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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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way as this. His life on earth presented all the
outward appearance of the life of any other con-
temporary Galilean. His bodily organism discharged
the same ordinary functions and ministered to the
life of the soul in the same ordinary ways. He had
the same sensations of pleasure and pain, of distress
and ease, of craving and satisfaction. Impressions
received through the senses and emotions awakened
by them were recollected and stored up for use by
the same wonderful processes by which any one of
us becomes the living receptacle of personal ex-
periences. His mind played over all these accumu-
lated memories, sifting, digesting, analysing, extract-
ing, combining, and recombining. Out of such con-
stituent elements, physical, rational, moral, and
spiritual, character was formed in Him as in any
one of ourselves, though with unwonted care and
attention. Not that we need suppose that the actual
process of character-forming was more self-conscious
with Him than it is with us. The forming of
character is the unconscious automatic effect of



180 Ancient and Modern Christologies

particular decisions of judgement and acts of will.
Conscience discriminates between right and wrong;
in His case it invariably chose the right and eschewed
the wrong. But out of the midst of all these moral
decisions and actions, out of the interplay of social
relations, under the guidance of observation and re-
flection, there gradually grew up a sense of deliberate
purpose, a consciousness of mission. Of all the
shaping influences from without doubtless the most
important was the study of the Jewish Bible, the
sacred scriptures of the Old Testament. It would
be by the help of these, suggesting ideas and forms
of expression, that the mind of our Lord singled out
for itself by degrees those particular terms of
which I have spoken as best fitted to describe the
character and the mission of which He was conscious
in Himself — Messiah, Son of Man, Son (i.e. of God).
I do not think we can doubt that in order of time
the last of these came first. The Child Jesus, like
any other Jewish child, first learnt to think of God
on His mother's knee. But the thought soon took
possession of Him as it did not take possession of
other Jewish children. And then, what could be
more natural than that He should extend and apply
to the Heavenly Father the content of the nearest and
most familiar to Him of all earthly relations ? The
thought of God as His Father grew with His growth
and strengthened with His strength ; indeed it seems
as though it absorbed all other thoughts beside ; other
thoughts affected Him only as they stood in relation



VII. A Tentative Modern Christology 181

to this. To be Son of God : what an idea! What
heights and depths were contained in that single
Name! Everything else that Jesus of Nazareth
ever thought about Himself was but an explication
of it, was but an incident or episode involved in it
from the first, though only taking outward ex-
pression in course of time. The oldest historic use of
the title Son of God was for the Davidic king, as
an agent of the theocracy ; and then next, by an easy
transition, for the Messianic King, of whom the
earthly king was a type. Hence, when the voice
came at His Baptism, 'Thou art My beloved Son,
in Thee I am well pleased,' or possibly (as in the
Western text of Luke ii. 22) ' Thou art My Son, this
day have I begotten Thee,' Jesus at once knew
what it meant; He at once knew that He was to
regard Himself as the Messiah of prophecy. This
led to much searching of heart, of w^hich the
(sym.bolic) story of the Temptation gives us a
glimpse. It w as as a last outcome of those solitary
wrestlings that Jesus chose for Himself that other
title, already stamped with INIessianic meaning,
though with other associations wider still, the title
Son of Man. By this title He chose to be known,
speaking of Himself with wonderful delicacy, nearly
always in the third person. What was the mission,
what was the course marked out for one who knew
Himself to be in a sense indefinitely deep the Son
of God.? Why was He placed upon the earth in
human guise.? What was to be the end of His



