1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Christianity
CHRISTIANITY, the religion which accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, embracing all who profess and call themselves Christians, the term derived from his formal title (χριστός, i.e. the anointed). Within this broad characterization are found many varieties of cult, organization and creed (see Church History). Christianity is classed by the students of the science of religion as a universal religion; it proclaims itself as intended for all men without distinction of race or caste, and as in possession of absolute truth. In fact, Christianity has been widely accepted by varied races in very different stages of culture, and it has maintained itself through a long succession of centuries in lands where the transformations in political structure, the revolutions in social conditions, and the changes in science and philosophy, have been numerous and extreme.
Beginning in Asia, Christianity extended itself rapidly throughout the Roman empire and beyond its borders among the barbarians. When the Empire in the 4th century adopted it, its cult, organization and teaching were carried throughout the western world. The influences and motives and processes which led to the result were many and varied, but ultimately in one way or another it became the religion of Europe and of the nations founded by the European races beyond the seas and in the northern part of Asia called Siberia. Beyond these bounds it has not greatly prospered. The explanation of the apparent bounding of Christianity by Europe and its offspring is not, however, to be found in any psychological peculiarity separating the European races from those of other continents, nor in any special characteristic of Christianity which fits it for European soil. For not only were its founder and his disciples Asiatics, and the original authoritative writings Semitic, but Asiatic tribes and nations coming into Europe have been readily converted. Missions in Asia too have achieved sufficient success to prove that there exists no inherent obstacle either in the gospel or in the Asiatic mind. Moreover, Christianity was once represented in Asia by a powerful organization extending throughout Persia and central Asia into India (see Persia). Mutatis mutandis, the same applies to Africa also, and Christianity still survives in both continents in the Coptic, Abyssinian and Armenian Churches. The explanation is rather to be sought in the political condition of the early centuries of the Christian era, especially in the rise of Mahommedanism. This may be regarded indeed as a form of Christianity, for it is not more foreign perhaps to the prevailing type than are some sects which claim the name. It exerted a strong influence upon Europe, but its followers have been peculiarly unsusceptible to missionary labours, and even in Europe have retained the faith of the Prophet. In the limitations of the Roman empire and in the separation of East and West consequent upon its decline, Christianity, as a dominant religion, was confined for a thousand years to Europe, and even portions of this continent for centuries were in the hands of its great foe. The East appeared as the Mahommedan dominions, and beyond these the continents of Asia and Africa were so dimly discerned that little reciprocal influence was felt. Thus the development of the two great civilized portions of the race in Europe and Asia followed independent lines in religion as in all else; and Africa, excepting its northern border, was left untouched by the progress of enlightenment.
Not only is Christianity thus the religion of a wide variety of races but across the divisions there cut other lines. In its organization Christianity exists in three great divisions, Roman, Greek and Protestant, and in various ancient sects in the Orient. The Roman Catholic and Greek divisions of the Christian Church are homogeneous in organization, but in Protestantism certain denominations are national, established by differing governments, and others are independent of governmental aid, making a large number of differing denominations. Some of these divisions are mutually antagonistic, denying to each other the name of Christian and even the hope of salvation.
According to a second classification, Christianity may be placed among the “individual” religions, since it traces its origin, like Islam and Buddhism, to an individual as its founder. This beginning is not in the dimness of antiquity nor in a multitude of customs, beliefs, traditions, rites and personalities, as is the case with the so-called “natural” religions. It is not implied that in the formation of the “natural” religions individuals were not of great importance, nor, on the other hand, that in individual religions the founder formed his faith independently of the community of which he was a part; but only that as undoubted historic facts certain religions, in tracing their lines to individuals, thereby acquired a distinctive character, and retain the impress of their founder. Such religions begin as a reform or a protest or revolt. They proclaim either a new revelation, or the return to an ancient truth which has been forgotten or distorted. They demand repentance and change of heart, i.e. the renouncing of the ordinary faith of the community and the acceptance of a new gospel. Thus demanding an act of will on the part of individuals, they are classed once more as “ethical” religions. To be sure, the new is built upon the old—in part unconsciously—and the rejection of the faith of the past, however violent, is never thoroughgoing. In consequence the old affects the new in various ways. Thus in Buddhism the presuppositions which Buddha uncritically took over work out their logical results in the Mahāyāna, so that great sects calling themselves “Buddhist” affirm what the Master denied and deny what he taught. Christianity takes Judaism (see Hebrew Religion) for granted—rejects it in part as a merely preparatory stage, in part reinterprets it, and does not submit what it accepts to rigorous scrutiny. As a result the Old Testament (see Bible) remains not only as the larger part of the Christian canon, but, sometimes, in some churches, as obscuring its distinctive truth. Moreover, in the transference of Christianity from the Jewish to the Greek-Roman world again various elements were taken into it. More properly perhaps we might consider the Greek and Roman civilization as the permanent element—so that the relationship to it was not different from the relationship to Judaism—in part it was denied, in part it was of purpose accepted, in still larger part unconsciously the Greek-Roman converts took over with them the presuppositions of their older world view—and thus formed the moulds into which the Christian truth was run. Here again, in some instances the pre-Christian elements so asserted themselves as to obscure the new and distinctive teaching.
Christianity, regarded objectively as one of the great religions of the world, owes its rise to Jesus of Nazareth, in ancient Galilee. (See Jesus Christ.) By reverent disciples his ancestry was traced to the royal family of David, Relation with Judaism.and his birth is ascribed by the church to the miraculous act of God. His life was spent, until the beginning of his public ministry, in humble circumstances as the son of a carpenter and his wife, Joseph and Mary. Of Joseph we hear nothing after the boyhood of Jesus, who followed the same trade, supporting himself and perhaps his mother and younger brothers and sisters. Of this period we have only a few fragmentary anecdotes and a stray reference or two. At thirty years of age he appeared in public, and after a short period (we cannot determine how long, but possibly eighteen months) he was crucified, upon the accusation of his countrymen, by the Roman authorities. He was without technical education, but he had been carefully trained in the sacred books, as was usual with his people. Belonging neither to the aristocracy nor to the learned class, he was one of the common people yet separate from them—a separation not of race or caste or education, but of unique personality.
His career is understood only in the light of his relations to Judaism (see Hebrew Religion). This faith, in a peculiarly vivid fashion, illustrates the growth and development of religion, for its great teachers in the highest degree possessed what the Germans call God-consciousness. The Hebrew national literature centres in the thought of God. It is Yahweh who is all and in all, the father, the leader, the hope, the hero of his people. No other national literature is so continuously and so highly religious. Another factor gives it still greater interest for the student of religion,—in it the progress of religious thought can be traced, and the varying elements of the religious life seen in harmony and in conflict.
In the early period the Hebrew religion was of the ordinary Semitic type. In its ancient stories were remnants of primitive religion, of tabu, of anthropomorphic gods, of native forms of worship, of magic and divination, of local and tribal cults. Out of these developed, by the labours of the prophets, a religion of high spirituality and exalted ethical ideals. According to it God demands not ritual nor sacrifice nor offerings. He does not delight in prayers and praise, but he demands truth in the soul and bids man to walk humbly and deal righteously and mercifully with his brother (Micah vi. 6-8; Isa. i. 2-20). He requires kindness, forgiveness and loving sacrifice from all to all (Isa. lviii. 3–12). This conception of God revealed itself as so essential to the prophets that their intense national feeling was modified. God would not deliver Israel because it was his people, descended from Abraham, his chosen, but he would punish it even more severely than the other nations because it denied him by its sins (Amos iii. 1-2). Yet Israel would not be destroyed, for a spiritual remnant, loving and obeying God, would be saved and purified (Ezek. xxxvi.-xxxvii.). Thus Israel survived its misfortunes. When the national independence was destroyed, the prophetic teaching held the people together in the hope of a re-establishment of the Kingdom when all nations should be subject to it and blessed in its everlasting reign of righteousness and peace (Isa. xlix., lx.).
Some of the prophets associated the restoration of the Kingdom with the coming of the Messiah, the anointed one, who should re-establish the line of David (Isa. ix. 6 f., xi. 1 f.; Micah v. 2; Ezek. xxxiv. 23, xxxvii. 24; Zech. ix. 9; Ps. ii. 72). Others said nothing of such a one, but seemed to expect the regeneration of Israel through the labours, sufferings and triumphs of the righteous remnant (Isa. liii., Ezek. xxxvi.-xxxvii.). By the strong emphasis upon righteousness, the tribal Lord of Israel was revealed as the universal God, of one relationship to all men. This monotheism was not primarily cosmological nor metaphysical, but ethical. The Jews showed little capacity for abstract reasoning and never pursued their inquiries to the discovery of ultimate principles. Thus they did not develop a systematic cosmology, nor formulate a system of metaphysics. Their religion was pre-eminently “theocratic”; God was thought of as King, enthroned in heaven and supreme. In the beginning as a tribal deity his powers were limited and he was involved in the fortunes of his people. But as the conception of Yahweh was deepened and broadened, and, especially after the development of ethical monotheism, not only was he believed to possess power sufficient to ensure the triumph of his chosen people, but to be the creator and ruler of all things in heaven and on earth, the God whom all peoples should worship and obey.
