kris-chan'-i-ti, kris-chi-an'-i-ti, kris-ti-an'-i-ti (Christianismos):
I. IN PRINCIPLE AND ESSENCE
1. Early Use of Term
⇒See a list of verses on CHRISTIAN in the Bible.
2. New Testament Implications:
⇒See the definition of christian in the KJV Dictionary
3. Did Jesus Claim to Be Christ?
⇒See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.
4. The Resurrection
5. Two Contrasted Estimates of our Lord's Person
(1) The Non-Believing Estimate--not Truly Historical
(2) The Believing Estimate--Relation to Experience
6. Christianity an Experience of Salvation
7. Jesus and the Gospel
8. New Testament Types of Doctrines
9. Naturalistic Interpretations--the Religio-Historic School
II. HISTORICAL AND DOCTRINAL
1. "Religion of Christ" and "The Christian Religion"
(1) The Historical Jesus Is Supernatural
(2) Essence of Christianity in Redemption
2. Modern Definitions
3. Place in Historical Religions
(1) This Place Unique
(2) Universality of Christianity
(3) The Absolute Religion
(4) Religion of Redemption
4. Development and Influence
(1) Expansion of Christianity
(a) Apostolic Age
(b) Succeeding Period
(c) Modern Missions
(2) Doctrinal Shaping
(d) Sin and Grace
(e) Person of Christ
(f) The Atonement
(g) The Reformation
(h) Lutheran and Reformed
(3) Its Influence
(a) The Ancient World
(b) The Modern World
(c) Testimony of Professor Huxley
I. In Principle and Essence.
1. Early Use of Term:
Unlike "Christian" (the King James Version), the term "Christianity," so far as is known, was first used by the Christians themselves, but does not occur in the New Testament. It is exactly parallel to Judaism ("the Jews' religion"), found not only in Ga 1:13-14, but in 2 Macc 2:21, etc. Our earliest authority for the word "Christianism" is Ignatius of Antioch. Christian is now a title of honor, and the Christian's glory is "to live according to Christianism" (Ignatius, Ad magnes, 10).
2. New Testament Implications: Messiahship--Resurrection--Redemption:
While, however, the name is foreign to the New Testament, the New Testament is by universal consent our most important source of information regarding the thing. Christianity arose out of the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be "the Christ." During Jesus' lifetime this claim was admitted by a circle of adherents, in whose view, afterwards, it was triumphantly vindicated by His resurrection from the dead. By resurrection He "was declared to be the Son of God with power" (Ro 1:4). With this was united from the first the recognition of Christ as the God-sent Redeemer, through whom has come to the world forgiveness, reconciliation with God and Divine spiritual power.
One of the oldest summaries of Christianity is that of Paul in 1Co 15:3,1: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; .... and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures." Of similar purport are the apostle's words in 2Co 5:18-19: "God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses." From this reconciliation springs the new life of believers (Ro 6:1-23; 2Co 5:14-17).
3. Did Jesus Claim to Be Christ?:
More recently some have denied that Jesus advanced any such claim to Messiahship, but always upon purely arbitrary and subjective grounds. On the one hand these writers have been profoundly impressed by the grandeur of Jesus' character; on the other they have looked upon the claim to stand in such a unique relation to God and man as unfounded or meaningless. They have sought, accordingly, to escape the difficulty by denying that Jesus regarded Himself as the Anointed of the Lord (thus, e.g. Wrede). Sometimes they have gone the length even of affirming that Jesus was not so regarded by His personal disciples. Divine honors were accorded Him only gradually, as the memory of what He actually was faded away, and an idealization begotten of Christian faith took its place. The notion of Messiah is merely a piece of Jewish folklore. This position in its distinctively modern form has been answered, it seems to us, with absolute conclusiveness, by Professor James Denney in his Jesus and the Gospel. In a historical point of view, nothing in Jesus' life is more certain than that He regarded Himself as the Christ, the culmination and fulfillment of the Divine revelation given to Israel. This conviction of His is the point round which His whole message revolves. The most recent New Testament theology, that, e.g. of Dr. Paul Feine (1910), rightly starts from Jesus' Messianic consciousness, and seeks to understand His whole teaching in the light of it. Doubtless, like everything else which Jesus touched, the concept of Messiahship becomes transmuted and glorified in His hands. our Lord was in no way dependent upon current beliefs and expectations for the content of His Messianic consciousness. But is it likely that His followers, without His authority, would have attributed Messiahship to one so utterly unlike the Messiah of popular fancy?
