The History of Theological Christian Thought Section One
Historical survey of people and movements which have shaped the faith of the Christian church from post-biblical times to today's modern thought
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All human experience implies the element of thought, simply because man's intellectual or spiritual life is embodied in his language, and language is thought expressed in spoken and heard words. Therefore there is no human existence without thought, and the kind of emotionalism so rampant in religion is not something more than thinking, but is less than it, and brings religion down to the level of a pre-human experience of reality.
In the tension between the philosopher Hegel and the theologian Schleiermacher, you know that Schleiermacher emphasized the function of "feeling," or emotion, in religion; and Hegel, who emphasized the function of thought, said: "Even dogs have feeling, but man has thought." Now this was based on an unintentional misunderstanding of what Schleiermacher meant with "feeling," a misunderstanding which we find very often even today. But it expresses some truth. Man cannot be man without thought. He must think even if he is the most primitive devotional Christian, with no theological education or understanding. Even in religion we give names to special objects. We distinguish acts of the Divine. We relate symbols to each other. We explain their meaning. There is language in every religion, and the existence of language means that there are universals, and of universals that there are concepts, and of concepts that one must think, even on the most primitive level. It is interesting that this fight between Hegel and Schleiermacher was anticipated by a man like Clement of Alexandria, in the 3rd century, who said that the religion of animals, if they had a religion, would be mute, without words. And he must have derived from this that every man who lives religiously, must participate in religious thought.Now I repeat: reality precedes thought. But I repeat also: thought shapes reality. These two are interdependent. You cannot abstract the one from the other. Therefore when you shall fall into despair – which you certainly will, when we come to the sections on trinity and Christology, where much thinking is needed because the Church Fathers for hundreds of years did much thinking about these problems – don't forget that the decisions which were made on the basis of this thinking are decisions which have influenced the life of the most primitive Christian, ever since, not because they understood the discussions going on between the philosophical theologians, who were in classical Greek philosophy, but in the way the devotional life itself developed. The decisions of the Church councils are omnipresent, and they are omnipresent even in the least theological congregations today in this country. So don't underestimate them, as I certainly wouldn't ask you to overestimate them.
Beyond this thinking, which is always present, there is the development of methodological thought, thought which goes on according to logical rules and methods of dealing with experiences. This methodological thought, if expressed in speaking or writing and communicated to other people, produces theological doctrines. This is, of course, more than the thought element which is implied in every life. This is a development beyond the more primitive use of thought. And ideally such development leads to a theological system, not because systems are especially nice to dwell in – everybody who dwells within a system feels after a certain time that it is a prison, and even if you produce a systematic theology, as I did, you always try to go beyond it and not to be imprisoned by it. Nevertheless the system is necessary because the system is the form of consistency. And I repeat here what I repeated in my answer to my critics in the book on my theology *, that those of my Union Theological Seminary students who have the greatest misgivings about the production were most impatient with me when they discovered that two of my statements disagreed with each other; that means, they were unhappy in finding one point in which the hidden system had a gap. But when this system was developed, then they felt it was a mean attempt on my side to imprison them! This is a very interesting double reaction, but understandable because if the prison is taken as a final answer, then it is of course even worse than a prison. If it is understood as an attempt to bring theological concepts into consistent expression, where none contradicts the other, then you cannot escape a system. And even if you think in fragments--as some philosophers and theologians (and some great ones) have done--then every fragment contains implicitly a system. When you read Nietzsche's fragments – 1 think he is the greatest fragmentist in philosophy – then you can find in each of his fragments a whole system of life and world implied. So you cannot escape a system except if you want to make verbal statements which are nonsense and completely contradict each other. And that is, of course, sometimes done.
But, of course, a system has a danger of becoming a prison, and also the danger, when it is built, of moving within itself, of separating itself from reality, of becoming something which is, so to speak, above the reality which it is supposed to describe. Therefore I am not so much interested in the systems as such – with a few exceptions, for instance with relationship to Origen – but I am interested in the power of these systems to express the reality of the Church and its life.
The Church doctrines have been called dogmas, and in former less noble periods of Christian instruction – -for instance when I myself was young – the whole thing was called "the history of dogma." This cannot be done any more. One calls it "history of Christian thought." But this is only a change in name, because nobody would dare to present a history of Christian thought in the sense of what every theologian in the Christian Church had thought. That would be an ocean of contradictory thoughts. But this series of lectures has a quite different intent: to show you those thoughts which have be come accepted expressions of the life of the Church. And this is what the word "dogma" originally meant.
The concept of dogma is one of the things which lie between the Church and the secular world. Most secular people are afraid of the dogmas of the Church, and not only secular people but also members of the churches themselves. "Dogma" is a red cloth waved before the bull in a bull fight: it produces anger, aggressiveness, or in some cases flight, and I think the latter is mostly the case with the "seculars" with respect to the Church.
Why is this so? Because the word has a very interesting history, which you must know. The first step in this history is the use of "dogma" derived from the Greek doxein, "having an opinion", in the Greek schools of philosophy preceding Christianity. Dogmata are the differentiating doctrines of the different late Greek schools of philosophy, the Academics (from Plato), the Peripatetics (from Aristotle), the Stoics, the Skeptics, the Pythagoreans. Each of these schools had special fundamental doctrines in which they were distinguished from each other, and if somebody wanted to become a member of one of these schools, he had to accept at least the basic presuppositions which distinguish this school from another school. Of course he could discuss these foundations, he could find out that another school was better for him than this school. But even the philosophical schools were not without dogmata.
In the same way the Christian doctrines were understood as doctrines distinguishing the Christian school from the philosophical school, and this was natural and nobody was angry by this. It was no red pieced cloth for anybody at that time. This is seen in the characteristics of the Christian dogma in the early period. First of all it is an expression of the Christian conformity, of that which all Christians who, with the risk of their lives and with a tremendous transformation of their lives, entered, the Christian congregations, accepted when they did so. So a dogma is never an individual statement or a theoretical statement: it is an expression of a reality, the reality of the Church.
Secondly, all dogmas are formulated negatively, namely as a reaction against misinterpretations from inside the Church. This is even true of the Apostolic Creed. We will come to the first article, "I believe in God the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." This is not simply a statement which says something in itself, but it is the rejection of dualism, of Manichaeism, after a life and death struggle of a hundred years. And so also with all the other dogmas. The later they are, the more they show clearly this negative character. They are PROTECTIVE DOCTRINES, protecting the substance of the Biblical message. This substance was fluid. It had, of course, a core which was fixed, the confession that Jesus was the Christ, but beyond this everything was in motion. But now doctrines came up which seemed to undercut this fundamental statement, and the protective doctrines were added to it. In this way the dogma arose. Luther still knew this, that dogmas are not results of a theoretical interest, but of the need for protection of the Christian substance.
Now these statements again could be misinterpreted, and if this was done, then a sharper theoretical formulation was necessary. In order to do this, it. was necessary to use philosophical terms. In this way the many philosophical concepts came into the Christian dogma, not because people were interested them – again Luther is very frank about it: he openly declared he disliked terms like "Trinity," "homoousios," or similar words, but he said they must be used, unfortunately, because we have no better terms. This is the theoretical formulation which comes if other theoretical people formulate the doctrine in such a way that the substance seems to be endangered by a leading group in the Church.
But this was not the last step. The next step was that this dogma was accepted as canonic law, by the Church. Canonic law is law according to the canon, which is the rule of thought or rule of behavior. Canonic law is the ecclesiastical law to which everybody must subject himself who belongs to the Church. In this way the dogma receives a legal sanction, and in the Roman church the dogma is a part of the canonic law, and its authority comes from the legal realm, not from the dogmatic realm, according to the general development of the Roman church, which is especially Roman, that means, always legalistic development. .
Now even this perhaps would not have created the tremendous reaction against the dogma in the last 400 years if another step had not been taken: the ecclesiastical law was accepted as state law by the medieval society. This meant that he who breaks the canonic law of doctrines is not only a heretic against the Church: he disagrees with fundamentals which were accepted by the Church as a whole; but he is also a criminal against the state. And this last point was one which produced the radical reaction in modern times against the dogma, and the impossibility of using the concept of dogma even for the title of these lectures.
Don't forget all these steps:
FIRST, the natural thought, which is in every religion.
SECOND, the methodological development of doctrines.
THIRD, the acceptance of some doctrines as protective doctrines against distortions.
FOURTH, the legalization of these doctrines as parts of the canonic law.
FIFTH, the acceptance of these doctrines as the foundation not only of the Church but also of the state, because the state has no other content than the content the Church gives it., so that he who is supposed to undermine this content not only undermines the Church but also the state. He is not only a heretic who must be excommunicated; he is also a criminal who must be delivered into the hands of the civil authorities to punish him as a criminal. Now this was the state of the dogma, against which the Enlightenment was fighting – not so much the Reformation, which was still in the same line, but certainly the Enlightenment; and ever since, all liberal thinking has been characterized by trying to avoid dogma, and this also was supported by the development of science and the necessity to leave science and philosophy complete freedom in order to give them the possibility of their creative growth.
In his famous History of Dogma, Harnack asked the question whether, with the dissolution of the dogma in the early period of the Enlightenment, the dogma has not come to an end. He agrees that there is still dogma in orthodox Protestantism, but he believes that the Enlightened dissolution of the Protestant dogma is the last step of the history of the dogma: there is no dogma any more in Protestantism, since the Enlightenment. This means a very narrow concept of dogma, and Harnack agrees that he uses a very narrow concept, namely the Christological-Trinitarian doctrine of the early Church. Against this, Seeberg emphasized that the dogmatic development has not finished with the coming of the Enlightenment, but that it is still going on.
Now this is a very important systematic question: Are there dogmata in present-day Protestantism, or are there not? Those of you who go into the ministry have to undergo a kind of church examination, which is not an examination for knowledge but for faith. The churches want to know whether you agree with their fundamental dogmatic tenets. And they often do it in a very narrow way, without much understanding of the development of theology in the last 400 years, since the period of old Orthodoxy On the other hand if you have an inner revolt – :and I know that most Union Seminary students have such an inner revolt against this faith-examination – don't forget that you go into a definite group, which is distinguished from other groups.. It is first of all a Christian and not a pagan group; it is a Protestant and not a Catholic group; and within Protestantism it may be an Episcopalian, or a Baptist--or between these extremes! Now this means there is a justified interest in the Church that those who represent it at least show some acceptance of their foundations. Every baseball group demands of you that you accept the rules and the moral standards of a baseball team, and why should the Church leave it completely to the arbitrary feelings of the individual? That cannot be done. Usually the problem today is of somebody who is too heretic, too radical, too much on the side of Bultmann in the demythologization of the New Testament, or Tillich in using the term IT Being" for God – or other bad people! This is the problem today. And on this basis many churches are suspicious.
But now think for a moment that this was not the problem, but that the young ministers all suddenly became enthusiasts for the veneration and perhaps even adoration of the Holy Virgin, and wanted to introduce this into the Baptist and Methodist churches! Now here you see immediately that there is a real and serious problem in it. And of course, if we come to the political dogmas – which are more dogmatic than any church whatsoever is – then you find that the problem becomes even more acute for the present situation. So it is one of the tasks of systematic theology to help the churches to solve this problem in a way which is not narrow-minded and not dependent on the 16th and 17th century theologians which are identified with the pure word of God – although they are dependent on their time as we are dependent on our time – but on the other hand there is some fundamental point which is accepted if somebody accepts the Church. Now I will give you here – because this is so important--something which anticipates my systematic theology, which you can read in the first volume already published: I believe that it is not the matter of accepting a series of dogmas, which the Church must demand of their ministers; how can they honestly say that they don't doubt about any of these dogmas? They would be not very good Christians if they did not, because our intellectual life is as ambiguous as our moral life. And who would call himself morally perfect, and how then can someone call himself intellectually perfect? The element of doubt is an element in faith itself. And what the church should do is to accept somebody who says to them that this faith for which this church stands is a matter of my ultimate concern, which I want to serve with all my strength. But if you are asked to say what you believe about this or that doctrine, then you are driven into a kind of dishonesty even if in this moment you can say "I believe," e. g., concerning the Virgin Birth – or whatever that may mean. If you say you will agree, then you are dishonest.. . .; you may subject yourselves to this whole set of doctrines as long as you are ministers, and you can say you cannot promise because you cannot cease to think, and if you think you must doubt. And that is the problem. I think the only solution on Protestant soil is to say that this set of doctrines represents your own ultimate concern, and that you desire to serve in this group which has made this the basis of its ultimate concern, but that you can never promise not to doubt anyone of these special doctrines.
Now this was a deviation from history into not only systematic but even practical theology. . . This shows you that what we do in terms of historical description is not so far away from the practical problems of your own life as ministers. This means that without dogmatic expression, without doctrinal formulations, no human life can live at all, neither a non-ecclesiastical group nor an ecclesiastical one. The problem is not to abolish the dogma but to interpret the dogma in such a way that it is not the horror and the suppressive power which necessarily produces dishonesty, or flight from it, but that it is a wonderful profound expression of the actual life of the Church. And in this sense I will direct the entire lectures, namely to show how in even the abstract doctrinal formulations, with difficult Greek concepts, etc., it is not a matter of discussing concepts as such, but it is a matter of discussing those things of which the Church believed that they are their most adequate expression for life, devotion, and life and death struggle: outside, against the pagan and Jewish worlds; and inside, against all the disintegrating tendencies which belong to every group.
So my conclusion would be: estimate the dogma very highly. There is a great thing about the dogma. But don't dissolve it into a set of special doctrines to which you must subscribe as it stands. This is against the spirit of the dogma, and is against the spirit of Christianity.
Lecture two: The readines of the ancient world to recieve Christianity
Yesterday we discussed the meaning and development of the doctrinal expression of Christianity, and described especially the concept of dogma. I tried to remove some of the fears and resentments every modern man has when he hears the word "dogma." I hope I succeeded. Now I come to the "preparation"of Christianity in the ancient world.
According to Paul, there is not always the possibility that that can happen which, for instance, happened in the appearance of Jesus as the Christ. This happened in one special moment of history, and in this special moment everything was ready for it. I will talk now about this "readiness." Paul speaks of kairos to describe the feeling that the time was ripe, mature, prepared. It is a Greek word which, again, witnesses to the richness of the Greek language and the poverty of modern languages in comparison with it. We have only the one word "time." The Greeks had two words: chronos (still used in "chronology," "chronometer," etc.): it is clock time, time which is measured. Then there is the word kairos , which is not the quantitative time of the watch, but is the qualitative time of the occasion: the "right" time. "It is not yet kairos ," the hour; the hour has not yet come. (Cf.. in the Gospel stories. . ..) There are things in which the right time, the kairos, has not yet come. Kairos is the time which indicates that something has happened which makes an action possible or impossible. We all have in our lives moments in which we feel that now is the right time for something: now I am mature enough for this, now everything around me is prepared for this, now I can make the decision, etc: this is kairos. In this sense Paul and the early Church spoke of the "right time," for the coming of the Christ. The early Church, and Paul to a certain extent, tried to show why this time in which the Christ appeared was the right time, why it is the providential constellation of factors which makes His appearance possible.
What we therefore must do now is to show the preparation of Christian theology in the world situation into which Jesus came. From this point of view - which is only one point of view: the theological - the understanding of the possibilities of a Christian theology is provided. It is not, as some theologians want to believe - contrary to Paul - -that the revelation from Christ fell like a stone from heaven: here it is, and now you must take it or leave it - But there is a universal revelatory power going through all history and preparing that which is considered by Christianity to be the ultimate revelation.
The genuine situation into which the New Testament event came was the universalism of the Roman Empire. This meant something negative and something positive, (as do all these things I will now mention) at the same time. Negatively it meant the breakdown of national religions and cultures. Positively it meant that the idea of mankind as a whole could be conceived at that time. The Roman Empire produced a definite consciousness of world history, in contrast to accidental national histories. World history is now not only, in the sense of the prophets, a purpose which will be actualized in history, but now it has become an empirical reality. This is the positive meaning of Rome. Rome represents the universal monarchy in which the whole known world is united. This idea has been taken over by the Roman church, but applied to the Pope, and is still actual within the Roman church, and still means that Rome claims the monarchic power over all the world - following the Roman Empire in this. It is perhaps an important remark generally that we should never forget that the Roman church is Roman, that the development of this church is not only influenced by Christianity but also by the Empire which was Rome, by the greatness that was Rome, by the idea of law that was Rome. All this is embodied also in the Roman church, after it took over the heritage of the Roman Empire. We should never forget this situation; and we should ask ourselves; if we are tempted to evaluate the Roman church more highly than we should: how much Roman elements are there in it, and how much are they valid for us in our culture? - as we should do the same with Greek philosophical concepts which created the Christian dogma, and we should also ask: to what degree are they valid? It is not necessary to reject something because it is Roman or Greek, but it is not necessary, either, even if sanctioned by a dogmatic decision, to accept something because the church has accepted it, from Rome or Greece.
Within this realm of one world, a world history and monarchy created by Rome, we have Greek thought. This is the Hellenistic period of Greek thought. We distinguish :... the classical Greek period, which goes up to the death of Aristotle, from the Hellenistic period which starts after him, ~ - which the Stoics, Epicureans, Neo-Pythagoreans, Skeptics, and Neo-Platonists begin. This Hellenistic period is the immediate source of much Christian thought. It is not so much classical Greek thinking. It became this later in the 4th century. But it is more Hellenistic thinking, which influenced early Christianity. Here again I want to distinguish the negative and the positive elements in Greek thought in the period of the kairos, the period of the ancient world coming to an end. The negative side is what we would call Skepticism. Skepticism, not only in the Skeptic school but also in the other schools of Greek philosophy, is the end of the tremendous and admirable attempt of Greek philosophy to build a world of meaning on the basis of an interpretation of reality in objective or rational terms. Greek philosophy had undercut the ancient mythological and ritual traditions. In the period of the Sophists and Socrates, it became obvious that these traditions were not valid any more. Sophism is the revolution of the subjective mind against the old traditions. But now life must go on. The meaning of life in all realms - politics, law, art, social relations, knowledge, religion - has not been probed, This the Greek philosophers tried to do. They were not people who were sitting behind their desks writing philosophical books. If they were nothing but philosophers of philosophy, we would have forgotten their names long ago. But they were people who took upon themselves the task of creating a spiritual world by objectively observing reality as it was given to them, interpreting it in terms of analytic and synthetic reason.