But the prophetic teaching was obscured in part by the nationalism of the prophets themselves, who exalted Israel as at once God’s instrument and the peculiar object of his love; and in part by the triumph of a legal-ritualistic sacrificial system. In the downfall of Jerusalem, the experiences of the exile in Babylon, and the return to Judaea, the nation was transformed into a church. Apart from the brief Maccabaean period, the intense patriotism of the people centred in the ecclesiastical organization. As a result, cult and organization and code hardened, forming a shell which proved strong enough to resist all disintegrating tendencies. Inevitably the freedom, spirituality and universality of the prophetic teaching were obscured. In the 1st century A.D. the national and priestly elements controlled; doubtless many individuals still were faithful to the purer prophetic message, though also zealous for the system of ritual and sacrifice, but for the ruling majority ritualistic service was the chief thing, justice, purity and mercy being subordinate. Hence in their view all who did not participate in the national worship and conform to the national usages were outcasts. The triumph of Israel was to be accomplished by the miraculous power of a Messiah who should descend out of heaven. His coming was delayed, in part by the opposition of demons, in part by the failure of the people to obey the law. This law embraced both moral and ceremonial elements derived from varied sources, but in the apprehension of the people it was all alike regarded as of divine origin. It was to be obeyed without question and without inquiry as to its meaning, because established by God. It was contained in the Sacred Scriptures (see Bible: Old Testament), which had been revealed by God supernaturally, and its meaning was set forth by schools of learned men whose interpretations were authoritative. The conception of salvation was mingled with ideas derived from the East during and after the period of captivity. The priesthood held still the ancient ideas. Salvation was for the nation, and the individual was not necessarily participant in it. Life after death was disbelieved or held as the existence of shades. There could be no resurrection of the body and no immortality (in the Greek sense). With these beliefs were associated a certain worldliness and want of fervour. The more actively and aggressively religious party, on the other hand, adopted the belief in the resurrection of the body, and in the individual’s participation in the Messiah’s kingdom; all the pious would have their share in it, while the wicked would be outcast. But these doctrines were variously conceived. By some the Messianic kingdom was thought of as permanent, by others as intermediary, the external kingdom being transcendent. So too some thought of a literal resurrection of the body of flesh and blood, while others thought that it would be transformed. The rudiments of some of these ideas can be found in the prophets, but their development took place after the exile, and indeed for the most part after the conclusion of the writings accounted canonical. Thus too the belief in a kingdom of demons held a large place in the mind of the people, though the references to such evil beings are almost absent from the sacred writings of the Old Testament. Again it is to the East that we must look for the origin of these ideas.
Jesus completed the prophetic teachings. He employed the old phraseology and imagery, but he was conscious that he used them in a new sense, and that he preached a new gospel of great joy. Jesus was not a historian, a critic or a The teaching of Jesus.theologian. He used the words of common men in the sense in which common men understood them. He did not employ the Old Testament as now reconstructed by scholarship or judged by criticism, but in its simple and obvious and traditional sense. And his background is the intellectual and religious thinking of his time. The ideas of demons and of the future, of the Bible and many other traditional conceptions, are taken over without criticism. So the idea of God which he sets forth is not that of a theologian or a metaphysician, but that of the unlearned man which even the child could understand. Yet though thus speaking in untechnical language, he revolutionized his terms and filled them with new meaning. His emphasis is his own, and the traditional material affords merely the setting for his thought. He was not concerned with speculative questions about God, nor with abstract theories of his relationship to the soul and to the world. God’s continual presence, his fatherly love, his transcendent righteousness, his mercy, his goodness, were the facts of immediate experience. Not in proofs by formal logic but in the reality of consciousness was the certainty of God. Thus religion was freed from all particular and national elements in the simplest way. For Jesus did not denounce these elements, nor argue against them, nor did he seek converts outside of Israel, but he set forth communion with God as the most certain fact of man’s experience and as simple reality made it accessible to every one. Thus his teaching contains the note of universality—not in terms and proclamations but as plain matter of fact. His way for others to this reality is likewise plain and level to the comprehension of the unlearned and of children.
For him repentance is put first, for how vastly changed is the conception of the religious life! The intricacies of ritual and theology are ignored, and ancient laws which contradict the fundamental beliefs are unhesitatingly abrogated or denied. He seizes upon the most spiritual passages of the prophets, and revives and deepens them. He sums up his teaching in supreme love to God and a love for fellow-man like that we hold for ourselves (Mark xii. 29-31). This supreme love to God is a complete oneness with him in will, a will which is expressed in service to our fellow-men in the simplest and most natural relationship (Luke x. 25-37). Thus religion is ethical through and through, as God’s inner nature, expressed in forgiveness, mercy, righteousness and truth, is not something transcendental, but belongs to the realm of daily life. We become children of God and he our Father in virtue of a moral likeness (Matt. v. 43-48), while of any metaphysical, or (so to speak) physical relationship to God Jesus says nothing. With this clearly understood, man is to live in implicit trust in the divine love, power, knowledge and forgiveness. Hence he attains salvation, being delivered from sin and fear and death, for the divine attributes are not ontological entities to be discussed and defined in the schools, but they are realities, entering into the practical daily life. Indeed they are to be repeated in us also, so that we are to forgive our brethren as we ask to be forgiven (Matt. vi. 12; Luke xi. 4).
As religion thus becomes thoroughly ethical, so is the notion of the Messianic kingdom transformed. Its essential characteristic is the doing of the Father’s will on earth as in heaven. Jesus uses parable after parable to establish its meaning. It is a seed cast into the ground which grows and prospers (Matt. xiii. 31-32). It is a seed sown in good ground and bringing forth fruit, or in bad ground and fruitless (Luke viii. 5-8; Mark iv. 1-32). It is a pearl of great price for which a man should sell all that he possesses (Matt. xiii. 44-46). It is not come “with observation,” so that men shall say “lo here and lo there” (Luke xvii. 20-21). It is not of this world, and does not possess the characteristics or the glory of the kingdom of the earth (Luke xxii. 24-26; Mark x. 13–16). It is already present among men (Luke xvii. 21). Together with these statements in our sources are still mingled fragments of the more ordinary cataclysmic, apocalyptic conceptions, which in spite of much ingenious exegesis, cannot be brought into harmony with Christ’s predominant teaching, but remain as foreign elements in the words of the Master, possibly brought back through his disciples, or, more probably, used by Jesus uncritically—a part of the current religious imagery in which he shared.
It is often declared that in these teachings there is nothing new, and indeed analogies can be found for many sayings; yet nowhere else do we gain so strong an impression of originality. The net result is not only new but revolutionary; His originality.so was it understood by the Pharisees. They and Jesus spoke indeed the same words and appealed to the same authorities, but they rightly saw in him a revolutionist who threatened the existence of their most cherished hopes. The Messianic kingdom which they sought was opposed point by point to the kingdom of which he spoke, and their God and his Father—though called by the same sacred name—were different. Hence almost from the beginning of his public ministry they constantly opposed him, the conflict deepening into complete antagonism.
Jesus has already been termed unique, one of the common people yet separated from them, and this description applies to the breadth, depth and reality of his sympathy. In the meagre records of his life there is evidence that he deemed no form of suffering humanity foreign to himself. This was not a mere sentiment, nor was his sympathy superficial, for it constituted the essential characteristic of his personality—“He went about doing good.” In him the will of the Father for the redemption of the race was incarnate. This led him into the society of those outcasts who were condemned and rejected by the respectable and righteous classes. In contemptuous condemnation he was called the friend of the outcasts (Matt. xi. 19; Mark ii. 16–17), and on his part he proclaimed that these sinners would enter into the Kingdom of Heaven before the self-righteous saints (Matt. xxi. 31). Even the most repulsive forms of disease and sin drew from him only loving aid, while he recognized in all other men who laboured for the welfare of their fellows the most intimate relationship to himself. These constituted his family, and these were they whom his Father will bless.
