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tion of religion is reprobated as savoring of unhealthy subjectivity. In the earlier years of the party much stress was laid upon the priestly authority of the pastors and their absolving function; but the cool manner in which the people received these high claims was a decided and somewhat effective invitation to modesty.
The above description, it should be noted, applies more especially to the initial stage of the Confessional School, and cannot be taken as an exact picture of the party in its entirety, since considerable diversities have arisen within its ranks. While on its extreme side, as represented by Klieforth and Vilmar, the Confessional School stands for a kind of German Puseyism, it counts many theologians of too great moderation and rational breadth to be properly described by this phrase. Some who have been currently associated with the school have not even been careful to conserve all points of the old Lutheran Orthodoxy, as may be seen from the writings of Thomasius, Hofmann, and Kahnis. Perhaps the last of these should be regarded as having moved out of the confessional camp. Among recent supporters of confessionalism much prominence belongs to Luthardt of Leipzig and Frank of Erlangen. The former unites with the talent of the polished writer much gift for practical activity ; the latter is a patient and cogent thinker, and ranks with the ablest of the conservative theologians in Germany.
The term Neo-Kantian, which has been applied to the School of Ritschl, has its justification. Ritschl professed, indeed, to agree in his theory of cognition with Lotze rather than with Kant, as affirming a knowledge of things through phenomena, rather than making the
phenomenal the whole subject of knowledge; still his thinking had its points of resemblance to cardinal features of the Kantian system. The general opposition between the speculative and the practical reason, the despair of reaching a valid explication of Deity by the metaphysical method, and the limitation of emphasis to such aspects of religious truth as have a distinct value for the moral consciousness, which were characteristic of Kant's teaching, reappear in the system of Ritschl. The latter, however, differs from the former in assigning a higher worth to positive revelation.
As the theology of Ritschl is of a distinctive cast, and has won a large number of disciples in recent years, it may not be inappropriate to note some of its principal items, as they appear in his chief work, “ The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation." 1
The perusal of this work must leave the impression that Ritschl designs to make much account of Biblical authority. A religion like Christianity, whose aim is to unite men in one great spiritual communion, must, he maintains, have its content expressed in the person and work of the founder; only thus are the requisite unity and historical continuity provided for. The person and work of Christ are normative for our conceptions of Christianity. The oracles which supply trustworthy information respecting the person and work of Christ are the writings of the foundation-epoch, the books of the New Testament. These books constitute a welldefined group. They are separated from all other writings of that or the following epoch, in that they are
1 Die Christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung. 2te Auflage, 1882.
harmoniously related to the preceding dispensation and reflect an authentic understanding of the Old Testament religion; whereas other writings, whether proceeding from Jewish or Gentile Christians, are clearly wanting in this respect. There is abundant reason therefore to base Christian theology solely upon the books of the New Testament, reference to the Old Testament being important mainly as supplying means for understanding the New
In treating of the person of Christ, Ritschl assumes to keep within the Biblical point of view. He discards the dogmatic construction which the Church has wrought out upon the subject. The way in which Christ became what He was, he says, is not a proper theme for theological investigation; that question lies beyond our province. We must take Christ as He is presented to us, estimating His person by His official position and the work which He has accomplished. The result reached on this basis seems to be, that, while there is no distinct specification respecting the essence of the Redeemer, the practical value of divinity is assigned to Him. He reflects the divine attributes, and asserts over the race an unlimited moral lordship. “An authority which excludes all other standards or subordinates them to itself, which at the same time fundamentally directs all human trust in God, has the worth of divinity.”
Ritschl adopts also a negative attitude toward the conclusions of the old theology on the attributes of God, and assumes to give a more Biblical exposition of the subject. He objects to placing an attribute back of the will of God and regarding the latter as determined by the former. In accordance with this view, he repuJiates the notion that righteousness in God involves a demand for retribution which must be met. That idea, he maintains, is no Biblical idea, but a foreign growth, a portion of the Pharisaic and the Hellenic world-view which has unwisely been imported into theology.
God's attitude toward the race is not represented in the Bible as one of wrath, nor is redemption represented as a deliverance from wrath. In the New Testament the wrath of God is associated altogether with the closing up of the dispensation, and denotes the divine retribution which will then befall those who have arrayed themselves against God's kingdom.
In conformity with the above, the conclusion is drawn that God's relation to the redemptive work is not to be described under judicial or governmental terms. In the scheme of reconciliation He does not stand forth as judge or ruler. The dominant conception of God in the New Testament is that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the relation in which He stands to Christ shapes the conception of His relation to men. As Christ Himself taught with sufficient distinctness, God approaches men in the character of father, and forgives their sins in that character.
The work of Christ was to reveal and make effective the benevolent intent of God; no vicarious satisfaction was required. Christ did not and could not bear the penalty which properly attaches to sinners, since the essential characteristic of that penalty is the feeling of guilt and of consequent separation from divine communion. His sufferings had worth as exhibiting the worth of His person; they gave occasion to patient endurance, and were a test of fidelity. His death expresses the culmination of His righteous obedience. Accordingly, in New Testament language, the death of Christ is a compendious expression for His faithful fulfilment of the entire charge committed to His hands.
An advantageous word for representing the redemptive agency of Christ is the word calling, or vocation. He wrought out salvation by the fulfilment of His calling, and that calling was the founding of a spiritual kingdom, a universal religious communion in which the law of love has the supremacy.
“ In the view of Christ, the assuring to mankind universal forgiveness of sins, and the founding of a communion whose members recognize in God as His Father also their Father, are ideas of like meaning."
The more immediate relation of Christ is with the communion, and it is within the communion that the individual is made a recipient of justification. By justification may be understood the fundamental relation toward God in which the communion, originated through the accomplished work of Christ, is placed. The love of God toward the obedient head of the communion is fittingly extended to the members.
The stress which Ritschl places upon the communion is followed up by adverse comments upon such systems of religious thought as lay the main emphasis upon the direct relation of the believer to Christ, and make much account of his subjective states. His attitude toward pietism is one of conspicuous hostility. It should be noticed, however, that Ritschl in emphasizing the importance of the communion meant to pay no tribute to sacerdotal or hierarchical notions. He denotes by this