W. (William) Sanday.

Christology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday online

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call it, 'immanence,' 'indwelling,' 'mystical union,'
or the like, and whatever the extent of the real
experience corresponding to those names — is that
part of the living organism of man which we are
learning to call the subliminal consciousness. Per-
haps we ought in this instance to use an even
stronger term, and to speak of ' inf raliminal' in-
stead of 'subliminal.' But no; I am inclined to
think that 'subliminal' is better. It is true that
the proper seat of the really divine — as well as,
I am afraid, the really diabolical — in man is that
part of the living self which is most beyond his ken.
And yet, as I shall have occasion presently to point
out in greater detail, although this divine element
lies so deep, and in its quiescent state is so far
withdrawn from our contemplation, it is by no
means always quiescent, but sends up impulses
from time to time which — if they elude us still in
their deeper roots themselves — nevertheless produce
effects which come within the field of consciousness,
so that they can be rightly called subconscious.


164 Ancient and Modern Christologies

That which comes to expression is for the most
part not so much the divine itself (though this too
appears sometimes, in the great mystics, to reach
direct expression) as indications of the presence of
the divine.

If we look into ourselves, this is what we shall

see. There is an impulse to right action, and we

act; there is an impulse to prayer, and we pray;

there is an impulse towards thanksgiving, and we

give thanks; there is above all that central impulse

of faith, the impulse as it were to take hold of God

in Christ and cling fast to Him, so that no outward

deterrent, no other conflicting attraction, can loosen

the hold. We feel that all these promptings come

from a hidden source within us. We can say with

St. Paul 'the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: . . .

the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with

groanings which cannot be uttered' (Rom. viii. 26).

We know enough of what goes on within us to be

able to trace it to its source, but we cannot go

beyond this; we cannot in any more explicit way

describe or define the ultimate cause of these

abysmal motions. Not only the ordinary life but

the highest life of the saintliest of men is conducted

upon the human plane ; to all superficial appearance

he leads just the same kind of life as his neighbours.

He knows, and we know, that that is not a full

account of the matter — that he really has * meat to

eat' that we others *know not of; but, however

true that may be, however deep the source of this

VII. A Tentative Modern Christologij 165

inward sustenance, his outward acts, so far as they
are outward, are subject to precisely the same laws,
and present the same generic appearance, as those
of other men. It would take some time before we
should discover that the saint or the mystic was
what he was; and we should discover it, not by
direct inspection, but by inference — or rather, by
inference within inference, as by a cunning arrange-
ment of mirrors the surgeon is able to see further
into the interior of the body than is possible to
direct observation. It is literal truth to say that
the inner life of the spirit is 'hid with Christ in
God'; but the medium through which that inner
life is manifested — so far as it is ever manifested —
is the common workday life of men.

Now it seems to me that the analogy of our human
selves can at least to this extent be transferred to
the Incarnate Christ. If whatever we have of divine
must needs pass through a strictly human medium,
the same law would hold good even for Him. A
priori we should expect that it would be so; and
a posteriori we find that as a matter of fact it was so.
We have seen what difficulties are involved in the
attempt to draw as it were a vertical line between
the human nature and the divine nature of Christ,
and to say that certain actions of His fall on one
side of this line and certain other actions on the
other. But these difficulties disappear if, instead of
drawing a vertical line, we rather draw a horizontal
line between the upper human medium, which is

166 Ancient and Modern Christologies

the proper and natural field of all active expression,
and those lower deeps which are no less the proper
and natural home of whatever is divine. This line
is inevitably drawn in the region of the subconscious.
That which was divine in Christ was not nakedly
exposed to the public gaze ; neither was it so entirely
withdrawn from outward view as to be wholly sunk
and submerged in the darkness of the unconscious;
but there was a sort of Jacob's ladder by which the
divine forces stored up below found an outlet, as it
were, to the upper air and the common theatre in
which the life of mankind is enacted.

The advantage of this way of conceiving of the
Person of Christ is that it leaves us free to think
of His life on earth as fully and frankly human,
without at the same time fixing limits for it which
confine it within the measures of the human; it
leaves an opening, which in any case must be left,
by which the Deity of the Incarnate preserves its
continuity with the infinitude of Godhead.

