Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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case there are no perfect representations in literature, but II. Clement, Hennas, the Acts of Paul, perhaps the Odes of Solomon and Acts of John, and even the gospel of Peter may be taken as typical examples. One of the most pressing needs of modern research is a good monograph of this subject, focusing the various subordinate questions, but at present it is not possible to do more than indicate its outlines.

The thought of the "uninstructed Christian" was simple: his view was that the world was created good (therefore he was not a Gnostic); and that man had been given the special favour of being the son of God,1 but had lost this relationship to his Father through the Fall. From that moment history had become a struggle between God, who set to work to counteract the Fall by means of his chosen people, Israel, and the prince of this world, the devil, who resisted the efforts of God, announced himself to be God, and bound all humanity to himself by means of the lusts of the flesh. The result of the devil's machinations was ignorance, error, pleasure, and death, which could only be abolished by the ultimate judgment of God. But in his mercy God sent his holy spirit into the Virgin Mary in order to redeem men and to 1 Cf. loc. cii.9 3, 38.

destroy the dominion of evil over flesh by becoming flesh.1 This holy spirit which thus became incarnate was the same which had spoken through the Jewish prophets, so that the Christian faith rested throughout on the Spirit—the Spirit who had given 11 the prophets" to Israel and later on had given " the gospel" through the Christ to the Christians.

This Christology is not the same as that which became traditional. The incarnation is the incarnation of the Spirit. Though such Christians spoke of Father, Son, and Spirit, they meant by the Son the being of flesh which had been the tabernacle of the Spirit and had been taken up into the Godhead, so that the Trinity consisted of the Father, Spirit, and Jesus in whom the Spirit had been and was incarnate. That is not the same, we must observe, as the Trinity of orthodox Catholic theology, because it does not distinguish between the Son, or Logos, and the Spirit.

The Shepherd of Hermas (Simil. 5) is one of the most elaborate examples of this type of doctrine of the incarnation. He describes how the Spirit came to help mankind, and took up its abode in the

1 In some varieties of thought the baptism took the place of the birth, and indeed there was for several centuries a confusion of thought on the point, which is reflected in the history of Christmas and Epiphany, as Usener has shown.

flesh of a certain human being who is never men-tioned, but is obviously intended for Jesus. As a reward for perfect life this human being was rewarded by the Father and the Spirit (who is also called the Son in this connection), by being taken up into the Godhead, and the same reward is offered to all who should live in accordance with his example.

It is for this reason that this type of thought is known as adoptionist, though it is not always clear at what moment the adoption of Jesus into the Godhead is supposed to take place—birth, baptism or resurrection. To point out its logical defects is not hard, and the better theology of Catholic Christianity reacted against its errors, but as a preliminary we must note the strength of this popular Christianity.

It represented the life of Jesus as a career of ascetic purity, culminating in apotheosis, and it offered to Christians the reward which had already been given to the Christ. God had become man in order that men might become God. The uneducated Christian stated it crudely, but in the effort to improve away the crudeness theologians in the end lost part of a necessary element of religious thought.

The first Christians spoke of Christ as the first born among many brethren, and the believers as joint heirs with Christ. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God," said St. Paul, applying to the faithful the same word as he does to the Christ. But in the desire to emphasize the greatness of Jesus later Christianity sought to obtain, as it were, a heightened contrast, and by ignoring that side of the teaching of primitive Christianity, obscured the teaching of St. Paul which represented the Christian as well as the Christ as a son of God.1

But the ordinary man in the second century had not yet developed this tendency. His real hope was that by means of his religion he could become a son of God, and he had not yet learnt that curious trick of language which distinguishes between the "son of God" and the "child of God." We all know how in traditional teaching it is quite a commonplace to say that we are all children of God, hardly ever to say that the Christian is a son of God. The custom is partly based on reverence, partly on deistic tradition, and partly on mere lack of clearness of thought. All this is only to' say in other words that this

"" also Heb. i.t i: 'God who at sundry times, and in divers rs, spake to the fathers by the prophets, in these last days o us by a son " (v¿i, not tff).

vulgär Christentum kept a vivid consciousness of the primitive belief of the first Greek Christians that the Lord was the centre of the community, that the Lord was the Spirit, that the Lord was also Jesus, and that they also possessed the Spirit. But it was inevitable that these simple affirmations of the religious consciousness should on closer examination be developed into a connected system of theology. Attempts were made on various lines, and the ultimate development of Christian theology represents in the main the verdict of the more intelligent and philosophical theologians upon the one-sided efforts of vulgär Christentum, to cope with the rival, or perhaps more properly complementary, claims of historical fact and religious experience.

