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The Christian consciousness presupposes and involves the consciousness of absolute dependence on God. But in that peculiar modification of the religious consciousness which is experienced in Christianity the exaltation of the God-consciousness from a condition of repression to a position of dominancy over all the sensuous impulses is referred to Christ, so that there can be no reference (relation) to Christ in which there is not also a reference to God. The pain which is felt at being unable to realize the supremacy of the God-consciousness is attributed to a want of communion with the Redeemer, while the satisfaction experienced in the opposite state is contemplated as an impartation which has come to us out of this communion; so that there is no religious activity or potency within the Christian communion in which a reference to Christ is not involved.

It has been pointed out already that the religious feeling is never experienced in isolation from other experiences but always in connection with a world-consciousness; and that the perfection of the God-154consciousness is dependent upon the perfection of the world-consciousness. In other words, we find ourselves, as part of a world-whole, relatively free and relatively dependent. But over against this unity of a world organized and possessed of perfect interrelations in which we have our own definite place, there stands a higher unity upon which we feel ourselves and the world-unity absolutely dependent. The obliteration of the distinction between these separate unities annuls either the feeling of absolute dependence or the feeling of freedom, and contradicts human experience. Both of these two antithetical unities are therefore involved in the Christian consciousness.

The experience of this feeling of absolute dependence is not contingent on any peculiar circum stance in human life, as though it were accidental and not absolutely constituent of human nature, nor does it vary in its character in different men, but is the same in all. The difference in degrees of perfection among men does not consist in a distinction in the quality of this feeling but is to be referred to the degree of development of the intellectual functions. (See above.) Supposed instances of a human self-consciousness which is destitute of the God-consciousness disappear on close analysis, except in those individuals whose intelligence is entirely undeveloped.

But even if our contention that the feeling of absolute dependence and the God-consciousness involved in it constitute a potency essential to human nature 155were successfully impugned, we should be under no compulsion to formulate in our dogmatics a proof of God’s existence, for such “proofs” would only issue in an objective consciousness of God’s existence which could have no place in a system which is based on immediate inner certainty. Moreover, experience has shown of how little avail are such demonstrations in the face of theoretical atheism. It is not the business of dogmatics to secure an admission of the God-consciousness but to develop its content.

To resume: Since the Christian religious consciousness is connected with a consciousness of unity with the world on the one hand and involves the feeling of absolute dependence on God on the other, Christian dogmatics will naturally begin with a description of the religious consciousness so far as the relation between God and the world is expressed in it; it will proceed further to describe the qualities of the world and the attributes of God so far as these are involved in that relation. It may be repeated also that such a doctrine of God and of the world is not supplementary to, or to be supplemented by, a scientific or philosophical doctrine of God and the world. Christian dogmatics rests upon its own basis, namely, the Christian religious consciousness, and it is complete in itself. Whatever cannot be evolved from the religious consciousness cannot be admitted to a place in dogmatics, because it lies outside the sphere of religion.


Section I. Description of the Religious Consciousness, so Far as the Relation between God and the World Is Expressed in It

Only when we feel ourselves to have a place in that organic whole we call Nature, or, as otherwise expressed, only when we are conscious of belonging to that unity which we call the world, with its division into parts universally related to one another, do we recognize our absolute dependence upon that higher infinite unity we call God. Our absolute dependence on God involves the absolute dependence of the world also. Hence the doctrine of the world from the view point of religion is summed up in the proposition: The totality of finite being exists solely by dependence on the Infinite,