Jesus recognized his unique position; he could not be ignorant of his powers. Even the prophets had spoken in the name of God; they accepted neither book nor priesthood as authoritative, but uttered their truth as they were inspired to speak, and commanded men to listen and obey. As in Jesus the whole prophetic line culminates, so does its consciousness. Reverent toward the Holy Scriptures, he spoke not as their expositor but with a divine power which invests his words with immediate and full authority. The prophets use the formula, “Thus saith the Lord,” but he goes beyond them and speaks in his own name, “Amen, I say unto you.” He knew himself as greater than the prophets, indeed as him of whom the prophets spoke—the Messiah. Only through this self-consciousness can we explain his mission and the career of his disciples. The prophets up to John foretold the coming of the kingdom (Matt. xi. 11–13; Luke xvi. 16), but Jesus opened its doors and made possible entrance into it. Where he is there it is, and hence those who follow him are God’s children, and those who refuse his message are left outside in darkness. He is to sit as enthroned, judge and king, and by him is men’s future to be determined (Matt. xxv. 31 f.; Mark xiii. 26). Indeed it was his presence more than his teaching which created his church. Great as were his words, greater was his personality. His disciples misunderstood what he said, but they trusted and followed him. By him they felt themselves freed from sin and fear—and under the influence of a divine power.
Though his claims to authoritative pre-eminence thus took him out of the class of prophets and put him even above Elijah and Moses (Mark ix. 2-7; Luke vii. 28; Luke x. 23-24), and though naturally this self-assertion seemed His Messianic claims.blasphemous to those who did not accept him, yet as he had transformed the traditional notion of the kingdom, so did he the current thought of the Messiah. The pre-eminence was not to be of rank and glory but of service and self-sacrifice. In his kingdom there can be no strife for precedence, since its King comes not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give his life in the service of others (Mark ix. 33 f., x. 42-45). The formal acknowledgment of the Messiah’s worth and position matters little, for to call him Lord does not ensure entrance into his kingdom (Matt. vii. 21-23). It is those who fail to recognize the spirit of sympathy and self-sacrificing service as divine and blaspheme redeeming love, who are in danger of eternal sin (Mark iii. 28-29). All who do the will of the Father, i.e. who serve their fellows, are the brethren of Christ, even though they do not call him Lord (Mark iii. 31-35; Matt. vii. 21): and those are blessed who minister to the needy even though ignorant of any relation to himself (Matt. xxv. 37-40). Finally, membership in his own selected company, or a place in the chosen people, is not of prime importance (Mark ix. 38-40; Luke xiii. 24-30).
Jesus also refuses to conform to the current ideas as to the establishment of the kingdom. He wrought miracles, it is true, because of his divine sympathy and compassion, but he refused to show miraculous signs as a proof of his Messianic character (Mark viii. 12). The tradition of the people implied a sudden appearance of the Messiah, but Jesus made no claims to a supernatural origin and was content to be known as the son of Joseph and Mary (Mark vi. 3-4). His kingdom is not to be set up by wonders and miraculous powers, nor is it to be established by force (Matt. xxvi. 52). Such means would contradict its fundamental character, for as the kingdom of loving service it can be established only by loving service. And as God is love, he can be revealed not by prodigies of power but only by a love which is faithful unto death.
Even the disciples of Jesus could not grasp the simplicity and profundity of his message; still less could his opponents. When the crisis came, he alone remained unshaken in his faith. He was accused of blasphemy to the ecclesiastical authorities and of insurrection to the civil rulers. He was condemned and crucified. His followers were scattered every man to his own place as sheep without a shepherd. Of his work nothing remained, not a written word, nor more than the rudiments of an organization. The decisive event, which turned defeat into victory and re-established courage and faith, was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his reappearance to his disciples. Our sources will not permit the precise determination of the order or the nature of these appearances, but in any case from them arose the faith which was the basis of the Christian Church and the starting-point of its theology.
The death of Jesus as a criminal, and his resurrection, profoundly aroused the belief and hopes of the little group of Jews who were his followers. His person and mission assumed the first place in their affections and their thinking. He had been to them a prophet, mighty in word and deed, but he now becomes to them the Messiah, Christ. It is not his word but his person which assumes first place, and faith is acceptance of him—crucified and risen—as Messiah. Hence his followers early acquire the name Christians from the Greek form of the word. With this emphasis upon the Messiah the Jewish element would seem to be predominant, but as a matter of fact it was not so. The earlier group of disciples, it is true, did not appreciate the universality of the teaching of Jesus, and they continued zealous for the older forms, but St Paul through his prophetic consciousness grasped the fundamental fact and became Jesus’ true interpreter. As a result Christianity was rejected by the Jews and became the conquering religion of the Roman empire. In this it underwent another modification of far-reaching consequence.
In our earliest sources—the epistles of St Paul—Christ is the pre-existent man from heaven, who had there existed in the form of God, and had come to earth by a voluntary act of self-humiliation. He is before and above all things. Christianity and Greek thought.By him all things exist. In the Johannine writings he is the Son of God—the Logos who in the beginning was with God—of whom are all things—who lightens every man—and who was incarnate in Jesus. Here the cosmological element is again made prominent though not yet supreme, and the metaphysical problems are so close at hand that their discussion is imperative. Even in Paul the term Messiah thus had lost its definite meaning and became almost a proper name. Among the Greek Christians this process was complete. Jesus is the “Son of God”; and the great problem of theology becomes explicit. Religion is in our emotions of reverence and dependence, and theology is the intellectual attempt to describe the object of worship. Doubtless the two do not exactly coincide, not only because accuracy is difficult or even impossible, but also because elements are admitted into the definition of God which are derived from various sources quite distinct from the religious experience. Like all concepts the meaning of religious terms is changed with a changing experience and a changing world-view. Transplanted into the Greek world-view, inevitably the Christian teaching was modified—indeed transformed. Questions which had never been asked came into the foreground, and the Jewish presuppositions tended to disappear. Especially were the Messianic hopes forgotten or transferred to a transcendent sphere beyond death. When the empire became Christian in the 4th century, the notion of a kingdom of Christ on earth to be introduced by a great struggle all but disappeared, remaining only as the faith of obscure groups. Immortality—the philosophical conception—took the place of the resurrection of the body. Nevertheless the latter continues because of its presence in the primary sources, but it is no longer a determining factor, since its presupposition—the Messianic kingdom on earth—has been obscured. As thus the background is changed from Jewish to Greek, so are the fundamental religious conceptions.
The Semitic peoples were essentially theocratic in their religion; they used the forms of the sensuous imagination in setting forth the realities of the unseen world. They were not given to metaphysical speculation, nor long insistent in their inquiries as to the meaning and origin of things. With the Greeks it was far otherwise. For them ideas and not images set forth fundamental reality, and their restless intellectual activity would be content with nothing else than the ultimate truth. Their speculation as to the nature of God had led them gradually to separate him by an infinite distance from all creation, and to feel keenly the opposition of the finite and the infinite, the perfect and the imperfect, the eternal and the temporal. To them, therefore, Christianity presented itself not primarily as the religion of a redemption through the indwelling power of a risen saviour, as with Paul, nor even as the solution of the problem how the sins of men could be forgiven, but as the reconciliation of the antinomy of the intellect, indicated above. The incarnation became the great truth: God is no longer separated by a measureless distance from the human race, but by his entering into humanity he redeems it and makes possible its ultimate unity with himself. Such lines of thought provoke discussion as to the relationship of Jesus to God the Father, and, at a later period, of the nature of the Holy Spirit who enters into and transforms believers.
Greek philosophy in the second century A.D. had sunk for the most part into scepticism and impotence; its original impulse had been lost, and no new intellectual power took its place; only in Alexandria was there a genuine effort made to solve the fundamental problems of God and the world. Plato had made God accessible to the highest knowledge as the transcendent idea, remote from the world. For Aristotle, too, God in his essence is far above the world and at most its first mover. The stoics, on the other hand, taught his immanence, while the eclectics sought truth by the mingling of the two ideas. They accomplished their purpose in various ways, by distinguishing between God and his power—or by the notion of a hierarchy of super-sensible beings, or in a doctrine which taught that the operations of nature are the movement of pure spirit; or by the use of the “Word” of “Wisdom,” half personified as intermediate between God and the world. While these monotheistic, pantheistic doctrines were taught in the schools, the people were left to a debased polytheism and to new superstitions imported from the Orient; the philosophers themselves were by no means unaffected by the popular beliefs. Mingled with all these were the ancient legends of gods and heroes, accepted as inspired scripture by the people, and by philosophers in part explained away by an allegorical exegesis and in part felt increasingly as a burden to the intelligence. In this period of degeneracy there were none the less an awakening to religious needs and a profound longing for a new revelation of truth, which should satisfy at once the intellect and the religious emotions.
Christianity came as supplying a new power; it freed philosophy from scepticism by giving a definite object to its efforts and a renewed confidence in its mission. Monotheism henceforth was to be the belief not of philosophers only but even of the ignorant, and in Jesus Christ the union of the divine and the human was effected. The Old Testament, allegorically explained, became the substitute for the outgrown mythology; intellectual activity revived; the new facts gained predominant influence in philosophy, and in turn were shaped according to its canons. In theology the fundamental problems of ontological philosophy were faced; the relationship of unity to multiplicity, of noumenon to phenomena, of God to man. The new element is the historical Jesus, at once the representative of humanity and of God. As in philosophy, so now in theology, the easiest solution of the problem was the denial of one of its factors: and successively these efforts were made, until a solution was found in the doctrine of the Trinity, which satisfied both terms of the equation and became the fundamental creed of the church. Its moulds of thought are those of Greek philosophy, and into these were run the Jewish teachings. We have thus a peculiar combination—the religious doctrines of the Bible, as culminating in the person of Jesus, run through the forms of an alien philosophy.
