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of honor in human life and in the world of thought. B}^
their work the " unheimisch " feeling of confusion in the
face of reality was taken away from the theologian ; he had
again a standing. The thirst after reality could again be
quenched. And that even orthodox theologians, whose
earnest effort it was to maintain by far the greater part of
the content of special revelation, sought refuge in the two
schools need not surprise us, for the reason that the strength
of each lay not so much in their positive data, as in their
formal view, which to a certain extent was also adapted, if
needs be, to cover an orthodox cargo. With respect to this
formal part, Schleiermacher and Hegel even supplemented
each other. If in Schleiermacher's subjective school the-
ology was threatened to be sacrificed to religion, and in-
Hegel's speculative tendency to be glorified as the sole
substance of religion, it was evident that those who Avere
more seriousl}' minded foresaw the future of theology in the
synthesis of both elements. There were two sides to natu-
ral theology, and only in the combination of Schleiermacher
and Hegel could natural theology again obtain a hearing in
its entirety.

But this whole effort has ended in nothing but bitter dis-
appointment. Not, as already said, as though in these two
schools men began at once to cast the content of the special
revelation overboard. On the contrary, Schleiermacher and
Hegel both did not rest content with the meagre data of
natural theology, but made it a point of honor to demand
the exalted view-point of the Christian religion for its own
sake, and, so far as they were able, to vindicate it. What

312 § 63. FALSIFICATIONS OF [Div. Ill

good was this, however, when they were bent on explaining,
at any cost, this ideal view-point of the Christian religion
from the normal data? They no doubt acknowledged the
considerable interval between this ideal religion and the
imperfect religious expression outside of the Christian do-
main, but they refused to attribute this to the supernatural,
and thus to what seemed to them the abnormal action of
the living God. The interval between the highest and
the lowest was not to be taken any longer as an antithesis,
but was to be changed into a process, by which gradually
the highest sprang from the lowest. Thus each in his way
found the magic formula of the process. From Theism they
glided off into Pantheism. For thus only was it possible to
maintain the high honor of the Christian religion, and at
the same time to place this exalted religion in organic rela-
tion to the reality of our human existence. And this was
the thing that avenged itself. For from the meagre data
of natural theology they were not able to operate along
straight lines, and thus even these fundamental data were
falsified. This became especially apparent in the school of
Hegel, when in their way his younger followers tried to
systematize religion, and soon rendered it evident that,
instead of vindication, the result, which in this school they
reached by strict consequence, was the entire undermining
of historic Christianity and of all positive religious data.
What Hegel thought he had found Avas not religion, but
philosophic theology, and this theology was no true " knowl-
edge of God," but a general human sense, in which the im-
manent Spirit (der immanente Geist) gradually received
knowledge of himself. This did not find archetj-pal knowl-
edge in God, but in man, and ectypal knowledge in tlie
incomprehensible God. Hence it was the perversion of all
Theology, and the inversion of the conception of religion
itself, and both dissolved in a philosophic SA'stem.

Though at first the subjective-empiric school of Schleier-
macher appeared less dangerous, and though it did not
lead to those repulsive consequences in which the young
Hegelians lost themselves, yet even tliis did not escape its


Nemesis, and Avitli fatal necessity tends more and more to
Naturalism. It did not come to religion from the sphere of
thouo-ht, but sought its connecting point in human nature.
Man, not as individual, but taken as an integral part of the
organism of humanity, presented himself as a subject with
certain emotions and perceptions, and bearing a religious char-
acter; from these perceptions and emotions, by virtue of the
"social instinct" (Sociale Trieb), which is peculiar to man
as an organic being, sprang a certain desire after religious
communion (Verein); and since man inclines to take up his
emotions and perceptions into his consciousness, there was
gradually born of this selfsame subjective mysticism a
world of religious representations. Only with these ethical
premises at his disposal, does Schleiermacher come to the
phenomenon of the Christian Church, which, both by way of
comparison and in principle, seems to satisfy the highest
aspirations these premises inspire. Faithful to his natural-
istic interpretation he concedes that it is the vocation of the
Church to remain the leader of this ethic-social process in
humanity. This requires elucidation of insight. And so
he arrives at an interpretation of theology which is nothing
but an aggregate of disparate sciences, which find their bond
of union ad hoc in the phenomenon of the Church.

