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This thought of the immediate Eindruck or impression of Christ on the soul confronted with Him is the key to so much in Ritschlianism- especially in Hermannism-is reiterated so often by leading writers, that I make no apology for dwelling a little further upon it. The reader will no doubt feel the expressions used above to be vague, but a study of the literature would probably convince him that the vagueness is not in my statement, but in the Ritschlian presentation itself. It is clear that the Ritschlian theologians build everything on the positive revelation in Christ. But it is not so clear what precisely it is in Christ which, according to them, produces this irresistible conviction within us of the reality of God's presence and working in history. Hermann's statements would seem to suggest that the essence of the matter lies in the impression we receive of Christ's spiritual greatness and superiority to everything else in the world, which forces on us the conviction that there is a Power working in and with Him which is over all things—a Power gracious and good as Christ is. The following is only one out of many passages which express this idea :

Our certainty of God is rooted in the simple fact that in Jesus we meet with a man who must hold His own against the world. For he who experiences such a compulsion (Zwang) through the image of Jesus that he must concede to Him this dignity, receives therewith at the same time the thought of a Power over all things, which is not otherwise moved than through the disposition from which the life-work of Jesus has proceeded. God gives Himself to us to be recognized as this Power which is with Jesus. But then we are compelled to say that the existence of Jesus in our world is that fact through which God so touches us that He opens up intercourse with us,"l

Is not our apprehension of God on this showing, after all, not immediate, but of the nature of an inference ?

An additional extract or two from Hermann will further elucidate his meaning. I take them from his interesting rectorial address on Evangelical Faith and the Theology of Albrecht Ritschl (1890). He says there :--.

" In this, before all, consists the being a Christian, that one gains this life-content. But this does not spring up in the soul of itself, but presses on us out of the history in which we stand. Not to despair of the world, and not to despair of ourselves, because Jesus Christ is an actual constituent of this our world—that is the beginning of Christian faith. To understand this, one must be able to see the peculiarity of Jesus, through which He lifts Himself clear away from everything which else may meet us in the world.”

More explicitly :

“The ethical furtherance which we experience from others always brings this with it, that we get a quicker sight for what is distorted in them. Thus they themselves take care that the ideal which we thought to find in them always grows beyond them. If it happened to us in quite the same way with the person of Jesus, there would be no Christianity in the world. Assuredly we draw near to Him before all others only by questioning our consciences, and measuring Him by the ethical demand. But the nearer we come to Him, just the more does He become the interpreter of our consciences. · • The ethical ideal does not grow beyond Him. For He makes it evident to us as something inexhaustible, which seizes our heart and life, and makes us feel in our deepest part how widely we are separated from it.

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It is simply a fact that the appearance of Jesus handed down in the New Testament acts thus upon us. Whoever will combat Christianity must before all dispose of the fact that numberless men are so laid hold of by Jesus.

But,” he

1 Der Verkehr des Christen mit Gott, pp. 26, 27.

goes on, “with this alone that the historical appearance of Jesus so lays hold upon us, faith is not yet founded in us. It also happens that the same Man who becomes Judge and Conscience to the men affected by Him interests Himself in these men with a patient and unequalled love. While He makes the sinner insecure by the simple power of His personal life, He gives him at the same time a support by His friendliness. The men who through Him were brought painfully to feel how it stood with them felt themselves nevertheless on this account drawn towards Him. In this way then He forgives sins. .... In that which he finds in the person of Jesus it becomes certain to the Christian that the power of the good not only judges but redecms him. Thus is constituted Christian faith."

Here then, according to the Marburg theologian, is a ground of faith absolutely independent of criticism, or of any kind of results brought from quarters outside itself.

Suppose, then, you ask — Is this faith really independent of criticism? What, e.g., if it could be proved-an extravagant supposition, of course, but one which, for that reason, better serves our purpose—that the Gospels were forgeries of the Middle Ages? Would not this affect our faith? For then what was held to be true on grounds of faith would be proved to be untrue on grounds of fact. Hermann has his answer ready. It is in substance that your Christian faith is a guarantee to you that such critical results cannot possibly be true. It is not a faith grounded on criticism, but, having it, you know as a certainty that revelation in Christ is a reality, and that any critical results which would conflict with this must be in error. In his work already quoted, Der Verkehr des Christen mit Gott, Hermann expresses himself on this point with great distinctness. Through this impression which Christ makes upon us, he affirms :

“ The doubt whether the image of Jesus which works on us in the Gospel belongs to myth and not to history is forthwith excluded. The evidence of the historical reality of Jesus grounds itself for the believer always upon the significance which the message of Jesus has won for him. Only after this has been taken to heart as an indubitable fact of his life does that which testifies for the historical reality of Jesus stand out clear and visible before him.

