Trinity College of Biblical Studies
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History of Theological Christian Thought Section Three
Historical survey of people and movements which have shaped the faith of the Christian church from post-biblical times to today's modern thought
2. Mid-term examination in class on the content of the readings and the material discussed in class. [20% of the grade]
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Van Tils Apologetics
Medieval Theology. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus
We must now go into the main problems of the medieval development. I just finished yesterday by saying that the conflict between Aristotle and Augustine characterizes the medieval situation. Let me first make clear what Aristotle means for the Middle Ages in the moment in which he was discovered in the beginning of the 13th century, with the help of the Arabic philosophers.
1) Aristotle's logic was always known, but this was used as a tool and didn't influence the content of theology directly. When the whole work of Aristotle was rediscovered, it was a complete system in which all realms of life were discussed observations about nature, about politics, about ethics, an independent secular world-view, including a system of values and meanings. The question was: How could a world which was educated in the Augustinian ecclesiastical tradition deal with this secular system of ideas and meanings? This was the first thing Aristotle meant. It is a little as though theology for centuries asked the question: How can the scientific revolution which has been going on since the 17th century be mediated with the Christian tradition? It was a similar problem for the Middle Ages.
2) Aristotle gave basic metaphysical categories, such as form and matter, actuality and potentiality. He gave a new doctrine of matter, of the relationship of God and the world, and all this on a basis of an ontological analysis of reality.
3) This was perhaps the most important point: He gave a new approach to knowledge. The soul has to receive impressions from the external world. Experience is always the beginning, while in the Augustinian tradition immediate intuition was the beginning. The Augustinians were, so to speak, in the Divine center and judged the world from there. The Aristotelians looked at the world and concluded to the Divine center.
The conclusion, therefore, with which I want to deal first is the question of knowledge. The whole movement of Augustinianism and Aristotelianism must be understood from here. The question was: Is our knowledge a participation in the Divine knowledge of the world and of Himself, or must we, in the opposite way, recognize God by approaching the world from outside? Is God the last or the first in our knowledge? The Augustinians answered: the knowledge of God precedes any other knowledge, it is the first one, we must start with it. In ourselves we have the principles of truth. God is the presupposition even of the question of God, as He is the presupposition of every question for truth. He is, says Bonaventura, the Franciscan Augustinian leader of that time, in the 13th century, "most truly present to the soul and immediately knowable." The principles of truth are the Divine or the eternal light within us. We start with them. We start with our knowledge of God and we go from there to the world, using the principles of the Divine light which are in us. This Divine light or these principles are the universal categories, especially the so-called "transcendentalia" those things which transcend everything special and given: being, the true, the good, the one: these are ultimate concepts; we have immediate knowledge of them, and this knowledge is the Divine light in our soul. Only on the basis of this immediate knowledge about the ultimate principles of reality can we find truth in the empirical world. In every act of knowledge these principles are present. Whenever we say "something is so," whenever we make a logical judgment about something, the ideas of the true, of the good, of being itself, are present; or, as Bonaventura says, "being itself is what first appears in the intellect," and being itself is the basic statement about God. This means: every act of cognition, every cognitive act, is made in the power of the Divine light, Of this Divine light, of these principles in us, the Franciscans said that it is uncreated; we participate in it. This makes that somehow no secular knowledge exists. All knowledge is in some way rooted in the knowledge of the Divine in us. There is a point of identity in our soul, and this point precedes every special act of knowledge. Or I could describe it in the following way: Every act of knowledge about animals, plants, bodies, astronomy, mathematics is implicitly religious. A mathematical proposition as well as a medical discovery is implicitly religious because it is possible only. in the power of these ultimate principles which are the uncreated Divine light in the human soul. This is the famous doctrine of the inner light, which was also used by the sectarian movements and by all mystics during the Middle Ages and the Reformation period, and which finally underlies even the rationalism of the period of the Enlightenment. They all are philosophers of the inner light, even if this Divine light later on became cut off from its Divine ground.
We can also call this attitude. That is what the Franciscans tried to maintain in spite of the fact that they also had to use Aristotelian concepts such as form and matter, and potentiality and actuality. So we have here in the Augustinian-Franciscan development, from Augustine to Bonaventura, a philosophy which is implicitly religionist or theonomous, in which the Divine is not a matter of conclusions but is a matter of preceding every conclusion, making conclusions possible. It is the philosophy of religion perhaps some of you have seen in the Union Review a few years ago, when I wrote an article about "The Two Types of Philosophy of Religion" this is the one type I called it at that time the ontological type; I can also call it the mystical type, or the type of immediacy. I would also like to call it the theonomous type, in which the Divine precedes the secular.
The opposite type is the Thomistic. Thomas Aquinas cuts the immediate presence of God in the act of knowing. He denies it. He also says of course, that God is the first in Himself, but he says God is not the first for us. Our knowledge cannot start with God although everything starts with Him but our knowledge must reach Him by starting with His effects: the finite world. So we must start with the Divine effects and conclude from there to the cause. In other words, man is separated from being itse1f, from truth itse1f, and from the good itse1f. Of course Thomas could not deny that these principles are in the structure of man's intellect, but he calls them created light and not uncreated light. They are not the Divine presence in us, so to speak, but they are works of God in us; they are finite. In other words, in having an act of knowledge, we do not have God, but with these principles we can find God. It is not that we start with the Divine principles in us and then discover the finite world, as in the Franciscans; but it is that we start with the finite world and then perhaps are able to find God, in acts of cognition, of knowledge.
Now against this Thomistic theory the Franciscans said that this method, which of course must start in a good Aristotelian way with sense experience is good for scientia (for "science" in the largest sense of the word) but that this method destroys sapientia, wisdom. Sapientia means the knowledge of the ultimate principles; this means the knowledge of God. One of Bonaventura's followers made this prophetic statement, that in the moment in which you follow the Aristotelian-Thomistic method and start with the external world, then you will lose the principles. You will win the external world he agreed with that; he knew
empirical know ledge can be won only in this way but something is lost: sapientia , the wisdom which is able to grasp intuitively, within oneself, the ultimate principles. Thomas answered that the knowledge of God, as every knowledge, must start with sense experience and must reach God on this basis in terms of rational conclusions, which are derived from the sense experience.
This is the fundamental discussion. Here the two types diverge, and they have been divergent ever since, in the Western world. This divergency is the great problem of all philosophy of religion, and, as I will show now, is the ultimate cause for the secularization of the Western world :cause," of course, in the cognitive realm; there are other causes, too. In the cognitive realm this is the cause, that here the Aristotelian method is put against the Augustinian, and slowly from Thomas Aquinas the method of starting with the external world prevailed.
Thomas knew that these conclusions, although they are logically correct, do not produce a real conviction. Therefore they must be completed by authority. In other words, the Church guarantees the truth which never can be fully reached in terms of an empirical. approach to God. So we now have the situation clear: In Bonaventura we have theonomous knowledge in all realms of life; we have no knowledge whatsoever without beginning with God. In Thomas we have autonomous knowledge, scientific method, as far as it goes; but Thomas himse1f knew that it doesn't go very far and therefore it must be completed by authority. Now this is the meaning of the heated struggle between the Augustinians and the Franciscans in the 13th century. It was a gap, but at that time the gap was not yet visible. Thomas' genius, his power to take in almost everything, his power of 'mediating of which I have spoken his personal and even mystical piety, was able to cover the gap, and is able to cover the gap even in present-day Catholicism, but the gap was there and had consequences reaching far beyond everything Thomas himself realized.
This came out in the 3rd man of the 13th century, Duns Scotus. He was not a mediating but a radical thinker. He was one of those who tear up what seems to be united. He fought against the mediations of Thomas Aquinas. On the other hand, he did not follow his own Franciscan predecessors. He followed Thomas in a complete acceptance of Aristotle, but he realized the consequences which Thomas Aquinas still was able to cover.
For Duns Scotus there is an infinite gap between the finite and the infinite. Therefore the finite cannot reach cognitively at all, neither in terms of immediacy as the older Franciscan wanted nor in terms of demonstrations, as the Dominicans, with Thomas Aquinas, wanted.. He criticizes and insofar as you are nominalists, you will like this criticism even the transcendentalia, the ultimate principles. He says: Being itself (esse ipsum) is only a word; it points to an analogy between the infinite and the finite, but only an analogy. The word "being" does not cover God as well as the world. The gap is such that you cannot cover them in terms of one word, not even in terms of the verum,bonum,unum, the true, the good, and the one, and that means, being itself. Therefore :Only one way is open to receive God, namely the way of authority, the way of revelation received by the authority of the Church.
In this way we have two positivisms. The religious or ecclesiastical positivism: since we cannot reach God cognitively, we must accept what is given to us by the Church. On the other hand, we have the positivism of the empirical method: what is positively given in nature, we must discover by the methods of induction and abstraction -- now the gap of which I spoke has become visible. In Thomas it was closed; in Duns Scotus it is opened up, and never has been closed again. And it is still our problem, as it was the problem of the people of the 13th century. While in Bonaventura God is known immediately, He is present before anything else is present in us while in Thomas He can be proved by demonstrations, but authority must help, because it is not completely certain in this way; in Duns Scotus neither immediacy nor demonstrations is left, so only revelation and authority accepted in faith can help. Now if you have understood this, then you are really in the center of any important philosophy of religion. This is the real problem.
Now the gap opened up by Duns Scotus becomes a very large gap a century later in Occam, the real father of nominalism. God cannot be approached at all in terms of atonomous knowledge. He is out of reach. Everything could be the opposite of what is. Therefore He can only be reached by our subjection to the Biblical and ecclesiastical authorities. And we can subject ourselves to them only if we have the habit of grace, only if grace is working in us and makes It possible for us to receive the authority of the Church. Cultural knowledge the knowledge of science, is completely free and autonomous, and religious knowledge is completely heteronomous. So when I come back now to the characterization of the early Franciscan-Augustinian situation, I can say: the original theonomy God always the prius of every knowing has been disrupted into complete scientific autonomy on the one side, and complete ecclesiastical heteronomy on the other side. That is the situation at the end of the Middle Ages. And since the Middle Ages are based on a system of mediation, the Middle Ages came practically to an end in the moment in which these mediations broke down.
When I bring this down to the traditional question of reason and revelation, I can express it thus: In Bonaventura reason is in itself revelatory, insofar as in its own depths the principles of truth are given. This of course doesn't refer to the historical revelation in Christ, but refers to our knowledge of God. In Thomas reason is able to express revelation. In Duns Scotus reason is unable to express revelation. In Occam revelation stands beside and in opposition to reason. At the end of the Middle Ages the religious and the secular realm are separated, but they are not separated in the way in which they are today as a consequence of this separation in the Middle Ages but the Middle Ages still wanted for centuries its traditional unity. Therefore the Church now developed its radical heteronomous claim to rule all realms and to control them, but now from outside. And now the desperate fight between autonomous secularism and heteronomous religious developed. Don't confuse the late Middle Ages with the earlier Middle Ages. As long as the tradition was in power, the Middle Ages were not heteronomous; they were theonomous, which is something quite different. But at the end an independent secular realm was established, and the question was: Is the Church able to control this independent realm? And the ways in which the Church was deprived of this power are the ways of Renaissance and Reformation.
One of the ways I wanted to mention, and which appears already at that time, was the way of the double truth, which is very illuminating for the situation. Some people seriously not only diplomatically, in order to hide themselves believed, in reality, that a statement about the same matter can be contradictory and nevertheless true theologically though wrong philosophically, and vice versa, so that people asserted the whole heteronomous system which the Church as long as it was in power still could maintain, and on the other hand, they developed autonomous thought. And if the proposition came into conflict, then they took refuge in the so-called double truth. Of course for many this was a way of hiding, but it was more than this: it was the belief that these realms are so separated that you can say in one realm the opposite of what you say in the other.
This is the epistemological problem, and it was a very fundamental one, but of course as behind all problems in philosophy and theology it is always the problem of God which is decisive, and so I now go to the doctrine of God in medieval thinking, and I come again partly to these three men of the 13th century.
The medieval idea of God has three levels:
1) The first and fundamental level is the idea of God as primum esse, the first being, or prima causa, the first cause. By "cause" here is meant not as "cause and effect," as we have it in the realm of finitude the word "prima," "first," means not the first according to time, but the ground of all causes, so that the term "cause" is here used more symbolically than literally. It is the creative ground in everything, creatrix universa1ium substantia, the creative substance of everything that is. This is the first statement about God. He is the Ground of Being, as I like to express it, or being itself, or the first cause all these terms point to the same meaning.
2) This substance cannot be
understood in terms of the inorganic realm for instance, as an inorganic
substance like fire or water, as the old physicists did nor in the
biological situation, as a life process, but it must be understood as
intellect. The first quality of the Ground of Being is intellect.
Intellect doesn't mean intelligence, but it means the point in which God
is for Himself subject and object at the same time; or, as it was carried
through, God knowing Himself and knowing the world as that which He is
not. The Ground of Being, in other words the "creative substance" is a
bearer of meaning. The world this is the consequence is meaningful,
can be understood in words which have meaning. The logos, the word, can
grasp it. In order to understand reality, we must presuppose that reality
is understandable; and reality is understandable because the Divine ground
has the character of intellect. Only because the Divine intellect ~ the
ground of everything, is knowledge possible.
3) The third characteristic, which comes from the Christian Augustinian tradition while the intellect comes from the Greek Aristotelian tradition: God is will. Will, of course, if applied to God and the world, is not the psychological function which we know in ourselves, but it is the dynamic ground of everything. It is the productive power of the Ground of Being. This will has the nature of love in good Augustinian tradition. The creative substance of the world has meaning and has love is intellect and will, symbolically speaking. And as with respect to knowing we said that God knows Himself, so we must now say that God wills or loves Himself as the absolute good, indeed as the ultimate aim of everything. And He loves the creatures in giving them, in a graded way. the good of which He is the ultimate Ground. Therefore they all are longing for Him, and He is for them the object of that love which everything has and every being has, the love toward that in which it sees its ultimate good. Now this is the medieval idea of God. This God is not called a person. The word "person" is never applied to it in the Middle Ages. for two reasons:
1) because the Trinitarian "faces" or "countenances" are called personae: the Father is persona, the Son is persona. and the Spirit is persona. But persona here means more a special characteristic of the Divine ground, expressing itself in an independent hypostasis. Therefore we can say the term persona has been applied to God only in the 19th century, when God was made into a person, and the greatness of the classical idea of God was destroyed by this kind of speaking. Of course this structure. including being, intellect and will. is analogous to our experience of our own being, and if we call ourselves "person" we must call God also "Person." But this is something quite different from calling God "a Person" First of all. He is being itself. He is the Ground of Being in everything. The personal side is expressed in intellect and will. and their unity. But to speak about a person would have been absolutely heretical for the Middle Ages; it would have been Unitarian heresy for them. because this would exclude that God has three personae. namely. expressions of His being.
Now about the relationship of intellect and will in God. there the same fight was going on as about the epistemological problem. For the Thomistic tradition, intellect is characteristic of God and man. Thomas argues that only because man is intellect is he able to be distinguished from an animal. An animal would be a man in the moment in which it was able to put purposes intellectually before the will. But the animal only wills. without purpose in the sense in which we ascribe it to man. Therefore for Thomas the intellect is that which makes man man and therefore is the primary characteristic of God.
Intellect is the insight into the universally true and good. But Duns Scotus opposed this doctrine. In him God and man are will. Will is universally creative. There is no reason for the Divine will other than the Divine will itself. There is nothing which determines the will. The good is good because God wills that it is. There is no intellectual necessity that the world is as it is, that salvation is as it is. Everything is possible for God except not to be God that's impossible for Him. This is what Duns Scotus called His potentia absoluta . the absolute power of God. But God uses His absolute power only in order to create a given world in which there are definite orders. Therefore he called this potestas ordinatus. the ordered power of God. Here he distinguishes these two: the world as we know it. and the purpose of salvation as we know it by revelation. is not necessarily so as it is. but now. after it has been given. it is so as it is; it is by Divine ordered power. But behind this stands something as a threat. The world is not as it is from eternity. There is no real necessity that it is as it is. The threatening absolute power of God behind the ordered power may change everything. Duns Scotus didn't believe that this would happen. but it can happen.
Now what does such an idea mean? It means that we have to accept the given, that we cannot deduce it. that we have to be humble toward reality. We cannot deduce the world or the process of salvation in terms of, for instance. with Anselm's doctrine of atonement. where he tried to deduce in terms of necessity the way of salvation between God and Christ. and man. Duns Scotus would say there is no such necessity; this is a positive order of God. Now here in this idea of the absolute power of God. we have the root of all positivism. in science as well as in politics. in religion as well as in psychology. In the moment in which God became "will". who is only determined by Himself and His own will, and not by the intellect in this moment the world became incalculable, uncertain, unsafe, and we are demanded to subject ourselves to what is given. All the dangers of positivism are rooted in this concept of Duns Scotus. And so I consider him, more than anybody else, the turning point in the history of Western thought.
Lecture 26: Pelagius and Aquinas
Nature, human nature and grace as the fulfilment of nature. Revelation and reason or revelation as reason. Finding God from the inside or finding the outside from God.
I don't know whether I really spoke in a very negative way about Pelagius. I said that he was in the Greek tradition, the ordinary Greek tradition, that he emphasized freedom in the sense in which Greek philosophy always had done it. I said he believes that every man is in every moment able in principle to decide for God although the historical heritage is (such) that this is extremely improbable. But there are people who always were able to do it, and there always will be people who are able to do it. We must decide: do we believe this is an adequate doctrine of the human situation or do we believe that the description expressed in the term of the tragic character of the human situation is equally necessary? And I must say that Augustine was right in emphasizing the tragic side of the human situation, the participation of everything in man's estrangement from God, and in the impossibility of man in his own power to return to God. Now this is the question. If somebody in a Manichaean way emphasized this tragic element, then I would take the side of Pelagius, of course, because the both sides the responsible side and the tragic side belong to each other. And if you have the one without the other, then you are wrong. Let me give two examples: The one is a special kind of Neo Orthodox theology which has already appeared in the Reformation period under the heading of a movement called gnesio-Lutherans (genuine Lutherans). The man who was especially representative for this was Matthias Flaccius. He said that original sin is the substance of man. In saying this he made a statement which made the sinful state a matter of creation, because substance is a category which belongs to the realm of creation. And therefore he was rejected, with this statement. But the tendency which he represents is always very strong.
Now I had a discussion with one of my German friends amongst the student body here who ,told me that he believes that God cannot maintain His first creation, that He cannot maintain the creation as we see it in time and space, but that this creation, so to speak, was a failure. And this German student said: since the creation of God was a failure, through the guilt of man, God must cancel the creation, so to speak, and must posit the new creation. The new creation is something absolutely different from the old creation. Then I asked him about the structures which make that a tree always becomes a tree, and that the human being is always dependent on special functions of the blood stream, on the breath, on the lung, etc. Then he said: all this has to be cancelled, so to speak, by God in the new creation. The new creation is the new heaven and the new earth, the Kingdom of God however it is symbolically called and the natural structures which have proved to be a failure since man for whom they\were created is a failure, have to be removed by God and replaced by other ones.
Now this is an attitude in which the tragic element has completely overwhelmed the original goodness of man to which his essential freedom belongs. And insofar as Pelagianism if you want to use that word for it emphasizes human freedom in this sense, insofar as this is the case Pelagianism is a necessary corrective against the danger of Augustinianism to fall back into Manichaean dualistic tendencies and to emphasize the disruptedness of reality in such a way that even the natural structures of reality have to be removed.
My second answer is: When we speak about our relationship to God and the possibility of man, under the conditions of estrangement, to reunite with God, then I would say: this is impossible, because the ethical act which comes out of the situation of estrangement is colored, formed, shaped, by this situation of estrangement, even if it. is a so-called good act. And this means that only if there is a new reality is it possible to reunite with God, in the power of this new being, or new reality. And in this, Augustine and the classical theology, the Reformers, etc., are right. And I think modern philosophy and psychology, existentialism and depth psychology in their alliance, have confirmed what I have said. Perhaps our grandfathers could believe that there are people who have a good will and other people who have a bad will, and they are always on the side of those who have a good will, while it is the others who have a bad will. Now in every special situation you can decide this was a good deed and that was a bad deed. This is unambiguously so, so that if you do a good deed, everything is all right. Those of you who have heard or read some of my things will remember that I believe that life is defined by the concept of ambiguity, and that ambiguity means that in a tragic way the great is always at the same time the tragic, Greatness and tragedy belong together. The great produces great guilt, produces tragic guilt, And this is always ambiguously intermixed. Now if we ask ourselves about the best deed we have done perhaps some of you remember their best deed, of I don't know how many years ago, probably many, because from the last year we hardly will discover one--in any case, if we imagine our best deed, we must ask ourselves how many motives might have been co-operative in our good deeds, which in themselves are not good but are either ambiguous or bad. . . Now if we ask this every time, then we will not simply say: this was good, this was had, etc., but we will say our best deed was still a deed in which many elements which we probably would call ambiguous or bad, are present.
But the opposite is also true, namely, the people who are not people of good will that is, the others if we judge their acts, (and they are certainly very negative acts: they acted toward us very negatively, or they committed crimes, or all kinds of things), then we know that in their acts are elements of goodness, and they can be living acts only because of the elements of goodness within them. Otherwise, they could not have being, because being or the power of being - -has in itself the nature of the good, according to the Christian idea that esse qua esse bonum est, being as being is good. Now if this is the case, then it is much easier not to condemn the others; then it is possible to judge ourselves more adequately. And "we" don't even need to condemn ourselves, perhaps, in such a way as when we distinguish between black and white unambiguously. Our worst deed perhaps was not as bad as we think, when we compare it with other deeds which we count our best deeds. Perhaps the difference is not so terribly great.
But I wanted only to express the Augustinian point of view in terms of modern psychology. If we accept this, then the necessary consequence is that if we believe that God wants the unambiguously good because He is unambiguously good our free decisions are not able to reach Him. This then produces the Augustinian idea of grace, which I translate for us into the concept of a New Being, which has as its central element the character of in spite of. And here seems to me to be the profoundest criticism of Pelagianism, that it doesn't know the nature of the "in spite of." The nature of the "in spite of" is the "in spite of our ambiguity." Now let us for a moment imagine consistent Pelagianism: what would we experience in ourselves? We would experience that all these ambiguities are always present when we make a decision for reunion towards God or towards the ultimate good, however you want to define it, and we never would be able to accept ourselves. You know that most of the neurotic states of man are rooted in the fact that he is not able to accept himself. Now nobody who is serious or profound is able to accept himself on the basis of what he does. If he tries to do this, then he either becomes superficially self-complacent a way out which many people are able to muddle through from day to day but there is a hidden knowledge that this is not the reality. If we face the reality of our being unable to act completely good, to act towards God so that we bring God down to us by our actions, then we cannot accept ourselves: the self-acceptance is possible only on the basis of being accepted. Now this being accepted is again a translation of the Augustinian concept of grace, and therefore I am an Augustinian because I know myself. And I think that's what Augustine also did. Pelagius was also, as a monk, able to know himself. But in comparison to the distorted world, he rightly pointed to the fact that in the monastic community much more good is actualized than in the completely disrupted pagan world of the decaying ancient culture But this is a criterion which is always relatively acceptable and necessary, but which does not fit the absolute categories, the relationship to God. And there Pelagius did not realize what many monks and saints after them have realized, namely that the saints are, at the same time, the greatest sinners, that they are open to the greatest temptations, and that they have to fight, perhaps more than the average man, within themselves to overcome. That is what Augustine knew, from his experience, and what the Reformers knew who took the Divine demand absolutely seriously.
Now that is my judgment about Augustinianism and Pelagianism. I repeat: if we have a kind of Manichaean distortion of Augustinianism as we have it in some Neo-Orthodox theologians, or in Flaccius and many others in the Reformation period, then we have to maintain the Pelagian point of view. If, however, the human situation is described, then we do better with all that we know about man today to become Augustinians.
Now the main points about the epistemology of the medieval philosophers and theologians were discussed yesterday. I gave you the great conflict between the Augustinians and the Aristotelian, or the Franciscan and the Dominican, point of view and the consequences for our own situation today. Then I went into the doctrine of God in all medieval philosophers and theologians, the doctrine of God which always starts with the statement that God is being itself, and then that He is intelligence, and then that He is will, but that the term "personality" or "person" is not used for Him, and that persona, if used at all, is used for the three hypostases Father, Son, and Spirit God, a trinitarian concept, but not a concept describing God. Then I came to the difference between the Thomistic and the Scotistic concepts of God, and the great consequences of this God is primarily intellect in Aquinas and primarily will in Scotus and, with will, the threat against everything which can be deduced, the impossibility of deducing anything because God's will is nothing other than what He wills, but you cannot make Him dependent on anything else, even on principles described that as the "threat" against the safety of rationalism, and described it also as one of the roots of the good sides in positivism, namely the humble acceptance of reality as it is given, given by the irrational ground of being, given by the irrational will of God.
Now I go back to Thomas Aquinas and discuss a few of his doctrines which are so important that we all must know them. The first is his doctrine of nature and grace. His famous statement reads: "Grace does not remove nature but fulfills it."
Now this is a very important principle grace is not the negation but the fulfillment of nature. I can now use my long excursus about Pelagianism in saying that the radical Augustinians or more exactly the Manichaean distortions of Augustine would not follow Thomas in this sentence. They would say that grace removes nature, just as I said that that the New Being is a negation of the old creation, and not only of the distortion of the old creation. For Thomas Aquinas, with whom I feel very much in unity in this point, nature and grace are not two contradictory concepts only distorted or estranged nature and grace are contradictory concepts, but not nature as such. But now he says that nature is fulfilled in supra-nature; and supra-nature is grace. This is a structure of reality which was always, even by creation. God gave to Adam in Paradise not only his natural abilities but, beyond this, a donum superadditum, a gift which he added to his natural gifts, namely the gift of grace which made it possible for Adam to consist in his state of union with God.
Now this is a very interesting doctrine and one which we must discuss because it was a point in which Protestantism deviated completely from Thomas Aquinas. Protestantism said that the perfect nature doesn't need any grace any more, but that if we are perfect in our created status, then the grace which comes from above is not necessary; and therefore Protestantism removed the idea of the donum superadditum. Now this is a mythological story; whether Adam got that or didn't get it, that is not what is- interesting but in these mythological stories a very profound vision of the structure of reality is expressed. In Thomism the structure of reality has two degrees. For Protestantism ,the situation is the following: creation is complete in itself, and therefore the created forms of reality are forms which are sufficient: God didn't need to add something to it. This is the same basic feeling towards life which we find in the Renaissance, where we also have creation which in itself is good, where man is in the center, in his created potentialities, without a supernatural gift which is added to him.
Thomas Aquinas has the two degrees: nature and supra-natureo Protestantism says: only if nature is distorted by man's fall, by man's estrangement from God, is another power necessary: the power of grace, whose center is forgiveness. But what forgiveness does is the restitutio integrum, the restitution of nature to its full potentialities. This idea is ultimately monistic. The created world is perfect in itself: God doesn't need to give additional graces to His fulfilled creation. But He must come down into existence in order to overcome the conflicts of existence and that's what grace is. So in Protestantism, grace is acceptance of that which is unacceptable. In Catholicism grace is a substance, which is in analogy to the non-grace, to the natural substances.
So I have now given you a positive and then a negative valuation of Thomas' doctrine. The positive valuation is that nature and grace are not contradictions, but that grace fulfills what in nature is disrupted, fulfills the possibilities of the natural, and in this I agree with the Thomistic tendency to bring creation and salvation together, to bring nature and grace into the one Divine act of creativity.
Secondly, I deviate from Thomas or Protestantism does in that we do not consider a supra-nature as a substance which is "added to" nature in order to fulfill it, but it is the Divine act in which He reunites us with Himself.
This of course is also valid for the relationship of revelation and reason. Revelation does not destroy reason but fulfills reason. And here again I agree with Thomas Aquinas. I believe that revelation is reason in ecstasy, that in revelation the depth of reason breaks into the form of reason, driving it beyond itself without destroying it. But I would not accept the Thomistic form in which reason is one realm, and revelation is another realm in which reason is completed. So we have two forms here, and I think this is so central that it is an inroad also to the understanding of Protestantism namely, the central fact that the Catholic world view is essentially dualistic, between nature and supra-nature. Catholicism defends supernaturalism with all its power. Protestantism is united with the Renaissance in the monistic tendency monistic in the sense of having one Divine world and having salvation and regeneration (which are one and the same thing) as the answer of God to the disruption of this world. But this answer is not the negation of the created structure of this world.
So in some way the Protestant dualism is deeper, but it is not the dualism of substances, it is dualism of the Kingdom of God and the demonic powers which stand against it. It is not an identification of the created with the fallen world. The fallen world is the distortion of the created world, and therefore the New Being is not another creation but is the re-establishment of the original unity.
Now one of the consequences of this is that in Protestantism the secular world is immediate to God. In Catholicism the secular world needs the mediation through the supernatural substance, which is present in the hierarchy and their sacramental activities. Here again you have a fundamental difference. Therefore Protestantism is emphatic for secularity. And Luther's words about the value of the work of a housemaid in contrast to the value of the work of a monk, are very clear speaking about namely, that the value of the housemaid's work, if it is done in the fear of God or however you express it is more valuable than the asceticism of the monks, even if is done in the fear of God. Now here is the emphasis on the secular act as such, which if done in the right way is the revelation of God. And you don't need to become a monk. On the contrary, if you try it, then you claim to be in a supernatural realm and to make this. claim is to contradict the paradox of justification, namely, that as a sinner you are justified.