We readily grant that Schleiermacher did not mean this
naturalistically. His purpose was to save the ideal life
of humanity. But we maintain, that this whole inter-
pretation sprang from the naturalistic root, and is chargeable
with the naturalistic tendency, which became more strongly
evident in his followers. Of the three data which he deals
with, — human nature, God and thought,— he takes human
nature alone to be autonomic. All that he teaches of God,
is not merely bound in its form of expression to the data of
our nature, but the content also is the mere reflection of
subjective perceptions ; man is and remains the subject, that
is, thinks and speaks, and in his presence God obtains
no autonomic position. The reality even of the existence
of God appears to the very end to be dependent upon the
reality which vindicates itself in tlie subject man. The

314 § 63. FALSIFICATIONS OF [Div. Ill

same is true with reference to the factor of thought. With
Schleiermacher, thought is the result of being, not in the
absolute sense, but of being in man and of that which
springs from this being of man. Actually, therefore,
human nature alone and its phenomena are real for Schleier-
macher; from this nature only you come to God as to its
projection; and thought exercises so little independent
power, that the unconscious senses, feelings and perceptions
not only govern our entire thought, but even repress it,
and already prepare the primacy of the will of later date.
With this, however, Schleiermacher as a theologian had
passed the handle entirely out of his hands. It is self-
evident, that the autonomic study of human nature held the
mastery also over the future of theology. If that physio-
logical and psj'chological study should lead to materialistic
results, the whole of Schleiermacher's religion would fall
away. Or, where the result was less disappointing, yet so far
as the method is concerned, the physiological factor was bound
to dominate entirely the psychological factor, and this would
also include everything that relates to religion under the
power of the naturalistic view. In this wise the Christian
religion was bound to be reduced to the product of all pre-
ceding religious development; that preceding religious de-
velopment could at length be nothing more than the necessary
development of a psychological peculiarity; that psycho-
logical peculiarity, in turn, must be the result of the fun-
damental data in our human nature; that human nature
could be nothing else than the product of the unbroken
development of organic nature ; that organic nature could
not differ essentially from the inorganic nature; so that
finally, everything that is high and holy in the Christian
domain has been brought under the power of the evolution
theory, and the theologian has to be informed by the
naturalist where to look for the origin of the object of his

Thus, in both schools, everything that had so far been
known by the name of theology was in principle destroj^'ed.
There were no longer two, God and man, the former of whom


has imparted knowledge of Himself to tlie latter; there
was, in fact, nothing else but man, in whom alone, according
to the speculative school, "the Ever-Immanent Spirit" (der
ewigimmanente Geist) came to consciousness of himself; and
who according to the subjective-empiric school, experienced
subjective perceptions, from which he formed for himself sub-
jective representations of a religious character. Neither in
one school nor in the other was there any more question of an
extrahuman God, nor room for a theology which should be
able to introduce actual knowledo-e of that God into the
general human consciousness. The abandonment of the name
Tlieology, and the substitution in its room of the name of
Science of Religion^ was nothing but the honest consequence of
the fundamentally atheistic point of view which was held.
Is atheistic too strong a word in this connection? It is, when
by atheism we understand the denial of the spirit and
perceptions of the infinite; but not, when we interpret it
as the refusal longer to recognize the living God, who has
made Himself known to us as God. Though both schools
held to the name of God, they both afterward denied that
we have the right to reckon with the reality of the living
God, as a personal, self-conscious Being, who from that
self-consciousness reveals Himself to us. And from that
time on, the object that engaged the investigator in this
domain was no longer the reality Qocl^ but religion. With
reference to the eternal Being everything had become prob-
lematic; the religious phenomenon was the only certain
thing. There revealed itself in human nature and in his-
tory a mighty factor, which was known by the name of reli-
gion. It was possible to trace and to study the historic and
ethnologic development of this factor; psychologically, also,
an explanation of this religious phenomenon could be sought ;
and in this perhaps at length sufficient ground could be
found to assume a general agent as cause of this phenome-
non; but no venture could be made outside of this phe-
nomenal circle. The vovjjLevov remained problematic.