Through a judgment resting on grounds of historical investigation, we cannot reach higher than probability. But to Christian faith it is certain that Jesus has lived as the man who with His message of a kingdom of God has opened to men the possibility of an eternal life, and who at the same time was conscious that the existence of His person in its life and death will realize this kingdom of God for all who do not pass Him by."9

Well, but—this is the objection which will next be urged-in entering on criticism, you cannot, from this standpoint, enter on it with an unprejudiced mind. How can your inquiries be impartial and presuppositionless, if you have already decided the most essential part before you begin? Hermann, in reply, boldly concedes the case to be as the opponent states it. The Christian, he says, does not come without presuppositions to his inquiries, A presuppositionless criticism is a myth. The Christian least of all comes to his task with a perfectly unformed mind. He comes with his faith in Christ already given, and he cannot lay it aside. And though this cannot warrant him in tampering with historical facts, it gives him the certainty beforehand that the results will not contradict the verity already won. This, however, it should be added, only applies to the general and total result. It does not

* Pp. 20-22, The same doctrine is taught in nearly similar language in many passages of his Dic Gewissheit des Glaubens.

Der Verkehr, pp. 92, 93.


guarantee every detail, every miracle in the evangelical narratives. It does not guard against mistakes. This is an important qualification which opens up, as we shall see, a wide door to subjectivity.

Thus far every one, I think, will agree that the Ritschlian school has got hold of some sound and true positions, though perhaps not quite so novel as Hermann and his confrères are inclined to represent. It is surely a true and important view to take, that theology must begin with the living and historical Christ. The emphasis laid on this truth is the service of the new school as against a one-sided rationalism and idealism. It turns back from scholastic dogmatisms and speculative subtleties to the freshness and reality of historical revelation. I would agree also that faith in Christ is the true Toù orû for dealing with critical and other questions which threaten the destruction of our Christian certitude. This faith, born, as Hermann says, of the direct impression which Christ makes on us in the Gospel, yields us the certainty that He who lives, speaks, and acts as Jesus does in the evangelical records, is no creature of fiction, but the veritable Son of God, and Saviour of the world. Hermann's argument is but another way of stating the self-evidencing character of the Gospel revelation. It is true that in Christ God draws near to us, and that the Divinity alike of Author and of message is irresistibly borne in on us, in proportion as our natures are thrown open to the influence they exert. Such certainty does this faith give, that the Christian is confident that no results which criticism can ever yield will overturn the essential basis on which the Gospel rests. But there is obviously a danger here, against which the Ritschlian school has not always duly guarded itself. In its desire to exalt the certainty of faith, this school is apt to push its independence of critical results too far. As if to show how independent it is of the worst that criticism can do, it is wont to make very wide concessions indeed to destructive criticism-concessions which, in fact, imperil its own principle. For after all it is to be observed that in the Ritschlian view independence of criticism does not mean that any and every critical theory is compatible with faith. It means that faith has a certainty which antecedes, and is not derived from criticism, but which at the same time involves the assurance that criticism can permanently establish nothing to its real disadvantage. For example, it is evident that a theory which utterly denied the trustworthiness of the Gospel records would be incompatible with the faith which affirms the historic reality of the Gospel portraiture of Christ. But the members of the Ritschlian school are wont to make such concessions in regard to the New Testament as are barely reconcilable with belief in its trustworthiness. They maintain the Gospel narrative in bulk, but allow it to be freely questioned in detail. Sayings and doings of Christ which do not suit them are easily got rid of on critical principles. The presence of legendary and non-historical matter-sometimes in large quantities -is freely admitted. Harnack does not hesitate to affirm that there is no historical proof for the Resurrection. Thus, instead of using their principle

1 Dogmengeschichte, i. pp. 74, 75. NO. II.-VOL. II.-THE THINKER,


of faith as a check against the inroads of destructive criticism—as, if it has any worth, they ought to do—they make concessions to opponents which practically mean the cutting away of the bough they themselves are sitting on.