Now I come to a few other doctrines connected with the name of Thomas Aquinas, and which we must know. You all have heard about his (so-called) "arguments" for the so-:-called "existence" of God. Now the first thing which follows out of my epistemological description yesterday is that Thomas rejects the ontological argument. This was implicit in everything I said yesterday, but I will repeat it in connection with the ontological argument, namely that in the center of the human mind there is an immediate awareness of something unconditional. That is what the whole ontological argument is about. There is an a priori presence of the Divine in the human mind expressed in the immediate awareness of the unconditional character of the true and the good and of being itself. This precedes every other knowledge, so that the knowledge of God is the first knowledge and is the only absolute, sure and certain knowledge, namely the knowledge not of a being, somewhere, but the knowledge of the unconditional element in the depths of the soul. Now this is the nerve of the ontological argument. But as I said in connection with Anselm, the ontological argument was also elaborated in terms of a reasoning argument, of an argument which concluded from this basis to the existence of a highest being. And insofar as this was done, the argument is not valid, and all the critics of this argument Thomas, Scotus, Kant have shown very clearly that as an argument it is not valid. As an analysis of man in his tension between the finite and the infinite, it is valid; it is a matter of immediate certainty.
Thomas Aquinas belongs to those who reject the ontological argument because he saw the argumentative side in it, which indeed must be rejected and is not valid. The same of course is true of Duns Scotus. I don't need to go into him at all. He emphasizes this even more.
But now in order to fill the empty space which was produced by the falling down of the ontological argument, and also. in Thomas, by the principle of the immediate awareness of the Divine in man, he had to do something else I spoke about this point yesterday namely, to find a way from the world to God. The world in itself is not the first, but it is the first which is given to us, he says. This is just the opposite of what the Augustinian and the Franciscans said: the first which is given to us is the principles of truth in us, and only with their help can we exercise the function of doubt, etc. Even the skeptical function is based on the spirit of truth in the depths of the mind. Thomas denied this. So he had to show another way: the cosmological way, which says that God must be found from outside. We must look at our world, and we find that our world is such that by logical necessity it leads us to the estrangement of a highest being. He has five arguments for it, which one should know because they appear again and again in the history of philosophy:
1) The argument from motion: Motion demands a cause. This cause itself is moved. So we have to go back to an unmoved Mover which we call "God." It is an argument from movement in terms of causality. To find a cause for the movement in the world, we must find something which itself is not moved.
2) There is always a cause for every effect, but this cause is itself an effect of a prior cause. So we go back from cause to cause, which would bring us into an infinite regression, and in order to avoid this we must speak of a First Cause. Now the "first cause" is not the first cause temporally, according to Thomas, but it is first in dignity; it is the cause of all causes.
3) Everything in the world is contingent. It is not necessary that it is as it is. It might have been otherwise. But if everything is contingent, if we can make disappear into the abyss of nothing everything that is, because it has no necessity to be, then this leads us back to something which has ultimate necessity, and from which we can derive all the contingent elements.
4) There are purposes in nature and man, but if we act in terms of purpose, we ask: for what? And if we have reached that, then we again ask: for what is that? We need a final purpose, an ultimate end behind all the means. The preliminary purposes become means when they are fulfilled, and this leads to the idea of a final purpose, of an ultimate meaning, as we would perhaps call it today.
5) This is very much dependent on Plato. It says: there are degrees of perfection in everything that is. Some things are better or more beautiful or truer than others. But if there is a more-or-less of perfection, there must be something absolutely perfect by which we measure this more-or-less. So whenever we value, we presuppose an ultimate value. Whenever we have degrees, we presuppose something which is beyond degree.
Now in all these arguments there is always the category of causality it is always a conclusion from characteristics of this world to something which makes this world possible. Now I would believe that this is true, as analysis. Each of these arguments is true as long as it is not an argument but an analysis. It is one of those ways in which existentialist philosophy appeared in the whole history of Western thinking. In the doctrine of the arguments for the existence of God, we have probably the most adequate analysis of the finitude of reality in the whole literature of the past. This is the value of these arguments, and this is the reason why they have reappeared exactly as often as they have been refuted which is a funny thing; I spoke about this already and by the greatest men in the history of thought: some refuted them, some re-established them. The reason is that they included the existential analysis of man's finitude, and as such they have truth. Insofar as they go beyond this and establish a highest being which as a being is infinite, they make conclusions which are not justified. And this seems to me our attitude towards these doctrines.
I must give you another concept which we find in Thomas Aquinas, namely the concept of predestination. Here we have a cross-working of motives. Predestination is an Augustinian idea taken over by the Dominican Thomas Aquinas, on the basis of his principle of intellect, which understands the necessities, and can by necessity derive consequences from what has preceded. On the other hand the Augustinians, the Franciscans, especially under Duns Scotus' influence, emphasized the will so much that Divine as well as human will became ultimate realities, became, so to speak, ontological ultimates, not determined by anything other than by themselves. So they introduced the element of freedom the Pelagian element. The Augustinians introduced a crypto- Pelagianism into medieval theology, I. e., a Pelagianism which is not an open but a hidden Pelagianism, while Thomas Aquinas on the basis of his intellectualism thought in deterministic terms. This is important because it shows that Thomas Aquinas was religiously much more powerful than the Protestant criticism of the Scholastic theology admits. It seems that Luther didn't know Thomas Aquinas at all. He knew the late nominalistic theologians, of whom one can rightly say that they were distortions of Scholasticism, and he fought against them. But he could have found in Thomas Aquinas his own and Calvin's predestinarian thinking.
We must stop now, unfortunately. I must say something next time about Thomistic ethics because they are so much in the foreground of present-day discussions that we cannot leave them out completely.
Ethical Teachings (Aquinas). Nominalism (Wm. Occam). German mysticism (Eckhart).
The problem we left unfinished in the week before last was the ethical teachings of Thomas Aquinas. His ethical teaching corresponds to his system of grades, as do all the other realms of his system. There is an ethics, a rational sub-structure, and a theological super-structure. Exactly as nature and grace are related to each other, so the sub-structure and super-structure are related to each other. The sub-structure contains the four main pagan virtues, taken from Plato: courage, temperance, wisdom, and the all-embracing justice. They produce natural happiness. Happiness does not mean having a good time or having fun, but it means the fulfillment of one's own essential nature, which of course produces an awareness of fulfillment - -which means happiness. In Greek the word for happiness is eudaemonia , and you know that there is a philosophical school called eudaemonism. It is often attacked by Christianity that happiness is not the purpose of human existence but, let us say, the glory of God. I think this is a completely mistaken interpretation of eudaemonia. It is exactly what in Christian theology is called blessedness, but blessedness on the basis of the natural virtues, and Thomas knew this. Therefore he was not , but he accepted this concept. It is derived from the two Greek words eu and daemon a "demon," a Divine power, which guides us "well" (cf. Socrates' daemon.) The result of the guiding produces eudaemonia : being guided in the right way toward self-fulfillment. In this way eudaemonia has received the connotation of happiness or blessedness.
According to Thomas Aquinas, the four virtues of philosophy, the natural virtues, can give natural blessedness eudaemonia , in the Greek sense. Virtue does not have the bad connotations it has today such as abstinence from sexual relations, etc. But it means what the Latin term indicates: vir, :man," manliness, power of being. In all these different virtues, power of being expresses itself the right power of being, the power of being which is united with justice. This is what these terms mean. So don't presuppose that if you find the same words in the 13th century that they mean exactly the same as they mean today, especially after at least one century has passed since that time, namely the 18th century, which has changed everything! So be aware of this fact, for all your historical studies, and don't use these terms in the wrong way. What Thomas does here is to combine ancient ethics self-fulfillment on the basis of what is given to man by nature: the courage to be, the temperance which expresses the limits of finitude, the wisdom which expressed the knowledge of these limits, and then the all-embracing justice which gives to each of them the right balance in relationship to the others.
And now on this basis the Christian virtues are seen: faith, love and hope. They are supernatural, they are not what nature gives but what grace gives. So you have the two stories, so to speak: the normal ethics and the transcending, spiritual ethics. This of course was not simply a theoretical speculation, but it was something more: it was at the same time an expression of the sociological situation. The acceptance of the Platonic-Aristotelian virtues meant that a city-culture developed. And on the other hand the combination of these with the Christian virtues, faith, love, and hope, means that it is the period in which the orders of the knights developed, which had such a tremendous historical influence on the high Middle Ages. They united pagan courage with Christian love, pagan wisdom with Christian hope, pagan moderation with Christian faith. So it was at the same time a combination between humanistic and classical ideals on the basis of the developing of independent humanistic elements.!!!. the universally Christian culture.
The ethical purpose of man is the fulfillment of what is essential for man. And as you know, in Thomas Aquinas what is essential for man is his intellect, which doesn't mean his shrewdness, but his ability of living in meanings and in structures of reason. This makes him man, not the will. Man has the will in common with the animal. Intellect, the rational structure which forms his mind, is peculiar to man.
Thomas combines ethics with esthetics, He is the first in the Middle Ages to develop a theological esthetics. The beautiful is that kind of the good in which the soul rests without possession." You don't need to possess a picture, you can enjoy it. You don't need to possess the woods or ocean or houses or men depicted in the picture. But you enjoy them by their mere form. It is, according to him, disinterested enjoyment of the soul which is in every art also in music. Beautiful is that which is pleasant in itself. Here again we have something which leads in the direction of humanism. But it is not humanism in autonomy, in independence; it is humanism which is always the first step to something which transcends the human possibilities.
Similarly, he deals with the problems of states. We have two degrees: the values represented by the state, and the higher, supernatural values embodied in the Church. The Church therefore is higher in what it represents. Therefore the Church has authority over the states, over the different national governments. The Church can, if necessary, ask the people to be disobedient.
Now with these remarks, which are given by Thomas Aquinas in what is usually quoted as the "secunda secunde," the second part of the second section of his Summa, where he develops his ethics and whenever you hear this quotation, remember that this means the Thomistic ethics. These Thomistic ethics are at least as influential in the history of the Western world as his dogmatic statements, and they all have the same character which we discovered in him everywhere, namely the character of grades and mediations; the secular realm and the religious realm are related to each other in a different way than in Augustine. In Augustine the secular realm was completely. swallowed by the religious realm. In Thomas they were put into a system of grades, in the secular realm the sub-structure, and in the religious realm the super-structure. The next step was that they were put beside each other; and in our period of secularism, finally the secular realm swallowed the religious realm.
In these four steps you have the whole history of the Western world.
Now the man who is mostly responsible for the putting beside it, is Duns Scotus. But I discussed him already in connection with the doctrine of the will and the arguments for the existence of God. But I want to go now directly to the man of whom I spoke very often and whose philosophy I often mentioned, who is in some way the spiritual father of all of you: William Ockham (or Occam), the father of nominalism.
Let me say a little more about what nominalism means. We discussed it in the big survey of the Middle Ages, but we did not discuss it in a detailed way. This fight between nominalism and realism is the destiny of the Middle Ages and largely the destiny of our own time. In our own time it is repeated, partly at least, as a discussion or a fight between idealism and realism, whereby "realism" today is what "nominalism" is in the Middle Ages, and "idealism" today is what "realism" was in the Middle Ages. So here again you must be very cautious about the words. When I speak of medieval realism, I usually add the adjective "mystical" realism. Now if you hear this word, you are immediately terrified, of course, and don't think of the modern, sound realism of empiricists and other good people! they all are based on nominalism in the Middle Ages. What is this nominalism? Ockham criticized the mystical realism of the Middle Ages which thinks the universals are real, in saying that the universals, if existing independently, are special things. If they exist otherwise, they simply reduplicate the things. If they exist in the mind only, they are not real things. Therefore realism is nonsense. Realism which thinks that the universals are real, has no meaning because realism cannot say what kind of reality the universals have. What kin d of reality has "treehood"? Ockham says it is only in the mind, therefore it has no reality at all, it is something which is meant, but it is not a reality. The realists of that time said: No, the universal, "treehood", which directs every tree in a special direction, is a power of being in itself. It is not a thing no realist ever said that but it is a power of being. The nominalists said there are only individual things and nothing else. It is against the principle of economy in thinking, not to augment the principles. If you can explain something like the universals in the simplest term, that they are meant by the mind, then you should not establish a heaven of ideas as Plato did.
Now this criticism was rooted in the development towards individuals. This development became more and more the real power in the late medieval life. It was a change from the Greek mood and the medieval mood the Greek feeling towards the world which starts with the negation of all individual things; the medieval which subordinated the individual to the collective. So it was not simply a logical play in which the nominalists won for the time being, but it was a change of the attitude towards reality in the whole society. You will find that nominalism and realism are discussed in books on the history of logic, and rightly so, but that does not give you the impression of what that means. This discussion was a discussion between two attitudes towards life. Today we discuss it in terms of collectivism and individualism. Of course the collectivism of the Middle Ages was only partly totalitarian; it was basically mystical. But this mystical collectivism which is the Church as the body of Christ and as the mystical body, generally speaking is something else from our present-day collectivism. But it is collectivism. And for this collectivism the realists fought; the nominalists dissolved it. And in the moment in which the success was on the side of the nominalists, the Middle Ages actually dissolved.
Then if this is the case if there are only individual things, what are the universals, according to Ockham? The universals are identical with the act of knowing, and as far as they are this they are natural, they rise in our minds, they must be used, otherwise we could not speak. He called them the universalia naturalia .
Beyond them are the words which are the symbols for these natural universals which we have in our mind. They are the conventional universals. Words can be changed; they are by convention. The word is universal because it can be said of different things. Therefore these people also were called "terminists" because they said the universals are merely "terms." They were also called "conceptualists" because they said the universals are mere "concepts" but have no real power of being in themselves. The significance of a universal concept is that it indicates the similarity of different things that's all it can do,
Now all this comes down to the point that only individual things have reality. Not man as man, but Paul and Peter and John have reality. Not treehood, but this tree here, on the corner of 116th and Riverside Drive, has reality, and the others on the other corners, too. We discover some similarity between them. Therefore we call them trees. But there is no such thing as treehood. -- Now that is nominalistic thinking.
Now this was also applied to God. God is called by Ockham ens singularissimum , the most single being. I. e. , God has become an individual Himself. As such, He is separated from the other individuals, He looks at them and they look at Him. God is not in the center of everything any more, as He was in the Augustinian kind of thought, but He has been removed from this center into a special place distant from the things, just as man. I. e. , God Himself has become an individual. The individual things have become independent. The substantial presence of God in all of them doesn't mean anything any more, because that presupposes some kind of mystical realism. Therefore God has to know the things, so to speak, empirically, from outside. He is in our situation. As man approaches the world empirically, because he is not the center any more, he doesn't know anything immediately, he can only know empirically so God knows everything empirically, but empirically not as before, by being in the center. God Himself has ceased to be the center in which all reality is united. He is no more center. The whole thing is a pluralistic philosophy in which there are many individual beings, of which God is one, although the most important one. In this way the unity of the things in God has come to an end. Their individual separation has the consequence that they cannot participate in each other immediately because each of them participates in a universal. The one tree does not participate in the other as it did before, when mystical realism gave them the universal treehood as the space in which they participated in each other. Community, as we had it in the Augustinian: type of thinking, is replaced by social relations, by society. We live today in the consequence of this nominalistic thinking, in a society in which we are related to each other in terms of cooperation and competition, but neither the one nor the other word means something of the type of participation. Community is a matter of participation. Society is a matter of common interests, of being separated from each other and working together with each other or against each other.
We don't know .each other except by the signs, the words, which enable us to communicate and to have a common activity. Now this, of course, was another anticipation of the life of the technical society in which we are existing, which developed first of all in those countries in which nominalism was predominant, as in England and in this country The attitude of the relationship between man and man, between man and things, is nominalistic, in this country in the traditions of American philosophy, as it is largely in England and in some Western European countries. The substantial unity which was preserved by realistic thinking has disappeared.
Now this means that we have knowledge of the others not by participation but only by sense perception seeing, hearing, testing: it's always a form of sense relationship. This refers to all our reality, but it doesn't mean that there is a world of essences, in which our mind a priori participates. We deal with our sensual intuitions and the reflections of it in our mind. This of course produces positivism: we have to look at what is positively given to us. From this many things follow: Irrational metaphysics is impossible. For example, it is impossible to establish a rational psychology which proves the immortality of the soul, its pre- or post-existence, its omnipresence in the whole body. All this is, if it is affirmed, a matter of faith but not a matter of philosophical analysis. In the same way, all sides of rational theology are impossible. God does not appear to our sense apperception. Therefore since we have no direct immediate relationship to it as we have in Augustinian thinking, He remains unapproachable. We cannot have direct knowledge of God. We can have only indirect reflection, but reflections, discourse, never leads to certainty but only probability, of a lower or higher degree. And this probability never can be elevated to certainty, and even its probability is doubtful. It is quite possible that there is not one cause of the world, but different causes. The most perfect being - -which is the definition of God is not necessarily an infinite being. A doctrine like the Trinity which is based on mystical realism --the three personae participate in the one Divinity is obviously improbable. They all, therefore, are matters of irrational belief. Science must go its way and faith must guarantee all that is scientifically irrational and absurd.
Now if this is the case, then you see immediately that authority is now the most important thing. Faith is the subjection to authority, and this authority is even more an authority of the Bible, in Ockham, than it is an authority of the Church. Ockham not only dissolved the realistic unity in thought, but also in practice. He fought with the German king, who was not emperor any more at that time, against the Pope. He fought for one Pope against the other. He produced autonomous economics as well as autonomous national politics. He was doubtful in all realms of life for the establishment of independent realms.
Now all this means that he was a most radical dissolver of the medieval unity. What we call "nominalism" and "realism" is a most realistic problem in our sense of the word "realistic" namely, a problem of the end of the Middle Ages, because of the loss of its unity; and nominalism has produced this unity. Our present ordinary attitude towards reality is thoroughly nominalistic, and especially in those countries where in the Middle Ages nominalism already was decisive.
Now I come to another movement which also was an end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of many new things, namely the movement which is called German Mysticism.
Its most important representative, Meister Eckhardt, also belongs to the 13th century. What did these mystics do? They tried to interpret the Thomistic system for practical purposes. It is not so that they were speculative monks, sitting beside the world, but they wanted to give the people, and themselves, the possibility of experiencing what was expressed in the Scholastic systems. This refers to all fundamental problems. And so it happened that this mysticism of Meister Eckhardt unites the most abstract Scholastic concepts especially that of being with a burning soul, with the warmth of religious feeling and the love-power of religious acting. He says: "Nothing is so near to the beings, so intimate to them, than being-itself. But God is being-itself." And from this the identity of God and being is stated. "Esse est deus" -- being-itself is God. But it is not a static being. I often have been attacked ,when I use the word "being," of making God static. Not even of the medieval mysticism of that of Meister Eckhardt is this true. Being is a continuous flux and return, as he calls it Fluss und Wiederfluss a stream and a counterstream. It always moves away from and back to itself. Being is life. It has dynamic character.
In order to make this clearer, he distinguishes between the Divinity and God. The Divinity is the Ground of Being, in which everything moves and counter-moves. God is essentia, is the principle of the good and the true. From this he can even develop the Trinitarian thought. The first is the being which is neither born nor giving birth; the second is the process of self-objectivation the Logos, the Son; the third is the self-generation, the Spirit, which creates all individual things. For the Divinity he uses the terms of negative theology. He calls it the simple ground, the quiet desert. It is the nature of the Divinity not to have any nature. It is beyond every special nature. The Trinity is based on God's going out and returning back to himself, He recognizes Himself, He re-sees Himself, and this makes the Logos. The world is in God in an archetypical sense "archetype" is a word which is renewed today by Jung; it is the Latin translation of the Platonic "idea." The essences, the archetypes of everything, are in the depths of the Divine. They are the Divine verbum, the Divine Word. Therefore the generation of the Son and the eternal creation of the world in God Himself. are one and the same thing. Creaturely being is receiving being. The creature doesn't give being to itself God does. But the creature receives being from God. But it is a Divine form of being. The creature, including man, has reality only in union with the eternal reality. The creature has nothing in separation from God. And the point in which the creature returns to God is the soul. Through the soul, what is separated from God returns to Him. The depths of the soul in which this happens9 is called by Meister Eckhardt the "spark," or also the innermost center of the soul, the heart of the soul, or the castle of the soul. It is the point which transcends the difference of the function of the soul; it is the uncreated light in man. Therefore the Son is born in every soul. This general event is more important than the special birth of Jesus,
But all this is in the realm of possibility. Now it must come into the realm of actuality. God must be born in the soul. Therefore the soul must separate itself from its finitude. Something must happen which he calls entwerden.. the opposite of becoming, going away from oneself. losing oneself; that man gets rid of himself and of all things, is the process of salvation. as he says.
Sin and evil show the presence of God, as everything does. They push us into a situation of awareness of what we really are. (That is an idea which Luther took over from Mister Eckhard.) God is the Nunc sternum, the Eternal Now, which takes us in this moment, as we are now, into repentance not as we were in the last moment, namely sinful. God comes to the individual in his concrete situation. He doesn't ask that the individual first develop some goodness and then he will come to him. But God comes to the individual in his estrangement.
In order to receive the Divine substance, serenity, patience, not moving9 is needed. Work is not the way in which we can come to God, but it is the result of our having come to God. He fights against purposes, in the religious relationship. All this is a strange mixture between quietism being quiet in one's soul - -and a tremendous activism. The inner feeling must become work and vice versa. This removes also the difference of the secular and the sacred worlds. They are expressions of the Ground of Being. who is in us.
Now this mysticism was very influential in the Church for a long time, and is still influential in many people. The Dominican mysticism is a counter-balance against the nominalistic isolation of the individual from the individual. In the realm of the religious, one could say that the impulses given by German mysticism prevailed. In the realm of the secular culture, it is the nominalistic attitude which prevailed.
And now I come tomorrow to the so-called pre-Reformers, especially Wyclif, and after this we must have a survey on the development of Catholicism, and then to the Reformation. Now you see this means, practically, that we have dealt very thoroughly with the ancient and medieval Church. And this was our intention, because that is what you will never hear again. You will hear about the Reformation, and you will hear sometimes, very often, about the modern development, But you will not hear about the Early Church and the Middle Ages. So we intentionally put this into the center, because of the limits of our time.
Lecture 28: Pre-Reformers, the Counter-Reformation. Council of Trent
What is lacking in all the pre-Reformers is the one fundamental principle of the Reformation, the breakthrough of Luther to the experience of being accepted in spite of being unacceptable, called by him, in Pauline terms, justification through faith by grace.
We discussed yesterday the movements which somehow prepare the Reformation, I gave you some ideas about the meaning of nominalism, some ideas about the meaning of German mysticism, and now I want to come to some people who often are called by the questionable term
The whole period before the Reformation is quite different from the period of the high Middle Ages. It is a period in which the lay principle becomes important and in which biblicism prevails over the Church tradition, An expression - -and perhaps the most important expression of this situation is the Englishman Wyclif. It is not the Reformation that he represents, but he has a large amount of ideas which the Reformers have themselves used, and it has certainly prepared the soil for the Reformation in England. What is lacking in all the pre-Reformers is the one fundamental principle of the Reformation, the breakthrough of Luther to the experience of being accepted in spite of being unacceptable, called by him, in Pauline terms, justification through faith by grace. This principle does not appear before Luther. Almost everything else does appear in the so-called pre-Reformers. Therefore if we call them "pre-Reformers," we mean many of the critical ideas against the Roman church, almost all of them which were later used by the Reformation. If we say one shouldn't call them "pre-Reformers," then we mean the main principle of the Reformation, the new relationship to God, appeared only in the real breakthrough of the Reformation. So we must be clear, when we use such a word, as to what we mean, either the one or the other
Wyclif is dependent on Augustine and on a man in England who represents an Augustinian reaction against the Pelagian invasions which are connected with nominalism. This man was Thomas of Bradwardine an important link from Augustine to the English Reformation. The title of his book is characteristic, "De Causa Dei contra Pelagium." the cause of God against Pelagius . not Pelagius as the enemy of Augustine, but Pelagius in the nominalistic theology and in the practice of the Church. Against this he followed Augustine and Thomas Aquinas with respect to the doctrine of predestination. He says: "Everything that happens, happens by necessity. God necessitates whatever act is done, Every act or creature which is morally evil is an evil only accidentally." Now this means God is the essential cause of everything, but evil cannot be derived from Him. From this follows, also for Augustine, that the Church is the congregation of the predestined. It is not the hierarchical institution of salvation: . This true Church is in opposition to the mixed and hierarchical Church which is now living and is a distortion of the true Church, and nothing other than a distortion. The basic law of the Church is not the law of the Pope, but is the law of the Bible, and this is the law of God, or the law of Christ. All this was not meant to be anti-Catholic. Neither Bradwardine nor Wyclif thought of leaving the Roman church.
There was only one Church, and even Luther needed much time before he separated himself. This was not the idea. But there were dangers for the Roman church in the Augustinian principles. And therefore, as you remember, the semi-Pelagian and crypto-semi-Pelagian movements after Augustine, removed the dangers of Augustinianism from the Roman church. Here these dangers appear again under the name of Augustine, taken up by Thomas of Bradwardine, and by Wyclif. If predestination is applied, then that means that many people are not predestined for instance, many of the hierarchs and this gives the basis for finding symptoms in the hierarchy which show that they are not predestined. These symptoms are found by the application of the law of Christ, which is, for instance, the Sermon on the Mount, or the sending of the disciples all kinds of laws and ideas which are dangerous in an organized hierarchical church. From the criticism of the hierarchy, Wyclif revises the doctrines of the Church and its relationship to the state. This also has a long tradition. In England there was, since the 12th century, a movement represented in the name of the so-called Anonymous of York, a man who wrote for the king, making the king the Christ for the British nation. There was an anti-Roman tendency towards a British territorial church, similar to the Byzantine situation, where the king and the highest bishop of the English church are not identical but are at least spiritually the same thing. The king is the Christ, he is in hymns and in pictures depicted as the Christ, namely the Christ for the nation, as Constantine in Byzantium as the Christ for the whole Eastern church. Now these analogies are preparations for the revolt of the crown of England against the Pope. This revolt did not yet happen, but it was prepared.
Wyclif posed two forms of human domination, the natural or evangelical domination, which is the law of love; and the civil domination, which is a product of sin and a means of force for the sake of the bodily and spiritual goods. So we have on the one hand the natural law, which according to classical tradition is always the law of love, and all that it includes. This is the law which should rule. And then there is unfortunately also needed the civil domination, which is necessary because of sin, which uses force and compulsion as inescapable means in order to maintain the goods of the nation, bodily and spiritually. The first law, the law of love, is sufficient for the government of the Church, since the Church is the body of the predestined; there, force is not needed. Its content is the rule which Jesus had given, namely the rule of serving, And sometimes when I hear how, in Rotary clubs and other institutions in this country, service is the ultimate principle which actually means the most ruthless business competition, but which is called "service" then I feel that even in such deviations from the law of love, a reverence is still made to the law of love in such a kind of phraseology. And we shouldn't underestimate this. It is always good if the wise bows to virtue by dissimulating that it is wise. And this is somehow present in such a terminology.
In any case, for Wyclif the law of Christ is the law of love, which expresses itself in service. From this follows, for him, that the Church must be poor; it must not be the economically and politically ruling Church, but it must be the Church which is poor, the Church as it was anticipated by the radical Franciscans and originally by Joachim di Fiore, whose effect becomes visible here again.
But now the whole of the Church is not holy. And so a mixed domination occurs and is something which is a consequence of sin. But for the actual Church, this actual element is determining. Therefore the wealth of ministers is inadequate. It is an abuse which must be removed and, if necessary, by the power of the kings. If the Church answers with excommunication, then no king should be afraid of this because it is impossible, he says, to excommunicate a man except he has firstly and basically excommunicated himself. And the self-excommunication of a Christian is his having cut the communion with Christ.
Therefore the hierarchy has lost its main power. It cannot decide any more about the salvation of the individual. And it can be criticized if it acts against the law of Christ, which is the law of poverty, the law of spiritual rule, From this follows, further, that dogmatically speaking there is no necessity to have a pope. This was also in the line of Joachim di Fiore. You remember that he speaks of the papa angelico, of the angelic pope, the pope who is really a spiritual principle. Wyclif also says we don't need a pope who dominates; if we have an angelic or spiritual principle, it is all right, but it is not necessary.
All this is in the line of the sectarian protest against the rich and powerful Church. But it remains mostly within the line of the official doctrine. It is not yet Reformation because it is still a matter of law. It is another law than the law of the Church, but it is a law which is still law and not Gospel.
But the basis of this attack was the law of Christ as given in the Bible. So he developed the authority of Scripture against that of tradition and against the symbolic interpretation of the Bible. He even comes to the point, also on Biblical grounds, that the predicatio verbi , the preaching of the word, is more important than all the ecclesiastical sacraments. Here another development was important which we find already in the Middle Ages by the transition from realism to nominalism, namely the predominance of the ear against the eye. In the early centuries of the Christian Church, in the development of religious art, in the development of the sacraments, the eye, the visual function of man, was predominant. Since the 13th century, since Duns Scotus, and then even more since Ockham, the ear, the hearing of the word, becomes important; not the seeing of the embodied reality of sacramental character, and therefore the seeing in terms of religious is the most important thing. All this is very slow and overlapping; the emphasis; there develops the emphasis on something quite different: the word. This is much older than the Reformation. It develops already in the 13th century, but comes to the foreground in nominalism. Why? Because realism ~sees the essences of things. "Idea" comes from idein seeing. Eidos, "idea," means the picture, the essence, of a thing, which we can see in every individual thing. Of course this is an intuitive spiritual seeing, but it is still seeing, and it is expressed in the great art. The great art shows the essences of things, visible to the eye. In nominalism we have individuals. How can they communicate? By words. It is the only way in which this can be done. Therefore if God has become the most individual being, as we have seen in Ockham (ens singularissimum), then we can get from Him not by a kind of intuition of His Divine essence, as expressed in all His creations, but by His word which He speaks to us. So the word becomes decisive against the visual function.
Now the importance of the word against the sacraments appears already in Wyclif. Again I must say: this is not yet Reformation, because the word is the word of the law: it is not yet the word of forgiveness. And this is always the difference between Reformation and pre-Reformation.
