The well-known preacher, J. Chr. Blumhardt, once said that man must be twice converted, first from the natural to the spiritual life, and then from the spiritual to the natural.362 He thus declared, in somewhat paradoxical language, a truth which is confirmed by the religious experience of every Christian and by the history of Christian piety in all ages. The spiritual life, which is from above, strives again after what is above; it expresses itself in the sigh of the psalmist,—Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee; and it knows no higher desire than to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. It was under the influence of this inclination of the spiritual life that in the early days of Christianity ascetic life arose, and it is for that reason also that it has maintained itself till the present day in various pious circles. Other causes and considerations have, however, certainly added to that influence, which in primitive times gave origin and strength to this tendency of spiritual life.
When Christianity entered into the world, it was immediately called on to face a difficult problem. Christianity, which is based on revelation, appeared in a world which had long existed and led its own life. A society had been formed which was full of intricate interests. A state was in existence the citizens of which lived in safety and peace. Arts and sciences were practised and had been brought to great perfection. Morals and habits had assumed a fixed form. Conquests had created a powerful kingdom, and had brought in enormous capital. In a word, the Gospel of Christ found a rich natural life, a highly developed culture. And thus the question was inevitably raised how the relations between the two should be adjusted.
The different forms in which this question may be put show its importance and extent. For the problem always remains the same, whether one speaks of the relation between the preaching of the apostles and the Greco-Roman world, or between re-creation and creation, the work of the Son and the work of the Father, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdoms of the earth, sabbath- and week-days, Christianity and humanism, church and state, faith and science, theology and philosophy, authority and reason, the religious and empirical world-view, heaven and earth, divine gifts and human labor, revelation and culture. The problem which is present in all these forms of expression belongs not to a single period, but has been in order all through the ages, and will remain so till the return of Christ. And it does not belong to scientific thought alone, but forces itself upon every man in his every day life. All tendencies which present themselves in life and thought can be described and estimated from the standpoint they take respecting this principial question. Even systems which have broken with all religion and Christianity are compelled, by the force of reality, to take it into account. For though thousands exert themselves to set our present-day culture free from all the past, and to establish it on a new scientific foundation, in reality all our institutions of family and society and state are still resting on Christian principles, and all our morals and habits are still pervaded by the Christian spirit.
Therefore it is not to be wondered at that the first Christians did not solve this world-historical problem satisfactorily, and did not attain unanimity in the position which they adopted. There were those who looked so kindly upon culture that they failed to do justice to the rights and requirements of the Christian confession. There were others who turned their backs on the entire culture of the time, and sought their strength in renouncing it. The early Christians were nevertheless not essentially ascetics. They firmly believed that the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof ; and they considered themselves the new humanity, in which Jew and Greek found their unity and destination.363 But the then existing culture was so intimately connected with all kinds of heathen practices that Christians could take little part in it without denying their faith, and needed to content themselves with practising the more passive virtues of Christian morality. In a world such as Paul describes in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans there was, for a small, weak body of believers, no other than a negative position possible.
But this negative position nevertheless brought serious dangers in the long run. When in the second century dualistic and ascetic Gnosticism spread in its varied forms over the Roman empire, it did not fail of influence over many Christians also. The ascetic inclination which thus appeared was in the third and fourth centuries increased by the worldliness of the church, and strengthened by the infiltration of Stoic and Neoplatonic elements of thought.364 From that time onward many sought solitude in order to pass their life in penitence, or to devote it to works of mercy. This anchorite life in the West underwent later an important modification, and was made use of by the church for all kinds of moral ends,—land-development and agriculture, science and art, the spreading of the gospel and the expansion of the church. But the church also felt the influence of this recognition of the monastic life, and developed a double way to the attainment of the ideal of Christian perfection by introducing the distinction between precepts and counsels. Perfection, to be sure, is the goal for every Christian, as much for the laity as for the clergy and the monk. But the vow of poverty, chastity and obedience is nevertheless the shorter and safer way to that goal. Ascetic, life is a specially meritorious striving after perfection; monastic life sets apart a special class of men, and is a praiseworthy form of Christian life; marriage, family, social vocation, service of the state, property, and riches are not in themselves sinful but place many obstacles in the way of the religious life; he who abstains from them acts better, and becomes the religious man par excellence.365
Though this asceticism is intimately associated with the doctrine and the life of the Roman Church, it has nevertheless, from the Reformation to the present day, exercised also a strong attractive power over many churches and sects in Protestantism. Anabaptism certainly cannot be fully explained from the monastic orders and sects of the Middle Ages; for whence came then its schism with the Roman Church, and its strong opposition to its hierarchy and forms of worship? But it adopted the old ascetic ideal, and tried to realize it by a radical reformation in the circle of believers. This reformation ended in separation,— separation, namely, between church and world, Christian and civil life, re-creation and creation, Spirit and Word, New and Old Testament; in a word, between the heavenly substance, which Christ brought with him and communicates to his believers in regeneration, and the earthly substance, which we receive from Adam in the natural birth. The same dualism has in a modified form since continued to work in many devout circles, and has even received more lately strong support from all those persons and schools which ascribe to original Christianity an ascetic ideal of life. These, however, are themselves divided again into two parties.