Quite similar to the way in which the Ritschlian theologians would seek to make faith independent of historical criticism is the way in which they would keep it from all contact with philosophy, or what they call Welterkenntniss.” Here we come on another of their most characteristic positions. For, given this faith and its contents, the question next arisesWhat are we to do with it? Can we help turning round upon it, and trying to relate it through intelligent reflection with the rest of the knowledge we possess-with, e.g., that given through science or philosophy ? No, says this school, this it is which has been the very bane of theology. It is this entanglement with philosophy-this attempt to rationalize Christian doctrines—this failure to distinguish between the method proper to theology and the method proper to the theoretical sciences—this mixing up of the pure dicta of religious faith with the results of speculation, which has been the evil leaven of theological science. We strike here, then, on another cardinal tenet of the school--the absolute separation of theology from philosophy and theoretical knowledge generally. Two kinds of knowledge are distinguished by Ritschl --the one, religious knowledge which moves solely in the region of what he calls worth or value-judgments (Werthurtheile), i.e., judgments which express not the objective truth of things, but their value to us as subjects of pleasure and pain ; and the other, theoretical or world-knowledge, which deals with things in the light of the causal judgment, and seeks to establish their objective (phenomenal) relations. The application of this distinction to the matter in hand leads to the entire separation of the two spheres in theology. Theology, according to Ritschl, is the expression in forms suitable to the religious consciousness (faith-propositions, as Kaftan would call them) of the content of the Christian revelation—“the right and complete limitation and clear fixing of the religious representations or represented facts which are included in the notion of Christianity.”] Its safety is to keep its expressions in this purely religious form (co-ordinating and relating them to each other as a whole), and not to attempt to translate them into any other. Ritschl and Hermann seek to justify this position by a theory of religion on the one hand, and a view of the nature and scope of the theoretic activities of the mind on the other, which exclude from the latter any possibility of a real knowledge of God, or indeed of a real knowledge of anything. Ritschl is thoroughly at one with Kant in thinking that the theoretic reason can give us no knowledge of God, or proof of His existence. We are thus driven back on practical postulates and religious Vorstellungen, beyond which, as it would seem, even Revelation cannot raise us (for Revelation cannot take us outside the essential limitations of our faculties). On this subject, beyond most others, the Ritschlian theology seems

Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, iii. p. 14 (3rd Edit.).


to me to put itself in a distinctly false position. Faith and reason are stretched apart till no point of contact is allowed to remain between them. Religious knowledge is put in one compartment of the mind, theoretical or scientific knowledge in the other, and no relations of friendship or agreement are allowed to subsist between the two. It is a matter of indifference to theologians--so maintains Hermann in his work on Metaphysic and Theology–whether philosophy be deistic, pantheistic, or whatever it is. I humbly submit that this attempt to create a divorce between our religious consciousness and the theoretic reason must always prove a failure. The mind cannot be thus divided into two parts; we cannot hold contradictory propositions together; we cannot but seek to unite the different parts of our knowledge, from whatever source derived, into one whole of truth. Religion, says Ritschl—and his followers echo him-has to do not with theoretic propositions, but solely with judgments of value. That is to say, it is not objective truth we have to deal with in religion, but conceptions in the form adapted to satisfy our religious needs. One may spend months over this distinction of Ritschl's, and in the fluctuation and vagueness of his expressions not be sure that he understands him after all. Taken literally, his words would seem to land us in the purest subjectivism. Yet it is certain that Ritschl does not mean this. The truth seems to be that Ritschl has got hold here of a real distinction, but turns it to a wrong use.

It is true that there is a distinction to be drawn between religious and theoretic knowledge. The religious mode of apprehension is dominated by a practical motive, and, in its immediate form at least, makes large use of the figurative element. It is emotional, poetic, imaginative-throws out words at its object, as Matthew Arnold says, without taking pains to subject its ideas to very rigorous analysis. It contains, as Hegel would express it, a large admixture of the Vorstellung. Theoretic knowledge, on the other hand, aims at being cool, clear, formally and scientifically exact. The language of religion, therefore, and the language of science are cast in very different moulds. The personal interest we have in the assertions of religion may warrant us to speak of them as worth or value-judgments, in contrast with scientific judgments, which are supposed to be perfectly objective and dispassionate. But to allow this is very far from granting that religious truths form one class by themselves, and scientific truths form another, and that the two classes can never be brought into any sort of relation with each other, or that it is wrong to try to bring them into such relation. My view of religion leads me to think (in this agreeing with Hegel) that it is at bottom because man possesses a rational nature, that he is capable of religion at all. Religious truths are not arbitrarily to be cut off from reason, but rather, we must hold, are in deepest harmony with reason, and, rightly understood, contain in them the deepest satisfaction to reason. One thing I am sure of : a system which sets itself in antithesis to reason will not long maintain itself. To say that in the

See also Hernann's remarks in Dic Religion in Verhältniss zum Welterkennen und zur Sullichkeit, pp. 92, 93, and passim.

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