This attempt broke down at the end of the ancient world. This breaking down of the great- attempt of the Greek philosophers to create a world of meaning through philosophy, produced what I call" the skeptical end of the ancient development. Skepsis means, originally,.observing things. But it has received the negative sense of looking at every dogma, thereby undercutting it, even the dogmata of the Greek schools of philosophy. Therefore the Skeptics are those who doubt the statements of all schools of philosophy. And what is perhaps even more important, these schools of philosophy, e. g. , the Platonic Academy, took a lot of these Skeptical elements into itself. Skepticism did not go beyond probabilism, and the other schools became pragmatic. So a skeptical mood entered all schools and permeated the whole life of the later ancient world. This Skepticism, especially in the school called the School of the Skeptics, was a very serious matter of life. Again it was not a matter of sitting behind one's desk and finding out that everything can be doubt - which is comparatively easy. But it was an inner breakdown of all convictions, and the consequence was - very characteristic of the Greek mind - that if they were not able to give theoretical judgments any more, they believed that they were not able to act practically, either. Therefore they introduced the doctrine of epoch', - restraining, keeping down, not giving judgment nor acting, deciding neither theoretically nor practically. This doctrine of epoch' meant the resignation of judgment in every respect. Therefore these people went into the desert, with a suit or gown very similar to the later Christian monks who followed them in this respect, because they also were in despair about the possibility of living in this world. Some of the skeptics of the ancient Church were very serious people and drew the consequences which our snobbistic skeptics do not usually do, who have a very good time while at the same doubting everything! That was not what the Greek Skeptics did; so they retired from life in order to become consistent.
This skeptical element was an important preparation for Christianity, not only in the later Christian theology but also already in the philosophical schools. The Greek schools, the Epicureans, Stoics, Academics, Peripatetics, NeoPythagorean, were not only schools in the sense in which we today speak of philosophical schools, namely that there is a great teacher, e. g , at Columbia University, or Boston, etc; or the "school" of Dewey or Whitehead, etc; and the "schools" at Chicago, etc A Greek philosophical school was a cult community, a community of a half-ritual, half-philosophical character. These people wanted to live according to the doctrines of their masters. In this period, in which this skeptical mood permeated the ancient world, they wanted certainty above all: we must have it in order to live, they demanded. The answer was: our great teachers, Plato and Aristotle, Zeno the Stoic, and Epicurus, and, later, Plotinus, were not simply thinkers, professors, but they were inspired men. And long before, Christianity, the doctrine of inspiration developed in these Greek schools, namely the inspiration of the founders of these schools. Later, when these schools discussed with the Christians, they did not say Moses was inspired, but they said, e. g., Heraclitus was inspired. This doctrine of inspiration gave Christianity also a chance to enter into the world. . . ; pure reason alone is not able to build up a reality in which one can live.
The character of the founders of these philosophical schools was also very similar to what the Christians said about the founder of their Church. A man like Epicurus - this is very interesting - who later was so much attacked by the Christians, that we have only fragments about him, was called soter by his pupils, the Greek word used in the New Testament which we translate by "savior.." Epicurus the philosopher was called a savior. What does this mean? We regard him as a man who had a good life all the time in his beautiful gardens, and had a very bad anti-Christian hedonistic philosophy - and other name-calling words. The ancient world thought quite differently about Epicurus. They called him soter because he did something for them which was the greatest thing he could do for them, a thing which also is praised by Paul when he speaks of the transformation of the pagans into Christians, namely, liberation from anxiety. Epicurus, with his system of atoms - we call it a materialistic system - liberated them from the fear of demons which permeated the whole life of the ancient world and especially of the later ancient world. Men like Epicurus were called soters, saviors, because they liberated people from fear by their philosophy. All this shows what a serious thing philosophy was at that time. . .
Other consequences also of great seriousness, was what the Stoics called apatheia, namely, without feelings towards the vital drives of life, not feeling desires, joys, pains, but being beyond all this in the state of wisdom. They knew that only a few people were able to reach this state, but those who as Skeptics went into the desert, showed that they were able to do so to a certain extent. Behind all this, of course, stands the early criticism of the mythological gods and the traditional rites for these gods. The criticism of mythology was made in Greece almost at the, same time in which the Second Isaiah did it in Judea. It was a very similar kind of criticism, and has undercut the belief in the gods of polytheism.
This was the negative side in Greek thought of that time. But there were also positive elements in the same tradition. First, the PLATONIC TRADITION: Here Christian theology had as its preparation the idea of transcendence,..that there is something that trespasses empirical reality. Plato speaks of "essential" reality, the reality of ousia's, or "ideas", I. e., the true essences of things. At the same time we find in Plato, and even stronger in Neo-Platonism and in the Platonic school leading to Neo-Platonism, the development of a devaluation of existence. It was called matter, and as a material world it has no ultimate value compared with the essential world. Further, in Plato the inner aim in human existence is described - in the Philebus somewhere, but also practically everywhere in Plato - as becoming similar to God as much as possible. God is the Spiritual sphere. Participation in the Spiritual divine sphere as much as possible is the inner telos of human existence. This is the Platonic tradition and has been used, especially by the great Cappodocian fathers of the Church, to describe the ultimate aim of human existence.
A third doctrine is a doctrine of the soul falling down from an eternal participation in the essential or Spiritual world, being on earth in a body, trying to get rid of the bondage to the body, coming to an elevation above the material world, in steps and degrees. This again was an element which was used not only by all Christian mystics, but also by the official Church Fathers to a large extent.
The fourth point in which the Platonic tradition was important was the idea of PROVIDENCE. This again seems to you to be a Christian idea, but it was formulated already in the later period of Plato's writings, and was a tremendous attempt of the ancient world to overcome the anxiety of fate and death. And in the later ancient world the anxiety of 'Tuch' and Heimarmen' (the goddesses) of accident and necessity - of fate, as we would call it today - was the most important thing. And in the greatest hymn of triump in the New Testament, in Romans 8, we hear " that it is the function of the Christ to overcome the demonic forces of fate. . . That Plato anticipated this situation is one of his greatest contributions; that providence, coming from the highest God, gives us the courage to escape the vicissitudes of fate, is something we should never forget when we speak of the "bad pagans." They produced this concept by their own philosophizing, by their own philosophizing in terms of an ultimate concern.
Fifthly, in Aristotle another element is added to the Platonic tradition: the Divine is a form without matter, perfect in itself and - what is the profoundest idea in Aristotle - this highest form, called God, is moving the world, not causally, not by pushing it from outside, but by driving everything finite towards Him in terms of love. Aristotle developed, in spite of his seeming merely scientific attitude towards reality, one of the greatest systems of love, where he says that God, the highest form - or pure actuality, as he calls it--moves everything by being loved by everything. Everything has a desire to unite itself with the highest form, to get rid of the lower forms in which it lives, where it is in the bondage of matter. In this way the Aristotelian God, as the highest form, came into Christian theology and played a tremendous role there.
Now I come to another tradition: THE STOIC TRADITION, which is the second one of great importance for the understanding of Christian theology. The Stoics were, more than Plato and Aristotle together, important for the life of the later ancient world. The life of the educated ancient man in the world of rulers, coming from Alexander the Great in the Macedonian Empire, or coming from Rome and taking away the independence of all nations - the life of the educated man in these periods was shaped mostly by Stoic tradition. Therefore it is even more important than the Platonic tradition, for the life of the people. I have dealt with this from the point of view of life, of the courage to take fate and death upon oneself, in my book The Courage to Be. There I show that Christianity and the Stoics are the great competitors in all the Western world. But now I show in this lecture something else: Christianity has taken from this great and always present competitor - present even today a lot of fundamental ideas. The first is the doctrine which will bring you into despair when we come to the history of Trinitarian and Christological thought, namely the doctrine of the Logos. but we must deal with it, otherwise no part of the Christian dogmatic development can be understood.
Logos means word, and means also the meaning in a word, the reasonable structure which is indicated by a word. Therefore logos also can mean the universal logos or law of reality. This is the way in which the first one who used this word philosophically - Heraclitus - -used it. The logos is the law which determines the movements of all reality.
Now this logos was used by the Stoic as the Divine power which is present in everything that is, and which has three sides to it, all of which have become extremely important in the later development. The first is the law of nature. The logos is the principle according to which all natural things move. It is the Divine seed, the Divine creative power in everything, which makes it what it is. And it is the creative power of the movement of everything.
Secondly, logos means the moral and legal law, what we could call today, with Immanuel Kant, "practical reason," the law which is innate in every human being when he accepts himself as a personality, with the dignity and greatness of a person. It is the moral or legal law. This is equally important and even precedes the other. When you see in classical books the word "natural law, " we should not think usually of physical laws, but of moral and legal laws. For instance, when we speak of the "rights of man," as embodied in the American Constitution, that would be called by the Stoics and all their followers in all of Western philosophy, natural law. The rights of man are the natural law, which is identical with man's rational nature. But it is also identical with man's ability to recognize reality. It is not only practical reason; it is also theoretical reason, It is man's ability of reasoning, because he has the logos in himself and can discover the logos in nature and history, From this follows, in Stoicism, the man who is determined by the natural law, by the logos; he is the logikos , corresponding to, determined by, the logos: the wise man, But the Stoics were not optimists. They did not believe everybody was a wise man. Perhaps only a dozen, and no more, reached this ideal. All the others were either fools, or between the wise and foolish .. the majority of human beings, those who are in the process of improvement, those who are - -as we would say in America - under the power of education. All this was a fundamental pessimism about most human beings. The Stoics were originally Greeks, but they also became Romans, and some of the Roman emperors were some of the most famous Stoics. When Stoicism came in the hands of the Roman emperors - e. g , Marcus Aurelius - they applied it to the political situation, for which they were responsible. The natural law, in the sense of practical reason, had the consequence that every man participates in reason by the very fact that he is man. And out of this they derived laws which were far superior to many things which we find in the Christian Middle Ages. They gave universal citizenship to every human being, because he potentially participates in reason. Of course, the Stoics - and certainly not the Stoic emperors, who knew people - were optimistic.about man and believed he was actually reasonable. But what they meant was that man potentially participates in reason and that through education they might become actually reasonable, at least some of them. That was their presupposition, from which presupposition they did the great and tremendous thing: they gave Roman citizenship to all citizens of the conquered nations. Everybody could become a Roman citizen or, finally, was declared to be such by birth. This citizenship was a tremendous equalizing step.
Further, the women, slaves and children, who in the old Roman law were the least regarded and developed human beings, became equalized by the laws of the Roman emperors.
This was done, moreover, not by Christianity, but by the Stoics, who derived the idea from the belief in the universal logos in which everyone participates. (Of course, Christianity has another foundation for the same idea: human beings are the children of God who is their Father.)
Thus the Stoics conceived of the idea of a world state embracing the whole world, based on the common rationality of everybody.
Now this certainly was something in which Christianity could enter and develop. The difference was that the Stoics did not know the concept of sin. They knew the concept of foolishness, but not of sin. . Therefore, STOIC SALVATION is salvation through reaching wisdom. CHRISTIAN SALVATION was a salvation through reaching Divine grace. And these two things still fight with each other in our days.
There was another reality which was taken over by the Christian Church, and for which pure philosophers coming from Europe have often a great contempt, while I think Americans should not have contempt at all, because in this as in so many respects, they are basically ancient Romans - namely, what is called eclecticism, from a Greek word meaning: choosing some possibilities out of many. The eclectics were philosophers but they were not originally creative philosophers, as the Greeks were, who created their system on which basis the schools worked. The Roman thinkers, politicians, and statesmen were often the same persons, as in England: in this I think England is superior to America; I hope we will soon have in this country philosophers who are statesmen, as we had it in England, and in ancient Rome. -- These people were eclectics; they did not create new systems. What they did, e.g., Cicero, was to choose the most important concepts from the classical Greek systems which were pragmatically useful for a Roman citizen. That which gave the best way of living pragmatically as a Roman citizen, as a citizen of the world state, was taken from the different philosophies. For this reason the following ideas, which you can recognize very much in popular political speeches in this country today, are those chosen from a pragmatic point of view: the idea of PROVIDENCE, which gives some kind of feeling of safety to the life of the people; the idea of GOD as an innate idea in everybody, which induces fear of God, and discipline; the idea of MORAL FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY, which makes it possible to educate and to uphold responsibility for moral failures; and finally the idea of IMMORTALITY, which threatens with another world those who escape punishment in this world.
These ideas, which we also find in the 18th century Enlightenment and which, from this source, are still very much prevalent in this country, were the ideas chosen by the Roman eclectics for the making of a good Roman citizen. They all were in some way a preparation for the Christian mission.
Now this was the philosophical world into which Christianity came when the kairos had arrived.
Ideas and attitudes formed during the Hellenistic period of the Jewish religion and their influence on Jesus, the apostles, and the writers of the New Testament. Angels, Messiah, Demons, Stoicism, Mystery religions and Mysticism. How the development from a tribal to a universal God gave rise to mediating beings (angels, Messiah, son of man, and wisdom). The origin and meaning of logos and why both good and bad angels do not imply a dualism. How the reader might reply to someone who asks, "Do you believe Jesus was the Son of God?"
Lecture 4: Apostolic Fathers:
The name "Tillich" brings two phrases to mind: "The ground of all being" and "The Courage to be." The reader will find the seeds of these phrases in this lecture as he describes the ways in which apostolic Christianity separated itself from Judaism and Paganism.
We come now to the so-called Apostolic Fathers, the earliest post-biblical writers, partly earlier than some of the later books of the New Testament. These so-called Apostolic Fathers (Ignatius, Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, and others) are more dependent on a Christian conformism which slowly had developed, than on the outspoken position of Paul in his Letters. Insofar as Paul still was effective in this period, it was mostly not directly but more through John and Ignatius. The reason for this was, partly at least, that the fight with the Jews was a matter of the past, that the conflict with the Jewish Christians did not have to be continued and repeated. Instead of that, the positive elements became important which gave an understandable content for the pagans. One can say that in the generation of the Apostolic Fathers, the great visions of the first ecstatic breakthrough had disappeared, and that instead of that, a given set of ideas was left, a set of ideas which produced a kind of ecclesiastical conformity and made the missionary work possible. Some people have complained about this development, complained that so early after the second generation the power of the Spirit was on the wane. But this is an unavoidable thing in all creative periods. After the breakthrough – one only needs to think of the Reformation – and after the first generation which received the breakthrough (i. e., the second generation), a fixation or concentration on some special points begins; the need to preserve what was given, the educational needs – all this working together to a Christianity which, compared with the Christianity of the Apostolic age, had considerably lost its Spiritual power.
Nevertheless, this period is extremely important since it was what was preserved and what was needed for the life of the early congregations. The first question to be asked was: Where could one find the expression of the common spirit of the congregation? Originally the real mediators of the message were those who were the bearers of the Spirit, the "pneumatics" who had the pneuma (the spirit). But, as you know from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, especially the 12th chapter, he already had difficulties with the bearers of the Spirit because they produced disorder. Therefore he already emphasizes the order besides the Spirit. In the supposedly Pauline letters of the New Testament, this emphasis on ecclesiastical order becomes increasingly important. In the generation of the Apostolic Fathers, the ecstatic Spirit almost had disappeared. It was considered to be dangerous, and why, one asked, do we need it?: everything the Spirit has to say has already been classically expressed in Bible and tradition; therefore, instead of the prophets, who travelled from place to place, following the Apostles we now have definite norms and authorities in the early Christian congregations, and the first thing we must do is to find out about these norms and authorities.
The first and basic authority is the Old Testament, and the older parts of the New Testament, as they already had appeared and were collected. But the New Testament at that time had a very vague edge: there were many books which were not yet decisively received into the canon of the Bible. It took more than 200 more years before the Church finally decided about all those books which we now consider as the New Testament. But in any case, the Church possessed the whole Old Testament and a central basic amount of New Testament books.
But this was not all. Besides these writings, there was a traditional life, a complex of dogmatic and ethical doctrines, called by I Clement "the canon of our tradition." The names of this tradition were: truth, Gospel, doctrine, commandments, tradition. All these words were used; theology points to the same thing: the living tradition beside the Old Testament, and the beginnings of the New Testament. But this was a large amount of material and it was necessary to narrow it down. First of all, for those who were baptised, it was necessary that they received and confessed a creed which made them members of the Church. So a confessional creed was created, which bore similarity to our present-day Apostles' Creed, and which was, in its center, Christological, because this was what distinguished the Christian communities from Judaism as well as from paganism.
Baptism was the sacrament of entrance, and in this sacrament the one baptized – who at that time, of course, was an adult, coming from paganism – had to confess that he wanted to accept the implications of his baptism. He was then baptised in the name of Christ. Later on, the names of God and the Spirit were added But nothing was explained. All this was faith and liturgy, but not yet theology.
All these things are going on in the Church. Therefore the doctrine is the doctrine not of a philosopher of religion, but is the doctrine of the Church, expressing its conformity, its traditional doctrines, its baptism creed. This "Church" – derived from the Greek ekklesia, an assembly, i. e., an assembly of God or Christ: the original meaning is being "called out" of the houses, gathering together the Greek citizens to the city... etc.; similarly those who were called out of all houses and nations to form the Church Universal. Those people who are called out of the nations into the universal Church are the true people of God. They are called out of the barbarians, out of the Greeks, out of the Jews, – although the Jews anticipated it and had a kind of ekklesia themselves, namely as the people of God of the Old Testament. But they are not the true people of God, because the true people of God are universally called out of all nations.
If this is the case, it is necessary that those who are called together to the conformity of the ecclesiastical creed distinguish themselves from those outside and from those who are inside but wrongly: the heretics. But how can this be done? How can you find out whether a doctrine may or may not be an introduction of barbarian, Greek or Jewish doctrines which do not fit into the conformity of the Church? The answer was: this can be done only by the bishop who is the "overseer" of the congregation, and who represents the Spirit, who is supposed to be in the whole congregation. In the fight against pagans, Jews, barbarians and heretics, the bishops become more and more important. Ignatius writes, in his letter to the Smyrnians: "Where the bishop is, there the congregation should be. Even if assumed prophets appear, they may be wrong or right. But the bishop is right." The bishops are the r:epresentatives of the true doctrine. The bishops themselves were not originally distinguished from the presbyters (the elders). Then slowly the bishop became a monarch among the elders and a monarchic episcopate developed. This is of course a consistent development. If the authority which guarantees truth is embodied in human beings, then the tendency towards one human being who has the final decision is almost unavoidable.
In Clement of Rome – one of the Apostolic Fathers, to be distinguished from Clement of Alexandria, a few hundred years later..–..we already find the first traces of apostolic succession: the bishop represents the apostles. So this is the first thing we must say: the doctrine of the authorities. And this is fundamental, showing how early the problem of authority was decisive in the early Church; how early what came to full development in the Roman Church developed already in early Christianity.
We now come to special doctrines. The pagan world in which these few Christians lived demanded first of all an emphasis on a monotheistic idea of God. Therefore the Shepherd of Hermas says: "First of all, believe that God is one, who has made all things, bringing them out of nothing into being." Here we have the doctrine of creation out of nothing, which we cannot find in the Old Testament but which is implicit in it and was expressed already before Christianity by Jewish theologians in the period between the Testaments. It is the doctrine which was decisive for the separation of the early Church from paganism.
