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and grace, between Humanism and Theism, the answer lies
close at hand. It continued of course always the same antithe-
sis, but with this difference, that now the anti-Christian power
made its appearance dressed in a Christian and even an eccle-
siastical garb. After persecution had ceased and the Christian
religion had been duly inaugurated in its career of honor, the
transition to Christianity became so colossal, especially among
the upper classes, and so largely a matter of fashion, that there
could scarcely be any more question of an actual transforma-
tion of spirits. People were everywhere baptized, but as
baptized members they brought their pagan world-view with
them into the Church. Two classes of Christians therefore
soon stood arrayed in a well-ordered line of battle over against
each other : those who were sincere, who were truly partici-
pants of the new principle of life, and were but waiting for
the propitious moment in which to work out this principle
into a proper world of thought ; and on the other side the
pseudo-Christians, who from their natural, unregenerate life-
principle reacted against the Cross, in order to maintain the
old world-view, now exhibited in Christian form. It is this
conflict which compelled the Christian Church to awake from


her mystical -practical life to energetic activity of spirit, and to
create theologically from her own life-principle a correspond-
ino-ly adequate world of thought. And this was done Christo-
logically and Soteriologically. First Christologically, because
the central starting-point of her activity lay in the Christ,
so that the just relation between the Divine and human,
between nature and grace, had first to be established in the
dogma concerning Christ. And after that, Soteriologically,
because in the application of the salvation which had appeared
in Christ, everything depended upon a correct insight into
the true relation between God's action and man's action in
bringing about his salvation. In both these questions the sin-
cere Christians proved the stronger, because the conflict was
prosecuted from out their own life-principle. As long as it was
merely the formal question between the Divine and human
factors in the process of attaining certainty in Divine things,
the philosophers were their superiors, and their defence could
not be one of principle. From the scientific view-point, their
apology was weak. But when called upon to formulate dog-
matically who Christ was, and how grace operates in the Child
of God, the tables were turned. The pseudo-Christians had
to deal with a matter foreign to them, while those who
were sincere handled what constituted a component part of
their own life, the object of their love and worship, the cause
of their eternal jo}^ Thus the sympathy of a holy love
sharpened their intellectual capacities, and it explains itself,
how these unexcelled Fathers of the Church have caused the
stream of theologic life to flow from the rock as with a magic
wand, and at the same time have given to theology its inner
certainty. Theology could never have substantiated itself by
any demonstration from without ; and only by starting out
from the Christ and the work of grace in the sinner, and,
objectively as well as subjectively, formulating accurately
the antithesis between the life of nature and the life of grace,
did it clear for itself formally also the waj^ to vindicate its

For this reason the antithesis between philosophy and the
Christian religion could not be a stimulant in this period.

650 § 102. THE INTERNAL CONFLICT [Div. Ill

Already theology feels herself mistress in her own home,
and sees in philosophy nothing but a tamed lion, which she
harnesses before her triumphal chariot. At Bj^zantium classic
study had obtained a proper place of honor, from the days
of Emperor Photius. Boast was made of Plato and of
Aristotle. And it was in the footsteps of Aristotle that
John of Damascus in his "E/cSocri? printed an irremovable
dogmatic stamp upon the entire Church of the East. But
for theological studies in general, philosophy in all its rami-
fications offered none but subsidiary services. Centrally
theologic development in this period is dogmatic, and the
wide exegetical studies have no other tendency than to
establish scripturally once for all the truth that had been
found. Critically the work done does not extend beyond the
content of Scripture, and formally what is attempted is at most
to keep in hand good codexes rather than bad. Hermeneutics
is established in order, after given rules, to overthrow false
exegesis of heretical doctores, and the extent to which
Hieronymus busied himself with isagogical questions had
merely this object in view — viz. placing at the disposal
of the coming clergy all sorts of things worthy of their
notice. Thus everything was rendered subsidiary to the
development of dogmatics, including even historical studies ;
and thus dogmatics appeared mostly in the form of polemics,
to combat false representations. Time was not yet ripe for
the organic construction of a system, which should include
all the dogmatic treasures. Even Augustine did not vent-
ure upon this. What Origen had too early attempted,
served as an example to deter others, and what John
Damascene accomplished for the Eastern Church has done
much toward the petrifying of that Church; even though
it may not be overlooked, that this very early check put upon
dogmatic thought saved the Eastern Church from many
serious errors, in which at a later date the Western Church
lost itself.

