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revelation of Christ only we have knowledge of God—that there is no such thing as natural theology, or any rational evidence for the existence of Godwhich is the assertion of this school—is practically to make the understanding an atheist. It is to set up dualism in the house of the soul. The sceptic will not be long in replying that, if reason and nature can give no evidence of God, that to him is a strong reason for believing that no God exists.
It has often been remarked that it is those systems which most decry metaphysics which generally are at bottom the most metaphysical. The Ritschlian school, with its denial of the right of metaphysics to have any say in theology, is a signal instance of this. To gain a footing for their position as non-metaphysicians in theology, the Ritschlians have been compelled to do the very thing they deprecate--commit themselves to a particular speculative theory. Ritschlianism has a metaphysic, and a specially dangerous one, for its aim is to cut at the roots of theoretic certainty, and to leave us, in the sphere of religion, dependent on practical motives alone. So far, besides, from keeping their theology independent of their metaphysics, Ritschl expressly lays down that the right construction of theology depends on the theory of knowledge with which we start. His aim, no doubt, is like Kant's, to establish a theory of knowledge which will leave religion free from theoretic control. The awkward matter is that in their theories of knowledge the Ritschlians are neither at one with their master, nor with one another. Hermann, e.g., rejects the peculiarities of Ritschl's theory of knowledge, and is nearly a pure Kantian. Kaftan, again, renounces Kant, and goes back to a basis of empiricism. It follows from this difference in the theoretical basis, that while agreeing in the point from which they set out—the positive revelation of God in Christ—the Ritschlian theologians go widely asunder whenever they begin to construct a theology in detail. It becomes evident, in short, that what really governs much of their construction is not the objective revelation, but their particular theories of religion, and the views they hold of what is necessary for the realisation of man's practical ends. Hermann's system, e.g., wears quite a different complexion in detail from Ritschl's; Kaftan differs in fundamental respects from both; while Bender, of Bonn, another disciple of the school, has gone off in the direction of pure subjectivism, not without some justification, it must be owned, in the fundamental premisses of the school. This moving off of prominent members of the party on different and irreconcilable lines is justly regarded by its opponents as already indicating a tendency to dissipation and disintegration. Its real cause, I believe, lies just in that absence of hold upon objective truth which springs from the divorce of faith and theoretic knowledge. There are signs that this weakness in the original position of the party is making itself felt, insomuch that leading writers, as Kaftan and Reischle, are now taking up much more positive ground on the relation of faith and knowledge than is to be found in Ritschl. Indeed, along the whole line indications are not wanting that under the stress of controversy the school is beginning to modify some of its extreme positions, and the result will probably be, as happened with the followers of Schleiermacher, the movement of a section of the party nearer to confessional orthodoxy, while some, emphasizing the negative tendency, will go further away.
1 Thus in his Theologie und Metaphysik, he says, “Each theologian is under necessity or obligation as a scientific man to proceed according to a definite theory of knowledge, of which he must be conscious himself, and the legitimacy of which he must prove," p. 40. Cr. Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, iii., p. 16.
2 It would take us beyond the bounds of this paper to enter into these theories of religion, in all of which God is simply a postulate demanded by man's nature for the attainment of certain practical ends.
What these ends are is determined by the particular theory of religion (Hermann and Kaftan, c.9., widely differing froin each other on the subject); and while the postulates of the theory are supposed to be confirmed by the objective revelation, the test of the truth of the revelation again is its agreement with these postulates. Thus we move in a circle from which the Ritschlian thcology cannot free us.
What, then, it may now be asked, since their theological systems are thus divergent, holds these writers together, and still leads to their being spoken of as one party? In answer to this I would say that, in addition to the general affiliation to Ritschl, there are certain common aims and outstanding points of agreement which on the whole form a bond of union among them.
1. There is first that which I have already emphasized--the strong contrast they all draw between religious and theoretic knowledge.
2. There is the insistence on the positive revelation in Christ as the source of all true religious knowledge and life—that which alone can ground a right and satisfying relation to God.