The Jewish sources furnished the terms Father, Messiah, Son and Spirit. Jesus seldom employed the last term and St Paul’s use of it is not altogether clear. Already in Jewish literature it had been all but personified (cf. the Wisdom of Solomon). The doctrine of the Trinity.Thus the material is Jewish, though already modified doubtless by Greek influence. But the problem is Greek. It is not primarily ethical nor even religious, but it is metaphysical. What is the ontological relationship between these three factors? The answer is given in the Nicene formula, which is characteristically Greek. By it we perceive how God, the infinite, the absolute, the eternal, is yet not separated from the finite, the temporal, the relative, but, through the incarnation, enters into humanity. We further see how this entering into humanity is not an isolated act but continues in all the children of God by the indwelling spirit. Thus, according to the canons of the ancient philosophy, justice is done to all the factors of our problem—God remains as Father, the infinitely remote and absolute source of all; as Son, the Word who is revealed to man and incarnate in him; as Spirit, who dwells even in our own souls and by his substance unites us to God.
While thus the Greek philosophy furnished the dialectic and the mould for the characteristic Christian teaching, the doctrine of the Trinity preserved religious values. By Jesus the disciples had been led to God, and he was the central fact of faith. After the resurrection he was the object of praise, and soon prayers were offered in his name and to him. Already to the apostle Paul he dominates the world and is above all created things, visible and invisible, so that he has the religious value of God. It is not God as abstract, infinite and eternal, as the far-away creator of the universe, or even as the ruler of the world, which Paul worships, but it is God revealed in Jesus Christ, the Father of Jesus Christ, the grace and mercy in Jesus Christ which deliver from evil. Metaphysics and speculative theories were valueless for Paul; he was conscious of a mighty power transforming his own life and filling him with joy, and that this power was identical with Jesus of Nazareth he knew. In all this Paul is the representative of that which is highest and best in early Christianity. Speculation and hyperspiritualization were ever tending to obscure this fundamental religious fact: in the interest of a higher doctrine of God his true presence in Jesus was denied, and by exaggeration of Paul’s doctrine of “Christ in us” the significance of the historic Jesus was given up. The Johannine writings, which presupposed the Pauline movement, are a protest against the hyperspiritualizing tendency. They insist that the Son of God has been incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, and that our hands have handled and our eyes have seen the word of life. This same purpose, namely, to hold fast to the historic Jesus, triumphed in the doctrine of the Trinity; Jesus was not to be resolved into an aeon or into some mysterious tertium quid, neither God nor man, but to be recognized as very God who redeemed the soul. Through him men were to understand the Father and to understand themselves as God’s children. Thus the doctrine of the Trinity satisfied at once the philosophic intelligence of scholars and the religious needs of Christians. Only thus can its adoption and ultimate acceptance be explained. Its doctrinal form is the philosophic statement of beliefs held by the common people, who had little interest in theology, but whose faith centred in Jesus. It marks the naturalization of Christianity in the Greek world for the common people who believed in Christ, and for the philosophers who justified the faith to reason.
The historic and religious values of the doctrine of the Trinity may be illustrated by way of contrast. The Mahāyāna systems are the union of Buddha’s teaching with the forms of the Brahman philosophy. The historic Buddha—the man Gautama—is taught as only one of a limitless series of incarnations or (better) appearances. For his life on earth with his material body was only an appearance, a seeming, a phenomenon, and simultaneously with its activities the true Buddha existed unmoved and eternal. Thus the way was opened for other apparitional Buddhas, and different sects take different ones as the objects of faith and worship. Moreover, our true nature is also Buddha. The conscious life of all men is apparitional and illusive. Salvation is the comprehension of this fact, and in the apprehension of our essential oneness with the absolute. Hence the way of salvation is by knowledge. In the Mahāyāna gnosticism was triumphant, and the historic values of Gautama’s teaching and personality are lost. The Mahãyãna illustrates in part what would have followed the triumph of gnosticism in Christianity, for not only would the historic value of the life and teaching of Jesus have been lost, but with it the significance of humanity.
It is apparent that such a doctrine as the Trinity is itself susceptible of many explanations, and minds differently constituted lay emphasis upon its different elements. Especially is this true as its Greek terminology was translated into Latin, and from Latin came into modern languages—the original meaning being obscured or disguised, and the original issues forgotten. For some the first thought of God, the infinite and ultimate reality lying beyond and behind all phenomena, predominates. With these the historic manifestation of Jesus becomes only a guide to lead us to that immediate apprehension of God which is the end of theology, and to that immediate union with God which is the end of religion. Such an end is accomplished either by means of pure thought or by a oneness of pure feeling, giving as results the theological or philosophical construction of the concept God, or a mystical ecstasy which is itself at once immediate, inexplicable and indescribable. On the other hand, minds of a different and more concrete character so emphasize the distinctions God, Son and Holy Spirit, that a tritheistic construction appears—three individuals in the one Godhead: these individuals appearing, as for example in the Father and the Son, even in opposition to each other. In general we may say then that the Trinity takes on four differing aspects in the Christian church: in its more common and easily apprehended form as three Gods, in its ecclesiastical form as a mystery which is above reason to be accepted by faith, in its philosophic form as the highest reason which solves the ultimate problems of the universe, and finally, as a mode by which the spirit through an emotional content enters into communion with God himself.
To some Christians the doctrine of the Trinity appeared inconsistent with the unity of God which is emphasized in the Scriptures. They therefore denied it, and accepted Jesus Christ, not as incarnate God, but as God’s highest creature by whom all else was created, or as the perfect man who taught the true doctrine of God. The first view in the early Church long contended with the orthodox doctrine, but finally disappeared, and the second doctrine in the modern Church was set forth as easily intelligible, but has remained only as the faith of sects relatively small in number.
Allied with the doctrine of God which seeks the solution of the ultimate problem of all philosophy, the doctrine of salvation has taken the most prominent place in the Christian faith: so prominent, indeed, that to a large portion of believers The doctrine of the cross.it has been the supreme doctrine, and the doctrine of the deity of Jesus has been valued only because of its necessity on the effect of the atonement. Jesus alone of the great founders of religion suffered an early and violent death, even the death of a criminal. It became therefore the immediate task of his followers to explain this fact. This explanation was the more urgent because under the influence of Jewish monotheism the rule of God was accepted as an undoubted presupposition, so that the death of Jesus must be in accordance with his will. The early Church naturally used the terms and phrases of the prophets. He died the death of a criminal, not for his sins, but for ours. Isaiah liii. was suggested at once and became the central explanation: Christ is the suffering servant who is numbered with the transgressors and who bears the sins of many.
Jesus faced this problem perhaps before the opening of his ministry, certainly from his break with the ecclesiastical authorities. As his violent death drew near, his words indicated how he preserved his deep faith unshaken while yet recognizing the seeming failure of his mission. He devotes himself more exclusively to the little body of his faithful friends and commits his mission to them. As his work is sealed by his death his body is broken and his blood is shed for them. Through this is to come the victory which is denied to his life, as the seed cast into the ground and dead brings forth fruit. Our hints are few of Jesus’ teaching, but this much, at least, we cannot doubt unless we suppose that death took him unawares, or that his explanation of the impending fact took on some un-Jewish form; and further, that the earliest tradition misrepresents him. But these hypotheses do not commend themselves, and we accept the tradition that Jesus taught that his death was an atonement for others.
Beyond this the gospel does not go. Why vicarious suffering is needed, or why the God who is the loving Father does not simply forgive, as in the parable of the prodigal son, is not asked. For after all it is not theory which is central, but the fact of the death, and the reason assigned is simply “for others.”
In St Paul we find the beginnings of explanation, indeed of two explanations, and in the Epistle to the Hebrews the whole sacrificial system is found to culminate in Christ, of whom all priests and sacrifices are symbols, so that they are abolished with the coming of the great reality.
In the Greek world further questions are raised and the thought of the death as a ransom is prominent. To whom was the ransom paid? For a thousand years the answer was “to the devil.” He had gained control of man by man’s sin, and Christ set man free. God then, who is love, delivers us from evil through Christ, who pays the penalty of our transgression to the enemy of God and man. There were other theories also, indeed the germs of all later theories existed even in the second century, but this one prevailed. The heretic Marcion taught a variant, namely, the existence of two Gods, one of the Old Testament of law, the other of the New Testament of grace. Christ, unjustly condemned by the God of law, is given as reparation for all men who put their trust in him. From Anselm’s time (12th century A.D.) this theory of Marcion’s is held as orthodox in substance but is made monotheistic in form. St Anselm denied that any penalty was due to the devil, and in terms of feudal honour restated the problem. The conflict here is in God himself, so to speak, between his immutable righteousness and his limitless grace. In the sacrifice of Jesus these are reconciled. This doctrine of St Anselm’s attaches itself readily to texts of St Paul, for his teachings contain undeniably the vicarious propitiatory element.
