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§ 3. Realism.

Its General Character.

There is still another view of the nature of man which, from Its extensive and long-continued influence, demands consideration. According to this view, man is defined to be, The manifestation of the general principle of humanity in union with a given corporeal organization. This view has been held in various forms which cannot here be severally discussed. It is only the theory in its more general features, or in the form in which it has been commonly presented. that our limits permit us to examine. It necessarily 52assumes that humanity, human nature as a general principle of a form of life, exists antecedently (either chronologically or logically) to individual men. “In the order of nature,” says Dr. Shedd, “mankind exists before the generations of mankind; the nature is prior to the individuals produced out of it.”7777History of Christian Doctrine, vol. ii. p. 77. It exists, also, independently and outside of them. As magnetism is a force in nature existing antecedently, independently, and outside of any and all individual magnets; and as electricity exists independently of the Leyden jars in which it may be collected or through which it is manifested at present; as galvanism exists independently of any and all galvanic batteries; so humanity exists antecedently to individual men and independently of them. As an individual magnet is a given piece of soft iron in which the magnetic force is present and active, and as a Leyden jar is simply a coated jar in which electricity is present, so an individual man is a given corporeal organization in which humanity as a general life or force is present. To the question what is human nature, or humanity generically considered, there are different answers given. It is said to be a res, an essence, a substance, a real objective existence. It is some-thing which exists in time and space. This is the common mode of statement. The controversy between realists and nominalists, in its original and genuine form, turned upon this point. The question which for ages occupied to so great an extent the attention of all philosophers, was, What are universals? What are genera and species? What are general terms? Are they mere words? Are they thoughts or conceptions existing in the mind? Are the things expressed by general terms real objective existences? Do individuals only exist; so that species and genus are only classes of individuals of the same kind; or are individuals only the revelations or individualizations of a general substance which is the species or genus? According to the early and genuine realists, and according to the modern speculative philosophers, the species or genus is first, independent of and external to the individual. The individual is only “a subsequent modus existendi; the first and antecedent mode [in the case of man] being the generic humanity of which this subsequent serial mode is only another aspect or manifestation.”7878Shedd's Essays Boston, 1867, p. 259, note, and his History of Christian Doctrine. vol. ii. p. 77.

Precisely, as just stated, as magnetism is antecedent to the magnet. The magnet is only an individual piece of iron in and through which generic magnetism is manifested. Thus the realist says, “Etsi rationalitas non esset in aliquo, tamen in natura remaneret.7979Cousin, Fragments Philosophiques, Paris 1840, p. 167. 53Cousin quotes the complaint of Anselm against Roscelin and other nominalists, “de ne pas comprendre comment plusieurs hommes ne sont qu’un seul et même homme, — nondum intelliget quomodo plures homines in specie sint unus homo.8080Cousin's Fragments Philosophiques, Paris, 1840, p. 146. The doctrine of his “Monologium” and “Proslogium” and “Dialogus de veritate,” Cousin says, is “que non-seulement il y a des individus humains, mais qu’il y a en autre le genre humain, l’humanité, qui est une, comme il admettait qu’il y a un temps absolu que les durées particulières manifestent sans le constituer, une vérité une et subsistante par elle-même, un type absolu du bien, que tous les biens particuliers supposent et réfléchissent plus ou moins imparfaitement.8181Ibidem. He quotes Abélard as stating the doctrine which he opposed, in the following words: “Homo quædam species est, res una essentialiter, cui adveniunt formæ quædam et efficiunt Socratem: illam eamdem essentialiter eodem modo informant formæ facientes Platonem et cætera individua hominis; nec aliquid est in Socrate, præter illas formas informantes illam materiam ad faciendum Socratem, quin illud idem eodem tempore in Platone informatum sit formis Platonis. Et hoc intelligunt de singulis speciebus ad individua et de generibus ad species.8282Ibid. p. 167. According to one theory, “les individus seuls existent et constituent 1’essence des choses;” according to the other, “1’essence des individus est dans le genre auquel ils se rapportent; en tant qu’ individus ils ne sont que des accidents.8383Ibid. p. 171. All this is sufficiently plain. That which constitutes the species or genus is a real objective existence, a substance one and the same numerically as well as specifically. This one general substance exists in every individual belonging to the species, and constitutes their essence. That which is peculiar to the individual, and which distinguishes it from other individuals of the same species, is purely accidental. This one substance of humanity, which is revealed or manifested in all men, and which constitutes them men, “possesses all the attributes of the human individual; for the individual is only a portion and specimen of the nature. Considered as an essence, human nature is an intelligent, rational, and voluntary essence; and accordingly its agency in Adam partakes of the corresponding qualities.”8484Shedd, History of Christian Doctrine, vol. ii. p. 78. “Agency,” however, supposes “an agent; and since original sin is not the product of the individual agent, because it appears at birth, it must be referred to the generic agent, — i.e., to the human nature in distinction from the human person or individual.”8585Ibid. p. 80.


