Samuel macauley jackson, D. D., LL. D




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RELIGIOUS ENCYCLOPEDIA clod

the other thought that the children of the One Father form a community, a kingdom of God, and that they can enjoy their union with God only when they are thus united with each other. According to Paul, the Spirit of God dwells in the Church as the motive power and principle of an entire new inner life in the sons of God who have also attained to their faith in Christ and their sonship only through the same Spirit (I Cor. xii. 3). The in­ternal change effected from above is set forth as a new birth (see REGENERATION). John contrasts this birth from God with the ordinary human, physical birth (John i. 12; I John iii. 9, v. 4). It is especially John and Paul who conceive God's relation to man under these aspects of self revela­tion, foundation of a community, and self communi­cation; but I Peter also contains the idea of our being born again of incorruptible seed (i. 23), and James of our being begotten of God with the word of truth (i. 18). The effect of this fatherhood is finally to be the filling of the children with all the fulness of God (Eph. iii. 19, iv. 6).

This whole relation of God to the faithful is

brought about through Christ. He is called the

Son absolutely, the only begotten, just as he calls

God his father with a distinction ("my father and

your father," John xx. 17, not " our father ").

This he is by virtue of his primary origin, not through

a regeneration. It is through him that all the

others become children of God; the spirit of their

adoption is his Spirit (Gal. iv. 6; II Cor. iii. 17;

cf. John xiv  xvi. ). The fulness of God is communi­

cated to the Church and to the individual as it is

comprehended and revealed in him (Col. ii. 10;

Eph, iv.13, ii. 22). And of him who, as the historic

Christ and Son, is the partaker of the divine life

and the head of the kingdom, and shall see all

things put under him, it is asserted by Paul, the

Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Johannine writings

(including the Apocalypse) that in like manner all

things were created by him and through him, that

in him they have their life and being, and that all

divine revelation is his revelation the revelation

of the Logos. Thus the New Testament idea of

God includes the doctrine that from the very begin­

ning the Word was with God and of divine character

and essence. With this relation of God to the

Logos the elements appear which are treated at

greater length in the article TRINITY.


But this relation of God to his children must be clearly distinguished from God's relation to the universal natural life of personal spirits and to nature in general. The expression " the Father of spirits " in Heb. xii. 9 (cf. " the God of the spirits of all flesh," Num. xvi. 22, xxvii. 16) refers not to the regenerate as such, and not to birth from God, but to creation by him, in which (cf. Gen. i. 2) he has imparted his image by the breathing of his Spirit. With the same reference the saying of the pagan poet " We are also his offspring " is quoted in Acts xvii. 28. In this same passage Paul ex­presses the general relation of God to man, which subsists even in those who have rejected him, by the words " In him we live, and move, and have our being." At the same time, it is said of the glorified Christ, who fills the Church, that he fills all things

(Eph. i. 23, iv. 10). and this can only mean the whole world, over which he presides, his divine pow­ers first penetrating humanity, and then through it bringing all things into harmony with his purposes. Thus, as all things proceed from God and exist in him, so he, and especially he as revealed in Christ, with his plan of salvation and his kingdom, is the final goal of all things (cf. Rom. xi. 36).

Both in Christian revelation and in the idea of the fatherhood of God, love is a fundamental ele­ment. It is most forcibly expressed in the asser­tion that " God is love " (I John iv. 8, 16) not love in the abstract merely, still less a. loving God.

This is, in fact, the determining eIe­3. Attributes ment in God's nature. From it fol 

of God. lows that the perfect, almighty One,

who needs nothing (Acts xvii. 25), communicates himself to his creatures and brings them into union with him, in order to make them perfect and so eternally happy. Its highest ex­pression is found in the fact that he gave his Son for us while we were yet sinners, and desired to make us his sons (I John iv. 10, iii. 1, 2; Rom. v. 8, viii. 32). But God is not only love; he is also light (I John i. 5). By this may be understood his perfect purity, which repels and excludes all that is unclean; his function as the source of pure moral and religious truth; and his glorious majesty. That the supreme, holy, and loving God, the Father of spirits, is himself a spirit is taken for granted all through the New Testament. In John iv. 24, where this is brought up to enforce the lesson that he is to be worshiped in spirit, without narrow con­finement to a special place or to outward forms, it is spoken of as not a new truth but one which Jews and Samaritans were supposed already to know, and for whose consequences they should be pre­pared. The Yahweh name of Ex. iii. 14 is further developed, in Rev. i. 4, 8, xxi. 6, xxii. 13, into "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come." The eternity of God is thus placed in its relation to the development of the world and to its ultimate conclusion in the completed revelation of God and of his kingdom. See HEATHENISM, § 4.

