Divination In Christianity Today

The question whether the primitive Church did or could experience holiness in the person of Christ, which we can but answer in the affirmative, is not so important to us as the question whether we too to-day can still do so. Has the portrayal of Christ's life, his actions and achievement, as preserved and handed down by the Christian Church, the value and power of a revelation for us to-day, or do we in this matter but live upon the inheritance bequeathed us by the first community of Christians and base our faith on the authority and testimony of others 1 There would be no hope of answering this question, were it not that in us too that inner divining power of apprehension and interpretation which has already been considered may find a place—that witness of the spirit, only possible on the basis of a mental predisposition to recognize ' the holy ' and to respond to it. If without this no understanding and no 1 impression' of Christ was possible even to the first disciples, of what avail should any tradition be that requires the mediation of generations of Christian men'? But if we may make this assumption of a predisposing inner 'witness of the Spirit'—as we must —the matter is very different. In that ease there is no harm even in the fact that the records of Christ's life are fragmentary, that they contain manifold uncertainties, that they are intermingled with legendary and overlaid with Hellenistic elements. For the Spirit knows and recognizes what is of the Spirit.

As evidence of the way in which this inward principle— this co-witnessing spirit within us—works, prompting, interpreting, and sending out intimation and surmise, I have found the information of a keenly observant missionary from a remote field very instructive. He told me that he had found it a constant matter for fresh astonishment to see how a pre sentment of the Word so inadequate—which could only hint at its meaning in a difficult foreign tongue and had to work with alien conceptions—could yet at times w m so surprisingly deep and inward an acceptance. And he said that here too the best results always were due to the responsive apprehension that came out of the hearer's heart half-wray to meet tho presented truth. Certainly it is only in this fact that we have a clue to the understanding of the problem of St. Raul. Persecutor of the Church as he was, the intimations he had of the being and meaning of Christ and his Gospel must have come to him piecemeal, in fragmentary hints and caricature. Rut the spirit from within forced upon him tho acknowledgement to which he succumbed on the way to Damascus. It taught him that infinitely profound understanding of the Christ made manifest which has led a critic like Wellhausen to confess that, when all is said, no man has understood Christ himself so deeply and thoroughly as Paul.

It', now, the experience of holiness and 'the holy' in Christ is still to be possible and so afford support to our faith, one thing is evidently to be presupposed at the outset, namely, that his own most immediate and primary achievement and intention can be directly understood and appraised in our experience, so that out of this may grow the ' impression ' of his holiness with a like directness. And here a difficulty seems to confront us, which has to be removed if the entire problem is not to be barred from the start. It is this: is that which we to-day think we find in the person of Christ and in Christianity at bottom at all the same as that which ho really intended to achieve and that which the first community of his disciples found in him'? In other words, has Christianity realiy a ' principle ' of its own, which, however capable of historical evolution, yet remains unchanged in essence, so that the Christianity of to-day may be measured against the faith of the first disciples and awarded a rank essentially the same ?

Is Christianity at ail and in a strict sense Jesus' religion? That is, is the religion wo know to day us Christianity, with its peculiar and unique content of belief and feeling, standing in all its historic greatness and supremacy when measured against other religions, with all its power to-day over the hearts and consciences of men to elevate or to excite, to launch accusation or confer benediction, to attract or to repel—is this religion still in its essence and inner meaning the same thing as the simple, unpretentious religion and form of piety which Jesus himself had, which he himself aroused and ' founded ' in the circle of those little, heart-stirred bands of men in that out-of-the-way corner of the world, Galilee ? It must be generally agreed that it has at least changed its form and its colour very significantly since those days, and that it has been exposed to violent alterations and metamorphoses. But is there any abiding essence, any enduring ' principle ' at all behind all the sequence of its manifestations, susceptible of evolution and development, but remaining one and the same throughout? Is it a case of development and evolution, or rather merely of continual transmutation, the influx of something quite different, which one man laments as a perversion, a second admires as a welcome substitution, and a third merely records as a simple historical fact 1