These theories have to do with the being to whom the ransom is paid or the sacrifice offered. Another group of theories deals with the effect of the death of Christ upon the sinner. One of these is the so-called governmental theory, wherein the death of Christ is set forth as for the sake of good government, so that the forgiveness of sins shall not be thought a sign of laxity. Again, by other theologians the death of Jesus is extolled because of the moral influence it exerts, since Christ’s devotion unto death incites a like devotion in us.
Excepting in relatively narrow circles these theories have been seriously studied only by professed theologians. That Christ died for us, and that we are saved by him, is indeed the living truth of the Church in all ages, and a false impression of the fact is given by dwelling upon theories as if they were central. At best they bear only the relationship of philosophy to life.
Another explanation, or (better) system of beliefs, has been far more influential in the Church. Belief in mysterious powers attached to food, feasts, ceremonial rites and sacred things is all but universal. Primitive man seldom connects sacrifice with notions of propitiation, indeed only in highly ethicized religions is the consciousness of sin or of guilt pre-eminent. Sacrifice was believed to exert an influence on the deity which is quasi-physical, and in sacrificial feasts God and worshipper are in mysterious union. Sometimes, indeed, such contact with deity is thought to be dangerous, and the rites indicate avoidance (tabu), and sometimes it is thought desirable.
So universal are such ideas that the problem in particular religions is not their origin but their form. In the Old Testament repeatedly they are found in conflict with the prophetic ideals. Sometimes the prophets denounce them, sometimes ignore them, sometimes attempt to reform and control them. Jesus ignores them, his emphasis being so strong upon the ethical and spiritual that the rest is passed by. In the early Church, still Jewish, the belief was in the coming of a mysterious power from God which produced ecstasy and worked wonders. St Paul also believes in this, but insists that it is subordinate to the peaceable fruits of righteousness. With the naturalization of the Church in the Gentile world ethical ideas became less prominent, and the sacramental system prevailed. By baptism and the Lord’s Supper grace is given (ex opere operato), so that man is renewed and made capable of salvation. Already in the 2nd century baptism was described as a bath in which the health of the soul is restored, and the Lord’s Supper as the potion of immortality. Similar notions present in the ethnic faiths take the Christian facts into their service, the belief of the multitude without essential change remaining vague and undefined. While the theologians discussed doctrine the people longed for mystery, as it satisfied their religious natures. By sacraments they felt themselves brought into the presence of God, and to sacraments they looked for aid. Many sacraments were adopted by portions of the Church, until at last the sacred number seven was agreed upon.
As the way of salvation was modified, so too was the idea of salvation: the dream of a Messianic kingdom on earth, with its corollary the resurrection of the physical body, faded away, especially after the Roman empire adopted The concepts of salvation.Christianity; It was no longer the Jewish nation against the heathen empire, for the Jewish nation had ceased to be, and the empire and the Church were one. Salvation henceforth is not the descent of the New Jerusalem out of heaven, but the ascent of the saints to heaven; for the individual it is not the resurrection of the body but the immortality of the soul. So Jesus is no longer Christ or Messiah, but the Son of God. These terms again are variously interpreted: heaven is still thought of by many under the imagery of the book of Revelation, and by others it is conceived as a mystical union of the soul with God through the intelligence or of feelings. Yet the older conceptions still continue, Christianity not becoming purely and simply Greek. Again and again individuals and groups turn back to the Semitic cycle of hopes and ideas, while the reconciliation of the two systems, Jewish and Graeco-Roman, becomes the task of exegetes and theologians.
These hopes and theories of salvation, however, do not explain the power of Christianity. Jesus wearied himself with the healing of man’s physical ailments, and he was remembered as the great physician. Early Christian literature is filled with medical terms, applied (it is true) for the greater part to the cure of souls. The records of the Church are also filled with the efforts of Jesus’ followers to heal the diseases and satisfy the wants of men. A vast activity animated the early Church: to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to succour the diseased, to rescue the fallen, to visit the prisoners, to forgive the erring, to teach the ignorant, were ministries of salvation. A mighty power impelled men to deny themselves in the service of others, and to find in this service their own true life. None the less the first place is given to the salvation of the soul, since, created for an unending existence, it is of transcendent importance. While man is fallen and by nature vile, nevertheless his possibilities are so vast that in comparison the affairs of earth are insignificant. The word, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” comes to mean that the individual soul outvalues the whole world. With emphasis upon God as creator and ruler, and upon man as made in God’s image, endowed with an unending existence, and subject to eternal torture if not redeemed, the concept of personality has been exalted at the expense of that of nature, and the future has been magnified at the expense of the present. Thus a future heaven is man’s true home, and theology instead of philosophy or natural science is his proper study.
Indeed, intellectual interest centred in religion. Natural science was forsaken, except in so far as it ministered to theology. Because the Old Testament contained references to the origin and the objects of the universe, a certain amount of natural science was necessary, but it was only in this connexion that it had any value. By Augustine’s time this process is complete. His writings contain most of the knowledge of his age, but it is strictly subordinate to his theological purpose. Hence, when the barbarians submerged southern Europe, theology alone survived. The Church entered upon a new task. In the beginning Christianity had been the teacher of religion to highly civilized peoples—now it became the civilizing agent to the barbarians, the teacher of better customs, the upholder of law and the source of knowledge. The learned men were monks and priests, the universities were Church institutions, and theology was the queen of the sciences.
The relation of cult to creed is still undetermined. Theoretically the first depends on the second, for its purpose is twofold: the excitation of worthy religious emotions and the attaining of our desires; and how shall these objects be Theology and worship.attained unless we know him whom we worship and to whom we pray? But it is plausibly maintained that the reverse is true, namely, that theology rests on cult. In the beginnings of consciousness instinctive reactions precede definite thoughts, and even in mature life thoughts often follow acts instead of preceding them. Our religious consciousness is simply our ordinary consciousness obeying its laws. So unpurposed does cult grow up that it combines many elements of diverse origin, and is seldom precisely and wholly in accordance with the creed. No doubt the two interact, cult influencing creed and creed modifying cult—cult, perhaps, being most powerful in forming the actual religious faith of the multitude. Cult divides into two unequal parts, the stimulation of the religious emotions and the control of piety. In the Church service it came early to centre in the sacrament of the Eucharist (q.v.). In the earliest period the services were characterized by extreme freedom, and by manifestations of ecstasy which were believed to indicate the presence of the spirit of God; but as the years went by the original enthusiasm faded away, the cult became more and more controlled, until ultimately it was completely subject to the priesthood, and through the priesthood to the Church. In the Roman communion the structure of the sacred edifice, the positions and attitudes of the priest and the congregation, the order of service, emphasize the mystery and the divine efficacy of the sacrament. The worshipper feels himself in the immediate presence of God, and enters into physical relations with him. Participation in the mass also releases from guilt, as the Lamb of God offered up atones for sin and intercedes with the Father in our behalf. Thus in this single act of devotion both objects of all cults are attained.
As the teaching and person of Jesus were fitted into the framework of the Greek philosophy, and the sacraments into the deeper and broader forms of popular belief, so was the organization shaped by the polity of the Roman Pollty.empire. Jesus gathered his group of followers and committed to it his mission, and after his resurrection the necessities of the situation brought about the choice of quasi-officials. Later the familiar polity of the synagogue was loosely followed. A completer organization was retarded by two factors, the presence of the apostles and the inspiration of the prophets. But when the apostles died and the early enthusiasm disappeared, a stricter order arose. Practical difficulties called for the enforcement of discipline, and differences of opinion for authority in doctrine; and, finally, the sacramentarian system required a priesthood. In the 2nd century the conception of a Catholic Church was widely held and a loose embodiment was given it; after the conversion of the empire the organization took on the official forms of the empire. Later it was modified by the rise of the feudal system and the re-establishment of the modern European nationalities (see Church History).
The polity of the Church was more than a formal organization; it touched the life of each believer. Very early, Christianity was conceived to be a new system of law, and faith was interpreted as obedience. Legalism was joined with Penance.sacramentarianism, doubling the power of the priest. Through him Church discipline was administered, a complete system of ecclesiastical penalties, i.e. penance, growing up. It culminated in the doctrine of purgatory, a place of discipline, of purifying suffering after death. The Roman genius for law strengthened and systematized this tendency.