If there is a Pope, he must the spiritual leader of the true Church, which is the Church of the predestined; otherwise he is not really Pope, I. e., the Vicar of Christ, the Spiritual power from which all spiritual power is derived, but he is a man who falls into error. He is not able to give indulgences; only God is able to do so. Here you have the first statement against the indulgences, before Luther's 95 theses. On y God can give and can release what He has ordered. And if the Pope is not living in humility, in charity and in poverty, he is not the real Pope. Here you have again the angelic pope of the radical Franciscans and of Joachim di Fiore. When the Pope, however, receives the worldly dominion as he has done; the Constantinian gift was the great foundation of the political power of the Pope, which was a falsification historically, but which was a part of the political power of the Pope, that he was the prince of Rome at the same time in which he was the spiritual leader if the Pope accepts such a dominion, as he did, of course, then he is a permanent heretic. It is heretical for the Pope who is a Spiritual power to become a prince. And if he does this, he is the Antichrist. We know this word from the Reformation, and from the Bible. It is a term going all through Church history, used by sectarians who criticized the Church. They say: If the Pope represents Christ which is his claim but is the opposite of Christ, namely the ruler of this world, he is the Antichrist.
I spoke once with Visser 't Hooft , the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, in the period of Hitler in Holland, when it was conquered. He said: We Dutch people, and many other Christians, had the feeling Hitler might be the Antichrist because of all the anti-Divine things he did, in a really Satanic way. But then we looked and looked and finally realized: No; he is not good enough for this; the Antichrist must at least maintain something of the religious glory of the real Christ, so that it is possible to confuse them and to adore him. But he is too nothing for this. And then we knew the end of all times had not yet come, and Hitler is not the Antichrist.
Here you see it is not a dogma. Visser 't Hooft in these ideas was in the real tradition of the sectarian movements going through all Church history, when he had this feeling. This is a very interesting contribution to the understanding of the Church. If we call somebody the Antichrist today, it is usually simply understood as name-calling. You could also call him "swine," or something else nice! But that is not the case. :Swine" is not a dogmatic term. But "Antichrist" is. When Luther called the Pope "Antichrist," he did not want to attack the Pope in this way, except dogmatically; I. e., on the place where Christ is represented, everything is done which is against the Christ. And this is the whole tradition of the sectarian movements of the Church, and we have it also in Wyclif.
One of the criticisms which shows the Antichrist character of the Church is that they are big business. The banking house of the world was the Vatican, especially in the period in which Luther came, but long before also, The bishops were bankers, in a reduced way; but all this Wyclif insisted must be abolished. And even the monks, even the Franciscans in whose tradition he very much lives, have lost their ideal of poverty and have accommodated themselves to the general desire of the Church to be a rich Church.
But this criticism brought him to more radical consequences. He attacked transsubstantiation, saying that the body of Christ is, spatially speaking, in Heaven. He is actually, or virtualiter (I. e., with its power) in the bread, but not spatially. This of course is a complete contradiction to the idea of transsubstantiation. And now he realized that the Church rejected him, and since he knew that he was right, on Biblical grounds, in these criticisms, he realized that the official Church can err with respect to articles of faith. This was the great experience of Luther, that the Church rejected something which was a criticism of errors and which represented truth, From this follows that he is able to criticize any Church decision which is unbelievable, because the Bible is the real law of Christ. From there he criticized the number of the sacraments, special sacraments such
as marriage, etc; he criticized the character indelibilis , the idea in Catholicism that he who is baptized, confirmed, and ordained has a special character which he never can lose, even if he cannot exercise it. He even criticized the celibacy of the priests. He criticized the idea of the treasury of the saints, and the superstitious elements of the popular religion. The monks must be abolished because they produced separation between the one Church. And there should not be a division in the status, in principle; there should be a communis religio , a common religion, to which everybody belongs; and even what the Catholic church calls the monastic counsels is something which everybody shall fulfill for instance, the love of the enemies. In this way one can say: negatively Wyclif has almost anticipated all positions of the Reformers. He was supported by the king who was of course on his side, because the English crown was for a long time in national opposition against the influence of Rome on the affairs of the English nation, religiously and, indirectly, politically. He was attacked very much, but never hurt; he was protected. After his death his movement slowly ebbed away, but the seeds were in the soil and became fertile when the real Reformation broke through.
Now this shows you cannot reform the Roman church on the basis of sectarian criticism, even if this criticism is as radical as it was in Wyclif. You can reform only in the power of a new principle, the power of a new relationship to God. This is what the Reformers did.
Counter-Reformation; Roman Catholicism.
Now I am at the end of the pre-Reformers and should come to the Reformation. But before doing so, I will go to the Counter-Reformation development of the Roman church, from the Council of Trent up to the present day, in order to get: rid of this part which is so important for you that you must no, not :get rid," because it is one of the most important things we must learn: what is, really, the Roman Catholic church, with which we live on every place together? Do we really know what it is? You know much about the Reformation, and it is important that you learn about the history of the Church and also the history of the Roman church after the Reformation.
Through councils, there were many attempts in the Reformation period to overcome the splits. There were many councils the great one of Worms and Augsburg, in which the Reformation got its final formulation and its classical expression. But the demand for a general council never stopped and finally a council was called to the place which you call Trent Triente, in the southern slopes of the Alps, a very beautiful place. And there, for several decades, continuously interrupted, sessions took place from which the Reformers were actually excluded. So instead of becoming a universal council, it became a council of the Counter-Reformation.
Now the Counter-Reformation is reformation: it is not simply reaction. It is reformation insofar as the Roman church, after the Council of Trent, was not what it was before. It was a church determined by its self-reaffirmation against the great attack of the Reformation. And this is always something quite different. If something is attacked and reaffirms itself, it is not the same. One of the characteristics is that it has been narrowed down. Don't see the medieval Church in the light of present-day, post-Tridentine Catholicism. It is something quite different. The medieval Church was open, in every direction, and had for instance such tremendous contrasts as that of the Franciscans and Dominicans (Augustinians and Aristotelians); it had the tremendous contrasts of the realists and nominalists, of the Biblicists, and mystics, etc. All this was possible. Then in the Counter-Reformation, many possibilities which the Roman church had, were shut off completely forever. The Roman church now became the church of "counter" namely, the "counter" of reformation, as the Protestant church, the prophetic principle, became the principle of protest against Rome.
This is the unwholesome split of Christianity. The Reformation, instead of becoming the reformation of the whole Church, became the dogma of the protesting group,. the "Protestants," to which we belong. The non-protestants reformed themselves, but in terms of "counter," in terms of opposition to something, not in terms of immediate creativity. And this is also always the historical situation: if group has to resist, it narrows down. Now take simply the attack of Communism on the Western world, on this country, and the tremendous amount of narrowing down of the freedoms, for which this country stands, in the defense of these freedoms. It is exactly the same situation, and the situation which we always have in history. The Reformation itself was very wide open. Then in and against the Reformation, all kinds of attacks were made and the result was a very narrow Protestant Orthodoxy we call it here "fundamentalism" which was not the Reformation itself, but the narrowing down of the Reformation, in the resistance against external attacks. This leads me immediately to the first points of the Council of Trent. which is the basis for the development of the Roman church..
Council of Trent. The doctrine of the authorities in the Catholic Church.
1) The traditional holy Scriptures and the Apocrypha of the Old Testament are both Scriptures and of equal authority. Now Luther had removed the Apocrypha of the Old Testament from canonic validity. He would have liked to remove many more books from canonic validity, e. g., the Book of Esther, and things like that. But he was able to remove the Apocrypha the books which were not openly acknowledged, but "hidden." Why is this important? The important thing is that these Apocrypha have a very special character, the character of legalism. They are legalism in terms of proverbs, to a great extent. And this legalistic spirit entered for a long time the Roman church, and now was preserved in terms of the authority of the Apocryphal books. So we have two Bibles, the Roman and the Protestant, and they are not identical.
2) Scripture and tradition are equal in authority "with equal piety and reverence accepted," was the phrase. This was the form in which the Council of Trent negated the Scriptural principle. What the tradition is, was not defined. Actually the tradition became identical with the decisions of the Vatican from day to day. But it was not defined and the fact that it was open made it possible that the Pope used it, however he wanted to use it. Of course he could not want to use it absolutely willfully, because there was an actual tradition deposited in the Councils and former decisions, but the present decision is always decisive, and the present decision about what the tradition is, is in the hands of the Pope.
3) There is only one translation which has ultimate and unconditional authority: the Vulgate of St. Jerome. This was said against Erasmus, who had edited a text of the New Testament in terms of higher criticism. This was used by the Reformers. The Pope excluded this kind of higher criticism for dogmatic purposes by making the Vulgate the only sacred translation. This was the 3rd decision, and of equal importance.
4) This point is always decisive, when the principle of Biblicism prevails: Who interprets the Bible? Here the answer was unambiguous: The Holy Mother Church gives the interpretation of Scripture not, as in Protestantism, the theological faculties.
Now the difference is that the Pope is one, and his decision is final; the theological faculties, who were actually the leaders in the centuries of Orthodoxy, if they differed from each other, had no authority above them: there were many faculties. This of course made the. authority of the theological faculties ineffective in the long run.
Now this is the doctrine of authorities. You see, this doctrine alone is a restatement of everything against which the Reformers had fought. It makes the position of the Pope unimpeachable; he cannot be attacked or criticized, He is beyond any possibility of being undercut by a competing authority, even the Bible, because he has the sacred text, the Vulgate, and he alone has the interpretation of this sacred text, in ultimate decision.
5) This doctrine is decisive for the different interpretation of man: the doctrine of sin. Sin is a transformation of man into something worse in deterius commutatum commuted into something worse, or deteriorization. This is what the Council of Trent says against the Reformers who said that man has completely lost freedom, by his fall. His freedom and freedom does not mean psychological freedom, in any of these discussions; this, everybody accepts but the freedom to contribute to one's relationship to God: this freedom is completely lost. But for the Roman decision, it is not 1ost, it is not extinguished, but it is only weakened. The sins before baptism are forgiven in the act of baptism, but after baptism concupiscence remains. But this concupiscence shouldn't be called sin, according to the Roman church; while the Augustana (Augsberg Confession) says that sin is lack of faith, the Roman church says that although concupiscence comes from sin and inclines to sin, it is not sin itself. Now this means man is not completely corrupted, but even his natural drives are not sin. This is one important thing because that had the consequence that Catholicism perhaps except in this country, where it was from the beginning very much influenced by the general climate here in Europe, in any case, Catholicism is not puritan. Catholicism can be radically ascetic, in monastics, but it is not puritan ill the ordinary life. And when we from Protestant sections of north and eastern Germany came to Bavaria, we always had the feeling that we are now in a country which is gay, in comparison to the northern religious and moral climate, which had some similarity to American Puritanism. This is the difference in this doctrine. Concupiscence for the Reformers is sin in itself; for the Roman church it is not. Therefore it can admit many more liberties in the daily life, much more gaiety, many more expressions of the vital forces in man than Protestantism can.
On the other hand the doctrine of sin of the Reformers was based on the fact that sin is unbelief. Against this the Catholic church says: No, sin is neither unbelief not separation from God. Sin is acts against the law of God. This means the religious understanding of sin was covered, by the Council of Trent. And this of course, again, is a fundamental difference. From this point on, sin was understood in Roman churches as special sins, which can be forgiven in the act of confession and absolution, and most Catholics go and tell the priest some sins which they can remember they try hard to remember them; sometimes to forget them in any case, if they have confessed these sins, they are liberated from them, and this again contributes to the general mood, in originally Catholic countries, namely a much fuller affirmation of the vital element of life; while in Protestantism, sin is separation from God and "sins" are only secondary. Therefore something fundamental must happen. A complete conversion and transforming of being and reunion with
God is necessary. This gives a much deeper burden to every Protestant than any Catholic. But on the other hand, the Catholic of course is in principle legalistic and divides sin into "sins." And if Protestants do this, as they sometimes do, they follow the Catholic and not the Reformation line of thought.
Justification by Faith Alone. Sacraments. Papal Infallibility. Jansenism.
I started to show the development of the Roman church from the period of the Reformation to the present, and discussed the meaning of the term Counter-Reformation and its consequences. This was confirmed by the definite establishment of the authorities, to which I referred yesterday. Then we started discussing something of the doctrines, first, the doctrine of sin which was formulated and included another interpretation of human sin than that of the Reformers. Now I come to the central discussion between the Reformers and the Catholic church: the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone (sola fide), the formula given by the Reformers for polemic purposes, and which was the main point, of all the controversies in the Reformation period.
In the doctrine of justification, the Roman church in the Council of Trent repeats the Thomistic tradition, but with a diplomatic tendency. The Catholic church knew that this was, as the Reformers called it, the articulus stantis aut cadentis ecclesia , the article with which the church stands or falls. And since this was the main point of the Reformation opposition, it was a point where the Roman church felt it had to be as conciliatory as possible. It avoided some of the distortions of this doctrine in nominalism, and attacked by the Reformers in this form. But it remained clear and had to be, of course, from the point of view of the Roman church in the main statement, namely, that the remissio peccatorum , the forgiveness of sins, is not sola gratia, by grace alone. It adds other elements, It speaks of the preparation for the Divine act of justification whereby a gratia preveniens, a prevenient grace, is effective in man, but so that this prevenient grace can be rejected or accepted, whatever the man decides. So here is the first point, where man must cooperate with God in the prevenient grace. After justification is received by man, it is given to him in the degree of his cooperation. The more man cooperates with God in the prevenient grace, the higher is the grace of justification given to him.
Justification as a gift of God contains two things: faith on the one hand, and hope and love on the other hand. Faith alone is not sufficient. And according to the Council's decision, it is even possible that justification may be lost by a Christian through a mortal sin, but that faith remains. Now the Reformers would say: if you are in faith, you never can lose your justification. But the Roman church understood faith in its old tradition, namely. somehow an intellectual and a moral act. Of course, if faith is an intellectual act and a moral act it can be lost, and nevertheless justification can be there; but faith according to the Reformers is the act of accepting justification; and this cannot be lost if there shall be justification.
.Nothing has been more misunderstood in Protestant theology than the term sola fide by faith alone because this has been understood not only by the Romans but also by Protestants themselves as an intellectual act of man called "faith," which forces God to give His forgiveness. But sola fide means that in the moment in which our sins are forgiven, we can do nothing else than receive this forgiveness, and that is what sola fide means. Anything else would destroy the activity of God, His exclusive grace.
Now this central position of the Reformers, the doctrine of grace received only and therefore by faith alone was first misunderstood and then rejected. This means that from this moment on, the split of the Church was final. There was no reconciliation possible between these two forms of religion the one in which the act of our turning to God and receiving His grace is unambiguously a receptive act, in which God gives something to us and we don't do anything; and the Catholic doctrine that we must act and prepare for it, that we must cooperate with God, and that faith is an intellectual acknowledgment, which may or may not be there. All the anathemas given by the Council of Trent in this point are based on this misunderstanding of sola fide. The central position of the Reformers was rejected and condemned, in the Council of Trent.
The next point is the sacraments. While in the doctrine of justification, the fathers of Trent tried to have at least some approximation to the Protestant position, they didn't try that at all in the realm of the sacraments. Here caution was unnecessary because every caution would have undercut the very essence of the Roman church, namely, to be a church of the sacrament. So the Council of Trent says: "All true justice starts, and if it has started, is augmented, and if it has been lost, is restituted, by the sacraments." This is the function of the sacraments, I. e., it is the religious function altogether.
They didn't say much about the way in which the sacraments are effective; they didn't say very much about the personal side of him who receives the sacrament; but they formulated it in the following way: the sacraments are effective ex opere operato non ponentibus obigem , i. e., by their very operation for those who do not resist. -- If you do not put before the effectiveness of the sacraments in yourselves an impediment (obicem ), something which prevents them from being effective, then they are effective, however you may be subjectively, ex opere operato by their mere performance, by their very operation. Now this was another central point for the Reformers, that there cannot be a relationship to God except in the person-to~person relationship, in the actual encounter-with Him I. e. faith. And this is much more than non-resistance; it is an active turning towards God. Without this, the sacraments are not effective for Protestants. For Catholics they are.
With respect to the number of the sacraments, which was reduced by Luther and Calvin to two sacraments, all seven sacraments are instituted by Christ. And this is de fide, I. e, a matter of Catholic faith, which means no historical doubt as to whether they are really instituted by Christ or not is allowed any more If you read in a Catholic book the formulation of a dogma and then under this formulation the two words "de fide," then this means it is a matter of dogmatic statement of the Roman church which you cannot deny or doubt, except by risk of being cut off from the Roman church.
There is no salvation without sacraments. The sacraments are saving powers, and not only strengthening powers, as in Protestantism. They have a hidden force of their own and to all those who do not resist grace they give this force. Baptism, confirmation, and ordination are of indelible character this is against the Reformers, again. During your whole life you are baptised and this had great practical consequences in the Middle Ages, namely, you fall under the law against heresy. If you were not baptised, you would fall under the law which limits strange religions as that of the Jews and the Islamic people and other people, and you wouldn't be persecuted. But if you are baptised, you are a Christian and you can be persecuted by the law of heresy. Now here you see what such "indelible character" means. It is a life-and-death problem in the practice of the Roman church of that time. The same is true of the "indelible character" of ordination. It means that the excommunicated criminal priest, if he happens to marry somebody in prison which
happened often at that time then they are married: the sacramental power in him overcomes his criminal situation and even his being excommunicated as an individual. If he marries you in prison, though excommunicated he still has the indelible sacramental power, which is always there and never can be taken from him. Here again you have a strong practical consequence of this doctrine of the "indelible character."
Now this, of course, stands against the Protestant doctrine of the universal priesthood. Not every Christian has the power to preach and to administer the sacraments, but only those who are ordained, and being ordained means having received sacramental power.
This sacramental power is even embodied in the ritual form of the sacraments. If there is a given ritual formula, no priest, no bishop, can transform it, can omit something from it, can change it, without sinning. The sacramental power is communicated from its origin in the actuality of the Church to the forms which are used there is no arbitrariness possible.
Baptism is only valid in infant baptism... . . . The water of baptism washes away the contamination of original sin... But to have faith later during one's life, as Luther demanded, in the power of baptism as the Divine act which initiates all Christian being, is not sufficient for the forgiveness of sins, and this means baptism loses, religiously speaking, its actual power for the later life. It does mean anything any more except for the fact of the "character indelibilis. It is not a point to which one religiously returns"
The doctrine of transubstantiation is preserved, and where it is preserved you always find a clear test of it, namely, the demand to adore it besides its use. For Protestants, the bread is not the body of Christ, except in the act of performance. For Catholics the bread and wine are the body and the blood of Christ after they have been consecrated. So when you come into an empty Catholic church which you always do when you travel in European countries, because they are the greatest objects of interest in most of the small and big cities then you come into a sacred atmosphere, not into a house which is used on Sundays, and sometimes even on weekdays, but you come into a house in which always, for 24 hours, God Himself is present in the holiest of the holy, on the altar, in the shrine. And this transforms the whole mood which prevails in such a church. There are always lights and always people who go around; there is always God Himself in a defined, circumscript way present on the altar. I believe this is the reason why the attempt of some great Protestant churches, also in this city, to be open for prayer and meditation during the whole day, has a very limited effect, because nothing happens. But if you go into a Roman church, something has happened, the effects of which are still completely there namely, the presence of God Himself, of the body of Christ, on the altar.
On this basis, of course, the Roman church also preserved the Mass against the criticism of the Reformers, and not only the Mass for those who attend, not only the Mass for those who are living, but the Mass, I. e., the sacrifice of the body of Christ, also for those who are dead and in Purgatory. In all these respects, the Council of Trent gave practically no reform at all, nor did it give a better theological foundation. It simply consecrated and confirmed the tradition.
A little different was the attitude towards the sacrament of penance, /which another of the main attacks of Protestantism was directed. But the sacrament was, generally speaking, maintained as a sacrament, and even the weakest point of this sacrament, the doctrine of attrition or as Luther called it ironically, the repentance evoked by the gallows == even this kind of repentance by fear was accepted as a necessary preparation. Contrition, the real repentance, the real metanoia in the New Testament sense, is not sufficient. It is fulfilled only in connection with the sacrament and with the word of absolution. And this word does not just declare that God has forgiven, but it itself gives the forgiveness not that the priest gives the forgiveness, but through the priest, and only through the priest, does God give forgiveness. And Christians need not only the word of the ministers, the word of absolution, but they also need satisfactions, because the punishment is not removed with the guilt, and therefore so me punishments must be imposed on the people even after they have taken the sacrament these are the satisfactions, e.g., praying the "Our Father," a hundred times, or giving money, or making a pilgrimage, etc. And this was the point where the Reformers disagreed the most.
Marriage is maintained as a sacrament, although in contradiction to this preservation of virginity is valuated higher than marriage. And this is still the situation in the Roman church. In all this, something is fixed which before the Reformation still was in some kind of flux. Now it is fixed against the Reformation, and now the Roman church has lost its dynamic creativity; and you can feel this if you read systematic theologies in Catholic thinking, they deal with very secondary problems, because all the fundamental problems are solved.
The basic doctrine of all of them is the doctrine of ordination, because here the point is given in which all the others are united. The priest does what makes the Roman church Roman church: he exercises the sacramental power. Preaching is very secondary and often omitted. Sacrifice and priesthood are by Divine ordination sacrifice in the sense of sacrificing the body of Christ in the Mass. Both are implied in every ecclesiastical law. Both are presupposed, and this church of the sacramental sacrifice is the hierarchical church; and the hierarchical church is the church of the sacramental sacrifice. This is Rome. This is Catholicism, in the Roman sense.
Now these decisions decided about the split of Christianity/ Rome actually had accepted nothing, only external remedies against abuses. But many problems were left. The first was the problem of Pope against Councils. And it is the development between Trent and the Council of the Vatican in 1870 to which we must now go.
In Trent two opinions were fighting with each other. The first was that the Pope is the universal bishop, the Vicar of Christ universal bishop meaning that every episcopal power is derived from the power of the Pope, so that every bishop participates in the Pope and the Pope participates in him, because he is the Vicar of Christ. The other opinion was that the Pope is the first among equals, representing the unity and the order of the Church. This is the Conciliaristic point of view the Councils finally have the ultimate decision while the former is the Curialistic point of view: the Curia, the court of the Pope, is the central deciding power. This was the question. How was it decided? Not at all at Trent. It took a few more centuries. One of the presuppositions for this decision was that the historical development more and more destroyed those groups which were most dangerous for the Pope within the Roman church, namely the national churches. One of them was France, and the movement for an independent
French church called Gallicanism was a real threat to Rome. We have similar developments in Germany, in Austria, and in other places, where the national churches under the leadership of their bishops resisted many papal aspirations. The rulers had an alliance with the national bishops against the Pope. But this did not hold. It was undermined by the development itself. It could be destroyed, because the rulers, e. g., the leaders of the French revolution Napoleon, the German princes, used the Pope against their own ecclesiastical forces. Diplomacy always uses the one against the other and the other against the one. The national princes used their own bishops against the encroachments by the Pope, but they used the Pope against the power of their own bishops, if necessary.
Now the result of these oscillations was that finally the Pope prevailed by far. The result was the Vatican decision of 1870, the statement of the infallibility of the Pope.
This decision has many presuppositions. First it was necessary to give to the term "tradition" a definite sense. One now distinguished between ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition. The apostolic tradition is the old traditions which came into the Church through ways which are not given in the Bible. But the ecclesiastical tradition is the tradition about which the Pope has to decide, whenever it appears in Church history. This was the situation; the ecclesiastical tradition, which was the only living tradition, was identical with the papal decisions. This is the positive statement.
And now its negative side: The Jesuits more and more undercut all other authorities. In contrast to Thomas Aquinas they undercut conscience and made themselves the leaders of the consciences of the princes, and of the other people too, But their important role was that in this period of Reformation and Counter-Reformation, where the Jesuit order was born in Spain, most of the deciding political personalities had Jesuitic advisors around themselves who were leaders of their consciences. Now if you guide, the conscience of a prince, you can apply this guidance to all political decisions because in all of them some moral elements are included. And that is what the Jesuits did. They turned the consciences of the Catholic princes towards all the cruelties of the Counter-Reformation. So the conscience was no authority any more.
Also the authority of the bishops was undercut by the Jesuits. The episcopalian primacy in the Councils was undercut by Jesuitic interpretation. The Councils themselves and their decisions have to be confirmed by the Pope. This was the complete victory of the :Rope over the Councils. This was done in Trent. The Pope was accepted by the majority of the bishops in Trent as he who has to confirm the Council of Trent. This means that no council can have validity ever since, which is not confirmed by the Pope. Therefore the Pope is beyond criticism.
Even the Church Fathers are undercut by the Jesuits. The Jesuits were especially anti-Augustinian. There is only one Father of the Church, namely the living Pope. All earlier Church Fathers are full of heretic statements, of errors, even of falsifications. The Jesuits, as you see from this, were very modern people. They knew about the historical problems and used them in order to undermine the authority of the Church Fathers. The Protestant historiography did the same thing, in order to make possible the prophetic authority of the Reformers. So the criticism was made by both: by the Jesuits in order to give absolute power by the Pope; and by the Protestants in order to liberalize the authority of the Bible.
The constitution of 1870: "Pastor Eternus" If you read a papal bull, you will always find two or three words at the beginning which serve also as the title of the bull e. g. , "Una Sancta," etc. This means the first words of the text are put into the title. Pastor eternus has a very full sound the eternal shepherd and immediately implies the feeling for the eternal function of the earthly shepherd. First pp the Pope is declared as the universal power of jurisdiction over every power of the Church. There is no legal body which is not subjected to the Pope. Secondly he is declared universal bishop. This means, practically, that he has power over every Catholic of New York, through the bishop of New York; but if this doesn't work, he can have episcopal power directly and can revolutionize the subjects of the other bishops against their bishops, if he likes to. Thirdly, the Pope is infallible if he speaks ex cathedra. This of course is the most conspicuous decision of the Vatican Council and a decision which has even separated some of the Catholics who, as they called themselves, became "Old Catholics," but they remained a very small group in Western Germany, and never took over the Roman church. On the contrary. Your generation has experienced, in the year 1950, the first cathedra decision since 1870, and therefore a decision which is de fide, namely, a decision about the bodily ascension of the Virgin Mary. Now here you see how things go the Pope has asked most of the bishops before he made this decision. The majority was on his side; a minority was not. The Pope asked about the tradition - the tradition is more than a thousand years old; we have pictures in many periods of Church history about Mary elevated to Heaven and crowned by Christ, or received by God. But now the question was: Is this a pious opinion in the Church which is tolerated, and even further? or is it a matter de fide? As long as it is a pious opinion, every Catholic can disagree with it, without losing the salvation of his soul. In the moment in which it is declared de fide, as it was done in the year 1950 by the Pope, in this moment every Catholic is bound to accept it as truth, and nothing can relieve him from this necessity. Many Catholics were deeply shaken about this, but they subjected themselves.
So infallibility does not mean that there exists a man who in whatever he talks is infallible; since the decision 80 years ago, no pope did anything which is infallible, in the strict sense; but then he did something. And as I heard yesterday, when President Shuster of Hunter College (who is a Catholic) spoke at our faculty luncheon, he was (recently) the governor of Bavaria, the most Catholic part of Germany, and he was also in connection with Rhineland Catholicism. He said there was a very hopeful development of cooperation between Protestants and Catholics. But in the moment in which this doctrine was proclaimed, cooperation almost ceased. Now he hopes that it will return again, but this showed to the Protestant and to the secular world to all of us that these dogmas about the infallibility of the Pope are taken absolutely seriously, without restriction. We should have known this always. Now we are reminded of it again. And this means there is no approach, from a Protestant or humanist point of view, to this doctrine and its implications.
This was finally confirmed in the fourth important point: The Pope is irreformable, by any action of the church. You must compare this with the impeachment procedures ,which in America is possible against any president; they are very rare, but they have happened and can happen again. They happened, of course, against the pope in the Middle Ages, and some popes were dispossessed, removed, and others put in their place. All this came to an end in 1870, because there is no power which can remove a pope. The pope is in this sense absolute and irremovable. No impeachment is possible. In this way, implicitly every dogma formulated by the pope is valid. This means that, for instance, one doctrine which was formulated before 1870 the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary the Virgin, in the birth of Christ, which the Franciscans wanted to have all the time was now de fide, while before that the Dominicans, who were against it, still could say that it is not a valid dogma. Now it is a valid dogma because of the implication that the pope has accepted it ex cathedra.
There was a last strong movement in the Roman church back to the original Augustinianism of the church. This movement is called according to a man named Jansen, Jansenism. The Jesuit Molina wrote against the Thomistic Dominicans who teach, as you remember, the doctrine of predestination. The Jesuits were against this doctrine and they fought for human freedom. The doctrine of predestination, although it is a strong Augustinian doctrine, was revoked. But now Jansen and the Jansenists he most important of them is Pascal arose and fought against the Jesuits. But the Jesuits prevailed, The popes followed them. The Jesuit was the modern man, in the Roman church disciplined; very similar to totalitarian forms of subjection as we experience them today; completely devoted to the power of the church; and at the same time nourished with much intellectual education and modern ideas, deciding for freedom and reason.
The Reformation: Luther and Catholicism
Martin Luther is responsible and he alone for the fact that a purified Christianity, a Christianity of the Reformation, was able to establish itself on equal terms with the Roman tradition.
I started yesterday to speak about one movement which, in opposition to the Counter-Reformation Catholicism, tries to return to the genuine Augustinian tradition of the Catholic past. It is the Jansenist movement, a movement opposed and finally destroyed by the Jesuits, but in such a way that the Jesuits themselves lost a lot of standing in the public valuation, and that in the 18th century they were thrown out of many Catholic countries. There was one interesting point in the discussion, namely that if the sentences of Cornelius Jansen are condemned, then it isn't only a matter of content which is condemned but also a question de fait (a question of fact) that he has really said that Now this seems very foolish, but there was a very important point behind it, namely, that if the Pope interprets the text of somebody whom he inquires into, and perhaps rejects or condemns, then the Pope is right not only in rejecting his ideas but also in stating that these ideas are really in the text. That is, the Pope is the interpreter of every text, and philological defense is not possible if the Pope says that this is what the text means. Here you have the natural extension of the totalitarian and authoritarian principle even to historical facts. The Pope decides what is a fact, not only what is true in theological terms.
