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THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.
writer's inspiration, while almost every day the press sends forth a volume of critical or sympathetically interpretative essays of which account must be taken by one who would form a judgment on the place which the person of Christ holds in modern thought.
If by a somewhat arbitrary and trenchant exercise of his judgment one excludes from view all parts of the general field save that which properly may be designated as theological, a very considerable territory remains in which there exists a confusing diversity of thought.
Theological thinkers of our time may be roughly divided into three classes or parties, each of which coheres in a dominant spirit and a main point of view.
There are (1) the Conservatives, who maintain in general the theological opinions of a past generation, such as are represented in the writings of Hodge and Shedd in this country, Liddon in England and Luthardt and Van Oosterzee on the Continent. (2) The Progressives, or Radicals, who accept the principles of the divine immanence and evolution as the interpretative and structural principles in theology and shrink from no legitimate consequences of literary and historical criticism applied to the Sacred Scriptures. These are numerous in America, England, Germany and Holland. In France the late distinguished Auguste Sabatier is, perhaps, the chief representative of this party. (3) The Moderates, who constitute a mediating party between the preceding. These seek to hold the substance of the older theology, but endeavor to restate it in the phrases and in accordance with the scientific methods of the new thought.
In point of numbers, the first party is diminishing mainly by the natural course of death; the second is rapidly growing; while the third, larger perhaps at present than either of the others, loses many more by the advance of its members into the progressive party than it gains by recruits from the conservatives.
In studying the thought of these three parties, one finds it difficult to discover more than two or three points at which there is any real unity of opinion between them. Of these the one that stands out most clearly and that most surely draws their belief to a common centre is the pre-eminence of Christ as the revealer of God and the teacher of truth concerning the moral life. Just here, where dogmatic difference is widest, essential moral rapport is closest.
A second difficulty by which one is confronted in discussing this theme is the difficulty of distinguishing between the main tendencies and characteristics of modern thought on the person of Christ and his own personal beliefs. It would be comparatively an easy task for him to set forth in detail his own views and convictions and thus make his statement a confession and defence of his own faith. This I say with deliberate caution would be only comparatively an easy task; positively it might be very difficult. In the present ferment of speculation on questions of religion not many of even the most studious and intelligent inquirers could readily and exactly define more than a few of the simplest elementary principles around which their religious thinking is organized or is in process of organization. Doubtless an exception should be made in the case of those thinkers who have held the Calvinistic scheme of thought unchanged through all the stages of the theological revolution in the midst of which we are living. In this respect the thoroughgoing conservative has the advantage over the progressive, for he simply shuts his eyes to the confusing entrance of new light and suffers no pulse of influence from science with its multiform revelations from Biology, Anthropology, Archæology, History and Criticism to reach and affect his theological system.
But if it would be a perplexing and arduous task for a man en rapport with the modern spirit to set forth in exact detail his own views and opinions on all the theological questions that cluster about the person of Christ it is a still more perplexing and arduous task to state at once with definiteness and adequate fulness the contents and characteristics of modern thought on the same general subject. The difficulty appears immediately when we reflect on the fact that modern theological thought from one point of view is a new product, while from another point of view it is a composite of almost all the elements and phases of Christian thinking that have arisen during the past three hundred and fifty years. Of this long period the century just closed has witnessed an increase in knowledge of the world, of the Bible and of the past life of humanity greater than was achieved in all the preceding centuries of the Christian era. This increase of knowledge has overturned or modified every theological theory and almost every theological principle that survived the intellectual convulsion of the Protestant Reformation; one need only men
tion, for example, the doctrines of Creation, of the Fall, of Atonement, of Biblical Revelation, of the Trinity and of the Future life to realize how great has been the change.
In the general scheme of theology each of these doctrines, or groups of doctrines, has been intimately related to the doctrine of the person of Christ.
A prominent, perhaps we should say the prominent, feature of the present theological Aufklärung-sucht is the critico-historical work of bringing into clearer light and greater definiteness the historical bases and antecedents of Christianity. This is the work, on the one hand, of Biblical critics and archæologists, and on the other hand of Biblical exegetes. Already this work has profoundly affected our conception of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, especially the former, and as an inevitable result is reshaping the structure of distinctly Biblical Theology.
But scarcely less important in its influence on general theological theory is the work already accomplished and now in progress in the related fields of biological and psychological investigation. The combined results of these two critical and constructive intellectual movements of our time it is still too early to state with definiteness, but already enough is apparent to show that they will be greater than any save the few as yet surmise.