That nevertheless most students shrank from the imme-
diate adoption of this radical transition, had a threefold

316 §63. FALSIFICATIONS OF [13iv. Ill

cause, — the liistovic form of our theological faculties, the
existence of the Christian Church, and the exalted character
of the Christian religion. By far the larger number of
theologians of name do not reach their destination except in
the theological faculty. That faculty, as an historic institute,
is bound to the theological name, and more particularly still to
Christian Theolog3\ The revolution which has taken place
on theologic ground must of necessity either modernize these
faculties entirely, or perhaps occasion their disappearance,
and the transfer of their chairs to other faculties. But this is
not done at once. Every academic institute is conservative.
And since one cannot wait for this, and meanwhile is not
willing to abandon the influence of the chair, one adapts
himself to the inevitable, and continues to call himself a
theologian, and to speak of theological study, even though
in the main he has broken with theology, in the historically
valid sense of the word. The second reason, why the name of
theolog}^ has been maintained, lies in the Christian Church.
For her sake the Ministers of the Word must be educated.
If it were not for her, there would be no question after
pupils for this faculty. Dilettant theologians are becom-
ing ever more scarce. And thus one had still to adapt
himself to practical needs in these departments. From a
scientific point of view the study of other religions might
promise richer harvests ; but almost no one would frequent
the lecture-rooms where exegetical readings were given from
the holy books of other religions. And thus the scientific
standard had to be abandoned, and for the sake of practical
needs the old theological tracks are still continued. This is
indeed an unenviable position, in which self-respect is re-
gained in part only by the consideration of the third cause
mentioned above, that is, the relative excellency of the Chris-
tian religion. Even when, after the fashion of botanists, we
treat religion as a flora of poorer and richer types, it is but
natural that fuller study should be devoted to the religious
plant of higher development; and, as such, homage is paid
to tlie Christian religion. Not generally an}' longer as the
highest, for Buddhism, and even Islam, are placed by its side ;


and much less as tlie highest conceivable, for in ethics Christ
is thought to be far excelled, and it is maintained that further
development is not at all impossible. But in general the
Christian religion still counts as one of the higher develop-
ments; especially as that development, which is of greatest
interest to us historically, and which, so far as the lower
classes of people are concerned, is even yet the only one that
claims our general notice. And thus it comes to pass, that
this faculty is still called theological, and is still regulated
with a view to the training of Ministers of the Word for
the Christian Church, and, though the other religions are
reviewed, the Christian religion is still the main study pur-
sued. This is done, in antagonism with principle, for the
sake of secondary considerations; and it is for this reason
that the ancient name of Theology is still borne, though
now as a misnomer, and that the only fitting name for what
is really meant, that of "science of Religion" (Religionwis-
senschaft), remains still banished from the official curricu-

In order to restore harmony to a certain extent between
name and matter, it has been tried in more or less conserva-
tive circles, to define Theology as " the science of the Chris-
tian religion"; which, however much better it may sound
than Schleiermacher's prudish and unnatural definition, is
nevertheless equally unable to stand the test of criticism.
Is there likewise a science of English historj- ? Of French
philosophy? Of Greek art? Of course not. The science
of history devotes a chapter to England's national past ; the
history of philosophy devotes a separate investigation to that
which has been pondered and reflected upon by French
thinkers; and the history of aesthetics engages itself espe-
cially with Greek art; but no one will undertake to represent
these parts of a broader object as a proper object for an
independent science. Hence, in the religious domain also,
there is no separate science of Parseeism, of Buddhism, of
Israelitism, of Christianity, or of Islam. He who takes one
of these phenomena as such as object of investigation, may
not take it outside of its relation to correlated phenomena,