Jansenism produced other writings. There was one man, Quesnel, who tried to introduce Augustinian principles again and to defend them against the Jesuits. But again the Pope took the side of the Jesuits and Augustine was removed, to a large extent, from Counter-Reformation Catholicism. In the bull, "Unigenitus," the Pope drives out the best of the Roman tradition. He drives out Augustine's doctrine of grace, of faith, and of love. For instance, it is anathema if somebody says, with Augustine, "In vain, Lord, Thou commandest if Thou dost not give what Thou orderest." This means that the commandments of God can be fulfilled only if God gives what He commands that's Augustinianism. If somebody says this in the Roman church, after the Jansenistic struggle he is condemned and that means, implicitly, that Augustine is condemned.
If you have to deal with modern progressive Catholics there are more of them in Europe than in this country, where Catholicism is completely polytheized , and has almost lost (with a few exceptions: some of our neighbors here around) the Spiritual power then you find that these people always fall back to Augustine and always are at the edge of being thrown out, being excommunicated or forbidden or cut off or reduced in their power of self-expression. I happened to discuss problems several times with Catholic groups, in my last trips to Germany especially impressive was last summer, with the Rhineland and it's astonishing how near we were with each other! But these people all have the expression of persecuted people They feel that if they agree with me in Augustinian principles, they are in danger. And they are!. Now this is a tragedy because in the moment in which no, it is not only the discussion itself; it is also their whole activities which come out in such discussions they are in danger of being cut off. And this means that the condemnation of Augustinianism in the Jansenistic struggle is like a sword over every form of spiritualized Catholicism that is a threat against changes going on there.
Now the last problem I want to mention is Probabilism that which is probable. Probable are opinions, given by authorities in the Roman church, about ethical questions. The Jesuits said: If an opinion is probable, then one is allowed to follow it even if the opposite is more probable! Now this means that in ethical respects, you have no autonomy of course not; that's something the church would deny radically. You always have to follow the guidance of the Roman priest, of the confessor especially. But the confessor himself has many possibilities. Since he himself has not to talk to you in the power of his spirit, but has to talk to you on the basis of authorities, of the Fathers, these authorities always contradict each other, or at least are different. So he can advise you something which is probably right, in an ethical act, but it may be more probable that other things are right. But if he can find an acknowledged authority of the Church which has said something about a problem even if it is not very safe, even if other things probably seem to be better you can follow it Now the result of this doctrine was a tremendous ethical relativism and laxity, chaos, and this of course was very advantageous in the 18th century, in which the church followed the new morals of bourgeois society, which was in the development, by making the ethical demands relativistic. Of course this was so abused that finally a reaction arose in the Roman church.
Alphonse Liguori a name which you will often read reacted against it, but he himself really didn't overcome, because he also says that it is not I who can decide, but my confessor must decide. And how can the confessor decide? Finally the principle of the probable triumphs.
Another development connected with this was that now every sin becomes a venial sin. And here again Jesuitism and the bourgeoisie the greatest enemies went together in taking out the radical seriousness which the Jansenists and the early Protestants maintained.
This is the situation. Much more can be said about present-day Catholicism. I said a few things about it yesterday, about the way in which the last decisions of the Pope have continued this line. Let me refer to one decision which is not known so much as the decision about the bodily ascension of the Holy Virgin. This was a previous encyclical of the Pope in which he said things which went even beyond what was said in the Vaticanum about the infallibility of the Pope. In the Vaticanum the infallibility referred only to statements ex cathedra, I. e., if the Pope officially, as Pope, makes a statement of dogma or ethics. But in this encyclical of 1950, he made statements about philosophies, and sharply directed his statements against existentialism. In these statements he said that if after many considerations the Pope has decided that a philosophy is unsound, then no faithful Catholic can work in the line of this philosophy any more.
Now this goes far beyond everything which the Pope has said before. And then of course he puts Thomas Aquinas again into the role of the Catholic philosopher. That meant that some of the French existentialists, Lubac and others, and others had to give up their teaching positions because philosophically they were existentialists although they answered the existentialist questions in religious terms. So you see one line which goes on even against all probability.
1 remember when in March 1950, the Holy Year of the Roman church 1 asked Dr. Niebuhr, "What do you think: will the Pope make this declaration ex cathedra, about the ascension of the Holy Virgin?" Then he answered: 1 don't think so; he is too clever for that; it is a slap in the face to the whole modern world and it is only dangerous for the Roman church to do that today. And a few months later it was done! Now this means even such a keen observer as Reinhold Niebuhr couldn't imagine and I was of course convinced by him, even more than he himself probably!! I was convinced that he was right because none of us could imagine that the Pope would dare to do this today. But he did it. And what does that mean? This means two things, that an authoritarian system, in order to fix itself, has to become narrower and narrower. It has to do what the other totalitarian systems do: they exclude, step by step, one danger after the other, threatening them by the presence of other traditions. In the Middle Ages, before the Crusades, there was no other tradition than the tradition of the ancient Church, which was the great educator of the barbaric nations. This was a simple situation. The problem already became actual when since Frederick.Il, ca. .1250 the same year in which there was the 4th Lateran Council in this moment the danger started and the Church reacted with anti-heretic laws and crusades. The same thing is in the development of the Roman church and in the development of all other totalitarian systems: they must try to prevent their subjects from meeting other traditions. Of course, the Roman church did this consistently for many, many years, in terms of the Index Librorum Vetitorum, the index of forbidden books, which are forbidden not for the scholars, of course, but for the populace; the general people is not allowed to read any of the books which are on the Index, and students must have a general or special permission, for instance, to read theological books of Paul Tillich, and others which they sometimes do; and then they are very clever about them. 1 just got an article about my systematic theology from a Catholic; he gave me the manuscript, and it is an excellent analysis. They can do it very well, but they must have special permission for that. The ordinary man is not allowed to read such !"dangerous" things, which means other traditions are not allowed to hit the souls of those who shall be well preserved. Now that is one of the reasons for the so-called "iron curtain." This is why Hitler completely cut off Germany from any intellectual influence, year by year a little more. And this is an inescapable development of all authoritarian systems, and this is why this encylical in the year 1950 was so interesting, with the declaration of the dogma.
But it has another connotation: that the liberal world has become so weak that the Pope doesn't need to be afraid of it any more. This was our error Dr. Niebuhr's and myself that we thought he would respect the Protestants and the humanists - -perhaps even the Communists all over the world, and not put himself in a position that almost everybody would speak of the superstitious attitude of the Roman church, in making such a dogma. But he was not afraid and probably he was right, because the very weak Protestant resistance against this and similar things cannot hurt the Catholic church any more. And the humanist opposition is almost non-existent because humanism itself is in a process of self-disintegration. And the greatness of the existentialists is that they describe this disintegration, but they themselves are in the midst of it.
Now this is the situation, and in this situation an understanding of the Roman church is more needed by all of you, in your actual ministry, than it was in the last hundred years We are threatened by all forms of totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Now 1 distinguish between totalitarianism and authoritarianism: Rome is not totalitarian only a state can be; but Rome is authoritarian, and exercises many functions which otherwise totalitarian states have exercised. So the question which the existence of Catholicism puts before us is the question whether, with the end of the liberal era, liberalism at all will come to an end. This leads me to the question, which is very near to my heart, whether with the end of the Protestant era, the Protestant principle will also come to an end. This leads us to the problem of the Reformation.
Now I will deal with this large problem in a very short survey, after having agreed with Professor Handy that in view of the fact that you come from Protestant traditions and are nourished, so to speak, with Protestant ideas, you do not need this as much as you need a knowledge of the ancient and medieval Church. I am not so sure that you don't need it and for the very reason that the kind of Protestantism which developed in this country is not very much an expression of the Reformation, but has much more to do with the so-called Evangelical Radicals, and their influence on the forms of Protestantism as they have developed in this country. On the other hand, there are the Lutheran and Calvinistic groups, and they are strong; but they have adapted themselves to an astonishing degree to the climate of American Protestantism; and this climate is not made by them but by the sectarian movements. Therefore when I came here 20 years ago, the Reformation theology was almost unknown in Union Theological Seminary, because of the different traditions and the reduction of the Protestant tradition more to the non-Reformation traditions.
So I hope that when next fall Professor Pauck comes and gives his treatment of the Reformation, in the one and one-half year course on Church history which will replace this one lecture I gave to you then you will have much more occasion and better guidance for a full study of the Reformation. In any case, today I will put the Reformation into the broad sweep of Church-historical development.
Now the turning point of the Reformation and of Church history as a whole is the experience of an Augustinian monk in his monastic cell Martin Luther. Martin Luther didn't teach other doctrines that, he also did; but this was not important, there were many others also who did; cf. Wyclif. But none of those who protested against the Roman system were able to break through it. The only man who really broke through, and whose! breakthrough has transformed the surface of the earth, was Martin Luther. That is his greatness. Don't measure his greatness by comparing him with Lutheranism; that's something quite different, and is something which has gone through the period of' Lutheran Orthodoxy and many other things political movements, Prussian conservatism, and what not. But Luther is something different. Luther is one of the few great prophets of the Christian Church, and even if his greatness was limited by some characteristics he had, and by his later development, his greatness is overwhelming. He is responsible and he
alone for the fact that a purified Christianity, a Christianity of the Reformation, was able to establish itself on equal terms with the Roman tradition. And from this point of view we must look at him. Therefore when I speak of Luther, I don 't speak of the theologian who has produced Lutheranism there are many others who have done this, and Melanchthon much more than Luther but I speak of the man in whom the breakthrough occurred, the break through the Roman system; and that is he, and nobody else.
This breakthrough was a break through three distortions of Christianity which make the Roman Catholic religion what it is. The breakthrough was the creation of another religion. What does :religion" mean here? "Religion" means nothing else than another personal relationship between man and God man to God and God to man: that is what the difference is. And this is why it was not possible, in spite of tremendous attempts during the 16th century and sometimes later on, to produce a reunion of the churches. You can compromise about different doctrines; you cannot compromise about different religions! Either you have the Protestant relation to God or you have the Catholic, but you cannot have both; you can 't make a compromise.
The Catholic system is a system of objective, quantitative and relative relations between God and man for the sake of providing eternal happiness for man. I repeat:
The Catholic religion is a system of objective, quantitative, and relative relations between God and man for the sake of providing eternal happiness for man. They are quantitative relations, which must come together here a piece and there a piece; they are relative: none is absolute, each is relative; and they are objective, in the sense of being things and not personal relationship.
Now this is the basic structure objective, not personal; quantitative, not qualitative, and conditioned, not absolute.
And this leads me to another sentence, namely, that the Roman system is a system of divine-human management, represented and actualized by ecclesiastical management.. It is a system of Divine-human management represented and mediated by ecclesiastical management.
Now first the purpose: The purpose is to give eternal blessedness to man and to save him from eternal punishment. The alternative is eternal suffering in Hell or eternal pleasure in Heaven. This is the purpose of the whole thing. Now the way to do is the way which we have described when we discussed the Catholic sacraments, in which a magic giving of grace is the one side, and moral freedom which produces merits is the other side magic grace completed by active law; active law completed by magic grace.
The quantitative character comes through also in terms of the ethical commands. There are two groups: commandments and counsels -- commandments for every Christian; counsels, the full yoke of Christ, only for the monks and partly for the priests. For instance, love toward the enemy is a counsel of perfection but not a commandment for everybody. Asceticism is a counsel of perfection but not a, commandment. for everybody.
There is a difference between two types of degrees, moral demands. There is also a quantitative character in the Divine punishments There is eternal punishments for mortal sins; there is Purgatory for light sins; there is Heaven for fully purged people in Purgatory, and sometimes, as saints, already on earth. All these are quantitative and relative elements. Under these conditions nobody ever knew whether 'he could be certain of his salvation, because you never could do enough, you never could receive enough grace of a magical character, nor could you ever do enough in terms of merits and asceticism. The result of this was a tremendous amount of anxiety at the end of the Middle Ages. In my "Courage to Be" I have
described, as one of the three great types of anxiety, the anxiety of guilt, and I have related this anxiety of guilt socially and historically to the end of the Middle Ages, It is always present, of course, but at that time it was predominant and almost like a contagious sickness. People couldn't do enough in order to get a merciful God, in order to get over their bad conscience. There was a tremendous amount of anxiety expressed in the art of that time, expressed in the demand for ever and ever more pilgrimages, in the collection and adoration of relics, in prayers of "Our Fathers," in giving of money, buying indulgences, self-torturing asceticism and doing everything possible in order to get over one's guilt Now it is interesting to look into this time. We are almost unable to understand it. Now with the same anxiety of guilt and condemnation, Luther was in the cloister. Out of it he went into it, and out of it he experienced what he experienced, namely, that no amount of asceticism is ever able to give us, in the system of relativities, quantities, and things, a real certainty of salvation. He always was in fear of the threatening God, of the punishing and destroying God. And he asked: how can I get a merciful God? Out of this question and the anxiety behind this question, the Reformation arose.
Now what does Luther say against the Roman quantitative, objective, and relative point of view?:
The relation to God is personal. It is an ego-thou relationship, not mediated by anybody or anything only by accepting the message of acceptance, which is the content of the Bible. This is not an objective status in which you are, but this is a personal relationship, which he called "faith"; but not faith in something which one can believe, but acceptance that you are accepted: this is what he meant.
It is qualitative, not quantitative. Either you are separated or you are not separated from God. There are no quantities of separation or non-separation. In a person-to-person relationship you can say: there are conflicts, there are tensions, but as long as the relationship is a relationship of confidence and love, it is a quality. And if it is separated, it is something else. But it is not a matter of quantity. And in the same way, it is unconditional and not conditioned, as it is in the Roman system. You are not a little bit nearer to God if you do a little bit more for the church, or against your body, but you are near to God completely, absolutely, if you are united with Him; and you are separated if you are not The one is unconditionally negative; the other is unconditionally positive. The Reformation restates the unconditional categories of the Bible.
From this follows that the magic element as well as the legal element in the piety disappear. The forgiveness of sins, or acceptance, is not an act of the past done in baptism, but it is continuously necessary. Repentance is an element in every relationship to God, in every moment. It never can stop. The magic as well as the legal element disappear, for grace is personal communion with the sinner. There is no possibility of any merit; there is only the necessity of accepting. And there is no hidden magic power in our souls which make us acceptable, but we are acceptable in the moment in which we accept acceptance. Therefore the sacramental activities as such are rejected. There are sacraments, but they mean something quite different. And the ascetic activities are eternally rejected because none of them can give certainty. But here again a misunderstanding often prevails. One says: Now isn't that egocentric:; l think Maritain told me that once if the Protestants think about their own individual certainty? Now it is not an abstract certainty, that Luther meant; it is reunion with God this implies certainty. But everything centers around this being accepted. And this of course is certain; if you have God, you have Him. But if you look at yourself, at your experiences, your asceticism, and your morals, then you can be certain only if you are extremely self-complacent and blind toward yourselves; otherwise you cannot. And these, are absolute categories. The Divine demand is absolute. They are not relative demands, which bring more or less blessedness, but they are the absolute demand: joyfully accept the will of God. And there is only one punishment not the different degrees between the ecclesiastical satisfactions, between the punishment in purgatory, and its many degrees, and finally Hell. There is nothing like this. There is only one punishment, namely the despair of being separated from God. And consequently there is only one grace, namely, reunion with God. That's all. And to this, Luther whom Adolf Harnack, the great historian of the dogma, has called a genius of reduction to this simplicity, Luther has reduced the Christian religion. This is another religion.
Now Luther believed that this was a restatement of the New Testament, especially of Paul. But although his message has the truth of Paul, it's by no means the full Paul; it is not everything which Paul is. The situation determined what he took from Paul, namely Paul's conception of defense against legalism the doctrine of justification by faith. But he did not take in Paul's doctrine of the Spirit. Of course he did not deny it; there is a lot of it; but that is not decisive. The decisive thing is that a doctrine of the Spirit, of being "in Christ," of the New Being, is the weak spot in Luther's doctrine of justification by faith.
In Paul the situation is different. Paul has three main centers in his thinking, which make it not a circle but a triangle. The one is his eschatological consciousness, the certainty that in Christ eschatology is fulfilled and a New Reality has started. The second is the doctrine of the Spirit, which means for him that the Kingdom of God has appeared, that it is here, and there; that the New Being, in which we are, is given to us in Christ. The third point in Paul is the critical defense against legalism: justification by faith.
Luther took all three, of course. But the eschatological point was not really understood. He, in his weariness of the theological fights you cannot become more tired of anything in the world than of theological controversies, if you always are living it; and even Melanchthon, when he came to death, one of his last words was: "God save me now from the rabies theologorum from the wrath of the theologians! This is an expression you will understand if you will read the conflicts of the centuries. I just read with great pain, day and night, the doctor's dissertation of a former pupil, Mr. Thompson, Dr. McNeill's former assistant, an excellent work in which he describes in more than 300 narrow and large pages the struggle between Melanchthonism and Lutheranism. And if you read that and then see how simple the fundamental statement of Luther was, and how the rabies theologorum produced an almost unimaginable amount of theological disputations on points of which even half-learned theologians as myself would say that they are intolerable, they don't mean anything any more then you can see the difference between the prophetic mind and the fanatical theological mind.
Lecture 31: Penance and Luther's Attacks. Erasmus. Muenzer
Don't translate sola fide by the English phrase "by faith alone," but "by grace alone, through faith," where "faith" means nothing other than the acceptance of grace. But the Evangelical Radicals think Luther is still half-Catholic.
Today I come to the point where Luther's breakthrough was externally occasioned. It is the sacrament of penance. You remember that I said there are two main sacraments in the Roman church, the Mass, which is a part of the Lord's Supper; and the subjective sacrament which had an immense educational function, namely the dealing with the individual in the sacrament of penance.
This sacrament can be called the sacrament of subjectivity, in contrast to the Mass which was the complete sacrament of objectivity. Between these two, the medieval situation goes on. But it was not the Mass although it was tremendously attacked by Luther which was the real point of criticism; but it was the subjective sacrament and the abuses connected with it. The abuses came from the fact that the sacrament of penance had different parts: contrition, confession, absolution, and satisfaction. The first and the last points were the most dangerous ones.
Contrition the real repentance, the change of the mind was replaced by attrition, the fear of eternal punishment, which Luther called the repentance inspired by the imminent prospect of the gallows. So it has no religious value for him. The other dangerous point was satisfaction, which did not mean that you can earn your forgiveness of sins by works of satisfaction, but that you have to do them because the sin is still in you after it is forgiven, and that the humble subjection to the satisfactions demanded by the minister is the decisive thing.
Now this means that the priest imposed on the communicandus all kinds of activities and sometimes such difficult ones that the people wanted to get rid of them. And that was accepted by the Church in terms of the indulgences, which are also sacrifices you must sacrifice some money, in order to buy them, and then you could get rid of the satisfactions. The popular idea was that these satisfactions are effective for overcoming one's guilt consciousness. This was a point where one can say that a kind of market with eternal life was going on: you could buy the indulgences and in doing so you could get rid of the punishments, not only on earth but also in Purgatory. The abuses brought Luther to a thinking about the whole meaning of the sacrament of penance. In doing so he came to conclusions which were absolutely in opposition to the attitude of the Roman church, and not only to the abuses: the criticism went to the source of the abuses, namely the doctrine itself. And so Luther put on the door of the Wittenberg church the famous 95 Theses, the first of which is the classical formulation of everything which is Reformed Christianity: "Our Lord and teacher, Jesus Christ, saying Repent ye,' , wished that the whole life of the believers be penitence." Now this means the sacramental act is only something in which a much more universal attitude comes to a sacramental form; it is not the sacramental which is important but the relationship to God. It is not a new theological doctrine but a new relationship to God which the Reformers brought about, and this comes out in this one sentence the relationship is not an objective management between God and man, but it is a personal relationship of penitence, first of all, and then faith.
Perhaps the most striking and paradoxical expression is given by Luther in the following words: "Penitence is something between injustice and justice. Therefore, whenever we are repenting we are sinners, but nevertheless for this reason we are also righteous, and in the process of justification, partly sinners, partly righteous that is nothing but repenting.," This means that there is always something like repentance in the relationship to God.
Luther at that time did not attack the sacrament of penance as such. He even thinks the indulgences can be tolerated. But he attacked the center, out of which all the abuses came, and this was the decisive event of the Reformation.
But after this attack had been made, the consequences were clear. The money of indulgence can only help against those works which are given by the Pope, I. e , the canonic punishments. The dead in Purgatory cannot be released by the Pope; he can only pray for them; he does not have power over the dead. The forgiveness of sins is an act of God alone, and the Pope can only declare and "Pope" also means every priest that God has done it already. There is no treasury of the Church out of which the indulgences can come, except the one treasury, namely the work of Christ. No saint can do superfluous works because it is our duty to do everything we can anyhow; how can something be superfluous? The power of the keys, namely of forgiving sins, is given by God to every disciple who is with Him. The works of satisfaction are only the works of love; all other works are an arbitrary invention by the Church. Arid there is no time and space for them, because in our real life we must always be aware of the works of love which are demanded from us in every moment. Confession, which is made by the priest in the sacrament of penance, is directed towards God. You don't need to go to the priest for this. In every "our Father" we confess our sins, and that is what matters and not the sacramental confession. Arid about satisfaction he said: this is a completely dangerous concept because we cannot satisfy God at all; if there is satisfaction, it is done by Christ to God, but is not done by us. So this concept has to disappear. Purgatory is a fiction and an imagination of man, with no biblical foundation. The only thing which remains is absolution. And of course Luther was psychologically educated enough to know that a solemn absolution may have psychological effects, but he denied that it is necessary. The message of the Gospel, which is the message of forgiveness, is the absolution in every moment, and you can get it as the answer of God to your prayer for forgiveness; you don't need to go to church for this.
This means the sacrament of penance is completely dissolved. :Penitence is transformed into a personal relationship to God and to the neighbor, against a system of means to obtain the release of objective punishments in Hell, Purgatory, and life, which the Roman system demanded.. In reality, all these concepts are undercut at least, if not abolished. Everything is put on the basis of a person-to-person relationship between God and man. You can have this relationship even in Hell. That means Hell is simply a place, but it is not a state. And that is abolished by the kind of Reformation idea of relationship to God.
Now of course this was a danger and a difficulty, that in this way many educational degrees have been abolished by Luther and only the absolute categories of the relationship between God and man: are left. The Pope did not accept this, of course, and so the conflict between Luther and the Church arose. Now let's make clear beforehand that this was not the beginning of the Reformation. Luther hoped to reform the Church, including the Pope and the priests. But the Pope and the priests didn't want to be reformed in any way. The last great bull defining the power of the Pope says: "Therefore we declare, pronounce and define that it is universally necessary for salvation that every human creature is subject to the Roman high priest." This is the bull which defines most sharply the unlimited and absolute power of the Pope.
Now Luther criticized the Church when the Church did not follow his criticism of the sacrament of penance. There is only one ultimate criterion for Christianity, namely the message of the Gospel. Therefore there is no infallibility of the Pope. The Pope may fall into error. -- Then his Catholic enemies showed him that it is not only the Pope but also some of the Councils which deserved to be attacked now. Then he didn't retire, but said: Then also the Councils may fall into error. -- And this was actually the break, because this meant even if you go from the curialistic
theory that the Pope in Rome alone is the monarch who decides... ; if you go then to the conciliaristic theory that the great Councils of the Church are absolutely infallible, even then Luther said: No, they are human, they may fall into error. The Pope could be tolerated, he says, if he were only by human law, by the law of expediency, as the chief administrator of the Church. But that is not what the Pope claims. He claims to be by Divine right, and that means he is an absolute figure in the Church. And here Luther said this cannot be stood, because no human being can ever be the vicar of the Divine power; the Divine right of the Pope is a demonic claim and actually the claim of the Antichrist. Of course, when he said this the break was clear. There is only one head of the Church, namely Christ, and the Pope as he is now is the creation of the Divine wrath to punish Christianity for its sins. This was meant theologically, and not as name-calling; he meant it very seriously, theologically, when he called the Pope the Antichrist. It was not directed against a special man and his shortcomings everybody criticized the behavior of the Pope at that time but he criticized the position of the Pope, namely that the Pope is by Divine right the representative of Christ. In this way the Pope destroys the souls, because he wants to have a power which God alone can have.
This was Luther's criticism of the Church, and this was the basis for the break with the Church. The basis for this break was not that he taught another theology, but the break was that the Pope did not admit criticism because he claimed to be cf Divine right in everything he does and thinks, officially.
One of the main things which Luther himself experienced was the importance of monasticism in the Roman church he himself was a monk. Out of the monastic attitude of the Roman church a double morals followed, the morals of counsels, advices for higher goodness, greater nearness to God, namely the monastic attitude; and then the rules which are valid for everybody and which everybody has to fulfill. The higher counsels for the monks, such as fasting, discipline, humility, celibacy, etc., make the monks something ontologically higher than the ordinary man. He has higher substantial graces, whatever he may be personally.
Now this was demanded by the historical situation when the Church became larger and larger and the masses of the people couldn't take upon themselves, as it was said, the whole yoke of Christ; they couldn't because it was too heavy for them. So a special group did it, and this group follows the special advices for higher morality and piety. They were the religiosi, those who are religious in their whole attitude, who are not religious as everybody has to be, but who make religion, so to speak, their "vocation."
Now the double morals are the main point of Luther's attack. The Divine demand is absolute and unconditional. It refers to everybody. This absolute demand destroys the whole system of religion. There is no status of perfection, as the Catholics ascribed to the monks. Everybody has to be perfect and nobody is able to be perfect. Not man's power is able to give one the graces to do the right thing; but not a special endeavor, as the monks have it. Decisive in all cases is the intention: the good will, not the magic habit of which the Catholic Church spoke. And this intention, this good will, is right even if its content is wrong. But the valuation of a personality is dependent on the inner intention of a person towards the good. Luther took this very seriously. For him it is not enough if you will to do the good, the will of God, but you must will what God wills joyfully, with your voluntary participation. And if you fulfill the whole law but you don't do it joyfully because you are allowed to do it, because you are a child and the image of God then it is worth nothing. The obedience of the servant is not the fulfillment of Christian ethics. Only he who loves, and joyfully loves, God and man is able to fulfill the law. But this is what is expected from everybody.
This means Luther turns religion and ethics around. We cannot fulfill the will of God without being united with Him. And this is impossible without forgiveness of sins. Even the best people have elements of despair, and aggressiveness and indifference and self-contradiction. Only on the basis of Divine forgiveness can the full yoke of Christ be imposed on everybody. This is completely different from a moralistic interpretation of Christianity. The moral is that which follows it might or might not follow; it should follow, essentially; sometimes it does not but the prius of it is the participation in the Divine grace in His forgiveness and in His power of being.
This makes all the difference in the world, and it is one of the most unfortunate happenings that Protestantism always is in the temptation to turn around the thing into its opposite, namely, to make the religious dimension dependent on morality. Wherever this is done, we are outside the realm of true Protestantism. You should never forget this in your congregations and everywhere: if somebody says, "Oh, God must love me, and I love Him because I do almost everything He demands." namely, what the suburban neighbor demands! then the religious and ethical situation is completely turned into its opposite. But if somebody says: "I know that I don't do anything good, or so little seemingly good, so ambiguous that the only thing which is good in me is that God declares that I am good and that I am able to accept this Divine declaration, and if I accept it, then it may happen that there may be a transformed reality; but the other side is the first." And that is one of the centers of the whole Reformation. Therefore the famous phrase, "by faith alone," (sola fide.)
This phrase is the most misunderstood and distorted, phrase of the Reformation. People have taught it means that if you do the good work of believing, having faith in something something unbelievable, especially then you do that good work which makes you good before God. The phrase should be not "by faith alone" but "by grace alone, which is received through faith." So if you want to be correct, don't translate sola fide by the English phrase "by faith alone," but "by grace alone, through faith," whereby "faith" means nothing than the acceptance of grace. That is what Luther was concerned about, because he had experienced that if you do it the other way around, then you are always lost, and if you take it seriously you are in absolute despair, because if you know yourselves, you know that you are not good; you know it as well as Paul did; and that means that ethics are the consequence and not the cause of goodness.
Now I come to that e1ement in the Roman Catholic Church which gave it its tremendous power; the sacramental element/ The Roman church Is essentially a sacramental church. This means that God is essentially seen as present, and not as somebody who is distant and only has to demand. A sacramental world-view is a world-view in which the Divine is seen as visible and real. Therefore a church of the sacrament is a church of the present God. But on the other hand the Roman church was a church in which this sacrament was administered as a magic means by the hierarchy, and only by the hierarchy, so that everybody who does not participate in it is lost, and he who participates in it, even if he is unworthy, gets the sacrament. And as you know, there were 7 sacraments. I discussed this fully before.
What does Luther do? He said: "No sacrament is effective by itself without full participation of the personal center, I. e., without the listening to the word connected with the sacrament, and the faith which accepts it. The sacrament qua sacrament cannot help at all. The magic side of sacramental thinking is destroyed.
From this follows that transubstantiation is destroyed because this doctrine makes the bread and wine a piece of Divine reality put on the altar. But such a thing does not exist. The presence of God is not a presence in terms of objective presence, on a special place, in a special form; but it is a presence for the faithful alone. There..are two criteria for this: it is only for the faithfu1, then it is only an action: Then if you come to a church and there is no sacrament spread; you don't need to do anything about it because it is pure bread,.. It: becomes more .than this only in action, only in the moment in which it is given to those who have faith. For the Roman theory it is there all the time.. If you come into an empty Roman church, you must bow down before the shrine because there God Himself is present., even if there is nobody else present except you and this sacrament. "Present" means transformation, transubstantiation. This Luther abolished. He denounced the character indelibilis as a human fiction the character which you get in baptism, confirmation, and in ordination, that whenever you have it you are always a Christian, and for instance, under the heresy laws and an object of persecution, which the Pagans and Jews are not; or if you are confirmed, you are always a soldier of Christ and have, so to speak, the invisible uniform of the Church. Or if you are ordained, you always have the power of the sacraments, so that even it you are thrown out of the Church, you can perform sacramentally valid marriages, and other things.
All this, Luther denied, calling it a human fiction. There is no such thing as a character which cannot be destroyed. If you are called to the ministry, you must minister exactly as everybody does who is called to some profession. If you go away rom it, if you become a businessman or professor or shoemaker, than you are this and no longer a minister at all, and you have no sacramental power at all. You can have priestly power, if you are a pius Christian towards everybody else. But this is going on all the time, and doesn't need ordination.
