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the other hand, another party, called the Mystic, made it apparent that all the authorized theological formulas were of no value for a religious life, and insisted on the ancient simplicity of the Christian Belief, and on a Christian life.
The Reformation of the sixteenth century, both in Saxony and Switzerland, arose from abuses and improprieties in the constitution of the Church, which had spread abroad the feeling of an intolerable burden: and at first it was never intended for a reformation of the established Theology, but only of the abuses in the Church government. The reformers looked upon the established theology of the centuries preceding the eighth, as having an inviolable sanctity. They not only brought forward the testimony of those centuries as proofs, and held closely by their authorized doctrines, viz. by the Nicene and Athanasian creeds; but they asserted repeatedly that their only aim was to restore that ancient and purely-catholic Church.
But the strife soon began on theological grounds, for one part of the abuses in the church which Luther seized on and combated, had arisen out of the then dominant theory of the scholastic Anselm, justification, (remission of sins) only through faith in the vicarial satisfaction of the God-man. This theory, which he believed he had found in the Scriptures, was one firm point, to which he held immoveably fast, and from which he assailed penances, indulgences, masses, extreme-unction, and other satisfactions of the (Roman-) Catholic Church. Luther's adversaries soon pressed him hard on a second point belonging to the sphere of Theology, since they called to their support the Oral transmissions, the divine supremacy of the Pope, and the successive inspiration of the priesthood. Luther soon perceived that these sources of Christian information on Theology were not to be relied on; disclaimed them, and declared the inspired Bible alone, the true and certain source of information for Belief and Theology.
These two points show the theological character of the Reformation, both in Saxony and Switzerland. For since the Reformers in both countries, in the midst of their reforms of the Constitution of the Church, believed that the first seven or eight centuries of the Christian Church were entirely on their side, the thought never, at first, crossed their minds, of founding a separate Church, much less a new one. They only wished for an improved Church, or rather one brought back to the state in which it was in the first centuries. Just in the same manner they wished for no new Theology, but to make that of the ancient Church the standard.
The idea that Christian Theology ought to be free, like a Science, was so far from their thoughts, or those of their followers, that they not only would not allow of the smallest deviation from the ancient authorized Theology of the Church, but they had no hesitation in sanctioning anew the theological decisions given out in the Confession of Augsburg, the Apology for that Confession, Luther's Catechism, the Articles of the Treaty of Smalkald, and the Formulas of the League; and in thus again giving to their Theology the unsuitable character of a legislation. The Reformed did the same, and princes and governments allowed themselves to be induced to compel adherence to such theological laws, by civil regulations. The consequence was, that the same effect was produced as in the Middle Ages. Not only did another party arise, the “ Pietists” of the school of Spener, who, perceiving the worthlessness of established theological formulas, urged the necessity of practical religion ; but the rapid progress of Philosophy, Exegesis, History, Criticism, and the Natural Sciences, produced also the Philosophy of Religion, or Critical Theology. The appearance of the latter was inevitable, for the Reformers had decided nothing clearly on one of their fundamental principles; viz. the Use of the Holy Scriptures; which they had declared to be the only source of information in Theology, and the final appeal in disputes. Had the Bible been a book written by Christ himself, with the intention of transmitting to posterity the purport of his religious precepts,—the state of Christian Theology had indeed been simple : and there had been only the alternative, of acknowledging Christ to be a man inspired by God, or not; and so of honouring his writings as records of his revelation, or of disowning them as such. But the Holy Scriptures are a collection of Books, written by his Apostles, and some early disciples of those Apostles; and they also contain those numerous writings which the Jewish nation held sacred : thus there are writings of dates which include nearly a thousand years; the productions of very different men, written by them for very different objects; and, even in relation to Theology and Religion, with very different ideas.
When the Reformers laid down the principle that the Holy Scriptures are the only trustworthy sources of revealed Theology, they ought, if they would have proceeded scientifically, to have instituted close researches into the nature, the use, and the elucidation of the Scriptures, and have come to some distinct opinion. But this was not done. There are, to be sure, among Luther's writings, many detached and candid opinions on the Scriptures, but they are isolated, and lead to no scientific conclusion.
With respect to the interpretation of the Scriptures, the Reformers only declared themselves against the allegorical interpretation, and in favour of the literal meaning, as that should be determined by the customary expressions of the language, the context, and parallel passages. But the expositions of the Bible which they had, were the same that had hitherto obtained authority in the Church, which they received unaltered, and which, as a point universally conceded, they could not think it necessary to prove, and establish in authority.
When posterity began to bring this opinion to the proof of research, those different shades of the more modern Theology showed themselves, which we have now to characterize. They may be divided into three great classes, the SUPERNATURALISTIC, the RATIONALISTIC, and the PHILOSOPHICALLY-ALLEGORIZING Theologies.
The SUPERNATURALISTIC theology was that of the Reformers, and of their times. It has three different forms, the absolute, the relative, and the critical supernaturalism, which arose one after another. At the time of the Reformation the whole of the Holy Scriptures was considered, both as regarded the words, and the contents, as a record produced by the supernatural influence of God (Inspiration); which contained the revelations of God and the history of them from Adam to the Apostles. Although written by different authors, and at different times, they were looked upon as one continuous work throughout, because the Holy Ghost was the sole author both of the contents and the words of all the books, and only employed the writers as his instruments. Thus there is in the whole Bible but one Revelation, which began in Paradise, and ended with the Apostles, and their disciples. The fundamental doctrine thus is, that the Bible (both as to words and contents) is itself the revelation, is the word of God supernaturally given; and hence that it contains, not only no contradiction of itself, but also no geographical, physical, historical, or other error. Hence it is enough, in order to prove any doctrine revealed, that it can be found literally expressed in the Bible.