The first group is formed by those who, by inclination or education, by their own experience or through exterior influences, have learned to know the value of the ascetic life, and therefore look with more or less of grief and ofeence on present-day culture. There are not a few who, in comparing the life of our time with that of Jesus, discover no connection or congruity, but only contrast and opposition. If, they say, Jesus, who condemns the powerful and rich, despises earthly treasures, feels compassion for the sick and poor, and seeks out the publican and sinner, is right, then present-day society, with its mammonism and capitalism, with its self-conceit and deification of power, is quite wrong. They demand of Christians, If you confess Jesus as the Son of God, and accept his word as divine truth, why do you not follow his example and walk in his footsteps? Why do you live in magnificent homes, clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day, and gather treasures which are corrupted by moth and rust? And why do you not give your possessions away, feed the hungry, relieve the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the sick and in prison, proclaim the gospel to the poor? They explain to us and figure out how Jesus if he lived now would behave, and what would be his conduct towards the press and politics, towards the market and exchange, towards the factory and parliament.366 And some have taken the matter so seriously to heart that they have sought to put this moral ideal into actual practice. Tolstoi, for example, constructed a wholly passive ethics, from the commandment in the sermon on the mount, to resist not evil. The source of all misery is found, they declare, in society, with its lies and pretences; in the church, with her absurd dogmas; in the state, with its law and war; in the whole civil life of our time, with its marriage, castes, conventional forms, corrupt atmosphere, tobacco and alcohol. And escape from these miseries, we are told, is possible only if we turn our backs on all these institutions, return to nature, abandon altogether all force and justice, all wrath and punishment, and live again like children, simply and uprightly. Then the broken harmony between need and satisfaction will be restored, and happiness and peace return.367
On the other side are those who agree, no doubt, that original Christianity bore an ascetic character, but draw therefrom just the opposite conclusion, namely, that Christianity has had its day, and can no longer live with our present-day culture. In the estimate of the person of Jesus an important change has slowly taken place. After Rationalism had rejected the church doctrine concerning the person of Christ, men such as Strauss and Renan, Schenkel and Keim and Holtzmann took indeed a humanitarian view of the life of Jesus. But in their view Jesus, though not the Son of God, was still the true, ideal man, who established the pure religion by his word and deed, free from all sacerdotalism and ceremonial worship, who purified morals from all legalism, who as a human man shared in all the pleasures of life, and presented a moral ideal which deserves our admiration and imitation to-day.368
But in these last days, especially since the investigations of Baldensperger and Johannes Weiss,369 an entirely new conception has in the case of many taken the place of this humanitarian idea. Humanitarian traits are not indeed entirely lacking from the figure of Jesus; yet according to the description given of him by the Synoptic Gospels he was a totally different kind of man. He was not a quiet, pious man, and not a philosophic teacher of virtue. but a prophet, an enthusiast, a fanatic, who lived under the impression of the speedy advent of the kingdom of God, and therefore exhorted his contemporaries to faith and conversion. As a man he was not nearly so great as the liberal theology has represented him. Although he was characterized by a praiseworthy willingness to help all misery, he was nevertheless a limited and superstitious man, believed in evil spirits and eternal punishment, was subject to visions and hallucinations, showed traits even of an hereditary epilepsy, paranoia, and finally attempted, when his preaching received no acceptance, to gain the victory by an act of force. His doctrine contained nothing new, but joined itself to the ideas and expectations of his time; his notion of the kingdom of God was not that of a moral community,but bore an exclusively eschatological character; and his ethics acquired, under Essenic, or even under Buddhistic, influences, an ascetic color. Perhaps he was originally an Aryan, or perhaps even he never existed, and his figure is the creation of one or another of the sects produced by the commotions of the age.370 In any case his view of the world and life is not suitable for our time and circumstances. When he pronounces his woe on the rich, esteems occupation with earthly affairs an obstacle to the heavenly vocation, recommends the unmarried condition, and takes no thought at all of political and social life, he can be no example for us, and his ethics can supply us with no standard.371 Nor does this opposition to Christian ethics concern subordinate points, but their kernel and essence. Christian ethics have laid to their charge legalism and heteronomy, seeking for reward and transcendent eudaemonism, withdrawal from the world and contempt of all culture, and especially of the senses and marriage. Nietzsche has endeavored, therefore, to reverse all its values. Instead of the morals of slaves which Jews and Christians have introduced, he wished to restore to honor the original morals of free men; his system may be called a logical aristocratic anarchism.372
If we are to speak of the relation which Christianity bears to culture, we must first of all give a clear account of what we understand by culture, and of precisely the kind of culture Christianity is to form a contrast to. The word “culture,” which has come into use especially since the eighteenth century, along with other terms, such as civilization, enlightenment, development, education, indicates generally cultivation, improvement, and always presupposes an object which must be improved. This object may be indicated generally by the name of nature, for it always consists of something not made by man, but ofiered to him by creation. Culture in the broadest sense thus includes all the labor which human power expends on nature. But this nature is twofold; it includes not only the whole visible world of phenomena which is outside man, but also, in a wider sense, man himself ; not his body alone, but his soul also. The faculties and powers which man possesses have not been acquired by him, but are given to him by God; they are a gift of nature, and these gifts are a means for cultivating the external world, as well as an object which must be cultivated. Thus there are two great circles of culture. To the first belong all those activities of man for the production and distribution of material goods, such m agriculture, cattle-rearing, industry, and trade. And the second circle includes all that labor whereby man realizes objectively his ideals of the true, the good, and the beautiful, by means of literature and science, justice and statecraft, works of beauty and art, and at the same time works out his own development and civilization.373
Such a culture has existed at all times, from the moment when man appeared on the earth and sought satisfaction of his manifold needs by labor. And from its first origin this culture has been closely connected with religion; in all ages and among all peoples these two are found together, and go forward hand in hand. It was not till the eighteenth century that culture was raised to a power which emancipated itself from the Christian religion and the whole ancient world-view, and sought to become an absolutely new, modern culture. Nobody, therefore, can declare that culture as such stands in contrast with religion, for all the preceding centuries raise a sharp protest against such an assertion. It can, at the most, be contended that our specifically present-day culture is in conflict with religion and Christianity.