3. Next—and this is a most important point—there is the central position which they all give to Christ's great conception of the Kingdom of God. This is one of the principal merits of Ritschl—the new prominence he has given to this thought of the Kingdom of God as a central idea in theology. It is with him the key to the understanding of the whole Gospel revelation. All special doctrines are to be studied in the light of it. In God's purpose
to found such a Kingdom lies, from the Christian point of view, the explanation of creation and of the whole government of the world. Ritschl's conception of the Kingdom, it is true, is somewhat bald and formal--too much after the Kantian model. It is simply that of the ideal moral society--an organization of humanity, as he explains it, in which all the members act from the motive of love. To bring in and establish this Kingdom was the great end of Christ's
1 Kaftan, of all members of the school, has given most attention to the positive relations of faith and knowledge. His views involve some important modifications of those of Ritschl and Hermann. He recognizes, e.g., that faith involves a theoretic element; that the propositions of faith are capable of theoretic treatment; that truth here means the same as in other departments, correspondence with objective reality; that the system of truth is one in religion and in natural knowledge, &c. He proposes also to discard the term “worth-judgments" as ambiguous and liable to misconstruction. How Kaftan reconciles all this with his fundamental position that theoretic judgments in religion spring out of judgments of value, I cannot here show. See specially his Wahrheit d. christ Religion.
appearance in our world, and of His life and death of love. God's end was His end, and it is in this perfect identity of mind and will with God-this "solidarity” with God in His supreme aim in the creation and government of the world—that Ritschl finds above all the meaning of the predicate “Godhead" as applied to Christ. I shall refer to this again immediately. It is only now to be observed that while Ritschl's followers agree with him in the ruling place they allow to this conception, they do not always adhere to his special way of presenting the nature of the Kingdom. Kaftan, in particular, shows a remarkable divergence; for while, with Ritschl, the Kingdom of God is an ideal of moral fellowship to be realized on earth, in Kaftan's conception it is precisely on earth that it cannot be realized, and he throws it accordingly into the Jenseits—the Beyond.?
4. A fourth point of general relation in Ritschlian systems of the original type is the rigorous exclusion from theology of everything transcendentali.e., which lies outside the range of positive experience. This peculiarity necessarily results from the separation of religious and theoretic truth, and the consequent restriction of religious knowledge to so-called value-judg. ments. The Ritschlian system is perhaps best described as one of religious positivism. It starts with data of experience—the immediate impression made on us by Christ, and the experimental knowledge we have of His power to give us spiritual deliverance and moral freedom. This we can be sure of, because it lies within our consciousness. But beyond the verifiable in experience, Ritschlianism will not go. In the doctrine of God, e.g., it will admit no speculation or inference as to His absolute nature, His immanent modes of being, or even His attributes, beyond what is directly apprehensible in His gracious manifestation in Christ. In Christology, again, it will not allow us to go beyond what we actually find in history. The pre-existence of Christ is cut off at one end; His exaltation and heavenly reign at the other. Where Christ is now, or what He is doing, are matters beyond our ken. Enough that He has lived and died, and that His image abides with us to give us the assurance of forgiveness of sins, and teach us confidence in the fatherly love of God. Here most of all, I cannot but think, the nakedness of the Ritschlian theology reveals itself. Here most of all it displays its inability to maintain itself as a truly Christian theology. Nothing could be more unsatisfactory than Ritschl's Christology. He grants the “Godhead” of Christ, but the term, when analysed, is only a title of honour. Nothing metaphysical is to be imported into it. The attribution of divinity to Christ is only a value-judgment; that is, it states not what Christ is in Himself, but only the value He has to the believer as the revealer of God to him. The view of Christ's atoning work which follows from this conception does not get beyond the removal of the subjective obstacles (ignorance, distrust, sense of guilt, fear of God) which hinder the sinner's approach to God. Righteousness as an attribute in God demanding the punishment of sin Ritschl denies altogether. God, in the Gospel conception of Him, is purely and solely love.
1 Cf. Das Wesen d. christ Rel., pp. 211-215.
Sin as we know it is the offspring of ignorance and weakness, and needs only to be repented of to be forgiven. Christ's death is the supreme test of His fidelity in His calling, and proof of His lordship (Herrschaft) over the world. In this way it guarantees to us the reality of that religious relation to God into the fellowship of which Christ invites us in His Gospel. Thus far Ritschl; but on these points also-especially on the Christology-his followers are feeling the need of some modification, and have already made several significant concessions. It is increasingly realized that we cannot stand thus simply dumb before the revelation which it is acknowledged we have in Christ, and refuse to ask who this wonderful Person is that bears the revelation, and whose personal character and relation to the kingdom of God is so absolutely unique. We cannot rest content with simply formulating the value of Christ to us; we must ask what He is in Himself. There is a selftestimony of Christ to be reckoned with, and the greater the stress we lay on the historicity of the revelation, it is the more imperative that this testimony should not be ignored. The mind will not stay in the vagueness of expressions about Christ's "Godhead" to which the suspicion constantly attaches that they are mere metaphors. Thus in spite of their wishes the Ritschlians are forced to declare themselves a little further, and it is significant that, so far as their explanations go, they are in the direction of the necessity of recognizing that metaphysical background in Christ's person against which at first protest was entered.