318 § 63. FALSIEICATIONS OF [Div. Ill

and can take no stand excej^t in a science which embraces
these correlated phenomena as a whole. It is unscientific,
therefore, to speak of a "science of the Christian religion."
If I confess a Revelation, which has no correlates and which
is a phenomenon of an entirely singular kind, it may well
be the object of an independent science. But if one views
the Christian religion as one of several religions, even
though it is comparatively the highest of all religious
developments known to us, he is as unable to create an
independent science of the Christian religion as the botan-
ist is to speak of a special science of the cedar. If, on the
other hand, with other more or less orthodox theologians,
we assert that the Christian religion is distinguished from
all other religious phenomena by a special specific revela-
tion, its distinguishing element is not in the religion, but
in the revelation of Christianity, and hence this revelation
must be the object of this science.

This was felt by Hodge, the chami^ion of scientific
orthodox}' in America, and therefore he tried to escape from
the dilemma by choosing the facts of the Bible as the object
of his theology. His intention was good, for in the main
he was correct in saying that the Holy Scriptures offer us
no scientific theologj^ but contain the facts atid truths,
"which theology has to collect, authenticate, arrange and
exhibit in their internal relation to each other " (^Syst.
Theology, I., p. 1), And yet we may not rest content even
with Hodge's definition. For in this way the conception of
"ectypal Theology" is lost, and from all sorts of facts we
are to conclude what must follow from them with respect to
the Being of God. His combination of " facts and truths "
overthrows his own system. He declares that the theologian
must authenticate these truths. But then, of course, they
are no truths, and only become such, when I authenticate
them. His idea was, of course, to save theology as a positive
science, and to do this in a better way than the}^ who took
the "Christian religion" as the given object; but it can
scarcely be denied that he succumbed to the temptation of
placing Theology formally in a line witli the other sciences.


All the other sciences have the data of nature and of history
for their object, and Theology, in like manner, has the data
of this supernatural history. There were two spheres, two
worlds, which have become object of a proper science each.
That the distinction between God as creator and all the rest
as His creature draws the deep boundary-line between the-
ology and all other science, could not be established in this
way. The authentication of his "facts" brought him logi-
cally back again under the power of naturalistic science.
And though as a man of faith he bravely resisted this, his
demonstration lacked logical necessity.

Our result is that, though still called by the name of
theology, the entire subsequent development of theological
study has actually substituted an utterly different object,
has cut the historic tie that binds it to original theology,
and has accomplished little else than the union of the sub-
divisions of psychology and of historic ethnology into a new
department of science, which does not lead to the knowledge
of God, but aims at the knowledge of religion as a phe-
nomenon in the life of humanity. Along this way also the
return was made to natural theology, and whatever was
still valid as " Christian revelation " was cited to lesfiti-
matize itself before the tribunal of natural theology. The
harmony between the results of these modern investigations,
and those derived in former ages from natural theology in
India and elsewhere, could therefore arouse no surprise in
the least. This only should be added, that the exchange of
theologia naturalis for religio naturalis accounts for the loss
with us of what the Vedanta still maintains, viz. the divine
reality, which corresponds to the impressions and percep-
tions of the religiously disposed mind.