In the same line was the emphasis on the almighty God, the despotes as he is called, the ruling powerful lord. Clement says: "0 great demiurge", (i. e., master of all work and lord of everything: he is the great builder of the universe and the lord of everything he has built. Now here are three very important concepts. I already mentioned creation out of nothing; then the demiurge; and then the almighty, the despotes who rules the world. Why are these concepts, which seem so natural to us, so important? Because they are concepts of protection used against paganism. Creation out of nothing means that God did not find matter when He started creating, a matter which always resists the form, and which therefore should be transcended – as it was in neo-Platonic paganism. Such a matter does not exist. The material world is an object of Divine creation and therefore good and must not be disparaged for the sake of salvation. The word "demiurge" was used in Plato and Gnosticism, in the religious mixture of these centuries, for something which is lower than God, which is below the highest God, who does not deal with such low things as creating the world, but leaves it to a demiurge. This means that creation is something in which the Divine reality is less present, that it is a falling away from full Divinity. Against this, these words of Clement speak: the great demiurge is God himself; there is no duality between the highest God and the maker of the world. Creation is absolute act, out of nothing. This means almightiness. Almightiness does not mean a God who sits on His throne and can do anything he wants to do, like an arbitrary tyrant; rather, almightiness means God is the ground and the o n l y ground of everything created, and that there is no resisting matter against Him. This is the meaning of the first article of the Apostles' Creed, which you should read with great awe again and again, because here Christianity separated itself from the dualistic interpretation of reality which we find in all paganism – dualistic in the sense that there is a good principle and an evil principle, and that both of them are of equal originality, that matter is as eternal as form, that chaos.. . resists God. All these ideas disappeared in the moment the Christians created the first words of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God the almighty creator of heaven and earth." This is the great wall of Christianity against paganism. And Christology, without this wall, inescapably deteriorizes into Gnosticism, where Christ becomes one of the cosmic powers besides others, even if he is the highest. Therefore don't underestimate the first article. Only in the light of this first article is the second article meaningful. Don't reduce God to the Second Person. of the Trinity. This was very well understood by these earliest post-biblical theologians, these Apostolic Fathers. They knew that they needed a God who is creator, almighty, and not in any way dependent on a resisting matter.
As ruler of everything, God has a plan of salvation. This idea of a plan of salvation is especially developed by Ignatius. In his letter to the Ephesians, he speaks of the "economy towards the new man." This is a. wonderful summary of the Christian message: economy towards the new man. Economy means "building a house." But this word is used in our culture for what we call economic production. It is used in the Greek period for the structure of God and world, in their relationships. There is an economy of the Trinitarian thinking: Father, Son, and Spirit. They only together are God. There is an economy of salvation, the building of the different periods which finally led to the new man. This idea of the new man, or new creature, or new being, as the aim of the history of salvation, is an important contribution of these theologians.
This economy, this periodic preparation, is already present in the Old Testament. So Ignatius says: "Judaism has believed towards Christianity." Here again we have the relationship towards fulfillment. The Christ, the new man, has appeared. He is perfect. The disruptedness of the old man is overcome and death is dissolved. This leads to Christology.
Now you will find that here already, some of the defects arise which will become overwhelming when we come to the Trinitarian and Christological discussions. So I ask you to follow very carefully each mentioning of the Christological problem in the earlier periods, otherwise it is impossible to understand anything of the dogma of the early Church, which has two parts: Christ in heaven (the Trinitarian dogma) and Christ on earth (the Christological dogma).
Generally speaking, one can say that Jesus as the Christ was considered to be a Spiritual being who is pre-existent, and who had transformed the historical Jesus into a tool for His saving activity. The Spirit is an hypostasis in God, an independent power – which of course is completely united with God – but it has the character of a certain independence or hypostasis. The Son came into the realm of flesh; He accepted flesh, which had developed independently; the flesh cooperated with the Spirit in Him; the Holy Spirit dwelled in the flesh which He chose; He became the Son of God by His service. (" Flesh" here always means historical reality),
But there is another idea – and now things become serious. One could say that the first Spirit, the proton pneuma, became flesh. For instance Ignatius says: "Christ is God and perfect man at the same time. He comes from the Spirit, and the seed of David." This means that He is not only some Spiritual power which has accepted flesh, but He, as the Spiritual power, has become flesh. One also uses other words. One says: "There is one physician." Salvation is still understood as meaning healing. This hiatros , this physician, heals fleshly and spiritually; He has genesis and has not genesis; He has come into flesh, He has come into death, and has eternal life in death; and He is God who came into flesh. He is from Mary and from God; able to suffer and then not able to suffer, because of His elevation to God.
Now these are still very mixed ideas, They all want to emphasize that here something paradoxical has happened. that a Divine Spiritual power has appeared under the conditions of humanity and existence.
From the point of view of God, Ignatius says: "For there is one God who made himself manifest through Jesus Christ, His Son, who is His logos, proceeding from His silence . II Clement: "Being the first Spirit, the head of the angels, He became flesh. Being He who appears in human form, Christ is the Word proceeding out of the silence." (aposiges ) . The Christ breaks the eternal silence of the Divine ground. As such He is both God and complete man. The same historical reality is the one as well as the other, as one person. One can speak of a double message (a dipton kerygma), the message that this same being is God and man.
Now here we have the main religious interest of this whole period. The interest is, as Clement says, theologein ton Christon, i. e., speaking theologically of Christ as of God. "Brothers, so we must think about Jesus Christ as about God, for if we think small things about Him, we can hope to receive small things only. The absoluteness of salvation demands an absolute Divine Saviour. " Now all of this is quite germinal for our development, but it had to evolve through centuries of struggle. Otherwise, they could not grow. But here we have the problem of the two possible categories: Has Christ come into flesh, accepting it?; or has He come as the logos, being transformed into it? Both ideas already appear.
The second point is: Here is logos aposiges, the Divine Logos who breaks the silence of God. This is a very profound idea. It means that the Divine Abyss in itself is without word, form, object, and voice. It is silence, the infinite silence of the eternal. But out of this Divine silence, the word, the logos, breaks and opens up what is hidden in this silence. He reveals the Divine Ground
Thirdly, Christology is not a theoretical problem, but the Christological problem is one side of the soteriological problem (from the Greek soteria, "salvation").We can see it here already, and can say that it is not a merely theoretical interest which drives to Christology and the fight about it, but it is the desire to have a safe salvation. It is the desire to get the courage which overcomes the anxiety of being lost. This is the situation, and these three points you should keep in mind. They appear as early as in the Apostolic Fathers:
The first point: The two Christologies: taking on flesh, or being transformed into flesh;
Second: The question of the Divine silence and the Logos revealing it;
Third: The question of soteriology, which is the basis for the question of Christology, and not vice versa. (Perhaps even those of you who don't know Greek should learn the word soter, "saviour"...) And now, what is this "salvation"? The work of Christ is a two-fold one, and remained so in the whole early Greek church, and is still so in the present Greek Orthodox church. It is first gnosis , (knowledge), and secondly, ~ (life). (It is always sad for me to see that there are many who don't know Greek, because the Bible--and also Plato! --was written in Greek.)
In any case, these are the things which the Christ brings: knowledge and life. Sometimes it is combined in the phrase athanatos gnosis : immortal knowledge, knowledge of that which is immortal and which makes immortal. Knowledge: the Christ called us from darkness into light; He made us serve the Father of Truth. Or: He called us who had no being and wanted that we have being, out of His new Being. This means knowledge brings being. Knowledge is knowledge of being. And he who has this knowledge has saving knowledge. Knowledge and being belong to each other. And so do lie and non-being. Truth is being; new truth is new being.
Now all this I mention in order to show one thing which is not often understood. Harnack and his followers have called the early Church as being infested by Greek intellectualism. I think this statement has two mistakes: first. Greek intellectualism is a wrong term because the Greeks were extremely interested in truth. but. with some exceptions, the truth they wanted to have was existential truth, truth concerning their existence, truth saving them out of the distorted existence and elevating them to the immovable One. And in the same way. the early congregations understood truth. Truth is not theoretical knowledge about objects, but truth is cognitive participation in a new reality. in the reality which has appeared in the Christ. Without this participation, no truth is possible. and knowledge is abstract and meaningless. This is what these people meant when they combined being and knowledge. Participating in the New Being is participating in truth. having the true knowledge.
This identity of truth and being mediates the other side. namely life. Christ gives immortal knowledge, the knowledge which gives immortality. He is the saviour and leader of immortality. He is in His being our imperishable life, He gives both the knowledge of immortality and the drug of immortality. which is the sacrament. Ignatius calls the Lord's Supper the antidotonto me apothanein . the remedy against our having to die, This idea that the sacramental materials of the Lord's Supper are, so to speak, drugs or remedies which produce immortality, has a very profound meaning. It shows. first of all, one thing: these Apostolic Fathers did not believe in the immortality of the soul, There is no natural immortality. otherwise it would be meaningless for them to speak about immortal life. appearing and given to us in Christ, But they believed that man is natural..–..mortal, exactly as the Old Testament believes; that in Paradise man was able to participate in the food of the gods, called the "tree of life", and to keep alive by participating in this Divine power. In the same way the Apostolic Fathers said that with the coming of Christ the situation of Paradise is reestablished. Now we again participate in the food of eternity, which is the body and the blood of Christ, and in doing so we build in ourselves the counter-balance against the natural having to die. Death is the wages of sin only insofar as sin is the separation from God, and therefore God's power to overcome our natural having to die – from dust to dust, as the Old Testament says,. – does hot work any more: and now it works again, in Christ. and it is seen in a sacramentally realistic way in the materials of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
Now if you see this, then you can at least say one thing -- that our traditional speaking of the immortality of the soul is not classically Christian tradition, but is a distortion of it, not in a genuine but in a pseudo-Platonic sense.
Lecture 5: The Apologetic Movement. Celsus, Justin Martyr.
The nature and role of apologetics, Christianity's response to charges that it is a danger to the Roman Empire and that it is philosophically nonsense. Such response must necessarily find whatever commonality there is between the attacker (e.g. paganism) and the attacked (Christianity), then demonstrate the deficiencies of the attacking power. Finally it must show that Christianity remedies those deficiencies. The understanding of logos not as the description of an individual being, but of a universal principle, the self-manifestation of God, even in Jesus as the Christ, on which depends salvation.
Today I want to start with something which can rightly be called the birthplace of a developed Christian theology, namely the apologetic movement. Christianity needed apologetics for different reasons. Apologeisthai means replying, answering, to the judge in the court, if somebody accuses you. You remember Socrates' apologia, his answer to those who accused him. In the same sense, Christianity expressed itself in terms of answers, of apologia. The people who did this systematically are called the apoligists.
The necessity to answer was brought about because of a double accusation against Christianity : 1) that Christianity is a danger to the Roman Empire. This was the political accusation, that it undermines the structure of this empire.
2) that, philosophically speaking, Christianity is nonsense, a superstition mixed with philosophical fragments.
These two attacks supported each other. The philosophical attack was taken over by the authorities and used in their accusations. In this way these philosophical attacks became dangerous even in terms of political consequences. And so Christianity had to defend itself against both. The most important representative of these attacks was the physician and philosopher CELSUS. It is very important to listen to him in order to see how Christianity looked at that time to an educated Greek philosopher and scientist. For Celsus, Christianity is a mixture of fanatic superstition and philosophical piecemeal. The historical reports, according to him, are contradictory and are uncertain in their evidence. Here we have, for the first time, something which has repeated itself again and again: historical criticism of the Old and New Testament – but we have it here with hate, by an enemy. Later we have, in the 18th century, the beginning of historical criticism with love, namely with a love towards the Reality which lies behind these reports. Even today many people confuse the original way in which historical criticism was done – with hate – and react with hate against. it, while Christian theologians for more than two centuries now, have worked - -mostly with the same arguments as the enemies – but with love, in order to understand what really is in the Old and New Testaments. So we should not confuse this. But it is interesting that the first criticism came from outside, from enemies, in terms of hate and not love.
Now a few of Celsus' arguments: One of the main points which is always discussed between critical historians and traditional theologians is the resurrection of 'Jesus. Celsus says that this event which is so important was observed only by adherents, and originally even only by a few ecstatic women. His deification is nothing else than processes of deification which occurred in many other cases which we know from history. Good old Euhemeros, the philosopher of religion, has given sufficient examples of the way in which a human being, a king or a hero, was deified. Then he says that the Christians do something which is especially disgusting, ,namely, when the stories become extremely incredible – as many of them in the Old Testament – then they are explained away,. allegorically. (All these things were actually done.) ln this criticism, especially of the Old Testament miracle stories, a slight element 'of anti-Judaism is visible, and this is understandable because some of Celsus' criticism hit, the Jews as much as the Christians. ... He says that the descent of God contradicts the unchangeable character of God which is also emphasized so strongly by the Christian writers. But if the Divine Being has descended to earth, why did this happen in a despised corner of the world, and why did it happen only once? Especially disgusting – and here again we have anti-Judaistic feeling – is the fight between the Jews and Christians as to whether the Messiah has or has not appeared. This is particularly disgusting to the educated pagan.
Very stupid, also, was the much used argument of that time from prophecy to fulfillment. He is historically educated enough to see that the prophet did not mean the fulfillment in the terms in which the fulfillment happened. And I would say this is an especially sore spot in all Church history, something where the idea of universal preparatory revelation – which is a sound idea – has been distorted in the mechanism of "foreseeing" events, and then they "happened". He sees this weakness with great clarity.
But the deepest point in his criticism of Christianity is not the scientific with respect to history, or the philosophy with respect to the idea of incarnation, but it is something else: it is a really religious feeling, namely when he says that the demonic powers which as Paul says have been conquered by Christ, actually rule the world..–..the argument which you can hear everywhere in our time, and the world has not changed, since the beginning of Christianity. But Celsus adds: There is no sense even to try to overcome these powers; they are the real rulers of the world. Therefore, one should be obedient to the Roman rulers on earth because they have at least reduced the power of the demons to some extent – which is also a Pauline idea. They have established a certain order in which the demonic forces are limited. Therefore the Roman emperors, however questionable they may be personally, must be obeyed and must receive veneration, for through the obedience to the orders of this world, to the necessities of law and nature, Rome has become great. What the Christians do is to undermine the greatness and the glory which is Rome, and in doing so they undercut the only power which is able to prevent the world from falling into chaos and a complete victory of the demons.
This was not an easy attack, but a very serious one, and one which has been heard again and again in all Church history. And you can understand that Christians arose who had the same philosophical education as Celsus had, and who tried to answer these attacks. This is the meaning of the apologetic movement, out of which theology has arisen.
Now these people didn't refute historical criticism very much, because in the moment in which you go into this, then whether you defend one position or not, you cannot defend all positions. When you accept the method, then all the difficulties arise which we have experienced in the history of Protestantism during the last 200 years, and which are alive today as they ever were. Think of the famous discussion about the demythologization of the New Testament, where we have exactly the same problem.
So these Apologists didn't go into this, but they tried to answer the philosophical criticism, and did it in a way which tried to show three things. This is the way every apologetic has to work. First of all, if you want to speak with somebody meaningfully, there must be a common basis, some mutually accepted ideas. This truth common to Christians and pagans must first be elaborated. If there is nothing in common between them, no conversation is possible and no meaningful addressing oneself to the pagans is possible. It always must be supposed – and this is a rule for all Christian missionary work – that the other one understands what you say, but understanding is partly participating. If he speaks an absolutely different language, then no understanding is possible. So the Apologists showed that there is something in common.
Secondly, they must show that in the actual ideas of paganism, there are defects. There are things which contradict the ideas even of the pagans themselves. There are things which have been criticized for centuries, even by the pagan philosophers. One shows the negativity in the other one, as the second step of apologetics.
Thirdly, one shows that one's own position is not to be accepted as something from outside, which is thrown at one's head – this is not good apologetics, throwing stones – but that Christianity is the fulfillment of what is, as longing and desire, in paganism. (This is) the way in which I work that out in all my systematic theology which I call, consciously, an apologetic form of theology: the relationship or the correlation between question and answer. Only if Christianity answers the existential question in the pagan mind can Christianity be accepted and understood.
Now these three steps – first a common ground without which no conversation is possible at all; second, the defects of the object of the apologetic; third, the belief that one's own position is the fulfillment of what, as longing and desire, is in the other one: this is good apologetics and this you must do whenever you work apologetically, and I cannot imagine any conversation or any sermon which you will ever give in which the apologetic element is not present, in which you do not answer questions, answer to accusations, to criticism, implicitly or explicitly.
Now there is one danger in apologetics: that the common ground is overemphasized over against the differences. And if this is done, then you certainly do not throw stones at the heads of the others; but you don't give him anything either: you accept him as he is. This is not the purpose either. So you must find a way between these two forms: the one, the wrong way of preaching and teaching Christianity, is: throwing undigestible objects at the other one, which he cannot receive, as the human being cannot receive stones or bullets; the other, that you don't tell him anything he didn't know already. And that is often the way in which liberal theology acted, while the other is the way fundamentalism and orthodoxy acted. Christian theology tried to find a way between these two wrong behaviors, and in doing so they became the founders of a definitively
Justin Martyr, perhaps the most important of the Apologists: "This is the only philosophy which I have found certain and adequate." This sentence needs a comment. Some anti-apologetic theologians – they are not only in continental Europe – would say: Now there you see: Christianity is dissolved into a philosophy; that is what the Apologists did and that is what every apologetic theology does -- even my own. I have heard this several, or even innumerable, times. The situation must be understood: what does this sentence mean, actually? Certainly it says Christianity is a philosophy. But if someone makes such a statement, one must know what philosophy means, in the mouth of this man, who was not a professor of philosophy, in America in the year 1953, in one of the colleges or universities. A Greek philosopher was something quite different. Philosophy at that time was the name for the spiritual, non-magical and non-superstitious character of a movement. Therefore! Justin says that Christianity is the only certain and adequate philosophy, he first of all says it is not magical, it is not superstitious; it is meaningful, adequate, to the logos, to the word, to reason; and this was the first thing he had to say against people like Celsus.
Secondly, for the later Greeks, philosophy was not only a theoretical but even more practical matter. It was a matter of existential interpretation of life, of an interpretation of life which was a matter of life and death for the existence of the people at that time.
Thirdly, to be a philosopher meant, ordinarily, to belong to a philosophical school. And philosophical schools at that time were not the same as what we mean by them, e. g., that there are pupils of Dewey and Whitehead in different colleges in this country; rather, "school" meant, then, a ritual community in which the founder of the school was supposed to have had a revelatory insight into the truth. Acceptance in such a school was not a matter of a doctor's degree, but of a whole personal initiation into the atmosphere of this school. So the word "philosophy" had a much larger sense than professors of "philosophy", or textbooks on "philosophy".
