Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/36

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36

MODERN RATIONALISM.

make it a direct part of their scheme of universal divine love. Humanity, they say, was never really separated from God, as the old theology taught; we are not born children of wrath, etc., but all in all times are embraced in the divine love. But a striking revelation of that union became necessary, hence the economy of the Atonement, which was, says Jowett, "the greatest moral act ever done in the world," and "God's method of conquering the human heart, and subduing a revolted world, and attaching it to his throne." Hence, too, the death of Christ was only the dramatic termination of the episode, not the unique source of merit. It is through Christ's exemplary life we are most benefited. Whatever may be thought of the ethical value of this new dogma, its substitution for the old one is revolutionary to the Christian scheme.

Besides the more obvious consequences of the new method of conceiving Christ's mission, it was soon perceived that it removed one of the gravest reasons for believing in his divinity. The old argument was that no finite atonement could efface the infinite indignity of sin, hence it was necessary for man's salvation that a divine being should atone for him. Now that there was no infinite debt to repay, and that the notion of vicarious atonement was rejected by the purified theology, why should Christ be divine at all? For the supposed purpose of the "atonement" (as they persisted in calling it) the sacrifice of a Buddha or a Socrates would suffice. In the answer of the orthodox theologians there is much confusion and inadequacy. It is said no one of them would admit that he denied the divinity of Christ (though Jowett and Colenso are accused of doing so); but their replies are very unsatisfactory. They generally say that this dramatic representation of the evil of sin and of the love of God was to be an "overwhelming spectacle," and evoke a "tremendous sympathy;" and thus they infer the divinity of the victim from the strength of their adjectives. Still, they have been watched with much anxiety on the point, and a denial of Christ's divinity is feared as a further development.

When Canon Gore edited "Lux Mundi" his criticism of Christ's references to the Old Testament was felt by many to be dangerous. He, however, resists the interpretation. Only Momerie, Craufurd, and a few minor Rationalists are