But before this can be proved an exact definition should first be given of what is meant by modern culture. Immense difficulties present themselves when this is attempted, and the hope of attaining a clear and generally accepted conception seems illusive. In the first place, modern culture in some respects, and according to some estimates, forms an antithesis to that of former centuries. But this antithesis is not absolute. We are all, whether we will or not, standing on the shoulders of former generations. All our society, family, labor, vocation, state-craft, legislation, morals, habits, arts, sciences, are permeated still with the Christian spirit. The opponents of Christianity know this very well, and their antagonism against Christianity is so strong just because the Christian spirit shows itself all along the line, leavens everything, and exerts its influence even upon them notwithstanding themselves. Thought has often to a great extent emancipated itself from Christianity ; but life goes quietly on, and is continually led from the sources of the past. Modern culture would like to be absolutely modern, but it is not, and cannot be so; it is a product of, and thus also a moment in, history.
But even if we do not take into account this alliance with the past, and wish to judge modern culture on its own merits, we do not obtain the unity and clearness which are necessary in order to form an exact conception of it. For modem culture is an abstract name for many phenomena, and forms no unity at all. Not only are there innumerable factors which ]have contributed to its development, but it is also in the highest degree divided in itself. Everywhere, and in all domains, in politics, social economy, art, science, morals, instruction, education, there are parties, tendencies, and schools which stand in opposition to one another; the realms of justice and culture, church and state, faith and science, capital and labor, nomism and antinomism, combat each other, and proceed on different principles. Monism no doubt seeks here also for an abstract unity; but it sacrifices the diversity and richness of life to a theory, and blinds itself to the sharp contrasts which reality exhibits. It is, therefore, an empty phrase to say that modern culture, is at strife with Christianity and religion; as to some phenomena it may be said with some appearance of right, but to others it is not in the least applicable.
Finally, we should consider that modern culture in the sense of an extensive group of various phenomena is not a finished thing; it is not complete, and not objectively placed before us; it has existed but a short time in the past, and is still developing from day to day. We are thus in the middle of it, and live in a “transition period,”—an expression which says little of itself, because all time is a time of transition and change, but yet here embodies an old and well-known truth, in opposition to all who try to separate the present from the past and the future and make it absolute. Therefore nobody can say whither modern culture will lead us; one can surmise, guess, speculate, but there is no certainty at all. As to the phenomena which now already present themselves, and are included under the name of modern culture, the estimates of their value vary very much. There are some of them which are approved by nobody. Who, for example, defends the materialistic tone, the mammonism, the alcoholism, the prostitution so prevalentinthesedays? Who is blind to the defects which attach to our modern culture or to the dangers to which it exposes us? Each one is thus obliged, whatever religious or philosophical standpoint he may occupy, to apply a standard in his judgment of modern culture; he cannot accept it in its entirety; whether he will or not, he goes to work eclectically. and will approve some phenomena as in agreement with his own world-view, and dissent strongly from others in the name of that same world-view. And as to the future, the estimation of modern culture will depend upon the direction in which it moves, which nobody can foresee or foretell. Men are alternately panegyrists and grumblers, and the same man plays in turn the one or the other role according to what pleases or vexes him.
