Christological Movements in the Nineteenth Century -- By: Herman Bavinck

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 068:271 (Jul 1911)
Article: Christological Movements in the Nineteenth Century
Author: Herman Bavinck

Christological Movements in the Nineteenth Century

Herman Bavinck, D.D.

All the developments of the doctrine of Christ which we have described take their start from and move within the limits of the Chalcedonian Symbol. But very many Christians have been unable to find contentment in this formulary. There have been in all ages those who turned off either to the right or to the left, and followed in the tracks of the old Ebionitism or Gnosticism. On the one side there are ranged Arianism, Nestorianism, Socinianism, Deism, Rationalism, etc., and on the other, appear Patripassianism, Sabellianism, Monophysitism, Anabaptism, and Pantheism in all its varied forms.1 Above all, the idea has become dominant in the more recent theology that the doctrine of the Two Natures, however well adapted it was to the Greek theology and church, has lost for us its whole religious value; that it has hopelessly given way under the criticism of Socinianism and Rationalism, and needs now to be remodeled in an entirely new, religious-

ethical sense.2 This new Christology has its most outstanding adherents in Kant, Schleiermacher, and Ritschl.

Kant could not accept the biblical and ecclesiastical doctrine of Christ; because, denying as he did that the supernatural could be known, and asserting that obligation infers ability, he had no need of a Redeemer. Christ could remain, accordingly, for Kant, only an ethical example and a teacher of virtue. Whatever over and above this the Scriptures and the church have affirmed of this Christ has symbolical value only. The Christ of the church is the symbol of God-pleasing humanity; this is the true, only-begotten, well-beloved Son, for whom God created the world. The incarnation of Christ symbolizes the rise of the true moral life in man; his substitutive sufferings mean that the moral man in us must make atonement for the evil of the sensuous man; faith in Christ signifies that, to be saved, man must believe in a humanity which is well pleasing to God. In one word, the historical man, Jesus, is no Mediator or Saviour; but all that the church confesses of this person applies, in its entirety, to the idea of humanity.3 By means of the new philosophy, Kant, like the old Gnostics, began the process of separating the historical from the ideal Christ; and others have carried this process forward. Fichte took his start from the idea that God and man are absolutely one. Christ, however, was the first who recognized this unity in himself, and gave clear expression to it; that is his great, historical significance; thousands have b...

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