By the way, in English the word philosophy has still preserved some of this larger meaning. One speaks even of a philosophy of business management, and a philosophy of home cooking, etc. – very important things – and if the word philosophy is connected with them, then philosophy means a systematic understanding of a realm of reality which has something to do with real existence, and it is not only a matter of philosophical analysis in terms of logic, epistemology and metaphysics.
Now if, therefore, Justin called Christianity a philosophy, then he makes it a human existential enterprise which is neither superstitious nor magical, but follows the principles of sound reason.
Now with respect to this Christian philosophy, he says that it is universal – and this is very important – that it is not a corner truth of a sectarian character, but that it is all-embracing truth about the meaning of existence. And from this follows that wherever truth appears, it belongs to us, the Christians. Existential truth..–..truth not in the scientific sense, but in the sense of truth concerning existence, truth about life and death, truth about to-be-and-not-to-be--is, wherever it appears, Christian truth. "What anybody has said about truth belongs to us, the Christians." This is not arrogance. He doesn't mean that the Christians now have all truth, which they invented, etc. , but they said exactly what they said later in terms of the logos doctrine, namely that there cannot be any truth anywhere which is not included in principle in Christian truth. This is what already the Fourth Gospel says, namely that the logos appeared, full of truth and grace.
And vice versa, he says: "Those who live according to the logos are Christians." Now what happens here is very important. He includes, for instance, Socrates, Heraclitus, Elijah, and others. But there is a difference; he added, "the total logos," which appeared in Christ and has become "body, mind and soul." Therefore the philosophers, apart from Christianity, are partly in error and even partly subjected to demonic inspirations which come from the pagan gods. The gods of the heathens are not non-entities, but they are demonic forces, they are realities. But since they are on a limited basis (since) they are idols, they therefore have destructive power.
What does all this mean? It takes away the wrong impression..--..as though these Christians felt themselves as another religion. There is here actually the negation of the concept of religion, for Christianity: one religion beside others. All the others are wrong; ours is right: against this the Apologists would say: not.our religion is right, but the logos has appeared on which our religion is based, and is the full logos of God himself, appearing in the center of His being, appearing in His totality. This is more than religion. This is truth appearing in time and space. So here the word "Christianity" is still understood not as a religion but as the negation of religions, and for this reason as being able to embrace them all, in terms of universality. Justin has said what I think it is absolutely necessary to say: If there were anywhere in the world an existential truth which could not be received by Christianity as an element in its own thinking, then Jesus would not be the Christ. And this is exactly what he says, and what the whole logos doctrine says, because then He would be one teacher alongside other teachers, of which there are many and each is limited and in error. But that is not what the early Christians said. The early Christians said – and we say and should say – that if we call Jesus the Christ, or the Logos (as the Apologists called Him), this means there cannot be, by definition, so to speak, any truth – Let us say, China, India, Islam, Judaism, mysticism, whatever you want to know, and certainly all philosophy – which cannot be taken in principle into Christianity and is nevertheless truth. If this were possible, then the application of the term logos, as the Fourth Gospel applies it, to Jesus as the Christ would not be possible.. This does not mean that this Logos knew all truth; that is of course nonsense and would destroy His humanity, His human reality. But it does mean that the fundamental truth which has appeared in Him is essentially universal, and therefore can take in every other truth. For this reason the early theologians didn't hesitate to take in as much Greek philosophical truth as they could, and as much oriental mysticism as they could. They were not afraid of it, as some theologians today are.
There is, however, one difference in the appearance of the logos in Christ, namely that this appearance makes it possible that even the most uneducated human being can receive the full existential truth, while the philosophers may lose it in discussing it. Or in other terms: One of the main ideas of the Apologists is that Christianity is far superior to all philosophy – although there are Christians among the early philosophers – and it is superior because philosopher presupposes education. Only a: few human beings are educated; are the others excluded from truth? And the answer is: On the basis of a merely philosophical form of truth, they are excluded; on the basis of a manifestation of the Logos as a living person, they are not excluded, they can have it as fully as any philosopher. Now this remains a problem for all the following discussions , but it is something which is even today decisive, that we can believe that: the message of Jesus as the Christ is universal not only in embracing all mankind, but universal also in embracing all classes, groups, and social stratifications of mankind.
Beyond this an argument is brought up, which is practical: the reality of the Church. In this group of human beings, small as it was at that time, one finds a degree of moral power and acting which is found in no other group. Therefore the congregations of Christians are not dangerous to the world power. They do exactly what the Roman Empire tries to do, namely, to prevent the world from falling into chaos. They are, even more than the Roman Empire, the supporters of world order. So Justin could say: "The world lives from the prayers of the Christians and from the obedience of the Christians to the law of the state. The Christians preserve the world, and on the other hand, for their sake God preserves the world." Now this is the main argument against the Roman Empire, which of course could be supported by innumerable practical evidences which show that far from destroying the orders on which reality is built, the Christians support it."
The philosophical idea of God is inborn in every human being. 1t is the idea of Being eternally, without beginning, needing nothing beyond passions, indestructible, unchangeable, invisible – all these characteristics which Parmenides attributed to Being are here attributed to God. But there is a point of difference between classical Greek philosophy and Justin's doctrine of God. This difference comes in through the Old Testament and changes everything. It is the statement that God is the almighty creator.: The moment this statement is made, the personal element enters the abstract and mystical description of God's identity. God as creator is acting, and almightiness means that He is the acting power behind everything which moves.
It is interesting to observe that in these early statements about God, Christian monotheism oscillates between the trans-personal element of Being and the personal element of God as creator, and of course saviour, etc. This oscillation is necessary in the moment in which the idea of God is made the object of thought. You cannot escape some elements of the eternal, of the unconditional, the unchangeable, etc. On the other hand, the practical piety and the experience of creatureliness in which we find ourselves, presupposes a person-to-person relationship, and between these two elements Christianity always oscillates and must oscillate, because these are two elements in God himself.
Between God and man, there are angels and powers, some of them good and some evil. But their mediating power is insufficient. The real mediator is the Logos. Now what is this Logos? I remember that in former classes the question was always asked: Now after all this speaking about "Logos", I would like to know what the word really means! And I hope that after the next four weeks, when you hear much more about the Logos, you can ask this question. But I will try my best, although the best is very poor in comparison with the difficulty of the problems, especially for the difficulty in the minds of people of whom I say they all are nominalists by birth! This makes it so difficult because, of course, a concept such as "Logos" is not the description of an individual being, but the description of a universal principle. And if one is not used to thinking in terms of universals as powers of being, then such a concept " as Logos remains impossible to understand. So I should do the following: to convert you, at least hypothetically, to medieval realism – to Platonism, if you want to call it thus – and then to speak about the Logos. But since time is limited, I will do this implicitly if possible, and cannot do it explicitly.
Logos, the principle of the self-manifestation of God. God manifest to himself, in himself: that is His Logos. Therefore whenever God appears, to himself and to others outside of himself, it is the Logos, the self-manifestation of God, which appears. This Logos is also, and in a unique way, in Jesus as the Christ. And this, according to the Apologists, is the greatness of Christianity. This is the basis for its claim for salvation, because if the Divine Logos in its fulness had not appeared in Jesus as the Christ, then no full salvation would be possible. This is the argument ex existentia, from existence, and not from speculation. Please remember what I said before, that all these seemingly speculative ideas into which we must now dive, are only seemingly speculative. Of course, speculative means "looking at" problems, and in this sense they are speculative. But they are not produced for the sake of speculation, but for the sake of making Christian salvation understandable. And in all decisive moments of the struggle between the different movements, we find that the classical theologians, who finally win the victory, refer to salvation and then say: If there shall be salvation: there must be this concept of the Logos. That is always their arguing. There is salvation; we have experienced it – so we must speak in this and that way about the Logos.
Lecture 6: Logos and the Doctrine of
God. Gnosticism. Marcion.
Tillich defines gnosticism as a religious syncretism and explains its temptations and dangers to Christianity, both in apostolic times and in our day. He shows how the apologists combine monotheism with the divinity of Christ and their success in combining the humanity and the universality of his nature at the same time.
Yesterday I tried to explain what was the reason, in interpreting the.meaning of Jesus as the Christ, for the Apologetic theologians' use of the concept of the Logos, taken from a long philosophical development beginning with Heraclitus and the Stoics and Philo of Alexandria. The answer was: because the Logos was considered already by Philo to be the universal principle of the Divine self-manifestation, and therefore in saying that this is so, that this is historical reality in Jesus, one said of Him that He is universal. I gave you an interpretation of this term "universal:" Nothing can in principle be excluded, even if it is not actually developed within Christianity
Now I Come to the speculative side, to the combination of the Logos doctrine with the doctrine of God. The Logos is the first "work" or generation of God as father. The Father, being eternal mind, has in himself the Logos, since He is eternally "logical," as Athanasius, one of the Apologists, says. "Logical" doesn't mean that He can argue well; He leaves that to us. "Logical' means that He is logikos, namely adequate to the principles of meaning and truth; God is not irrational will. He is here called eternal nous (mind), and this means He has within himself the power of self-manifestation. This analogy is taken from our own experience. There is no mental process which is not going on in some way or other in terms of silent words. And so, the inner spiritual life of God includes the silent word in him.
There is a Spiritual procession going on from the Father to the world in which He manifests himself to himself and to the world. 'But this procession does not produce separation. The Word is not the same of which it is the Word. But on the other hand, the Word cannot be separated from; that of which it is the Word, namely the manifestation: The Word of God is not identical with God; it is the self-manifestation of God. On the other hand, if you separate it from God, then it's empty, with no content. This tries to describe, in analogy with the mental processes of man, the meaning of the term Logos. Therefore the process of generation of the Logos in which the Logos is produced in God – eternally, of course – does not make God small; He is not less than He was, by the fact that He generates His Word. So Justin can say: "The Logos is different from God according to number, but not according to concept." He is God; He is not the God, but He is one with God in essence. (Justin) also uses the Stoic doctrines of the immanent and the trespassing Logos. The Logos in God is logos endiathetos, "indwelling. " But this eternal indwelling Logos, the Word in which God expresses himself to himself, becomes, with the creation, becomes logos proforikos the proceeding, the outgoing Logos. The Logos is now a word spoken towards outside, towards the creature., through the prophets and the wise men. The old meaning ("word") and the already actual meaning ("reason") – since Heraclitus oscillates – both are always meant. If one thinks in Old Testament terms, one would prefer to translate logos by "word"; if one thinks in Greek terms, as the Apologists mostly did, then one would translate logos by "reason" not by '"reasoning," but by the meaningful structure of reality, which is reason. As the immediate self expression of the Divine, the Word, the Logos form or reason, is less, than the Divine Abyss, because the Divine Abyss is always the beginning, and out of the depths of divinity His self-manifestation and His manifestation towards the world come. The Logos is the beginning of the generations of God; there, everything starts. He has, so to speak, a diminished transcendence or divinity. But if this is so, how can He then reveal God fully? Now this was a later problem – which we have to discuss more fully soon. In the moment in which the Apologists used the term Logos, the problem arose and couldn't be silenced any more. If the Logos is the self-expression of movement, is He less than God or fully God? All this means that one continued to call Christ God. But such a statement – that a historical man, who lived and died, and perhaps was really in the"police files"of Jerusalem, is called "God": how can this be made understandable to the pagans?
The difficulty was not the incarnation as such. "Incarnation" is one of the most ordinary events in Greek mythology and in all mythology. Gods come to earth; they take on animal or human or plant form; they do something and then return to their divinity. This is not difficult. But this idea couldn't be accepted by Christianity. The problem and the difficulty was that the Son of God, who was at the same time a historical man and not a man of mythological imagination, is supposed to be the absolute and unique Son of God.
The incarnation is once for all, but it isn't a special characteristic or element in the Divinity which incarnates, but rather the very center of the Divinity. In order to make this problem clear, the Logos concept was used. The problem was to combine monotheism, which was emphasized so strongly against pagan polytheism, with the divinity of Christ – the humanity and the universality of His nature at the same time. This was the need for that time. The Apologists fulfilled that need and therefore they were successful.
Now the incarnation itself, in the Apologists, is not the union of the Divine Spirit with the man Jesus, but the Logos really becomes man. This transformation Christology becomes more and more important through the Logos doctrine. Existing before the Logos, He now, through the will of God, has become man. He has been made flesh, as Justin says.
This is the first clear decision for the transformation Christology over against the adoptionist Christology. If the Logos or the Spirit adopted the man Jesus, then we have a quite different Christology from the idea that the Logos is made, is transformed into, flesh.
Now I leave all this open. I hope you have many questions and many shakings of your heads about this, because it is certainly not easy, since the concept of Logos is for us not what it was for every reader of Justin among the educated pagans. We know God and we know man, but the idea of hypostasis, of powers of being in God, is extremely difficult for us. But this was the content of the old Christian Christology, and this is still present whenever we perform our liturgy, which all. are dependent on this Christology.
The saving gifts of the Logos are gnosis (knowledge) of God, of the law, and of the resurrection. Christ is, as Logos, as reason, first of all teacher, but not a teacher who teaches us a lot of things he knows better than we, but teacher in the Socratic sense, namely, in the sense of giving us existential power of being.
The Logos gives us truth about God and gives us moral laws which we have to fulfill, by freedom. So a kind of intellectualization and educational elements come into the doctrine of the Christ. This was a possible consequence of the Logos doctrine, and this is the reason why there were always reactions against the Logos doctrine. But I don't want to go beyond this now because we come back to it again and again, and must now deal with another movement of great importance. The Apologists defend Christianity against the philosophers and the emperors. The dangers for Christianity were not only those from the outside – these were lesser dangers, even though persecution often resulted – but there was a much more essential danger, a danger from inside. nd this was the danger of gnosticism. Now what is this? It is derived from the Greek word gnosis meaning "knowledge." It does not mean scientific knowledge. Gnosis is used in three ways: 1) as knowledge in more general terms; 2) as mystical communion; 3) as sexual intercourse.
You can find all three meanings in the New Testament. This means it is knowledge by participation. It is a knowledge which is as intimate as the relation between husband and wife. It is not a knowledge of analytic and synthetic research; it is not scientific knowledge. But it is knowledge of union and knowledge of salvation: it's existential knowledge. Therefore the Gnostics were the Greek intellectuals, but were people who wanted to live in the realm of participation with the Divine, and who understood the cognitive function of man as a functioning of participation.
The Gnostics were not a sect – if at all, they were many sects – but they were much more than this. They were a universal religious movement in the late ancient world. We call this movement "syncretism," usually. It was a mixture of all the religious traditions of that time. This general movement of religious mixture was spreading all over the world, and it was strong enough to penetrate into Greek philosophy, so that we call that period of Greek philosophy the religious period of Greek philosophy. It was strong enough to penetrate into the Jewish religion: Philo of Alexandria is a typical predecessor of Gnosticism. It was strong enough to penetrate into the Roman law and into Christian theology.
The elements of this religion of mixture are the following:
1) The negative presupposition, namely the destruction of the national religions by the conquests of Alexander and of Rome. The great world empires undercut the national religions.
2) The philosophical interpretation of mythology. When you read the systems of the Gnostics, you will have the feeling that this is rationalized myth. And this feeling is right.
3) The renewal of the old mystery traditions.
4) The re-emergence of the psychic and magic elements, as it appeared in the religious propaganda of the East; while the political movement went from the West to the East
(Rome conquered the East), the religious movement, this great syncretistic thinking and acting which we call Gnosticism, went from East to West and conquered, at least partly, even Rome. So when you read about the Gnostics, don't believe you know all about them; it is easy to dismiss them. It was an attempt to combine all the religious traditions which had lost their genuine roots, and bring them together in a system of a half-philosophical, half-religious character. The Gnostic groups showed many similarities and many conflicts with original Christianity. They claim, against the public tradition of the Christian churches, to have secret traditions which are known only to the initiated; they are not public. They reject the Old Testament because it contradicts many of their fundamental tenets, especially the dualistic and ascetic tendencies. And the New Testament is not rejected but is purged. The man who did this first of all was Marcion. He tried to purge the Pauline canon. He leaves the ten main letters and the Gospel of Luke, which is most influenced by Paul. He rejects all other letters and gospels of the New Testament. Luke and ten Pauline letters, that's enough – because there, no elements are present which contradict the basic ideas of Gnosticism.
Marcion was a very interesting man. He was not a speculative philosopher – although he was that, too – but he was a religious reformer. He founded congregations of Marcionites which endured for a long time. The title of his book is Antithesis – (this is not an invention of Hegel's!). He was a gnostic namely, in his distinction between the God of the Old and the God of the New Testament, the God of the law and the God of the Gospel. He rejected the former and reaffirmed the latter. This problem shouldn't be seen in terms of the fantastic idea of two gods. This is much too easy. But it shouldbe seen in the problem with which Harnack, the great historian of Christian dogma, wrestled at the end of his life: namely, the problem whether or not the New Testament is actually so different from the Old Testament that you cannot combine them.
In Church history, we always have Marcionism, or radical Paulinism, and we have it today in the Barthian school whenever they try to put the God of revelation against the God of natural law. In natural law, and accordingly in history, man is by himself, they say. They don't speak of a second God: such a fantastic mythology would not be possible today. But they speak of a radical tension between the natural world – including natural reason, natural morals – and the religious realm, which stands against all the other realms. This was Marcion's problem, and he solved it by a radical separation. The problem is: Gnostic dualism.
For the Gnostics, the created world is bad, and therefore the world must have been created by a God who is bad. And who is this God? It is the God of the Old Testament. Salvation ,therefore; is liberation from the world, and .this must be done in ascetic terms. There is no place for eschatology on the basis of this dualism because the end of the world would be always seen in the light of this dualism, and a dualistic fulfillment is not a fulfillment: it is a split in God himself.
The saviour is one of the heavenly powers, called aeons, eternities – the word "eternity" does not have the connotation of timelessness here, but has the connotation of cosmic powers, and as such it is always used. This higher aeon, the saviour aeon, the saviour power of being, descends to earth and takes on human flesh. But now it becomes obvious that the aeon, a Divine power, cannot suffer. So he takes on either a strange body or a body which only seems to be a body, but he does not become flesh. This of course was a very sensitive point for the early Christians and their conformity, and so they rejected the gnostics on this point. The saviour descends to the different realms in which the different astrological powers rule. This concerns especially the planets, which are considered as astrological powers even long after the Renaissance, even in Protestantism.. He reveals the hidden weapons of these demonic powers by trespassing their realm and overcoming them on his descent. He brings down the seals of their power, their names and their characters, and if you have the name of a demonic power, you are superior to it: you call it by name and then it falls down. One of the Gnostic texts says~ "Having the seals, I shall descend, going through all aeons. I shall recognize all mysteries. I shall show the shape of the gods. And the hidden things of the holy path, called gnosis, I shall deliver." Here you have a claim of the good God, of the mystery power which comes down to earth.