The assertion that modern culture is in conflict with Christianity is thus a meaningless phrase. Who ventures to assert that marriage and family, state and society, art and science, trade and industry as such are condemned and opposed by Christianity? At the most such an assertion may be made as to the manner and the direction in which these institutions and activities at the present time are developing or are carried on. This is no doubt what is meant. There are phenomena upon which a very different estimate is placed by many of our contemporaries from that placed upon them by the gospel of Christ. But it is mere presumption for them to identifv their judgment with modern culture itself and to reject the whole of Christianity in her name. It may be explainable, for it makes an impression to say that culture, and science and state have antiquated Christianity; but it is not excusable, for it places the antithesis in a false light, brings confusion into the ideas, and is injurious to both Christianity and culture. If we search out what in modern culture is antithetically opposed to Christianity and then reduce this to a principle, we shall arrive at the same idea which was found above to be irreconcilable in it with Christian faith. The complaint which many make against Christianity, its doctrine of faith and life, is based on its so-called heteronomy and transcendence. There is in modern society a striving after independence and freedom, such as was unknown in earlier times, or at least not recognized in the same degree. We meet with this among all men, and in every position and circle of life ; science, art, industry, trade, labor, capital, all desire to govern themselves, and to be obedient only to the laws which are laid down for them by their own mode of life. This striving in itself is not illegitimate or unjustifiable, for men are not machines, but free-thinking and free-living rational and moral beings. But it undeniably often assumes a character which interdicts existence, and the right of existence, to all objective authority, to all external law, to every destiny of man which passes beyond this earthly life. The legitimate, struggle for independence and liberty is transformed into a theoretically proclaimed and practically applied autonomy and anarchy, and these naturally place themselves in opposition to Christianity. For Christianity comes into collision with such an autonomy, as does every religion. It asserts all possible freedom and independence for man, for it teaches his creation after the image and likeness of God ; but it maintains at the same time that man is a creature, and thus can never become or be absolutely independent; it joins him to God, and binds him to his word and will. When the apologists of modern culture accuse Christianity of legalism, heteronomy, transcendent eudaemonism, etc., these are words which intentionally represent the matter in an unjust way and rouse prejudice against Christianity; but the matter itself is beyond dispute. It is supernaturalism, which in point of fact forms the point of controversy between Christianity and many panegyrists of modern culture.
The Christian religion cannot abandon this supernaturalism without annihilating itself. There is even no religion thinkable or possible without belief in a supernatural power. For all religion implies that God and the world are distinct, and that God can work in the world, enter into fellowship with man, and by that fellowship can raise him above, and maintain him against, the world. Because Christianity is the pure and true religion, it is not less, but more supernatural than all other religions. For these religions dissolve the godhead into all kinds of natural powers, see everywhere in the world only the influences of good or evil spirits, and cannot therefore bring man into a true fellowship with God. But according to the Christian confession the one, all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful will of God lies behind the phenomena of nature and the events of history, and this will breaks down all resistance in the world and humanity and leads them in the face of their opposition to salvation and glory. This is the idea which underlies the whole of Scripture; on it Moses and the prophets, Christ and the apostles take their stand; the Christian church is built on the great facts of creation, incarnation, and resurrection; the gospel as it is preached by Jesus himself in his earthly life embodies this same counsel and will of God.
It is not open to doubt that it was not as a poet or philosopher, as a scholar or artist, as a politician or social reformer, that Jesus appeared among the people of Israel. What is new and peculiar in the person of Christ consists in this—that he was more than Solomon and Jonab, or one of the prophets; that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, sent by God to seek the lost, and save sinners, to proclaim the gospel to the poor, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, to declare the Father, and to reveal his name. What he came to bring to earth is therefore a blessing of unspeakable value, namely, the kingdom of heaven, not as a community which could be founded by human endeavor, but as a heavenly, divine treasure, embracing righteousness, salvation from corruption, eternal life, and obtainable only through regeneration, faith, and conversion.
We may differ on the question whether Jesus was right in this preaching of the gospel, and whether the knowledge of God and eternal life mean the highest good for man. There are many at least who deny and controvert this, and seek to set Christian morals aside in favor of the ethics of individualistic or social eudeamonism. Now Christianity leaves full room for the ethical culture of our own personality in the midst of society, but there is a notable contrast between the two systems of ethics, which cannot be disguised or obliterated. Christian morals lays stress upon sin and grace, the ethics of evolution proclaims the natural goodness of man; the former regards man as a lost being, who needs salvation, the latter sees in him the one creature who can reform and save the, world; the first speaks of reconciliation and regeneration, the second of development and education; for the one the new Jerusalem comes down from God out of heaven, for the other it comes slowly into being by human eflort; there divine action moves history, here evolution is the all-directing process.374
But this is certain,—if the gospel is true, then it carries with it its own standard for the valuation of all culture. Jesus has shown this distinctly in the attitude which he adopted towards all earthly things and natural relations. He was no ascetic: he considered food and drink, covering and clothing, as good gifts of the Heavenly Father, and was present at wedding-feasts and dinners. And he was as little an epicurean, who thinks only of himself and cares only for himself ; he was continually moved with compassion for all kinds of misery. Neither shallow optimism nor weak pessimism finds in him an ally. But although he did not despise natural institutions and blessings, still he does not undertake to estimate them as such or to determine their inherent value. That was not the work which the Father had given him to do. He accepted the social and political conditions as they were, made no ondeavor to reform them, and confined himself exclusively to setting the value which they possessed for the kingdom of heaven. And in that connection he said, that nothing a man possesses in this world—food or drink, covering or clothing, marriage or family, vocation or position, riches or honor—can be compared with that pearl of great price which he alone can present. It must all be abandoned, if necessary, for the gospel’s sake, and the treasures of earth are often a great obstacle to entrance into the kingdom of God. In a word, agriculture, industry, commerce, science, art, the family, society, the state, etc.,—the whole of culture—may be of great value in itself, but whenever it is thrown into the balance against the kingdom of heaven, it loses all its significance. The gaining of the whole world avails a man nothing if he loses his own soul; there is nothing in creation which he can give in exchange for his soul.
