« AnteriorContinuar »
of the activities of consciousness between death and the judgment, or for assuming an immediate passing into perfect blessedness by men dying with weaknesses and sinful undeveloped characters. It has even pictured those who on earth have faithfully studied the ways and words of God as in this after-state “bending themselves to the task of tutoring the less gifted or enlightened, perhaps utterly heathen, souls in divine science; and finding eternally in this a deeper blessedness than the loftiest attainments of man or seraph could ever yield.” The growth of holiness in an Intermediate State it has also carefully distinguished from the question of probation after death, for the former is perfectly consistent with final triumph, while the latter carries the possibility of failure. Dorner, Kahnis, Martensen, and others, have propounded the theory of future probation for those even who must be regarded as amongst the wicked, and many have in recent times put forth the proclamation of probation after death in respect of special classes, but the most thoughtful theology, while not regarding the probationary conception of life here as in all respects complete and adequate, has not felt able to surmount the difficulties that beset the dogmatic pronouncement of future probation. Unquestionably, it has left the older theology far behind in the way it has come, largely through the influence of Lessing's Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts, to recognise our life here as far more than simply probation, as a discipline, an education whose projection into the future life we see through the diaphanous present, but it has not ceased to affirm it a probation, thereby preserving to it august moral power as a discipline.
1 The position of Nitzsch, in his Christliche Lehre,' is thus noted : “Das also ist apostolische Vorstellung, dass es für die. jenigen, die Christum in seiner Wahrheit und Gnade diesseits nicht erkennen konnten, eine nie zweck- und wirkungslose, sondern entweder richtende oder belebende jenseitige Erkenntniss Christi gebe. Es ist wunderlich, mit der Kürze der drei Tage diese Wirkung abschneiden zu wollen."
The conception has gained ground in recent Christian theology in respect of the Resurrection of the dead, that the mode of the resurrection will be spiritual as opposed to the notion of a reconstructed material body, identical in its constituent elements or molecules with our present bodies. Instead of the former realistic thinking about our being clothed again with our bodies, at sound of the last trump, after these have, with “Imperial Cæsar,” lain so long “ dead and turned to clay,” our modern Christian theology rejoices to believe in what seem to it clearer conceptions it has gained of the resurrection as a spiritual thing, begun no doubt here and now, and reaching on to final victory in the future, but inclusive also, in opposition to idealistic philosophy, of glorified corporeity, though not a literal resurrection of this body of flesh, since it is we, not our bodies, that are raised up, we, that is to say, with such spiritual body as may in the consummation seem good to God to give.
Though no good may possibly come through speculation as to the mode of the resurrection, yet it has naturally been felt to be an advance for Christian thought that it has freed itself from this crude materialistic conception of the resurrection of the body as comprehending every particle of matter, bone and flesh, in our actual bodies at the moment of death, and has more clearly discovered and declared the absence of any contradiction to the scientific principle of continuity in the thought of the resurrection, the potentiality of a resurrection appearing for it in the soul or spiritual centre of man's personality, by which, as the formative principle, form is given to the body and identity is preserved. But, as it has differentiated the resurrection body from this earthly organic frame, with its precise molecular constituents, so has it also distinguished it from the disembodied soul, affirming it to be a spiritual body assumed with the soul's consummation, wherein such heavenly body with its glorified and imperishable elements becomes appropriated in its likeness to that of Him, Elder Brother of our race, Whose Image it shall bear, in bearing of which “it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”
1 Vide footnote in Weiss, Biblical Theology of the New Testament, vol. ii. p. 61, as to the positions of Gess, Holsten, and Pfleiderer, on this question.
In respect of the final close of all things, recent Christian theology has not been able to rest in the crude literalism and crass interpretations of the Annihilationists, who see in death's dreamless sleep irretrievable annihilation for the impenitent. Among modern advocates of Annihilationism have been numbered Rothe in Germany and Row at home, while to the Conditional Immortality theory of Mr E. White, and his follower, Dr Petavel of Geneva, Delitzsch? approximates only in so far as Immortality exists for him only as a “future spiritual gift to those who are reunited with God the Immortal,” while he rejects the notions of restitution and annihilation. Our modern Christian theology has weighed Annihilationism in the balances and found it, with its unnecessary limitations and sudden arrest of moral forces and movements, unable to bear up against the pressure of the difficulties raised against it, besides perceiving more clearly to what chaos Conditionalism would reduce Soteriology. Moral impotence and corruption, amounting to extinction of that in character which is highest, have been more forcibly exhibited as the final goal of the incorrigibly bad.