4. The Resurrection:
The New Testament proves not only that the Christians from the very outset were fully persuaded, on what they regarded as adequate grounds in history and experience, that their Lord had risen from the dead, but also that this conviction mastered them, giving direction and purpose to their whole lives. Historical Christianity was erected on the foundation of a Risen Lord.
On this point Professor Denney says (Jesus and the Gospel, 111): "The real historical evidence for the resurrection is the fact that it was believed, preached, propagated, and produced its fruit and effect in the new phenomenon of the Christian church, long before any of our gospels were written. .... Faith in the resurrection was not only prevalent but immensely powerful before any of our New Testament books were written. Not one of them would ever have been written but for that faith. It is not this or that in the New Testament--it is not the story of the empty tomb, or of the appearing of Jesus in Jerusalem or in Galilee--which is the primary evidence for the resurrection: it is the New Testament itself. The life that throbs in it from beginning to end, the life that always fills us again with wonder, as it beats upon us from its pages, is the life which the Risen Saviour has quickened in Christian souls. The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the existence of the church in that extraordinary spiritual vitality which confronts us in the New Testament. This is its own explanation of its being."
5. Two Contrasted Estimates of our Lord's Person:
The best Christian thought of our day has no more difficulty than had the apostles in holding and establishing what Principal Forsyth fitly calls "the superhistoric finality of Christ." In the very nature of the case, wherever the problem of our Lord's person has been seriously faced, there have always been two distinct estimates of His value, that of assured faith, based upon personal experience of His redemptive power, and that of mere externalism.
(1) The Non-Believing Estimate--not Truly Historical:
The latter or non-believing estimate has no more right now to call itself "historical" or "scientific," than it had, nearly nineteen hundred years ago, to crucify the Lord of glory. The priests doubtless thought that they understood Jesus better than the ignorant, deluded Galileans. Yet the boldest champion of "the religio-historic method" would scarcely claim that theirs was the correct judgment. As a matter of fact, the so-called critical school are no more free from presuppositions than is the most thoroughgoing traditionalist. Nor have they a monopoly either of historical knowledge or of critical acumen. No truths are accessible to them which are not equally available for the Christian believer. No proof exists, beyond their own unsupported assertions, that they are better interpreters of the common truth. On the other hand, that whole range of experience and conviction intop which the Christian believer finds the supreme assurance of the truth of his religion is to them a sealed book. Surel y, then, it is the height of absurdity to maintain that the external, non-believing, estimate of our Lord's person is likely to be the more correct one. From the standpoint of Christian faith, such an external estimate is necessarily inadequate, whether it finds expression in a mechanical acceptance of the whole ecclesiastical Christology, or in the denial that such a person as Jesus of Nazareth ever lived.
(2) The Believing Estimate--Relation to Experience:
The believing estimate of our Lord's person is the essence of Christianity as a historical religion. But according to the New Testament this estimate is itself Divinely-inwrought and Divinely attested (Mt 16:17; 1Co 12:3; 1Jo 4:2-3). It presupposes the perfect objective self-manifestation of God in Jesus Christ on the one hand, and the subjective appropriation of this revelation by faith on the other. No argument against the reality of the revelation can be built upon the fact, generally acknowle dged by Christian theologians nowadays, that the Deity of our Lord and the supernatural origin of our religion can neither be proved nor disproved independently of one's personal attitude to Christianity. This follows necessarily from the nature of the apprehension of Divine truth. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. There can be no impersonal knowledge of religious, any more than of ethical and aesthetic, truth. In these realms another's knowledge has no real meaning for anyone till he has felt its power and tested it in his own experience. Evangelical Christians do not accept the Deity of the Lord as the cardinal article of their religious faith on any merely external authority whether of Scripture or of tradition, or even of His own recorded words apart from experience of Christ. They accept it precisely as they accept the authority of Scripture itself, because of the witness of the Spirit with their spirits. The combined testimony of Scripture and tradition is confirmed in their religious life, when by receiving Jesus as our Lord and Saviour they experience the Christian power. This power is the great experienced reality in the light of which alone the other realities become intelligible. "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see" (Joh 9:25). "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life" (Joh 6:68).