The truth of this declaration can be denied only by the man who shuts his eyes to the awful seriousness of real life. Not only does Scripture teach that man has lost himself, and may lose himself more and more, but our own experience also testifies to this. Man is lost before God, for he does not give himself to God, and does not serve him in love, but flies from him, and hides himself from his presence. He is lost for his neighbor, for he abandons him in his need, and sacrifices him to his own interests in the struggle for existence. He is also lost for himself, for there is a cleft between his being and his consciousness, a dissension between his duty and his desire, between his conscience and his will. That is the. reason why we seek diversions in the world; instead of re-collecting our thoughts we scatter them, and in proportion as with our representations and imaginations, with our thoughts and desires, with our inclinations and passions, we move in various directions, we lose more and more the centre of our own life. Man is ever losing himself more and more. No treasures are able to compensate for the spiritual loss of our soul, for when the soul is lost all is lost. Nothing fills the emptiness, nothing replaces the loss, nothing covers the poverty. For this reason Christ brought the kingdom of heaven to earth; he implants it in the hearts of men, and thereby gives them back to God, and their neighbor, and also to themselves. Peace with God carries with it for man peace with himself also; the cleft between his conscience and his will is filled up; the discord between his being and consciousness is reconciled; his soul with all its powers is brought back to unity in the fear of God’s name. His duty becomes his choice, and his choice his privilege. Conversion is a turning back to God, but at the same time a coming to one’s self.375
If this is the content of the gospel,—namely, that God maintains and renews the ethical ideal of man by his merciful and powerful will in the way of forgiveness and conversion,—then the reality of this content may indeed he denied, but it is inconceivable that such a gospel should be opposed to culture. Much rather is it, if we may so say, the most important element of all culture,—principle and goal of what all culture in the genuine sense of the word strives after, and must strive after. There are indeed many who think that the development and progress of the human race principally or exclusively consist in the improvement of material welfare. But this materialistic view of life is strongly contradicted by man’s rational and moral nature. Heart and conscience witness to us all that man cannot live by bread alone; “life is not the highest good.” It is not religion only, but philosophy, which has at all times proclaimed this. Its chief representatives have declared, without exception, that the destiny of man and humanity must bear an ethical character, and that that ethical character must take the first place; the good is the same as the divine, and is raised high above the sensual world; ethics goes further than Physics. So powerfully does this idea of the value of the good work in the heart of man that material culture, which began to flourish in the last century and for some time cast a certain glamour over materialism, soon gave way to a strong reaction in life, and by the disappointment which it brought caused the heart of man to thirst again after idealism and mysticism. Even Haeckel has felt this influence; he has continued, indeed, to call his world-view materialistic, but he has raised his monism to the rank of religion, and regards as its kernel the worshipping of the true, the good, and the beautiful.376
Now as soon as culture wishes to be ethical culture, not in name, but in fact and in truth, it loses all ground for accusing the gospel of enmity against it, and it cannot do itself greater service than by honoring the gospel as the chief and highest power making for culture. It cannot bring a valid objection even against the supernatural elements which are included in the gospel, because as ethical culture it rests on metaphysics, and on deeper introspection proves to be based indeed on revelation. Thus, it is historically proved that culture has not had an independent origin and development, but from its first commencement is bound up with religion in the closest way. The higher elements of culture especially, such as science, art, and morality, are indebted to religion for their origin and growth. The oldest science of which we have knowledge, in Greece, Egypt, Babylon, and India, was theology; philosophy originated in religion, and only later brought forth various particular sciences.377 Art among the people of old bore a specially religious character;378 and among all men of ancient times we meet the tendency to regard moral laws as divine commandments.379 Science, art, and morality are cognate in origin, essence, and meaning with religion, for they are all based on the belief in an ideal world, the reality of which is assured and guaranteed only by religion; that is, from God’s side by revelation.380
No doubt an endeavor has recently been made to make ethical culture independent of religion.381 But this attempt is still new and limited to a small circle, and it probably will have little success. It is a dishonor for religion, to be sure, to serve as a police agent, or as a watchdog of morality. Religion and morality are not bound together in this external and mechanical way, but they are in alliance with each other organically, by reason of their inner nature. The love of God includes that of our neighbor, and the latter is reflected in the former. For good presents itself to us all from our earliest youth in the form of a commandment. Neither autonomic nor evolutionary ethics can make any change here. The child does not gradually create moral laws by instinct or reflection, but is brought up in a circle which has possessed those laws long before, and which imposes them on the child with authority.382 As we look around us among the nations and examine the history of mankind, we are witnesses of much vacillation and variety, but a fund of moral laws is always and everywhere found.383 Every man acknowledges that in morality a law is laid upon him which obliges him to obedience in his conscience. If this be so, then in this wonderf ul phenomenon we have to do either with an illusion, a dream, an imagination of mankind, or with a reality which is raised high above the empirical world and fills us with deepest reverence. For if the moral law or the ideal good indeed exists around and above us, then it must he grounded in the world-power and be one with the Godhead. God alone is the source, and thus also the guarantee of the reality of the moral law, of the objectivity of duty, the ethical vocation and destiny of man. In so far all ethics is also heteronomous.
