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PROGRESS IN THE SPHERE (
PROGRESS IN THE SPHERE OF THE CHRISTIAN
I N the important region of Hamartology, modern 1 Christian theology has gained better hold on sin as less a doctrine than a fact, and as deeply grounded in unreason, utterly unethical in character: it views it less as a debt than as a disease bringing forth death, an outcome of our distempered self-hood, something that makes transgression as not alone of arbitrarily appointed external law, but also of the law written of God on man's own being, and therefore something that craves healing ruth and satisfying life no less than cries for satisfying justice. It has treated the abnormal character of sin with a firmer hand than did Schleiermacher, recognising in it, especially since Julius Müller, Nitzsch, and Naville, no mere inferior stage of development but a wilful and arbitrary element in man's repudiation of his dependence as a creature upon God, an egoistic and decentralising tendency bringing in its train not alone the subjective sense of guilt, but also the objectively existent Divine displeasure, whence has been seen to arise an expiatory need which theology has not been without the courage to face. Sin has thus been to it not only the “horrid burden and impediment” of the Churches and the sad reality for man, but even an obstacle to God and His coming to man-a violation of the world's moral order that demands reparation real and great. It has presented sin more forcibly, from its practical side, as an unique phenomenon-one that science has not been able to explain—as in its nature simply lawlessness, and it has pointed to experience for the verification of its teaching as to sin, the experience of Christendom to-day, and the experience of the Christian centuries. It has not sought to work up sense of sin in any unreal or artificial way apart from the knowledge of Christ and union with Him: in these it has found sin at once revealed and vanquished. Sin has not remained to it the sole aspect of man's nature, in which it has found unfulfilled yearnings and spiritual instincts, cravings of will, longings after perfection which also make up the defect of life. Through the modern prominence assigned to the individual in his atomistic independence, it has not laid the old stress on that fruitful source of misunderstanding, rejected altogether by Ritschl, original sin, as the source of all sins of thought, speech, and life, the sense of the solidarity of the race that underlay that emphasis being no longer limited to evil in the wider modern view of the mysterious bonds of solidarity.
The fact of generic sin is, of course, still held, though discriminated from personal guilt : theology has better shown that modern science nowise conflicts with its acknowledgment of sin, original as well as actual, in virtue of the inviolable solidarity of the race, and that sin has always meant a fall, not a rise: hereditary taint, transmitted bias to evil, are admitted as demanded by science and experience not less than by Scripture, imputation of the sin of Adam as personal guilt being abandoned, since to guilt free personal decision is necessary, and “ original sin ” treated
we think it may be said-rather as an induction from facts than as a dogma. It has been no unimportant gain to theology that it has sought a deeper verification of the doctrine of sin in the moral consciousness of man, has more fully understood the connection of the individual with the race, and has more nobly maintained, in face of recent Agnosticism, the ethical, not merely physical, character of sin, and, in opposition to modern Pantheism, has more forcefully shown the presence of sin in the great developmental process of the world to be no necessity, not etwas Unvermeidliches in what is called the Gesamtentwickelung der Menschheit, but simply Verletzung des göttlichen Willens durch individuelle oder gemeinsame Schuld.
The labours of Baur, Hilgenfeld, Holsten, Weiss, Pfleiderer, Lüdemann, Wendt, W. P. Dickson, and others, have resulted, though only after many dubieties, subtleties, and speculations, in the relations of sin, alike to the “flesh," of which it makes man the slave, and to the “ spirit,” by which it is controlled, being set in clearer, more explicit form, and made contributory to the better understanding of anthropological considerations such as are not without important bearing on our conceptions of the genesis and development of the new life in Christ. Recent years have also witnessed progress, in Germany in particular, in the elucidation of Scripture teaching as to the unpardonable sin—the sin against the Holy Spirit, that of definitive unbelief, whereby man dehumanises himself, and as to his true life perishes.1
The problem of Christology has in our century been more profoundly probed, in the deepened desire for a real and living view of the Person of Christ, than at any previous period since the early Christian centuries. Unwearied have been the efforts of modern Christian theology to vanquish the Dualism with which the doctrine of the two natures, in the unity of Christ's Person,
1 Julius Müller, Die Christliche Lehre von der Sünde, says, Zweiter Band, S. 597 : “Es liegt nicht darin, dass die göttliche Gnade sich dem versagte, der in aufrichtiger Reue ihre Vergebung für diese Sünde suchte, sondern darin, dass, wer sich derselben schuldig gemacht, die subjektiven Bedingungen der Vergebung, eben diese Reue und diess Verlangen nach der göttlichen Gnade, nicht mehr zu erfüllen vermag, weil die Steigerung der Sünde bis zu diesem Gipfel die Fähigkeit dazu in ihm zerstört. Denn Niemandem ist der Rückweg zu Gott verschlossen, der ihn sich nicht selbst verschliesst." Breslau.