6. Christianity an Experience of Salvation:
The true church of Christ consists of all who have experienced the power of Christ, delivering them from the guilt, the stain, and the dominion of sin and bringing the peace of God into their souls. Nothing less than this is either the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or the historic faith of Christendom, or a religion adequate to human need. The Christian doctrine is partly the assertion of the reality of this power, partly its interpretation. Facts of history and theological propositions are vital to our faith, just in proportion as they are vitally related to this power. The Christian essentials are those elements, historical and dogmatic, without which Christianity would lose in whole or in part its living power to reconcile sinful man to the all-righteous, loving God.
7. Jesus and the Gospel:
Thus Jesus Himself belongs to His gospel. He is the heart and core of it. Christianity is both a rule of life and a doctrine. But in its inmost nature and being it is neither an ethic, nor a theology, but a religion--a new relation to God and man, Divinely mediated through Jesus Christ in His life, death and resurrection. As many as receive Him, to them gives He the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His name, who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (Joh 1:12). He brings man to God by bringing God to man, and the power of God into man's sin-stained life.
8. New Testament Types of Doctrines:
It can scarcely be claimed that New Testament Christianity was in a theological point of view absolutely homogeneous. Various types can be distinguished with more or less clearness; even the ordinary reader feels a difference of theological atmosphere between e.g. Romans and James. This is inevitable, and need occasion no perplexity to Christian faith. All theology is partly interpretation--the relation of universal and eternal reality to personal thought. Hofmann rightly says that genuine Christian faith is one and the same for all, but that everyone must have his own theology, if he is to have any at all. In all genuine serious thought there is a personal element not precisely the same for any two individuals. It is possible to find in the New Testament foreshadowings of all the great distinctive types of historic Christianity. But the essential purpose of the New Testament is to make Christ real to us, to proclaim reconciliation to God through Him, and to convey the Christian power to our lives. The New Testa ment everywhere exhibits the same Christ, and bears witness to the same redeeming, life-transforming power.
9. Naturalistic Interpretations--the Religio-Historic School:
The attempt has often been made to explain Christianity as the natural product of contemporary forces intellectual and religious--most recently by the so-called "religio-historic school." But at most they have only shown that the form in which the religious concepts of primitive Christianity found articulate expression was to some extent influenced ab extra, and that the earliest Christians were in their general intellectual outlook the children of their own time. They have not proved that the distinctive content of Christianity was derived from any external source. They have not even realized what they have to prove, in order to make good their contention. They have done nothing to account for the Christian power on their principles.
See the New Testament Theologies, especially that of Feine (1910); Seeberg, Fundamental Truths of the Christian Religion (English translation very incorrect, 1908); Seeberg's Lehrbuch d. Dogmengeschichte, 2nd edition I, 1908; Brown, Essence of Christianity, New York, 1902; W. N. Clarke, What Shall We Think of Christianity? New York, 1899; above all Denney, Jesus and the Gospel (1909), and Forsyth, Person and Place of Jesus Christ (1909).
II. Historical and Doctrinal.
In its historical and doctrinal relations, developments, and influence, and its connection with the successive phases of human thought, Christianity presents many points of interest, only the more prominent of which can here briefly be touched upon.