But if theology triumphed over heresy in its own bosom
during this period, it was not all gold that glittered. This
intellectual victory had not been achieved except in union


with the ecclesiastical organization ; and the Church with
her ban had anathematized whoever had been conquered by
theology. This effected too close a bond between theology
and the Church, which resulted after the death of the
coryphaei in a limitation of liberty for theology as a science,
even as in the Church everything was compelled to exhibit
itself too largely in one mould and move in the same direc-
tion. Multiformity of life was lost in the uniformity of the
traditional ecclesiastical type, and as soon as opposition
ceased, theology lost the spur for action, and almost every
reason for existence. Her practitioners were like an army
dismissed, since victory had been achieved. The heroic
period of the Fathers in the fourth and fifth centuries,
therefore, is followed by a period of lassitude and deathlike
stillness, which gradually turned into the barrenness of the
Middle Ages. At first this baneful uniformity did not make
itself so strongly felt. The schools of Antioch and Alexan-
dria, of Nisibis and Edessa, of North Africa and of Rome,
were strong with the vigor of youth, each having a theologi-
cal tendency of its own. But when presently the Eastern
schools lost their significance, and the West appeared in the
foreground, and in the West Rome's preponderance assumed
proportions which became more and more decisive, the dis-
tinction was gradually lost sight of between "heretical de-
parture " and " difference of tendency among the orthodox."
All differences were looked upon with envy. Unity in the
most absolute sense had become the watchword. And when
finally this unity was carried off as spoils, it seemed more
easy to maintain this unity thenceforth by ecclesiastical
decisions than by theologic debate. Theology had done
her duty, now the Church wa^ to have the word. Not
theolog}'-, but the Hierarchy, as early as the sixth century,
held the reins of power which are to maintain the principle of
the Christian life. And though it is self-evident that there
still remained certain variations, and that absolute unity has
never been obtained, Rome, nevertheless, preferred to allow
these variations sufificient playground within its own organi-
zation, and when needed to provide diversion by monastic


orders. Especially the removal of the centre of gravity of
the Church from the East to the West, from civilized to the
still uncivilized nations of the Germanic-Gallic world, materi-
ally aided this dismissal of theology from service, and en-
couraged the withdrawal of study into the convents, as in
so many centres of learning in the midst of uncultivated

§ 103. Prematurely claimed Triumph

The long period extending across the four centuries which
precede and the four centuries which follow the Dark Ages,
is of importance for the development of Theology in its sec-
ond half only. This is not intended to undervalue the rich
development of intellectual life in the several monasteries,
at the courts of the Carolingian princes, and under Alfred
among the Anglo-Saxons, before the night of the Middle
Ages set in, but merely to indicate that the great progress
of learning rendered no material aid to the development of
the conception of theology as such. It brought this devel-
opment scarcely an indirect good. The study of the better
Latin authors was continued, the Church Fathers were read
and quoted, series of excerpts from the Fathers (catenae
patrum) were compiled for exegesis, chronicles were dili-
gently written, Alcuin prepared even some sort of a dog-
matic compendium from the works of Augustine, entitled
De fide sanctae et individuae Trinitatis lihri duo, which
was rapidly passed on from hand to hand; but however
bright and clear this learning was compared to the night of
ignorance that still rested darkly upon Europe's west and
north, it produced no scientific results. There were fresh
wave-beats in these waters, of momentary duration, as when
Elipandus of Toledo and Felix of Urgel advocated adoj)tion-
ism, Paschasius Radbertus constructed the theological expla-
nation of transubstantiation, and Gottschalk undertook once
more to assail the semi-Pelagianism that had crept in on every
hand, and the conflict about the fiUoque became necessary as a
defence against the Eastern Church ; but these efforts effected
no enduring results. The Church tacitly giving shape to