Generic Humanity.

What God created, therefore, was not an individual man, but the species homo, or generic humanity, —an intelligent, rational, and voluntary essence; individual men are the manifestations of this substance numerically and specifically one and the same, in connection with their several corporeal organizations. Their souls are not individual essences, but one common essence revealed and acting in many separate organisms.

This answer to the question proposed above, What is human nature generically considered, which makes it an essence or substance common to all the individuals of the race, is the most common and the most intelligible. Scientific men adopt a somewhat different phraseology. Instead of substances, they speak of forces. Nature is defined to be the sum of the forces operating in the external world. Oxygen is a force; magnetism, electricity, etc., are forces. “A species is . . . . based on a specific amount or condition of concentred force, defined in the act or law of creation.”8686Professor James D. Dana, Bibliotheca Sacra, 1857, p. 861. Humanity, or human nature, is the sum of the forces which constitute man what he is. The unity of the race consists in the fact that these forces are numerically as well as specifically the same in all the individuals of which it is composed.

The German theologians, particularly those of the school of Schleiermacher, use the terms life, law, and organic law. Human nature is a generic life, i.e., a form of life manifested in a multitude of individuals of the same kind. In the individual it is not distinct or different from what it is in the genus. It is the same organic law. A single oak may produce ten thousand other oaks; but the whore forest is as much an inward organic unity as any single tree.

These may be convenient formulas to prevent the necessity of circumlocutions, and to express a class of facts; but they do not convey any definite idea beyond the facts themselves. To say that a whole forest of oaks have the same generic life, that they are as truly one as any individual tree is one, means simply that the nature is the same in all, and that all have been derived from a common source. And to say that mankind are a unit because they have the same generic life, and are all descended from a common parent, either means nothing more than that all men are of the same species, i.e., that humanity is specifically the same in all mat kind or it means all that is intended by those who teach that 55genera and species are substances of which the individual is the mere modus existendi. As agency implies an agent, so force, which is the manifestation of power, supposes something, a subject or substance in which that power resides. Nothing, a nonentity, can have no power and manifest no force. Force, of necessity, supposes a substance of which it is the manifestation. If, therefore, the forces are numerically the same, the substance must be numerically the same. And, consequently, if humanity be a given amount and kind of concentred force, numerically and not merely specifically the same in all men, then are men ὁμοούσιοι, partakers of one and the same identical essence. The same remarks apply to the term life. Life is a predicable, not an essence. It supposes a subject of which it is predicable. There can be no life unless something lives. It is not a thing by itself. if, therefore, the generic life of man means anything more than the same kind of life, it must mean that that which lives in all men is identically the same numerical substance.

Objections to Realism.

According to the common doctrine, the soul of every man is an individual subsistence, of the same kind but not of the same numerical substance as the souls of his fellow-men, so that men are ὁμοι-, but not ὁμοούσιοι. In support of this view and in opposition to the doctrine that “all men are one man,” or, that human nature is numerically one and the same essence of which individual men are the modes of manifestation, it may be remarked, —