1. "Religion of Christ" and "The Christian Religion":
A convenient starting-point is the well-known distinction of Lessing (Fragment in Works, XI, 242 ff) between "the religion of Christ" and "the Christian religion"--a distinction which still exactly marks the attitude to Christianity of the modern so-called "historical" school. By "the religion of Christ" is meant the religion which Christ Himself acknowledged and practiced as man; by "the Christian religion" is meant the view which regards Christ as more than man, and exalts Him as an object of worship. From this standpoint the problem for the historian is to show how the religion of Christ came to develop into the Christian religion--in modern speech, how the "Jesus of history" became the "Christ of faith."
(1) The Historical Jesus Is Supernatural.
It has already been pointed out (under I above) that the view of Jesus on which the assumed contrast rests is not one truly historical. The fallacy lies in regarding the Jesus of history as simply a man among men--holier, diviner in insight, but not essentially distinguished from the race of which He was a member. This is not the Christ of apostolic faith, but as little is it the picture of the historical Jesus as the Gospels actually present it. There, in His relations alike to God and to man, in His sinlessness, in His origin, claims, relation to Old Testament revelation, judgeship of the world, in His resurrection, exaltation, and sending of the Spirit, Jesus appears in a light which it is impossible to confine within natural or purely human limits. He is the Saviour who stands over against the race He came to save. It is the same fallacy which under-lies the contrast frequently sought to be drawn between the religious standpoints of Christ and Paul. Pau l never for an instant dreamed of putting himself on the same plane with Christ. Paul was sinner; Christ was Saviour. Paul was disciple; Christ was Lord. Paul was weak, struggling man; Christ was Son of God. Jesus achieved redemption; Paul appropriated it. These things involved the widest contrasts in attitude and speech.
(2) Essence of Christianity in Redemption.
Though, therefore, Christ, in His relations of love and trust to the Father, and perfection of holy character, necessarily ever remains the Great Exemplar to whose image His people are to be conformed (Ro 8:29), in whose steps they are to follow (1Pe 2:21), it is not correct to describe Christianity simply as the religion which Christ practiced. Christianity takes into account also the work which Christ came to do, the redemption He achieved, the blessings which, through Him, are bestowed on those who accept Him as their Saviour, and acknowledge Him as their Lord. Essentially Christianity is a religion of redemption; not, therefore, a religion practiced by Jesus for Himself, but one based on a work He has accomplished for others. Experimentally, it may be described as consisting, above all, in the joyful consciousness of redemption from sin and reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ, and in the possession of a new life of sonship and holiness through Christ's Spirit. Everything in the way of holy obedience is included here. This, at least, reduced to its simplest terms, is undeniably what Christianity meant for its first preachers and teachers, and what historically it has meant for the church ever since.
2. Modern Definitions:
Definitions of Christianity are as numerous as the writers who treat of the subject; but one or two definitions may be glanced at as illustrative of the positions above assumed. As modern types, Schleiermacher and Ritschl may be selected in preference to writers of more conspicuous orthodoxy.
Schleiermacher, in his Der Christliche Glaube, has an interesting definition of Christianity. Christianity he speaks of as "a form of monotheistic faith, of the teleological order of religion (i.e. in which the natural is subordinated to the moral), the peculiarity of which, in distinction from other religions of this type, essentially is, that in it everything is referred to the redemption accomplished through Jesus of Nazareth" (section 11). As, in general, Schleiermacher's merit is recognized to lie in his bringing back, in a time of religious decay, the person of Christ to a central place in His religion, so here his true religious feeling is manifested in his fixing on the reference to redemption by Christ as the distinctive thing in Christianity.
Ritschl's definition is more complicated, and need not here be cited in full (compare his Justif. and Recon., III; English translation, 13). The important point is that, like Schleiermacher, Ritschl gives, together with the idea of the kingdom of God, an essential place to the idea of redemption in the conception of Christianity. "Christianity," he says, "so to speak, resembles not a circle described from a single center, but an ellipse which is determined by two foci" (Jb., 11). The idea of the kingdom of God furnishes the teleological, the idea of redemption the religious, element in Christianity. There is truth in this; only it is to be remembered that the kingdom of God, as representing the end, can only, in a world of sin, be into existence through a redemption. Redemption, therefore, still remains the basal conception.