III. The Doctrine of God in Christian Theology: The Christian revelation and its teachings about God supplied a distinct moral and religious need; but even after it had accomplished the foundation of a community based upon these ideas, there was

still room for a clear definition of its :. Depend  different elements and an investiga 

ence upon tion of their relations to other depart 

Pre Chris  ments of the intellectual life in a tian word, for a Christian science of the 

Thought. ology. But Christian theology in its

earliest stages made use of the results of pre Christian, especially Greek, thought the methods and forms of philosophical reasoning, general logical and metaphysical categories, and philosophic views of the Godhead and its relation to the world, which, although they had originated on pagan soil and were in no way permeated by the spirit of Scriptural revelation, were yet considered as elevated far above the common polytheism of the heathen world, and even as borrowed in part from





God THE NEW SCHAFF HERZOG 4

the Old Testament. These elements had a distinct influence upon Christian theology; and it is also indisputable that, compared with the spirit known in the New Testament writings, the inner life of the succeeding generations showed a marked falling off in energy and depth, and gave room for reao­tions of a non Christian tendency, sometimes mainly pagan, sometimes more Jewish, but always based upon the natural disposition of sinful humanity.

In regard to philosophy, it is necessary to bear in mind the more or less direct influence of Plar tonism, which viewed as the highest of all things the good that was above all being and all knowledge, identified it with the divine naus, and

2. Plato  attempted to raise the human spirit nism. into the realm of ideas, into a likeness with the Godhead; which taught men to rise to the highest by a process of abstraction disregarding particulars and grasping at universals, and conceived the good of which it spoke not in a strictly ethical sense, but as, after all, the most utterly abstract and undefinable, entirely eluding all attempts at positive description. Neoplaton­ism (q.v.) went the furthest in this conception of the divine transcendence; God, the absolute One, was, according to Plotinus, elevated not only above all being, but also above all reason and rational activity. He did not, however, attempt to attain to this abstract highest good by reasoning or logical abstraction, but by an immediate contact between God and the soul in a state of ecstasy.

This tendency was shared by a school of thought within Judaism itself, whose influence upon Chris­tian theology was considerable. The more Jewish speculation, as was the case especially at Alexandria, rose above an anthropomorphic idea of God to a spiritual conception, the more abstract the latter became. In this connection Platonism was the principal one of the Greek philosoph 

3. Alexan  ical systems toward which this Jewish drian theology maintained a receptive atti 

Judaism. tude. According to Philo, God is to

on, " that which is " par excellence,

and this being is rather the most universal of all

than the supreme good with which Plato identified

the divine; all that can be said is that God is,

without defining the nature of his being. Between

God and the world a middle place is attributed by

Philp to the Logos (in the sense of ratio, not at all

in the Johannine sense), as the principle of diversity

and the summary of the ideas and powers operating

in the world.

When the Gnostics attempted to construct a great system of higher knowledge from a Christian standpoint, through assimilating various Greek and Oriental elements, and worked the facts of the Christian revelation into their fantastic speculation on general metaphysical and cosmic

4. Gnosti  problems (see GNOSTICISM), this ab­cism. atract Godhead became an obscure background for their system; accord­ing to the Valentinian doctrine, it was the primal beginning of all things, with eternal silence (aige) for a companion.

In the development of the Church's doctrine with Justin and the succeeding apologists, and still more

with the Alexandrian school, the transcendental nature of God was emphasized, while the Scrip­tures and the religious conscience of

g. Post  Christendom still permitted the con 

Apostolic templation of him as a personal and

Theologians. loving Spirit. Theology did not at

first proceed to a systematic and logical

explanation of the idea of God with reference to

these different aspects. Where philosophical and

strictly scientific thought was active, as with the

Alexandrians, the element of negation and abstrac­

tion got the upper hand. God is, especially with

Origen, the simple Being with attributes, exalted

above nous and ousia, and at the same time the

Father, eternally begetting the Logos and touching

the world through the Logos. In opposition to

this developed a Judaistic and popular conception

of God which leaned to the anthropomorphic, and

also a view like Tertullian's, which, under the influ­

ence of Stoic philosophy, felt obliged to connect

with all realities, and thus also with God, the idea

of a tangible substance. In this direction Dionysius

the Areopagite (q.v.) finally proceeded to a really

Neoplatonist theology, with an inexpressible God

who is above all categories, both positive and negar

tive, and thus is neither Being nor Not being; who

permits that which is to emanate from himself in a

descending scale coming down to things perceived

by the senses, but is unable to reveal his eternal

truth in this emanation. With this doctrine is con­

connected, after the Neoplatonist model, an inner

union with God, an ecstatic elevation of the soul

which resigns itself to the process into the obscure

depth of the Godhead. The ethical conception

of God and redemption thus gives place to a phys­

ical one, just as the emanation of all things from God

was described as a physical process; and as soon

as speculation attempts to descend from the hidden

God to finite and personal life, this physical view

connects itself with the abstract metaphysical.

In the West there was long a lack of scientific and speculative discussion of the idea of God. Augustine, the most significant name in Western theology, sets forth the conception of God as a self­conscious personal being which fitted in with his doctrine of the Trinity; but as his own develop­ment had led him through Platonism, the influence of that philosophy is found in the

6. Augus  idea of God which he developed sys­tine. tematically and handed down. He con­ceives God as the unity of ideas, of abstract perfections, of the normal types of being, thinking, and acting; as simple essentia, in which will, knowledge, and being are one and the same. The fundamentally determinant factor in the con­ception of God by the Augustinian theology is thus pure being in general.