Christianity, as it stands before us to-day in present actuality as a great ' world religion ', is indubitably, so far as its claim and promise go, in the first and truest sense a religion of Redemption. Its characteristic ideas to-day are Salvation—overabounding salvation, deliverance from and conquest of the ' world ' and from existence in bondage to the world, and even from creaturehood as such, the overcoming of the remoteness of and enmity to God, redemption from servitude to sin and the guilt of sin, reconciliation and atonement, and, in consequence, grace and all the doctrine of grace, the Spirit and the bestowal of the Spirit, the new birth and the new creature. These conceptions are common to Christendom, despite the manifold cleavages that divide it into different confessions, churches, and sects, and they characterize it sharply and definitely as a ' religion of redemption ' par excellence, setting it in this respect on a level with the great religions of the East, with their sharp, dualistic antithesis of the state of liberation and bondage, nay, justifying its claim not to fall short of these in regard to tho necessity of redemption and the grant of salvation, but to surpass them, both in the importance it gives to these conceptions and in the richness of meaning it finds in them. It cannot be doubted that here, in these elements, is to be found the inner m-ipciplel and essence of contemporary Christianity to-day and what we have to ask is whether the wealth of mental and emotional content was in very truth the 1 principle ' of that plain ' religion of Jesus ' long ago, whose establishment must be termed the first and most immediate achievement of Christ.

In answering this question in the atlirmative, we would point to a p irable which, intended to have reference to the kingdom of God, fits the principle of Christianity equally well: the parable of the grain of mustard seed and the tree that grew therefrom. This parable hints at a change and alteration, for the grown tree is something different from the seed, but an alteration that is no transformation, no transmutation or 1 epigenesis', but genuine ' evolution ' or development, the transition from potentiality to actuality.

The ' religion of Jesus ' does not change gradually into a religion of redemption ; it is in its whole design and tendency a religion of redemption from its earliest commencement, and that in the most uncompromising sense. Though it lacks the theological terms which the Church later possessed, its ' redemptive ' character is manifest and unambiguous. If we try to determine as simply and concisely as possible what really characterized the message of Jesus, ignoring what was historically inessential, we are left with two central elements : (1) First, there is the proclamation of the kingdom of God, as no mere accessory, but the foundation of the whole Go-pel. This is characteristic of His ministry from the beginning and throughout its course. (2) Second, there is the reaction against Phariseeism, and, in connexion with this, Jesu-' ideal of godliness as the attitude and mind of a child when its fault has been forgiven. Put both points compriso in principle everything which later became separately formulated in the specifically ' redemptive' doctrines of Christianity: Grace, Election, the Holy Ghost, and Renewal by the Spirit, These were possessed by and experienced by that first group of disciples as truly as by any later Christians, though in an implicit form. A closer consideration may make this more plain.

To speak of a ' religion of redemption ' is, one may say, to be guilty of a redundancy, at any rate if we are considering the more highly developed forms of religion. For every such religion, when once it has won its autonomy and freed itself from dependent reference to an ideal of merely worldly 1 welfare ' (evSaLfiovia), whether private or public, develops in itself unique and overabounding ideals of beatitude which may be designated by the general term ' salvation'. Such a 1 salvation' is the goal to which the evolution of Indian religions has tended ever more markedly and consciously, from their beginning with the notion of deification of theUpanishad-Pantheism on to the bliss-state of the Buddhist Nirvana, which, as we have seen (p. 39), is negative only in appearance. It is also the goal of the' religions of redemption specifically so called, which spread with such vigour over the civilized world from Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor about the beginning of our era. Further, it is obvious to an examination sharpened by the comparative study of religions that the same tendency to ' salvation' is operative also in the vesture of eschatology that gives form to the religion of Persia. Islam, too, embodies the longing for and the experience of salvation. In this case ' salvation' is not simply in the ' hope' of the joys of Paradise: rather the most vital element in Islam is ' Islam' itself, i. e. that surrender to Allah which is not merely the dedication of the will to him, but also at the same time the entering upon the ' Allah' state of mind here and now, the object of longing and striving, a frame of mind which is already ' salvation and which may possess and enrapture the man like an intoxication and can give rise to a mystic transport of bliss.

But if the idea of ' salvation' thus lies at the base of all higher religion everywhere, it is manifested quite unmistakably and in supreme fashion, both in intensity and intrinsic purity, in the ' Kingdom of Heaven ' of Christianity, which is at once a tenet of faith, an object of desire, and a present experience.

