Hugh M. (Hugh McDonald) Scott.

Origin and development of the Nicene theology : with some reference to the Ritschlian view of theology and history of doctrine ... online

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Scott, Hugh M. 1848-1909.
Origin and development of
the Nicene theology

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Origin and Development

..OF THE..






Delivered on the L. P. Stone Foundation at Princeton Theological
Seminary, in January, 1896.


Professor of Ecclesiastical History in Chicago Theological Seminary.


Chicago Theological Seminary Press,

81 Ashland Boulevard.







The Reverend William Henry Green, D.D., LL.D,,
Helena Professor of Oriental and Old Testament Literature


Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church at Princeton, N. J.,

Xlbese Xectures

Are Respectfully Dedicated in Personal Affection,

AND as a Slight Contribution Toward the Celebration of the Fiftieth

Anniversary of His Appointment as Instructor in the Seminary.

"As I was with Moses, so 1 will be with thee." (Josh. i. 5.)




P. r. Pettlbone & Co,



These Lectures, written at the request of the
Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, have in
view especially students of divinity and young min-
isters. For this reason they present the origin and
development of the Logos Christology with frequent
reference to negative criticism — chief of all that of
the school of Ritschl — which is most likely now to
persuade students that the articles of their faith rest
upon a very unsubstantial foundation. Through the
influence of such scholars as Schultz, Herrmann, Har-
nack, Wendt and Kaftan, whose lectures not a few
American students have attended and whose chief
works have appeared or are appearing in English,
the agnostic, positivistic temper, which attacks the
most precious doctrines of Christianity as essentially
pagan, is making itself felt more and more among

I may be permitted to say that my own student
life and my professional duties have brought me into
close contact with this new theology of Germany^
which in its historical investigations works such
havoc with the beliefs of the Church. During my
first year in Germany I heard the liberal conservative
teachings of Dorner and Dillmann in Berlin. At the
beginning of a three years' course in Leipzig, as long



ago as 1878, I heard Professor Harnack, side by side
with such orthodox veterans as Luthardt, Kahnis, and
Delitzsch, when that brilliant young teacher began
his career. Later visits to Germany and Switzerland
enabled me to "interxdew" such friends and ac-
quaintances as Lechler, Delitzsch, Gregory, Victor
Schultze, Harnack, Kaftan, Riggenbach, Overbeck,
Stahelin, Biedermann and Schweitzer, not to speak of
occasional lectures heard from Loofs, Kostlin, Zahn,
Volkmar, Kaftan, Pfleiderer and others. The refer-
ences to the literature, given in the course of the fol-
lowing discussions, will show that I have carefully
sought to learn from men of all schools the truth
discovered by them respecting "our Lord and His

In matters of historic detail, of literary research,
of brilliant suggestion, every student of the early
Church must acknowledge the greatest indebtedness
to Harnack and men of his school. But it is this
very ability and fruitfulness of investigation, which,
put in the service of a defective theory of Christian-
ity and its doctrines, force upon those who reject such
a theory the somewhat ungracious task of opposing
so frequently men from whom they have learned so
much. The systematic, but radical views of Ritschl
on revelation, the character of Christ as found in the
Scriptures, and the rights of reason in theology, so
color all the doctrinal thinking of the school that, at
every turn in the historical or logical movement of
religious thought, it becomes necessary for men of
other schools to plant a caveat.

In one respect especially, must we recognize the
great advance made in the method of treatment of


early Christian doctrine by Nitzsch, Thomasius and
Harnack. I refer to the central position given to
Christology. Not only is the old division of gen-
eral and special History of Doctrine abolished, but
the teachings of the early Church, as a whole, are
found to receive their proper light and perspective
only when set in immediate relation to the God-Man.
"What think ye of Christ?" is the testing inquiry
to be put to all doctrines as well as to all men. From
this point of view these Lectures have been written.
They treat the Nicene Theology, in genesis and
growth, as it sets forth or shadows the Person and
work of the Divine Christ. It is just jealousy for
this cardinal doctrine, which leads us not only to give
it everywhere, as did the early Church, the first
place, but which requires us so often to notice the
parallel treatment of it by the school of Eitschl,
which puts the Logos Christology at the heart of
doctrinal development, though not as the spirit of
life and truth, but as the leaven of the Pharisees,
the principle of secularization and error.