The creeds express this doctrine in the twofold form of the creation and the preservation of the world by God. Were not the use of these terms already established it would suffice to designate the whole relation of the world to God by either of them. If creation, instead of denoting a divine activity which began and ended at a definite point, were used to designate the continuous and uninterrupted activity of God in the world, it would include the idea of preservation. Or if, for example, we think of the species in connection with the individual existences embraced in it, the creation of the individuals is just the preservation of the species and the latter would include the former. In this way they become fairly interchangeable. The only distinction between these two conceptions is that the 157former adds to the latter the conception of a beginning of the relation of dependence. However, we have no consciousness of a beginning of existence, but only of a continuous existence, and therefore Christian dogmatics can produce no special doctrine of creation, but has only a negative interest in it. That is, dogmatics supplies the rule that no doctrine of creation can be accepted as Christian which is inconsistent with the world’s complete and continuous dependence on God, as, e.g., the doctrine of a pre-existent material which was the subject of God’s formative activity, or the doctrine of a commencement of divine activity at creation, both of which limit the dependence of the world to a circumscribed period, And, on the other hand, our discipline occupies a position of freedom in relation to scientific investigation. For example, for dogmatical purposes it is immaterial whether the account of creation given in Genesis be in accordance with the facts or not, or whether we have in this book an inspired account of the manner in which the world came to be; for in any case these an; questions of cosmology or of a doctrine of the Bible. Dogmatics is only concerned with those matters in so far as they stand related to religious feeling. The pious self-consciousness underlying the doctrine of creation is satisfied with that doctrine, (1) as expressing the idea of the world’s origination through God, so long as God is not thereby brought into the relation of antithesis or limitation; (2) as referring the world’s origin to divine activity, so long as it is not viewed as similar 158 to human activity; (3) when it views the origin of the world as time-filling and conditioning all change, with out the divine activity itself being made thereby temporal.

The doctrine of preservation more suitably sets forth the fundamental religious consciousness. It has been pointed out already that the highest development of the self-consciousness involves a consciousness of our being a part of the articulated world-whole, and this again is a condition of the highest development of the God-consciousness. Hence the highest knowledge of the world and the highest knowledge of God are interdependent, being a twofold expression of one and the same self-consciousness. Scientific and religious conceptions of the world are not antagonistic but complementary. The divine preservation of the world and universal natural causality are one and the same thing viewed from different standpoints. The affirmation of our religious consciousness that all that affects us exists in a relation of absolute dependence on God falls into line with the intuition that all is conditioned and determined by the world-order. If the common idea were true that the religious and the scientific view of things are mutually exclusive and that when the religious consciousness is more lively the scientific activity will be correspondingly weaker, and conversely, then the growth of scientific knowledge would result in the gradual extinction of piety, and the interests of religion would be opposed to all research and further extension of knowledge--altogether in 159contradiction with the truth that the impulse to world-knowledge and the impulse to seek God are both essential to the human soul. Now, it is quite true that the unusual and stupendous events in nature stimulate the religious feeling most thoroughly, but that is not because of the obscurity of their relations with other phenomena, but just because they manifest the most clearly the subjection of all human existence and activity to universal potencies and by this stimulate our sense of dependence. But this itself is just the most perfect admission of the universality of the world-order. Apart from this admission the religious consciousness could not be connected with every natural event.

NOTE.--The distinction between general and special preservation is opposed to the universal interests of religion, and so also is the distinction between preservation and co-operation, for they imply the operation of forces which do not proceed from God. To add to these the idea of divine government is to make further confusion, for it introduces the antithesis of means and end to God, which implies a difference in the degrees of the immediacy of the relation of things to God.

Because of the prominence which is given to the subject, particularly in apologetic writings, it is pertinent to apply the principles here enunciated to the subject of miracles. It is commonly supposed that an event which lies outside the fixed order of nature and which cannot, therefore, be accounted for by natural causality, has a special religious value because the divine causality is demanded for its explanation. But 160this is to suppose that the religious sphere lies outside of the universal order of relations, making the religious synonymous with the arbitrary and exalting the quality of arbitrariness to the rank of a divine at tribute. Nay, it does more: it separates God from the world and makes a religious view of the world impossible. It is destructive of science and of religion too.

If it be urged that the Christian belief in the hearing of prayer and the new birth demands a belief in miracles it may be replied here (though these subjects are to be treated later) that our view relates prayer to the divine preservation so that the prayer and its fulfilment or non-fulfilment are only parts of the one original divine order of things. As to the new birth--if the revelation of God in Christ is not something absolutely supernatural then Christian piety cannot require that anything which coheres with that revelation, and issues from it, be absolutely supernatural. Yet it is to be noted that our knowledge of the relations of the physical and spiritual is too limited to warrant a denial of the historicity of certain remark able events related in the New Testament. But this is a question for scientific investigation and not for dogmatics.