The hierarchy which centres in the pope constitutes the Church of which the sacramental system is the inner life and penance is the sanction. It is thus a divine-human organization. It teaches that the divine-human Son of God established it, and returning to heaven committed to the apostles, especially to St Peter, his authority, which has descended in an unbroken line through the popes. This is the charter of the Church, and its acceptance is the first requisite for salvation; for the Church determines doctrine, exercises discipline and administers sacraments. Its authority is accompanied by the spirit of God, who guides it into truth and gives it miraculous power. Outside the Church there are only the “broken lights” of man’s philosophy and the vain efforts of weak human nature after virtue.
Christianity in its complete Roman development is thus the coming of the supernatural into the natural. The universe falls into these orders, the second for the sake of the first, as nature is of and for God. Without him nature at its The completed doctrine of the Roman Church.highest is like a beautiful statue, devoid of life; it is of secondary moment compared even to men, for while it passes away he continues for ever. He is dependent, therefore, not upon nature, but upon God’s grace for salvation, and this comes through the Church. In the book of Revelation the New Jerusalem descending from heaven to the earth may be taken as a symbol of a continuing process: the human receives the divine, as the Virgin Mary received the Holy Spirit and brought forth Jesus, perfect man and perfect God. Thus the Church ever receives God and has a twofold nature; its sacraments through material and earthly elements impart a divine power; its teachings agree with the highest truths of philosophy and science, yet add to these the knowledge of mysteries which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive; it sanctifies human relationships, but the happiness of earth at purest and best is only a shadow of the divine bliss which belongs to the redeemed soul. Hence man should deny the world for the sake of the other world, and the title “religious” belongs distinctly to the monastic and priestly life. Theology is the queen of the sciences, and nothing should be taught in school or university which contradicts its conclusions. Moreover, nothing should be done by the state which interferes with the transcendent interest committed to the Church. Thus the Church touches and controls all realms of life, and the cycle is complete. It began as separate from the world and proscribed by it; next it adapted itself to the learning, the customs and the polity of the world. Finally it asserted its mastery and assumed sovereign power over all. The Church in its completed form was the outcome of a long development; if the seed was Jewish the environment was Gentile. Into the full tree were gathered the effects, not only of the initial energy, but of the forces of earth, air, water and sun. The Roman Church expressed the beliefs and answered the needs of the people, and this explains in part both its forms and its power, its long continuance and wide supremacy.
The Church was never completely successful in unifying its organization. In part it shared the destiny of the Roman empire, and with it fell into two parts, East separating from West. Indeed the East never really acknowledged The Eastern Church.the Roman primacy nor shared in its development, and it still remains apart. With characteristic oriental conservatism it claims the title of “Orthodox,” and retains the creed and organization of the early Church. In general its conception of the relation of the world to the super-world is identical with that of the Roman Church, though somewhat less defined, as its organization is less complete. It has remained in the second stage mentioned above; established, as in Russia, by the empire, it is dependent upon it and in alliance with it. In the Mahommedan dominions it has been recognized as a state within the state, and in these communities faith and patriotism are one.
The idea of the Roman Church was imperfectly embodied at the best; the divine gift was in earthen vessels. The world was never completely cast out; indeed the Church became the scene for ambition and the home of luxury and pleasure. The Reformation.It was entangled also in the political strife of the feudal ages and of the beginning of modern empires. Its control of the sciences embroiled it with its own philosophers and scholars, while saints and pure-minded ecclesiastics attempted, without success, its reform from within. Finally, through Luther, the explosion came, and western Christendom broke into two parts—Catholic and Protestant.
Protestantism in its primary principle is the return to primitive Christianity. The whole development which we have traced, culminating in the ecclesiastical-doctrinal system of the Roman Church, is regarded as a corruption, since foreign and even heathen elements have been brought in, so that the religion established by Christ is obscured or lost. For Protestants the Bible only now becomes the infallible, inspired authority in faith and morals. Interpretations by the Fathers or by the councils are to be taken only as aids to its understanding. With this principle is associated a second, the liberty of the individual; he reads the sacred Scriptures and interprets them for himself without the intervention of priests or church; and he enters by faith in Christ into communion with God, so that all believers are priests. Here may be noted a fundamental difference in the psychology of religion, since in the Roman Church the chief appeal is to the emotions, while in the Reformed it is to the intelligence. Yet this appeal to the intelligence is not rationalism: the latter makes reason the supreme authority, rejecting all which does not conform to it; the Bible is treated like any other book, to be accepted or rejected in part or in whole as it agrees with our canons of logic and our general science, while religion submits to the same process as do other departments of knowledge. But in Protestantism reason and the light of nature are in themselves as impotent as in the Roman Church. The Bible interpreted by man’s unaided intelligence is as valueless as other writings, but it has a sacramental value when the Holy Spirit accompanies its teaching, and the power of God uses it and makes the soul capable of holiness. In all this the supernatural is as vividly realized as in the Roman Church; it is only its mediation which is different.
These principles are variously worked out in the different churches and variously expressed. In part because of historical circumstances, the divergence from the older systems is more marked in some Protestant churches than in others, yet on the whole these two principles determine cult and in part organization. As in the Roman Church cult centres in the mass, so in the Reformed Church it centres in the sermon. The Holy Spirit, the determining factor in the religious life, uses the Bible as his means,Protest-
antism. and calls the intelligence into action. The clergyman is primarily the preacher, renewed by God’s power and enlightened by the Spirit, so that he speaks with divine authority. The ancient Jewish prophetic office is revived, yet with a difference: the ancient prophets acknowledged no external authority, but the Protestant preacher is strictly subordinate to the Scriptures of which he is the interpreter. Beside the sermon the sacraments are observed as established by Christ—two in number, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But these do not exert a quasi-physical or magical influence, ex opere operato. Unless there be faith in the recipient, an understanding of the meaning of the sacrament and an acceptance of it, it is valueless or harmful. Prayer and praise also are effective only as the congregation intelligently join in them; hence they are not to be solely by a priest nor in a strange tongue, as the clergyman is simply the leader of the devotions of the people. In large portions of the Church also opportunity for the free expression of the religious experience of the laity is found.
The emphasis upon the believer and his freedom from all external authority do not result in a thoroughgoing individualism. Luther clearly held to the unity of all Christians, and Protestants are agreed in this. For them, as for the Roman Church, there is a belief in a catholic or all-embracing Church, but the unity is not that of an organization; Christians are one through an indwelling spirit; they hold the same faith, undergo the same experience and follow the same purpose. This inner life constitutes the oneness of believers and forms the true Church which is invisible. It expresses itself in outward forms, yet there are not two Churches visible and invisible, but only one. The spiritual experience of the individual utters itself in words, and desires association with others who know the same grace. There is formed a body of teaching in which all agree, and an organization in which the common experience finds expression and aid. While then membership in this organization is not primary, it assumes a higher and even a vital importance, since a true experience recognizes the common faith and the common fellowship. Were it to refuse assent to these, doubt would be thrown upon its own trustworthiness.
Historically these principles were only in part embodied, for the Reformation was involved in political strife. The Reformers turned to the government for aid and protection, and throughout Europe turmoil and war ensued. In consequence, in the Protestant nations the state assumed the ultimate authority over the Church. Moreover, in the early days of the Reformation the Catholic Church charged it with a lawless individualism, a charge which was seemingly made good by an extreme divergence in theological opinion and by riots in various parts of the Protestant world. The age was indeed one of ferment, so that the foundations of society and of religion seemed threatened. The Reformers turned to the state for protection against the Roman Church, and ultimately as a refuge from anarchy, and they also returned to the theology of the Fathers as their safeguard against heresy. Instead of the simplicity of Luther’s earlier writings, a dogmatic theology was formed, and a Protestant ecclesiasticism established, indistinguishable from the Roman Church in principle. The main difference was in the attitude to the Roman allegiance and to the sacramentarian system. There was thus by no means a complete return to the Bible as the sole authority, but the Bible was taken as interpreted by the earlier creeds and as worked into a doctrinal system by the scholastic philosophy. Thus Protestantism also came to identify theology with the whole range of human knowledge, and in its official forms it was as hostile to the progress of science as was the Roman Church itself.
Many Protestants rebelled against this radical departure from the principles of the Reformation and of Biblical Christianity. To them it seemed the substitution of the authority of the Church for the authority of a living experience and of intellectual adherence to theological propositions for faith. The freedom of the individual was denied when the state enforced religious conformity. Thus a struggle within Protestantism arose, with persecutions of Protestants by Protestants. Moreover, many failed to find the expression of their faith in the official creed or in the established organization, and Protestantism divided into many sects and denominations, founded upon special types of religious experience or upon particular points in doctrine or in cult. Thus Protestantism presents a wide diversity in comparison with the regularity of the Roman Church. This we should expect indeed from its insistence upon individual freedom; yet, notwithstanding certain notable exceptions, amid the diversity there is a substantial unity, a unity which in our day finds expression in common organizations for great practical ends, for example in the “Bible Societies,” “Tract Societies,” the “Young Men’s Christian Associations,” “Societies of Christian Endeavour,” &c., which disregard denominational lines.