Now this took away the sacramental foundation of the whole hierarchical system. But most important was his attack on the Mass. The Mass is a sacrifice we bring to God, but we have nothing to bring to God, and therefore it is a blasphemy, a sacrilege. And in most Protestant countries in the period of the Reformation, the state government, prohibited as still in many countries today there are laws against printed or spoken, blasphemy the Mass, which was supposed to be such a blasphemy, and therefore it was persecuted and it a blasphemy because here man gives something to God, instead of expecting that God has given everything He has to give, namely Himself in Christ, and that nothing more than this was needed. This was perhaps the most profound attack on the Roman system, which is a sacramental system completely, and which was dissolved just by this criticism.
Now this is the conflict of Luther with the Roman church some of the main points in it. I now come to the other conflicts, the conflict with the humanists and the conflict with the Evangelical Radicals.
The Conflict with the Humanists
The representative of humanism at that time was Erasmus of Rotterdam. In the beginning they had friendly feelings for each other, but then the attacks on both sides created a break between Protestantism and humanism, and this break has not been healed up to today, in spite of the fact that Zwingli tried to heal it as early as in the 20's of the 16th century. Erasmus was a humanist, but he was a Christian humanist; he was not anti-religious at all. He believed himself to be a better Christian than any Pope of his time, and he agreed in this in unity with Luther. But he was a humanist, and that means he had special characteristics distinguishing him from the prophet. You have Dr. Richardson's article on the prophet and the scholar, and the confrontation of Luther and Erasmus in these terms. What Luther couldn't stand in Erasmus, he has expressed very clearly. He couldn't stand his unexistential detachment, the detachment from the religious content without passion, as he says; the scholarly attitude towards the contents of the Christian faith. He felt that in Erasmus there is some unconcern, while the problems are matters of ultimate concern.
The second is that as every scholar has to be skeptical about the traditions and the meaning of the words and everything else which he shall interpret, Erasmus was a scholarly skeptic. Luther couldn't stand this. For him absolute statements in matters of ultimate concern are needed.
Third, Luther was a radical, in political and every other respect; but Erasmus seemed to be to him a man of adaptation to the political situation not for his own sake but in order to have peace on earth.
Fourthly, Erasmus has a strongly educational point of view. The development of the individual in educational terms is decisive for him. And all humanism, up to today, has this educational drive and passion.
Fifth, Erasmus' criticism is rational criticism. It is lacking in revolutionary aggressiveness.
Now all this Luther sees in Erasmus. But the whole discussion finally focused around the doctrine of the freedom of the will. Erasmus was for human freedom; Luther against. But now please don't write that down without writing down everything I have to add now!: Neither Erasmus nor Luther doubted about man's psychological freedom. They didn't think man is a stone or animal. And even Karl Barth says: I know well that man is not a turtle But he doesn't know it well! because he doesn't see that this means that man has freedom, freedom of deliberation and decision, freedom of contradicting himself, and that in this freedom which is his rational structure his image of God is implied.
Erasmus as well as Luther knew that man is essentially free, that he is man only because he is free. But now on this basis they drew opposite consequences. For Erasmus this freedom is also valid if you try to come to God. You can help God. You can cooperate with God, for your salvation. For Luther this is absolutely impossible. It takes the honor from God and from Christ and makes man into something which he is not. So he speaks of "the enslaved will.". . . but it is the free will which is enslaved. It is ridiculous to speak of a stone that it has no free will. Only he who has free will can be said to have an enslaved will, namely enslaved by the demonic forces of reality.
Luther attacks the Anselmian point of view by saying that justification by faith is the only point of certainty, and that it is not our contribution to salvation that can give us quiet consolation. He says that in Erasmus the meaning of Christ is denied and finally that the honor of God is denied.
I think that here we have a very fundamental difference between the two attitudes. The attitude of the humanist is that of detached analysis. And if it comes to synthesis, it is that of the moralist, in contrast to the prophet, who sees everything in the light of God alone
Luther's conflict with the Evangelical Radicals: This is especially important for you because the prevailing type in this country is not produced by the Reformation directly, but by the indirect effect of the Reformation through the movements of Evangelical Radicalism. What is the meaning of this concept?
First of all we must agree that they all are dependent on Luther. They have a long history in the Middle Ages, but only Luther liberated the tendencies which were alive in the Middle Ages from the suppression to which they were condemned. Luther's emphasis on almost all points was accepted by the Evangelical Radicals, but then they went beyond him. They had the feeling that he stood half-way. First of all his principle of the Bible to which we come tomorrow is something which they attacked. God has not spoken but once, in the past, and then has become silent; but He always speaks, He speaks in the heart or depths of every man, if this man is prepared by his own cross to hear. The Spirit is in the depths of the heart, although not by ourselves but from God. From this point of view, he says that it is always possible that the Spirit speaks through individuals.
Now I speak mostly of Thomas Muenzer, who is the most creative of the Evangelical Radicals. But in order to receive this Spirit, man must participate in the cross. Luther, he said, preaches a sweet Christ the Christ of forgiveness. But we must, he said, also preach the bitter Christ, namely the Christ who says that we must take His cross upon ourselves. The cross is, so we can say, the extreme, the boundary situation. It is internal and external. And Muenzer, in an astonishing way, expresses that in modern existentialist categories. It is the human finiteness which, if he realizes it, produces in him a disgust about the whole world. Then he really becomes poor in spirit. Then the anxiety of creaturely existence grasps him. Then he finds that courage is possible. But then it happens that God appears to him and that he is transformed. And if this has happened to him, then he can have very special revelations. He can have individual visions, not only about theology as a whole, but also about matter of the daily life.
These groups felt on this basis that they are the real fulfillment of the Reformation, that Luther remained half-Catholic, that they are elected; while the Roman church has no certainty for any individual with respect to justification; while Luther has the certainty of justification but not of election; while Calvin had the certainty not only of justification but at least to a great extent also of being elected Muenzer and his followers had the certainty of being elected within a group of elected, namely the sectarian group.
From this point of view of the inner Spirit, all sacraments fall down. And the immediacy of the procession of the Spirit makes even what is left of the office of the minister unnecessary in the sectarian groups. Instead of that, they have another impetus, namely the transformation of society either by suffering, if they cannot change it, and abstinence from arms and oaths and public office and all those things involving you in state existence; or if they are radical, then by political measures, by the sword overcoming the evil society in which one lives; and then one becomes a religious socialist. These two movements we have in that period, and these movements and the whole attitude have influenced this country very much.
Lecture 32: Reformation Sects. Luther's Teachings Faith, Concept of God.
For Luther, the lack of love towards God is the basis of sin, the "word of God" has at least a half dozen meanings, and God is both totally imminent and totally transcendent.
We spoke yesterday of the doctrine of the Evangelical Radicals, or Enthusiasts. as they are often called. I gave you some of their main doctrines. The main difference is the emphasis on the presence of the Divine Spirit not only in the Biblical writings but also in every individual in every moment. giving even counsels for daily-life activities.
Now Luther had another feeling. His feeling was basically the feeling of the wrath of God, of God who is Judge. This was his central experience. Therefore when he speaks of the presence of the Spirit, he speaks of it in terms of repentance. of personal wrestling. which makes it impossible to have the Spirit as a possession. This seems to me the difference between all perfectionist and pietistic attitudes, that in Luther and the other Reformers. the main emphasis is on the distance of God from man. Therefore the Neo-Reformation theology of today. people like Barth. emphasize again and again that God is in Heaven and you are on earth. This feeling of distance - -or as Kierkegaard has aid. repentance, is the normal relationship of man to God.
The second point in which the Reformation theology differs from the theology of the radical evangelistic movements. is the different meaning of the cross. For the Reformers, the cross is the objective event of salvation and not the personal experience of creatureliness. This is a fundamental difference. Therefore the participation in the cross either in terms of human weakness or in terms of human moral endeavor to take one's own weakness upon oneself. is not the real problem with which the Reformation deals. This is presupposed. But this is something which we often have today as a nuance, even in our place here, that some of us emphasize more following the Reformation theology the objectivity of salvation through the cross of Christ; and others. the taking the cross upon oneself. These two are, of course, not contradictions in any way. but in most important problems of human existence it is not a matter of exclusiveness but of emphasis. And it is clear that those of us who are influenced by the Reformation tradition emphasize more the objectivity of the cross. as the cross of Christ. as the self-sacrifice of God in man. etc.; while others who come from the evangelistic tradition which is so strong in this country emphasize more the taking upon oneself one's cross, namely the cross of misery, etc. The next point is that in Luther the revelation is always connected with the objectivity of the historical revelation, I. e., with Scripture, and not in the innermost center of the human soul, which as Luther felt was the pride of the sectarian movements that they believed that in the real human situation it is possible to have immediate revelation, apart from the historical revelation as embodied in the Bible.
The other is that Luther and the whole Reformation, even Zwingli, emphasized infant baptism, namely that baptism is the symbol of the prevenient grace of God and not dependent on the subjective reaction. Of course, the subjective reaction of the infants is either not possible or, as Luther and Calvin believed, a Divine miracle. But that is not decisive. The decisive thing is that God starts, and that before we answer much can happen; that the time difference between the indefinite moment of maturity and the definite moment of baptism doesn't mean anything in the sight of God. Baptism is the Divine offer of forgiveness, and to this we always can come back. But adult baptism emphasizes the objective participation, the ability of the mature man to decide.
Here you have again the difference.
Then a last point: Luther was very much worried, as were the other Reformers, by the way in which these sects isolated themselves and emphasized that they were the true Church, and that each of their members was elected. Such a possibility was completely out of the thinking of the Reformers, and I think in this they were right; psychologically it is well known that the sects of the Reformation period were very much out of love towards anybody who did not belong to the sect, and I believe that some of you probably have had similar experiences even today with sectarian or quasi -sectarian groups. What is most lacking in them is not theological insight, not even insight in their negativities, the love which is identifies the negative situation in which we are, with the negative situation of everybody outside or inside the center.
The final point was the eschatology: the eschatological negation of the state, the revolutionary criticism which we find in the sectarian movements in the Reformation period, either more passive or more active, were negated by the Reformers by their eschatology, namely the eschatology of the coming kingdom of God, from a vertical line nothing to do with the horizontal line, which is, so to speak, given to the devil anyhow. Luther always spoke of the beloved last day, and he was longing for it, in order to be liberated not so much as Melanchthon, from the "wrath of the theologians," but from the power-play which was at that time not much nicer than it is today.
So it was another mood, and again this mood is so visible in the present status of things in Europe and here. Here under the strong influence of the Evangelical Radicalist movements we have the tendency to transform reality. In Europe we have, especially today after the two World Wars, the eschatological feeling, the desire for and the vision of the end in a very realistic sense, and the resignation of the Christians with respect to the power-plays. Now all such things I must emphasize again are exaggerations, typical structures, and no typical structure is ever empirically real; everything empirically real is an approximation to a type. But I would say, after my double experience in Europe and here, that it is very visible that European Christianity is dependent on the Reformation especially, and the American ~ more on the experiences of Evangelical Radicalism, especially in this political point of view.
Now I come from Luther's discussion with the Roman church,. . Erasmus, and Thomas Muenzer, to Luther's doctrines themselves. There I am starting with the principle of ,biblicism~ which is attributed to Luther. Whenever you see a monument representing Luther, you will always find that he is represented with the Bible in his hands. This is a little misleading, and the Catholic church is right when it says that there was biblicism in the whole Middle Ages and I have emphasized that in this class very often; the biblicistic attitude is especially strong in the late Middle Ages immediately preceding the Reformation. And in a Catholic nominalist theologian such as Ockham, we have already a radical criticism of the Church by the Bible.
Nevertheless in Luther the biblical principle means something else. What did it mean before? In the nominalistic theology of people like Ockham, it meant the law of the Church, which may be turned against the actual Church but which remains a law. And on the other hand, we have the Renaissance relationship to the Bible, in which the Bible is the source book of the true religion, to be edited by good philologians such as Erasmus. These were the two attitudes the legal attitude in nominalism, the doctrinal attitude in humanism. But neither of these was able to break through the fundamentals of the Catholic system, which are anyhow the system of the law. Therefore only a new principle of the understanding of the Bible was able to break through the nominalistic and humanistic doctrines.
Luther had many of these elements in himself. He valuated the philological edition of the New Testament by Erasmus; he often falls back into nominalistic attitudes of a legalistic character in connection with the doctrine of inspiration, that every word of the Bible is inspirated by the dictate of God. This happened to him again and again, and especially when he had to defend a doctrine as in the case of the Lord's Supper, where a literal interpretation of the biblical word seemed to support his point of view. But beyond this he had something which is quite different from all this, and which brings his interpretation of the Bible in unity with, his new understanding of the relationship to God. I can make this clear when I speak of the word of God.
Now you don't hear any term more often in Lutheran traditions here and in Europe, and in Neo-Lutheran Reformation tradition, as in Barth, and others than the term "word of God." Now if you hear this term, then you hear a term which is more misleading than you can perhaps realize. In Luther himself it has at least six different meanings. But let's go to the first one which is of importance, namely the relationship to the Bible.
Luther said but he knew better that the Bible is the word of God; but he often said, when he really wanted to express what he meant, that in the Bible there is the word of God, the message of the Christ, and His work of atonement, His creation of the forgiveness of sins, and salvation. He makes it very clear, when he says, it is the message of the Gospel, which is in the Bible; and therefore the Bible contains the word of God. But he also says: The message existed before the Bible, namely, in the preaching of the Apostles. And as Calvin says, later, Luther says that the writing which led to the books of the Bible was an emergency situation; it was necessary, but it was emergency. Therefore only the religious content is important; the message is an object of experience. "If I know what I believe, I know the content of the Scripture, since the Scripture does not contain anything except Christ." The criterion of Apostolic truth is the Scripture, and the standard of what is truth in the Scripture is whether they deal with Christ and His work. (ob sie Christum treiben) , I. e., whether they deal with, or concentrate on, or drive toward Christ. And only those books contain powerfully and Spiritually the word of God which deal with Christ and His work.
He distinguishes special books, from this point of view. He says: The main books in which this criterion is fulfilled are the Fourth Gospel, Paul's Epistles, and I Peter. These are the books in which Christ is dealt with centrally. From there, other books can be judged. And even beyond the Bible, Luther can say very courageous things. He says, for instance, that Judas and Pilate would be apostolic if they gave the message of Christ, and Paul and John wou1d not if they gave not the message of Christ. He even says that everybody today who. had the Spirit as powerfully as the prophets and apostles, could create new Decalogues and another Testament; only because we have not the Spirit in this fullness must we drink from their fountain.
This of course is extremely nominalistic and anti-humanistic. This is emphasizing the Spiritual character of the Bible. It is a creation of the Divine Spirit in those who have written it, but it is not a dictation!
From this he was able to give a half-religious. half-historical criticism of the biblical books. It does not mean anything whether the five books of Moses were written by Moses or not. He knew very well that the texts of the prophets were in great disorder. He also knew that the later prophets are dependent on the earlier ones. He also knew that the concrete prophecies of the prophet often proved to be errors. He says that the Book of Esther and the Revelations of John do not really belong to the Scripture; the Fourth Gospel excels the Synoptics in value and power. and James' Epistle has no evangelical character at all.
Now I would say that although Lutheran Orthodoxy was not able to preserve this great prophetic tradition of Luther ~ one thing was done by his freedom namely it was possible for Protestantism to do something which no other religion in the whole world was able to do: it could receive the historical treatment of the biblical literature we call it often with very misleading words "higher" or biblical criticism. It is simply the historical method applied to the holy books of a religion. Now this is something which is impossible in Catholicism or at least in a very limited way only possible there. It is impossible in Islam Prof. Jeffery once told the faculty that every Islamic scholar who would try to do what he did with the text of the Koran, would be in danger; research into the original text of the Koran would imply historical criticism of the present text, and this is impossible in a legalistic religion. So if we are legalists with respect to the Bible, in terms of dictation, we fall back to the stage of religion which we find in Islam, and we have felt nothing of the Protestant freedom which we find in Luther.
Now that is the main thing I wanted to say. There are many other problems. There is one with which you often probably deal when you discuss the relationship of systematic theology to the historical departments, especially to the Old and New Testament departments. There the question is: What has the biblical department to do with the systematic, and vice versa? And I don't know that this is very often in your minds. Let me say one thing about it. Luther was able to interpret the ordinary text already in his translation, and then in his preaching and writings, generally, in such a way that he did not have to take refuge in a special pneumatic, let us say, or spiritual interpretation besides the philological interpretation. The ideal of a theological seminary against which the historical departments are sinners as much as the systematic departments, including myself would be to give biblical interpretations in such a way that the philological exactitude, including all that we call higher criticism, is combined with an existential application of the biblical text to the questions which we have to ask, and which are supposed to be answered in systematic theology. The separation into "experts" is a very unhealthy state of things where the New Testament man tells me "1 cannot discuss this problem with you because I am not an expert," and I say - -which is always sinful sometimes to an Old and New Testament colleague, "1 cannot say that because I am not an expert in Old or New Testament." And insofar as we all do it, we really against the original meaning of Luther's attempt to remove the allegoric interpretation and to return to a philological interpretation which is at the same time Spiritual.
So you see these problems are very actual ones, even today, and I think here the student body can do a good deal: you can simply not accept that from us, that we are "experts" and not theologians any more only "experts." Don't accept that. Ask the biblical man about the existential meaning of what they give you, and the systematic theologian about the biblical foundation in the real biblical texts, as they are philologically understood.
Now I come to two doctrines of Luther in which the Reformation is so far superior to everything which is going on today in popular Christianity that I want to emphasize this very much, namely his doctrine of sin and faith. For Luther sin is unbelief. "Unbelief is the real sin.""Nothing justifies except faith, and nothing makes sinful except unbelief." "Unbelief is the sin altogether ." "The main justice is faith, and so the main evil is unbelief." Therefore the word 'sin' includes what we are living and doing besides the faith in God." Now this presupposes a concept of faith which has nothing whatsoever to do with the acceptance of doctrine so I come to this immediately. But first what does it do for the concept of sin? It means that the differences of quantity (heavy and light sins), of relativity (sins which can be forgiven, in this or that way) do not matter at all. What they mean is only sin if it is related to God. Everything which separates us from Him has equal weight; they are not more or less; they have qualitative character.
This means that for Luther, life as a whole, nature and substance, are corrupted.
And here I want to say something immediately about this term "total corruption," or depravity, which you will often hear. Please understand this in the right way. It does not mean that nothing is good in man no Reformer or Neo-Reformation theology ever said that. But it means that there are not parts in man which are exempted from existential distortion; for instance, not his thinking, or some other part in him. And in this sense the concept of total depravity would be translated by a modern psychologist: man is distorted, or in conflict with himself, in the center of his personal life. This means that everything is included, and that is what Luther meant. And if somebody speaks of "total," then please always ask whether he means it in the absurd way which would make it impossible to say that he is totally depraved, because a totally depraved man would not say that he is totally depraved. Even saying that we are sinful presupposes something above sin. But what he can say is that there is no section in him which is not touched by self-contradiction, or sin. This is what Luther means, and this includes the intellect and all other things. The evil are evil since they do not fulfill the one command, which is not a command, but which must be done voluntarily, namely, the love to God. So it comes now to the fundamental principle that it is the lack of love towards God which is the basis of sin. As I said before, it is the lack of faith; both things are said by Luther all the time, but faith always precedes because it is an act in which we receive God, and love is the act in which we are united with God. Everybody is in this situation, and nobody knew more about the structural power of evil in individuals and in groups than Luther. He didn't call it compulsion, as we would call it today, in terms of modern psychology; but he knew that it was just this, that there is a power he called it the demonic power, the power of Satan which is more than individual decisions. These structures of the demonic of which you all have had an experience in these last hours is a reality, and Luther knows that it is impossible to understand sin in terms of special acts of freedom.. You must understand it in terms of a structure, of a demonic structure which has compulsory power over everybody, and which can be counterbalanced only by a structure of grace. And we all are in the conflict between these two structures. Sometimes we are ridden, as Luther describes it, by the one compulsion, the Divine; and sometimes by the other. But the Divine is not possession or compulsion; it is at the same time liberating, because it liberates what we essentially are.
Luther's strong emphasis on the demonic powers comes out in his doctrine of the Devil, whom he understood as an organ of the Divine wrath, and sometimes of the wrath of God itself There are statements in Luther where one doesn't know whether he felt something as the wrath of God or as the Devil. Actually it is the same for him, when he says that as we see God so he is for us; if we see Him in the demonic mask then He is the demonic mask to us, and He destroys us. If we see Him in the infant Jesus, where in His lowliness He makes visible His love to us, then He has this love to us. So he was a depth psychologist in the profoundest way before knowing the methodological research we know. .. But he saw .these things in non-moralistic depths, which was lost not only in Calvinistic Christianity to a great extent, but also in Lutheranism itself.
This leads to a consideration of Luther's doctrine of faith. Faith is for him receiving God, when He gives Himself to us. He distinguishes it completely from historical faith (fides historica), which acknowledges historical facts. It is for him the acceptance of the gift of God, the presence of the grace of God which grasps &. Luther has again and again emphasized the receptive character of faith nihil facere sedtantum recipere doing nothing, only receiving. These ideas are all concentrated in the acceptance of being accepted, namely in the forgiveness of sins, which produces a quiet consciousness, and which produces a spiritual vitality towards God and man. "Faith is a living and restless thing. The right; living faith can by no means be lazy." So in other words the element of knowledge in faith is an existential element and therefore everything else follows from it. "Faith makes the person; person makes the works, not works the person." Now that is something of which I would say that it is again confirmed by everything we know today in terms of depth psychology. It is the ultimate meaning of a life which makes a person. And a split personality is not a personality which doesn't do good works. There are people who do many good works and again I refer to the example we have in our minds and hearts (referring to the recent death of a classmate) but where the ultimate center is lacking. And this ultimate center is what Luther calls faith: that makes a person; but faith of course not as accepting doctrines, even any Christian doctrine, but faith .as accepting the power itself out of which we come and to which we go, however the doctrines may be through which we accept it.
Now you know, in my "Courage to Be," I have called that absolute faith, a faith which can lose every concrete content but which still can exist as an absolute affirmation of life as life, of being as being. Therefore the only negative thing is what he calls disbelief, not being united with the power of being itself, with the Divine reality over against the forces of separation and compulsion.
This is in correspondence with Luther's concept of God, one of the strongest ideas of God in the whole history of human and Christian thought. It is not a God who is a being besides others, but it is a God whom we can have only through contrast. What is hidden before God is visible before the world, and what is hidden before the world is visible before God. "Which are the virtues (I. e. powers of being) of God? Infirmity, passion, cross, persecution: these are the weapons of God." "The power of man is emptied by the cross, but in the weakness of the cross the Divine power is present." And from this he says, about the state of man: "Being man means non-being, becoming, being. It means being in privation, in possibility, in action. It means always being in sin, in justification, in justice. It means always being a sinner, a penitent, a just one." Now this is paradoxical and it makes clear what Luther means with God. God can be seen only through the law of contrast.
This is confirmed by his idea of God when he goes to ontological considerations, as he does in his writings on the sacrament. He denies everything which can make God finite, or a being besides others. "Nothing is small, God is even smaller. Nothing is so large, God is even larger. He is an unspeakable being, above and outside everything we can name and think. Who knows what that is, what is called God'? It is over body, over spirit, over everything we can say, hear and think." And from this he makes the great statement that God is nearer to all creatures than they are to themselves. "God has found the way that His own Divine essence can be completely in all creatures, and in everyone especially, deeper, more internally, more present, than the creature is to itself and at the same time nowhere and cannot be comprehended by anyone, so that He embraces all things and is within them. God is at the same time in every piece of sand totally, and nevertheless in all, above all, and out of all creatures." Now here you have formulas in which the old conflict between the theistic and the pantheistic tendency in the doctrine of God is solved, in formulas which show the greatness of God, the inescapabilty of His presence, and at the same time, His absolute transcendence. And I would say, very dogmatically: Every doctrine of God which leaves out one of these two elements doesn't speak really of God but of something which is less than God.
This is also expressed in his doctrine of omnipotence "I call the omnipotence of God not that power by which He does not do many things He could do, but the actual power by which He potently does everything in everything." ;I e. . He does not sit beside the world and look at it from outside but what He actually does is something quite different: He is acting in all of them, in every moment that is what "omnipotence" means. The absurdity of a God who calculates whether He should do what He could do, is removed by the powerful idea of God as creation.
Luther then speaks of the creatures as the "masks" of God, I. e., God is hidden behind them. "All creatures are God's masks and veils in order to make them work and help Him to create many things." Therefore all natural orders and institutions are filled with Divine presence, and so is the historical process. He deals with all our problems of the interpretation of history. The great men in history, the Hannibals, the Alexanders, and Napoleons and Hitlers he would add, or, when he speaks of the Goths, the Vandals. the Turks or the Nazis or.Communists. he would add today they are driven by God to attack and to destroy; and in this sense He speaks to us through them. They are God's word to us. even to the Church. Especially the heroic persons break through the ordinary rules of life. They are armed by God. God calls them and forces them, but gives them their hour, or as I would say. their kairos. Outside of this kairos they cannot do anything. Without the right hour, nobody can do anything. And in the right hour. no one can resist those who act in the right hour. But .although God acts in everything in history, history is at the same time the struggle between, God and Satan and their different realms. And the reason why Luther could makes these two statements is that God creatively works even in the demonic forces. They could not have being; if they were not dependent on Him as the Ground of Being, as the creative Power of Being in them, in every moment. He makes it possible that Satan is the seducer, and makes it possible at the same time that Satan is conquered.
This is Luther's idea of God, and however you feel about it, it is certainly a great, powerful, religious, and. not moralistic idea of God. And that is what I wanted to mediate to you today.
Lecture 33: Luther (cont.) Christology, Doctrines of the Church and State. Zwingli.
Luther holds that if a man is righteous himself, God is righteous. If a man is pure, God is pure for him. If he is evil, God is evil for him. Luther defines the Word, the Church, and the State. Then Tillich turns to the differences between Luther and Zwingli.
We now come to something about Luther's doctrine of Christ. He is interesting first of all in his method, which is quite different from the method of the old Church, It is, as I would call it, a real method of correlation., namely correlation between what Christ is for us and what we say about Him. The approach is an approach from the point of view of the effects Christ has upon us. Melanchthon in his Loci, his famous dogmatik, has expressed the same idea. The object of Christology is to deal with the benefits of Christ, not with Him and His nature besides His benefits. Luther says, describing this method of correlation, "As somebody is in himself, so
is God to him, as object. If a man is righteous himself, God is righteous. If a man is pure, God is pure for him. If he is evil, God is evil for him. Therefore He will appear to the damned as the evil in eternity, but to the righteous as the righteous, according to what He is in Himself." Now this is a correlative speaking about God. Calling Christ God means, for Luther, having experienced Divine effects which comes from Him, namely forgiveness of sins. If you speak about Him besides His effects, then this is a wrong objectifying method.. You must speak of Him in terms of the effects He can have. He who has Divine effects is Divine this is the criterion.
What we say about Him has always, therefore. the character of participation suffering with Him, being glorified with Him; crucified with Him, being resurrected with Him. "Preaching the Crucified means preaching our guilt and the crucifixion of our evils." "So we go with Him ~ first servant, therefore now King, first suffering, therefore now in glory; first judged: therefore now Judge." So you must act: first humiliation, in order to get exultation!" Together condemned and blessed, living and dead, in pain and in joy/" This is said of Christ and is said of us. The law of contradiction, which we have discussed, the law of God always acting paradoxically is fulfilled in Christ; He is the key to God's acting, namely by contradicting the human system of valuations. This paradox is also valid in the Church. It is, in its visible form, miserable, humble, but in this humbleness exactly as in the humbleness of Christ, we have the glory of the Church. Therefore the glory of the Church is especially visible in periods of persecution, suffering and humility. Christ therefore is God for us, our God, God as He is in relationship to us. Luther also says: He is the word of God. This is the decisive thing, and from this point of view Protestantism should think Christology in existential terms, namely in terms of never giving up the immediate correlation of human faith and what is said about Christ, and not making Him an object where you discuss chemical formulas, between Divine and human nature; or biological formulas, between Son of God and Son of Man all this has sense only if it is existentially received.
Luther emphasizes very much the presence of God in Christ. In the Incarnation the Divine Word or Logos is incarnated. Luther's doctrine of the Word has different degrees. First it is the internal Word, which he also calls the heart of God, or the eternal Son. Only this internal Word, which is God's inner Self-manifestation, is perfect. As the heart of man is hidden, so the heart of God is hidden. The internal Word of God, His inner Self-manifestation, is hidden to man. But Luther says: :We hope that in he future we shall look to this Word, when God has opened His heart,. .by introducing us into His heart."
The second meaning of the Word, in Luther: The Word which is Christ as the visible word. In Christ the heart of God has become flesh, I. e., historical reality. In this way we can have the hidden word of the Divine knowledge of Himself, although only for faith, and never as an object among other objects.
Thirdly, the Word of God is the spoken word, by prophets, by Jesus, by the Apostles, and so the Biblical word, in which the internal word is outspoken. But the revealing. Being of the eternal word in Christ is more than all the spoken words of the Bible. They witness to Him, but they are only in an indirect way the Word of God. Luther was never so bibliolatrous as so many Christians still are today. And when we speak today about the theology of the "word," then we can say Luther was not a theologian of the word in this sense, namely if "word" is translated by "talking." "Word" for him was Self-manifestation of God, and this was already by no means only in the words of the Bible. In it, it was in, with, and under, but not identical with it.
Luther has a fourth meaning of the word of God, namely the word of preaching, but this is only number four, and if somebody speaks of the "Church of the word," thinking of the predominance of preaching, in the services, then he is certainly not a follower of Luther in this respect.