Various influences at work in American religious
circles make the approach of this "undogmatic
Christianity" especially dangerous just now. We
are a practical people; and are apt to be caught
by a theology which presents primitive Christianity
as an "impression" and not a doctrine. We are
a people in a hurry; and too many of our pastors, and
even teachers, are inclined to run after a " simple
gospel " or " evangelical theology" rather than take the
trouble to study a whole body of doctrine. We are
a restive, democratic people; and the word " dogma"
has a harsh, priestly sound, an autocratic claim to


authority, all of Avliicli may turn some minds toward
the " practical " views of the new theology. The ap-
peals " Back to Christ," the claim to represent "the
historic Christ," the play upon "the consciousness of
Christ" — though there is little new in all these to
English-speaking Christians — are often an "Open
sesame " for these foreign teachings. Then, the new
science of " Christian Sociology," which makes the
Church institutional, and emphasizes " environment "
as well as " heredity," by its teachings about the
Kingdom of God — though it be from quite another
point of view — prepares the way for Ritschl's the-
ology of Christ and the Church, "When to these we
add the fact that historic theology is probably the
weakest department in the ordinary pastor's outfit —
Ritschl claimed it was the strongest of his possessions
— we may appreciate the better the danger for us of
this new school, and its corrosive treatment of the
doctrines of early Christianity. " If the foundations
be destroyed, what can the righteous do? "

So far as I know, these Lectures are the first at-
tempt in English to outline the growth of the Nicene
theology, wHith any real reference to the work of the
school of Ritschl. They are sent forth with a due
sense of the vastness of the undertaking and the con-
stant danger of misinterpreting facts or doing injustice
to men. But such a work w\as called for; and,
though with much hesitation, I undertook the task.
I am glad in this connection to remember that not a
few of the dangers of this whole inquiry have been
indirectly anticipated and obviated already in Pro-
fessor Allen's work on The Continuity of Christum
77tour/ht (ISS4:). I do not agree with that writer's


condemnation of Latin theology; but wliat lie says of
tlie "Greek theology" in its great outlines, and his
discussion in general, is one of the best bits of work
done in this generation by an American on the
history of Christian doctrine. May it serve more and
more as an antidote against the attempts to take away
our Lord as a product of Hellenism.

In the many references to the Sources and to Ger-
man works, I have deemed it best to translate nearly
all quotations ; partly because the originals, especially
German periodical literature, are not always readily
accessible; and partly because not a little of the
Ritschlian literature is written in a style and terminol-
ogy which call for more than one or two years' study
of German in order to understand their meaning.

The limitations of these Lectures left far more
material in my hands than is contained in this
volume. In the notes a few selections have been
added in support and elucidation of the statements in
the text. Occasionally slight repetitions occur; but
for pedagogical reasons it seemed well to allow these
to stand.

In conclusion, I desire to express my gratitude to
the Faculty and students of Princeton Theological
Seminary for their hearty appreciation, approval and
encouragement during the delivery of these Lectures.

Hugh M. Scott.
Chicago, July, 1896.




Critical and Biblical Prolegomena to the Development
OF the Nicene Theology of the Divine Christ. What
ChriBtianity is. The issues involved in the Nicene Theology.
Monistic and Ritschl Schools. Inevitable Decay of Unitari-
anism. Divine Christ central. Historical argument. Deism
and the Neo-Kantian theology. Christ's consciousness of
Himself. Various estimates of the same. Titles of Christ.
Christ and the Kosmos. Christ and the Kingdom. Christ
and final judgment. Christ and Missions. The Apostles and
Christ. Worship of Christ. The Apostles and Revelation of
Christ. ....... 6


Laying the Foundations op the Nicene Theology, center-
ing IN the Divine Christ, and in opposition to Pagan
culture represented by Gnosticism, until the Faith
of the Church was settled by the Anti-Gnostic Theo-
logians upon a New Testament Basis. Christ and the
Fullness of time. Christian philosophy of history. Chris-
tianity and Natural Theology. Hermann and Natural Theol-
ogy. Jewish and Gentile Christianity. Hellenistic Judaism.
Early Christian Literature. New Testament Theology and
History of Doctrine. Theology of the Apostolic Fathers.
Conflict with Gnosticism. Teachings of Gnosticism. Errors
of Gnosticism. Irenaeus and Tertullian. Results of Gnos-
ticism. The Church and the Rule of Faith. The Church and
the New Testament Scriptures. . - . . 55


Development of the doctrine of the Divine Christ upon
the ground op the Christian Tradition, Use op the
Old Testament, Contact with Greek Thought, Appeal