The demonic powers are the representatives of fate. The human soul which has fallen into their hands is liberated by the saviour and by the knowledge he gives. One could say: What the saviour does in gnosticism is somehow to use white magic against the black magic of the planetary powers, the same powers of whom Paul speaks in Romans 8 that they are subdued to Christ. Therefore the magic power of the sacraments as mysterious practices is acknowledged. In them the highest Divine power comes to earth. But besides these sacramental and speculative tendencies, the Gnostics had ethical values of community and asceticism. What is demanded is the ascent of the soul, following the saviour who also ascended, but then descended. The souls have descended; now they shall ascend.
The savior liberates from demonic powers for the sake of union with the highest itself, with the fullness, the pleroma, the Spiritual Word.
On the upward way, the human soul meets these rulers, and then the soul tells the rulers what it knows about them. He knows their name, i. e., their mysterious power, the structure of evil they represent. When he tells them their name, they fall down and tremble and cannot stop the soul any more.
Now what really is meant in these poetic images is a religion of salvation from the demonic powers, which was the problem of the whole period, inside and outside Christianity. Man is somehow better .than his creator. Man can be saved from the powers of the demiurge, of him who creates the world. But not all men are able to be saved. There are three classes of human beings: the pneumatikoi, i. e. , the Spirituals; the psychikoi, those who follow the soul; and the sarkikoi, those who follow the flesh. The sarkikoi are lost; the Spiritual ones are saved; but the middle group, the psychikoi, can go this way or that way. In order to reach the elevation, man must participate in the mysteries. These mysteries are mostly mysteries of purification, therefore mostly connected with baptism. The Spirit in baptism enters the matter of the sacrament (water) and dwells in it. After the Spirit has been brought down by a special formula, namely the formula of the initiation of the sacraments., – it is the magic idea of the sacraments which was accepted by these Stoics...
All these ideas were a great temptation to Christians. Christ remained in the center of history. He is he who brings salvation. But He is put into the frame of the dualistic world-view of Hellenism. He is put into the context of the great syncretism.
The religious mood of this whole time is beautifully expressed in the Acts of Andreas , one of those apocryphal writings. He says: "Blessed is our generation. We are not thrown down, for we have been recognized by the light. We do not belong to time, which would dissolve us. We are not a product of motion, which would destroy us again. We belong to the greatness towards which we are striving. We belong to Him who has mercy towards us, to the light which has expelled the darkness, to the One from whom we have turned away, to the Manifold, to the Super-heavenly, by whom we have understood the earthly. If we praise Him, it is because we are recognized by Him." Now this is piety. It is not only speculation, as the critics of Gnosticism have said. This is really religion. And there are many people today who would like to renew gnostic religion as their own daily expression of their religious experience; and not because of the fantastic speculation, but because of the real piety in it, Gnosticism was a very great danger for Christianity, because if Christian theology had succumbed to this temptation, the individual character of Christianity would have been lost. The unique ground of the person Jesus would have become meaningless. The Old Testament would have disappeared, and with it the historical picture of the Christ. All this has been avoided by those men whom we call the anti-gnostic Fathers, the Fathers who were fighting against Gnosticism and who threw it out of the Church.
Now there are a few minutes and I would like to see how difficult, especially the first part of the lectures, were. Perhaps you have questions.
Q. I think the Logos doctrine greatly resembles the gnostic doctrine of the aeons. They are both emanations from God. Is there any real distinction between them?
A. That is a very good question. The distinction is the following: In the Logos Christology, as it was developed further on, we have the emphasis on the absoluteness of this aeon, which is Christ. Perhaps I can give you a great help for the understanding of the struggle between Arius and Athanasius, to which we come later on. What Arius actually did was to make the Christ, the heavenly Logos, into one of the aeons; while the Church decided that whatever one may think about aeons, or transcendent powers of being, the Logos is above them. .. If we did not have one of the Divine principles in which the innermost heart of God is expressed, then our salvation would not be a complete salvation. But what you said is very well said: these powers of being are like the Logos, hypostasized, hypostasized in the bathos, the abyss, the depth of the Divine Life. There, everything is in and is born out of it. It is the birthplace of all aeons. But now the Church limited the aeons to two: the Logos and the Spirit. And everything else, whether it was called an aeon or not, was not of equal rank. This was the development of the Trinitarian doctrine of God.
Lecture 7: Irenaeus, Tertullian, and
Tillich connects his history of Christian thought with the political realties of the day: Nazism and the communistic Soviet Union. He tells how the first great Christian theologians, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus developed their systems in opposition to and partly in acceptance of the Gnostic ideas, resulting in what he calls "early Catholicism." Already in the third century he credits the idea of apostolic succession with guaranteeing the saving truth. An interpretation of eternal life in contrast to what Tillich calls a non-Christian understanding of the immortality of the soul.
Last time we finished with the description of that great movement called Gnosticism and which, more exactly, should be regarded as the wave of religious syncretism running from the East to the West, existing in many groups and forms and entering also Christianity. I gave you some of their main ideas. In opposition to – and partly also in acceptance of – the Gnostic ideas, the first great Christian theologians developed their systems: Irenaeus, Tertullian and Hippolytus. The defense against attacks from outside was made in terms of the Logos doctrine. But now some of the spirit of the world which was conquered by Christianity, entered Christianity itself. The fight now had to be waged against a Christianized paganism. But such a fight is never simply a negation: it is always reception, also. The result of this partial rejection, and partial reception, of the generally religious mood of that time is what we call "early Catholicism." The people with whom we now have to deal are important because they represent early Catholicism, expressing these ideas which grew out of the acceptance and rejection of the pagan religious movement of that time.
In order to do so, they accepted the Logos doctrine created by the Apologists, but they now brought it constructively – and not only apologetically – into a framework of Bible and tradition. In doing so they partly deprived it of its dangerous implications, one of them of course being the possibility of relapse into polytheism – tri-theism or duo-theism. It is the greatness of these people, Irenaeus and Tertullian, that they saw these dangers, used the Logos doctrine, and developed constructively the theological ideas in relationship to the religious movements of their time.
The religiously greatest of the three men I named is Irenaeus, who more than most of the people of his time, understood the spirit of Paul. You will recall that I said that already in the Apostolic Fathers, John and Matthew and the "catholic letters" were effective, but that Paul was not very much effective for that time any more. Now a man came – Irenaeus – who again had a feeling for what Paul's theology meant for the Christian Church. But it was not so much the doctrine with which Paul fought against Judaism – the doctrine of justification through faith by grace – but it was more the center of Paul's own teaching, namely, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, which was important for Irenaeus.
In some ways Irenaeus was nearer to the Protestant ideas of Christianity than most of early Catholicism. Nevertheless he was the father of early Catholicism and ultimately not a Protestant, insofar as this side of Paul – which I like to call the "corrective side" of Paul, namely the doctrine of justification by faith – was not in the center even of Irenaeus.
The other man who belongs to the Anti-Gnostic Fathers is Tertullian. He is the master of Latin rhetoric. He is the creator of the Latin church terminology. He had a juristic mind, although he was not a jurist himself. His was a very aggressive temperament and a great character. He understood the primacy of faith and the paradox of Christianity, but he was not artificially primitive: he accepted at the same time the Stoic philosophy, and with it the idea that the human soul is by nature Christian – anima naturaliter christiana. And he accepted the Logos doctrine of the Apologists, because he was not only accepting the paradox of Christianity, but was at the same time a sharp rational mind and didn't believe that Greek philosophy could surpass Christianity in rational sharpness and clarity.
The third man was Hippolytus, who was a scholarly man more than the other two, and who continued the polemics against/Gnostic movement in exegetic works and church-historical works. His refutation of the heresies is already history, more than the life-and-death struggle as in Irenaeus and Tertullian.
So we have these three men, who saw the situation of the early Church. It's important for Protestants to see how early most fundamentals of the Roman system were already present in the third century.
The problem of the period, as posited by the Gnostics, was in the realm of authority: the question whether the holy scriptures were decisive, or the secret teachings of the Gnostics. The Gnostic teachers said that Jesus, for instance in the forty days after His resurrection when He was supposed to be together with His disciples, had given them secret insights, and these insights came to the Gnostic theologians and formed the character of Gnostic philosophy and theology. Now against this the Anti-Gnostic Fathers first of all had to establish a doctrine of the Scripture. The Holy Scripture is given by the Logos through the Divine Spirit. Therefore, it's necessary to fix the canon, and this problem now arose. You see, all these things – and you will find that in my whole lecture – are not created by people who were sitting in their studios and were thinking about the problem, e. g., "Now what about the Bible?: What belongs to it and what doesn't?" But it was done by people who felt that the very foundations of the Church were threatened by the intrusion of secret traditions which asserted quite different things from what the Biblical writings said. So the decision of the Church as to what shall and what shall not belong to the canon, was a part of the life-and-death struggle with Gnosticism, and can be understood only from there. And this is so with all the statements of the early Church. We have an example in our own time: The restatement of the Lutheran confessions in modern form by the German synods was not a matter of conferences of theologians who were interested in restating the old confessions in a little bit revised form – that was tried, and without any effect or success – but it was done exactly as in the ancient Church: In the moment in which the so-called German Christians – namely the Nazis, who in many respects had similarities to the Gnostic movements – entered the Christian churches; and now the Christian Church had to state formulas of resistance. It was that resistance movement which the Germans could and did put up: namely, resistance of the churches against the intrusion of a pagan, half-gnostic philosophy into Christianity. It is in this way that you must think of the development of Christian dogma. Don't think of it in terms of professorial studies, as sometimes the theology of the Ecumenical Movement seems to develop... (The danger to the ecumenical movement)is not so much from the Communist side – they are on the outside – as it is if, for instance, a struggle develops between two halves of the Western world, the European and the Anglo-Saxon, where from the one or the other side, the attempt will be made to identify Christianity with, let us say, the American ways of life, as understood by some leaders of the present-day Congress.
Now if this happens, then there would be a real situation of life-and-death struggle: Christianity would have to fight for its very existence. This is what I mean with the serious and realistic character of the theological , development of the early Church, and also with the fixation of the canon.
They said the present period is poor in Spirit, and therefore we must always return to the classical period. The Apostolic period is the classical period of Christianity, and what has been written at that time is valid for all times. – We shall see later that this statement was not always acknowledged by Christian theology, but here it was for the first time really fixed. Therefore something really new cannot be canonic. This was one of the reasons why we have in the Biblical literature so many books which go under Apostolic names, although they were written in the post-Apostolic period. But that which is canonic, is canonic in an absolute sense, even in the letters of the text. Here Christianity simply followed the legalistic interpretation of the Law in Judaism where every Hebrew letter of the Old Testament text has an open and a hidden meaning, and is absolutely inspired. But this was not enough – as it never was, either in Protestantism or in any other people in which the Bible was made the ultimate norm..–..because the Bible must be interpreted. And the GnostIcs interpreted the Scriptures differently from the official Church. Another principle therefore must enter: TRADITION. The tradition was identified with the regula, the rule of faith. When this happens, not the Bible but the rule of faith becomes decisive, exactly as the creeds of the Reformation 50 years and later ,after the Reformation, are the decisive canon for theological teaching, and not the Bible.
The rule of faith was also called the canon of truth, and it is true because it comes from the Apostles. It is traditio apostolica , apostolic tradition, which is mediated through the presbyters or bishops. This however, is still too much. There are many elements in the tradition, ethical and dogmatic, so it must be concentrated in one creedal form, and the summing up of the Bible in the rule of faith and the rule of faith in the creed, was made in connection with baptism, the main sacrament of that time. The confession of baptism is the creed.
This, of course, presupposes that the bishops who are responsible for the rule of faith and its summary, the creed, have the gift of truth. Why do they have it? Because they are the successors of the apostles. Here you have the clear expression of the episcopalian doctrine of apostolic succession.
The apostolic succession is most visible in the Roman church, which according to the anti-Gnostic Fathers, to Irenaeus and Tertullian, is founded by Peter and Paul. Irenaeus says about this church: "To this church all nations must come, because of its greater principality, the church in which the Apostolic tradition has been always preserved." Now please imagine: This is not a statement of the early 1870's but of the third century.
The unity of the Church everywhere, is based on the tradition of the baptismal creed, which is guaranteed by the apostolic succession. Therefore, Irenaeus demands obedience to the presbyters of whom he says they "have the succession from the Apostles. " In this way the episcopate became the dogmatic guarantee of the saving truth.
So we have the Bible, the tradition, the rule of faith, the creed, the bishops: they all together are a system of guarantees, a very impressive system created in the fight against the Gnostics. And what we can be astonished about is how early all this happened.
Now against this a reaction took place. I want to deal with this before I go on with an elaboration of the doctrines of the anti-Gnostic Fathers. It was a reaction of the Spirit against the order. This reaction was represented by a man called MONTANUS, and his group the Montanists. This reaction was very serious, so much so that one of the two greatest anti-Gnostic theologians, Tertullian, himself became a Montanist. And it is important for us because Montanistic reactions against the ecclesiastical fixation of Christianity go on through all of Church history So the fact that this group was not very successful historically doesn't mean that it was not very important from the point of view of Christian theology.
This group had two ideas: the Spirit, and the end. The Spirit was suppressed by the organization of the Church, and the fear of Spiritual movements because of the Gnostic claims to have the Spirit. It was denied that. prophets necessarily have an ecstatic character. A churchman of that time wrote a pamphlet about the fact that it is unnecessary that a prophet speak in ecstasy. The Church couldn't understand the prophetic Spirit any more. It was afraid of it. And understandably, because in the name of the Spirit all kinds of disruptive elements came into the Church.
The other idea is that of the end. You remember that I said that already the Apostolic Fathers, and even already Paul, to a certain extent, started to establish themselves in this world, after the expectation of Jesus and the apostles that the end was very near and would come in their generation, was disappointed. Now this disappointment led to great difficulties and to the necessity of creating a worldly church, a church which is able to live in the world. Against this also, continuously in Church history, reactions set in. But they experienced what the earliest Christians experienced: the end they expected did not come. So the Montanists had to do the same as the church did: to establish themselves. And in the moment they established themselves, they also became a church. But it was a church in which much of the sectarian types of the churches of the Reformation and the later sects, was anticipated – namely , a strict discipline. They believe that they represent the period of the Paraclete, after the period of the Father and the Son. And this is always something the sectarian revolutionary movements in the Church claims: that they represent the period of the Spirit.
But then it always happens – even to the Quakers it happened, after their first ecstatic period – that if you want to fix the content of what the Spirit has taught them, it is of extreme poverty; it is nothing new, in comparison with the Biblical message, and what is new is usually a more or less rational moralism. This happened to George Fox in his later development, and to his followers, and happens to all ecstatic sects: in the second generation they become rational, moralistic, legalistic, and the ecstatic element is gone, and not much comes out in terms of creativity as we have it in the classical period of apostolic Christianity.
They fixed these poor contents in new books and in the idea of a prophetic succession, which of course is self-contradictory because succession is an organizational principle and prophecy is an anti-organizational principle, and the attempt to bring them together was unsuccessful and always will be unsuccessful.
Now the Christian Church excluded Montanism; it conquered it. But such victories are always losses. Let's see the four ways in which this loss is visible:
1) The canon was victorious against the possibility of new revelations. – The solution of the Fourth Gospel that there are new insights, which of course are under the criticism of the Christ, was at least reduced in meaning and power.
2) The traditional hierarchy was confirmed against the prophetic spirit. – This was a very serious thing because since that time the prophetic spirit was more or less excluded from the Church and always had to flee in sectarian movements. Most of the so-called sectarian movements, ever since the defeat of Montanism; are movements into which the prophetic spirit fled because it couldn't find a place in the Church.
3) Eschatology became less interesting than it was in the Apostolic age. – Establishment was much more important, and the expectation of the end was reduced to an appeal to every individual that his end can come at any moment – which is how you usually handle it in your preaching. But the idea of an end of history was not important any more since that time.
4) The disciplinary strictness of the Montanists was lost, and a growing laxity took place in the Church. – Here again something happened which has happened all through Church history again and again, that new, small groups with disciplinary strictness arose, were regarded with great suspicion by the church, and developed themselves into larger churches only to lose the disciplinary power in themselves.
So you can say the result of the Montanist struggles was that traditional theology and above all its safeguards, were victorious against any danger, and that the conservative establishment of the Church was victorious against any eschatological radicalism and expectation. These two consequences are there, and now we must ask: What was taught in the framework of these very strict safeguards given by the anti-Gnostic Fathers of the early Catholic church?
There is first one point which is obvious if you think of it as I said in connection with the Gnostics, namely the contrast between the father-God and the savior-God. One called the Gnostic theory blasphemia creatoris, the blasphemy of the creator-God. Now such blasphemy of the creator-God is something which should be kept in mind by all neo-orthodox theologians of today. There is much Gnostic Marcionism in them, much dualistic blasphemy of the creator-God. They put the savior-God so much over the creator-God that, although they never fall into a real heresy about it, they implicitly blaspheme the Divine creation by identifying it actually with the sinful state of reality.. Against all this – of today and of the past – people like Irenaeus said that God is one, and there is no duality in Him; law and Gospel, creation and salvation, are derived from the same God.
This God is known to us not speculatively but existentially. He expresses this: "Without God, you cannot know God." God is never an object. But in all knowledge, He is He who knows, in us and through us. Only He can know Himself, and we may participate in His knowledge of Himself, but He is not an object whom we can know from outside. According to His greatness, His absoluteness, His unconditional character, God is unknown. According to His love, in which He comes to us, He is known. Therefore in order to know God, you must be within God, you must participate in Him. You never can look at Him as an object outside of yourselves. This God has created the world out of nothing. This phrase "out of nothing" is not a story about. the way in which God has created, but is a protective concept which in itself is only negatively meaningful, that. there was no presupposed resisting matter out of which God created the world – as we have it in paganism.. This is the meaning of this doctrine. God has created the world "out of nothing" means God was not dependent on a matter which, (as the Greek matter, against the Demiurge), resisted the form which the Demiurge, the world-builder, wanted to impose on it. This is not Christian. The Christian idea is that everything is created directly by God, without a resisting matter; He is the cause of everything. His purpose, the immanent telos of reality, is the salvation of man. Therefore the result is: the creation is good, and the creator-God is the savior-God: they are not two. If you know a little of Church history and of our present situation, you will see immediately that these ideas are not old-fashioned problems of the past, but are very modern problems. In Puritanism, religious or secular, there is much blasphemy of the creator-God. We should always realize that that this blasphemy of the creator-God is always based on the confusion of created goodness with the distortion of creation. You only need to think of the sexual problems to know what I mean.
