in them is only the. vigour and completeness with w hich he expresses them. It is a quite separate question whence Paul derives this intensity in his denunciation and depreciation of ' the Flesh', whether it is original to him or stimulated by the ' dunlistic ' environment of thought in wiiicb he moved. As has been already said, one can determine nothing about the essential nature or the value of a thing by tracing its genesis and continuous historic derivation from other sources. And at least wo may maintain that Paul might well be stimulated to this emphatic expression by many genuine cases of the numinous experience recorded in the Old Testament. There too Pasiir, the ilesh, is lioth the principle ol' being 'dust and ashes' and the principle of the 'pollution' of the creature in the presence of holiness.
In St. John, no less than in St. Paul, there is a strong strain of the numinous. The element of ' aw efulness', it is true, dies away in Kim, as fo commonly in mysticism, without ever quite vanishing, for, pace Kitsch], even in John ' the wrath of Cod abideth ' (John ili. 30); but this only makes the elements of 'mystery' and 'fascination' tin; stronger, even in their mystical form. In John, Christianity absorbs and ' light' and ' life ', into itself from the religions at rivalry with it;1 and justly so, for only in Christianity do they win home. But what is this 'light' and this 'life'? Not to feel what they are is to be made of wood, but none can express it. They are a sheer abounding overplus of the non-rational element in relifrion.
And the same is true even of that saying of St. John to which the 'Rationalists' are so specially fond of referring : ' God is a Spirit' (John iv. 24). This was the text on account of which Hegel held Christianity to be the highest because the most truly spiritual (geistig) religion. But Hegel meant by 'spirit' the ' absolute reason'. St. John when he speaks of 7Tvtvjia is riot thinking of ' absolute reason' but of that which is in absolute contrast to everything of ' the world' and ' the flesh ', the utterly mysterious and miraculous heavenly Being who surpasses all the understanding and reason of the ' natural' man. He is thinking of that ' Spirit' which ' bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth'—the Spirit wh;ch just on that account is not confined to Zion or Gerizim, and whose worship is only for those who are themselves ' in spirit and in truth '. So that this saying, apparently wholly 'rational' in import, is itself the strongest and clearest indication of the non-rational element in the Biblical idea of God.2
1 And thereby drains these religions of their life-blood, according to 'the right of the stronger'. And henceforth these elements belong to Christianity indissolubly as its very own. For Venn starke Geisteskraft Die Klemente An sich herangerafft: Kein Engel trennte Geeinte Zwienatur lier innigen Beiden— and still less can the criticism of scholars! ['When the vigour of the spirit has gathered the elements into itself, then may no angel sunder the double nature now made single of the united twain.']
s Compare w:fh this chapter my recently published book Reich Gotten und Menschensohn.
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