In the first place there was the line struck out by the Christian who, starting from the identification of the centre of his life with 11 Christ," and the identification of this Christ with the Jesus of history, under the influence of the conviction that the Lord is the Spirit went on to say that this Jesus, who was the Christ, was also a spiritual being in the time of his human life in the same sense as he is a spiritual being now. That is to say, they threw back the conclusions of religious experience on to the past, and subordinated historical evidence to their own spiritual experience. The result was the statement that Jesus had never been a man of flesh and blood, because he had always been spirit, and that if he had seemed to be flesh and blood, he was not really so; he had adopted the form of flesh and blood for the purpose of manifesting himself, but not the reality of it—it was only appearance.

It is obvious that this is really the negation of the original position: it destroys the parallelism between the Christ and the Christian, and it rapidly becomes a Gnostic view of the flesh, though without the Gnostic view of creation. The Acts of John is probably a fair specimen of this " docetic "x branch of vulgar Christentum. Nevertheless we must, I believe, see in it a sincere attempt to act in the supposed interests of religion. It was an effort to reconstruct history in accordance with religious experience, and it is extraordinarily interesting to notice that the same thing is happening at the present day in the movement headed by Professor Drews in Germany and by Professor Smith in America. These scholars have rejoiced in arguments showing that there never was such a person as Jesus of Nazareth, not because they are enemies of religion, but because they think that

1 From ?p, to seem, because the humanity of Jesus was only in semblance.

they are doing a service to religion by cutting it loose from history. To a quite extraordinary extent this repeats the history of the second century, and the controversy whether the Jesus whom men knew as the centre of their religion had ever been a real man of flesh and blood.

Such was the result of beginning with religious experience, and attempting to make it a substitute for historical evidence. The opposite line of thought was also followed. There were those who felt that their knowledge of facts justified them in the statement that Jesus of Nazareth had really been a man, a human being. They would yield nothing to those who told them that his humanity was in any sense merely apparent. Starting from this they went on to argue that therefore the Christ of religion must possess to all eternity a body of flesh and blood. He might be in heaven at the right hand of God, but he was, nevertheless, a Jesus with flesh and blood, and it was he, that man of flesh and blood, who was to be accepted as the adequate centre of religion. The basis of the argument was the facts of history. If anyone felt that his religious experience did not agree with it, and urged that the Lord was a Spirit, it only proved that his theology was heretical and his religion a vain thing.

These Christians were doing the exact reverse of the docetic wing of vulg&r Christentum. They were true to the facts of history, and tried to make religious experience yield to them, by forcibly interpreting it just as their opponents were forcibly interpreting history in mistaken loyalty to the experience of religion. Each was doing the right thing in the wrong place, and it would be wearisome to try and follow out the development of the ensuing controversies which, in different forms, went on for centuries, but in the interests of a much-abused class the fact is worth emphasizing that the effort of the theologians—as distinct from the uninstructed Christians—was to do justice to both sides of the question. On the one hand, they tried to do justice to the facts of history by historical methods. Their methods were not ours, and their reconstruction of facts was not the same as ours would be, but they did their best according to the knowledge of those days. They insisted that Jesus of Nazareth had really been human, really flesh and blood, because they had the records, and they judged history by historical methods. On the other hand, they tried to do justice to the facts of religious experience by insisting that the r our religious life is spirit, and not flesh

. Therefore they tried to settle all the different forms of this controversy in such a way that, when it was a matter of history, justice should be done to the facts of history, and when it was a matter of religion, to the experience of religious life. It was impossible to find any single formula which covered the whole case, and practically what happened was that the Church occupied itself for several centuries in saying "No" in various accents of emphasis to inadequate propositions which were presented for the speedy solution of insoluble problems.

For instance, an attempt was made to say: "Jesus is God: we know that through religion. He was also man: we know that through history. Therefore, he must have been something between the two, a sort of inferior god, or an exaggerated superman." But the intellect of the Church said that this was neither history nor religion, but a confusion of thought. And Arianism and its successors were never accepted.

Or again, it was sometimes said, "Jesus was really two persons. He was a human person and a divine person." But the intellect of the Church replied that this was also impossible, because personality must be one. And what is known as Nestorianism1 was rejected.

1 It is very doubtful whether—to speak paradoxically—Net-is

was limited, temporary, or imperfect, and the divine Christ eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, everlasting, because, if so, the one personality was split into two. That was also impossible; the facts of history were decisive, Jesus was one person, and not two.