§ 64. Deformations of Theology

If the effort to obtain Divine knowledge from natural
theology, ivithout the help of special revelation, was bound,
after the fall, to effect the entire deterioration of the knowl-
edge of God ; and if, on the other hand, the effort to substi-
tute religion as object of investigation for the "knowledge of


God"' was bound to falsify the conception of theology; the
evil worked within the theological domain by what we call
its deformations, the results of schism and heresy, is of an
entirely different character. The difference is still clearly
evident between what is called Protestant, Romish and
Greek or Eastern Theology; and though on Protestant
o-round the antithesis between the Lutheran and Reformed
type of doctrine is less significant than before, it is self-
deception to suppose that it has become extinct; while,
on the other hand also, the variegations of the mystic-
apocalyptic and the pietistic-methodistic mode of teaching
still maintain themselves in ever wider Protestant circles.
The illusion that the former confessional differences have
had their day, in order gradually to make room for a general
Protestant sense, scarcely held itself intact for a quarter of
a century. It was evident all too soon, that this indiffer-
ence to confessional standards sprang from an unhistoric ten-
dency and was fed by an exceedingly serious hypertrophy of
the philosophic element. Almost everywhere, therefore, we
see the revival of confessional standards in theology, the
moment it escapes from the arms of philosophy, and, for the
sake of defending its position, is bent upon the recovery of
its independence. This, however, makes it necessary, just
as our fathers did before us, to deal with the deformations
of Theology.

This conception of deformation excludes, on our side, two
untenable points of view : first, the sceptical, which attributes
no higher worth to Protestant Theology than to the Romish
or Eastern, and evermore tends to place these in a line ; and
secondly, the absolute, which counts out every other theology
but its own as worthless, and frankly declares them to have
originated with the Evil One.

The sceptical point of view falls short in faith, decision
and courage of conviction. Here, in reality, one takes truth
as something that lies beyond human reach; hence one's own
confession also is valued no higher than as an effort to express
truth, which from the nature of the case has met with ill suc-
cess. One feels his way in the dark, and hence must readily


concecie otlieis the right of doing the same. Their confes-
sion and yours contain equally little or much of worth, just as
you please. They are variations of the same theme. Each
of these variations enrich and complement, and you stand
personally higher, just in proportion as being less narrow in
the attachment to your own confession, you have an open eye
and ear to rejoice in all expressions of life. This is not
meant to be taken eclectically, for since you have no favorite
flower, you gather no bouquet from the several confessions,
but simply walk among the several flower-beds to enjoy what-
ever is beautiful in this confessional garden. All this lacks
seriousness of purpose. From this view-point every form of
confession becomes an article of luxury. Confessional life
aims no longer at truth, but serves as a kind of poetry.
In the life of his emotions one experiences certain pious per-
ceptions ; one also seeks a certain mystical communion with
the hidden world of the infinite ; and in so far as one accepts
the reality of that world, he is seriously minded; but he has
no faith in what he himself expresses or in what he hears
others say concerning it. It does not become us, it is said,
to do anything but stammer. No significance, therefore,
should be attached to the sounds, forms, or words which we
speak, as though these expressed the higher reality. At most
these sounds have the worth of a musical character. They
give utterance to our better feelings, and presently aid to
revive them again. But for this very reason, the song
which another sings from his heart is equally beautiful.
There is no more truth to be confessed. All that remains
is a pious, aesthetic enjoyment of what has been stammered
by man in all manner of ways concerning the truth. A
Calvinistic prayer, Avhich drinks in encouragement for higher
life from the fountain of eternal election, impresses, from this
point of view, equally strongly as the Ave verum corpus of
the Romish worshipper, as he kneels before the uplifted

This sceptical point of view, therefore, should not be
confounded with the mystical antithesis, which opposes all
dogma, all confessions and also all special revelation. This


mystic antithesis springs from the tendency to let being
triumph over consciousness, and, while it apparently an-
tagonizes barren intellectualism, in reality it opposes every
modification which by virtue of religion must be brought
about in our world of thought. It is said that our so-called
modern ethical tendency sets no store by conceptions ; but
from the nature of the case this is not so. No one can get

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 30 of 64)