182 Ancient and Modern Christologies

human career? And — still more important — what
destiny was in store for Him, and for the human
race through Him, when that career was ended?
Once more, the Messiah could not be in doubt.
He knew — every Israelite knew — that in Him all
the nations of the earth were to be blessed. We
may well believe that at first Jesus went upon His
way wondering how those ancient prophecies were
to be fulfilled, by what precise means the tide of
blessing would spread from Palestine outwards and
onwards. It would seem as though at first, while
waiting to have this more fully revealed to Him, He
simply did the work that lay to His hand, teaching
and healing. That would in any case prepare the
way for the Kingdom of Heaven; and in any case
He knew that blessedness was to come through the
Kingdom of Heaven. It was His chief mission to
bring about the coming of that kingdom. Was He
to do so as manifested King ? Was the theocracy
to be restored as a true theocracy ? By degrees His
eyes were opened, and He came to see what was
really awaiting Him. If there was to be a kingdom,
it was not kingdom from a throne, but kingdom
from a cross. This too He faced ; and its meaning
became clear to Him when He thought of the
Servant of Jehovah in the latter part of Isaiah.
Here was another role that He felt that He was to
play. He felt, and He understood, and became
obedient unto death. But He knew that, for all
this — for all the suffering of death, the prophecies of



VII. A Tentative Modern Christology 183

blessing were not abrogated. Still they remained
in force, and they would certainly be fulfilled ; but
how ? When that question came to be asked How ?
our sources leave us in some ambiguity. The
solution that lay nearest at hand was that of the
Jewish Apocalypses. And it would be very natural
and very probable that our Lord would at least at
times have recourse to this solution; He would
express Himself in the familiar language; and His
disciples were evidently allowed to fall back to
a large extent upon that language.

But the Apocalyptic teaching itself branched off
in two main directions. There was the part to be
played by the Messiah Himself as King and as
Judge. But another characteristic of the Last Days
was to be the great outpouring of the Spirit, con-
spicuously foretold by the prophet Joel. As a matter
of fact the Church witnessed such an outpouring.
A new and a powerful influence took up the work
begun by the Incarnation — took it up so promptly
and so continuously that to writers like St. Paul
and St. John it seemed to be the Incarnate Himself
still at work through His Spirit. Already in
St. Luke's evangelical narrative (Luke xxiv. 49, cf.
Acts i. 4, 8) this further working is represented as
predicted by Jesus. How did Jesus Himself think
of it ? I conceive that here, if anywhere — here, most
of all — that subliminal consciousness of His, to which
I have been referring, came into play. We speak
of a 'reserve of power' in ordinary men, i. e. of



184 Ancient and Modern Christologies

latent powers that from time to time, on great
occasions, assert themselves in them. With Jesus,
these latent powers had throughout His life been
more abundant and nearer at hand than with others.
It was they which gave an extraordinary aspect to the
whole of His ministry. It was they which fed His
consciousness as Messiah and as Son. He had never
made any parade of them. He had treated them
with a certain irony, rather minimizing their pre-
sence than magnifying it. It was with Him as it
has been with the saints of all ages — ^that which
they had of deepest and most divine has never
been obtruded upon the public gaze, but rather
hidden away out of sight and known only by its
fruits. But now that the end was nigh, now that
the moment of release from the burden of the flesh
was all but come, I do not doubt that the Lord felt
these latent powers, so steadily restrained and so
sparingly used, surging up within Him, gathering all
their forces for an outbreak, crowding, as it were,
towards the exit and ready to burst out upon the
world. Still the human thought and tongue even
of Jesus — and it was only through human thought
and human speech that even He could communicate
with His disciples who were also His brethren —
could only express themselves in terms of current
meaning, could only express themselves with that
inadequacy and relativity of utterance which at-
taches to all that is human. The language of Apoca-
lypse, in one or other of its forms, was almost the



] II. A Tentative Modern Christoloc/y 18,3

only language available. What applies to language
applies also to thought; and I can well believe that
in the human thought, as well as in the language, of
Jesus there was an element that was vague, ap-
proximate, and undetermined. We ourselves have
the vantage-ground, not only of nearly nineteen
centuries of retrospect, but also of a terminology
more adapted to the thought of our own time ; and
it is no abuse of our rights if we prefer to employ
that terminology in describing the historic con-
sequences of the Incarnation as best we may.

But the one thing that has to be realized is that,
just as in one of us the conscious self is but a small
portion of the true self and such imperfect descrip-
tion as we can give of the history of the conscious self
most inadequately represents the real fortunes of a
soul travelling between two immensities, so a for-
tiori does the written record that has come down to
us utterly come short of the real history of the Son
of Man. We must bear this in mind and never
allow ourselves to forget it, but carefully adapt both
our language and our judgements to these conditions.