TO THE Collected New Testament, and OrrosiTiON to
IIeuesv. Christology and Judaism. Mystery of the lucarna-
tion. Expectation of a Mediator among Jews and Greeks.
The Memra and the Logos. The Christian Logos idea. Chris-
tianity of the Apostolic Fathers. "Adoption" and "Pneu-
matic " Christology. Logos doctrine of the Apologists, of
Irenaeus, of the Monarchians. The Christology of the Alex-
andrian School, Post-Origenistic teachings. Arianism.
Post-Nicene Christology. - - . . . 135


Imperfect AppnEHENSioN of the Divine Christ in His Work
OF Salvation, and, connected thekewith, an inadequate
VIEW of Sin, a defective theory of Free-Will, and the
consequent growth of Legalism, Sacerdotalism and
Asceticism in the Early Catholic Church. Soteriology of
the Greek Church chiefly Johannine. Baptismal Regenera-
tion. Consequent Legalism. Loss of Pauline view of justifi-
cation by faith. Reason of this. Greek view of sin. Its
relation to free will, to Adam. Its ignorance and weakness.
Views of Origen and Athanasius. Fatalism and free will.
Human ability. Non-reality of evil. Reference of sin to
Satan. Christology and views of guilt. The Apologists and
the doctrine of Redemption. Salvation according to Irenaeus,
Origen and Athanasius, Influence of Athanasius. Hindrance
of the Church system, of sacraments, of Gnostic and ascetic
Ideas. 195


The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity as neces-
sarily involved in that of God and the Divine Cuuist.
The Apostolic Church of the Holy Ghost. What this meant.
Ritschl view of the Spirit. iMonist doctrine of the Spirit.
The Spirit in history of doctrine. Deposit of this doctrine
received from New Testament Church. Change in the view
of the Spirit right. The Apostolic Fathers and the Spirit.
The Spirit and tho Incarnation. The Apologists and the
Spirit. Effects of controversies upon the doctrine of the
Spirit. Ebionites and Gnostics. The Fourth Gospel and the
8p»rit. Montauism, Monarchianism and the Spirit. The Spirit
and Trinity in the anti-Gnostic Fathers, in Origen and Athan-
asius. Reasons for the Incidental references to the Spirit in
the theology of the first three centuries. Conception of



Christ by the Spirit and Personality of the Spirit as found in
the earliest Creed. Elaboration of the doctrine of the Spirit
by Nicene and post-Nicene theologians. This doctrine not a
product of Hellenism. - - - 253^


The Doctrine of the Divine Chkist in its relation to the
Rule of Faith and to Dogma. Christ and the baptismal
formula. What this formula was. Its history. First bap-
tismal confession. Its contents. Testimony of the Apostolic
Fathers. The first Creed. Harnack's view of "only begot-
ten " Son and " Father " in this Creed. Apologists and the
Creed. Irenaeus, Tertullian, and the " Rule of Faith." The
Creed and the Scriptures. Theological exposition of the Rule
of Faith. Letter of the Bishop of Jerusalem. The Creed not
Hellenized. Council of Nicoea and Christology. Ritschl
criticism of Logos Christology. Reply. Test of doctrinal
truth. Faith and knowledge. Christ and Christology, doc-
trine and life inseparable. Reasons for a dogmatic statement
at Nicaea. Two views of dogma — both defective. False
alternative set by Hatch. Conclusion. - . - 31a


Crilicdf dnJ) BiBficaf frofc^omcna ia f§e f>«&cfopmmt o! i^t

'<For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid,
which is Jesus Christ." Paul, I Cor. iii. 11.

" Nou potes dicere: si natus fuisset et hominem vere in-
duisset, deus esse desisset, amittens quod erat, dum adsumit
quod non erat. Periculum enim status sui deo nullum est.'*
TertuUian, De Car}ie Christi, c. 3.

' ' Lieber Ilerr Jesu Christe, bereite, starke und bef estige uns
vollends zu deineni ewigen Reich, mit aller FUlle deiner Weis-
heit und Erkenntniss. Dir sei Lob und Dank in Ewigkeit.
Amen." A Prayer of Luther.

O Lord and Master of us all!
Whate'er our name or sign,
We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call,
We test our lives by Thine."