3. Place in Historical Religions:
In the enlarged view of modern knowledge, Christianity can be no longer regarded in isolation, but is seen to take its place in the long series of historical religions. It appears, like these other religions, in a historical context; has, like some of them, a personal founder; claims, as they also do, or did, the allegiance of multitudes of the population of the world; presents in externals (e.g. the possession of Scriptures), sometimes in ideas, analogies to features in these religions. For this reason, an influential modern school is disposed to treat Christianity, as before it, the religion of Israel, as simply one of these historical religions--"nothing less, but also nothing more"--explaining it from the inherent laws of religious development, and rejecting the idea of any special, authoritative revelation. Sacred books are pitted against sacred books; moral codes against moral codes; Jesus against founders of other religions; gospel stories against legends of the Buddha; ideas like those of the virgin birth, the incarnation, the resurrection, against seeming parallels on other soils. For examination of the principal of these alleged resemblances, see COMPARATIVE RELIGION.
(1) This Place Unique.
Here it is desirable to look at the place of Christianity in the series of historical religions in certain of its wider aspects. The uniqueness of Christ's religion, and justification of its claim to a special, Divine origin, will only appear the more clearly from the comparison. In general, it need only be remarked that no other religion in the world has ever even professed to present a plain, historically developed, progressive revelation, advancing through successive stages in the unfolding of a Divine purpose of grace, till it culminates in the appearance of a person, life, character and work, like that of Jesus Christ; not in one single instance.
(2) Universality of Christianity.
A distinction is commonly made between national and universal religions, and Christianity is classed as one of the three universal religions--the other two being Buddhism and Mohammedanism (compare e.g. Kuenen's Hibbert Lectures on National Religions and Universal Religions). There is certainly agreement in the fact that the two religions named with Christianity are not "national" religions; that they are "universal," in the sense in which Christianity is, may be denied. Neither Buddhism nor Mohammedanism has any fitness to become a religion for the world, nor, with all their remarkable extension, have they succeeded in establishing themselves, as Christianity has done, in East and West, in Old World and in New. Mohammed boasted that he would plant his religion wherever the palm tree grew (Palgrave), and this still marks very nearly the range of its conquests. It is not a revivifying influence, but a blight on all higher civilization. It degrades woman, perpetuates slavery, fosters intolerance, and brings no real healing for the spiritual woes of mankind. Buddhism, again, notwithstanding its wide spread in China and neighboring lands, has in it no real spring of moral progress, and is today withering up at the root. Its system of "salvation"--attainment of Nirvana--is not for the many but the few. It has not a message for all men alike. Buddha does not profess that all can accept his method, or ought to be asked to do so. For the multitude it is impossible of attainment. In practice, therefore, instead of one, he has three codes of duty--one for the laity, who continue to live in the world; one for the monks, who do not aspire to Arahatship or sainthood: and one for those who would reach the goal of Nirvana. These last are very few; only two cases are specified, besides Buddha himself, of success in this endeavor. In contrast with these Christianity approves itself as a strictly universal religion--the only religion of its kind in the world. In its doctrines of the one God and Father, and of the brotherhood of all mankind; its teaching on universal need through sin, and universal provision for salvation in Christ; its gospel of reconciliation addressed to all; its pure spirituality in worship and morality; its elevating and emancipating tendency in all the relations of human life, it approves itself as a religion for all sections and races of mankind, for all grades of civilization and stages of culture, appealing to that which is deepest in man, capable of being understood and received by all, and renewing and blessing each one who accepts and obeys it. The history of missions, even among the most degraded races, in all parts of the globe, is the demonstration of this truth. (On the universalism of Christianity, compare Baur, Church History of the First Three Centuries, I, Pt 1.)
(3) The Absolute Religion.