VIII
THE PRESENT POSITION



VIII

THE PRESENT POSITION

The appearance of the Hibbert Journal Supple-
ment for 1909, entitled Jesu^ or Christ ?, is an event of
some importance. It came out about the same
time as the volume of Cambridge Biblical Essays;
but the two books, although consisting of nearly
the same number of essays (in the one case eighteen,
in the other case sixteen), are of very different
character and purpose. There is of course no
comparison as to the amount of labour expended
upon them or as to the weight of authority which
they command. The Cambridge book had been
upon the stocks for several years; it was prepared
with an educational object, to gather together within
moderate compass the more or less authenticated
results of prolonged research and study, and to do
this as a step in the process of mental discipline at
one of our foremost seats of learning. The essays
in the other book were evidently thrown off at
comparatively short notice; they were not written
with the same consciousness of responsibility; but
up to a certain point they make amends for this by
greater freedom of experiment.

This latter aspect of the book is the most sig-
nificant. Whereas in the Cambridge volume we

189



190 A7icient and Modern Christologies

see one of our leading Universities carefully taking
stock of progress already made with a view to its
methodical extension, the Hibbert Journal venture is
not only spread over a much wider area — it includes
three contributions from the Continent and one from
America — but it evidently aims more deliberately at
breaking new ground, not over the whole field but
over one very central portion of it. This tentative-
ness and freedom of suggestion is just that which
gives it interest and attraction. I myself believe
that it will be a distinct help to the movement of
reconstruction which is going forward.

I shall not attempt to review the whole volume,
which reflects in its variety the ferment that is
going on in the public mind, but I shall try to single
out some of the points which have the most direct
bearing upon the subject of the preceding lectures.
In more places than one it appears to cut across
the particular construction which I have been
propounding.

The point at which the coincidence is greatest is
in the brief essay, of barely five pages, by Sir Oliver
Lodge. If this essay does not suggest exactly the
same solution that I have suggested, it at least seeks
for it in the same direction. It seeks a solution in
the same direction, and it dwells rather more upon
one aspect of it than I have done. As most of
what I had to say was already written before I had
read Sir Oliver Lodge's contribution, a rather full
comparing of notes may be desirable. There are



VIII. The Present Position, 191

several expressions to which I think that exception
may be taken, but my wish is rather to draw
attention to the general drift of the essay as a whole.
It is headed ' A Divine Incarnation ' ; and it begins
by asking, —

What is the meaning of Incarnation ? Surely the
manifestation in time and place of something pre-
viously existing — the display in bodily form, for
a limited period, of some portion of an eternal
spiritual essence.

Existence itself is illimitable and perennial, but
its manifestations are local and temporary. Nor is
the whole of a spiritual existence ever manifested,
— only that which the material employed can be
made to subserve. . . . The idea of an oak tree, with
its various phases, its ancestry, its future potentiali-
ties, is far larger than any actual manifestation,
whether in winter or in summer. A 'flower in
a crannied wall' is an incarnation which is in
intimate touch with the whole universe. And
shall not the spirit of a man be larger and greater
than that which animates his body and enters his
consciousness.^ (p. 115).

At this point a question is raised which I did
distinctly contemplate, but did not discuss: —

It is customary with a certain not perfectly
orthodox school of psychology to speak of the non-
incarnate ( ?) and supplementary portion of a human
being as his 'subliminal self,' the portion which is
beyond or beneath or above the threshold of his
ordinary consciousness. I do not say that 'self is
the right term; 'self may best designate the
conscious and individualised portion only, and not
the hypothetical whole.



192 Ancient mid Modern Christologies

I have little doubt that we cannot afford to debar
ourselves from using the word 'self in this con-
nexion. I do not know of any other word that we
can use. We mean by 'self in these contexts 'the
whole man', all that is embraced within the range
of his personality, the unconscious part of him as
well as the conscious. We know that there is an un-
conscious region which in the strictest sense belongs
to him, because from time to time influences — or
'uprushes' as they are often called — make them-
selves felt in the conscious region, coming up out
of the unconscious. At the same time it is no doubt
well to remember that the word ' self ' has to do
double duty, sometimes for what we call the centre
of personality, and sometimes for the whole circum-
ference to which personality can be said to extend.