Philosophy, particularly since Kant, has strongly controverted this heteronomy, and it is right in its opposition if this heteronomy be thought of as a moral law, which comes to us from without, is forcibly imposed upon us from above, and finds no echo in our own spirit. Such a merely external law may be, perhaps, a natural law, but in no case can it he a moral law. Such a view of the heteronomy of law might be acceptable, accordingly, to those moralists who think that man was originally an animal, and has become man by external influences, either by the pressure of society or by the discipline of the state; but it has no attractions to, and is quite superfluous to, Christian ethics, which is based on Holy Scripture. For Scripture teaches that man was originally created after God’s image, and bore the moral law in the inmost recesp,es of his heart; that even in the state of sin he is still bound to the ideal world by his reason and conscience; and that the dissension which now exists between duty and inclination, according to all experience, is, in principle, reconciled in regeneration and conversion. As Jesus said that it was his meat to do the will of his Heavenly Father, so Paul testified, that he delighted in the law of God after the inward man; and all sincere Christians humbly speak the same words.
Autonomous morality and ethical culture cannot raise objection to this doctrine, for it is the ultimate fulfilment of what they themselves mean and wish. It is rightly said that good must be the inner inclination of man. Good does not in a social-eudeamonistic way borrow its standard and nature from the consequences of human actions, for these consequences are external, often accidental, and almost always incalculable. Man is not good by the operation and fruit of his actions, but the actions are good because, and in so far as, they are a revelation and expression of the good will of man. There is therefore, according to Kant, nothing in the world which can be considered as good without limitation except a good will. The philosopher therein simply repeated in other words what Jesus had said: A good tree alone can bring forth good fruit, and a man can only bring forth good things out of the good treasure of his heart.384 This declaration of Scripture even avoids the one-sidedness of Kant, who makes it seem as if good can be achieved only if it is accomplished by the intellectual sense of duty alone without the co-operation of the heart. In place of this intellectual rigorism, which always produces by reaction emotional romanticism, Christian ethics maintains that the whole man must be good in intellect and will, heart and conscience. To do good is a duty and a desire, a task and a privilege, and thus the work of love. Love is therefore the fulfilling of the law.
But again, if this is the kernel of Christian morality, with what right can the charge of enmity against culture be brought against it? For it is it alone which makee; true culture possible, and places it on a firm foundation. Ethical culture rightly declares that man must be good internally, in the roots of his being, in the core of his will; but it feels itself obliged, after honest consideration, to confess that such men do not exist, and that it cannot create them. All culture, whatever significance it may have, just as all education, civilization, development, is absolutely powerless to renew the inner man. For it always works externally, and does not penetrate into the heart of man. It may fashion, prune, restrain, bridle, form; it may force life to run in harness; it may cultivate legalism and even morality. But that is nevertheless not the good, the genuine, inner, spiritual good; it is no true Sittlichkeit. As long as ethical culture thinks itself sufficient, it is exposed to serious danger. For adhering firmly to its ideal, and esteeming itself able to realize it, it will hedge man about on all sides, and lay upon him command on command, rule upon rule; or it will, after many endeavors, convinced of its powerlessness, abandon the height of the moral ideal, give the leadership to the will, and permit every one to live himself out in accordance with his own character. Phariseeism and Sadduceeism are no uncommon phenomena on philosophical and practical ground. Thus the true, and the good, and the beautiful, which ethical culture means and seeks, can only come to perfection when the absolute good is at the same time the almighty, divine will, which not only prescribes the good in the moral law, but also works it effectually in man himself. The heteronomy of law and the autonomy of man are reconciled only by this theonomy.
Ethical culture accordingly can neither in the source nor in the essence of morals be independent of the metaphysical foundation ; and finally much less can it clisponse with it in the definition of the goal of morality.385 As long as it remains diesseitig, it cannot give to the question, What may be the goal of the moral action? any other answer than that this is to be found either in the individual man or in humanity. In the first instance, whether it wishes to do so or not, it sacrifices the community to the individual, and in the second it sacrifices the individual to the community. But nature itself distinctly proves that neither of these may be lowered to a mere means to the other; the individual and the community are not subordinate to one another, but coordinate with each other. If both are thus to maintain their independence and be brought into agreement, this can be accomplished only when men rise above both, and posit a goal for moral action outside of both. Another consideration enforces the necessity of
Jenseitigkeit still more strongly. Neither humanity nor the individual can have the origin or the goal in itself. There was a time when they did not exist; they are transitory, and near their end. In the universe they occupy a temporary, transitory place; they are a means, and not an end, and certainly no final end, because they are not their own origin.
But if neither the individual man nor humanity can be the final end, because they are creatures, then the question is unavoidable what this final end is. Ethical morality, which reflects, must go beyond this world of visible things; it cannot maintain its standpoint within humanity. But then there are only two paths open, —either humanity, with all its culture, is a means for the unconscious, unreasonable, and purposeless world-power, or it is a means for the glorifying of God. The first can, and will, and may never be believed by humanity, for it is tantamount to suicide. The second, that man and humanity exist for God’s sake, from him, and through him, and to him, upholds their moral, spiritual value far above the whole inanimate universe, and brings indeed the true, the good, and the beautiful to eternal triumph. This alone gives peace to the understanding and rest to the heart. Ethical culture must be a philosophy of revelation or it cannot exist.