Luther's doctrine of incarnation has a very special character. He emphasizes again and again the smallness of God, in the Incarnation. Man cannot stand the naked Absolute, God; he is driven to despair if he deals with it directly. Therefore He has given the Christ, in whom He has made Himself small. "In the other works, God is recognized according to the greatness of His power, wisdom, and justice, and His works appear too terrible. But here, in Christ, appears His sweetness, mercy, and charity." Without knowing Him we are not able to stand God's majesty and are driven to insanity and hate. This is the reason why Luther was so much interested in Christmas, and has written some of the most beautiful Christmas hymns and poems. The reason is that he emphasizes the small God in Christ, and Christ is smallest in the cradle. And so this paradox, that he who is in the cradle is He who is Almighty God at the same time, was for Luther the real understanding of Christmas. This was Christmas for him, this mystical paradox of the smallest and most helpless of all beings, having in himself the center of Divinity. And this is something which we must understand, out of his thinking in the paradoxical nature of God's Self-revelation, that the slowest and weakest is the strongest, because God acts paradoxically.
Luther's doctrine of the Church:
Here we ask the question, which nobody can omit asking who knows the Reformation: Is it possible that on the basis of these principles of the Reformation, which I have developed, that a Church can live? Doesn't a Church mean something else, namely a community, organized, authoritarian, with fixed rules, traditions, etc? Isn't a Church necessarily Catholic, and is not the Protestant principle that God alone is everything and man's acceptance of God is only the secondary thing, doesn't this Protestant principle contradict the possibility of having a Church?
Now there is no doubt that Luther's doctrine of the Church is his weakest point, and that the Church problem was the most unsolved problem which the Reformation left to further generations. And the reason is that the Catholic system was not replaced and could not be replaced definitively by a Protestant system of equal power, because of the anti -authoritarian and anti-hierarchical form of Protestant thinking.
The type of the Church which Luther chooses and with him Zwingli and Calvin .against Evangelical Radicals, is the ecclesiastical in contrast to the sectarian type. You know all this distinction from Troeltsch, and it is a very good distinction. It is a distinction between a Church which is the mother, out of which we come, which always was there, which we have not chosen, to which we belong by birth and if we awake out of the dimness of the early stages of life, we can perhaps reaffirm that we belong to it in confirmation; but we already belong to it objectively.
Now this is quite different in the churches of the radical Enthusiasts where the individual deciding that he wants to be a member of the "church" is the creative power of the church. The church is made by a covenant by the decision of individuals to, make a church, namely an assembly of God. So here you find everything is dependent on the Independent individual who is not born from the Mother Church, but who produces active church communities. These differences are very visible if you come from the Continent, where we have the ecclesiastical, while you have, even in the old denominations here the sectarian type.
Luther's distinction between the visible and the invisible Church :is one of the most difficult things to understand. The one way in which you can understand it immediately is to understand when you hear those words that they are the same Church, they are not two Churches. This is the main point we mus t make. The invisible Church is the Spiritual quality of the visible Church. And the visible Church is the empirical and always distorted actualization of the Spiritual Church. So they are not two realities. They are one and the same. This Was perhaps the most important point of the Reformers against the sects. The sects wanted to identify the Church according to its visible and its invisible side. The visible Church must be purified, purged as all totalitarian groups call it today from everybody who is not Spiritually a member of the Church. This presupposes that you know who is Spiritually a member of the Church. And this presupposes judging, looking into the heart, into which God alone can look. This of course produces something which the Reformers could not accept, because they knew that there is nobody who does not belong to the "infirmary" that is the Church, as they called it, the infirmary which is the visible Church. But this "infirmary" is for everybody; nobody can get out of it definitely. And therefore everybody belongs to the Church essentially, even if he is Spiritually far away from it.
Now what is this Church? The Church is an object of faith, according to its true essence. It is, as Luther said, "hidden in spirit." It is an object of faith. When you see the actual working, the ministers, the building, the congregation, the administration, the devotions, etc., then you know that in this visible Church, with all its shortcomings, there the invisible Church is hidden. It is an object of faith, and it demands much faith, if you look at the life of the ordinary present-day congregations, and have the faith that in this life, which is by no means a life of high standing, in any respect, the Spiritual Church is present. And you can believe it only if you believe that it is not the people who make the 'Church, but it is the foundation, which is not the people but the sacramental reality, the Word, which is the Christ. Otherwise we would despair about the Church.
And don't ever forget that for Luther and for the Reformers, the Church in its true nature is a Spiritual matter Luther also called it invisible; spiritual and invisible is usually the same in him; it is an object of faith and cannot be shown. And so when you tell somebody who criticizes you because of the Church, and you say: "Yes, it is a quite good institution; there are many good people who come out of it; some people in it are much more serious than some secular people; some are very willing to sacrifice, and the moral standards are always very high, on the average higher than other groups in all this you are right, but you don't speak of the Church. And then the next day you can find that you were much too optimistic and you find out it is rather miserable, what you say. This is not the basis of faith. The basis of faith is exclusively the foundation of the Church, namely Christ, the sacrament and the Word.
This is Luther's doctrine of the Church. What about the Church offices? Every Christian is a priest, and therefore has potentially the office of preaching and administering the sacraments. They all belong to the spiritual element. But for the sake of order, some especially fit personalities shall be called by the congregation for this purpose. The ministry is a matter of order. It is a vocation like all other vocations, but it is not a state of perfection or of higher graces or of anything like this. No priest is more a priest than any layman is priest. But he is the "mouthpiece" of the others, because they cannot express themselves and he can. Therefore only one thing makes the ministers, namely the call of the congregation. Ordination has no sacramental meaning at all.
"Ordaining is not consecrating,"he says. "We give in the power of the Word what we have, the authority of preaching the Word and giving the sacraments: that is ordaining." But this is not producing a higher grade in the relationship to God.
The Church government became identical very soon with the state government in the Lutheran countries, and with the society government we call it "trustees in the Calvinist countries. The reason was that the hierarchy had been removed by Luther. There is no pope, no bishops, no priests, in the technical sense. Who shall govern in the Church? Now of course first of all the ministers, but they are not sufficient; they have no power. The power comes from the princes, or from free associations with society, as we have very often in Calvinism. Therefore the princes are called by Luther the highest bishops of their realm. But they are not to interfere with the inner-religious things; they have to perform the administration the ius circa sacrum, the right around the sacred, but not into the sacred, which remains for the ministers, and every Christian.
The situation which produced this was an emergency situation. There were no bishops, no authorities, any more; but the Church needed administration and government. And so emergency bishops were created, and nobody else could be this except the electors and princes.
Out of this situation, which Luther accepted as an emergency situation, something occurred already, when it began to work, namely the state Church in Germany. The
Church became more or less and I think "more" than "less" a department of the state administration, and the princes became the arbiters of the Church in all respects. This is not intentionally so, but it shows that a Church needs a political backbone. In Catholicism it was the Pope and the hierarchy; in Protestantism it was the "outstanding members of the communion" who must take over, after the bishops have disappeared either the princes, or social groups in more democratic countries, or if the princes do not take it.
Luther's doctrine of the state:
This certainly is not an easy thing, because many people believe that Luther's interpretation of the state is the real cause of Nazism. Now first of all a few hundred years means something in history, and Luther is a little bit older than the Nazis! But this is not the decisive point. The decisive point is that the doctrine of the state was a doctrine of positivism, of a Providence which was positivistical1y interpreted. Positivism means that the things are taken as they are. The positive law is decisive, and this is connected by Luther with the doctrine of Providence. Providence brought this power and that power into existence, and therefore it is impossible to revolt against this power. You have no rational criteria by which to judge the princes. You have, of course, the right to judge them from the point of view whether they are good Christians or not. But whether or not they are, they are God-given, and so you have to be obedient to them. Historical destiny has brought in the tyrant, the Neros, , the Hitlers. And since this is historical destiny, we have to subject ourselves to it.
Now this means that the Stoic doctrine of natural law, which can be used as criticism of the positive law, has disappeared. There is only the positive law. The natural law does not really exist for Luther. The Stoic doctrines of equality and freedom of the citizen in the state, are not used by Luther at all. So he is non-revolutionary, theoretically as well as practically. Practically, he says that every Christian must stand every bad government because it comes from God providentially.
The state, for Luther, is not a reality, in itself, and it is always misleading to speak of the "state theory" of the Reformers. The word "state" is not older than the 17th or .l8th centuries, but instead of that they had the concept of Obrigkeit , I. e. ,authority, superiors. The government is the authority, the superiors, but not the structure called the "state." This means there is no democratic implication in Luther's doctrine of the state. The situation is such that the state must be accepted as it is.
But how could Luther maintain this? How could he who more than anybody else has emphasized love as the ultimate principle: of morals, accept the despotic power of the states of his time? Now he had an answer to this and this answer is very much full of spirit. He says that God does two kinds of works, the one is His own, his proper, work, as he calls it namely the work of love, which is mercy, grace, always giving. And then is "strange" work, which also is the work of love, but it is strange; it works through punishment, through threat, through the compulsory
power of the state, through all kinds of harshness, as the law demands. Now people say this is against love, and then ask the question: How can compulsory power and love be united with each other? And they derive from this a kind of anarchism, which we find so often in ideas of Christian pacifists and others. The situation formulated by Luther seems to me to be the true one. I believe that he has seen, profounder than anybody whom I know, the possibility of uniting the power element and the love element in terms of this doctrine of God's "strange work" and God's "proper work." The power of the state which makes it possible that we are sitting here, or that works of charity are done, is a work of God's love. The state has to suppress the aggression of the evil man, of those who are against love, and the strange work of love is to destroy what is against love.
Now if you call this a strange work, you are right, but it is a work of love, namely, without destroying that which is against love, love would cease to be a power on earth. Now this is the deepest form of the relationship of power and love which I know. This whole positivistic doctrine of the state makes it impossible for Lutheranism to accept revolution, from a theological point of view. Revolution is the production of chaos and even if it tries to produce order, it first produces chaos, and then the disorder is even greater. Therefore Luther was unambiguously against revolution. He accepted the positive given as a gift of destiny.
One more point. One often has said that Luther has something to do with Nazism. I think this is completely wrong. Nazism was possible in Germany, because of this positivistic authoritarianism, because of Luther's affirmation that the given prince is given forever and cannot be removed. This was, of course, a tremendous inhibition against any German revolution, if it had been possible at all which I don't believe in modern totalitarian systems. But an additional spiritual cause was the negation of any revolution, and therefore the acknowledgment of the given authority as authority by everybody. When we say that Luther, is responsible for the Nazis, then we say a lot of nonsense. When we, for instance, think of the ideology of the Nazis, then it is quite clear that this ideology is almost the opposite of Luther's. He had no nationalistic ideology; he had no tribal ideology, no racial ideology. He praised the Turkish state for its good state administration. .. From this point of view, no Nazism is in Luther.
There is perhaps another point of view: the conservatism of his political thinking. That's true, but it also is nothing except a consequence of the basic presuppositions. So don't make this mistake, even if you hear it very often from seemingly expert people. It's only true in one thing: namely, Luther has broken the back of the revolutionary will, in the Germans. There is no such thing as a revolutionary will in the Germans, but that is all we can say, and nothing beyond it.
And let me add here: some say often that it was first Luther and then Hegel who produced Nazism. This is equally nonsense, because Hegel, even if he said that the state is God on earth, didn't mean the power state: he meant the cultural unity of religion and social life, organized in a state. And if this is done, he indeed would say that there is a unity of state and Church. But ""state" is for him not the party movement of the Nazis, the relapse to tribal systems; state is. for him organized society, repressing sin.
Now I go away from Luther. What I was able to give you was rather short. Even a whole semester's seminar on him is not enough. But l hope I gave you some kind of survey helping you to overcome at least some interpretations of this great prophetic personality. In him the Reformation broke through. -- Now I come to people who took over his breakthrough and carried it through in different ways.
Zwingli is not as original a theologian as Luther was, in whom the breakthrough occurred.
He is partly dependent on and partly independent of Luther, but he is never the first beginning, as it was in Luther.
What is the character of Zwinglian Christianity? This is not so easy. Zwingli was very much influenced by the humanists. He remained his whole life a friend of Erasmus, in spite of all the roughness with which Luther separated himself from Erasmus. Zwingli did not, as later on Melanchthon also never did. These people were humanists besides being Christians. They were Christian humanists. And this is especially clear in a man like Zwingli. The authority of the Scriptures in Zwingli is based on the call of the Renaissance: Back to the sources! The Bible is the revelation of God. "God Himself wants to he the schoolmaster.". (Luther could never have written such a sentence; He is certainly something more powerful than a schoolmaster!) But the decisive difference is that Zwingli had a fully developed doctrine of the Spirit, something which was lacking in Luther and the other Reformers. "God can give truth, through the Spirit, in non-Christians also," he said. The truth is given to every individual always through the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit is present even it the word of the Bible is not present. In this way he liberated somehow from the Biblical burden which Luther put upon people.
Luther had a dynamic form of Christian life. Zwingli and, as we shall see, Calvin also had a static one: faith is psychological health. If you are psychologically healthy, then you can have faith, and vice versa. They are identical, actually. Faith for Luther is a dynamic thing, going up and down, reaching heights and depths. This is always possible for Luther. For Zwingli it is much more static, much more humanistically balanced. It is much more something which is similar to the bourgeois ideal of health. Faith is psychological health. "Christian faith is a thing which is
felt in the soul of the faithful like health in the body." The continuous breaking down and re-arising of the community with the personal, wrathful and loving God, is Luther's type. The corresponding undynamic union with God is Zwingli's type. Zwingli is progressive; Luther is paradoxical. And therefore it is so difficult to speak about the paradox, on Zwinglian soil. Either the paradox is dissolved or, if not, then it is accepted. The paradox of the Christian life against the rational progressivism of the Christian life this is the basic difference. But there is another difference to which we shall go tomorrow.
Lecture 34: Zwingli and Luther. Calvin.. Predestination and Providence. Capitalism. Church and State
Luther wanted everything as non-rational, non-legal, as possible, not only in the process of salvation but also in the interpretation of history and nature; while Zwingli and Calvin accepted nature in terms of law. Even back then they were discussing the meaning of the word "is." For Calvin, predestination was an afterthought.
We started discussing Zwingli, but my state of tiredness prevented me from giving a full account of him. I don't want to go back to it, but I want to say that the interesting thing, in the first half of the Swiss Reformation, in Zurich where Zwingli was carrying it through, is that one could call it a synthesis of Reformation and humanism. When I say this, you remember that I spoke about Luther's relationship to Erasmus and the final break, but the continuation of humanistic elements in the further Reformation on Lutheran soil, represented especially by Melanchthon. These two men, Zwingli and Melanchthon ("Melanchthon" from the Greek, meaning "black earth,") Luther worked together with Melanchthon almost from the beginning of the Reformation, in Wittenberg (the theological wing which was dependent on him was often called Philippism) i.e. dependent on Philip Melanchthon, or "Blackearth," if you want to retranslate him out of the nobly sounding Greek into less nobly sounding language! This man was deeply influenced by Erasmus, and never broke with him. Similarly with Zwingli. Both were Reformers insofar as they followed Luther. They were at the same time humanists insofar as they accepted elements coming from the master and leader of all humanism, Erasmus.
This was the difference between Luther and the Swiss reformers. When we come to Calvin, keep in mind that he is largely dependent on Zwingli, as well as on Luther, that he turns back to a certain extent from Zwingli to Luther, but in spite of all this he also was humanistically educated and in his writings shows the classical erudition in style and content.
This is the general character of the Swiss Reformation, in contrast to the Lutheran. I believe that whenever liberal theology arises, as it did from the 17th to the 19th centuries, that since that time theologians develop in all denominations who are nearer to Zwingli than to Calvin. One of the main points I made is that Zwingli believes that the Spirit is directly working in the human soul and that therefore God's ordinary working goes through the Word, the Biblical message, but that God, extraordinarily, can also work on people who never had contact with the Christian message with people whom we speak of as living in foreign religions, or the humanists. The examples given by Zwingli are mostly from Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, and others.
I just read yesterday a hymn which, besides Christ and Luther, l think Socrates was in the content to be sung by a congregation of southern Negroes or Middle Western peasants. And I don't think whether it is very wise to bring theology in this way into a hymn. And if people like Zwingli, Calvin, and others, speak of revelation and salvation in men like Socrates, and Seneca, and many others, whom they mention, then there is a mistake in this, the mistake that they know pagan piety only in these representatives; but pagan piety has exactly the same character as Christian piety in this respect, that it is at least equally intensive in the common people who are really pious with respect to what they know of God, and these are the men they should have mentioned. But since they were good humanists, they mentioned only their own sociological class, namely the people who were not only great men but who also belonged to the intelligentsia. And if you ever decide as ministers to take such things into a hymn, please decide against it. Although I gave you in these classes as much Socrates and Plato as I could, nevertheless I don't sing to them
Now I come to another point, the immediacy of the Spirit, the possibility of having the Spirit without the Word. I didn't discuss last time the special doctrine of God in Zwingli, which is a very important doctrine, namely the doctrine that God is the universal dynamic power of being in everything that is. In this sense you can recognize some of my own theological thinking in Zwingli and Calvin, but you can recognize it also in Luther only that the Zwinglian humanistic form in which this was conceived has much more rational deterministic character God works through the natural law. And therefore the idea of predestination which Zwingli strongly accepted has a color of rational determinism. We shall see that the same is true of Calvin, while in Luther it has much more the character of Occamism and Scotusism, namely the irrational acting of God in every moment, which cannot be subjected to any law.
This has something to do and here is another point of difference between the Lutheran and the Zwinglian Reformation, namely that the law plays a different role in both of them. In Zwingli it is not the law which makes us sinful, but the law shows us that we are sinful; while Luther had the profound psychology which we have rediscovered in modern psychological terms, that the law produces resistance and therefore, as Paul has called it, makes sin more sinful. This was lacking very much in Zwinglian and also in Calvinistic thinking. The concept of law has a very positive connotation. Now this refers to natural law generally. And natural law, as you probably have not forgotten, means in ancient literature, first of all law of reason the logical, ethical, and juristic law. And secondly, also the physical law. So don't think of physics when you read of "natural law," in books of the past. Usually it means the ethical law which is in us, which belongs to our being, which is re-stated by the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount, but which in itself is by nature, I. e., by created nature, by that which we are essentially. And this kind of law is much more in the mind of Zwingli and Calvin than it is in the mind of Luther. Luther detested the idea that God has established a law between Himself and His world, between Him and the finite actions and things and decisions. He wanted everything as non-rational, non-legal, as possible, not only in the process of salvation but also in the interpretation of history and nature; while Zwingli and Calvin accepted nature in terms of law. When therefore Immanuel Kant defined nature as a realm in which physical law is valid, this was much more Calvinistic or Zwinglian; in any case, it was not Lutheran. For Luther nature is the mask of God through which..He in an irrational. way very similar to the Book of Job acts when He acts with mankind.
Therefore the attitude toward nature in Calvinism and in Zwinglianism is much more according to the demands of bourgeois industrial society, namely to analyze and transform nature for human purposes; while Luther's relationship to nature is much more in the sense of the presence of the Divine, irrationally, mystically, in everything that is. And if I hadn't known this before, very theoretically, and not very safely, .I would have learned it when I came to this country.
For Zwingli the law of the Gospel is law not only, of course: he accepts Luther's doctrine of the forgiveness of sins, as did every Reformer, naturally. But he at the same time spoke about a new evangelic law, as nominalists and humanists did. This law should be the basis of the law of the state. Don't forget that Wyclif and Occam had exactly the same idea, and that in this point a more Catholic element is in the Reformed thinking, namely the thought that the Gospel can be interpreted as the new law. This term, the "new law," is a very old one, appearing very early in Church history. For Luther, this would have been an abominable term; the Gospel for him is grace and nothing other than grace, and never can be the new law. But for Zwingli it can be. And this law is valid not only for the moral situation but also for the state, the political sphere. Politically, the law of the Gospel decides the laws of the city. If, therefore, cities do not subject themselves to the law, they may be attacked by those cities which' subject themselves to the law; and the law is against Catholicism; so Zwingli started the war against the cantons in Switzerland, and died in the battle against them, and was conquered. But the principle remained, the principle that the law of the Gospel should be the basis of the state law, and this had tremendous influence in world history: it saved Protestantism from being overwhelmed politically by the Roman Church, by the Counter~Reformation.
But there is still one deeper element of difference between Luther and Zwingli. It is the doctrine of the sacraments. The fight between Luther and Zwingli in 1529 in Marburg was a fight between two types of religious experience one, of a mystical interpretation of the sacrament; the other, of an intellectual interpretation Zwingli said: The sacrament is a sure sign or seal reminding us as symbols, and expressing our will to belong to the Church. This: Divine Spirit sets beside them, not through them. Baptism is a kind of an obliging sign, like a. badge. It is a commanded symbol, but it has nothing to do with subjective faith and salvation, which are dependent on predestination.
In the doctrine of the Eucharist, the decisive point was seemingly a matter of translation, but, in reality a matter of a different Spirit. The open discussion went around the statement: "This is my body," about the meaning of the word "is. " The humanists usually interpreted it by "signified."m means." Luther emphasized that it cannot mean this but must be taken literally: the body of Christ is literally present. For Zwingli it is present for the contemplation of faith, but not per essentiam et realiter (by essence and in reality) "The body of Christ is eaten when we believe that He is killed for us." You see that everything is centered on the subjective side. It is the representation of a past event. The present event is merely in the subject, in the mind of the believer. He is certainly with His Spirit present in the mind, but He is not present in nature. Mind can be fed only by mind, or spirit by spirit, and not by nature.
Against Luther he says that the body of Christ is circumscripte (by circumscription) in Heaven, i.e., on a special definite place. Therefore it is a special individual thing; it does :not participate in the Divine infinity. As man with a body Christ is finite, and the two natures are sharply separated. Therefore the Lord's Supper is a memory and a confession but not a personal communion with somebody who is really present. Luther emphasizes the reality of the Presence, and in order to do this he Invented the doctrine of the omnipresence of the body of the elevated Christ.
The presence of Christ is repeated in every act of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Historical person and sacramental person are identical. In order to do this, Luther said against this: "Where you put God, there you must put humanity: they cannot be severed or separated; it has become one person." To say that the Divine character of the bodily Christ is only said in symbolic or metaphoric terms is from the Devil. So Luther completely rejected the idea that the Divinity of Christ is separated from His humanity in Heaven, Even in Heaven, the Divinity and humanity of Christ belong together. He expresses this in the profound and fantastic doctrine of the ubiquity of the body of Christ the omnipresence of the body of the ascended Christ. "Christ is present in everything, in stone and fire and tree, but for us He is present only when he speaks to us through everything. Now this is the idea that God drives toward embodiment, towards corporeity. and that the omnipresence of the body of Christ m the world is the form in which God's eternal power is present in the world. Now if you want to carry this through in scholastic terms, namely taking it literally or superstitiously, then it is an absurd doctrine because it belongs to a body to be circumscribed. But if you take it symbolically, then it is a profound doctrine because it says that if God is present in anything on earth He is always also present with His concrete historical manifestation, namely with Christ.
Now Luther meant that much more primitively, but his meaning is that in every natural object you can have the presence of the Christ. And in a Lutheran service during the Sundays in Spring, you always find a tremendous amount of flowers and nature brought into the church, because of this symbol of participation of the body of Christ in the world.
Now what kind of principles are involved in this discussion?
When it came to an end, all the Reformers agreed that they denied the; transubstantiation doctrine and agreed about a lot of points about the Lord's Supper, but they did not agree about the ubiquity, I. e., the presence of Christ everywhere. This means there is a fundamental difference, which Luther stated when he left the castle of Wittenberg: "They have not the same spirit with us." What did this mean? First of all, it is the relationship between the spiritual and the bodily existence. In Zwingli you have the humanist intellectualism separating the spirit from the body, and ultimately the Neoplatonic background of this. Therefore in Calvinism there is a lack of interest in the problem of expression. But for Luther, spirit is only present in its expressions; it is directly present in consciousness which finally led to the amalgamation with Cartesian ideas.
The interest is incorporation. The (mystic) Oetinger said: "Corporality is the end of the ways of God." Therefore the great interest in the bodily reality of Christ, in history and in sacrament.
The second spiritual difference is the religious meaning of nature, the control of nature in Zwinglian thinking which demands regularly calculable natural laws the dynamic naturalism of Luther which often goes into demonic depths and is not interested in any law of nature.
And then the final and most important form which was expressed in two Latin formulas. Finitum capax infiniti the finite is capable of the infinite. For Zwingli this is not possible. They said directly: finitum non capax infiniti -- the finite is not able to have the infinite within itself. And this of course is a very fundamental difference, which first occurs in Christology and then is extended to the whole sacramental life and the whole relationship to nature.
It is perhaps wise to say that in the Swiss Reformation, from which, with Zwingli, we now turn to Calvin, .the sociological background was co-determining for the special form in which the whole thing happened. In Luther we have the form of surviving aristocracy. In Switzerland we have the large cities which, like Zurich and Geneva, were mostly trade and small factory cities. That means that sociologically the background of the Swiss Reformation drives in the direction of industrial society. In the German Reformation especially the North German, the Lutheran Reformation it sticks to the pre-bourgeois situation as much as possible If you read Luther's little catechism, you have there a paternalistic culture of small farmers and some craftsmen in villages and small cities. If you read, in contrast to this, some letters and other expressions in Zwingli and Calvin, then you have the men of the world. who have a world-wide horizon, through the trading relationships in the centers in which they lived. This produces a quite different attitude towards nature, the state, and everything.
This leads us now to Calvin himself The first point I want to make in my discussion of Calvinism is his doctrine of God and man. Here we have the turning point of everything in him. One has said that the doctrine of predestination is the main point. Now this is easily refuted by the fact that in the first edition of his "Institutes" it was not even developed; only in the later editions did it acquire great space. But it is to be refuted also from more important points of view.
In every theology. the decisive thing is always the doctrine of God I told you this with regard to Luther, to Augustine. etc. For Calvin the central doctrine of Christianity is the doctrine of the majesty of God. The attitude in which God is known as an existential attitude, more than in any other of the Reformers - -at least in formula, even more than in Luther. For Calvin human misery and Divine majesty are correlated. Only out of the human misery can we understand the divine majesty and only in the light of the Divine majesty can we understand the human misery. Calvin applies to God a word which has been rediscovered by Rudolf Otto numen, the numinous. God is a numen for him, He is unapproachable, horrifying. and at the same time fascinating. He speaks of "this sacred numinous nature," when he speaks of God. This is distinguished from all idols, from every polytheistic God. It is transcended in a radical way. so radically that you cannot speak directly of God. And here he has a very interesting theory of Christian symbolism. The symbols are significations of His incomprehensible essence. Symbols have to be momentary, disappearing, self-negating, He says they are not the matter itself. I think this self-negating is the decisive characteristic of every symbol with respect to God, because if they are taken literally, if they are not self-negating, then they produce idols. This is Calvin and not a mystical theology such as in Pseudo-Dionysius, who says this. So when you speak of symbolism when referring to God, you can refer to a man who is certainly beyond suspicion of being less than orthodox. namely, to Calvin.
The truth of a symbol drives it beyond itself. "The best contemplation of the Divine Being is when the mind is transported beyond itself with admiration." The doctrine of God can never be theoretical-contemplative; it must always be existential, by participation. The famous phrase by Karl Barth, which is taken from a Biblical text "God is in Heaven, and you are on earth" --is often said and explained by Calvin. The Heavenly "above" is not a place to which God is bound, but it is an expression of His religious transcendence, not an expression of a physical transcendence.
All this leads to a central attitude and doctrine of Calvinism, namely the fear of idolatry. This is tremendously strong in him. Calvin fights the idols wherever he believes he sees them. He is not interested in the history of religion, which is practically condemned as a whole as being idolatrous. Religion cannot help having an idolatrous element. Religion is a factory of idols all the time. Therefore the Christian and the theologian must be on his guard and prevent idolatrous trends from overwhelming his relationship to God.
He fights against the pictures in the churches, all kinds of things which can divert the mind from the merely transcendent God. This is the reason for the sacred emptiness of the Calvinist church buildings. There is always a fear of idolatry in the depths of men who have overcome idolatry. So it was :with the prophets, so it was with the Arabians (Islam), so it was now with the Reformers. Calvinism is an iconoclastic movement crushing icons, idols, pictures of all kinds, because they deviate from God Himself.
Now this idea that the human mind is a perpetual manufacturer of idols is one of the deepest things which can be said about our thinking of God. Even orthodox theology very often is nothing other than idolatry.
Now we have on the other side the human situation, which is described in much more negative terms than it is by Luther. "From our natural proneness to hypocrisy, any vain appearance of righteousness abundantly contents us, instead of the reality, which is our sin. Man cannot stand his reality; he is unrealistic about himself or as we say in modern times, he is ideological about himself; he produces unreal imaginations about his being. -- This of course is a very radical attack on the human situation, but this corresponds to God as the God of glory. When Calvin speaks of the God of love, it is usually in context with those who are elected. There He reveals His love. But the others are from the very beginning excluded from love. Now you can say this is always true; but is it not then also true that in Calvin God is also the creator of evil?
I turn now to this question in connection with his doctrine of providence and predestination
Calvin was very well aware that his kind of thinking would easily lead to a half-deistic type of putting God at the side of the world. Hundreds of years before the deistic movement appeared in England, Calvin warned against deism, namely putting God beside the world. Instead of that, of course, 'he conceives of a general operation of God; in preserving and governing the world, so that all movement depends on Him. Deism is a carnal sense which wants to keep God at a distance from us. If He is sitting on His throne and does not care what is going on in the world, the world is left to us. And this is exactly what the Enlightenment and industrial society needed. They couldn't stand A God who is continuously in interrelation with the world, who continuously interferes. They had to have a God who has given to the world the first movement. but then sits beside it and doesn't disturb the activities of the business man and the industrial creators. So. this anticipation of deism is a very important thing.. Against this he says: "Faith ought to penetrate further." .God is the world's perpetual preserver, "not by a certain universal action actuating the whole machine of the world and all its respective parts, but by a particular providence sustaining, nourishing, and providing for everything which He has made." All this implies a dynamic process of God within the law she has given. But he knew that the doctrine of natural law easily would make God into something beside reality. All things, therefore, have, according to Calvin, instrumental character; they are instruments through which God works in every moment. If you want to call this pantheism, then it could be right, which means everything is "in God." The things are used as instruments of God's acting according to His pleasure. (Here we are very near to Luther.) And he also gives a concept of omnipotence which is against the absurdity of imagining highest God sitting somewhere and deliberating with Himself what He should do, and knowing that He could do many other things or everything He wanted, by saying: No, I don't want to do this. I want to do that. This is exactly like a woman in the household who decides to do-this or to do that. This is an undignified view of God, and this the Reformers knew. "Not vain, idle or almost asleep, but vigilant, efficacious, operative, and engaged in continual action; not a mere general principle of confused motion, as if He should command a river to flow through the channels once made for it, but a power constantly exerted on every distinct and particular movement "For He is accounted omnipotent, not because He is able to act but does not,'and sits down in idleness.