public thought by her orthodoxy weighed too heavily upon
the life of the spirit; and no question was settled scientifi-
cally, for after a brief trial it was dismissed by the authority
of the ecclesiastical courts. Even an Isidorus Hispalensis, a
Venerable Bede, Alcuin, Hrabanus Maurus, or Hincmar of
Rheims left no single work of creative genius behind them.
And when the ninth century produces an independent
thinker in the person of John Scotus Erigena, he distin-
guishes between affirmative and negative theology (theo-
logia Karai^ariKr) and airo^ariKri)^ and thereby merges real
theology into philosophy, and that, a philosophy in which the
old sin of Pantheism renews itself in a way more serious than
with Origen. So indifferent, however, was his time to these
deeper studies that this pantheistical philosopher held his
post of honor undisturbed at the court of the Carolingians,
surrounded by an orthodox clergy, and his writings were
condemned for the first time three centuries afterward by
Rome at the mouth of Pope Honorius III. as "being full
of the vermin of heretical depravity."

This does not imply that these three centuries passed
by to no purpose and without important results, but what-
ever labor did more than protect the inherited theological
treasure, directed itself almost exclusively to what was calcu-
lated to strengthen the Church in a practical way and civilize
the nations of the West. First, the system of monasticism
was deeply thought out, carefully ordered and clearly out-
lined. Then the development of ecclesiastical law took
a higher flight, together with the ordering of civil relations,
which were included in canonical law. No little effort was
made to establish upon a sound footing the cathedral schools,
which had been founded by the Carolingian princes, and to
provide them with good material for study. And, finally,
there was no want during these ages of edifying literature of
a pious trend, mystical flavor and sound content. But none
of these studies touched upon theology in her nature and
being. No thought was expended upon her as such, and
there was still less of an effort made to vindicate her relation
to the non-theological development or to the reason. The


Church was mistress in the entire domain of life. The
opposition of ancient Rome's classical development had been
silenced by the decline of the culture of the times. Germanic
development was still too much in its infancy to renew the
old strife, and thus of itself the struggle for principles came
to an end ; the more because the ever-restless spirit of the
Greek came under the pressure of Islam, which prevented
it from exerting an influence upon the Church of the West.
The Dark Ages, which soon appeared, were but the natural
consequence of what went before. The wind blew no longer
from any quarter. It was a dead calm. On every hand
nothing but stagnant waters were seen. And thus, for want
of an animating impulse, the life of study waned.

It was very different, however, in the second part of this
long period. In 1096 the first crusade was undertaken. This
was an expression of Christian, chivalrous heroism, which not
only aroused the peoples from their sleep of death, but also
restored to the Church her sense of unity with the Church of
the East, and exerted no less mighty an influence upon the-
ology. Here we must retrace our steps to Emperor Jus-
tinian I., who closed by a decree the pagan school of Athens,
and thereby obliged its scholars to flee to Persia. There
these men tried to establish their classical school in safety,
and to prosecute their studies ; but however much they weie
disappointed in this, it was nevertheless under Persian, and
more especially under Syrian influences, that in the eighth cen-
tury, under the high protectorate of the Abbasides, the classi-
cal studies came to Bagdad, in order there, and presently in
Spain, to call into being a scientific life which far surpassed
the civilization of Christian Europe at that time. By contact
with this rich Mohammedan life the old classics were intro-
duced again in Europe ; and when, in competition with Islam,
the classical studies were resumed in Byzantium, under Bardas
and Photius, the old Greek-Roman world of thought entered
Christian Europe simultaneously from these two sides, to
recall it from its practical, mystical and ecclesiastically tradi-
tional life to a higher development of its self -consciousness.