The operation of influences which constitute limitations upon our life is not to be denied. There is a difficulty in connecting them with God. for it seems to make him the source of evil, including the morally bad. While dogmatics has nothing to do 161with the origin and continuance of evil as an existence, but has only to show how it consists with universal dependence, a reference to the difficulty just mentioned is justifiable. If we divide these life-limiting forces into two classes: natural evil, by which human existence is partly annulled, and the bad, by which human activity is partly overcome in a conflict with others, the one class of opposing forces representing the totality of the powers of nature and the other class the entire combination of human activities; then it may be pointed out that the very forces of Nature which further individual human existence up to a certain point are also those which limit and extinguish it. The same double effect is seen in the operation of social influences. It will appear, then, that the furthering and the limiting of life are mutually conditioned. The personal existence of the individual is conditioned by the very influences which limit him. Accordingly it becomes plain that evil and good do not occupy two separate spheres, but both taken together constitute the world as it is. That is to say, evil is not for itself as such ordained by God, because it never exists by itself but only in relation to the good, of which it is a condition. All this is true, whether we speak of the “mechanism of nature” or of “free causes.” Both belong to the universal order of nature, the cosmos.


The idea of these spiritual existences is brought over from the Old Testament into the New Testament 162 and occurs in the popular discourses of Jesus and the Apostles. But whatever may have been their attitude toward the prevalent belief in such beings, it is to be observed that they give us no didactic utterance on the subject. Also, the creeds, while referring to such beings, for the most part elaborate no doctrine of angels or of a devil. And this is natural. For while there is nothing impossible in the idea, dogmatics as such has no positive concern with it. Our discipline is only interested to prevent an injury to the religious feeling through the direction of faith to an activity other than God’s, or through the idea that the fixed order of Nature may be interfered with or abrogated by other beings, and thus the absolute relation of God to the world be compromised.

As to bad angels, every attempted doctrinal representation of them is full of self-contradictions. As to the doctrine of a supreme bad spirit called the devil, whatever may be the source of the idea--whether in the belief in a servant of God who announces the evil doings of men, or in oriental dualism with its doctrine of absolute evil, or in the Jewish view of the angel of death--it can have no place in Glaubenslehre (a doctrine of faith). For if there is a personal actual existence absolutely opposed to God, a religious view of the world is impossible and faith in the Redeemer is compromised. For if the devil be a part of the world-whole, then God as absolute causality is not present to the whole of existence, the totality of experience cannot be referred to God, and religion ceases to be fundamental to human nature as a part 163of the totality of being. And if, on the other hand, the devil be not a part of that articulated totality we call the world, then the unity of the universe in relation to God is destroyed, our dependence on God ceases to be absolute, God is no longer absolutely God. Hence also, the redemption by Christ is compromised. For if the devil be not included within its sphere, our redemption is not complete, for the totality of being ceases to be subordinate to Christ. He becomes only a help against a power from which he does not afford absolute protection. A belief in the devil can be by no means a condition of faith in God or in Christ; nor may we discuss his influence within the kingdom of God. The doctrine of angels or of a devil is a question of cosmology, and not of theology. Such a doctrine cannot be a Christian dogma, because it cannot be an expression of the Christian consciousness. Moreover it is sure to fall into contradiction with growing scientific knowledge. Yet as long as men are conscious of the influence of inexplicable evil forces it is proper and necessary that the idea be utilized in religious communications of a practical and liturgical character (§§ 32-49).