Whittier, in ^' Our Master.^



Christianity is the religion of the Divine Christ
Incarnate^ and of His body the Church. They are
not co-ordinate as Ritschl teaches, thereby making
the Gospel move not about one center God or Christ,
but about two foci — Christ and His Kingdom, or
Church; they are, however, vitally one as the Head
and the members, the vine and the branches.^ The
Incarnate Son of God, revealing the fullness of the

1 Schenkql strikingly remarks {Das Charakterhild Jesu.
Wiesbaden, 1864, S. 1.): "There is no Church controversy
which in its deepest roots and ultimate points of departure can-
not be traced to a fundamental difference of view respecting
the Person of Jesus."

2 The later Ritschlianism rather makes the Ethical King-
dom the center, to which the conceptions of God, Christ and
His work, as well as the great doctrines of sin, forgiveness,
miracles, and eschatology, are all subordinate and thereby
greatly modified. The Kantian teleology is the dominant prin-
ciple in the theology of Ritschl, and brings in a " Verschiehung,'^''
that throws New Testament teachings into a wrong perspective.
Of Ritschl's view of Christ and the Church, Dorner says {Brief -
wechsel z%o. 3Iartensen %md Dorner, Berlin, 1888, II, 324):
"He leaves Christ almost entirely to one side, giving Him only
the place of the Founder of the Church, that he may take out


8 Cr'itlccd and Biblical Prolegomena

Godhead bodily through the Church by the Holy
Spirit — that is the broad path of light along which
all Christian thought and life have passed from Pen-
tecost to the present day. Our views of redemption,
of cosmology, of revelation, of history, of man and
his destiny both here and hereafter, move irresistibly
toward this highway of the King. The controversies
of the Early Church were all connected directly or
indirectly with the Person of our Lord. The Divin-
ity of Christ is the one great doctrine of the Nicene

It is very evident, then, that the relation of Chris-
tianity to its founder is absolutely unique. Judaism
and Moses, Islam and Mohammed, Buddliism and
Sakya Muni can well be thought apart — the religion
grows away from its originator — , but now, perhaps
as never before, are Christians united in the belief
that the teachings and the person of Jesus cannot be
separated. What He did rested upon what He was.
He said to the laboring and heavy laden: "Come
unto me ... I will give you rest." He said to
the troubled disciples: "I am the way, the truth and
the life." Such words would sound to heathen sages
as sheer folly or fanaticism. He told the healed man

of the secularized Church what he considers to he. the eternal
truths of Cliristianity." He characterizes such a point of view
as " obscure blending of a catholicizing reproduction of the
Church as highest means of making the truth credible, and of
Kantian etiiical ideas, which claim to be taken from the real
Church." He says Ritschl must be shown that "he will be
forced either to go backwards, defenceless before criticism,
into Catholicism, or forwards to the speculative point of view of
reason resting upon itself."

to the jSficene Theology. 9

to cany his bed on the sabbath ; and said to the Jews
that He kept no sabbath because His Father worked
also on the sabbath. No wonder the horrified be-
lievers in Monotheism accused Him of blasphemy.
But the consciousness of Christ, like the flight of the
eagle sailing serenely over hedges, rivers and hills
that shut in the beasts of the field, moved calmly
above all earthly limitations, and assured Him that
He was the Son of Man "who is in Heaven."^ In
Him humanity reached a moral relation to the Infi-
nite, which Israel grasped only indirectly through
Law, and which Paganism never grasped at all.

Judaism has been called the religion of the Divine
Spirit,^ while heathenism is the worship of the Divine
Nature, whether in the degraded form of idolatry or
in the philosophical garb of pantheism. The one
exalted God; the other adored man. But Jesus
brought the religion of both. He is the Divine Man,
and the Church is the Divine Brotherhood of holy
men, the light and salt of the earth. Such a Christ
gives us real union with God, which is the truth felt
after by pantheism, while avoiding its errors, of the
obliteration of freedom, personal immortality and
moral distinctions. He also gives us in His Divine-
Human Person that separation of mankind from God,
that moral liberty, for which theism especially con-