Now this one God is a trius, a trinity. The word trinitas appears first in Tertullian – since God, although one, was never alone. Irenaeus: "There is always with Him the word and the wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, through which He has made everything freely and spontaneously." Here we still have the motives of the transcendent trinity, of the trinity in God. God is always a living God, and therefore He is never alone, never a dead identity with Himself. He has always with Himself His word and His wisdom, symbols for His Spiritual life, His self-manifestation and His self-actualization.'" It would be good if we sometimes went back to people like Irenaeus, to look into the motives of those doctrines such as the Trinity, which have become holy pieces to be adored on the altar and to be used in liturgical formulas, and never understood that they shall really say something about God as living, and make understandable the presence of the Divine as a living, creative ground.
According to Irenaeus, these three are one God, because they have one dunamis, power of being, essence, potentiality – you can use all these words. (Potentiality and dynamics are the Latin and Greek words, respectively ; "power of being" is perhaps the most exact translation.)~
Tertullian speaks of the one Divine substance which develops in the triadic economy, I. e. , "building up"; the Divinity builds itself up eternally in a unity. Any polytheistic interpretation of the Trinity is sharply rejected. On the other hand, God is established as a living God and not as dead identity. Thus una substantia, tres personnae , asTertullian calls it, who used the formula first, and which ever since has been used. Man of course, contrary to Gnosticism, is created good. He is fallen by his own freedom. Man who is immortal by nature was supposed to be immortal through obedience to God, remaining in Paradise and participating in the food of the gods, in the tree of life. But he lost this power by disobedience to God. So it must be regained. Immortality – I said this already in connection with Justin and Ignatius – is not a natural quality but is something which must be given, out of the realm of the eternal: namely, the Divine. There is no other way to get it. Sin is spiritual as well as carnal. Adam has lost the possible similitudo (similitude) with God, namely immortality, but he never has lost the natural image, because the natural image makes him man. This is Irenaeus' famous distinction between similitudo and imago. These two words are used in the Vulgate translation of the first verses of Genesis, that God made man in His similitude, in His image. This repetitious sentence is translated in two ways. This is long before the Vulgate and Irenaeus, who makes something theological out of it, which you cannot do from the Hebrew, which has only one word. But the interpretation is theologically very interesting. The one is the natural image of God, which every man has: man as man, man as rational being, man as able to have relationship to God, man as finite. . . is the image of God. Similitudo is a possible development of man, namely, becoming similar to God. And the main point in the similarity with God is eternal life, because that's what God has and if somebody gets this, then he overcomes his natural mortality and participates in the eternal life in terms of a gift of God. Again, I say, that if we had a Church council deciding between the traditional idea of the immortality of the soul..–..so popular especially in this country..–..and my own position that this is non-Christian and not even genuinely Platonic. . then I think if we could call Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus to decide which of us were heretic, I think they would decide for me, and against those of you who would defend the natural immortality of the soul. The one is classical theology; the other is a popular remnant of the theology of the Enlightenment, where the three ideas of God (in terms of a moral ideal), of freedom (in terms of a possible moral decision), and of immortality (as a guarantee in terms of moral progress) were in the center of rational theology. This was not Christian, but more or less misunderstood Platonism, and it is something which is still much more powerful than any Christian eschatological idea in the popular religious feeling of this country. And I emphasize this so much because it has so many other consequences theologically.
Lecture 8: Covenants, Church
The history of salvation is described by three or four covenants, all of which add up to the law of love and each of which had its own kairos or right time to appear. The relation between Adam, the old man, and Jesus, the new man. In Tertullian Tillich he sees the two sides of early Catholicism, salvation through discipline and salvation through education by law. The highest form of early Catholicism sees the new being as mystical-ethical, as opposed to the Protestant understanding of renewal by justification by faith. The possibility of infant baptism.
We began the discussion of the Anti-Gnostic Fathers, Irenaeus and Tertullian, and I emphasized that the main point was the doctrine of the creator-God (put forth) against the creator-God in Gnosticism, namely, the separation of the creator from the saviour.
The history of salvation is described in three or four covenants. The first covenant is that which is given with creation, the natural law, which is ultimately the law of love and which is innate in man. Everybody has this natural law within himself. Secondly, the law re-stated, after it has faded away when man lost his immediate innocent participation in it. The third stage, again, is law, but now law reestablished in Christ, after Judaism distorted the law of Sinai. It's always the same law, it's always ultimately the law of love, it's always that which is innate in man by nature. God doesn't give arbitrary commandments, but he restates those commandments which are identical with man's essential nature, and which therefore are valid under all circumstances.This doctrine is very important and we must keep it in mind.
Then in Tertullian, insofar as he was a Montanist, we have a fourth covenant, the covenant with the Paraclete, the Divine Spirit, which gives the new law at the end of the days. This means the history of salvation was understood as the education of mankind in terms of a law. This was a very powerful system of thought. It made it possible to understand why the Old Testament belongs to the Christian Bible, why philosophy belongs to Christianity: they all are stages in the one history of salvation; they are not negated by the revelation in Christ, but confirmed. This should never be forgotten in Christian theology, that the problem of dualism was solved in terms of a history of salvation in different covenants. One can say that it is the Biblical idea of kairos, the "right time." At any time the revelation must do something special. There is not only one revelation. There is revelation adapted to the situation first that of Paradise; then that of the elected nation; then that of the followers of Christ; and, sometimes, that of the Divine Spirit. There is, in all cases, a different kairos, a different right time. Such a kind of thinking liberates Christianity immediately from a narrowness in which its own revelation is declared to be the only one, and it is not seen in the context of the history of revelation, and which finally leads in Marcion as today, partly at least, in the Barthian school to an isolation of revelation over against the whole history of mankind.
Now Christologically, Irenaeus, for instance, says: "The invisible of the Son is the Father; the visible of the Father is the Son." And this is eternally so. There is always something which potentially is visible in God or we would perhaps better say "manifest" in God and there is something which remains as mystery and abyss in God. These are the two sides which symbolically speaking are distinguished as Father and Son. Eternally the Son is the visible of the Father and the Father is the invisible of the Son, but it becomes manifest in the personal appearance of Jesus as the Christ. The Anti-Gnostic Fathers, because they had to do with Christian polytheistic tendencies, emphasized more the monotheistic element in Christianity than it was emphasized by the Apologists, whose discovery of the Logos doctrine brought them into some dangerous approximation to polytheistic ,or tri-theistic ,elements at least (if the Spirit is treated in the same way ., in which the Logos is treated.
In the line of thought leading from John to Ignatius to Irenaeus , the Logos is not so much a lesser hypostasis, a lesser form or power of being in God, but is much more God himself as revealer, as his self-manifestation. Irenaeus calls salvation anakephalaiosis, or recapitulatio , recapitulation, pointing to Ephesians I: All things in heaven and earth alike should be gathered up in Christ. Irenaeus constructs the idea of the history of salvation in connection with these words of Ephesians. For Irenaeus it means that the development which was broken in Adam namely the similitudo or immortality is taken up again by Christ and is fulfilled in him. In him the new mankind has started, that which mankind was supposed to become, namely a decided and tested new reality: this, mankind has become in Christ, after Adam had not been able to bring it about. But it's not only mankind which finds its fulfillment in the appearance of the Christ, but it is the whole cosmos. But in order to do this, Christ had to participate in that nature which broke away from this straight development, namely, in the nature of Adam. To fulfill it, he had to participate in it. So he has become the beginning of the living, as Adam has been the beginning of the dead. Adam is fulfilled in Christ, which means that Christ is the essential man, the man Adam was essentially, and should become but did not become. That which Adam i. e., mankind as a whole, seen essentially has not reached but from which mankind has broken away, that is now the work of the Christ: to actualize this in himself. Adam was not fulfilled in the beginning; he could not have borne fulfillment, as Irenaeus says; he lived in childish innocence. Now here we have a profound doctrine of a (let me call it) transcendent humanism, a humanism which says that Christ is the fulfillment of essential man, namely of the Adamic nature, but that this fulfillment was necessary because it didn't occur in a straight way a break occurred, and this break in Adam, who fell away from what he essentially was supposed to become, was fulfilled in Christ. The childish innocence of Adam of course has been lost, but now the man who is tested and decided can become what he was supposed to become, namely fully human, and he can become so because we can participate in this full humanity as it has appeared in Christ. And don't forget that this always includes eternal life. It means similitude with God with respect to participation in infinity. That's what Christ does, and that's what we can do too.
I always am surprised, when I go into these matters, how much better the old Christian theology was than the popular theology which developed in the 19th century how much profounder, how much more adequate to the paradox of Christianity without becoming irrationalistic or nonsential or absurd. It never did. Of course, there were absurd elements on the borderline, on the edge, with respect to miracles, etc. But the central position was as profound as possible, namely an understanding of Christ not as an accidental event or as a transmutation of a highest being, but as fulfilled or essential humanity, and therefore always related to Adam, I. e., to man's essential being, and to what Adam did when he broke away from himself his fallen state.
In this context, Tertullian gave the fundamental formula for the Trinity and Christology. He used a skillful juristic language which became decisive for all the future. It entered the Roman Catholic creeds which were written of course in Latin and had the power of the right word, which also has its kairos and the words of Tertullian had their "right time" in which they could "hit" and express what was going on. "Let us preserve the mystery of the Divine economy which disposes the unity into trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three not in essence but in grade; not in substance but in form. " In these words we have for the first time the word trinitas. Tertullian introduced it into the ecclesiastical language. He also speaks of the unity in the trinity, denying any form of tri-theistic tendencies. Instead of that he speaks of "economy," a very important word in all ancient Christian theology. Today it is the method of producing the means of life; but economy is derived from oikos, meaning house; thus, building a house in this case, building God's full life itself. God develops Himself eternally in Himself, and builds up His manifestation in periods of history. It is "economy," building in a living and dynamic way the Trinity in historical manifestation. But this Trinity does not mean there are different essences; there is one Divine essence. If you translate "essence" by power of 'being, then you have what these people meant. There is one Divine power of being and each of the "economic" manifestations of the power of being participates in the full power of being. God has eternity, the ratio (reason), the logos in Himself. It is an inner word. And this is of course the characteristic of spiritual existence. If you say God is Spirit, you must also say He is trinitarian, namely He has the inner word within Himself, and has the unity with His self-objectivation. It proceeds from God, like the beam of the sun proceeds from the sun. This happens in the moment of creation. In this moment the Son becomes another one, a second person, and then a third person. But when Tertullian uses these words, we must not be misled by words, from the very beginning of our more difficult analyses which will inescapably come in the next weeks, concerning the Trinitarian and Christological problems. The words "substance" or "essence" mean power of being; the Divine power of being is in all of them. ... And "persona" is not our "'person"; "persons" are you and I; each of you is a person for himself. We are persons because we are able to reason, to decide, to be responsible, etc. This concept of person was neither applied to God this, not at all..,-nor was it applied even to the three hypostases in God, although the word "person" was applied not to God but to the Father, the Son and the Spirit. What did this word mean? Prosopon is "face," "countenance," or persona, the mask of the actor through which a special character is acted out. So we have three faces, three countenances, three characteristic expressions of the Divine, in the process of the Divine self-explication.
These are the classical formulas of a Trinitarian monotheism, which uses these formulas often, even in Tertullian probably, to cover philosophical implications with which he didn't want to deal. But the Greeks wanted to deal with the implications they were philosophers and so they tried to interpret what the real meaning of these words is. But let me repeat: persona is never applied to God before the 19th century; He never was called person. Secondly, in all classical theology, the term persona is applied to the three faces, or countenances, or self-manifestations of God: God as abyss, or Father; God as form, or Logos; God as dynamics, or Spirit. But this immediately shows that persona in this sense does not mean the juristic or ethical personality which it means today, but it means the independent self-manifestation of God, the countenance, or if you want, the mask, but not mask in order to veil something, but to reveal something, namely a special character.
Now I hope these interpretations have at least given you a little shock, if you run ahead without thinking about the (meaning of "person", in the phrase "God is personal," and "I cannot pray to a personal God", etc... Don't say it so easily. . . .) . . . .
It is not only true with respect to the idea of God, especially Trinity, that Tertullian gave fundamental formulas; he did it also with respect to Christology. "We see a double essence, not confused but united in one person, in God and the man Jesus." Now in such a statement we have the formula of the doctrine of the two natures or powers of being in the one person, namely Christ. This smooth formula of Tertullian, the juristic mind, covers centuries of problems which came out after the formula was found. But his formula prevailed over against everything which followed. Here again we must be clear about the words here persona is meant as one individual face or characteristic being of personal character namely Jesus. And in this person two different powers of being are united, namely the power of being which we call Divine and that which we call human. Each of these powers is dependent; none of them is confused with the other; it has its own standing nevertheless they are united in the unity of a person. If we ask how is this possible, then we are in the later discussions to come.
The question whether the incarnation is a metamorphosis that God becomes man or the acceptance of a human essence: Tertullian decides for the second, because he is certain, as were most of the theologian s, that God is ultimately unchangeable, and that the two powers of being must be preserved. Jesus as man is not a transformed God, but he is a real man, he is true man, and therefore can be true God also. He is not a mixture. If the Logos were transfigured or transformed into something else, then He would have changed His nature, but the Logos remains Logos in the man Jesus. So he decides much more in the line of adopting of a human nature by the Logos, instead of a mythological transmutation idea.
The saving power, according to Irenaeus, is the Divine Spirit who dwells in the Church and renews the members out of what is old, into the newness in Christ. He gives them life (zoe) and light (phos) He gives them the new reality. This is God's work in man, which is accepted by faith. Therefore no law is needed, since we love God and the neighbor. This is the Pauline element, but it is not strong enough to overcome the anti-Pauline elements. Finally, the New Being is mystical-ethical. It is in this sense the highest form of early Catholicism, but it is not Protestantism, where the renewal is by justification through faith.
Irenaeus thinks of the process of salvation in terms of a mystical regeneration into immortality. Against this, Tertullian speaks of a wholesome discipline as the content of the Christian life. He speaks of a process of education by the law, and the reality of obedience to it is eternal life. Here we have the Roman who is a jurist and likes the law, and at the same time the ascetic pietist, who became a Montanist. We have in Irenaeus mystical participation; and in Tertullian subjection to the law: the two sides of early Catholicism, the two sides which were always effective. The second was decisive, before the Protestant break. But the Protestant break denied also the Irenaean form and returned to the one side of Paul, namely justification by faith. So we have always similar problems arising as early as that. We have the relationship to Christ more spiritual mystical participation, more legal by accepting Him as the new law. And these two sides are going on also in Protestantism.
In Tertullian we have the Roman Catholic form of Jewish legalism. The relation to God is legal. Christianity is merely the new law. Christianity returns to the religion of the law but is prevented from becoming simply another Jewish system of laws and rules by the sacramental salvation. Therefore one can say: "the evangelion, the Gospel, is our special law." Trespassing has the consequence that guilt is produced and punishments demanded. "But if we do His will, He will make Himself our debtor. Then we gain merits. "
There are two classes of demands: precepts and counsels. In this way every man can acquire a treasury of holiness in which he returns to Christ what Christ has given him. The virtue of the Christian is crowned. The sacrifice of asceticism and martyrdom moves God to do good to us. "In the measure in which you don't spare yourselves, in this measure, believe me, God will spare you." This of course has a lot of Roman Catholic ideas. This was at the end of the second century. We have now already the difference of precepts for everybody, and counsels for the monks; we have already the idea of Christ as the new law. Roman Catholicism came quickly, and the reason for this is that Roman Catholicism was the form in which Christianity could be received including all the Roman and Greek forms of thinking and living.
Baptism is still the most important sacrament. It removes past sins. It has two meanings here again we come deeply into Roman Catholic ideas. The one is the washing away of the sins, and the other is the reception of the Divine Spirit a negative and a positive element. This of course presupposed the baptismal confession of the creed; it presupposed the consciousness of one's sins and the certainty of the Savior.
Characteristic for baptism are the following activities:
1) One lays the hand on the baptized, and gives him sacred oil, the medium which makes the reception of the Spirit possible.
2) One refutes the Devil, with all his pomp and angels. One leaves the demonic sphere. You must remember how important this way; the New Testament is full of the idea that Christianity has overcome the demonically ruled world. Therefore the refutation of the Devil is something which was extremely important: it meant really the end of participation in paganism. And it was not simply a moralistic formula; it went much deeper: it was the breaking of the religious neurosis which is paganism, the religious limitation to polytheistic limits, to demons, in other words. They could be thrown out. I remember from my own confirmation in Germany that, as a 14-year old child, this was the formula we had to say: I reject the Devil and all its pomp, etc... For us at that time this was some kind of romantic, dark and mysterious feeling about powers from which one goes away definitively. It was not what it was for a pagan who went over from a world which was really ruled by strong demonic powers: into a world of love. But it still was something. The symbol of the Devil was still alive even at that time.
3) The third element in baptism is the unity of forgiveness and regeneration, I. e. , the pagan existence has come to an end; the Christian existence begins. In this moment the preparatory stage has come to an end and those who are baptised are called the telaioi, the perfect ones, those who have reached the telos, the inner aim, of the introduction into the Church, the inner aim of man's existence itself; and the universal aim: to be fulfilled in what one's own being demands.
With respect to the theory of baptism, the Anti-Gnostic Fathers said that the Spirit is united with the water as it was in the Gnostic mysteries. The Spirit and this was easy especially for Tertullian as a Stoic is so to speak a material force in the water. This force some physically extinguishes the former sins and gives, physically, the Spirit. Here we have contradictory statements, but these statements were made. It is the famous "materialism" of Tertullian, who thought in these terms. This was very important because it made infant baptism possible. If the water is the saving power, then the child can be saved as much as the adult.
Now it was not without hesitation that Tertullian accepted this doctrine, but Christianity had to accept it in the moment in which one ceased to baptize individuals called out of all paganism, and baptized all nations. Then you cannot exclude the children. But if you include the children, then you must have a completely objective theory, because children are not subjects who can decide. And this is what people of that time saw, and what Luther and the Reformers saw therefore the strong emphasis on baptism in order to make it possible for everybody to participate in it.
The Lord's Supper is for Irenaeus the physical mediation of immortality; the union of heavenly and Divine elements take place. Participation in it is continuous reincarnation.