The new theological activity which was thus called into


beincT bears the name of Scholasticism, which name is derived
from docere in scola, and for this reason Scholasticism is also
connected with the rise of the universities. At first ac-
quaintance the classical world did not stand high in the
general esteem. The beautiful in the world of old Hellas
and the virility in the world of old Rome was not loved by
the Middle Ages and Scholastics. This love flamed up only
when the Byzantine scholars fled from Turkish violence into
Italy, and when, as a fruit of their activity. Humanism made
its entry. No, the Scholastics cared less for Homer, ^schy-
lus, Virgil and Horace, than for Plato, Aristotle and Cicero.
On the first acquaintance with the works of Greece's great
philosophers especially, it was soon evident that these men
were profounder students than the clergy of the times. And
since these Scholastics knew too little Greek to read Aristotle
at once in the original, they obtained by their acquaintance
with the thinker of Stagira about such an impression as a Zulu
necrro must receive from a visit to the arsenal at Woolwich.
What were the weapons they had thus far used, when com-
pared to the rich supply of arms from the arsenal of Aristotle ?
And as the Christian knights were inspired to high exploits
by crusade upon crusade undertaken against Islam, the sight
of this glittering arsenal in the writings of Aristotle made the
scholars of those days quickly cast aside the sling and stone
and immediately arm themselves with the lances of Aris-
totle's categories and with the armor of his distinctions, and
so to gain trophies for their Christian faith. At the outset
they foresaw none of the danger this implied. As yet they
perceived nothing of what was to come to light in Abelard,
in the Nominalists, and presently in the Humanists. They
did not surmise that the Greek-Roman tradition held a spirit
peculiar to itself, and that when once called out from its
grave this spirit would soon prove able to enlist once more
the sympathies of thinking minds, and for a second time let
loose against the Church the old enemy which had spoken in
Celsus and Porphyry. They thought they were simply deal-
ino- with the armor of a buried hero, and that they had a
perfect right to appropriate this armor to themselves.


Even thus, however, there v/as something very beautifnl
in this impulse. If it hiy in the nature of the case that the
world of thought of unregeneratecl humanit}- must of neces-
sity be different from that of regenerate humanity walking
in the light of God's Word, the task of theology was not ex-
hausted in a self-defence against this world of natural thought.
She was called, in the first place, to populate her own world
of thought and to regulate it. The content of the Divine
Revelation had been committed to her, not to possess it as
gold in a mine, but to delve it out of that mine, and then to
convert that gold into all sorts of ornaments. The content
of Revelation had not been given dialectically, nor had it been
cast in the form of discursive thought. That which had been
revealed of God could therefore not be taken up as such into
the human consciousness. It had first to be worked over,
and its form be changed so as to suit human capacity. What
had been shown to the Eastern mind in images and symbols,
had to be assimilated by Western thinking and reproduced
intellectually. For this it was indispensable that the believ-
ing Christian should also learn how to think, and how to
sharpen his powers of thought, in order to grasp the content
of his faith, not resting until he had succeeded, from the
root of palingenesis and by the light of photismos, in lead-
ing the human consciousness to a coherent, comprehensive
world of thought entirely its own. And this they failed to do.
In the period of naivety the struggle with Paganism had been
broken off rather than fought out. Under the inspiration of
the Fathers of the Church all the powers of thought had been
directed to the establishing of the mysteries, to prevent here-
sies ; but in the following ages they neglected to analyze the
further mysteries of the faith to the root. Thus they failed
of creating a Christian Philosophy, which should give to the
Christian world, to the glory of God, what old Hellas had
possessed in Plato and Aristotle, thanks to Socrates' initia-
tive. This want has been felt by the Scholastics, if only
feebly. They saw that Aristotle could teach them how to
think. They were ashamed of the fact that the scholars of
Bajrdad and Cordova excelled the Christians in virility of


thought. And then they, too, threw themselves upon the
world of thought, they worked themselves into it, and became
masters in it of the first rank, with a virtuosity which claims
our admiration till this day. Suddenly they rise like cedars
from the barren tablelands of the Dark Ages. And in so far
as they, immovable in their faith, did not shrink before any
intellectual labor, however gigantic, they are still our exam-
ples as intellectual heroes. He who refuses to consult with
Thomas Aquinas weakens himself as a theologian.