1. That the latter doctrine is a mere philosophical hypothesis. It is a simple assumption founded on what is possible. It is possible that the doctrine in question may be true. So in itself it is possible that there should be an anima mundi, a principle of life immanent in the world, of which all living organisms are the different manifestations; so that all vegetables, all animals, and man himself, are but different forms of one and the same numerical living substance, just as the multitudinous waves of the sea in all their infinite diversity of size, shape, and hue, are but the heavings of one and the same vast ocean. In like manner it is possible that all the forms of life should be only the various manifestations of the life of God. This is not only possible, but it is such a simple and grand idea that it has fascinated the minds of men in all ages, so that the prevailing hypothesis of philosophers as to the constitution of the universe has been. and still is, pantheistic. Nevertheless, pantheism is demonstrably false, because it contradicts the intuitive convictions of our moral and religious nature. It is not enough, 56therefore, that a theory be possible or conceivable. It must have the support of positive proof.

2. Such proof the doctrine under consideration does not find in the Bible. It is simply a hypothesis on which certain facts of the Scriptures may be explained. All men are alike; they have the same faculties, the same instincts and passions; and they are all born in sin. These and other similar facts admit of an easy explanation on the assumption that humanity is numerically one and the same substance of which individuals are only so many different manifestations; just as a thousand different magnets reveal the magnetic force which is the same in all, and therefore all magnets are alike. But as the facts referred to may be explained on divers other assumptions, they afford no proof of this particular theory. It is not pretended that the Bible directly teaches the doctrine in question. Nor does it teach anything which necessitates its adoption. On the contrary, it teaches much that is irreconcilable with it.

Not Supported by Consciousness.

3. The hypothesis under consideration derives no support from consciousness. We are conscious of our own existence. We are (in one sense) conscious of the existence of other men. But we are not conscious of a community of essence in ourselves and all other men. So far from this being the common interpretation which men put on their consciousness, it is diametrically opposed to it. Every man believes his soul to be a distinct, individual substance, as much as he believes his body to be distinct and separate from every other human body. Such is the common judgment of men. And nothing short of the direct assertion of the Bible, or arguments which amount to demonstration, can rationally be admitted to invalidate that judgment. It is inconceivable that anything concerning the constitution of our nature so momentous in its consequences, should be true, which does not in some way reveal itself in the common consciousness of men. There is nothing more characteristic of the Scriptures, and there are few things which more clearly prove its divine origin, than that it takes for granted and authenticates all the facts of consciousness. It declares us to be what we are revealed to ourselves as being in the very constitution and present condition of our nature. It recognizes the soul as rational, free, and responsible. It assumes that it is distinct from the body. All this we know from consciousness. But we do not know that the essence or substance of our soul is numerically the same as the substance of the souls of all men. If 57the Bible teaches any such doctrine it teaches something outside of the teachings of consciousness, and something to which those teachings, in the judgment of the vast majority of men, even the most enlightened, are directly opposed.

Realism Contrary to the Teachings of Scripture.

