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NOTE II. TO CHAPTER VI.
RECENT LUTHERAN THEOLOGY ON THE MOTIVE OF THE
It has been observed more than once, that the Scotist view of the motive of the Incarnation was foreign to the ideas of the Reformation. It was indeed maintained by Osiander, as we have seen, but the exception is exactly of that kind which proves the rule, for here, as in many other points, Osiander felt himself and was felt by his coreligionists to be out of harmony with the general Lutheran sentiment of his day. With him began that reaction against the first Reformers, which has been traced out in an earlier chapter, and which lasted till the Reformation merged into the Rationalist movement in Germany. A similar spirit has however reappeared in our own day in some of the more eminent Lutheran divines of the orthodox school, and their adoption of the Scotist view as an integral part of their system is an illustration of it. It may be worth while to give a few instances of this.
Martensen, a Danish Lutheran bishop, whose work, Die christliche Dogmatik (Kiel, 1850), I quote from a German translation, teaches as follows Man is created after the image of the Divine Logos. The 'supralapsariau' view of Calvin, that redemption, and therefore sin, was predestined from eternity is met hy saying that the Incarnation was predestined from eternity as the true ideal of humanity, but not the Passion and death of the God-Man. It resulted from our wilful sin, that the divine revelation of love actually took place as a revelation of redemption.” Christ can only become our Redeemer because He is by an eternal purpose our Mediator. We must not say that “without sin there would have been no place in the human family for the glory of the Only-begotten.” He, who would anyhow have been the Mediator of an imperfect race, has humbled Himself yet further to become the Redeemer of a sinful race. (Christ. Dogm. pp. 157, 193-5, 294.) The author, while accepting generally
the language of the Lutheran formulas, gives them an interpretation widely different from that of tlieir founders. The shocking exaggerations of Luther and Calvin on the nature and consequences of original sin are softened down to a sense little, if at all, different from that of Catholic tradition. The satisfaction of Christ is explainel through His redemption, and justification as implying the gift of a new principle of holiness implanted in the soul. The appeasing the wrath of God, and the active obedience of Christ, which play so important a part in earlier Protestant theology, are reduced to conformity with the teaching of the Fathers: while many Lutheran opinions are expressly rejected, as the ubiquity of Christ's Body, and the Lutheran gloss on the descent into Hell. An intermediate state of purification between death and judgment is mintained, nor does Martevsen object to call it Purgatory; he prefers the medieval opinion to that of the Reformers as to the age of the resurrection body. The book is interesting in itself, and as marking the contrast between earlier and later Lutheranism. It closes with a remarkable discussion on the future coudition of the wicked, with scriptural and patristic authorities.
Thomasius, a professor at Erlangen, of narrower views than Martensen, whose work on Origen has already been referred to, discusses the motive of the Incarnation at some length in his Christi Person und IVerk (Erlangen, 1853), urging the anthority of Scripture, Fathers, and Schoolmen against Martensen's view, which he rejects as well on that account as from thinking that it derogates from the love of Christ and refers His taking our nature to an internal necessity in the being of God, not to compassion for man-an objection which would be at least equally applicable to the Anselmic and many Protestant theories of satisfaction : but in fact it does not really apply at all here, for the intention of taking our humanity in order to unite us with God is itself one free act of love, the further purpose of suffering for our redemption is another. Thomasius considers the decree of the Incarnation to be included in the decree of creation, modified through the entrance of sin foreseen though not predestined by God. Ile says that in Christ the archetype of humanity is bodily fulfilled. He quotes Dorner, as holding the opposite (Scotist) view; but the purely historical character of Dorner's work does not give scope for the direct discussion of such questions.
Nägelsbach, in his work, Der Gottmensch (Nürnberg, 1853), devoted to showing, as against atheism and pantheism, that the GodMan is “the fundamental idea of revelation in its unity and historical development,” maintains that the union between God and man, wbich love requires, can only be realised by God taking on Himself not abstract but actual humanity, i.e. becoming man. His Incarnation cannot be accidental. It is opposed, as Kurtz says, to all Christian feeling and cousciousness, that we should owe it, and the deification of our nature, only to sin. It is implied in the very principle of love, that this was from the first the end and scope of human history. Its first prophecy is not Gen. iii. 15, but Gen. i. 26. The First Adam implies the Second. All previous history was an education of the world for His coming, all Christian history springs from Him as its Root, whose appearance is the centre-point in the life of the world. (Der Gottmensch, vol. i. Pp. 28-32.) Liebner, in his Christologie (Gottingen, 1819), argues at length, that the incarnation and the consequent deification of our nature were involved in the original act of creative love, as the archetype and proper term of humanity. He answers in detail the objections of Thomasius.
Rothe, one of the greatest Lutheran divines of the day, in his Theologische Ethik (vol. ii. pp. 252-338), treats of the redemption wrought by Christ. He does not expressly touch on the probabilities of the Incarnation, as antecedent to sin; but he considers redemption to be involved in the original act of creation, though requiring a fresh creative act or new beginning of the race, proceeding from the race itself, but by a supernatural origin : i. e. a Second Adam. The author traces out the preparation for Christ's coming under the Old Law by the moral education of mankind, and by miracle and prophecy, leading up to the final revelation in His personal appearance, the end of which is redemption, or restored communion between God and man, by the removal of sin which divided them. In order to mediate between God and man, He must share the nature of both perfectly, and must make a free and complete self oblation of His whole being for the honour of God and for love of man; and this in a sinful world, hating holiness and truth and under the dominion of Satan, can only be consummated through the sacrifice of His life. To impart the fruits of His redemption, He has founded a spiritual kingdom or family among men, whercof He is the Head and Heart
from which the life of the whole body is derived. For the redemption of sinful humanity, wrought fully once for all by Himself, must be applied separately to individual members of the race. Only so can actual redemption and propitiation before God be accomplished for them, through the removal of sin and of the debt and punishment which are its consequences. Pardon cannot be bestowed. unless there is a guarantee for the actual casting out of sin. When the sinner is thus reconciled with God, a gradual process of renewal fullows, in which the moral and religious elements are constantly tending to become identified. For cases of death-bed conversion, and even for those who die unconverted, there still remains till the end of the present world and the general judgment an intermediate state of trial, probably by fire (for which Mark ix. 49 is quoted). But a time comes sooner or later, when the being is wholly turned to evil (diimonisirt) and no further change is possible. Conversion after death is harder than before, and the higher position once forfeited can never be regained. (Ib., pp. 190-2, 484, 488.)
Similar specimens of modern Lutheran teaching might easily be multiplied; these are taken as a sample, from some of the principal contemporary divines of that body.
THE MORAL FITNESS OF THE ATONEMENT.
And now that we are come to the end of our inquiry, does it not almost seem as if we were still at the beginning? Are we not tempted to exclaim, with the philosopher of old, that the end of all knowledge is the consciousness of our ignorance? Doubtless what Coleridge said of philosophy is even more true of theology, that it begins in wonder and ends in wonder. Indeed, this is but to repeat the language of the ritual, that He, who has wonderfully created our nature, has yet more wonderfully redeemed it.
“ Das Wunder ist des Glaubens liebstes Kind." I
After all has been said, much must ever remain unsaid. Our deepest feelings are precisely those we are least able to express; and, even in the act of adoration, silence is our highest praise. Still, without attempting to dogmatize on points beyond the sphere of revelation, we may gather up some results, both negative and positive, from what has been recorded of the past.
Not to dwell on minor undercurrents of opinion or belief, we have seen the successive waves of two great