Sir Oliver Lodge goes on : —

But it is to the thing, rather than to the term used
to denote it, that I direct attention, to a larger and
dominant entity, belonging to us in some sense, or
rather to which we belong, which is still behind
the veil so far as planetary existence is concerned —
the self which has not entered into the region of
present consciousness, — an accumulation of powers
and insight, of which the ordinary uninspired man
is unaware, but to which the genius has moments
of access. The existence of this larger and per-
manent self, of which what we ordinarily know as
ourselves is but a fragment, — not anything divine,
but greater than humanity, — is the working hypo-
thesis to which facts have driven psychological
experimentalists .



VIII. The Present Positimi 193

Much of this language is evidently tentative.
I could not adopt all of it. I fully believe in the
' larger and dominant entity ' ; but that entity makes
itself felt in many more ways than its relation to
genius. And I should not like to put upon it the
limitation, 'not anything divine, but greater than
humanity.' I would beware of attempting to define
too far; I prefer to leave a margin, which perhaps
philosophers or psychologists may narrow down
later. And therefore I have as a rule made use of
a vaguer phrase, ' whatever there is of divine in
man,' or the like; not by this implying that the
unconscious self consists only of this divine, or
diviner, element; there is in any case a vast amount
that is purely human in it as well. But man is cer-
tainly conscious of divine influences within him;
and these influences do not live in the consciousness
but come up into it from time to time; always
bearing with them evidence that their origin is
deeper and larger than themselves.

We resume our quotation. In the first part Sir
Oliver Lodge speaks in an interesting way as a man
of science. In the latter part he writes rather as
a speculative layman than as a theologian. And
1 will not intrude theology upon him, though I do
not think that the passage would lose anything
substantial if I did so : —

Given this hypothesis as a working clue, the
episodes of birth and death present no fundamental
difficulty. . . . Each of us is greater than we know.

13



194 Ancient and Modern Chrisiologies

We have our roots in an infinite past, not only in
the bodies of our ancestors, but in the region of
mind or spirit as well; we claim a transcendental
existence, some part of which began to assume
a temporary and local habitation at conception, and
so gradually entered more and more fully into
relation with matter, as the organism developed
into fitness for it and harmony with it. No sudden
entrance into flesh need be supposed, nor need the
exit be sudden. Gradual bodily decadence, as the
soul gradually begins to resume its immaterial exist-
ence, is the normal and healthy condition. Terres-
trial life remains an episode of surpassing interest
and importance, but is not begun and ended by
anything of the nature of creation and destruction,
merely by organisation and disorganisation ; it is an
episode of individualisation through bodily growth
and experience; it is the attainment of personality,
of a definite kind of association with matter, with
reminiscences of bodily life and activity never
thenceforth to be effaced.

This is the experience through which every son
of man must pass. It is this which transmutes any
spirit into a human being. It is the process by
which any spirit must enter into relation and sym-
pathy and corporate union with humanity.

Christianity tells us that a Divine Spirit — that
the Deity himself, indeed — -went through this
process in order to make himself known to man,
and also in order fully to realise the conditions and
limitations of the free beings which, through evolu-
tion, had gradually been permitted to exist. It
teaches us that, among all the lofty Spirits which
ever became incarnate on the earth, one supremely
Divine S})irit entered our flesh and walked on the
planet for a time, was born, loved, suffered, and
died, even as one of us.



VIII. The Present Position 195

And this individualised and human aspect of the
eternally Divine Spirit we know as Jesus of Naz-
areth, a man Hke ourselves, save that the glory
of that lofty Spirit shone through the fleshly cover-
ing and preserved it from the load of sin which
follows from inadequate knowledge, imperfect in-
sight, animal ancestry, and an alien will? (p.ll8 f.).