Without attempting to trace in detail the effect of the modern movement on the historic doctrine of the person of Christ, I shall endeavor to indicate briefly certain features of the emerging view of Christ which seem to me most prominent and most characteristic of the religious thought of our time. In doing this I shall speak as representing men who, in the modest and impressive language of the late Dr. Dale: "While not relaxing their hold on the Divine revelation which has come to them through Christ are asking for some more satisfactory intellectual account of the great truths which are their joy and strength. There is hardly a theological definition which they can accept without qualification; there is hardly a theological phrase which is not colored by speculations which seem to them incredible. They have not lost sight of sun and stars; they will tell you that with their increasing years the glory of the sun is brighter to them than ever and that the stars are more mysterious and divine, but they want a new astronomical theory. The sun and stars are God's
handiwork; astronomical theories are the provisional human explanations of divine wonders."*
What I have to offer may be properly presented under two heads: 1, The Nature of Christ; 2, The Function of Christ. In this presentation I shall seek to interpret in general that thought of Christ which is already ascendant or is rapidly rising into ascendancy, and save with a very few exceptions I shall not pause to quote or even to designate specific authorities.
The Nature of Christ.-At the outset I may remark that the ancient phases of the controversy about Christ with which the history of doctrine has made us familiar have almost wholly passed out of sight. Docetism, Monophysitism and Monothelitism with their counter "isms" are now mainly, if not solely, of historical interest. No one to-day seriously disputes as to whether the Passion of Christ was a reality or only an appearance, and few give any consideration to the question as to whether Christ had one or two natures or one or two wills.
Nothing is more clear than the present recognition of the psychological as well as moral integrity of Christ. He is not two persons in one body, nor two consciousnesses in one person, nor two natures in one consciousness, nor two wills in one nature. From one point of view He is unequivocally human; from another point of view He is incontestably divine; from all points of view He is an ontological unity-all His faculties and affections having their centre in His undivided, uncomposite, self-conscious personality.
The traditions concerning the birth of Christ, which are not confined to the canonical gospels, but which have their most exquisite, though variant, expression in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke, evidently have little historical value; at least they afford too slight a basis for belief that Jesus was not born as other children are born. As a matter of fact, this belief, though still tenaciously held by the mass of Christians, has lost significance in the theological interpretation of the person of Christ. No word of Jesus's authentic teaching refers to it or is affected by it. No apostolic doctrine rests upon it. Moreover, its implications would seem to destroy the integrity of the apostolic Christology, since it would establish an anomalous relation, or rather a lack of perfect relation of Jesus to humanity. Be
**Quoted in Fisher's "History of Christian Doctrine," page 556.
sides, a miraculous birth in the common sense of that term adds absolutely nothing to the revelation of spiritual truth mediated by the life and teachings of Christ.
Thus by the process of exclusion the true and integral humanity of Christ has received especial emphasis in modern thought. Jesus of Nazareth was a man. He had the normal human birth, the human nature, the human development and the human experience. He was not a shadow man, the simulacrum of His difference from other men lay in the unique perfection of his human character and the directness and completeness of his intercourse with God.
But is not the Christ divine? Was the battle of Athanasius against the Arian world a vain contest? Is the Nicene creed a meaningless formula? I believe with President King* that the Christian thought of to-day affirms the true divinity of Christ more positively and more profoundly than ever. But the approach to the question of his divineness is different from what it was in the past. The old familiar question, "Is Christ a mere man?" and the equally familiar affirmation, "He is more than man," were based on the conception of man that assumed to delimit human nature and to connote the entirety of human powers and possibilities. God and man were conceived as essentially and eternally separate and dissimilar.
But the modern mind has entered a new atmosphere and attained a new point of view in its thought both of God and of man. The divine transcendence is seen to be incomplete, if not impossible, apart from the divine immanence. The true lesson which science teaches, says T. H. Green, is that God is to be sought "in man himself," and he affirms "that relation of the inner man to a higher form of itself of which the expression is to be found, not in the propositions of the theology, but in prayer and praise the prayer which asks for nothing, the praise which thanks for nothing but God's fulfilment of Himself-and in that effort after an ideal perfection which is the spring of the moral life."+
The idea of incarnation-the great idea for the validity of which Athanasius fought-is now more broadly conceived and more firmly grasped than at any time since the Arian contro
In his recent "Reconstruction in Theology."