Thus it came to pass that when the intellect of the Church finally attempted to sum up the results, it was obliged to say that in the Christ there was a divine nature and a human nature so united in one person that they could not be separated, and yet so that they must on no account be confused. Unless men knew what they meant by it they could scarcely say that Jesus was God, but if they knew they not only could but must say it, for it meant that the union between these two elements, as we should say, or two natures, as the early theologians said, in the one person was so complete that by a process of mutual exchange (the com-municatio idiomatum) all epithets could be applied to'the one nature which were applicable to the other.

It is a maze of theological subtlety which we immediately enter as soon as we begin to express our thoughts along these lines of reasoning; and only those who by the expenditure of much time have learnt to use the language of the first six centuries can really appreciate how admirable it

It is not our language. We cannot "talk theology" half so well in our language as the Greeks could talk it in theirs sixteen hundred years ago, and the pity is that so many people either pour scorn on these subtle formulae, or apply them mechanically to other problems, without either understanding their origin, or sympathizing with their purpose. I should be the last person in the world to suggest that we can take, for instance, the Athanasian Creed as a representation of modern thought, or correct in its prognosis of damnation for the heterodox, but I am prepared to say that if you can, by study, teach yourself the way to use it, there is no document which more adequately struggles to represent two sides of truth simultaneously than the Athanasian Creed does. I am bound to add that when you have done this you may have reason to object to its use by an ordinary congregation, because it is unedify-ing to see or hear intelligent people reciting in public worship documents which they do not understand, probably misinterpret, and certainly dislike.

Nevertheless the fact that the Athanasian ^eed is so unintelligible ought to remind us that have still to deal with the perpetual struggle between history and experience. On the one hand religion is a matter of personal, intimate experience; its centre is for each of us in our own hearts; and our own experience is valid for ourselves. It is here, and it is now. Anything which takes away from the full force of that perception is wrong. But, on the other hand, we are the result of a historical process, and are ourselves44 historical facts." Even our most intimate experience is conditioned by history, because we ourselves belong to it, and we cannot without harm attempt to sever ourselves from the historical development which has produced us, and which conditions our experience. Therefore we have the same struggle as our spiritual ancestors had. If we wish to be intelligent and intelligible, we cannot state religious experience without taking the facts of history into consideration, and for the religious side of life history means the history of the whole of Christianity—not merely of its beginning. We cannot without loss cut ourselves loose from it, and the problem is, to make ourselves the heirs of history without becoming its slaves.

But I do not desire to labour that obvious truth so much as to come into closer contact with the problem presented by the doctrine of the 44 two natures" in Christ.

It is perfectly plain that, as it stands at present, this doctrine belongs to a past generation. We can only appreciate it with difficulty, by learning the language in which it is expressed. If we yield to the temptation to put it on one side, we soon find ourselves lapsing into mere homiletic platitude or into some form of vulgär Christentum—in other words, into heresy. It is therefore necessary to grapple with it, and develop it until we bring it once more into touch with the facts of life as we see them.

We have, as an intellectual legacy from the past, the doctrine of Jesus as a being, a person, with two natures, human and divine. Leave that on one side and turn to our own self-knowledge. Is it not true that, as a matter of fact, in our own selves there is a double element? It seems to me that all of us have constantly to deal with two elements in life in ourselves and in other people.' There is, on the one hand, the element which makes it extraordinarily hard for us to understand anybody else; which makes it extraordinarily hard for any two people to work together without quarrelling; which makes us all have a tendency to quarrel and fight for our own supposed advantages—the fact that we resist it is the essence of civilization. This element which limits, which separates, which drags down, although there are certain objections to the use of the word, may fairly be called "human, 99 though the difficulty with all these points is that thought is struggling with language, and language often gets the better of the struggle. Still I think that I run no risk of being misunderstood in saying that this limiting, separating, and dividing element, of which we are all conscious, is "human99 nature in the narrower sense.

On the other hand, we are conscious of another element which is unifying, which brings people together, which enables us at times to feel that we are understanding each other in some sense more than the mere intellectual comprehension of carefully chosen phraseology. We are, as we say, "in touch99 with one another; we feel that we pass our normal limitations, and that there is a sense in which the truth that we are really all "one99 is greater than the truth that we are all separate, for we are not so much coming together as realizing that on the highest side of life we have never been separated at all. That is the element which is at the centre of all corporate life, and makes for cooperation, for unity, for peace, for civilization, and seems to me truly to deserve the name of divine, because nowhere can I see anything higher.