However, we have qualified their labor as a triumph grasped
prematurely. In the preface of the latest edition of Lom-
bardus' Sententiae and Thomas' Summa, Paris, 1841, the edi-
tor wrote in a high-pitched key of these Sententiae and this
jSiimma : " Stupendous works indeed, the former of which
ruled all Europe for a century and a half and gave birth to
Thomas Aquinas, while the latter, being assuredly the very
sum of theology, has ruled all Europe for five centuries from
the day it was brought to light, and has begotten all suc-
ceeding theologians." This flattering speech aims none too
high; for after Thomas there has no one arisen who, as a theo-
logian, has thought out the domain of sacred study so com-
prehensively from all sides, and who has penetrated as deeply
to the bottom of all questions so heroically as he ; and only
the latest development of philosophy has given the stream
of theological thought a really new bend. The very rise of
this newer philosoph}^ however, has discovered how greatly
Tliomas was mistaken, when he thought that he had al-
ready hit the mark, when he placed the formal intellectual
development of the Grecian world at the service of the
Church. Undoubtedly it is since then only that theology
within its own ground has come to a richer development,
such as it had never known before, which has enabled it to
assimilate and to reproduce no mean part of the treasures of
Revelation ; but the struggle for principles, which theology
had to carry on for the vindication of her own right of ex-
istence, had scarcely yet begun. Theology and philosophy
(taken now in the material sense) are too closely identified
bv Thomas. He takes too little account of the world of


thought of unregenerate humanity as an independent whole.
It is with him still too much a subtle gymnastic of intellect,
which defends every part of the Church confession of that
day by distinctions, and again by distinctions against objec-
tions, and vindicates the same as being in harmony with
reason. And it was especially serious because thus the
foundation of the building of Christian Doctrine was sought
by far too much in the subject itself and for the subject in
the understanding. For thus finally reason sat in judgment,
and though reason appeared in favor of the doctrines of the
Church when speaking from the mind of a Thomas, there
Avas no guarantee that this same reason in another subject
would not presently arrive at an opposite conclusion, and
then where was the triumph of the Christian religion? In
Abelard it had already been shown with what fire men were
playing. That fire had been extinguished by the holy energy
of Bernard of Clairvaux and by the ban of Innocent II. But
what was to be done, when presently that same fire should
break out again in wider extent and with greater fur}^?
There was an increase of knowledge, but victory had not
yet been achieved. The mystical Scholastics were already
aware of this, for which reason they offered dialectical pro-
ficiency the support of the fervor of devotion and faith. But,
of course, in this also there was no lasting security. That
security could be regained only when return was made to the
Holy Scripture.

§ 104. Bevelojjment of 31ultiformity

The subject in hand is neither Religion nor the Church,
but Theology as a science, and therefore in the period pre-
ceding the Reformation the emphasis falls upon the unfolding
of multiformity. The return to the Holy Scripture as the
sole principium was of far-reaching importance. Such men
as Thomas Aquinas, etc., fully intended to base their confes-
sion upon the Holy Scripture, and on the other hand it is
also known that while devoted to the study of the Script-
ures, Erasmus held to the confession of Rome till his death.
Similarly the motive of the newer development has been


sought in the principle of free investigation, but only to be
overthrown by the confession of the Reformers themselves,
that they never pleaded for a freedom of investigation which
lacked all foundation in faith. It is self-evident, moreover,
that he who finds the motive of the new evolution of the
science of theology too exclusively in the return to the Holy
Scripture or too formally in freedom of investigation, excludes
thereby Romish theology altogether, and arbitrarily contracts
the domain of theology. That the labor of the Romish
Church was at first disqualified, is readily understood ; but

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 61 of 64)