Omnipotence is omni-activity. Providence consists in continuous Divine action. These elements of the idea of God in all: the Reformers are very important.
Now it comes to the problem with which Calvin was still wrestling on his death-bed: If this is so, isn't God the cause of evil? Now Calvin was not afraid to say that natural evil is a natural consequence of the distortion of nature. Secondly, he said: It is a way to bring the elect to God, and in such a way it is, justified. But then he said a third thing: It is a way to show the holiness of God, in the punishment of those whom He has elected and in the selection of those who are selected. Now this third point is that God has produced evil men in order to punish them and in order to save others who are evil by nature, from their evil nature. If you have this exclusively theocentric point of view, everything centered around the glory of God, then it is understandable that you also have the attack on Calvin (to which he was very sensitive), namely, he made God the cause of evil. But whatever this may mean, we will discuss it the first hour of next week, and then in the last two hours we will have a survey on the Protestant development.
Lecture 35: Calvin: Predestination, Providence, Capitalism, Church and State, Biblical Authority
The suffering of the world is not a real problem for Calvin because his idea of providence as strictly "God-caused." Tillich asks why most of the great names in religion, from Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, Augustine, to Luther, are adherents of "predestination," while those who do not adhere always are nearer to a moral interpretation of Christianity than to a strictly religious interpretation?
We finished Friday with, the general ideas of Calvin on providence, the tremendously powerful way in which he looks at the Divine activity in everything in every moment, and directing it. If this is the presupposition; if we almost have the feeling that Calvin approaches a kind of Divine determinism, then we must ask the question, "How is all this related to the actuality of evil?" We can distinguish different answers.
The suffering of the world is not a real problem for Calvin. Since his first principle is the honor of God, he can show that human suffering is l)a natural consequence of the distorted, sinful world; 2) a way of bringing the elect to God; 3) a way to show His holiness in the punishment of a distorted world.
Physical evil is taken partly as a natural consequence, partly as educational means, partly as punishment for sin. But this does not solve the problem of moral evil. Here Calvin must accept, and tries to show that the evil acts of Satan and of evil men are determined by God's counsel. Even Pilate and Nebuchadnezzar are servants of God. God blinds the minds and hardens the hearts of men; He puts an evil spirit into their heart. "For God, as Augustine says, fulfills His righteous will by the wicked wills of wicked men.: Augustine declares that He creates light and darkness, that He forms good and evil, and that no evil occurs which He has not performed." Such statements which seem to make God the cause of evil, are understandable only if we understand what Calvin says, that the world is "the theater of .the Divine glory." In the scene which we call "the world," God shows His glory. In order to do this, He causes evil, even moral evil. Calvin says: to think that God admits evil because of freedom, is frivolous. Because God acts in everything that goes on; the evil man follows the will of God although he does not follow His command. By following His will they defy His command, and that makes them guilty.
Now this means that Calvin's idea of providence is strictly God causes I don't say "determined," but "God-caused." And if, as he realizes, some people feel that this is not what we can say about God, and that this kind of providence is a horrible thing, then he answers, "Ignorance of providence is the greatest of miseries; the knowledge of it is attended with the highest felicity.: The belief in providence liberates us from anxiety, dread, and care. This period, at the end of the Middle Ages, was one of catastrophes and transformations, externally, and of profound anxiety internally. The doctrine of providence in Calvin is not an abstract one but is a doctrine which is supposed to heal anxiety, to be able to give courage, and for this reason he praises it.
But of course there is something more involved in this doctrine, namely his famous doctrine of predestination. Predestination is providence with respect to the ultimate aim of man. It is providence which leads man through his life to his final aim. And so predestination is nothing more than the logical implication and the final fulfillment of the doctrine of providence.
Now what does "predestination" mean? How does this problem arise? Why is it that most of the great names in religion, from Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, Augustine, to Luther, are adherents of "predestination," while those who do not adhere ,always are nearer to a moral interpretation of Christianity than to a strictly religious interpretation.? This is a problem which we must ask ourselves. If we deny predestination, we deny the high line of religious personalities and their theology.
Now the question behind this doctrine is: Why does not everybody receive the same possibility to reject or to accept the truth of the Gospel? Why doesn't he get it historically? - -he never knew Jesus. Why does he never get it psychologically? his preconditions are such that he could not even understand the meaning of what is said to him. This is a question we must ask today, every day.
The answer is: By Divine providence, but, as we have heard, providence with respect to our eternal destiny is predestination. In the moment in which Christianity emphasizes the uniqueness of Christ, it must ask why most people have never heard about Him, while those who have externally heard about Him were preconditioned in a way that this hearing didn't mean anything. In other words, all these men observed something empirically, namely that there is a selective and not an equalitarian principle effective in life. Life cannot be understood in terms of an equalitarian principle; it can be understood only in terms of a selective principle.
Everybody asks these questions. Calvin says: You shouldn't suppress such questions in terms of a wrong modesty; one must ask them. "We shall never be clearly convinced. . . that our salvation flows from the fountain of God's free mercy till we are acquainted with His eternal election, which illustrates the grace of God by this comparison, that He adopts not all promiscuously to the hope of salvation but gives to some what He refuses to others."
But this is only the one side. The other is that which gives to those who ask this question a certainty of salvation because it makes salvation completely independent of the oscillations of our own being. This was the second reason for this doctrine, in Paul, Augustine, and Luther. They wanted certainty of salvation. If they looked at themselves, they couldn't find it because their faith was always weak and changing. If they looked beyond themselves, they could find it in the action of God.
The concrete character of Divine grace is visible in an election which elects me especially, by not electing others. All this leads to the concept of predestination. "We call predestination the eternal decree of God by which He has determined in Himself what He would have every individual of mankind to become, for they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal damnation for others. C" That's his definition. What is the cause for this election? Only God's will, and nothing else. "If, therefore, we can assign no reason why He grants mercy to His people but because such is His pleasure, neither shall we find any other cause but His will for the reprobation of others." I. e., the irrational will of God is the cause of predestination.
Now here we come into an absolute mystery, as he calls it. We cannot call God to any account. We must accept it and we must drop our criteria of the good and the true. If someone says that is unjust, he answers: We cannot go beyond the Divine will to a nature which determines God because God's will cannot be dependent on anything else. even in Him. Here you have the full weight of the Scotistic-Occamistic thinking: the will of God is the only cause for what God does; nothing else.
Calvin himself feels the horrible character of this doctrine. "I inquire again how it came to pass that the fall of Adam, independent of any remedy, should involve so many nations with their infant children in eternal death, but because such was the will of God it is an awful decree, I confess." Nevertheless, when he was attacked, and especially in his last years, in face of his death, then he answered in a little different way: Everything is dependent on Divine predestination. "Their perdition depends on the Divine predestination, in such a manner that the cause and matter of it are found in themselves"; the immediate cause is man's free will. i. e., Calvin thinks, as did Luther, in two levels. The Divine cause is not real cause, but decree, something which is mystery and for which the category of causality is only symbolically and not properly applied. Besides this he knew, as did every Reformer and predestinarian, that it is man's finite freedom through which God acts when He makes His decree of predestination.
If we criticize it, we should not say it is a simple contradiction between God's causality and human freedom that's too easy because the levels are different, and there is no possible contradiction on different levels. If you want a contradiction, you can have it only on the same level. If you therefore have two levels, namely the Divine action which is mysterious because it doesn't fit our categories; and the human action in which freedom and destiny are mixed then you have the real picture. Don't think of the Reformers, or of all great theologians, in a one-leveled thinking. Then you come to all these impossible statements which not only contradict each other and, with a heroic attempt of your mind to destroy itself you say that this is a contra diction which we must accept; but think in terms of two levels, whereby enough mystery is still left, but not a simple logical contradiction, which simply means you use words without meaning. And this should not be done even if you emphasize the paradox: don't make it into a speaking of words without meaning. You can think in terms of two levels; for example, you can say, "I cannot escape the category of causality when I speak of God's action, and when I do so I derive everything from God, including my eternal destiny." This sounds like a mechanical determinism. But this is not what they mean. The two levels, of which the one uses the term "causality" properly, and then posits against it finite freedom the human level; then the Divine level, where causality is used symbolically, and where everything which brings us to God is derived from God. These two statements must be made. And if you divide them up into two levels, they are not logical contradictions, i.e., meaningless sentences. But never demand of anybody to destroy his own logos, I. e., the Image of God, and to make meaningless statements. That is not the relationship between God and man.
This gives a problem, of course, for the individual Calvinist, I. e., the question: Is he elected? What gives us the assurance of election? And so the looking for the criteria, the marks, of election starts. And Calvin finds some of them: the first and decisive of course is the inner relationship of God in the act of faith. But there is also the blessing of God, the moral high standing of someone which are all symptoms. Now psychologically this brought a situation in which the individual was not able to get certainty except in producing the marks of certainty, namely a moral life and an economic blessing. And this means he tried to become a good bourgeois industrial citizen, and believed that if he were this, then had marks of his predestination. Of course, theology knew that predestination never can be caused by such actions. But if they are there, then you can have certainty. And this was the danger of this theology of the marks of predestination.
It is remarkable how little Calvin has to say about the Divine love. The Divine glory replaces the Divine love. And if he speaks of the Divine love, it is love towards those who are elected. But the universality of the Divine love is denied, and the demonic negation, the split of the world, has in Calvin a kind of eternity, through his doctrine of double predestination. Therefore this is a doctrine which contradicts the doctrine of the Divine love as sustaining everything that is, a doctrine which Dante still knew when he wrote, at the entrance of Hell, in his Divina Comedia., "I also have been created by Divine love." But if something is created by Divine love, then it is not eternal condemnation.
Now there are many discussions in Calvin about the doctrine of the Christian life. I only want to make a few statements about it. "When they explain vivification of that joy which the mind experiences after its perturbations and fears are allayed, I cannot coincide with them (I. e. , with Luther) since it should rather signify an ardent desire and endeavor to live a holy and pious life, as though it were said that a man dies to himself that he may begin to live to God." For Luther the new life is a joyful reunion with God; for Calvin it is the attempt to fulfill the law of God in terms of a Christian life. And the summary of the Christian life is self-denial and not love. It is departing from ourselves. "0h, how great a proficiency has that man made who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken the sovereignty and government of himself from his own reason, to surrender it to God." Luther's fragmentary up and down, ecstasy and despair, is not what describes the Christian life in Calvin. The Christian life is a line upwards. exercised in methodical stages. And this gives to the whole type a quite different form.
There are two other elements in it: the world is a place of exile. The body is a valueless prison of the soul. -- Here you hear words more of Plato than the Old or New Testament. But this was in him. Nevertheless he denied any hatred of life. And his asceticism was not the Roman asceticism, to deny life itself, to deny the body in special activities of an ascetic character. But it was what Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch have called inner-worldly asceticism, an asceticism which has two characteristics: cleanliness, in terms of sobriety. chastity, temperance - -subordinated to the concept "clean." -- This has tremendous consequences in the whole life of the nations which were Calvinistic: an extreme external cleanliness, an identification of the erotic element with the unclean against the principles of the Reformation, but in consequence of this Calvinistic ethics.
And the other was that our activities in this world are activities of producing tools and, through tools, profit. It was what one has called the "spirit of capitalism." Now this word has been so much misunderstood that I would like to say a few words about it. There are some primitive people who think that a tremendous scholar like Max Weber and Troeltsch have said that Calvinism has produced capitalism. And then, of course, these people are much cleverer than Max Weber probably the greatest scholar in the whole 19th century in the realm of the humanities and sociology and they tell him that there was capitalism before Calvin lived, especially in the Lombardian plane in north Italy, in the south and north German cities, in London, etc. So we have capitalism before Calvin, and Weber is wrong and I, the clever boy, am right! -- This is probably
wrong. Weber said that there is something in the spirit of Calvinistic ethics and some related sectarian ethics which is useful for serving the purposes of investment in the capitalistic economy. In pre-capitalistic economy the rich man showed his riches in glorious living: he built castles or mansions, or patrician houses - -and we still enjoy building houses today. But that is not the way in which Calvinism tried to show the people how to use their wealth. It should be partly used for endowments; as it is in this country, in which practically all culture is rooted (I. e. , through endowment) and partly for new investments. And this indeed is one of the best ways of supporting the capitalistic form of economy, namely to make the profits into investments, I. e., means for new production, etc., instead of wasting them, as the Calvinists would say, in glorious living.
Now that is what he wanted to say. If you don't believe he was right, I can tell you that in eastern Germany, before the 20th century catastrophes broke in, those cities in which the Protestants were living were the rich ones, and the ones in which the Catholics lived were the poor ones. But perhaps the poor were happier than the rich ones! you cannot say that in these terms; .but you can say that these Calvinistically influenced towns and cities produced German capitalism and not the Catholics, or Lutherans in the east, etc.
So these men were right, if you don't make a childish nonsense out of what they said and that one should not do with such a great scholar.
Calvin's doctrine of Church & State:
Calvin's doctrine of the Church is, like Luther's, the place where preaching is carried on and the sacraments correctly administered, ritually, Calvin, however, makes a much more radical distinction between the empirical Church ;and the invisible Church. While for ;Luther the invisible Church is only the Spiritual quality of the visible Church, for Calvin the invisible Church is the body of those who are predestined in all periods of history, not dependent always on the preaching of the Word. This is connected with what we have learned about Zwingli and Calvin: the doctrine of the Holy Spirit working also apart from the Christian message, and therefore universally active.
>From this point of view the visible Church is an emergency creation, an adaptation of God to human weakness. Therefore it is not a matter of believing in the Church, but believing that there is a Church. The main function of the Church is educational. The Church always has to bring people, through those means, into the invisible Church, the body of the predestined.. On the other hand, the emphasis on this educational work of the Church is much stronger than in Lutheranism. Although ultimately the Church is an emergency creation of God, actually it is the only way for most Christians to come to God at all Therefore he has developed a doctrine of the Church which is quite different from the doctrine which had been developed by Luther. Instead of two marks of the Church, namely doctrine and sacraments he has three marks: doctrine, sacraments, and discipline. And this element of discipline is very decisive. "As some have such a hatred of discipline, as to abhor the very name, they should attend to the following consideration. As the saving doctrine of Christ is the soul of the Church, so discipline forms the ligaments which connect the members together and keep each in its proper place." The discipline starts with private admonition and this admonition was very serious, mostly; it goes through public challenge (this was ruinous, socially) and finally to excommunication. But even excommunication is not(able to remove one from the saving power of God. While in Rome someone who is excommunicated can in this state not be saved, somebody who is in Protestantism can be, or possibly has been, predestined, and if so he will be saved in spite of the excommunication, namely, then the excommunication will not be effective.
These three marks are by Divine law. But there are other things by Divine law. There are four offices: pastors, or ministers (both words are used; ), doctors or teachers, presbyters, deacons.
The most important of these four are the pastors and presbyters. These four are by Divine order, and they have to be always there. They are derived from the Bible.
The Church has in itself, in its own mixed status, a community of active sanctification. This community is created by the Church and becomes manifest in the Lord's Supper. Therefore discipline precedes the giving of the Lord's Supper. Now I don't want to go much into the doctrine of the sacraments in Calvin. The main thing is that he tries to find a mediation between Luther and Zwingli. He does not want, with Zwingli, that the Lord's Supper is only a meal of commemoration; he wants the presence of God, but not a presence which he finds superstitious and magical, as he sees it in Luther, where even those who are not belief-ful eat the body of Christ
The doctrine of the State:
Calvin was a humanist and therefore gave to the state much more functions than Luther. Luther gave it practically only one function: to repress evil and preserve society from chaos. Calvin uses also the ideas of humanism, of good government, of helping the people, and many other things of a more positive way. I can give you this very drastically: the function of a policeman in Germany is to repress; the function of a policeman in this country may also be this function, but beyond this it is the function to help. For us, when we came 20 years ago, it was really an experience when you wanted something you could go to a policeman! Nobody could do that in Germany! Now I hope this has changed, but I don't believe too much. The state represses, but it never helps.
But Calvin never went so far as to say, with the sectarian movements, that the state can be the kingdom of God itself. He calls this a Jewish folly. But what he says was, with Zwingli, that a theocracy has to be established, I. e., a government which not priestly government, but the rule of God through the application of the evangelical laws, through the political situation. And for this he indeed works hard. And he demands that the magistrates of Geneva care not only for legal problems, the problems of order in the general sense, but also for the most important content of the daily life, namely for the Church; not that they shall teach in the Church or give decisions (as to what things) shall be taught. But they must supervise the Church to punish those who are blasphemers and heretics and so he did, with the help of the magistrates of Geneva and to create in all respects a kind of community in which the law of God governs the whole life. No priests and ministers are necessarily involved in it. Theocratic rulers usually are not priests4hen the theocracy becomes hierocracy they are usually laymen, and that is usually what he wanted. The state must punish the impious, he says. They become criminals because they are against the state law, which is based on the Divine law.
Calvinism has saved Protestantism from being overwhelmed by the Counter-Reformation. And it has done so on a world-wide scale by the possibility of alliances of Protestants all over the world Cromwell especially did this the world alliances
which we still have in this country, as an idea of allying the good people against the evil people; of course the evil people are the political enemies, but this is done in the name of the good people, which is something the Lutherans would not do; when they tried it they fell down. This gave Calvinism a tremendous international power.
There is another element in Calvinism, namely the possibility of revolution. If you read Calvin you think this is even worse than Luther. He certainly said that all revolution is against. the law of God, as Luther did. Then he makes an exception which has become decisive for West European history, He said that although no individual citizen should be allowed to make a revolution, the lower magistrates should be able and willing to make a revolution if the natural law, to which every ruler is subjected, should be contradicted by this ruler. Then the lower magistrates have the duty to revolt against him
Now this of course is a possibility that in a democracy such as ours, where all of us are lower magistrates by voting, we establish the government under these
circumstances revolution is, universally permissible. And this was the situation in Western Europe, where the kings and queens were mostly on the side of Catholicism, and Protestantism could be saved only by people who were convinced that in the name of God they can fight against their kings and queens, if kings and queens suppress the true Gospel, namely the purified Gospel of the Reformation.
Let me say a few words about his doctrine of the authority of scripture.. This is a very important point insofar as it was the way in which, finally, biblicism developed in all groups of Protestant faith. The Bible for Calvin is a law of truth, and of course also a law of word. At length, that the truth might remain in the world in a continual course of instruction to all ages, he determined that the same oracles which he had deposited with the patriarchs should be committed to public records. With this design the Law was promulgated, to which the prophets were afterwards annexed as its first interpreters. The Bible, therefore, must above all be obeyed. It contains a "heavenly doctrine." This was necessary although again an adaptation because of the mutability of the human mind. This was the necessary way to preserve the doctrines of Christianity by writing them down, and making, as Calvin says, God's instructions speaks of "the peculiar school of the children of God."
Now all this can be harmless, or can be the opposite, and there is much discussion going on as to how to interpret his doctrine of the Scripture. In any case the answer is that this doctrine is absolute, but it is absolute only for those to whom the Divine Spirit gives the testimony that this book contains the absolute truth. But if this is done, then we can witness to the whole Bible as an authoritarian book of a radically authoritarian character.
The form of the Biblical authority is derived from the fact that the Bible is composed under the dictation of the Holy Spirit. This term, "dictation of the Holy Spirit," is something which produced the doctrine of verbal inspiration, in a way which surpasses anything which existed in Calvinism, and in contradicting the Protestant principle as such: t he disciples were "pens" of Christ; all elements which come from them were superseded by the Divine Spirit which testifies that in this book the oracles of God are contained. "Between the apostles and their successors, however, there is this difference that the apostles were the certain and authentic amanuenses of the Holy Spirit, and therefore their writings are to be received as the oracles of God." Out of the mouth of God" the Bible is written, I. e., the whole Bible; the distinction between the Old and New Testaments largely disappears. And you can find this still today in every Calvinistic country.
Lecture 36: Protestant Orthodoxy. Pietism.
The rhythm in which Protestant theology has developed in the last 350 years (up to 1953), including the threefold doctrine of Orthodoxy and the three points made by Pietism.
We finished yesterday the theology of the Reformers. The next section is a lecture which would ordinarily last one semester, four hours a week, on the development of modern Protestant theology. But what we can do with these last two hours is to give a kind of survey on the rhythm in which Protestant theology has developed in the last 350 years. This development is important not only in itself, from the historical point of view, but also because elements of everything which has been created within this development are in your minds, souls and bodies, and you cannot get rid of it without knowing it Therefore I believe, negatively and positively it is of extreme importance to have a history of Protestant theology or at least, if this is impossible, to show the tides because this whole development is like a tide going up and down; but each wave and each low tide is different from the other.
Now the immediate wave which followed the Reformation period is the period we usually call Orthodoxy. Now Orthodoxy is a great and serious thing, much greater and much more serious than what you call Fundamentalism, in this country, which is a product of a reaction in the 19th century, and which is a primitivized form of classical Orthodoxy. Classical Orthodoxy was great theology. We can say it was Protestant Scholasticism, with all the refinements and methods which the word "Scholastic" includes. Therefore, when I speak of "Orthodoxy," I mean the way in which the Reformation established itself as an ecclesiastical form of life and thought, after the dynamic movement of the Reformation had come to an end. It is the systematization and consolidation of the ideas of the Reformation, partly in contrast to what I said before about the Counter-Reformation.
As such, Orthodox theology always was and still is the solid basis of all coming developments, whether these developments as was mostly the case were directed against Orthodoxy, or whether they were attempts of a restoration of Orthodoxy. In both cases, they are dependent on it. Liberal theology, up to today, is dependent on the Orthodoxy against which it fights. Pietism is dependent on the Orthodoxy which it wants to transform into subjectivism. the present-day and former restoration movements try to restore what was once alive in the Orthodox period. Therefore we should deal with this period with much more seriousness than it is usually done in this country. I can tell you that in Germany, at least, and I think everywhere in European theological faculties France, Switzerland, Sweden, etc. every student of theology was supposed to know by heart the doctrines of at least one classical Orthodox theologian of the post-Reformation period, be it Lutheran, be it Calvinistic; and that in Latin Now even if we forget about the Latin today, we should know these doctrines, because they are the classical system of Protestant thinking. And it is a state of things of which I would say that it is unheard of, that the Protestant churches of today largely don't even know the classical expression of their own foundations namely, the Orthodox dogmatics - -so that you cannot even understand, really, even the opposition to them: you cannot understand people like Schleiermacher or Ritschl, or American liberalism or social-gospel theology, without understanding that against which they were all directed, and on which they are dependent as everything which is against something is dependent on that which it is against; you know when you are against your parents, and your parents against you, or husband against wife. And in this sense, all theology of today is dependent on the classical Orthodox systems. So the next lecture should be a seminar on one of the classical Orthodox systems Now all this has to be done in a short time. re should be a seminar on one of the classical Orthodox systems, and then we could go beyond it. This shows the shortcomings in our theological education.
Orthodox theology was not only theological, it was also political. It was political, because of the necessity to define the religious status in the political atmosphere of the post-Reformation period. It was a period which prepared the ThirtyYears' War, in which the Roman Empire, namely Germany, and the German emperor, demanded that every territory define exactly where it stands, because this was the basis of its legal acknowledgment within the unity of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation.
Beyond this the theology was a theology of territory princes. They wanted to know from their theological faculties exactly what a minister was supposed to teach, and they had to know it because they were the legal lords of the Church, as summi episcopi , as highest bishops. So in all the theological problems of the Orthodox doctrines, a legal problem was involved. So when you read about the Augustana variata or invariata (re: the Confession of Augsburg), then you think, "What nonsense!" Not only the unity of Protestantism was threatened, but people were killed because the people introduced the Agustana variata against the invariata, without the princes' permission. ... It was not only nonsense; it was more than this, even theologically. It was the difference between what at that time was called not Barthianism, but Flaccianism, or gnesio (genuine-)Lutheranism, original Lutheranism. (Flaccius was the greatest Church historian Protestantism produced, : and was at the same time a gnesio-Lutheran, and as such had a very similar point of view of the total depravity of man, as today the Barthian school has namely, as he called it, in Scholastic terminology, the substance of human nature is original sin This was not accepted but the tendency was very strong.
On the other side, we had the tendency of Melanchthon Philippism which was similar to some Reformed ideas, so that it is even difficult today to find out how much in Philippism is Reformed and how much is Melanchthonian. This group was nearer to what we would call today a moderate liberal theology, against the gnesio-Lutherans.
All this shows that at that time the problems came immediately into the foreground which ever since have been problems, and your generation enjoys the fact that this fight against Philippism and gnesio-Lutheranism is now going on between Barthianism and moderate mediating theology.
The result of these struggles at the end of the 16th century, was the Formula of Concord, in which many of the territorial churches found an interpretation of which they believed it is the pure interpretation of the Confession of Augsburg, in its basic form.
All this has one implication, namely that the doctrinal element becomes much more important than it was in the Reformation period itself, where the Spiritual element was much more decisive than the fixed doctrines. Luther didn't fix doctrines, although he himself could be very tenacious. He had to stick to something which according to his own principles had to be condemned by him, but from some mystical theological reasons he stuck to it.
Then we must deal a little with the principles of Orthodox thinking One of the first was the relationship to philosophy. This is not a new invention of Union Theological Seminary since the year 1950, but it is very old and is old in Protestantism. Luther seems to be very much disinclined to accept anything from reason; in reality, this is not true. This is true in many of his angry statements against the philo6ophers by whom he usually meant the Scholastics and their teachers, Aristotle, etc, But Luther himself, in his famous words at the Diet of Worms, said: "If he is not recanted either by Holy Scripture or by reason, then he will not recant." There he adds reasoning to Holy Scripture; he was not an irrationalist, But what he fought against was that these categories transform the substance of the faith. Reason is not able to save, but must itself be saved,
Now this was the point of view in Luther's fight. But immediately it became clear and Luther accepted it and gave Melanchthon this task that you cannot teach theologically without philosophy, and that you cannot teach anything whatsoever without using, consciously or unconsciously, philosophical categories. Therefore, he did not forbid that Melanchthon again introduce Aristotle, and with Aristotle many humanistic elements.
There always were people who spoke - -as some speak today namely, in an attack on humanism, philosophy, Aristotle. There was a man, Daniel Hoffman, who said: "The philosophers are the patriarchs of heresy." Now that is what theologians sometimes say, even today, But if they then develop their own theology, then you can prove easily from which "Patriarchs of heresy: namely from which philosophers they have taken their category, That is an impossible way, But they said: "What is philosophically true is theologically wrong; the philosophers are unregenerated insofar as they are philosophers/" -- This is a very interesting statement, which means there is a realm of life which, by itself, is unregenerated and obviously cannot be regenerated, .But this contradicts again the emphasis on secularism in Protestantism. "Philosophers," said Hoffman, "try to be like God because they develop a philosophy which is not theologically given." -- Hoffman was not able to carry through his idea, but he produced a continuous suspicion against the philosophers, in the theological churches, a suspicion which is much greater than everything in the Roman church, And this suspicion, of course, is very much alive again in the present-day theological situation.
The final victory of philosophy within theology was the presupposition of all Orthodox systems. I will give you the man who developed the classical system of Protestant, especially Lutheran, theology: Johan Gerhard. He is a very great philosopher and theologian, in some way comparable with Thomas Aquinas for the Catholics. He represents the latest flowering of Scholasticism, not only of the Church. He distinguishes articles which are pure and those which are mixed. Pure are those which are only revealed; mixed, those which are rational possible and at the same time revealed. He believes, with Thomas Aquinas, that the existence of God can be proved rationally. But he was also aware of the fact that this rational proof doesn't give us certainty. "Although the proof is correct, we believe it because of revelation."
In this way we have two structures: the sub-structure of reason. the super-structure of revelation. The super-structure is the Biblical doctrines. What actually happened and this is actually a preview of the next centuries was that the mixed articles became unmixed, I. e., unmixed rationally, and that the sub-structure, namely rational theology, dispossessed the super-structure, drawing it into itself, and taking away its meaning. When this happens, we are in the realm of rationalism, or Enlightenment.
Protestantism, in the Orthodox doctrine, has developed two principles: a formal and a material principle of theology;(these are nineteenth-century terms, so far as I know). The formal principle is the Bible; the material, the doctrine of justification. According to Luther, they are interdependent: that in the Bible which gives the message of justification is that which deals with Christ, and is that which is authentic. And on the other hand, this doctrine is taken from the Bible and therefore is dependent on it. This was in Luther very free and creative; Bible and justification were inter-dependent, in a living way. But this was not the attitude of Orthodoxy. The two were put beside each other. This meant that the real principle became the Bible, namely the realm of authority.
What was the doctrine of the Bible in Orthodoxy? The Bible is witnessed in a 3-fold way:
1) by external criteria, such as age, miracles, prophecy, martyrs, etc.;
2) by internal criteria, namely, style, sublime ideas, moral sanctity;
3) by the testimony of the Divine Spirit.
This testimony, however, gets another meaning. It is no more the meaning that we are the children of God, as Paul speaks: the Spirit testifies that we are the children of God. -- It became the testimony that the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures are true and inspired by the Spirit. This means: instead of the immediacy of the Spirit in relationship of man and God, the Spirit witnesses to the authentia, the authenticity, of the Bible insofar as it is a document of the Divine Spirit. Now you see the difference: if the Spirit tells you are children of God, then this is an immediate experience, and there is no law involved in it at all. If the Spirit testifies that the Bible has true doctrines, then the whole thing is brought out of the person-to-person relationship into an objective legal relationship. And that is exactly what Orthodoxy did.