1 This last clause is lacking in B. L, and Cod. Sin.; but
Meyer defends the words, and they say only what the context

2 Cf. Lutterbeck, Die JSf. Test. Lehrbegriffe, Mayence, 1852.
S. 9 ff.

10 Critical and Biblical Prolegomena

This brief glance at the issues involved shows us
that the history of the Nicene Theology Avith its
divine Christology, instead of being a discussion of
ancient Greek speculation, as Harnack, Hatch and
others hold, is an inquiry into the very thing that
makes Christianity what it is. The alternative here is
not orthodoxy or liberalism, but rather the question
of Christianity or Deism. If the Nicene Creed is
^\Tong, as wrong as many critics assume, then Christ
is only what Wendt, for example, makes Him to be, a
great teacher and example;^ then the Church of God
is only a Society of Ethical Culture. Here, if any-
where, we should expect those who denounce dogmatic
Christianity to be clear and decided in utterance.
But, strange to say, that is not usually the case. The
Protestantenverein (1868), speaking for the liberal
theologians of Germany, denies the right to be asked
"whether we believe Jesus to be 'truly God' or not,"
but continues: "We do not wish to conceal the indis-
putable fact that the ancient world . . . learned more
readily to believe in Christ when presented to them
as God, while the modern world is much more readily
won for Christ when He is humanly set forth as man."^
Similarly Schultz, a follower of Ritschl, has written
a book of seven hundred pages on the Gottheit Christi
(Goth a, 1881) in which he tries to tell us how a man
Jesus by means of the doctrine of Communicatio Idio-
matum could come to have "the divine value and con-
tent" of God for us (p. 17). Here the Divine Christ

1 See his Tcachimj of Jesus. Edinburgh, 1892. Preface;
and I, p. 90 f.

"^ Der alUjcm. Deutsche Protest. Verein. Berlin, 1883, S. 14.

to the Nicene Theology. 11

is made a part of mission methods, or an imaginary
quantity, or God Himself at will. For example, when
Sclmltz speaks of salvation, lie says: " The work of
redemption demands the full and complete Divinity of
Christ" (S. 56). Similar necessity is felt by all who
contemplate Jesus as Saviour, for who can forgive sins
but God only ? He that hath the Son hath life.

These reasonings of Jews and primitive Christians
were urged with all their cogency by the Nicene theolo-
gians. Athanasius argued as stoutly as did Luther
that the Divine Christ and salvation through Him are
inseparable, though they put the connection differently.
The Keformers held that since Jesus is Divine we
must have full redemption through Him apart from
good works. While the Nicene theologians were a
little more experiential, and taught that since salvation
and eternal life are given by Christ He must be the
Divine Son of God.^ A ladder by which the soul is
to climb to God must reach, they felt, all the way
from the deepest needs of earth to the highest glories
of heaven. The doctrine of the Divine Redeemer
underlies the doctrine of Justification by Faith, which
Luther called the article of a standing or a falling
Church. The historical argument, to which Luther
here appeals, seems especially valid when applied to
Christology. Every brotherhood of men meeting in
the name of the divine omnipresent Christ lives.
They fulfill in a thousand forms of virtuous action the
promise: "Lo, I am with you alway." Ignorance,
error, superstition, corruption may spot and wrinkle

1 Cf. Cremer, Die Bedeutimg Der Person Christi; review
by Candlish, in the Crit. Rev., 1894. No. 1.

12 Critical and Biblical Prolegomena

the cliurclies that hold this faith, as appears in Greek
and Roman Catholicism; but still they live and show
an abiding power of revival and reform.

On the other hand, the whole course of history is
strewn with the wrecks of Ebionite synagogues, Gnos-
tic societies, Sabellian companies, Arian churches,
Unitarian meetings. Ethical Culture clubs. These
were often more intelligent, more Apostolic in usage,
sometimes purer in life than their orthodox neigh-
bors ; but they ever dragged after them a lengthening
chain; they had no power of revival from within, and
their end was destruction.

The history of heresy is the judgment of heresy.
As Coleridge said, a Unitarian may be a Christian,
but Unitarianism is not Christianity. It is a cut off
branch growing -with sap drawn from an Evangelical
root; hence its speedy decay. So-called liberal
churches in America have grown less than one-fifth as
fast as the orthodox. On their OAvn confession they
are " tame and spiritless," and "going back in use-
fulness, in vitality, in Church soundness."^ Holtz-
mann says they are " a diminishing minority" in Ger-
many. When once the Divine Christ is lost, the
churches soon give signs of woe that all is lost.
Strauss gave up Jesus as Lord, and ended with the
denial of a future life and profession of mere Epi-
curean evolution.

The Deistic movement in England w^ell shows the

Online LibraryHugh M. (Hugh McDonald) ScottOrigin and development of the Nicene theology : with some reference to the Ritschlian view of theology and history of doctrine ... → online text (page 1 of 30)