The great gain from the recognition of the
subliminal activities of consciousness lies in the
fact that it reduces the conscious self to its proper
proportions, and makes us realize in a way in which
we hardly did realize before how much larger the
Whole Self is than this limited part of it. And,
in like manner, the application of this analogy to the
Life of Christ enables us to realize it much more
in its true proportions — in the proportions, that is,
which the human life as lived on earth really bore

VII. A Tentative Modern Christology 167

to the whole transcendent manifestation of the Son
of God.

On the one hand, we think of the human con-
sciousness of the Lord as entirely human; we
make no attempt to divide it up and fence off one
part of it as human and another part as divine.
Whatever there was of divine in Him, on its way
to outward expression whether in speech or act,
passed through, and could not but pass through,
the restricting and restraining medium of human
consciousness. This consciousness was, as it were,
the narrow neck through which alone the divine
could come to expression. This involves that only
so much of the divine could be expressed as was
capable of expression within the forms of humanity.
We accept this conclusion unreservedly, and have
no wish to tamper with it. The Life of our Lord, so
far as it was visible, was a strictly human life; He
was, as the Creeds teach, 'very Man'; there is
nothing to prevent us from speaking of this human
life of His just as we should speak of the life of one
of ourselves. Over this we can shake hands with
those continental theologians who insist on taking
the humanity of our Lord in real earnest, and as
no mere matter of form.

But, on the other hand, we no less emphatically
refuse to rule out or ignore or explain away the
evidence which the Gospels and the rest of the New
Testament afford that this human life was, in its
deepest roots, directly continuous with the life of

168 Ancient and Modern Christologies

God Himself. If St. Paul could quote and endorse
the words of a pagan poet claiming for the children
of men that they are also God's offspring; and if
they are this notwithstanding the fact that they are
confined in the body as creatures of perishable clay;
if in spite of these limitations it may still be said of
them that in God they *live and move and have
their being/ might not the same be said in a yet more
searching and essential sense of Him who was
Son in a more transcendent and ineffable mode
of being than they.^ Whatever the Homoousion
means — and in the last resort it remains a symbol
rather than a term of direct description, because it is
a corporeal metaphor applied to Spirit — whatever it
means, can it be doubted that on this view there is
ample room for it ? Indeed, whatever room there is
in the universe is at our command, and we can fill it
as we will. That which stays our hand in the free-
dom of theorizing is not any external condition but
only the reverence which does not seek to be wise
beyond that which is written. There may well have
been a self-determination of the Godhead, such as
issued in the Incarnation, as far back as thought can
go. I add that as perhaps a tenable modern
paraphrase of the primary element in the doctrine
of the Trinity. This doctrine, in its essence as in its
origin, turns upon the recognition of the Incarnation
of the Son. But in these regions the modern thinker
will desire to walk warily, and not to intrude further
than he is compelled.

VII. A Tentative Modern Christologij 169

In a previous lecture I mentioned a work which
appeared about three years ago, The One Christy by
F. Weston, B.D., at that time Canon and Chan-
cellor, and now Bishop, of Zanzibar. I believe that
its very merits have stood in its way, and that it has
received less attention than it deserves. But those
who have read it will I think agree with me that it
is a remarkable book. Written in mental solitude
and isolation only a little less than we might sup-
pose — the dedication shows that the isolation was
not quite complete, — 'in a country where books
are few and which is far away from all centres of
theological thought,' it is concerned with high
themes and treats them with marked originality and
with sustained earnestness and elevation. The book
starts from a different side of approach to mine —
not from modern thought and psychology, but from
Dogmatics in the highest sense of the word. And
yet I am glad to think that we meet in the middle
to such a large extent as w^e do. Dr. Weston's
purpose is to vindicate the one consciousness of the
Christ; and with him too this consciousness is
strictly human. His main point, if I understand
aright, is that this human consciousness was assumed
by a single act of will anterior to the Incarnation,
not by a succession of acts repeated during the
Incarnation. I must let Dr. Weston speak in his
own words: —