Section 2. Doctrine of God. The Divine Attributes Which Are Implicated in the Religious Self-Consciousness so Far as It Expresses the Relation between God and the World

If, as has been pointed out, the feeling of absolute dependence, which is the essence of religion, is implicated in the specifically Christian consciousness, and 164 if this consciousness of immediate relation with God arises only in connection with the consciousness of having a place in that universally interrelated whole which we call the world, then Christian dogmatics involves a doctrine of God and a doctrine of the world which arise from that fundamental religious feeling, apart from those doctrines which express the experience of redemption, which is specifically and exclusively Christian.

Such a doctrine of God is not to be viewed as a description of God in himself, for we possess no objective knowledge of God; and even if such were possible, it could not become a part of our discipline; because, as it does not spring out of the religious feeling but stands in an external relation to it, such knowledge, if introduced into dogmatics, would constitute an alien element destroying its unity. The usual method followed in the discussion of this subject has produced confusion and a contradiction of the religious feeling. The various experiences of the religious spirit which have been expressed in poetry or popular discourse have been handled by the dogmaticians in a speculative way, as if they constituted a sum of knowledge about God. The necessity of divesting such expressions of their figurative and anthropomorphic form by a critical process before they can be utilized as material for a scientific statement has produced a skepticism in regard to religion, because it has become plain that in those ways no actual scientific knowledge of God was furnished. 165And when by a speculative process (e.g., via eminentiae, negationis et causalitatis) various classes of divine attributes are set forth (e.g., the natural or metaphysical and the moral, or the active and static, or the absolute and relative, or the original and derivative), it is made to appear that our knowledge of God is made up of a composite of mutually independent attributes, and hence that the object himself of this knowledge is a composite being. In this way the unity of the religious life in mankind is destroyed because the nature of the religion each individual enjoyed is made to depend upon that special attribute of the divine nature to which he subjects himself.

Instead of such “natural” or “rational” theology, we must found our science upon the simple fundamental feeling of absolute dependence which (since man is receptive in this experience) furnishes us with the divine causality as the principle of dogmatics. Hence the attributes that may be ascribed to God will be those which express the various ways in which the feeling of absolute dependence is referred to God as the absolute causality. We necessarily posit absolute causality in God as that from which the feeling of absolute dependence is the reflection in our self-consciousness. There are various modifications of this feeling, that is, it is referred to God in various ways; and hence arises the necessity of positing in God attributes which correspond to the various ways of referring the fundamental religious feeling to God. Now these modifications arise from our relation to the 166 universally interrelated totality of Nature in which we are. The range of our experience (or of the consciousness of our relations) is limited to this world, and hence the feeling of absolute dependence is experienced only within the world-whole (world-order) and through it. That is to say, for us the absolute divine causality finds its full expression in the totality of the forces of Nature. But since, on the other hand, our interrelations with the world-whole itself furnish us the feeling of relative freedom and relative dependence toward it, whereas along with the world we are absolutely dependent on God, our relation to God is the antithesis of our relation to the world; that is to say, the infinite, divine causality and finite, natural causality are antithetical. Hence the divine causality as corresponding in range to the totality of natural causality may be called the divine Omnipotence, but as the antithesis of finite and natural causality, the divine Eternity. But as these are mutually involved, it were better perhaps to say, God is the Eternal Omnipotence, or the Omnipotent Eternal. The attributes of omnipresence, and omniscience are simply another way of saying the same thing, through a comparison with the finite.

To carry out more fully the comparison with the finite, we may represent the absolute divine causality from the religious standpoint as follows:

1. God is eternal--that is: because no moment of time can be disconnected with God, the religious consciousness relates the world to God as the power 167which, itself out of time, conditions all that is temporal and time itself. This is more than to say that God is without beginning and without end. “Immortability” adds nothing to this conception and is objectionable.

2. God is omnipresent--that is: the religious spirit, because it admits no place in the whole world to be destitute of a religious stimulus, declares that the causality of God is absolutely unspatial but conditions all that is spatial and space itself. It cannot be said that there is a difference in the degree of his presence in different places, as, e.g., the spirit of man compared with dead forces; the only difference is in the receptivity of various existences. “Immensity” is objectionable, for it imports spatiality into the being of God.