The coming of the northern peoples into the Roman world profoundly modified Christianity. It shared indeed in the dreariness and corruption of the times commonly called the “dark ages,” but when at last a productive period Christianity and the modern world.began the Church was the first to profit by it. Since all educated men were priests, it assimilated the new learning—the revived Aristotelianism—and continued its control of the universities. In the 13th century it was supreme, and Christianity was identified with world systems of knowledge and politics. Both were deemed alike divine in origin, and to question their validity was an offence against God. Christianity thus had passed through three stages in politics as in science. At first it was persecuted by the state, then established by it, and finally dominated over it; so its teaching was at first alien to philosophy and despised by it, next was accepted by it and given form and rights through it, and finally became queen of the sciences as theology and ruled over the whole world of human knowledge. But the triumph by its completeness ensured new conflicts; from the disorder of the middle ages arose states which ultimately asserted complete autonomy, and in like fashion new intellectual powers came forth which ultimately established the independence of the sciences.
In the broadest sense the underlying principle of the struggle is the reassertion of interest in the world. It is no longer merely the scene for the drama of the soul and God, nor is man independent of it, but man and nature constitute an organism, humanity being a part of the vaster whole. Man’s place is not even central, as he appears a temporary inhabitant of a minor planet in one of the lesser stellar systems. Every science is involved, and theology has come into conflict with metaphysics, logic, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, biology, history and even economics and medicine. From the modern point of view this is unavoidable and even desirable, since “theology” here represents the science of the 13th century. As in the political world the states gained first the undisputed control of matters secular, rejecting even the proffered counsel of the Church, and then proceeded to establish their sovereignty over the Church itself, so was it in the empire of the mind. The rights gained for independent research were extended over the realm of religion also; the two indeed cannot remain separate, and man must subordinate knowledge to the authority of religion—or make science supreme, submitting religion to its scrutiny and judging it like other phenomena. Under this investigation Christianity does not appear altogether exceptional. Its early logic, ontology and cosmology, with many of its distinctive doctrines, are shown to be the natural offspring of the races and ages which gave them birth. Put into their historical environment they are freed from adverse criticism, and indeed valued as steps in the intellectual development of man’s mind. Advanced seriously, however, as truths to-day, they are put aside as anachronisms not worthy of dispute. The Bible is studied like other works, its origins discovered and its place in comparative religion assigned. It does not appear as altogether unique, but it is put among the other sacred books. For the great religions of the world show similar cycles of development, similar appropriations of prevalent science and philosophy, similar conservative insistence upon ancient truth, and similar claims to an exclusive authority.
With this interest is involved an attitude of mind toward the supernatural. As already pointed out, nature and super-nature were taken as physically and spatially distinct. The latter could descend upon the former and be imparted to it, neither subject to nature nor intelligible by reason. In science the process has been reversed; nature ascends, so to speak, into the region of the supernatural and subdues it to itself; the marvellous or miraculous is brought under the domain of natural law, the canons of physics extend over metaphysics, and religion takes its place as one element in the natural relationship of man to his environment. Hence the new world-view threatens the foundations of the ecclesiastical edifice. This revolution in the world-view is no longer the possession of philosophers and scholars, but the multitude accepts it in part. Education in general has rendered many familiar with the teachings of science, and, moreover, its practical benefits have given authority to its maxims and theories. The world’s problem is not only therefore acute, but the demand for its solution is wider than ever before.
The Roman Catholic Church uncompromisingly reasserts its ancient propositions, political and theological. The cause is lost indeed in the political realm, where the Church is obliged to submit, but it protests and does not The attitude of the Roman Church.waive or modify its claims (see the Syllabus of 1864, paragraphs 19 ff., 27, 54 and 55). In the Greek and Protestant churches this situation cannot arise, as they make no claims to governmental sovereignty. In the intellectual domain the situation is more complex. Again the Roman Church unhesitatingly reaffirms the ancient principles in their extreme form (Syllabus, paragraphs 8-9-13; Decrees of the Vatican Council, chapter 4, note especially canon 4-2). The works of St Thomas Aquinas are recommended as the standard authority in theology (Encyc. of Leo XIII., Aeterni Patris, Aug. 4, 1879). In details also the conclusions of modern science are rejected, as for example the origin of man from lower species, and, in a different sphere, the conclusions of experts as to the origins of the Bible. Faith is defined as “assent upon authority,” and the authority is the Church, which maintains its right to supremacy over the whole domain of science and philosophy.
The Greek Church remains untouched by the modern spirit, and the Protestant Churches also are bound officially to the scholastic philosophy of the 17th century; their confessions The Greek and Protestant Churches.of faith still assert the formation of the world in six days, and require assent to propositions which can be true only if the old cosmology be correct. Officially then the Church identifies Christianity with the position outlined above, and hostile critics agree to this identification, rejecting the faith in the name of philosophic and scientific truth.
On the other hand there are not wanting individuals and even large bodies of Christians who are intent upon a reinterpretation. Even in the official circles of the Church, not excepting the Roman Church, there are many scholars who find Com-
promises.no difficulty in remaining Christian while accepting the modern scientific view of the world. This is possible to some because the situation in its sharp antithesis is not present to their minds: by making certain compromises on the one side and on the other, and by framing private interpretations of important dogmas, they can retain their faith in both and yet preserve their mental integrity. A large literature is produced, reconciling science and theology by softening and compromising and adapting; a procedure in accordance with general historical development, for men do not love sharp antagonisms, nor are they prepared to carry principles to their logical conclusions. By a fortunate power of mind they are able to believe as truths mutually inconsistent propositions.
Thus the crisis is in fact not so acute as it might seem. No great institution lives or dies by logic. Christianity rests on great religious needs which it meets and gratifies, so that its life (like all other lives) is in unrationalized emotions. Reason seeks ever to rationalize these, an attempt which seems to destroy yet really fulfils. As thus the restless reason tests the emotions of the soul, criticizes the traditions to which they cling, rejects the ancient dogmas in which they have been defined, the Church slowly participates in the process: silently this position and that are forsaken, legends and beliefs once of prime importance are forgotten, or when forced into controversy many ways are found by which the old and the new are reconciled: the sharpness of distinctions can be rubbed off, expressions may be softened, definitions can be modified and half-way resting-places afforded, until the momentous transition has been made and the continuity of tradition is maintained. Finally, as the last step, even the official documents may be revised. Such a process in Christianity is everywhere in evidence, for even the Roman Church admits the modern astronomy. So too it accepts the changes in the world of politics with qualified approval. In the Syllabus of 1864 the separation of state and church was anathematized, yet in 1906 this separation in the United States was held up as an example to be followed by the French government. In the Protestant Churches the process is precisely similar. No great church has yet modified its articles of religion so as to admit, for example, that the Garden of Eden was not a definite place where Eve was tempted, yet the doctrine is contradicted with approval by individuals, and the results of modern science are accepted and taught without rebuke. In all this the Church shows its essential oneness with other organizations of society, the government, the family, which are at once deeply rooted in the past, and yet subject to the influences of the present. For Christianity is by no means wholly intellectual, nor chiefly so. It would be fully as true to facts to describe this religion as a vast scheme for the amelioration of the condition of humanity. In education, in care for the sick, the poor, the outcast, it has retained the spirit of its Lord. Though it has at times denied this spirit, been guilty of crimes, persecutions, wars and greed—still the Church has never quite forgotten him who went about doing good, nor freed itself from the contagion of his example. No age has been so responsive to the needs of man as our own; whatever doubts men have as to the doctrines or the cults there is an agreement wider than in the past in the good works whose inspiration is a divine love.
Yet the intellectual crisis cannot be ignored in the interest of the practical life. Men must rationalize the universe. On the one hand there are churchmen who attempt to repeat the historical process which has naturalized Theories of development.the Church in alien soils by appropriating the forces of the new environment, and who hold that the entire process is inspired and guided by the spirit of God. Hence Christianity is the absolute religion, because it does not preclude development but necessitates it, so that the Christianity that is to come shall not only retain all that is important in the Christianity of the past and present but shall assimilate new truth. On the other hand some seek the essential Christianity in a life beneath and separable from the historic forms. In part under the influence of the Hegelian philosophy, and in part because of the prevalent evolutionary scientific world-view, God is represented under the form of pure thought, and the world process as the unfolding of himself. Such truth can be apprehended by the multitude only in symbols which guide the will through the imagination, and through historic facts which are embodiment of ideas. The Trinity is the essential Christian doctrine, the historic facts of the Christian religion being the embodiment of religious ideas. The chief critical difficulty felt by this school is in identifying any concrete historic fact with the unchanging idea, that is, in making Jesus of Nazareth the incarnation of God. God is reinterpreted, and in place of an extra-mundane creator is an omnipresent life and power. The Christian attainment is nothing else than the thorough intellectual grasp of the absolute idea and the identification of our essential selves with God. With a less thorough-going intellectualism other scholars reinterpret Christianity in terms of current scientific phraseology. Christianity is dependent upon the understanding of the universe; hence it is the duty of believers to put it into the new setting, so that it adopts and adapts astronomy, geology, biology and psychology. With this accomplished, Christianity will resume its ancient place. Consciously and of purpose the attempt is made to do once more what has been done repeatedly before, to restate Christianity in the terms of current science.