Scotus Erigena (q.v.), who gave Dionysius the Areopagite to Western theology, though Augustine was not without influence upon him, fully accepted the notion of God as the absolute In 

7. Scotus conceivable, above all affirmation and

Erigena. all negation, distinguishing from him

a world to which divine ideas and

primal forms belong. He emphasizes the other side

of this view that true existence belongs to God





RELIGIOUS ENCYCLOPEDIA clod

alone, so that, in so far as anything exists in the universe, God is the essence of it; a practical pan­theism, in spite of his attempting to enforce a cre­ative activity on the part of God. The influence of this pantheistic view on medieval theology was a limited one; Amahic of Bena (q.v.), with his proposition that God was all things, was its main disciple.

In accordance with its fundamental character, scholasticism attempted to reduce the idea of God into the categories which related to the laws of thought, to being in general, and to the 8. The Scho  world. It began by adapting the lastic Phi  Aristotelian terms to its own pur 

losophers. poses. God, or absolute being, was

to Aristotle the priimum mobile, re­

garded thus from the standpoint of causation and

not of mere being, and also a thinking subject. The

ideas and prototypes of the finite are accordingly

to be found in God, who is the final Cause. God,

in Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, is not the

essential being of things, but he is their ease effective


et exemplariter, their primum movers, and their

causa finalia. Aristotelian, again, is the definition

of God's own nature, that he is, as a thinking sub­

ject, actus puru8 pure, absolute energy, without

the distinction found in finite beings between poten­

tiality and actuality. In opposition to Thomas,

Duns Scotus emphasized in his conception of God

the primum ens and primum movers, the element of

will and free causation. The arbitrary nature of

the will of God, taught by him, was raised by Occam

to the most important element of his teaching about

God. Upon this abstract conception of the will

of God as arbitrary and unconditioned depend the

questions (so characteristic of scholasticism from

Abelard down) as to whether all things are possible

to God.

About the end of the thirteenth century, by the side of the logical reasonmgs of scholasticism, there arose the mystical theology of Eckhart, which attempted to bring the Absolute near to the hearts of men as the object of an immediate intuition de­pendent upon complete self surrender. The trans­cendental Neoplatonic conception of the Absolute is here pushed to its extreme, and Dionysius has more influence than Thomas Aquinas. The view of God's relation to the world is almost pantheistic, unless it may be rather called acos­g. The mistic, regarding the finite as naught.

Mystics. This is Eckhart's teaching, although

at the same time he speaks of a crea­

tion of the world and of a Son in whom God ex­

presses himself and creates. This God is regarded

as goodness and love, communicating himself in

a way, but not to separate and independent im­

ages of his own being; rather, he possesses and loves

himself in all things, and the surrender to him is

passivity and self annihilation. The 9Wling ideas

of this view were moderated by the practical Ger­

man mystics and found in this form a wide currency.

On the other hand, pantheistic heretics, such as the

Brethren of the Free Spirit combined antinomian

principles with the doctrine that God was all things

and that the Christian united with God was per­

fect as God.

In partial contrast to the speculative theology

which has been considered above, the practical

popular view of the Middle Ages tended to repre­

sent God as a strict autocrat and judge, and to

multiply intermediate advocates with him, of whom

Mary was chief. Luther went back to the God of

Scripture, regarded primarily in his ethical relation

to man, pronouncing curses, indeed, against the

impenitent, but really aiming at man's salvation.

As the love of God has an ethical,

io. The personal character, so it requires from

Reformers, its human objects not self annihila­tion, but an entrance with all the power of personality into communion with this love and enjoyment of the filial relation. The Christian, though free from bondage to the world, is to realize that it was made by God to serve his purposes. Melanchthon and Calvin, in like manner, avoiding scholastic subtleties, laid stress upon these practi­cal relations. The dogmatic differences, however, between the Lutheran and Reformed confessions point to a fundamental difference in the way of regarding God. The former emphasizes his loving condescension to man's weakness, and teaches a deification of humanity in the person of Christ and a union of the divine operations and presence with means of grace having a created and symbolic side, which the latter, with its insistence upon the su­preme exaltation of God, can not admit; and it rejects a theory of an eternal decree of reprobation against a part of humanity which the latter defends by appealing to God's rights over sinners and his absolute sovereignty. The next generation of dog­matic theologians was accustomed to define God as essentia apiritualis infinita, and, in the description of his attributes, to pass from general metaphysical terms to his ethical attributes and those relating to his knowledge. The older rationalistic and supra­naturalistic theologians showed an increasing tend­ency to return for their definitions and expositions to the Scriptures. Nor did they .accomplish much in the way of solving the real problems or investi­gating the relation between the content of reve­lation and the knowledge or conception of the divine to be found elsewhere.

The independent metaphysical systems of the philosophers, which embraced God and the world, did not at first make any profound impression on the thought of theologians. Spinoza's pantheism was by its very nature excluded from consideration; but the philosophy of Leibnitz and Wolff, with its conception of God as a supremely per­ir.
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