Now these ideas are the Roman church, and they are ideas which became extremely influential in the long run, and have finally conquered all other ideas. The Catholic church was ready about the year 300, I. e., it needed only a very short time to be brought into fulfillment because all the motives were ready, they were ready in paganism, and paganism couldn't receive Christianity without these elements. Therefore we shall not say that Protestantism is the restatement of the early centuries. It simply is not. The Catholic motives were very strong from the very beginning. And this is one of the reasons why the " middle way" of the Anglican church, which in itself would be an ideal solution for the split of the churches, doesn't work because the so-called agreement of the first 500 years is certainly an agreement of that period, but it is by no means with the principles of the Reformation. Therefore if someone says let's unite by going back to the development, let us say, from Irenaeus to Dionysius the Areopagite, then I would say you can do that, but you had better become a Catholic, because Protestantism simply cannot do that. And in everything I said today, you have a lot of such elements which Protestantism simply cannot accept especially in the doctrine of the Church, of the authorities, of the sacraments; not so much with respect to Trinity and Christology, although the implications are present there also.
The end of Greek philosophy is a state in which philosophy has become religion, and religion mystical philosophy. When now many philosophers became Christians, they could use a philosophy which was already half religious. When you hear about the relationship of philosophy and theology, which is often discussed in these rooms here around, then you must not forget that this is not the kind of philosophy which is taught by empiricists, logical positivists, naturalists, etc., as it is done today. But philosophy in the period of the Bible was in itself a religious attitude. It was not simply a discussing of elements, but it was something which had in itself fundamental decisions which had mystical-religious character. This is the reason why Christianity had to deal with philosophy at that time, not only as a nice pastime for intellectually gifted people to whom we leave that pastime, but it was another religion. The name of this religion was Neo-Platonism. In Neo- Platonism, Platonic ideas and also Stoic and Aristotelian ideas were brought together in a system which was philosophical and religious at the same time. Neo-Platonism and the development towards it, expressed the longing of the ancient world for a new religion. It expressed the dissolution of all special religions and it expressed at the same time the catastrophe of autonomous reason, the impossibility of reason to create by itself a new content of life. Therefore these philosophers became mystics, and as mystics, they tried to create under imperial protection (Julian the Apostate) a new religion (ca. 250). In doing so, they had to clash with Christianity. Now I come to that point where Christianity had not only to do with general philosophical tradition in Greece we discussed this already in the Apologists and in Irenaeus and Tertullian - -but Christianity was the rival religion with a philosophical religion, with a philosophy where the beginning and the end is religious. This is what Neo-Platonism is. With this, and the way in which the great Alexandrian theologians, Clement and Origen, put this into reality and used the philosophical religion of the Neo-Platonists to express Christianity, we will deal more fully next week..
Lecture 9: Neo-Platonism: Plotinus. Clement of Alexandria. Origen.
Understanding Neo-Platonism. Christian Mysticism and taking sin seriously
Neo-Platonism is not only important because it was the philosophy which deeply influenced the first great theological system, that of Origen, but it was also the philosophy which influenced (through Dionysius the Areopagite, of whom we shall hear more later) all forms of Christian mysticism and most forms of classical Christian theology, especially with respect to the doctrine of God, world, and soul. Therefore it is impossible to understand the development of Christian theology without knowing something about this last great attempt of paganism to express itself in terms of a philosophical theology, or theological philosophy, which was both science and life for the ancient mind.
The man who is mostly responsible for the system of Neo-Platonism is Plotinus, who according to his dependence on Plato, is called "neo-Platonist"; but it is not he alone, it is a whole school of greatest influence. There is not only a scientific and religious side but also a political side to it: the emperor Julian the Apostate tried to introduce, against Christianity, the Neo- Platonic system, which shows that he considered it not only as a science but as the all-embracing system of religious elevation of the soul. All these things make it necessary to dwell on this system more than perhaps you think it necessary, for a philosophical non-Christian system.
God, for Plotinus, is the transcendent One, the One which transcends every number; also the number "one" insofar as it is a number which includes 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. It is that which is beyond number, and for this he uses the word "one." So when you hear, in all mystical language through all the centuries, the word "one" in the mystical expressions, don't take it as one beside others, but as that which transcends numbers.
It points especially to that which is beyond the basic cleavages of reality, which are the cleavages between subject and object, between self and world. The One is beyond that; there is neither subject nor object, neither self nor world. Therefore the Divine is the abyss of everything special, the abyss in which everything definite disappears. But this abyss is not simply something negative; it is the most positive of all because it contains everything that is. Therefore when you hear, in mystical literature, something about the transcendent nothingness, don't take it as "nothing" but as "no-thing", namely "no something", nothing definite, nothing finite, the ground of everything finite but itself no-thing, nothing finite and definite. Since it is without differentiation within itself, it is immovable, unchangeable, eternal. But out of this eternal ground of everything, in which everything disappears, everything has its origin at the same time. The whole system is a description of the way in which the world and all its forms originate in the ultimate ground of being. The first, which radiates like the light out of the sun, is what in Greek is called the nous – which can be translated by "spirit" (small "s") or "mind." It is the second principle after the ultimate principle, after the ground of being out of which it has emanated. This second principle, that of the nous (or mind or spirit) is the principle in which the first, the eternal ground, looks at itself. It is the principle of the self-intuition of the eternal; God being manifest to Himself, in the principle of nous. This self-intuition of the Divine, in the principle of nous, is the source of all forms and structures, of all possibilities, of all that which Plato called "ideas" and what, as I hope you have learned in the meantime, means essences of being, essential potentialities of being. Everything beautiful, everything true, is contained in the nous, in .the Divine mind and His eternal self-intuition.
Not only are the universal essences – tree-hood, redness, etc. – in the eternal mind, but also the essences of the individuals. Let me make this clear by saying that in God is the form of each of us, independent of the changes in every moment of our life, that form which a great painter would see and express in his picture of us. All this is in the eternal mind, in the eternal spirit or nous.
But now it comes to a third principle: he calls it soul. "Soul" is the principle of life in all Greek thinking. It is not an immortal substance, first of all, but it is the principle of movement, the principle which moves the stars: therefore the stars have souls; the principle which moves the animals and plants: they also have souls; the principle which moves our bodies: so we have souls; the principle which moves the whole universe: so there is a world-soul, the soul. which is the moving principle of everything that is. This is the second principle, after the ultimate.
This soul-principle is midway between the nous on the one side, and the bodily reality on the other. It is the productive power of the existing world; it forms and controls matter, as our life-principle forms and controls every cell of our body. The soul of the world actualizes itself in many individual souls. Everything has an individual soul. These individual souls gives movement and life to everything, but they all have their common principle in the world-soul.
Now this principle of "soul", universally and individually, is the principle of ambiguity. Plotinus knew what I try to teach now for weeks in this room each morning at 9 o'clock (in the course on Advanced Problems in Systematic Theology,) that life is ambiguous, that ambiguity is a definite characteristic of life. He describes the ambiguity of the principle of the soul in the following way: the soul is turned both towards the spirit (or mind) and towards matter. It has, so to speak, two directions in which to look: it looks always to the meaningful contents – we call this in our language man's spiritual life, in knowledge, esthetics, ethics, and everything else; and at the same time (to) the relationship to our bodily existence and the whole world of material embodiment. The soul has this ambiguity; it has these two sides.
In this system of hierarchies, coming down from the ultimate, (which is beyond anything definite) to the mind (soul), everything which is has a place. This was very important because in this way Plotinus could place the whole mythological world, after it was purified by philosophy, into his system. The gods of the pagans are limited powers of being which have their place in the whole of reality. This world is a harmonious world; it is directed by the principle of providence. Here, first, providence and harmony are united, – the main principle of the Enlightenment, of the modern belief in progress in this country and everywhere, the basis of an optimistic world view. This optimism immediately makes itself felt in another statement of Plotinus, namely that the planetary forces, i. e., the demonic forces, are an illusion; they have no independent power; they are subjected to providence,(exactly as Paul describes it in Romans 8, except that Plotinus derives this same statement from his philosophy of cosmic harmony, while Paul derives it from the victorious fight of the Christ against the demons.)
There are many different souls in the cosmos: mortal souls, such as plants, animals and man; and immortal souls, such as the half-divine and divine beings as have appeared in mythology. In this way the pagan powers of being have found a place to rest on; they are reestablished not as gods in mythological terms, but as powers of being. And therefore not contradicting each other, not imperialistic – one god wanting to be the God of all gods – but brought into a system of hierarchies where they have their definite place.
The principle which orders this whole world, in terms of providence, is the logos. It is the rational side of the nous, the mind. Now you will have some difficulty in distinguishing these three concepts, perhaps, so let me repeat this because it is important for the later development of the Logos doctrine. After the abysmal One, beyond every number and everything special, we have the nous. We can call it perhaps the principle of self-consciousness in which God has present all the potentialities of being, all the essences which appear in reality. The second principle, the soul, the principle of movement, of life, also of person. The third principle is not another hierarchy but is only the dynamic side of nous, the principle of reason or logos, which organizes everything providentially, and gives it its place. It is the natural law, to use a modern expression, to which everything is subjected, in physics and in living bodies. The nous is not the logos; it is, so to speak, the source of all contents, but the logos gives order to them. The logos is the more dynamic principle, which is the providentially working power which directs the natural laws and the ethical laws.
Now I come to the next step in this system. The soul, because of its ambiguity, is the dynamic force which now changes the whole consideration. The soul is able to turn away from the nous, and with it from its eternal source in the abysmal One; it can separate itself from its eternal origin and can turn to the lower realms. Nature is the realm of the unconscious, between matter and the conscious soul, but nature has unconscious souls, while in man alone the soul is completely conscious. This turning away of the soul from the nous towards matter, towards the bodily realm, is the source of evil. But evil is not a positive power, it is the negation of the spiritual. It is participation in matter; it is participation in non-being, in that which has no power of being by itself. When the soul turns to non-being, then evil arises. But evil is not an ontological reality: this, neither Greeks nor Christians could admit; this was the Manichaean heresy that there is a Divine ground of evil, a Divine being which produces evil. Evil is non-being. Now if I say this, I know that many of my dear colleagues, and some of my even dearer students, would say: "So you say that evil is nothing, sin is nothing, sin is non-being; so you don't take sin seriously!" Then you should at least say that Plotinus or Augustine, who said the same thing, do not take sin seriously. Now it is a little hard to say this of these people if you see their further developments, especially Augustine. Nevertheless, the sound of the word "non-being" conveys to some of us the imagination that sin is not real. But a distortion of something which has being is as real as the undistorted state of that being, only it is not ontologically real. And that is what Plotinus says here, and that is what Augustine says, and that is what every Christian who is not a Manichaean heretic, also must say, because if sin is ontologically real, this would mean that there is a creative principle of evil -- as we have it in Manichaeism – and that is what the doctrine of creation denies. "Esse qua esse bonum est," being as, namely as the distortion of the good creation. And that is what even being is good, said Augustine and also the anti-Gnostic Fathers. Therefore when you hear people say sin is non-being, or the turning of the soul towards non-being, this does not mean at all that sin is nothing. On the contrary, it takes sin extremely seriously Plotinus means. He describes this non -being (m on) (as) that which is matter and can become being and not non-being (ouk on). . . . This non-being of which he speaks (m on) for the Greeks, m is that which has not yet being and resists against having being. So he calls it that which lacks measure, limit, form. Then he describes this non-being: it is always in want, indefinite, hungry, it is the absolute poverty. In other words, evil is the presence of this non-being in our bodily existence. It is the absence of the power of being, which is the power of the good.
The soul has turned towards this non-being because it believed that with the help of it it could stand upon itself, and has separated itself from the ground and from the nous towards which it looked, originally. But soul looks back and yearns for the ground from which it comes. Lovingly, the soul ascends to that which is worth being loved, namely the ground of being itself, the origin. If the soul has the intuition of this ultimate aim of its longing, and if it has reached this aim, it has become like God. He who has the ultimate intuition of the Divine has become one with God.. But this way is hard. This way goes through the virtues first, to the ascetic purification next. And the ultimate union with God cannot be reached, either by morals or by asceticism; it can only be reached in this life by grace, namely when the Divine power of the transcendent One grasps the mind in ecstasy . This happens only rarely, only in great experiences which cannot be forced, which happen or don't 'happen.
In the highest ecstasy occurs what Plotinus calls the flight of the one to the One, i. e., of us who are individual ones to the Ultimate One which is beyond number, and in which the telos, the aim, is reached for which all Greek philosophy always has asked: What is the telos, the inner aim, the goal, the purpose, of man's being? The answer was already in Plato: homoiosis to theou kata to dunaton, i. e., becoming similar to God as much as possible. This was also the aim of the mystery religions, in which the soul was supposed to participate in the eternal One. This is the Alexandrian scheme of thought. It is a circle, starting in the abysmal One, going down in emanation to the hierarchies until it comes to the ambiguous situation of the soul, then through the soul falling into the power of the material world, which is determined by non-being. Then the elevation of the soul back through all these different grades up to the highest one, and in ecstasy this goal is reached.
Now keep this system in mind; you cannot understand the relationship of Christianity to mysticism, to Greek philosophy, or to anything of the period out of which Christianity came, without having this system in your minds.
This system was developed in Alexandria, and it was the same teacher, Ammonius Saccus, who taught Origen that taught Plotinus; Origen was the great Alexandrian theologian and philosopher. But before we come to him, we must look for a certain time at this school in Alexandria, of which he was by far the greatest teacher. This school was called a school for catechetes, for people who should instruct the future ministers how to teach the people, to introduce them into Christianity. It was a kind of theological seminary, and the earliest – in spite of Union Seminary! – and up to now the most famous in the history of Christianity. The first great teacher in it was Clement of Aexandria. We already quoted from a Clement among the Apostolic Fathers, who is usually called Clement of Rome, and has nothing to do with Clement of Alexandria. Clement uses the Logos doctrine very radically. In this respect he is more dependent on Stoicism than on the Platonic school. But there are many Platonic elements in later Stoicism anyhow. All these schools converged slowly in Neo-Platonism. God is the One and beyond one-ness, in numbers. The Logos, however, is the mediator of everything in which the Divine becomes manifest. He calls the Logos the man-loving organ of God, and therefore the educator of mankind in past and present. There is always a working of the Logos in human minds, there is always self-manifestation of the Divine. The Logos has prepared the Jews by the law, the Greeks by philosophy. But he has prepared them; he has prepared all nations. The Logos is never lacking; God is never without self-manifestation. When Clement speaks of philosophy, he doesn't think so much of a special philosophy – although probably Stoicism has influenced him most – but he thinks of the result of this converging movement in philosophy: that which is true in all philosophers. Therefore in his writing, many Greek materials are mixed with Biblical materials. He quotes whole sections from Stoic sources. Some people have tried to distinguish a genuine from an amended Clement, but there is no generally accepted conviction about this. In any case the way in which he was given to us is that in which he was always influential.
What he did was to introduce Christianity not only into philosophy but also into a philosophical life – we would say a civilized or educated life, also. Philosophein was defined by him as striving for a perfect life. It was not defined as sitting at home and calculating possible logical figures. But living philosophical life was the striving to become as near to God as possible, in late Greek development. Therefore his system is not basically ascetic, but he accepts the bodily reality and the intellectual culture. His idea is to live according to the logos, in unity with the logos, a logikon life – perhaps best translated by a "meaningful" or "reasonable" life, a life in terms of objective meanings. Christians start first with faith, pistis, a word which is only badly translated by "faith." It is a state of being in faith. Faith in this sense is a state of participation in the reality of the new being. Faith in this sense includes conversion, ascetic tendencies, passions and hope. This is the presupposition of all other developments within Christianity. And here he deviates from all Greek philosophers. Living according to the logos means participation in the realm of faith and love, namely the realm of the congregation of the church. The Alexandrian theologians were not free philosophers -- it is doubtful whether there were any anyhow, but certainly they were not. They were leading members of the Christian Church and therefore they all belonged to the state or stage of faith, which is the presupposition for all knowledge. But the state of faith is not sufficient since – and here the first Catholic sound appears – it is only understood as assent and obedience. But this is not sufficient. A real participation demands more. It drives beyond itself towards knowledge. This knowledge is called gnosis. The Christian is the perfect gnostic, and therefore he can reject Gnosticism. It is cognitive faith, as he calls faith: a faith which develops its own contents cognitively. It is a scientific explanation of the traditions, ("scientific" not in the sense of natural science, but in the sense of methodological.) Everybody is on the way of this development. . . Only a few reach the aim. The perfect ones are only those who are, as he says, "Gnostics according to the ecclesiastical canon.." Keep this phrase in mind; it means that philosophers, with all the means of philosophy, are at the same time bound by the ecclesiastical tradition which they accepted when they entered the Church. The highest good of these perfect Gnostics is the knowledge of God. But this knowledge is not a theoretical knowledge in terms of arguments or analyses, but it is participation in God. It is not epistem , scientific knowledge; it is gnosis , mystical or participating knowledge. This is what he also calls anti-gnostic knowledge. It is a gnosis of participation, in the congregation and in God. It is not a gnosis of a free speculation. The tradition remains the canon, i. e., the criterion, and the Church is the mother without which no gnosis is possible.
Now this is what we have to know about Clement. It is worthwhile reading him. But in any case, here you have one great example of Christian thinking and Greek philosophy forming a synthesis.
Before I come to Origen, I want to say that Christianity had to cope with this universal and extremely impressive system of Neo-Platonism, in which all the values of the past were united. Christianity had to use it and to conquer it at the same time. This was done by the school of which Clement was the first important head. It was the elevation of Christianity to a state of highest education. Let us look at the Neo-Platonists. One of the most important for theology is Porphyry, who acknowledges the high educated standing of the school of Alexandria, especially of Origen. But he regrets that Origen lived in a barbaric and irrational way as a Christian. Participation in the congregation was incomprehensible to the Neo- Platonist Porphyry, The philosophical creativity of Origen was completely acknowledged by him, and of this philosophical creativity Porphyry said that he "hellenized" in his thoughts, especially by interpreting the strange myths by Greek thought. What these people were – Clement and Alexandria – can be stated in these terms: they were both passionate Greek philosophers and faithful and obedient members of the Catholic church of that time. And they were not in doubt that it is possible to combine these two sides.
Now the way in which Clement did it, with respect to predominantly Stoic ideas and educational principles, we have noted. We now come to Origen and his system. Here we have the fulfillment of this program. Origen begins his system with the question of the sources. (By the way, his system is the first complete system of Christian theology, even over against Irenaeus and Tertullian). He takes these sources much more seriously than Clement ever did. The sources are the Biblical writings and their summary in the ecclesiastical teaching and preaching. The old "rule of faith" gives the systematic scheme for his system, but the basis of all the contents are the Biblical books. Therefore, as in Clement, Origen says that the first step for the true theologian is the acceptance of the Biblical message. Nobody can be a theologian who does not belong to the congregation; a free-soaring philosopher is not a Christian theologian. But this is not all that is needed. In order to become a theologian, you must also try to understand, and that means, for him, philosophical and especially Neo-Platonic understanding. This is the answer to the same problem, very similar to that of Clement, but as we shall see, much more developed and elaborated and infinitely important for all later Christian development
Lecture 10: The Theology of Origen
Origen has three meanings for his basic authority, scripture: literal, moral, and spiritual. Origen is fascinated by the cosmological implications of the Logos concept and, he has a heretical side.