This system of Theology continued to prevail in the reformed Church until about the middle of the eighteenth century; and may be found in the most celebrated treatises of those times, viz, in those of Melancthon, Strigel, Chemnitz, Hutter, Jno. Gerhard, Calov, Brochmand, Quenstädt, Baier, Hollaz, Buddeus, Baumgarten, Von Mosheim, Carpov, Reinbeck, &c. From the middle of the eighteenth century, after Joh. Aug. Ernesti, in his famous “ Interpres Novi Test.” had made the elucidation of the Scriptures dependent on philology and knowledge of antiquity, and Joh. Sal. Semler aroused criticism in Theology, this
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view of the Bible became more and more abandoned, until in later times Hengstenberg, Hahn, Tholuck, and others of their party returned to the biblical theory of the Reformers, and sought anew to promulgate the letter of the Bible as Revelation.
At first sight this theory is the simplest, easiest, and most consistent. But it can by no means be maintained or followed out, since the Bible itself contradicts very strongly the supposition that God was a composer, and that it is word for word a divine writing; for not only is the Theology of its different books, viz., those of the Old and New Testaments, very inconsistent with itself, but the authors of the biblical Books followed (as they could hardly avoid doing) the defective views of the world of their times, as to Heaven, the Earth, the Stars, Mankind, Nature, and History. These defective views afforded the chief handle for the English, French, and German Freethinkers, in their attacks on the Bible and Christianity; properly, however, not on the Bible, but on the previously developed theories of theologians and the Church concerning the Bible.
Hence theologians were obliged to take another step, and proceed to Relative Supernaturalism, and assign limits to Absolute Supernaturalism, which they placed partly on the letter, partly on the contents. With respect to the words, it was conceded first, that the Holy Ghost accommodated himself to the style of the writer, (as Baier, 1686); next, that the Holy Ghost spoke, in physical and mathematical matters, according to the prevailing ideas, (as Carpov, 1737); next, that the Holy Ghost left the writers of the Bible to themselves with respect to the mode of statement, (as Baumgarten, 1759, and Töllner, 1771); next, that the Holy Ghost only acted in preventing negative errors, (as Reinhard). With respect to the contents, moreover, a limit was assigned to the theory of Inspiration by Reinhard, Storr, Döderlein, and Morus, thus far, that the Inspiration referred only to the religious part; that thus the Bible contained Revelation only in matters of Religion, but not in its geogra. phical, historical, and other doctrines, in which the writers rather followed their own opinions, and the ideas of their times. The Revelation was thus limited to religious matters; and instead of the dogma,—The Bible itself is the Revelation, this principle was promulgated: the Revelation is in the Bible. By these means many difficulties were avoided, and the Freethinkers especially, who had attacked the Bible on account of its histori. cal, geographical, and astronomical doctrines, found their weapons drop from their hands : and yet this theory could not be carried out through all its consequences. For since all Theology is ever dependent on the view entertained of the world, it was very difficult to determine what doctrines among those contained in the Bible should belong to religion, and what should not. For example, the biblical representation of Heaven as a vault covering the Earth, is so intimately interwoven with its representations of God, the angels, and the government of earthly affairs, that they can only be separated from one another arbitrarily. Just as little could a distinct opinion be formed as to what in the History of the Bible should belong to Profane and Religious History; thus, as to whether the Mosaic account of the creation, paradise, the fall of man, the Mosaic giving of the law, &c., should be considered as revelation or not. Further, the difficulty became insurmountable from this circumstance, that the Bible, with the spirit of its times, takes a completely Theological view of nature, and in the history of the Jewish nation, upholds the theocratical point of view, in which God brings everything to pass by his own immediate agency.
Hence it was resolved to go one step further, to abandon entirely the theory of inspiration of former times. And while it was still maintained that the Bible contained particular revelations, to concede that the writers of the Biblical books followed entirely their own judgment in the composition of their writings, and delivered the revealed truths as they themselves in their own minds comprehended them.
Yet even this view showed in its application, great and insuperable difficulties, and required, in order to raise it at all above arbitrary choice, the solution of a host of preliminary questions, the decision of which made apparent to every one the impossibility of founding a consistent theology on this basis.
For instance; it was asked,—is Revelation to be sought in the Old Testament also, and in all its books ? Supposing that Moses and the prophets had revelations, is a like supposition admissible with respect to the authors of the historical books, the writings of Solomon, the book of Job, and others ? With respect to the New Testament, have the gospels of Mark and Luke, who were not disciples of Jesus, equal authority with those of Matthew and John ? And have the declarations of the Apostles equal weight with those of Jesus? Might not each comprehend the instructions of Jesus in his own peculiar manner, and modify them accordingly? Was Paul of equal dogmatical authority with the other apostles, since he did not himself hear Jesus, and must not we presuppose in him the influence of the Rabbinical theology which he had previously studied ? And, since we only know the precepts of Jesus through the ac