It is quite immaterial whether this thought in ancient Israel issued from purely political considerations, only gradually rising alwve the ground of mere fact, till it finally was exalted to a transcendent meaning, or whether there were from the first authentic religious motives at work to shape and develop it. Ail this is beside the point, inasmuch as the materials by w hich the religious impulse works are very frequently at first of an unspiritual, earthly nature. It is just the unresting activity and continual urgency of this impulsion, enabling it to attain to freedom and press onward and upward to ever higher levels of development,—it is just this that manifests it most characteristically, and reveals best its inner essential being. Atid this is nothing else than the pure impulsion to retlempfioii, and the pre-intimation and anticipation of a boded ' good ', transcendent and ' wholly other ', a ' salvation ' comparable to those 'salvations' striven after in other religions, but supreme above them in the measure in which the Lord of the Kingdom found and possessed in the Christian experience is supreme above Brahma, Vishnu, Ormuzd. Allah, as also above the Absolute in the form of Nirvana, Kaivalyam, Tao, or whatever other name it may be given. So redemption is throughout the purport of the gospel even in its first and simplest form, a redemption which is both to be fulfilled by God hereafter and jet at the same time already experienced here and now. In the former aspect it comes as the assured promise of the Kingdom of God ; in the latter, by the present experience of His fatherhood, instilled by the Gospe. into the soul of the disciple as his most intimate possession. That the early Christians were conscious of tins as something entirely novel anil unheard of and exceeding all measure (a good news), is seen in the saying of Jesus that 'the Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached' (Luke xvi. 1G), in which John the Baptist, who also preached a ' Kingdom of God ', is yet classed with ' the Law and the Prophets '.

But to describe this novelty most truly and concisely it would be necessary to invent the sav ing of Paul (Romans viii 15), did it not already stand written :

' For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, thereby we cry, Abba, Father,'

Here Paul has penetrated to the heart of the matter, breaking definitely with the older religion and seizing unerringly upon the very principle and essence of the new. And this ' principle and essence' was the same for the first fishermen by the Lake of Galilee and has remained one and the same throughout the whole history of Christianity. With it is given the new attitude to Sin and Guilt, to Law and to Freedom, and, in principle, 'Justification', 'Second Birth', ' Renewal', the bestowal of the Spirit, new creation, and the blissful freedom of God's children. It was inevitable that these or similar expressions and doctrines and the profound speculation to which they would give rise should make their appearance when the Word called to the Spirit responsive to it.1

And so Christ's first and direct work and achievement, as we can clearly understand it to-day, is the effectual bestowal of ' salvation' as future hope and present possession by arousing a faith in his God and in the Kingdom of God.

And now how can Divination, in respect to such work of Christ, awake in us also, in us who stand so remote in time from him? How can we, too, come to experience in him 'holiness made manifest'?

Obviously not through demonstration and proof, by applying some conceptual rule. We cannot suggest any conceptual criterion in the form: ' When the elements x and y are brought together, a revelation results.' It is just this impossibility which makes us speak of ' divination', ' intuitive apprehension '. The experience must come, not by demonstration, but by pure contemplation, through the mind submitting itself unreservedly to a pure ' impression' of the object. For this purpose all that was given and contained in the message and work of Jesus must be combined with the picture of his person and life and viewed as a whole and in its context with the

1 We can even comprehend thereby the later influx of 'dualistic' or ' gnostic' currents, or at least see how they became possible. A man like Mareion is an extreme 'Jesu-ist' as well as an extreme 'IJaul-ist'.