Neo-Platonism is not only important because it was the philosophy which deeply influenced the first great theological system, that of Origen, but it was also the philosophy which influenced (through Dionysius the Areopagite, of whom we shall hear more later) all forms of Christian mysticism and most forms of classical Christian theology, especially with respect to the doctrine of God, world, and soul. Therefore it is impossible to understand the development of Christian theology without knowing something about this last great attempt of paganism to express itself in terms of a philosophical theology, or theological philosophy, which was both science and life for the ancient mind. The basic authority for Origen is Scripture. He introduces the famous distinction of the three meanings of the Scripture:
1) The somatic, or literal, philological sense, (from soma, "body"), which everybody can understand and which is identical with the historical truth.
2) The psychic or moral sense: "psychic" in the original sense of that which belongs to the soul. The moral sense means the application of the Biblical text to our situation. It is the existential application of the Biblical texts to ourselves.
3) The spiritual sense: it is understandable only to those who are perfect, not morally but in the sense of being completely introduced into the meaning of Christianity; it is the mystical sense. There are some cases in which the Biblical text has only a mystical sense; then this is at the same time the literal one. But ordinarily it is a literal sense distinguished from the mystical sense. The way in which the mystical sense is to be found is through the allegoric method, the method of finding the hidden sense behind the texts.
Now this doctrine of the allegorical method, or of the mystical meaning of the texts, has been strongly attacked by the Reformers, and it is something strange in our realistic philological mind. What is the reason for it? The reason for it is easily understood: it is the authority of a text, which is not adequate to our own situation but still has absolute authority. In order to make it applicable to the situation of the interpreter, it is necessary to find a meaning which is not the literal meaning. This is always done; every sermon does it with the Biblical texts, and today it is done on a large scale by some interpreters of the Old Testament who make out of it the New Testament in interpreting every word of the Old Testament as a Christological prononciamento. But this is exactly the same situation; it is something which is almost inescapable: if you have a text which is absolute authority and you know its literal meaning, and this literal meaning doesn't say anything to you, then you use, consciously or unconsciously, a method which transfers the original meaning into an actual or existential meaning. Of course this can lead to a complete undercutting of the authority of the text. And for this reason the Lutheran Reformation reestablished the genuine or philological or literal text as the genuine authority. But when we look at the dogmatic statements and their proof which has been taken from the Bible, in Orthodox or Fundamentalistic writings, we find immediately that they don't do anything else except what Origen did here: they find a method for interpreting the Bible beyond itself. Only if you are scientifically completely honest can you have the literal text and then say: "This doesn't say anything to us," or "We say something else; we recommend beyond the text, and we don't mean to express a hidden meaning of the text. 'This, I think, is the only consistent attitude. But think of another example: The American Constitution and the formulas of their Amendments: they have absolute, even legal, validity; but in order to make this tolerable, there is the Supreme Court which interprets , ultimately. And interpreting always means applying to the present situation. Now the jurists of the Supreme Court do not apply the allegoric method, but rather use a method of adequacy, and the result is exactly the same. They speak of the "spirit" of the law, and the spirit of the law may often, even in evident things, contradict the letter of the law. . .
There are two classes of Christians: 1) The many simple ones, who accept on authority the Biblical message and the teachings of the Church without understanding them fully. They take the mythological elements, – of which Origen knew as well as Bultmann – literally and primitively, or, as he said, they prefer the healing stories to the story of Jesus with three apostles going to the mountain of transfiguration. This is an allegoric, or metaphoric, expression for those who go beyond the literal interpretation to the transformed meaning of it.
He calls the attitude of the primitives. . . "only faith", "mere faith", which is a lower degree of Christian perfection. This degree is something in which first of all all participate, because all are somehow imperfect. But on this common basis, it never shall be given up – here, Origen is exactly as we found it in Clement. To some people the charisma of gnosis is given (i. e., the grace of knowledge) as a special grace. In this way the converted, educated Greek becomes the perfect Christian, but he can become the perfect Christian only on the basis of Christian conformity to what he calls "the faith."
Now if we, as Protestants, look at this concept of faith, then we must see immediately that its meaning is: acceptance of doctrines, while in Protestant faith it is: acceptance of the reuniting grace of God. Therefore the first step is authority, in which every Christian, even Origen himself, lives. And the second step, which is not a recanting of the first but which is possible only on the basis of the first step, is the autonomous rational understanding of the Biblical message.
Now this solves the problem with which you always have to deal in your congregations, the problem of the simple ones who take the myths literally – and you have many of them – and the educated to whom you cannot speak in terms of literalism, otherwise they will turn away from you, not because of the Christian message but because of the way you give it to them. This was the same problem with which Clement and Origen had to deal and they solved it in terms of these two forms of participation in the Christian communion.
The first doctrine in Origen's system, as in every system, is the doctrine of God. God is being-itself, and therefore beyond everything that is. He is beyond knowledge, because knowledge presupposes the cleavage between subject and object. He is beyond change. He is beyond passion. He is the source of everything. But now He has His logos, His inner word, His self-manifestation. This self-manifestation makes Him first manifest to Himself and then to the world. The Logos is the first and creative power of being. All powers of being are united in Him. The whole spiritual world is united in the Logos. The Logos is the universal principle of anything special, of anything (that has) being. This Divine Logos radiates eternally from the Ground of Being, from the Divine Abyss, as splendor radiates from the source of light. Therefore one is not allowed to say, "There was a time when the Son did not exist." To say this is to deny the eternity of the Logos. Therefore it never should be said. There never was a time in which the Son, namely the eternal Logos, did not exist..
The eternal Logos is eternally generated out of the Divine substance. He is not created; He is "out of nothing." He is not finite. Therefore He has the same substance with the Father. Here the term homoousios t patri (being equal with the Father) first arises. In spite of the eternity of the Logos the Logos is less than the Father. The Father alone has no origin. He is not even generated. He is auto theos, God by Himself, while the Son is God by the Father. The Son is the picture of the goodness or essence or nature of God, but not God Himself.
So we have two trends in this Origenistic thinking: On the one side, eternity of the Father and the Son; on the other side, a kind of lesser validity and power of being in the Son than in the Father. The Son is the highest of the generated realities, but the Son is less than the Father. The same is true of the Spirit, who is working in the souls of the saints. This is His function. Although the regula, the religious tradition, of the Congregations demand the trius (the three) as the object of adoration, the Spirit is called less than the Son and the Son less than the Father. And sometimes even the highest Spiritual beings are called gods.
Now all this means that two principles are in conflict in Origenistic thinking: the one is the Divinity of the Savior, who must be Divine in order to be able to save; the other is the scheme of emanation: the lower degrees are lower; only the Absolute, the Father, is first. The cut between the three and the other Spiritual beings is somehow arbitrary.
We can perhaps describe the whole thing in three circles. The largest circle is that of the Father, who embraces everything, who is by Himself and without genesis. Then within, this larger circle there is a narrower one, namely the Son and the Spirit, both of them generated but not created. And then there is an even narrower circle, namely all the things which are created.
The rational natures, i. e., the spirits, who are eternal but created and not generated, were originally equal and free, and fell away from their unity with God in different degrees of distance. In consequence of their revolt in Heaven against God, they have fallen into material bodies: this is their punishment and at the same time the way of their purification. The mediation between these fallen spirits and the human body is the human soul. The human soul is, so to speak, Spirit which has become cold, i. e, the intensive fire, which is the symbol for the Divine Spirituality, is reduced to a life process. The fall, which has all these consequences, is a transcendent fall. It precedes our existence in time and space. And it is a free fall, it is decided in freedom. The Freedom is not lost by the fall, but it is actual, present, in all concrete actions. In these concrete actions the transcendent fall becomes historical reality. We can say that the individual act represents the eternal nature of the fall. Or in other words, our individual existence in time and space has a prelude in Heaven. The decisive thing about what we are has already happened when we appear on earth.
This refers especially to sin. Sin is based on the transcendent fall. This doctrine of the transcendent fall is hard to understand for people who, as most of you, have grown up in nominalistic thinking. It is understandable only if you know that transcendent powers are realities and not individual things – if you take them this way, everything becomes absurd. But there is a profound meaning in this doctrine which I think makes it necessary as a symbol for all Christian theology: our human existence and the existence of reality as a whole is considered not only as creation but also as guilt and judgment.
When we look at the fallen world, we see that the fallen character is universal, and penetrates through everything, penetrates even through the nature outside of man. When we ask where did it come from? – of course every individual is guilty, but why is this universally so? Why are there no exceptions? – then the answer is: because the Fall precedes the Creation, as the Fall follows the Creation. Origen has two myths of the Fall: one transcendent, which is not, mythologically, in space, etc... but which is the eternal transition from union with God to separation from God; and the immanent inner-historical in which in special acts this transcendent Fall becomes reality. Sin is spiritual, but the bodily and social existence strengthen sin. It is transcendent and is a destiny which, as every destiny, is united with freedom.
As in Plotinus, sin is in Origen a turning away from God. It is not something positive. Malum esse, bonum carere , (being evil means being without goodness.) Sin, therefore, has a double relation to creation: With respect to the creation of the free and equal spirits, creation precedes the Fall. With respect to the bodily world, creation follows the Fall and follows the freedom of the spirits. Because of the freedom of the spirits, even in eternity it is possible that the Fall may happen again. The end of this world process is not necessarily the end of history. The Fall may repeat itself, and then the whole thing starts again. You see in these ideas the cyclical thinking of Greek philosophy with respect to history has not yet been overcome, This was done by Augustine.
Now we come to the most difficult part: his christological system. The Logos unites itself with the soul of Jesus, who is an eternal spirit as everybody is. He is pre-existent, as all souls are. But He unites Himself just with this soul. The soul of the man Jesus has received the Logos completely. The soul of Jesus has merged into its power and light. This is a mystical union which, however, can be repeated in all saints. In this the soul mediates between the Logos of God and the body of man. In this way there are two sharply separated natures united in Jesus. The word of the Fourth Gospel that he became flesh. is a bodily, i. e., a literal, kind of speaking. But the truth is that He took on flesh so much so that He became it. This is more (like) adoptionistic thinking. Popular feeling in the East wanted a God on earth who walks with us; it didn't want a Divine transcendent Power who takes on flesh only. and returns after He has taken on flesh. But for Origen this was an impossible idea because the Logos never can cease to be also outside of Jesus. He is the form of all forms in everything. Homo esse cessavit. He ceased to be a man; but this is somehow the case with all Spiritual beings, who for this reason are called gods. But if they are gods, where is the cut between them and God? What does the cut after the third Person of the Trinity mean? This problem was never solved. and could not be solved on the basis of the doctrine of emanation. If we have a doctrine of emanation. then there is a continuous going down and returning. But Christianity belonged to monotheism. This often-abused term, the "Judeo-Christian tradition," has at least this in common: that monotheism must be maintained in all circumstances. How can this be done if there are two emanations which are lower than God and at the same time Divine? Men, when they follow the example of the Logos-God. .. , become 1ogokoi themselves, determined by meaning, reason and creative power. Then they are led back to deification. But something more had to be done by Jesus in order to give us this possibility. He had to give His body as a sacrifice. To whom does He give it? To Satan. as ransom. Satan demands that price for letting the others go free, but Satan was betrayed. He couldn't keep Jesus because He was pure. and therefore not under the power of Satan.
This idea of the betrayal of Satan is not only a theological idea which appears in such a high place as in Origen's thought, but it is also a popular idea. The Middle Ages is abundant with stories of how the peasants. and especially their wives. betrayed the Devil when he came, and he had to let them alone. This seems for us to be a grotesque mythology and certainly it is, if taken literally. But it is a religious idea of profound insight behind it. namely that the negative never can ultimately prevail, and it cannot prevail because it lives from the positive. When Satan takes Jesus into his power. he cannot keep in his power that from which he lives. namely. the Divine nature. Thus the ultimate futility of everything sinful: it cannot keep indefinitely the positive power of being, because this power of being is derived from the good, and good and power of being are one and the same thing. So if you laugh at this doctrine of Origen, you had better go behind it and see what he means. It means the impossibility of Satan to prevail ultimately. because he lives from that against which he wants to prevail.
Origen introduced an idea into the practical piety. which idea had a tremendous effect on the whole of Christian history after him, namely the interpretation of The Song of Songs, in terms of the mystical love of the soul and Christ. The human soul is the bride of the Logos – that is what this love song means. The soul receives the bridegroom in itself. It is sometimes visited by the Logos, i. e., the Divine Spirit is sometimes experienced by us; sometimes the soul is left alone. no one visits her from the eternal.
This is the first mystical interpretation of The Song of Songs. related to an individual.
In Judaism it was interpreted for God and the synagogue. Here you see again an important example of the necessity for allegoric interpretation. The Song of Songs itself is nothing more than a Jewish love song perhaps a wedding song which was performed at weddings or festivals. It is in the canon; it has Divine authority; what to do with it? The answer of the Jews was: It is the relationship between God and the nation. And in my oId Luther Bible – which I love dearly, because I got it when I was born, for my baptism – there is always something said in the "head-lines"" of The Song of Songs about the relationship between God and the Church.
Here we have a third, the mystical, interpretation from Origen: the relationship between the Logos and the soul, the mystical marriage between Christ and the soul All this of course is mystical, but it is a very important transformation of non-Christian mysticism. It is concrete mysticism, The soul, being grasped by the Spirit of God, does not go beyond itself into the abyss of the Divine, but the Logos, the form, the concreteness, of the Divine comes into the soul, This was the first step for what I have called in my seminar on the theology of Christian mysticism, in former years, the "baptising" of mysticism. And this certainly is an important event – mysticism introduced into the Church by becoming concrete. If Origen and later on Bernard of Clairvaux, speaks of the mystical marriage between the Logos and the soul, then the centered personality is not destroyed, it is preserved, as in a marriage there is a complete union and nevertheless the person is not destroyed, Now this is the imagery in which the pious life, in mystical terms, is described by Origen.,
The last important point in his theology is eschatology, the doctrine of the final end of history and the world, He interprets it Spiritualistically The rough descriptions, with their primitive imagery, are interpreted in Spiritual terms. The Second Coming of Christ is the Spiritual appearance of Christ in the souls of the pious. He comes back to earth again and again. but into our souls. not in a dramatic appearance in physical terms such as with clouds, thunder, etc. The pious people are fulfilled in a Spiritual experience, This Spiritual body, of which Paul speaks, is the essence or the idea of the "material body" It is that which is painted by a great portrait painter – that is what is meant with the participation of the body in the eternal It isn't this body here, and especially not in this moment, but it is a body which is our body during all our life – it is its essence, its idea (i.e., originally meaning "image"). The punishment for sin – Hell, in traditional eschatology – is the fire which burns in our conscience, the fire of despair because of our separation from God, But this is a temporary status, a status of purging our soul Finally everybody and everything will become Spiritualized; the bodily existence will vanish, Origen called this famous doctrine the apokatastasis paton , the restitution of everything, with the possibility that the whole thing starts again because freedom is never denied, Origen was thoroughly a philosopher of freedom, and this is what distinguishes him from Augustine, his great rival in greatness of theological thought/
But this spiritualization of eschatology was the reason why he became, partly at least, a heretic in the Christian Church although he was their greatest theologian. The simple ones revolted against this greatest system of scientific theology – the monks and others, who couldn't and didn't want to get away from their literalism with respect to the future life, the end0catastrophe, the eternal judgment, etc, The motives for the simple ones were partly realistic, in the Jewish sense of realism of bodily existence: anti-Greek, dualistic And partly they were something else: they were ideas of revenge against those, who were better off on earth, and now they wanted to be better off than they, but how can, this be without bodily 'existence? So they fought for it, and for a very realistic and literalistic idea of judgment, final catastrophe, and heaven, The Church took their side and condemned not the whole of Origen, but the heretic side of. him,
But there were other reactions against the Logos Christology, which was introduced by the Apologists – and already, somehow, by the Fourth Gospel – and which found in Origen its greatest and most important expression. Again the laymen were the ones who revolted, not only against Origen but against the whole Logos Christology. The laymen, the simple ones were not interested in the cosmological implications of the Logos concept; they wanted to have God Himself on earth in Christ. This group was called the monarchianists, from monarchia , meaning one man's rule. They wanted to have only one ruler, one God, not three, as they felt the Logos Christology would make it. They emphasized, against the Logos as a second God, the "monarchy" of the Father. We can say that this movement was a monotheistic reaction against the tri- or duo-theistic danger of the Logos doctrine. The Logos doctrine was dangerous because it hypostasized the Son beside God, and the Spirit a God beside all of them. A man named Theodotus, a craftsman from Rome, thought that Jesus was a man upon whom the Divine Spirit came in baptism, giving him the power of his Messianic vocation. But this did not make him God. Therefore these people from the school of Theodotus were very much interested – as were many later, especially Protestants of the 19th century – in those passages of the Gospel dealing with Jesus as man. There is perhaps a connection (Theodotus) and a group in Asia Minor called the Alogoi, who denied the doctrine of the Logos. And since the doctrine of the Logos appeared in the Fourth Gospel, they rejected it. They tried to find the true text and emphasized the literal interpretation against the allegoric. They were predecessors of many later movements, of the Alexandrian school which fought against some issues, at least, of the high Christology; and they were predecessors of some trends in Rome which always were on the side of the Antiochean school; and they were predecessors of modern liberal theology. They all emphasized the humanity of Jesus over against the Logos becoming God. We call this the adoptionistic or the dynamic Christology, where the man Jesus is adopted and the Logos or the Spirit fills him--but that is all; he is not God Himself. This is the one wing of the Monarchic monotheistic reaction against the Logos Christology. And this is not something of the past; it is something which we have to face always in the whole history of Christianity. Even in the east these ideas found a representative, Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, and was in the same line. He says: Logos and Spirit are qualities of God, but they are not persons. They are eternal powers, they are potentialities in God, but they are not persons in the sense of independent beings. Jesus is a man who was inspired by this power from above. The Logos power inhabited in Jesus as in a vessel, or as we live in houses. The Logos is the inner man in Jesus. The unity this man Jesus has with God is the unity of will and love, but it is not a unity of nature, because nature has no meaning with respect to God. The more Jesus developed his own being, the more he received. (Finally), he was eternally put into union with God and then he became the judge and received the Divine dignity. Now he is God, but somehow he had to deserve to become God.
This of course is the negation of the Divine nature of the Savior. This shows what made him a heretic, although many people of that time and perhaps even of today would prefer to follow him.
Trinity College of Biblical Studies