3. God is almighty--that is: the articulated totality of nature with its universal connection of causes and effects is grounded in the infinite causality of God and is a perfect expression of it, and consequently all actually happens to which there exists a causality in God. What has not happened could not have happened. To make a distinction between the actual and the possible, or between God’s power and God’s will is to create confusion.

4. God is omniscient--that is: the divine omnipotence is to be conceived as absolute spirituality. We cannot speak of the divine perception, experience, comprehension, or vision, for these involve a sensuous 168 element and therefore put God within antithesis. To ascribe contemplation, memory, foreknowledge, mediate and immediate knowledge, or pure thought to God in doctrinal statement is open to the same objection: they transfer human activities to God and implicate him in human imperfection. His causality is living, absolutely spiritual. He relates himself to the object of knowledge in an eternal omnipresent way. As God knows every individual in the whole, so he knows the whole in every individual thing.


Unity, infinity, and simplicity are commonly classed with the four above-named attributes of God, but they can be admitted only if they possess dogmatical content.

a) As to unity.--Numerical unity is an attribute of nothing; the unity of existence and essence, like that of the individuals and the species, belongs to speculative thought. For the religious consciousness the expression “unity of God” signifies that the unity of all pious excitations is given with the same certainty as these excitations themselves. Accordingly unity is not so much a single attribute as it is the mono theistic canon which underlies all investigation into the divine attributes and is as little capable of proof as the divine existence itself.

b) As to infinity.--This means negation of limitation. To predicate infinity of God amounts to a precaution against attributing anything to God which 169can be thought under limitation, and thus it is only mediately an attribute of all divine attributes.

c) As to simplicity.--It is used to negate materiality in God, to exclude the idea of parts or combination in him, in short, divine participation in anything whereby we designate the finite as such. As infinity is an attribute of all attributes, so simplicity expresses only the unseparated and inseparable mutual involution of all divine attributes and activities. As infinity guards against the predication of anything in God that is thought within limits, so simplicity is a precaution against attributing to God anything which essentially pertains to the sphere of antithesis (§§ 50-56).

Section 3. Doctrine of the World. The Nature of the World, Which Is Implied in the Religious Self-
Consciousness, so Far as It Expresses
the Universal Relation between
God and the World

Since the religious consciousness expresses a relation between God arid the world, it implies a religious view of the world-constitution. The doctrinal statement which describes that view will be the answer to the following question: If the consciousness of absolute dependence on God arises only in connection with the world, how must the religious self-consciousness view the world which excites this experience? Consequently, such a doctrine of the world is not to be confounded with a scientific account of it or to 170be considered as a rival thereto, since the latter proceeds by objective perception and ratiocination.

The religious principle is an essential and universal element in human nature, but this principle never comes into consciousness except under the influence of impressions received from the world, of which human nature is an integral part. Further, that the God-consciousness be connected with every experience is a demand upon our nature; consequently every world-impression must be capable of exciting the religious feeling. Otherwise the God-consciousness would be only a contingent feature of human existence, and God’s eternal, living omnipotence would be unable to obtain expression in the world. That is to say, if all finite being as it affects our consciousness is refer able to the eternal almighty Causality, the world must be such a world that every impression it makes upon us tends to produce in us the religious feeling. In other words, the religious consciousness presupposes the original (i.e., independent of special circum stances) perfection of the world. This is not to be understood as the equivalent of a doctrine of a definite condition of the world, past, present, or future, but it refers to the permanent ever self-identical relations which underlie all historical events. Such a perfection is ideal, never provable, and never demonstrably realized, but for our consciousness it is necessarily postulated as the presupposition of all world-history. The world-history is the developing, but ever incomplete, manifestation of that perfection.


But the self-consciousness is not exhausted in that identity with the world of which we are aware in our consciousness of dependence, along with the world, on God; for in self-consciousness we also recognize the antithesis between ourselves and the world. Hence a religious view of the world involves, besides a doctrine of the original perfection of the world, a doctrine of the original perfection of man.

