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Words Of Reconciliation.
Vol. VIIL] MARCH, 1892. [No. 3.
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A RADICAL MISTAKE.
It has been the constant testimony of this magazine that the source of the present confusion in the theology of the Church, and of her bewilderment in the attempt to revise it, is the misconception into which she long ago fell of the fundamental doctrine in the Christian faith—the resurrection of the dead. The Bible connects all its hope for the redemption of mankind with the Divine provision to raise the dead. God's method of redemption is through resurrection. But, as applied to the case of the majority of mankind who have hitherto lived, resurrection has been perverted into a prelude to damnation. All thought of mercy toward any class of the dead but saints (and perhaps infants and idiots) has been shut out from this purpose of God to restore the dead. What was given by God as His great boon to the race, the proclamation of which was to be glad tidings of great joy to all people, becomes thus to the larger portion of the race an untold multiplication of their misery, an enormous disaster, an unspeakable curse.
This fatal mistake in the traditional theology has vitiated the whole of it. It has given us a false doctrine of God, by which He is represented as at enmity with His own works, and in which Justice and Love are viewed as opposing attributes in the divine nature with variant claims; a false doctrine of His government, in that sovereignty is made the spring and centre of it to the obscuration of His love; a false doctrine of Christ, by which He is made a bargaining person in the Godhead, rather than the Divine-Human Revealer of the love and kindness of God our Father toward man; a false doctrine of the atonement, by which the government of God is represented as capricious, imposing penalties whose execution it intended to prevent, dooming the sinner to the enormously exaggerated penalty of an eternal hell, and arranging a way of escape from the just consequences of his sins by the substituted payment of an enormous ransom, thus perverting God's gracious provision for the remission of sins into a device for the remission of just penalties; a false doctrine of election, in that the loving purpose of God in choosing a first-fruits company to be heirs of salvation is made to terminate upon themselves, the rest of mankind being left to suffer in endless misery, thus denying that " first-fruits" implies an ultimate harvest, and that a purpose of mercy toward the later born lies behind the choice of " the Church of the first-born."
This radical mistake has led also to a false doctrine of regeneration, which is viewed as the impartation to man of a life to which he is an alien by birth, rather than the quickening within him of a life of which he has already the germ, for no new life can be born unless there be a germ receptive of it; a false doctrine of salvation, which views it as the rescue from everlasting damnation of the false personality grafted on to the root of man's true being, which evil form of manhood is not worth saving, and was never meant to be saved—rather than as the deliverance of the divine nature, the true self in man, from the evils that obstruct its progress to perfect personal expression. And hence, finally, there has arisen a false doctrine of the Church, by which she has come to view herself as the official barterer in the souls and destinies of men, rather than as the divine organism through which the Christnature is begotten and formed in men as the power of a righteous life and the hope of glory.
Not all resurrections are the resurrection of life, though in the end they will be found, even to the lowest birth of the power of the enemy, to have contributed thereto.— Geo. Macdonald in Paul Faber, Ch. XXX.
The following letter has reached us from a valued friend and subscriber. We publish it entire, with its appended list of hard questions, to which we make reply as best we can:
8 Bigg Market, Newcastle-on-tyne, December 21st, 1891. Dear Brother Baker :—I was very glad to see your article in The Free Christian for July. I have read it several times, seeking to apprehend your meaning in several statements, and must confess that I cannot. I have applied to several readers for help, and find that they are as much perplexed as I am. This may arise out of our obtuseness, or the fact that you gave there "the results rather than the processes" of your thinking. Be that as^jt may, you see our dilemma. I am satisfied that you wish to be understood, and hope that under the circumstances you will excuse me for applying to you for assistance. I would have done so sooner only I thought that you had questions enough to consider before the end of the year; and now, if you will kindly reply to the undernoted it would be of great service to many readers, and would help to elucidate the truth, which we both value highly. To facilitate reference, the divisional headings are repeated under which the statements quoted are found.
Yours, very truly,
"the Nature Op Man."
1. "Man is an immortal essence." "It must be said of all men that they are mortal." "Man is not immortal in his own nature.''
What is the difference between man's " essence " and his "nature "? How can man be both " mortal" and "immortal " at the same time?
2. "The personal form in which it (man's true and inmost self) seeks expression may be unworthy of it, and therefore not abiding."
In what other form than that which is " personal" can man "express" himself?
3. "The personality known to us, and which acquires a self-consciousness of its own, insomuch that it becomes the character in which the man thinks of and knows himself, may die."
What other " self-consciousness" has man in addition to that of his "personality"?
4. "Of these two 1's the awakened soul becomes conscious." Of which "two "? Only one "I" has been disclosed so far.
5. "Reconciliation between the two theories of man's nature must therefore be sought in this distinction between that in man which is individual and that which is personal."
What is the difference between human "personality" and human "individuality "? How can there be perfect human personality without perfect human individuality, and vire versa t
6. "As made in the divine image and as being of a divine nature, he must finally reach the end of his creation."
Does it follow that because man was made in the " divine image" he was made of a " divine nature "?
7. "The constant teaching of the Bible that the end f the wicked is destruction will, therefore, find its explanation in this inevitable destruction of these imperfect and perishable forms of being which are but the outward man within which the true being of man is encased."
Is the "wicked" man merely an "outward1' form without any inward counterpart? If so, how can any man be wicked in thought or feeling? If not, how can the destruction of merely the outward "form " be the destruction of the " man "?
These first seven questions upon "The Nature of Man" are related to each other, and they each involve the validity of the distinction we have drawn between that which is " individual" in man and that which is "personal." As we have frequently explained, our use of the term personal differs from the common usage. We prefer the term "individual" as defining that element in man's being which survives all changes. The primary meaning of the word is-" that which cannot be divided." We, therefore, properly apply it to the essential man, while "person " defines, rather, man as objectively expressed.