This is not quite theologically 'correct'; but it is
easily corrected. In any case the main drift of it is
clear; and I believe that it throws real light on
what we may conceive to have been the mode or
method of the Incarnation. It also, I venture
to think, fits on well with, and supplements, the
views that I have been trying to expound in the two
preceding lectures.

If it had no other result, the collection of essays
has at least had this, that it reduces to their true
dimensions the objections brought in the original
article by the Rev. R. Roberts. These had indeed
been sufficiently answered in the two articles contri-
buted to the July number of the Hibbert Journal by
Mr. G. K. Chesterson and Prof. J. H. Moulton. On
its best side Mr. Roberts's paper was a reaction from
the somewhat vague and unreal panegyric that is so
often met with, especially in sermons. His criti-
cisms of this were probably prompted in the first
instance by a certain sincerity, which was however
soon lost in perverse inference and rhetorical exag-
geration. In these respects the article was only
a more cultivated version of the tirades of secularist



196 Ancient and Modern Christologies

lecturers. This side of it was easily and effectually
exposed. In the Hibbert volume 1 think we should
assign a special value to the refutations supplied on
the one hand by writers like Dr. Drummond and
on the other hand by two of the foreign contributors,
Profs. Weinel and Schmiedel. These come with all
the greater force because they are written from a
point of view that is not fundamentally very different
from that of Mr. Roberts. Prof. Weinel's is the more
conservative, approximating to the position taken
up by Harnack, while Dr. Schmiedel is quite explicit
and rather severe in his negations (see for instance
pp. 59, 66, 76 f.). But both writers afford a con-
spicuous illustration of what I said in a previous
lecture. Although they both adopt what I have
called a * reduced' Christianity — I am afraid this
must be said of the Jena Professor as well as of his
colleague from Zurich, — they yet make the fullest
possible use of so much as they accept. By means of
close, careful, sympathetic study they extract from it
more than we should probably succeed in extracting.
An example will show best what I mean. Professor
Weinel, 1 think, nowhere commits himself to the
dogmatic confession of Christ as we confess Him.
But from the contemplation of the historic Jesus he
draws out almost as much of spiritual value * : —

* We are tempted to ask whether all this spiritual value is
quite legitimately obtained, whether the language used (to
be fully justified) would not require a background of more
orthodox doctrine.



VIII . The Present Position 197

So did Jesus live his own life in the iSrst instance,
and in that life is contained the strength which is
flowing forth from him down to the present day.
And he who cannot define it scientifically may yet
feel it in the sayings of Jesus, and in his whole atti-
tude towards men, as revealed by the brief stories
which have been preserved concerning him. Every-
body may feel this Divine inwardness and fulness,
this certainty and clarity, this purity of a life wholly
lived in God.

These last words explain why we cannot detach
the person of Jesus from this ideal, as Roberts
wishes, and as others have wished. This is no
doctrine, but a life in God; it cannot be put into
dogmatic statement, but merely described, or much
rather felt; nor can it be handed down otherwise
than in precisely these sayings and stories of a per-
son. It can be attained only by seeing it lived out
in a human life, especially in that of its exponent.
One of the earliest disciples of Jesus has quite cor-
rectly said that this life is like the wind: *Thou
hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence
it Cometh nor whither it goeth.' Its seat is in the
indefinable and subtle realm of personality, in the
unconscious regions of the soul, which cannot be
apprehended by theories and dogmas, but only by
a spiritual experience. ... It is Jesus himself, and
not an ideal that can be detached from him, who
is the fulfiller of the moral religion of Judaism,
which he developed to its uttermost and trans-
formed into the religion of moral redemption
(pp. 38, 39).

That is, I think it will be admitted, a very
attractive passage. It shows how much may be
done with what we should consider imperfect tools ;
and here again we observe the same feeling after



198 Ancient and Modern Christologies

the unconscious as containing the key to modern
problems.

The disjunctive question * Jesus or Christ?'
expresses well the issue which runs through the
whole volume. The essayists, as might be expected,
take different sides. Profs. Weinel and Schmiedel
may be taken as accepting the first half of the alter-
native, and not the second. The English writers


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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 11 of 18)