1. The Original Perfection of the World

Since this original perfection of the world is a postulate of the self-consciousness, it can be a doctrine of the world, not as it is in itself, but only as related to man, the religious being. The relations between man and the world are twofold--each acts upon, and is acted upon by, the other. The perfection of the world in relation to man is therefore likewise twofold: (1) By means of the human physical frame, which both unites him to the world and becomes the organ of his spirit in relation to the world, it affects him on the real side; and on the ideal side it presents itself as knowable by him, and thus furnishes to him every where and at all times incitements to activity; it both supplies to him sensation and stimulates his powers of knowledge. (2) As receptive of man’s activity and through the physical organism which is operated by his activity, the world offers itself to man as the organ of his self-expression; and as he thus extends his dominion over it more and more, it awakens in him the consciousness of the divine causality as that of which his own is an image.


NOTE.--This doctrine of the original perfection of the world is to be distinguished from that doctrine of the world which represents the present world as the best out of many possible worlds, and as well from that of a former condition of the world which has passed away and has been changed into the present imperfect world. The former is the product of rationalistic speculation; since the time of Leibnitz particularly, it has been assigned a place in so-called natural or rational theology. It is not a product of the religious consciousness, and it at tributes to God such anthropomorphic conceptions as mediate knowledge and alternative choice. The latter doctrine has sprung from the narrative in Genesis and the legendary lore of many peoples; it appears in the story of a prehistoric golden age. On the one hand, as bare history, it could have no dogmatical importance; and, on the other hand, it destroys the entirety of the divine control and preservation of the world, and so is prejudicial against the religious feeling.

2. The Original Perfection of Man

As the original perfection of the world is perceived only in reference to man, so the original perfection of man is here considered only in reference to God. The God-consciousness appears in the feeling of absolute dependence. This feeling of absolute dependence, as has been said before, occurs always in connection with the sensuous consciousness; the tendency to the God-consciousness thus appears as a condition in separable from human nature, because this tendency is experienced in the character of a demand upon human nature to rise to that state in which the human soul is conscious of communion with God. Now piety (religion) consists in this, that we are conscious of 173this tendency as a living impulse issuing from our very nature and constitutive of it in the sense that the destruction of this impulse would be the destruction of our nature. Therefore those states which condition and are involved in the appearing of the God-consciousness throughout the whole life of man after the spiritual (mental) functions are developed, must be essentially involved in human nature. Hence it must be possible for man so to govern the world and appropriate it to the aim of his life that all the impressions he receives from it, whether they offer hindrances or helps to his life, whether they are transformed into intellectual cognitions or merely affect his sensuous nature in feeling, may be so brought into connection with the God-consciousness that it dominates them all.

But besides this inner impulse to arrive at the realization of the God-consciousness, and inseparable from it, there is an impulse to externalize this religious feeling, that is, to communicate to others that same religious feeling; and this is the same as to establish a communion (association) among men based upon that religious feeling. With this impulse is involved the adaptability of human nature to circulate and appropriate the religious consciousness. In short, the self-consciousness, which is fundamentally religious, by development necessarily becomes a race-consciousness, and the possibility of this is grounded in human nature itself. Out of this original perfection of human nature proceeds the possibility of the propagation of 174 a specific religious experience, i.e., the possibility of founding a religious communion.

But as to the degree in which the religious consciousness has been developed in particular men, that is a matter for the historian and not for the dogmatician. Accordingly all that dogmatics may predicate of primitive man is: since religion is a necessary and universal element of human nature, it must have existed in primitive man to the extent that he was able to communicate it to posterity. Religion must be as old as the human race. When, however, men speak of an “original righteousness” in Adam, they make the mistake of taking as a type of righteousness a mere original capacity for development out of which no positive gain came to mankind since, according to the common view, that “righteousness” was lost; whereas, the true manifestation of righteousness is to be sought in Christ, in whom it came as a gain to all mankind. Summarily then, original perfection pertains to human nature, in that man possesses the original capacity of connecting all his experiences with God, that he is capable of propagating that same religious attitude to all men, and that all men are consequently capable of receiving it (§§ 57-61).

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