4. The Scriptures not only do not teach the doctrine in question, but they also teach what is inconsistent with it. We have already seen that it is a clearly revealed doctrine of the Bible, and part of the faith of the Church universal, that the soul continues to exist after death as a self-conscious, individual person. This fact is inconsistent with the theory in question. A given plant is a material organization, animated by the general principle of vegetable life. If the plant is destroyed the principle of vegetable life no longer exists as to that plant. It may exist in other plants; but that particular plant ceased to exist when the material organization was dissolved. Magnetism continues to exist as a force in nature, but any particular magnet ceases to be when it is melted, or volatilized. In like manner, if a man is the manifestation of a generic life, or of humanity as an essence common to all men, then when his body dies the man ceases to exist. Humanity continues to be, but the individual man no longer exists. This is a difficulty which some of the advocates of this theory endeavour to avoid by giving up what is essential to their own doctrine. Its genuine and consistent advocates admit it in its full force. The anti-Christian portion of them acknowledge that their doctrine is inconsistent with the personal immortality of man. The race, they say, is immortal, but individual men are not. The same conclusion is admitted by those who hold the analogous pantheistic, or naturalistic doctrines. If a man is only the modus existendi, a form in which a common substance or life reveals itself, it matters not whether that substance be humanity, nature, or God, when the form, the material organism, is destroyed, the man as a man ceases to exist. Those advocates of the doctrine who cling to Christianity, while they admit the difficulty, endeavour to get over it in different ways. Schleiermacher admits that all philosophy is against the doctrine of the personal existence of man in a future state. His whole system leads to the denial of it. But he says that the Christian must admit it on the authority of Christ. Olshausen, in his commentary on the New Testament, says, when explaining 1 Cor. xv. 19, 20, and verses 42-44, that the Bible knows nothing of the immortality of the soul. He pronounces it to be a heathen. idea. A soul without 58a body loses its individuality. It ceases to be a person, and of course loses self-consciousness and all that is connected with it. As, however, the Scriptures teach that men are to exist hereafter, he says their bodies must also continue to exist, and the only existence of the soul during the interval between death and the resurrection, which he admits, is in connection (i.e., vital union) with the disintegrated particles of the body in the grave or scattered to the ends of the earth. This is a conclusion to which his doctrine legitimately leads, and which he is sufficiently candid to admit. Dr. Nevin, a disciple of Schleiermacher, has to grapple with the same difficulty. His book entitled “The Mystical Presence,” is the clearest and ablest exposition of the theology of Schleiermacher which has appeared in our language, unless Morell's “Philosophy of Religion” be its equal. He denies8787Page 171. all dualism between the soul and body. They are “one life.” The one cannot exist without the other. He admits that what the Bible teaches of the separate existence of the soul between death and the resurrection, is a difficulty “which it is not easy, at present, to solve.” He does not attempt to solve it. He only says that the difficulty is “not to reconcile Scripture with a psychological theory, but to bring it into harmony with itself.” This is no solution. It is a virtual admission that he cannot reconcile the Bible with his psychological theory. The doctrine that man is a modus existendi of a generic humanity, or the manifestation of the general principle of humanity, in connection with a given corporeal organization, is inconsistent with the Scriptural doctrine of the separate existence of the soul, and therefore must be false.

Inconsistent with the Doctrine of the Trinity.

5. This theory is inconsistent with the Scriptural doctrine of the Trinity. It necessitates the conclusion that the Father, Son, and Spirit are no more one God than Peter, James, and John are one man. The persons of the Trinity are one God, because the Godhead is one essence; but if humanity be one essence numerically the same in all men, then all men are one man in the same sense that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one God. This is a reductio ad absurdum. It is clearly taught in Scripture and universally believed in the Church that the persons of the Trinity are one God in an infinitely higher sense than that in which all men are one man. The precise difference is, that the essence common to the persons of the Godhead is numerically the same 59whereas the essence common to all men is only specifically the same, i.e., of the same kind, although numerically different. The theory which leads to the opposite conclusion must therefore be false. It cannot be true that all mankind are one essence, substance, or organic life, existing or manifesting itself in a multitude of individual persons. This is a difficulty so obvious and so fatal that it could not fail to arrest the attention of realists in all ages and of every class. The great point of dispute in the Council of Nice between the Arians and orthodox was, whether the persons of the Trinity are ὁμοι- or ὁμοούσιοι, of a like or of the same essence. If ὁμοούσιοι, it was on both sides admitted that they are one God; because if the same in substance they are equal in power and glory. Now it is expressly asserted that all men are not ὁμοι- but ὁμοούσιοι, and therefore, by parity of reasoning, they must constitute one man in the same sense as there is one God, and all be equal in every attribute of their nature.88881 Of course it is admitted that there is a legitimate sense of the word in which all men may be said to be ὁμοούσιοι, when by ὁμός (same) is meant similar, or of a like kind. In this sense the Greeks said that the bodies of men and of other animals were consubstantial, as all were made of flesh; and that angels, demons, and human souls, as spiritual beings, are also ὁμοούσιοι. But this is not the sense in which the word is used by realists, when speaking either of the persons of the Trinity or of men. In both cases the word same means numerical oneness; men are of the same numerical essence in the same sense in which the Father and the Son and the Spirit are the same in substance. The difference, it is said, between the two cases does not relate to identity of essence, which is the same in both, but is found in this, that “the whole nature or essence is in the divine person; but the human person is only a part of the common human nature. Generation in the Godhead admits no abscission or division of substance; but generation in the instance of the creature implies separation or division of essence. A human person is an individualized portion of humanity.”89892 It must, however, be remembered that humanity is declared to be a spiritual substance. It is the same in nature with the soul, which is called an individualized portion of human nature, possessing consciousness, reason, and will. But, if spiritual, it is indivisible. Divisibility is one of the primary properties of matter. Whatever is divisible is material. If therefore humanity, as a generic substance, admits of “abscission and division,” it 60must be material. A part of reason, a piece of consciousness, or a fragment of will, are contradictory, or unintelligible forms of expression. If humanity is of the same essence as the soul, it no more admits of division than the soul. One part of a soul cannot be holy and another unholy; one part saved and the other lost. The objection to the theory under consideration, that it makes the relation between individual men identical with that between the persons of the Trinity, remains, therefore, in full force. It is not met by the answer just referred to, which answer supposes mind to be extended and divisible.