From all these efforts to reconstruct systematic theology with its appropriations of philosophy and science, groups of Christians turn to the inner life and seek in its realities to find the confirmation of their faith. They also claim oneness with a long line of Christians, for in every age there have been men who have ignored the dogma and the ritual of the Church, and in contemplation and retirement have sought to know God immediately in their own experience. To them at best theology with its cosmology and its logic is only a shadow of shadows, for God reveals himself to the pure in heart, and it matters not what science may say of the material and fleeting world. This spirit manifests itself in wide circles in our day. The Gordian knot is cut, for philosophy and religion no longer touch each other but abide in separate realms.
In quite a different way a still more influential school seeks essential Christianity in the sphere of the ethical life. It also would disentangle religion from cosmology and formal philosophy. It studies the historic development of the Church, noting how element after element has been introduced into the simplicity of the gospel, and from all these it would turn back to the Bible itself. In a thorough-going fashion it would accomplish what Luther and the Reformation attempted. It regards even the earliest creeds as only more or less satisfactory attempts to translate the Christian facts into the current language of the heathen world. But the process does not stop with this rejection of the ancient and the scholastic theology. It recognizes the scientific results attained in the study of the Bible itself, and therefore it does not seek the entire Bible as its rule of truth. To it Jesus Christ, and he alone, is supreme, but this supremacy does not carry with it infallibility in the realm of cosmology or of history. In these too Jesus participated in the views of his own time; even his teaching of God and of the future life is not lacking in Jewish elements, yet none the less he is the essential element in Christianity, and to his life-purpose must all that claims to be Christianity be brought to be judged. To this school Christianity is the culmination of the ethical monotheism of the Old Testament, which finds its highest ideal in self-sacrificing love. Jesus Christ is the complete embodiment of this ideal, in life and in death. This ideal he sets before men under the traditional forms of the kingdom of God as the object to be attained, a kingdom which takes upon itself the forms of the family, and realizes itself in a new relationship of universal brotherhood. Such a religion appeals for its self-verification not to its agreement with cosmological conceptions, either ancient or modern, or with theories of philosophy, however true these may be, but to the moral sense of man. On the one hand, in its ethical development, it is nothing less than the outworking of that principle of Jesus Christ which led him not only to self-sacrificing labour but to the death upon the cross. On the other hand, it finds its religious solution in the trust in a power not ourselves which makes for the same righteousness which was incarnate in Jesus Christ.
Thus Christianity, as religion, is on the one hand the adoration of God, that is, of the highest and noblest, and this highest and noblest as conceived not under forms of power or knowledge but in the form of ethical self-devotion as embodied in Jesus Christ, and on the other hand it meets the requirements of all religion in its dependence, not indeed upon some absolute idea or omnipotent power, but in the belief that that which appeals to the soul as worthy of supreme worship is also that in which the soul may trust, and which shall deliver it from sin and fear and death. Such a conception of Christianity can recognize many embodiments in ritual, organization and dogma, but its test in all ages and in all lands is conformity to the purpose of the life of Christ. The Lord’s Prayer in its oldest and simplest form is the expression of its faith, and Christ’s separation of mankind on the right hand and on the left in accordance with their service or refusal of service to their fellow-men is its own judgment of the right of any age or church to the name Christian. This school also represents historic Christianity, and maintains the continuity of its life through all the ages past with Christ himself. But this continuity is not then in theological systems or creeds, nor in sacraments and cult, nor in organization, but in the noble company of all who have lived in simple trust in God and love to humanity. It is this true Church of the spirit and purpose of Jesus which has been the supreme force for the uplifting of humanity.
Christianity has passed through too many changes, and it has found too many interpretations possible, to fear the time to come. Thoroughgoing reconstruction in every item of theology and in every detail of polity there may be, yet shall the Christian life go on—the life which finds its deepest utterance in the words of Christ, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbour as thyself”; the life which expresses its profoundest faith in the words Christ taught it to pray, “Our Father”; the life which finds its highest rule of conduct in the words of its first and greatest interpreter, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Bibliography.—Detailed bibliographies accompany the separate articles on subjects connected with the Christian religion and Church. In the following list a selection is given of books on the wider and general subject:—
Extent and Growth.—D. Dorchester, The Problem of Religious Progress (revised ed., 1894); S. Gulick, The Growth of the Kingdom of God (1895); James S. Dennis, Christian Missions and Social Progress (1906).
Prophets of Israel.—Rudolf Smend, Lehrbuch der alttestamentlichen Religionsgeschichte (2nd ed., 1899); A. B. Davidson, Old Testament Prophecy (1903); Karl Budde, Religion of Israel to the Exile (1899); W. Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel and their Place in History (1899); A. F. Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets (3rd ed., 1901); Beruk Duhm, Die Theologie der Propheten (1875).
Judaism.—Emil Schürer, History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (Eng. trans., Edinburgh, 1890); C. G. Montefiore, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Hebrews (2nd ed., 1893); W. Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter (2nd ed., 1906).
The Life and Teaching of Jesus.—Hans Heinrich Wendt, The Teaching of Jesus (1892), 2 vols.; Oskar Holtzmann, The Life of Jesus (Eng. trans., 1904); Paul Wernle, Beginnings of Christianity, 2 vols. (1903–1904); T. Crawford Burkitt, The Gospel History and its Transmission (1906).
The Beginnings of Christianity.—Ernst von Dobschütz, Christian Life in the Primitive Church (Eng. trans., 1904); A. C. McGiffert, The Apostolic Age (1900); Carl Weizsäcker, The Apostolic Age (Eng. trans., 1897); Otto Pfleiderer, Das Urchristentum (1902).
The Expansion of Christianity.—Edwin Hatch, “The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church,” the Hibbert Lectures, 1888 (1890); Adolf Harnack, The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries (Eng. trans., 1904); Sir W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire (1893).
The History of Church and of Dogma.—Adolf Harnack, History of Dogma (Eng. trans., 1895); Reinhold Seeberg, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (1895, 2 vols.); Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (3 vols., 1881, 3rd ed.).
The Roman Church.—Joseph Wilhelm and Thomas B. Scannell, Manual of Catholic Theology (1906); J. A. Moehler, Symbolism (trans. 1844); Thomas Aquinas, The Summa (Eng. trans., 1907); William Ward, The Ideal of a Christian Church (1844).
The Greek Church.—“The Creeds of the Greek and Russian Churches,” in Schaff, Creeds, vol. ii. pp. 275-542; and J. Michalcesu, Die Bekenntnisse und die wichtigsten Glaubenszeugnisse der griechisch-orientalischen Kirche (Leipzig, 1904).
Protestantism.—John Calvin, Institutio Religionis Christianae, (1536; Eng. trans., 1816); Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (3 vols., 1872); Ernst Troeltsch, Die Absolutheit des Christentums und die Religionsgeschichte (1902); First Principles of the Reformation, or the Ninety-five Theses and the Three Primary Works, trans. by Henry Wace and C. A. Buchheinz (1883).
Christianity in the Modern World.—Andrew D. White, Conflict of Science with Theology (2 vols., 1896); D. F. Strauss, Der alte und der neue Glaube (1872; Eng. trans., 1873); A. J. Balfour, The Foundations of Belief (1897); J. Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism (1899).
Modern Adaptations of Christianity.—William Adams Brown, Christian Theology in Outline (1906); Augustus Sabatier, Religions of Authority and the Religion of the Spirit (1904); J. A. Zahm, Evolution and Dogma (1896); John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845); Edward Caird, The Evolution of Religion (1893); Otto Pfleiderer, Philosophy of Religion (Eng. trans., 1888, especially volumes 3 and 4); Newman Smyth, Old Faiths in New Lights (1879), Through Science to Faith (1902); Henry Drummond, The Ascent of Man (1894); William Ralph Inge, Christian Mysticism (Bampton Lectures, 1894); Wilhelm Herrmann, The Communion of the Christian with God (1895); George William Knox, Direct and Fundamental Proofs of the Christian Religion (1903); Albrecht Ritschl, Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung (1900).
Modern Definitions of Christianity.—Alfred Loisy, The Gospel and the Church (1904); Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity? (1901); William Adams Brown, The Essence of Christianity (1902); Ernest Troeltsch, Das Wesen des Christentums; J. Kaftan, Das Wesen der christlichen Religion (2nd ed., 1888); J. Caird, The Fundamental Ideas of Christianity (1899). (G. W. Kn.)