In a remarkable passage in the Verkehr, e.g., Hermann expressly states that, in his opinion, if any one wishes to follow out this question of the union of Divine and human natures in Christ, “the Christological decisions of the old Church still always mark out the limits within which such attempts must move.”ı yet further in restoring to its place of honour in theology the idea of the exalted and glorified Christ. Thus a process of change has begun which cannot stop without considerable further developments.
5. Another feature characteristic of the original Ritschlianism is its antagonism to every form of mysticism. I have spoken of its opposition to philosophy. Not less pronounced is the opposition of Ritschl and some of his followers to mysticism, or the doctrine of any inner immediate influence of God upon the soul, resulting in direct or immediate communion with Him. It will probably scarcely be credited that such a doctrine should be questioned by responsible theologians, so accustomed are we to think of direct spiritual communion as of the very essence of religious experience. Yet there is no mistake about the matter. Ritschl has expressed himself with unmistakable distinctness on the subject ;? and Hermann has written a treatise on the Verkehr, or intercourse of the Christian with God, with a view to make clear this very point. The object of this latter book-one of the best for getting a good idea of the system on this side—is directly to combat this
p. 46. A similar passage will be found in Die Religion, &c., pp. 438.9.
Cf., e.g., Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, iii., 20, 21, and the Geschichte des Pictismus, passim.
idea of any mystical communion between God and the individual soul. Th one way, accordivg to Hermann, in which God has entered into converse with men is in the historical manifestation of His Son, Jesus Christ. There, in history, you will meet God; will hear Him speak to you; may learn to trust His love and grace; may be strengthened by Him to overcome the world. But of any coming of God to your soul now—of any spiritual communion with Him otherwise than through these objective historical transactions of 1900 years ago—it is not allowable to speak. Direct access of God to your soul is precluded, at least in any conscious or recognizable way. What people take to be such is illusion and phantasy. One wonders, then, how revelation ever began; how, in the case of Christ Himself, converse with God was maintained. For He had no earlier Christ to fall back upon to mediate communion with the Father. And what of the Old Testament revelation, or the inspiration of the prophets? This is historical positivism carried to an extreme which threatens the very existence of religion.
These outlines, brief as they are, will suffice, perhaps, to show that while the enthusiasm which Ritschlianism on its first appearance has awakened is explicable, and in a measure justified, there is considerable force in many of the strictures of its opponents; and that, when the glow of ethical fervour with which it is set forth is stripped off, it is a singularly meagre and inadequate type of Christianity that remains. I do not think that as a system it will admit to be brought to the test of Scripture-or, if the Apostolic writings are set aside as non-authoritative, of Christ's own teachings and claims. I cannot accept its non-mystical view of religion ; I cannot accept its divorce of faith and reason ; I cannot accept its restriction of religious truths to value-judgments; I cannot accept its agnostic denial of the right of natural theology; I cannot accept Ritschl’s practically humanitarian Christology; I cannot accept its denial of hereditary or original sinfor this is another tenet of the Ritschlian faith; I cannot accept its view of the Divine righteousness, which with Ritschl is only another name for God's consistency in carrying out His ends, and does not denote anything judicial; I cannot accept as adequate its doctrine of reconciliation ; I cannot accept its ignoring of Christ's heavenly reign, and living action by His Spirit in the souls of men. The elements of value which I recognize in it are its fresh, full insistence on the self-evidencing nature and exhaustless spiritual potency of the revelation of God in Christ; its recognition of the uniqueness of Christ's person and work as the one in whom God's purpose has come fully to light, and through whom it has obtained historical realisation ; the prominence it gives to the great Gospel idea of the Kingdom of God; and, together with these merits, the protest it maintains against a one-sided intellectualism, and its constant reversion to the fact of a positive revelation. It may be granted to Ritschlianism that while theology and metaphysics cannot be so entirely kept apart as it thinks, there is need and room for a theology built up from purely Christian foundations, which shall give as adequate an expression as possible to the simple facts and truths of the