Realism Inconsistent with what the Bible teaches of the Person and Work of Christ.

6. It is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile the doctrine in question with what the Scriptures teach of the person and work of Christ. According to the Bible, the Son of God became man by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul. According to the realistic doctrine, he did not assume a reasonable soul, but generic humanity. What is this but the whole of humanity, of which, according to the advocates of this doctrine, individual men are the portions. Human nature as a generic life, humanity as a substance, and a whole substance, was taken into personal union with the Son of God. The Logos became incarnate in the race. This is certainly not the Scriptural doctrine. The Son of God became a man; not all men. He assumed an individual rational soul, not the general principle of humanity. Besides this, it is the doctrine of those who adopt this theory that humanity sinned and fell in Adam. The rational, moral, voluntary substance called human nature, is, or at least was, an agent. The sin of Adam was the sin not of an individual, but of this generic substance, which by that sin became the subject both of guilt and of depravity. By reason of this sin of human nature, the theory is, that all individual men, in their successive generations, in whom this nature is revealed, or in whom, as they express it, it is individualized, mine into the world in a state of guilt and pollution. We do not now refer to the numerous and serious difficulties connected with this theory as a method of accounting for original sin. We speak of it only in its relation to Christ's person. If human nature, as a generic life, a substance of which all men partake, became both guilty and polluted by the apostasy; and that generic humanity, as distinguished from a newly created and holy rational soul, was assumed by the Son of God, how can we avoid the conclusion that Christ was, in 61his human nature, personally guilty and sinful? This is a legitimate consequence of this theory. And this consequence being not only false but blasphemous, the theory itself must be false As the principle that humanity is one substance, and all men are ὁμοούσιοι in the sense of partaking of the same numerical essence, involves consequences destructive of the Scriptural doctrines of the Trinity and of the person of Christ, so it might easily be shown that it overthrows the common faith of the Protestant churches on the doctrines of justification, regeneration, the sacraments, and the Church. It is enough for our present purpose to remark that, as a historical fact, the consistent and thorough-going advocates of this doctrine do teach an entirely different method of salvation. Many men adopt a principle, and do not carry it out to its legitimate consequences. But others, more logical, or more reckless, do not hesitate to embrace all its results. In the works of Morell and of Dr. Nevin, above referred to, the theological student may find a fearless pressing of the genuine principle of realism, to the utter overthrow of the Protestant, and, it may be added, of the Christian faith.

7. Other objections to this theory may be more appropriately considered when we come to speak of the several doctrines to which it is applied. It is sufficient in the conclusion of the present discussion to say that what is said to be true of the genus homo, is assumed to be true of all genera and species in the animal and vegetable worlds. The individual in all cases is assumed to be only the manifestation or modus existendi of the generic substance. Thus there is a bovine, an equine, and a feline substance, having an objective existence of which all oxen, all horses, and all animals of the cat-race, are the manifestations. And so of all species, whether of plants or animals. This is almost inconceivable. Compared to this theory, the assumption of a naturgeist, or anima mundi, or of one universal substance, is simplicity itself. That such a theory should be set forth and made the foundation, or rather the controlling principle of all Christian doctrine, is most unreasonable and dangerous. This realistic doctrine, until recently, has been as much exploded as the eternal ideas of Plato or the forms of Aristotle.

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