And if this is true, then something else is true, very interesting discussion: the discussion about the theologia irregenitorum , the theology of those who are not converted.. the unregenerate. If the Bible is the legal law of Protestantism~ then it is possible that everybody who can read the Bible and interpret it scientifically is able to write a systematic theology even if he does not participate at all; only because he is able to participate in terms of the understanding of the meaning of the sentences and words. I anticipate something when I say that this was absolutely denied by the Pietists, who said there is only a theologia regenitorum, of those who are regenerated. When we look at this discussion in modern terms, we say Orthodoxy believed in a systematic theology which is not existential, while the Pietists believed in an existential theology which alone is able to give a theology.
Now both of these statements have something difficult. The unregenerated Orthodox theologian is able to say what the Church or the Bible says is necessary for salvation; but he is not able to do it in terms of the application of the present situation. The function of the Orthodox theologian is independent of his religious quality. He may be completely outside. But now what about the Pietist theology? He can say of himself, and others may say of him, that he is regenerated, converted, a real Christian. But then he has to state this with certainty; but is there anyone who can do this, and who can say, "I am a real Christian."? In the moment anyone does it, he has ceased to be in any way a real Christian, because to say it of oneself means to look to oneself in order to have the certainty of the relationship to God. And this certainly is impossible. Therefore this fight goes on through all Protestant churches, today too, and it is going on in you. Some of us would certainly say: "We are unregenerated, but we can understand what you say in systematic theology." And that is all right; otherwise he will say, or feel, that they are regenerated, and that they should have a good conscience, to make theology. How can we decide this problem? It is very important for students of theology because there may be very few, if anybody, who ever could say of himself that he is regenerated. On the other hand you feel that if you are not in the theological circle, existentially, you cannot be a real theologian. Now in my "Systematic Theology," I have solved the problem in the following way:
I have said that only he who experiences the Christian message as his ultimate concern is able to be a theologian, but after this nothing else is demanded. And it might be that he who is in doubt about every special doctrine is a better theologian as long as this doubt about doctrine is his ultimate concern. So you don't need to be converted in order to be a theologian whatever this term may mean. You are not requested to test whether you are good Christians or not, and then to say: "Now since I am a good Christian, I can be a theologian." All this is completely impossible. But the fight is going on in a very important way, even today, and I think that every Pietist would tel1..you: "First, you must be converted before you can be really a theologian." Answer him: "The only thing which is first is that the ultimate concern coming from god has grasped me so that I am concerned about Him and His message; but more than this I cannot say, and even this I cannot say in these terms because even the term 'God' disappears, in some moments, and then I cannot use it as the basis for my belief that I am a good Christian and therefore a possible theologian. "
The Orthodox doctrine of inspiration takes some of Calvin's elements and makes it more radical and primitive. The theologians are the hands of Christ, the notaries-public of the Divine Spirit, the "pens" with which the Spirit has written the Bible. The words ,and even the pointing of the Hebrew texts, are inspired.. Therefore a theologian of the Orthodox school, Buxtehof, fought against the fact that the consonants of the Hebrew text did not receive their vowel-pointings in the 7th-9th centuries (A. D.), as they certainly did, but that they must be as early as the Old Testament itself. The prophets must have invented the pointing, (which was actually invented 1500 years later. ) This is the consequence of a consistent doctrine of inspiration, because what shall the Divine Spirit do with the Hebrew text? The Hebrew words are ambiguous in many places, if the vowels are not in. Therefore you must put them in in order to make them unambiguous. Then, of course, there is the problem of the Lutheran and the King James translations, and the same problem arises again. You are driven into actual absurdities with this, but that was actually the problem..
Now if you have such an idea, what happens to you? You must make artificial harmonistics there are innumerable contradictions in historical and many other respects in the Biblical writings in order to maintain that they are all dependent on a special action of the Divine Spirit, making you into a (secretary with pen). These contradictions must be only seemingly contradictions. Therefore you must be very ingenious in inventing impossible harmonies between Biblical contradictions. And that was what they tried to do.
But there was something deeper in it, namely the principle of analogia scriptura sanctae the analogy of the Holy Scripture which means that one part must be understood in terms of the other. What was tho result.? It was the establishment of creeds, which really were the analogy of the Holy Scripture. They were the formulae which everybody was supposed to find in the Bible. And this is another inescapable consequence of such a doctrine.
There was another help for these poor people who had to swallow the doctrine of verbal inspiration after they had swallowed it, they were saved; nothing could happen to them. But then the question was: :What about the many doctrines we find in the Bible? Are they all necessary for salvation ?" The Catholic church had a very good answer: You don't need to know any of them; you only have to believe what the Church believes; only the ministers and studied people need to know \of the special doctrines. The Catholic layman believes what the Church believes, without knowing what it is, in many respects. Protestantism could not do this. Since personal faith is everything, in Protestantism, the fides implicita and explicita was impossible for it.
Then an impossible task arose: "How can every little farmer, shoemaker, and proletarian in the city and country, understand all these many doctrines found in the Bible, which are more than even an educated man can know in his theological examinations?" The answer was that they distinguished between fundamentals and non-fundamentals something which is popular even today, in your daily discussions. In principle this shouldn't be, because if the Divine Spirit reveals something, how far can we say it is non-fundamental? And in any case, non-fundamentals proved later on to be very fundamental, when the consequences were drawn from non-fundamental deviations
So it was a dangerous thing. But it had to be done for educational reasons, because most people are not able to understand all the implications of the doctrine. Here two interests were fighting with each other and here I speak with all of you who will become Sunday school teachers, or in any other way religious teachers: the one interest, to increase the fundamentals as much as possible; the interest of the systematic theologian; everything is important, not only because he has spoken about it! but also because it is in the Bible. This attitude of the systematic theologian is contradicted by the attitude of the educator. The educator shall have as little as possible, so that it is understandable, and to leave out all the many and different doctrines of secondary importance.
Finally, the educator prevails. And what we find in rationalism is largely a reduction of the fundamentals to the level of popular reasonableness. That was the beginning. Education has produced, partly, the coming of the Enlightenment; there it becomes a central concern of all great philosophers of that period. And even today the educational departments usually are more inclined towards a theology which is dependent on the Enlightenment than the other departments are. This is not general, but sometimes that is the case. And this has some good reason, one being that the educational needs are a limitation of content, and the theological needs are enlargements of content.
Now this was a short survey on Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy had one doctrine which was a transition to the next great movement, Pietism. In the Orthodox doctrine of the ordo salutis, the order of salvation, the last step was the unio mystica, the mystical union with God. For Luther this is the beginning of everything, namely the beginning of the faith in justification.. In the moment in which Orthodoxy accepted from the ecclesiastical tradition the unio mystica as a special point which can and must. be reached, the concept of faith became intellectualized. In Luther both are together; in Orthodoxy they are asunder: faith is the intellectual acceptance of the Orthodox doctrine, and communion with God is a matter of mystical experience. This is a splitting of Luther especially the younger Luther into two pieces: the mystical piece and the intellectual piece, one beside the other.
What is Pietism? The word is much less respectable in this country than in Europe. "pious," "pietist" are words which can be used of people; but in this country it can hardly be used, having some connotations of hypocrisy or moralism or all kinds of disagreeable things. Now pietism does not necessarily have this connotation. Pietism is the reaction of the subjective side of religion against the objective side. In Orthodoxy the subjective side was dealt with, of course, in the order of salvation, but it, didn't. mean very much. Actually, Orthodoxy lives in the objectivity of theological and ecclesiastical organization. But we shouldn't overemphasize this. We have the hymns of Paul Gerhard, for instance, in the highest development of Orthodoxy. There was always personal religious relationship to God. But for the masses of the people, it was the license to become licentious, in every respect; the state of things in moral respects was miserable, especially in the Lutheran countries, where the doctrinal element was decisive and no discipline existed.
So the pietists, and first of all the greatest of them, Spener, in Halle,. (my own home university), wrote in continuous reference to Luther. And he showed something which was certainly true, Church-historically, that especially in the early Luther all the elements which Pietism rediscovered were present, and that Orthodoxy didn't preserve but removed them from the other side, namely the objective side of giving the contents of the doctrine to everybody. What Spener tried to do was that Orthodoxy grasped only the one side of Luther. Therefore Pietism had a justification on the soil of justification. And not only in theological respect I come immediately to it but also in other respects: it has a tremendous influence on the whole culture. It was the first to act in terms of social ethics. The Pietists in Halle founded the famous orphanage there, the first one; they were interested in missionary enterprises; the first missions came from them. Orthodoxy said that the nations who are not Christian are lost, because one of the twelve apostles had already gone there.
Each nation had received apostolic preaching immediately after the foundation of the Christian churches e. g , St. Thomas in Asia, and many other legendary figures like that. But they rejected the apostles, and so are guilty; and so we should not go to them and try to renew the missionary enterprise. The :Pietists had quite different feelings about it: they felt that everywhere human souls could be saved by conversion. So they began the first missions in foreign countries. This again gave them world- historical perspectives a man like Zinzendorf, together with Wesley, looked at America, etc., while Orthodoxy was completely conventionally restricted in the orthodoxy of their provincial territorial churches.
The liturgical realm also was very much changed. One of the most important changes was the introduction of confirmation, the sacrament which the Reformers had thrown out and now the Pietists reintroduced, as a confirmation of the sacrament of baptism.
Pietism is especially important for theology in three points: it tries to reform:
2) the Church
Theology is a practical habit. He who knows must first believe the old demand of Christian theology. This demand brings in, at the same time, the central importance of exegesis. It is not systematic theology which is decisive, but Old and New Testament theology. And wherever Biblical theology prevails over against systematic theology, we have almost always a pietistic influence. The theologian shall first be educated to self-education, in order to be able to edify others.
The Church is a body which is not there only in order to listen to the Word; and the bearers of the Church are not just the ministers but all laymen. The layman shall have an active part in the priestly function, in different places sometimes in the Church, but mostly in their houses, and in special collegia pietatis, colleges of piety, I. e., coming together in groups to cultivate piety. They should have hours of Biblical interpretation they were therefore called "Stundists" , and they must drive towards conversion.
From this point of view they even introduced Presbyterian elements into the Lutheran churches. They tried to emphasize an ecclesiola in ecclesia, a small church in the large Church. And then they changed moral theology, about which I will say something tomorrow.
Lecture 37: Pietism. Enlightenment. Autonomy. Heteronomy. Locke. Deism. Modern Development. Final Remarks.
Tillich explains the way of correlation, namely, to accept all the problems which are involved in self-criticizing humanism - -we call it existentialism, today -- and then, on the other hand, to show that the Christian message is the answer to these questions.
This is my last lecture today. I will continue in the discussion of the main movements and tides, as I have called it high and low from the Reformation period to the present. I emphasized the importance of the Orthodox period and gave you some statements about the necessity for every Protestant theologian to study the classical period of Protestant theology, namely the Orthodox period. Then I spoke about the protest of the subjective piety, personal, inner piety, against the objectivism of the Orthodox doctrines. And in discussing Pietism, not in a derogatory sense but in a highly appreciative sense, as a breaking through of an element which was in the early Luther but got lost in the Orthodox development, I said that there are especially three problems with which they dealt, and which changed reality: theology, where they emphasized the existential point of view: you must participate in order to be a theologian; the Church, in which they re-emphasized Luther's principle of the priestly function of everybody, and established the small churches within the large Church.
The third point I want to make now is their influence on the morals in the Protestant world. The situation in the time in which they arose, at the end of the 17th century, was morally disastrous in Continental Europe. Everything was dissolved and in chaotic stages, through the Thirty Years' War, and the following attacks from outside. It was an extremely rough, brutal, unrefined, uneducated form of life. Against this, against which the Orthodox theologians didn't do very much, and didn't even try to do very much, the Pietists tried to collect individual Christians who took upon themselves the burden and the liberation of the Christian life.
The main idea was the idea of common sanctification ideas which we have again and again in all Christian sectarian movements. This individual sanctification includes, first of all, a negation of the love of the world. And one point was very important in their discussion with the Orthodox theology, the question of the ethical adiaphora. (Adiaphoron means that which makes no difference, that which is not of ethical relevance.) The question was: Are there human actions which are of no ethical relevance, where we can do them or not do them, with equal right? Orthodoxy said they do exist; there is a whole realm of such adiaphora. The Pietists denied it, calling it love of the world. And as things of this kind often used to go, Spener was mild in his condemnation; then Franke and the Hallensian Pietists became very radical. They fought against dancing, the theater, games, beautiful dresses, banquets, too much shallow talk in daily life (which is something which should be taken up), and things like that, which produced an attitude very similar to some Puritan ideas; but in this connection I like to say that according to my very limited knowledge of American Puritanism, it is not so much the Puritans who have produced this system of vital repression, as we have it in most American people, but it was much more the evangelical Pietistic movements of the middle of the 19th century and before that, which are responsible for this condemnation of smoking, drinking» going to the movies, etc.
Now wherever this may be, in Europe it was not Orthodoxy or Puritanism, but Pietism. And I think in this country it was at least half-Pietism which had this influence of repression of vitality.
The Orthodox theologians were under strong attack by the Pietists and reacted accordingly. One of them wrote a book with the title Malum Pietisticum, "The Pietistic Evil."There were different points in which they fought with each other, but finally the Pietistic movement was superior because it was a1lied with the whole development of the period, from the strict objectivism and authoritarianism of the 16th and 17th centuries to the principles of autonomy which appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries. And here I want to say something which is important for clear conceptual thinking:
It is entirely wrong to put into contradiction the Enlightened rationalism with the Pietistic mysticism. For most popular nonsense-talk in this country, reason and mysticism are the two great opposites. If somebody doesn't follow the reason either of rationalism or of naturalism, or of neither of them, and is restricted simply to logical positivism and its analysis of scientific endeavor, then he is called a "mystic" and you all are mystics, for some people; everybody is a mystic for somebody, namely, everybody has a place in which he experiences levels of life which others do not experience, or refuse to experience; or, if they can help experiencing it for instance, if they hear music or read poetry then they push this whole realm into the dark corner of emotion: there it can stay and doesn't do much damage to clear thinking. That is the general feeling.
Now history shows an absolutely different picture. It shows that there was a strong conflict between Orthodoxy and both Pietism ("spiritualism," as it was often called in that time, in the ecstatic not the occultistic sense) and Enlightenment together against Orthodoxy. And that is still the situation. Don't be betrayed by words here. The subjectivity of Pietism, the doctrine of the "inner light" which became important not only for movements such as Quakerism, but also for many ecstatic movements in the territorial churches of Germany (and I think also of the Calvinistic countries) everything which is done in the name of the Spirit against the authority of the church has a character of immediacy, of autonomy. Or, in order to make it sharper: modern rational autonomy is a child of the mystical autonomy of the doctrine of the inner light.
The doctrine of the inner light is very old; we have it in the Franciscan theology of the Middle Ages, in some of the radical sects (especially the later Franciscans);in many sects of the Reformation period; in the transition from spiritualism to rationalism, from the belief in the Spirit as the autonomous guide of every individual, to the rational guidance which everybody has for himself, by his autonomous reason. Or again, in another historical perspective, the third stage of Joachim di Fiore (12th century), the stage of the Holy Spirit, is the producer of all thinking of the Enlightened bourgeoisie in terms of a third stage which they called the age of reason, where every individual is taught directly, and ,the one as well as the others go back to the prophecy of Joel, in which every maid and servant is taught directly by the Holy Spirit, and no one is dependent on the Spirit of anybody else.
Now this is one line of thought from Spirit to reason. So we can say that rationalism is not opposed to mysticism-if we call all this mysticism, namely, the presence of the Spirit in the depths of the human soul; rationalism is the child of mysticism. And both are opposed to authoritarian Orthodoxy.
We have the same situation today. But I come to this immediately.
Now I come to the sources of the enlightenment. Here we are in the good position that the Enlightenment appeared very early as theology. The movement which did this is called Socinianism, from Faustus Socinius, who fled from Italy to Poland where he found a haven of security against the Counter-Reformation and at the same time against the persecution -complex of some of the Reformation churches; he wrote a book called,"The Catechism of Rakovitz." where he developed the first fully rationalistic Protestant theology. Everything later is partly dependent on his ideas, and partly a restatement of the same ideas on the
basis of similar sources. Therefore Harnack, in his History of Christian Dogma says that Socinianism you can keep in mind the year 1600 was the end of the history of Christian dogma. In Protestantism there was still some dogma at least the early dogmas preserved. Socinianism dissolves all the Christian dogmas with the help of Renaissance rationalism. and humanism. So this is a very important movement, more important even than the repetition of it: first in English deism, where it is radicalized; and then in modern liberal theology, including Harnack himself, where it is carried through.
1) The Socinians accept the authority of the Bible, but they declare that in non-essential things the Bible may fall into error. Beyond this, historical criticism is necessary. The criterion for historical criticism is that nothing can be a revelation of God--and therefore in the Bible--which is against reason and common sense and nothing can be in the Bible as revelation of God which is morally useless. Therefore he speaks of religio rationalis , rational religion, which is given in the Bible and which is the criterion for the authority of the Bible.
2) In the doctrine of God he mainly criticizes the Trinitarian dogma. The Socinians are the predecessors of all Unitarian movements. He says and :in this he is historically right the arguments of the Bible for the Trinitarian dogma, as it has later developed, are not developed. The Bible does not have the Trinitarian dogma, although it sometimes has Trinitarian formulations. The Greek concepts and this a very important criticism of the whole dogma in the Ritschlian school (upon which we all depend today) are inadequate for the understanding of the meaning of the Gospel and are contradictory in themselves.
3) God has created the world out of the given chaos Genesis 3 (tohu wabohu) , the chaos which all pagan religions and also Greek philosophy presuppose. Man is the image of God because he is superior to the animals; he has reason. Adam was not a perfect man, but he was primitive and by nature mortal. He had neither original immortality nor original perfection. (1 believe this is much nearer to the Biblical text in both respects than the later glorification of Adam which makes his fall absolutely un-understandable. The Socinians derive the fall of Adam from the strength of his sensual impressions and on the basis of his freedom. This freedom is still in man; it has not been lost.
4)Therefore the idea of original sin, or hereditary sin, is a contradictory concept. He says: there is no sin without guilt; if we are guilty, by birth, then we must have sinned before we were born, or at least in the beginning of our life, which is a meaningless statement. What really is true is that we are historically depraved and that our freedom is weakened. And this makes it necessary that God gives us a new revelation beyond natural revelation. This new revelation is Christ, but he negates the Divinity of Christ. Christ has a true human nature, but not a Divine nature. On the other hand, He is not an ordinary man; He is a higher type of man, a "superman," so to speak in the Nietzschean, not the comic book sense. Therefore He is an object of adoration.
5) The priestly office of Christ is denied. He is prophet and He is king. All the ideas of substitute sacrifice or punishment or satisfaction are meaningless and self-contradictory, because guilt is always a personal thing and is attributed to individuals, and must be. But on the other hand, He is king and sits at the right hand of God and is really ruling and judging.
6) Justification is dissolved in a moralistic terminology. In order to be justified, we must keep the commandments. With respect to the state, passive resistance against the power forms of the state was favored.
7) Eschatology is dissolved; it is a fantastic myth. But the thing which remains and which is important is immortality: this must be preserved by all means.
Now here you have a lot of ideas which anticipate many elements of modern liberalism, and which anticipate the theology of the Enlightenment. What really remains in the Socinian criticism are the three theological ideas of the Enlightenment god, freedom, and immortality and nothing else. I like to quote Immanuel Kant in his little writing, "What is Enlightenment.": The Enlightenment is man's going out of his stage of inferiority, as far as he is responsible for it. Inferiority is the inability to use one's own reason without the guidance of somebody else. This state is caused by oneself, if it is rooted in a lack of understanding and in a lack of resoluteness, a lack of courage, namely the courage to use one's reason without the guidance of somebody else. :Venture to use your own reason,: is the advice of the Enlightenment. Kant continues to show how much more comfortable it is to have guardians and authorities, but he says this comfort has to be thrown away: man must stand upon himself; it is the nature of man to be autonomous.
This leads to the concept of autonomy:
Rationalism and Enlightenment emphasize human autonomy. The word "autonomy" is not used in the sense of arbitrariness, of man making himself, of man deciding about himself, in terms of his individual desires and arbitrary wilfulness. Autonomy is derived from the Greek autos and nomos (self-law). It does not say, "I am a law unto myself," but says that the universal law of reason, which is the structure of reality, is in me, and there I must face it. This concept of autonomy is often falsified by theologians who say this is the misery of man, that he wants to be autonomous but would be dependent on God. Now this is poor theology and poor philosophy, if you say that, because you don't know what you are talking about! Autonomy is the natural law given by God, present in the human mind, present in the structure of the world. Natural law means mostly, in all classical philosophy and theology, the law of reason, which is Divine law.
Now following this law as we find it in ourselves: this is autonomy. Therefore autonomy is always connected with the strong, almost emphatic, obedience to the law of reason, and is stronger than any religious idea opposed to anything arbitrary. The adherents of autonomy in the Enlightenment are very much opposed to any arbitrariness which they call., for instance, the Divine grace. They wanted to emphasize man's obedience to the natural law of his nature and the nature of the world.
The opposite concept is heteronomy. Arbitrariness is actually heteronomy; it is the opposite of autonomy! Arbitrariness is given in the moment in which fear or desire determines our actions, whether this fear is produced by God or by society or by one's own weakness. For Kant, the heteronomy, the authoritarian attitude of the churches and even of God, if He is seen in an heteronomous light is arbitrariness. Arbitrariness is subjection to authority, if this authority is not confirmed by reason itself. And then it is arbitrariness, because you subject yourselves on, the basis of fear, anxiety and desire.
Now we can say the Enlightenment is the attempt to build a world on this autonomous reason.
Then let me add quickly a few words about the term "reason," Autonomy is not willfulness. Reason is not calculation. Reason is the awareness of the principles of truth and justice.. In the name of this reason, the Enlightenment fought against the demonic authorities of the ancien in France of the 18th century, and in all Europe. They fought against it in the name of reason which is awareness of the principles of truth and goodness not in the name of business, of calculcating, reason; not in the name of controlling reason, of usefulness, but in the name of justice and truth. The 18th century had some heroic elements in it: reason is always seen fighting against the distortions of humanity in the regime of the French kings and the Roman popes and all those who worked with them for the suppression and distortion of humanity. So don't be contemptuous about the 18th century, about rationalism and Enlightenment. First know it, and then see what they did for us. It is the Enlightenment which produced the fact that we have no more witch trials. It is Cartesian philosophy applied to concrete problems which made such a superstition impossible. And so are innumerable other things. It is the general education which. we enjoy in the Western countries which is a creation of the 18th century. And it is the democratic ideology which is produced by the same century.
Now that is all done in the name of reason, and this reason had another sound in the ears of most generations of men than it has in our ears, where it has become nothing other than an interdependent but shallow rational calculation.
Then there is a third concept, which follows immediately from the two others. If we find, in the depths of our own being, the principles of truth and justice; if every individual is able to do this, then one must ask: If these individuals have different interests, how then can a common knowledge, common symbols democracy, economy, etc. , and finally Protestant theology how can they be possible? Isn't this the end of a coherent society, if autonomous reason in every individual is the ultimate arbiter? The answer was: the principle of harmony. This principle again has nothing to do with harmony in the sense of a nice harmony of everybody with everybody. The 18th century knew how life really was, and it was terrible for many people at least, in the 18th century. The term "harmony" means that if every individual follows his rational, or even non-rational, trends, that then there is a law behind their backs which has the effect that everything comes out most adequately. This is the meaning of the Manchester school of economics, the meaning of the pursuit of happiness in the American Constituion; the meaning of the belief in democracy, that in spite of everybody deciding for himself about the government, a common will, a volonte generale, will develop in this way. This is the belief in ethics and education, that everybody is educated as a personality, and finally a community spirit will be the result. And this is the principle of Protestantism, that if every individual, in his way, encounters the Biblical message, then a kind of conformism of Protestant character will be the outcome.
And now the miracle is that this happened!, that actually, in all these realms, the prophecy, under the principle of harmony, was really verified. The greatest upward development of economy, a very strong type of religion, where 217 different denominations don't mean anything: if you come as an observer from the outside and see the Protestant world, it is a conformity in spite of all this. And if you look at democracy, in spite of the disruptive tendencies which again today are very much visible in America, democracy has worked and is still working. And so in all other realms. This means this third principle is the ultimate principle on which the belief in progress, in spite of lack of authority, is rooted.
Now I come to a few other representatives of the Enlightment John Locke. I want only to use one concept we must keep in mind, the concept: of tolerance, which is also a product of the development towards the Enlightment. Tolerance has many reasons. One of the main historical reasons was that intolerance would have finally destroyed all Europe. The religious wars almost destroyed it, and it could be saved only by a tolerant state which is indifferent toward all the different fighting confessions. But this is only one point.
When John Locke wrote his 1etters on tolerance, he was very aware that tolerance never can be an absolute principle. So he limited it in a very interesting way. He was the leader of the Enlightenment; he, the type of man who influenced 18th century England more than anybody else it is, very rare that a philosopher had such influence as John Locke had he nevertheless said there are two groups which cannot be admitted, against which in the name of tolerance we must be intolerant. The one group is the Catholics, because they are by definition intolerant; they want to subdue any country they canto the authority of the Roman Church, with force. And the others are the atheists, not because they are intolerant but because they threaten the very foundation of Western society, which is based on the idea of God, however this may be formulated in rationalistic or Enlightened terms And the greatest witness for John Locke is Friedrich Nietszche who said that now the transformation of the whole of the whole society is at hand because "God is dead." And that was what John Locke wanted to exclude, in the name of reason.
Now I cannot go much more into these things. Another movement of great importance for modern theology was English Deism, i.e., a kind of people who were less philosophical than practical users of philosophy for the sake of theological problems. Deism is a movement of intelligentsia more than of real philosophy. They wrote attacks against. the traditional Orthodoxy. They criticized in the same sense ill which the Socinians did it, the problems of Biblical religion. All elements of criticism can be found around them. Between 1700-ca.1730, everything was developed which we now discuss in liberal and critical theology. The problems of Biblical history, the authority of Jesus, the problem of miracles, the question of special revelation, the history of religion, which shows that Christianity is not something very special, according to the Deists, the category of myth (which is not invented by Bultmann in the year 1950, in his demythologization book, but which has been invented already by the Deists. . . in the beginning of the 18th century, more than 250 years ago. ) There we have the problems which, since the middle of the 18th century, Continental theology started to deal with. Since ca. 1750 the great movement of historical criticism started. The greatest personality in the German Enlightenment, Lessing, the poet., philosopher, estheticist, etc., was the leader in this fight against a stupid orthodoxy which stuck to the traditional terms. And then the great critical statement in theology by David Friedrich Straus Schleiermacher, all those in the 19th century up to Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer and Bultmann. All this line of development started in the middle of the 18th century and carried through the ideas of the Socinians and the others.
I spoke of "tides." Now it looks as if this were one all-embracing development,
an ocean which flooded over continents. But that is not true. In all these periods there were reactions against this development. This is what I meant with the high and low "tides." There was reaction already in the early period Methodism and Pietism, ca. 1730-50; there was reaction at the end of the 18th century, in the Romantic movement; there was reaction in the early middle of the 19th century, in terms of the revivalistic movements; there was reaction in the beginning of the20th century, in terms of the movement which we call now "Neo-Orthodoxy. We always have one or the other of these reactions. And in all these movements, which determine our present. theological situation, one question is predominant, namely the question: "What about the compatibility of the modern mind with the Christian message?"' That's what the great men in these developments tried to find out. It was always an oscillation between an attempt at a synthesis, in the Hegelian and Platonic sense, of the creative unity of different elements of reality that is what synthesis should mean and always meant. Now in this sense the two greatest theological influences in the beginning of the 19th and end of the 18th centuries are Schleiermacher and Hegel. They together, each in his way, produced what I call the great synthesis. They took into themselves all the impulses of the modern mind, all the results of the autonomous development. And beyond this they tried to show that the true Christian message can come out only on this basis, and not in terms of Orthodoxy; but also not in terms of the Enlightenment. They rejected both and tried to find a way beyond them Schleiermacher more from the mystical tradition of his Pietistic past (he was a Moravian, as you know); Hegel more in the philosophical term out of the Neo-Platonic tradition from which he came. In the year 1840 both forms of this synthesis were considered as having broken down, completely and radically, and an extreme naturalism and materialism developed. In this time another theological school tried to save what could be saved. This was the Ritschlian school, the great names of which are Ritschl himself; then Hermann (who was the teacher of many, also professors of this Seminary, notably Professor Coffin); and then Harnack, who is still the teacher of all of us, in many respects. Now this development brought a new synthesis on a much more modest level, on the level of Kant's division of the world of knowledge from the world of values.
But this synthesis also broke down at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, partly under the impact of inner theological development here I name my great teacher, Troeltsch; and then some of the theologians of the 19th century, my other great teacher, Martin Kaehler of Halle, from the Pietistic and revivalistic tradition; and then some others. And first of all of course, from the world-historical events which spell the end of centuries of European life, the First and then the Second World War.
Now again, represented by Karl Barth, the:diastisis against the synthesis between Christianity and the modern mind; was real. And we are now in a period in which even in; many groups formerly liberal in this country, we find an understanding of the problem of the opposition against the synthesis.
Now when you want to hear now, at the end of this whole lecture, my own answer, then I say:
Synthesis never can be avoided, because man is always man and at the same time under God. But he never can be under God in such a way that he ceases to be man. And in order to try a new way beyond the former ways of synthesis, I try what I call the way of correlation, namely to accept all the problems which are involved in self-criticizing humanism - -we call it existentialism, today; it is self-analyzing humanism - -and then, on the other hand, to show that the Christian message is the answer to these questions. Now that is not synthesis, but it is not diastasis either; it is not identification nor is it separation: it is correlation. And I believe that the whole history of thought as I tried to show it to you, points today in this direction.
END OF LECTURES
Trinity College of Biblical Studies