It is the custom, even in circles where the full supernatural claims of Christianity are not admitted, to speak of Christ's religion as, in comparison with others, "the absolute religion," meaning by this that in Christianity the true idea of religion, which in other faiths is only striven after, attains to complete and final expression. Hegel, e.g. speaks of Christianity as the "Absolute or Revealed Religion" in the sense that in it the idea is discovered of the essential unity of God and man (thus also T. H. Green, E. Caird, etc.); others (e.g. Pfleiderer) in the meaning that it expresses the absolute "principle" of religion--a Divine sonship. Christianity also claims for itself, though in a more positive way, to be the absolute religion. It is the final and perfect revelation of God for which not only revelation in Israel, but the whole providential history of the race, was a Divinely ordained preparation (Ga 4:4). It is absolute in the sense that a larger and fulle r revelation than Christ has given is not needed, and is not to be looked for. Not only in this religion is all truth of Nature about God's being, attributes and character, with all truth of Old Testament revelation, purely gathered up and preserved, but in the person and work of the incarnate Son a higher and more complete disclosure is made of God's Fatherly love and gracious purposes to mankind, and a redemption is presented as actually accomplished adequate to all the needs of a sinful world. Mankind can never hope to attain to a higher idea of God, a truer idea of man, a profounder conception of the end of life, of sin, of duty, a Diviner provision for salvation, a more perfect satisfaction in fellowship with God, a grander hope of eternal life, than is opened to it in the gospel. In this respect again, Christianity stands alone (compare W. Douglas Mackenzie, The Final Faith, a Statement of the Nature and Authority of Christianity as the Religion of the World).
(4) Religion of Redemption.
A third aspect in which Christianity as a historical religion is sometimes regarded is as a religion of redemption. In this light a comparison is frequently instituted between it and Buddhism, which also in some sort is a religion of redemption. But the comparison brings out only the more conspicuously the unique and original character of the Christian system. Buddhism starts from the conception of the inherent evil and misery of existence, and the salvation it promises as the result of indefinitely prolonged striving through many successive lives is the eternal rest and peace of non-being; Christianity, on the other hand, starts from the conception that everything in its original nature and in the intent of its Creator is good, and that the evil of the world is the result of wrong and perverted development--holds, therefore, that redemption from it is possible by use of appropriate means. And redemption here includes, not merely deliverance from existing evils, but restoration of the Divine likeness which has been lost by man, and ultimate blessedness of the life everlasting. Dr. Boyd Carpenter sums up the contrast thus: "In Buddhism redemption comes from below; in Christianity it is from above; in Buddhism it comes from man; in Christianity it comes from God" (Permanent Elements in Religion, Introduction, 34).
4. Development and Influence:
Christianity, as an external magnitude, has a long and chequered history, into the details of which it is not the purpose of this article to enter. Ecclesiastical developments are left untouched. But a little may be said of its outward expansion, of the influences that helped to mould its doctrinal forms, and of the influence which it in turn has exercised on the thought and life of the peoples into whose midst it came.
(1) Expansion of Christianity.
From the first Christianity aimed at being a world-conquering principle. The task it set before itself was stupendous. Its message was not one likely to commend it to either Jew or Greek (1Co 1:23). It renounced temporal weapons (in this a contrast with Mohammedanism); had nothing to rely on but the naked truth. Yet from the beginning (Ac 2:1-47) it had a remarkable reception. Its universal principle was still partially veiled in the Jewish-Christian communities, but with Paul it freed itself from all limitations, and entered on a period of rapid and wide diffusion.
(a) Apostolic Age:
It is the peculiarity of the Pauline mission, as Professor W. M. Ramsay points out, that it followed the great lines of Roman communication, and aimed at establishing itself in the large cities--the centers of civilization (Church in Roman Empire, 147, etc.). The Book of Acts and the Epistles show how striking were the results. Churches were planted in all the great cities of Asia Minor and Macedonia. In Rome Tacitus testifies that by the time of Nero's persecution (64 AD) the Christians were a "great multitude" ("ingens multitudo" (Annals xv.44)).