long and wonderful advance in the religious history of Israel and Judah that was the preparation for it, and with the interplay of diverse tributary lines of development which,even where apparently divergent, ultimately converged upon this as their single culmination. Account must be taken of the elements of ' fulfilment' which the Gospel contains, and due heed given to the attraction and impelling force whilH it owed to its contrast with its Judaic environment or to parallels which it bore to this. And all the while, for the full impression to bo received, regard is to be paid to the non-rational, the woof of the web, the strange setting of the whole experience, which can nowhere be felt so palpably as in the case of Jesus Christ; —how his effect upon the men of his own day rises and ebbs, revealing his spiritual content, on which the salvation of the world depends, ever more and more manifestly, and revealing at the same time that mysteriously grow ing opposition of powers in which the problem of Job recurs a thousandfold more urgently- where we have the suffering and the defeat not merely of a righteous person, but of all that is most vitally important for the highest interests of humanity. In line there is that burden of non-rational, mystical significance, which hangs like a cloud over Golgotha. Whoever can thus immerse himself in contemplation and open his w hole mind resolutely to a pure impression of all this combined w ill surely find growing in him, obedient to an inward standard that defies expression, the pure feeling of ' recognition of holiness', the 'intuition of the eternal in the temporal '. If something eternal, something holy, ever results from the blending and interpénétration of rational and non-rational, purposive and indefinable elements in the way we tried to describe, in the person of Jesus this stands as nowhere else potently and palpably apparent.

And in a very real sense we of the later day are not worse but more fortunately placed for grasping it than Jesus'own contemporaries. Realization of him through 'surmise (Ahn-dunrj) of the divine government of the world'1 depends essentially upon two factors. On the one hand there is the general view of the marvellous spiritual history of Israel as a 1 An expression of De Wette. (v. p. 1">0.)

connected whole, with its prophetic and religious development, and with Christ appearing as its culmination. And on the other hand there is the complete life-work and achievement of Christ himself in its entirety. Now in both cases a general comprehensive view is more perfectly to be attained by us to-day than in the time of Christ; for, not only is our historical insight more keen, but we can also see the whole in better perspective at our greater distance. Whoever sinks in contemplation of that great connected development of the Judaic religion which we speak of as the 1 old covenant up to Christ' must feel the stirrings of an intimation that something EHrnal is there, directing and sustaining it and urging it to its consummation. The impression is simply irresistible. And whoever then goes on to consider how greatly the scene is set for the completion of the whole story and the mighty stature of the personality that is its fulfilment, his firm, unfaltering hold upon God, his unwavering, unfailing righteousness, his certitude of conviction and assurance in action so mysterious and profound, his spiritual fervour and beatitude, the struggles and trustfulness, self-surrender and suffering, and finally the conqueror's death that were his—whoever goes on to consider all this must inevitably conclude: ' That is god-like and divine; that is verily Holiness. If there is a God and if He chose to reveal himself, He could do it no otherwise than thus.

Such a conclusion is not the result of logical compulsion; it does not follow from clearly conceived premisses; it is an immediate, underivable judgement of pure recognition, and it follows a premiss that defies exposition and springs directly from an irreducible feeling of the truth. Hut that, as we have seen, is just the manner in which genuine divination, in the sense of an intuition of religious significance, takes place.

Such an intuition, once granted, issues, for us no less than for the first disciples, necessarily and independently of exegesis or the authority of the early Church, in a series of further intuitions respecting the Person, the Work, and the Words of Christ, and it is the task of theology to render these explicit. Such are the intuitions gained of ' sacred history' in general, of its preparation in prophecy, and of its fulfilment in Jesus'

' Mossiahshup'—the Being in whom all the religious potentialities of prophet and psalmist and all the anticipatory movements and currents in the old covenant became actualized, in whom all previous development found its culmination, and the evolution of a people at once its real significance and its goal, the completion of its course and the consummation of its allotted historical task. And there are further intuitions which have the same origin : the intuition by which we recognize in Christ the portrayal and presentment of God, divining in his agony and victory, his redemp'ive search and love, the very stamp and signature of God; the intuition of his ' Son-ship ', jff which we recognize Christ as the ' only Begotten ', the called, the fully empowered with deity, as one whose being, only made possible and intelligible of God, repeats and reveals the divine nature in human fashion; or the intuition of the ' new covenantof adoption and reconciliation through Christ, of his life-work and self surrender to God as sacrifice, and as a warrant of divine grace. And last, not least, the intuition of the ' covering ' and ' propitiating' Mediator. For the abyss between creature and Creator, 'profanum' and ' sanctum sin and holiness, is not diminished but increased by that deeper knowledge that comes from the Gospel of Christ: and, a« a result of the emotion spontaneously stirred in the recognition of it, that in which ' the holy ' stands self-revealed is taken here, as in other cases, both as the refuge from, and the means by which to approach, Holiness. And this impulsion of the mind to see in Christ mediator and propitiator may lie roused to seek expression spontaneously, even in cases where it is not,—as in Hebrew and primitive religion.—prepared for and sustained by a traditional cult and mysticism of ' sacrifice '. That is, it is a natural religious instinct, due to the pressure of the numinous experience and to nothing else.