With the Incarnate [this suppression of certain
powers] is not an act of forgetfulness. Rather it is

170 Ancient and Modern Christologies

an act of supreme divine power that so orders the
hfe of the Logos that within a certain sphere He
wills to have no consciousness of Himself that is not
mediated for Him by His human soul. . . . Looked
at from above, as from the standpoint of the Logos
Himself, His consciousness as man must surely bear
the marks of self-sacrificing love, of powerful self-
restraint. It is the result of the self-emptying of the
Son; of His determination to accept, within certain
relationships, the fashion of a man and the form of
a slave. He willed so to relate Himself to the Father
and to men that within these relationships He could
not know Himself as unlimited Son of God.

But looked at from below, from our standpoint,
His consciousness as man is that of the perfect Son
of Man, who at every moment, in ever-growing
clearness, realizes in and through manhood His
divine Sonship; who knows Himself as God at
every moment just in the measure that such self-
knowledge can be mediated by the soul as it passes
from perfect infancy to perfect childhood, from
perfect childhood to perfect youth, and from perfect
youth to perfect manhood. And in this it is really
human; the self-consciousness of the Man Christ
Jesus, the self -consciousness of God in manhood.

It is in the light of such a theory as this that we
best understand the saying of our Lord that His
Father is greater than He is. For the Incarnate
speaks of Himself as He was on earth in His Incar-
nate state, within the relationships made concrete
by His assumption of flesh. He speaks not of His
manhood, but of His Incarnate being and state. As
Incarnate He is less than His Father. As touching
His manhood, and the conditions that it has imposed
upon His person. He is inferior to His Father.

The importance of arriving at a conception of
a single consciousness of the Christ cannot be over-

VII. A Tentative Modern Christology 171

estimated. The popular teaching that assumes in the
Incarnate a full consciousness of divine glory side
by side with a consciousness of certain occasional
human limitations cannot be too strongly deprecated.
We must not allow ourselves to speak of the Babe
of Bethlehem as ruling the universe from His
mother's knee; nor of the sacred Heart of Jesus as
consciously embracing the whole race from the first
moment of its existence. To do so is to require
three states of the Logos: the first in which He is
unlimited and unincarnate ; the second in w hich He
is incarnate, and unlimited except when He wills to
allow some merely human condition to prevail over
Him; and the third in which He is self-limited in
that human condition. And the result of such a
conception of the Incarnate is to make His manhood
unique not only in the degree of its perfection, but
also in kind. It makes it utterly unlike ours, and
also removes it from all part in the mediation of
His self-consciousness.

And, on the other hand, the Kenotic theories
are equally to be deplored. For they picture the
Incarnate as of a dual consciousness in the sense
that they require two centres of activity in the
lower state; a centre of self-abandonment, and
a centre of His divine-human or human activities
after the self-abandonment has taken place.

For myself, the daylight shines most fully at the
point in w^hich I am able to assign to the universal
sphere of Logos-activity all the self -limitation that
was necessary for the mediation of Christ's con-
sciousness by His manhood. The child Jesus was
able to be a perfect child, not because He as In-
carnate restrained divine powers lest they should
overpower His boy-nature, but because as Incarnate
He is at every moment observant of and obedient
to a law of self-restraint which He as unlimited

172 Ancient and Modern Christologies

Logos wills should be imposed upon Himself. The
child in Joseph's shop is the concrete expression
of those relations of tne Incarnate, Godward and
manward, which depend for their reality at every
moment upon the action of the Logos Himself in
His universal sphere of activities. The Logos as
able to limit Himself and as conscious of that ability
is to be regarded as in the sphere of the universal
and eternal relationships; the special, incarnate
relationships are to be conceived as those of the
Logos self -limited, who knows Himself only as
Logos limited in manhood (pp. 156-159).