(b) Succeeding Period:
Our materials for estimating the progress of Christianity in the post-apostolic age are scanty, but they suffice to show us the church pursuing its way, and casting its spell alike on East and West, in centers of civilization and dim regions of barbarism. In the last quarter of the 2nd century great churches like those of Carthage and Alexandria burst into visibility, and reveal how firm a hold the new religion was taking of the empire. Deadly persecution could not stop this march of the church to victory. From the middle of the 3rd century there is no question that it was progressing by leaps and bounds. This is the period in which Harnack puts its great expansion (Expansion, II, 455, English Translation). On the back of the most relentless persecution it had yet endured, the Diocletian, it suddenly found itself raised by the arms of Constantine to a position of acknowledged supremacy. By this time it had penetrated into all ranks of society, and reckoned among its adherents many of noblest birth.
(c) Modern Missions:
It is unnecessary to trace the subsequent course of Christianity in its conquest of the northern nations. For a time the zeal for expansion slumbered, but, with the revival of the missionary spirit at the close of the 18th century, a new forward movement began, the effects of which in the various regions of the heathen world are only now beginning to be realized. It is impossible to read without a thrill what was accomplished by the pioneers of Christian missions in the South Seas a nd other early fields; now the tidings of what is being done in India, China, Japan, Korea, Africa and elsewhere, by Christian preaching and education, awaken even more astonishment. Countries long closed against the gospel are now opened, and the standard of the cross is being carried into all. The church is arousing to its missionary obligations as never before. Still, with all this progress, immense obstacles remain to be overcome. Including all the populations of nominally Christian lands, the adherents of the Christian religion are reckoned to amount only to some 560,000,000, out of a total of over 1,600,000,000 of the population of the world (Hickmann). This looks discouraging, but it is to be remembered that it is the Christian peoples that represent the really progressive portion of the human race.
(2) Doctrinal Shaping:
The doctrinal shaping of Christianity has taken place largely as the result of conflict with opposing errors. First, as was inevitable, its conflict was waged with that narrowest section of the Jewish-Christian community--the Ebionites of early church history--who, cleaving to circumcision, disowned Paul, and insisted that the Gentiles should observe the law (Ga 5:13-14; see EBIONITES). These, as a party of reaction, were soon left behind, and themselves fell under heretical (Essenian) influences.
A more formidable conflict was that with Gnosticism--the distinctive heresy of the 2nd century, though its beginnings are already within the apostolic age (compare Lightfoot, Colossians). This strange compound of oriental theosophy and ideas borrowed from Christianity (see GNOSTICISM) would have dissolved Christ's religion into a tissue of fantasies, and all the strength and learning of the Church were needed to combat its influence. Its opposition was overruled for good in leading t o a fixing of the earliest creed (see APOSTLES' CREED), the formation of an authoritative New Testament canon (see BIBLE; CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT), and the firm assertion of the reality of Christ's humanity.
Christianity had now entered the world of Greek thought, and ere long had contests to sustain within its own borders. First came assaults (3rd century) on the idea of the Trinity in what are known as the Monarchian heresies--the assertion that the Father Himself was incarnate and suffered in Christ (Patripassianism), or that the Trinity consisted only in "modes" of the Divine self-revelation (Sabellianism).
These were hardly repelled when a yet greater danger overtook the church in the outbreak (318 AD) of the violent Arian controversy, the Son Himself being now declared to be a creature, exalted, before all worlds, but not truly of the nature of God. The commotion produced by this controversy led to the summoning of the first ecumenical council--that of Nicea (325 AD), and the framing of the Nicene Creed, affirming the full deity of the Son. A like controversy about the Spirit (the Macedonian, 4th century), led to the confirming of this creed, and adoption of additional clauses, at the Council of Constantinople (381 AD).
(d) Sin and Grace:
The doctrine of the Trinity was now settled, but new controversies speedily sprang up--in the West on sin and grace (Pelagius and Augustine) (411-18 AD), and in the East in the long series of controversies known as the Christological, bearing on the right apprehension of the person of Christ (4th to 7th centuries): as against Pelagius, who denied original sin, and affirmed man's natural ability to keep the whole law of God, Augustine vindicated the complete dependence of man on the grace of God for his salvation.