Now the peculiarity of all revelation is, that while it posits principles and lays foundations, it charges men with the application of these principles and the building upon these foundations. Creation was the first revelation, the principle and foundation of all revelation ; but, on the other hand, every revelation is also a creation, a divine work, in order to accomplish something new, to make a new commencement, and to unlock the possibility of a new development. From nothing, nothing could begin; all evolution supposes a germ; all becoming proceeds from being. Thought and speech, life and history, science and art, have all had their commencement in principles which are laid down by God’s creative power. The whole special revelation which has its centre in Christ has no other content and no other meaning than to lay this firm foundation whereon the new humanity can be built. Christ is the head, and the church is his body; Christ is the cornerstone, and believers are the living stones of the divine building. Nothing can be, changed in this foundation; it is laid, and remains for all time. But when it is laid both in deed and word, in nature and history, in the world of being and consciousness, then the independent work of the church begins with the development of doctrine and life, of organization and worship. Revelation from God’s side always opens a way for “discovery” by man.386
This is applicable also to culture. In the measure that it considers more deeply its own essence, it arrives at the discovery that it is rooted in metaphysics and founded on revelation. It rests on data which God himself established, and is certain of its rights and value only because God is creator, regenerator, and consummator of all things. The creation of the first man shows this; the subduing of the earth, that is, the whole of culture, is given to him, and can be given to him, only because he is created after God’s image; man can be ruler of the earth only because and in so far m he is a servant, a son of God. But man has not continued to build on this foundation; the development of the human race has not been normal; there has always on a time of flourishing followed a time of decay and ruin for culture. Then God takes, as it were, the development into his own hands by raising up great men, by causing new races to appear, by creating events of a world-wide significance; he demolishes the sinful development and raises culture from its abasement, and opens out to it a new road. This is particularly manifest among the Israelites, in Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and finally in Christ. Culture, therefore, sinks into the background; man must first become again a son of God before he can be, in a genuine sense, a cultured being. Israel was not a people of art and science, but a people of religion; and Christ is exclusively a preacher of the gospel, the saviour of the world, and founder of the kingdom of heaven. With this kingdom nothing can be compared; he who will enter into it must renounce all things; the cross is the condemnation of the world and the destruction of all sinful culture.
But it is wrong to educe from this pronouncement that the gospel must be at enmity with culture. For although the gospel limits itself to the proclaiming of the requirements and laws of the kingdom, it cannot be set free from the organic alliance in which it always appears in history and Scripture. For, in the first place, Christ does not stand at the commencement, but in the middle of history. He presupposes the work of the Father in creation and in providence, especially also in the guidance of Israel; yea, the gospel asserts that Christ is the same who as the Word made all things and was the life and the light of all men. As he was then in his earthly life neither a politician nor a social reformer, neither a man of science nor a man of art, but simply lived and worked aa the Son of God and Servant of the Lord, and thus has only been a preacher and founder of the kingdom of heaven, he cannot have come to annihilate the work of the Father, or his own work in creation and providence, but rather to save it from the destruction which has been brought about by sin. According to his own word, he came not to judge the world, but to save it.
Secondly, for the same reason, the preaching of Jesus cannot be separated from what has followed after the cross. The gospel goes back in the past to creation, and even to eternity, and stretches forward to the farthest future. Christ, who as the Word created all things, and bore the cross as the Servant of the Lord, is the same who rose again and ascended into heaven, and will return as Judge of the quick and the dead. In his exaltation he regains what he denied himself in his humiliation; but now it is freed from guilt, purified from stain, reborn and renewed by the Spirit. The resurrection is the fundamental restoration of all culture. Christ himself took again the body in which he bore on the cross the sin of the world; he has received all power in heaven and earth, and is exalted by God himself to his right hand as Lord and Christ. The demand which has been made from many sides of late, as earlier by many sects and monastic orders, that we should return from the Pauline and Johannine Christ to the so-called historical Jesus, the gospel of the Synopties, the sermon on the mount, and the parables, is not only impracticable, because in the whole New Testament the same dead and risen Christ meets us, but mutilates the gospel, leads to asceticism, and creates an irreconcilable dissension between creation and re-creation, Old and New Testament, nature and grace, the Creator of the world and the Father of Christ.