This long quotation will, I hope, have made clear
the position taken up. The writer says at the out-
set that his task would make great demands alike
upon courage and faith. I believe that he has met
all these demands. He is a devout son of the
Church, and has written throughout with absolute
loyalty; but at the same time he has followed his
thought where it led him. He has stated his views
as explicitly as possible; and yet I do not think
that he has really come in conflict with any catholic
doctrine. It is important to observe that his
contemplation is focused upon the Consciousness of
Christ. I do not think that there is any real
contradiction even with a popular statement such as
that in a lovely sequence published by Dr. Neale.^

Patris Unigenitus,

Per quem fecit omnia,
Hie degit humanitus

Sub matre paupercula:

* Sequentiae ex Missalihus (London, 1852), p. 11.

VII. A Tentative Modern Christology 173

Ibi sanctos angelos

Reficit laetitia :
Hie sitit et esurit

Degens in infantia.

Ibi regit omnia;

Hie a matre regitur:
Ibi dat imperia;

Hie aneillae subditur:
Ibi summi eulminis

Residet in solio;
Hie ligatus fasciis

Vagit in praesepio.

The substance of what is said here has of course
higher authority than the sequence. But the
language used by Dr. Weston does not refer to the
fact, but only to the consciousness of the fact. If
I were pressed myself and called upon to give
account at the bar of modern thought, I should
content myself with speaking of the consciousness
of the Christ. I should not deny what the Church
has ever said. I do not like such denials, and will not
make them unless I am (intellectually) compelled.
And in this case I do not think that I am compelled.
I would rather keep silent. I should feel that I
was out of my depth when I began to go beyond
the limits of the consciousness of Christ. The
mystery of the relation of the Son to the Father
stretches beyond our ken. The Deity which rules
the universe is in the last resort the same Deity
which took human flesh. So much I believe; and
that belief seems to me enough to connect the faith
of the patristic age with our own.

174 Aiicient and Modem Christologies

The consciousness of our Lord, as I have been
trying to describe it and as I conceive that it is
presented to us in the Gospels, is a genuinely human
consciousness. But I shall doubtless be asked : If
that is so, what ground have we for thinking that
there was in Him a root of being striking down
below the strata of consciousness, by virtue of which
He was more than human? My reply is, that we
know it by the marks which have been appealed to
all down the centuries in proof that in Him Deity
and humanity were combined. All those little in-
cidental sayings which have so long been noted in
the Gospels, although comparatively slight singly in
themselves, nevertheless in their accumulated force
convey a distinct impression ; and to that impression
justice is only done when we proclaim Him God as
well as man. The conscience that has sunk itself
in Christianity cannot stop short of this. It refuses
to think of Christ merely as man. If it were to do
so, it would feel that half of Him was unexplained,
that there were features in Him that were otiose,
ineffective, and without meaning.

The most definite, the most comprehensive and
the most exalted (according to the current ideas of
exaltation) of all the titles which our Lord took
to Himself was the Jewish title Messiah. This
title certainly included for our Lord Himself, as for
all who ever used it, the idea of vast dominion.
The Messiah was to be the vicegerent on earth of
God Himself; the kingdom of God on earth was

VII. A Tentative Modern Christology 175

His kingdom. It included the idea of a vast resto-
ration, redemption or salvation — according to the
Jews' notion in the first instance for their own
people, but through them for the human race. And
the outlook of our Lord w^as, we are sure, grander
than theirs. Lastly, the title INIessiah included the
functions of the Judge— the Judge of all mankind.
And we cannot doubt that our Lord thought of
Himself as destined to hold this great assize.

The incidental expressions of which I spoke are
really grouped round this central idea; they all
converge inwards upon it. When our Lord assumes
the right to forgive sins; when He lays down a new
Law like a second Moses; when He allows it to be
seen that He thinks of Himself as greater than
Jonah or than Solomon; when He pronounces
blessing on acts done to His disciples as acts done
to Him — in all these cases His Messianic conscious-
ness is the moving cause.

This Messianic consciousness was central. But
to say that it was central is not by any means the
same thing as to say that it was adequate. It was
very far from being this. The most we can say for
it is that it was the nearest idea and the nearest ex-
pression that offered itself at the time. Whenever
our Lord used it — and we know that, although He
presupposed it always, He used it seldom and with
great reserved-He strained it almost to bursting.