But this is the application to personality* as a whole of what Catholic theology—a different thing from vulgär Christentum—said of the one person of Jesus, and though it is possible that the adjectives, human and divine, and the substantives, nature and person, could with advantage be replaced by a different phraseology, it is in this kind of development that Christian theology has the opportunity to keep the historical continuity of a great intellectual tradition, and at the same time to join hands with modern psychology.8

Moreover, this line of thought enables us to see more clearly than any other that progress, not only in thought, but in life as a whole, is the conscious development of the one side and the conscious keeping in check of the other side of personality. That seems to me the intellectual statement of the real work of life: the conscious effort of the individual and of society to develop

1 If anyone will read, for instance, Dorner's History of tks Doctrine of the Person of Christ, he will, I think, probably gain the impression that the real contribution of the H^^cal period of Christian theology was to state the problem: "What is personality? " and to suggest the lines on which it must be faced. Here again it is, to my mind, the modernist who is really taking his inheritance and trying to develop it.

■ I may be allowed to say that I believe that this amounts to e same as Dr. Sanday's position in his Christologies, is differently expressed.

the divine element which makes for unity, for peace, for co-operation.

Is not this exactly what the best early Christian theology expressed by its Logos doctrine? We must of course allow for the fact that the men of that generation, in theology as in everything else, started with a general hypothesis and worked inwards: we start from the other end and work outwards, as we have learnt to do in every branch of science. The theologian cannot claim any right to make use of a method which has been given up by everyone else. But allowing for this difference of attitude the11 Logos doctrine " of the Church and some such analysis of life as that sketched above are really two statements of the same view.

This brings me to one of the burning questions of modern theological Christian thought. It is often said that the "Modernist" is undermining or even denying the central doctrine of the divinity of Christ, and the answer to this accusation is closely connected with the general subject of this chapter. The "Modernist" believes that he is the true heir of the Catholic theology, while his opponents seem to him to represent a recrudescence of some of the one-sided and intellectually indefensible positions of vulgär Christentum.

The doctrine of the "two natures" and the

Johararinc Logos doctrine of which it is the logical conclusion are the expression of the view which, if we accept certain metaphysical forms of state* meat, may reasonably be of a certain complex of facts belonging partly to history, partly to religious experience. Although subject on the one hand to development, so far as it deals only with the fife of Jesus, and says nothing about other "persons," and, on the other, to amendment so far as the historical facts dealt with obtain a different complexion in the light of wider knowledge and deeper study, it remains one of the triumphs of human intellect, and the Modernist has not the slightest hesitation in accepting it. But it seems to him that the doctrines often presented to him by those who think that they are orthodox are something quite different. Men have forgotten or put on one side as unintelligible the Catholic theology, and have set up a rival which puts "the historic Jesus" in the place of the Logos. It is historically inaccurate and spiritually unsatisfying. It is the sort of theology which sings sentimental hymns about,

Those mighty hands which rule the sky no earthly toil refuse,

The Maker of the stars on high an humble trade pursues.

That is language which the extremest extension of the doctrine of the cammunicatio idiomatum could scarcely justify, and as most of those using it are wholly ignorant of that profound and subtle dogma it is in their mouths the merest recrudescence of the Jesus-cultus of vulgär Christentum.

The Modernist worships the Logos: not because of any ecclesiastical authority, but because heart and mind agree to tell him that this is the way of truth in which his fathers walked. He is not prepared to narrow down his perception of the Logos, or (to use more theological language) to sacrifice his recognition of the divine working of the Logos in all time and in all life in order to obtain a spurious heightening of contrast for the recognition which he gives to the Logos in Jesus.

Moreover, personally—I do not dare speak for all Modernists—I feel that these admirable and penetrating doctrines'of Catholic theology are not intelligible to ordinary congregations. I know that I cannot state them equally well in any other language. But I also know that in this language, however admirable, they are not intelligible to most people, because the technical terms are unknown to them, or, still worse, have popularly a different meaning. Therefore I prefer to restate these truths in modern language, by which I mean in a different phraseology, and I dissent wholly from those who try to achieve what they call restatement by using the old phraseology in a new sense. The Catholic theology is magnificent: but it is not intelligible except to properly trained theological intellects. My wish is to make the view of life which it represents intelligible by putting it into modern language, nor do I find this an impossible task, but I admire the language of the old theologians too much not to protest against attempts to mutilate it or to pretend that it speaks in our phraseology. Some of the ostensible defenders of Christian theology understand neither its history nor its meaning, and the parody which they present is the greatest intellectual danger which Christianity has now to face.

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