We are not, then, to deplore the fact that intuitions of this kind find a place in the doctrines of the Christian faith : they do so of necessity. What we must deplore is, that their free character, as springing from 'divination ', is so generally misinterpreted ; that too commonly we dogmatize and theorize about them, deducing them from' necessary truths ' of exegesis or dogma (which are in fact always dubious), and so failing to recognize them for what they are, free-floating utterances and trial flights at expression of the numinous feeling; and that too often we give them an emphasis which puts them unwarrantably at the centre of our religious interest, a place which nothing but the experience itself of God ought to occupy.

In this connexion we may draw attention to what are commonly called the ' miracles' of Christ, but which we may perhaps more aptly call, in the words of Mark xvi. 20, 'signs following' (iiraKoXovdovvra aTj/xeta). It is not upon them primarily that the experience of ' holiness made manifest' is based; but, where there has been real ' divination ', there certain traits in the portrait of Christ come to acquire a fresh significance, as confirmation of the divination rather than its ground. I refer to the signs of exalted spiritual power over nature to be detected in the portrait of Jesus. These have their parallels elsewhere in the history of religion: in the great prophets of Israel, for instance, they are shown in the form of that visionary intuition and boding foreknowledge with which the prophet was endowed for his calling. In the life of Christ they recur unmistakably as 'gifts of the Spirit', raised to a supreme power. These things are not' miracles', for they are powers of the spirit, and so are as ' natural' as our will itself is, with its control over our body. But they clearly only come upon the scene where the spirit is itself exalted to its fullest stature and in its fullest vitality, and are most of all to be expected wdiere the spirit is in closest and most intimate union with its eternal cause and foundation, and is thereby set free to the highest it can itself achieve.1

It is, in the last place, clear that it is in the Passion and death of Christ that the objects of the strongest religious intuition must be sought. If his Incarnation, his mission, and the manner of his life come to be considered as a piece of self-revelation, in which an eternal Will of Love is mirrored, before all else is this Love and Faith seen accomplished in the Passion. The Cross becomes in an absolute sense the ' mirror of the 1 See further Appendix VII.

eternal Father' (¿¡wcuhim. aeterni Pa Iris); and not of the ' Father ' alone—the highest rational interpretation of the holy—but of Holiness as such. For what makes Christ in a special sense the summary and climax of the course of antecedent religious evolution is pre-eminently this—that in his life, suffering, and death is repeated in classic and absolute form that most mystical of all the problems of the Old Covenant, the problem of the guililess suffering of the righteous, which re-echoes again and again so mysteriously from Jeremiah and deutero-Isaiah on through Job and the Psalms. The 38th chapter of Job is a prophecy of Golgotha. And on Golgotha the solution of the problem, already adumbrated In Job, is repeated and surpassed. It lay, as wo saw, entirely in the non-rational aspect of deity, and yet was none the less a solution. In Job the suffering of the righteous found its o o significance as the classic and crucial case of the revelation, more immediately actual and in more palpable proximity than any other, of the transcendent mysteriousness and ' beyond-ness' of God. The Cross of Christ, that monogram of the eternal mystery,, is its completion. Hererationsl are enfolded with non-rational elements, the revealed commingled with the unrevealed, the most exalted love w'th the most awe-inspiring 'wrath' of the numen, and therefore, in applying to the Cross of Christ the category ' holy', Christian religious feeling has given birth to a religious intuition profounder and more vital than any to be found in the whole history of religion.

This is what must be borne in mind in the comparison of religions, when we seek to decide which of them is the most perfect. The criterion of the value of a religion as religion cannot ultimately be found in what it has done for culture, nor in its relation to the ' limits of the reafcon' or the 'limits of humanity' (which, forsooth, are presumed capable of being drawn in advance apart from reference to religion itself!), nor in any of its external features. It can only be found in what is the innermost essence of religion, the idea of holiness as such, and in the degree of perfection with which any given religion realizes this.

There can naturally be no defence of the worth and validity

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