In particular. He fused with it two further con-
ceptions ; first, that contained in the prophetic ideal

176 Ancient and Modern Christologies

of the Servant of Jehovah, an ideal that vkras never
far away from His thoughts ; and secondly, the sense
of closest intimacy with God, a sense which He
expressed by speaking of Himself as *the Son' and
of God as * the Father.'

Even so — even when it was enriched in these
deeply significant ways — still the idea of Messiah-
ship was inadequate. But we are not to think of
the inadequacy as at all surprising or different from
what was to be expected. Let us go back to our
psychology, and consider the essential conditions of
the case.

I have described our human consciousness as
a kind of ' narrow neck ' through which everything
that comes up from the deeps of human nature has
to pass. It may help us to think of the conscious-
ness as a sort of porous material stretched entirely
across this neck and closing the orifice. The orifice
is closed, but not absolutely or imperviously; the
material is so porous that it permits a great deal of
that which comes up to pass through. The process
is like that of filtering: certain particles, very many
particles, pass through the pores and come to the
surface. In other words, dropping or varying the
metaphor, a certain proportion of the hidden con-
tents of human nature enter into consciousness, and
through consciousness find expression. But in what
relation do these stand to the remainder that is left
behind, that does not enter into consciousness and
never finds expression.? How much of 'the vision

VII. A Tentative Modern Christology 177

and the faculty divine' has no accomplishment of
phrase corresponding to it ?

The poets are perpetually reminding us of this.
Perhaps Wordsworth most of all, for it is one of his
leading ideas. He sums it up in the famous line,

We feel that we are greater than we know.

If we are to paraphrase this in the language of
philosophy, and of present-day philosophy, we should
say that the unconscious processes of cerebration are
richer and more productive than the conscious; the
subliminal activities of the human mind are subtler
and more various than the supraliminal. Words-
worth is constantly aiming at this, and in many of
his best-known passages : as when he speaks of the
'something far more deeply interfused,' or of the

Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized.

But of course he does not stand alone. We think
of Tennyson, with his 'Higher Pantheism' and
'Flower in the crannied wall,' or of Browning's

fancy from a flower-bell, some one's death,
A chorus-ending from Euripides,

with the train of thought which such things set in
motion. Or again we think of Blake's

To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower.
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
x\nd Eternity in an hour.


178 Ancient and Modern Christologies

Feats of which the conscious soul is not capable
become possible with the help of the subconscious.

The narrow-necked vessel has an opening at the
bottom, which is not stopped by any sponge.
Through it there are incomings and outgoings,
which stretch away into infinity and in fact proceed
from, and are, God Himself. That is the ultimate
and most important point. I have said already that,
whatever there may be of divine in man, it is in these
deep dim regions that it has its abiding-place and
home. And I feel sure that we may make use of
this analogy when we speak or think of the divine
Person of our Lord.

Perhaps I may remind you of another metaphor
to which I had recourse in the last lecture. I spoke
of the upper consciousness as a kind of dial-plate,
with an index needle moving lightly backwards and
forwards before it. The deepest movements of the
human mind cannot be read upon the dial; they
can only indicate their presence, and through some
faint symbol or other hint at their nature. Our Lord
Jesus Christ, when He became Incarnate, assumed
such a disability as this. He could not — by His
own deliberate act of self-restraint He could not —
wear His Deity (as it were) upon His sleeve. He
knew that the condition which He was assuming
permitted only degrees of self-manifestation. He
knowingly condemned Himself, if the phrase may
be allowed, to that inadequate expression of which
I have spoken. But just as in the man the whole

VII. A Tentative Modern Christologij 179

Self, conscious, subconscious, and infraconscious, is
indefinitely larger than the conscious Self taken
alone, so even in our Lord the manifested Life was
only, as it were, an index to the total Life of which
the visible activities were but a relatively small

We may venture then to picture to ourselves the
working of our Lord's consciousness in some such

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Online LibraryW. (William) SandayChristology and personality : containing: I. Christologies ancient and modern, II. Personality in Christ and in ourselves / by William Sanday → online text (page 10 of 18)