Such a dissension may be proper to Gnosticism and Manichaeism, and also to the Buddhism nowadays admired by so many, but it is in direct contradiction to Christianity. The truth and value of Christianity certainly do not depend on the fruits which it has borne for civilization and culture: it has its own independent value—it is the realization of the kingdom of God on earth; and it does not make its truth depend, after a utilitarian or pragmatical fashion, on what men here, have accomplished with the talents entrusted to them. The gospel of Christ promises righteousness and peace and joy, and has fulfilled its promise if it gives these things. Christ did not portray for his disciples a beautiful future in this world, but prepared them for oppression and persecution. But, nevertheless, the kingdom of heaven, while a pearl of great price, is also a leaven which permeates the whole, of the, meal; godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life which now is, and that which is to come. The gospel gives us a standard by which we can judge of phenoinena and events; it is an absolute measure which enables us to determine the value of the present life; it is a guide to show us the way in the labyrinth of the present world; it raises us above time, and teaches us to view all things from the standpoint of eternity. Where could we find such a standard and guide if the everlasting gospel did not supply it? But it is opposed to nothing that is pure and good and lovely. It condemns sin always and everywhere; but it cherishes marriage and the family, society and the state, nature and history, science and art. In spite of the many faults of its confessors, it has been in the course of the ages a rich benediction for all these institutions and accomplishments. The Christian nations are still the guardians of culture. And the word of Paul is still true that all is ours if we are Christ’s.387
362In Joh. Herzog, Der Begriff der Bekehrung, p. 1 9.
363Harnack, Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten, I, pp. 185-197. Sell, Katholiz. und Protest. Leipzig, 1908, pp. 24, 103 ff.
364Harnack, Das Mönchtum, seine Ideale und seine Geschichte. Giessen, 1886. Zöckler, Askese und Mönchtum, Frankfurt a. M., 1897.
365P. Höveler, Prof. A. Harnack und die katholische Askese. Düsseldorf, 1902.
366E. g. The True History of Joshua Davidson, Communist. 1873 (2 ed.. The Life of Joshua Davidson, by E. Lynn Linton, 1889). Sheldon, In his Steps: or “What Would Jesus Do?” Chicago, 1897, Rev. ed. 1899. Comp. also Hall Caine, The Christian, and Marie Corelli, The Master-Christian.
367Tolstoi, Worin bestebt mein Glaube? 1885.
368Weinel, Jesus im neunzehnten Jahrh. Tiibingen, 1903. Schweitzer, Von Reimarus zu Wrede. Tübingen, 1906. W. Sanday, The Life of Christ in Recent Research, Oxford, 1907.
369W. Baldensperger, Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu im Lichte der messian. Hoffnungen seiner Zeit I. Strassburg, 1903. J. Weiss, Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes. Göttingen, 1900.
370The literature which deals with Jesus in this spirit is increasing daily; witness such works as the following: Kalthoff, Das Christusproblem, Grundlinien zu einer Sozialtheologie. Leipzig, 1903. Pfleiderer, Das Christusbild des urchristl. Glaubens in religionsgesch. Beleuchtung. Berlin, 1903. Paul Wernle, Die Anfänge unserer Religion, 1904. W. B. Smith, Der vorchristl. Jesus nebst weiteren Vorstudien zur Entstehungsgesch. des Urchrist. Mit einem Vorwort vou P. W. Schmiedel.I>Christus ein Inder? Stuttgart, 1907. Dr. de Loosten, Jesus Christus vom Standpunkte des Psychiaters. Bamberg, 1905. E. Rasmussen, Jesus, eine vergleichende psychopathol. Studie. Leipzig, 1905. Binet-Sangle, La Folie de Jésus. Paris, 1908. Arthur Heulhard, Le mensonge Chrétien (Jésus-Christ n’a pas existé), I. Le Charpentier. Paris. 1908. Bolland, Het Leven en Sterven van Jezus Christus, 1907.
371Thus among others Mill, On Liberty, chap. 2. Theob. Ziegler, Gesch. der christl. Ethik, I, pp. 62 ff. Paulson, System der Ethik, pp. 50 ff. Strauss, Der alte und der neue Glaube. 1872, pp. 57 ff. Ed. von Hartmann, Das Christentum des N. Testam. 1905. Vorwort, etc.
372Nitzsch, Die Weltanschauung Fr. Nietzsche’s, Zeits. Für Theol. und Kirche. 1905, pp. 344 - 360.
373Lexis, Das Wesen der Kultur, in Die Nultur der Gegenwart I. Eucken, Geistige Strömungen, 1904, pp. 226 ff.
374Compare the contrasts drawn by Forsyth between the Reformation and the “Enlightenment,” Hibbert Journal, April, 1908, pp. 482 ff.
375Comp. the Pensées of Pascal.
376Haeckel, Welträthsel, p. 439, and above, Lect. I.
377Comp. Lectures - I, note 2; VI, note 7 ; VII, note 19.
378Portig, Religion und Kunst in ihrem gegenseitigen Verhältniss. Iserlohn, 1879.
379Eisler, Kritische Einführung in die Philosophie. Berlin, 1905, p. 297.
380Ernst Linde, Religion und Kunst. Tübingen, 1905.
381Gutberlet, Ethik und Religion. Kneib, Die Jenseitsmoral, pp. 239 ff.
382Eisler, Krit. Einführung, p. 297.
383Ibid. p. 302.
384Ibid. p. 292. Stange, Der heteronome Character der christlichen Ethik, Neue Kirchl. Zeits. June, 1908, pp. 454-473.
385Ibid. pp. 312 ff., 324, 330 ff., 334.
386Comp. Lecture I, note 27; Lecture VI, note 60.
387A. Ehrhard, Kathol. Christentum und moderne Kultur. Mainz, 1906. E. W. Mayer, Christentum und Kultur. Berlin, 1905.