(e) Person of Christ:
And as against errors successively denying the reality of a human soul in Jesus (Appollinarianism), dissolving the unity of His person (Nestorianism, condemned at Ephesus, 431 AD), or conversely, fusing together the Divine and human into one nature (Eutychianism, Monophysitism), the church maintained, and embodied in a Creed at Chalcedon (451 AD), the integrity of the two natures, Divine and human, in the one Divine person of the Lord. These decisions are upheld by all branches of the church--Greek, Latin, Protestant.
(f) The Atonement:
The medieval scholastic period made one great advance in the attempt of Anselm in his Cur Deus Homo (1089) to lay deep the foundations of a doctrine of atonement in the idea of the necessity of a satisfaction for human sin: Abelard, on the other hand, denied the need of satisfaction, and became the representative of what are known as moral theories of the atonement. It was reserved for the Protestant Reformers, however, to bring this doctrine to its true bearing, as furnishing the ground for man's free justification before God in his union with Christ, who had made full satisfaction for his guilt. There have been many theories of atonement, but the idea that Christ has "satisfied Divine justice" is too firmly imbedded in all the Reformation creeds, and has too profound a Scriptural support, to be removed.
(g) The Reformation:
The 16th century Reformation, on its outward side, was a revolt against the errors and corruptions of the papacy, but in its positive aspect it may be described as the reassertion of the sole mediatorship of Christ (as against priestly intervention), the sole authority of Scripture (as against tradition), and justification by faith alone (as against salvation by works of merit). The schism meant a separation of the great Protestant communities and nations from the church of Rome, which, by its claim o f papal supremacy, had already separated from itself the great Greek communion.
(h) Lutheran and Reformed:
Within Protestantism itself a difference of genius between the Swiss and German Reformers, with divergences of view on the sacraments, led to the formation of two main types--the Lutheran (German) and the Reformed (Swiss)--and between these two, as respects theology and church order, later Protestantism has mostly been divided. Luther represented the one; Calvin for long was the chief name in the other. With the rise of Arminianism and other forms of dissent from the peculiarities of Calvinism, the aspect of Protestantism became more variegated. Of the later divisions, producing the numerous modern sects which yet own allegiance to the common head (Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, etc.), it is not necessary here to speak. The unity of spirit revealed in creed, worship and combined endeavors in Christ's service goes deeper than all outward differences.
(3) Its Influence.
Christianity preaches a kingdom of God, or supremacy of God's will in human hearts and human affairs, by which is meant, on its earthly side, nothing less than a complete reconstruction of society on the two great bases of love to God and love to man--"Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth" (Mt 6:10). The influence of Christianity is paramount in all the great advances that have been made in the moral and social amelioration of the state of mankind.
(a) The Ancient World:
It was so undoubtedly in the ancient world. The world into which Christianity came was one fast sinking into dissolution through the weight of its own corruptions. Into that world Christianity brought a totally new idea of man as being of infinite dignity and immortal worth. It restored the well-nigh lost sense of responsibility and accountability to God; breathed into the world a new spirit of love and charity, and created that wealth of charitable and beneficent institutions with which Christian lands are now full (Lecky speaks of it as "covering the globe with countless institutions of mercy, absolutely unknown in the whole pagan world," History of Morals, II, 91); set up a new moral ideal and standard of integrity which has acted as an elevating force on moral conceptions till the present hour; restored woman to her rightful place as man's helpmeet and equal; created the Christian home; gave the slave an equal place with his master in the kingdom of God, and struck at the foundations of slavery by its doctrines of the natural brotherhood and dignity of man; created self-respect, and a sense of duty in the use of one's powers for self-support and the benefit of others; urged to honest labors; and in a myriad other ways, by direct teaching, by the protest of holy lives, and by its general spirit, struck at the evils, the malpractices, the cruelties of the time.
(b) The Modern World:
Despite many failures, and gross backslidings in the church itself, these ideas, implanted in the world, and liberating other forces, have operated ever since in advancing the progress of the race. They exist and operate far beyond the limits of the church. They have been taken up and contended for by men outside the church--by unbelievers even--when the church itself had become unfaithful to them. None the less they are of Christian parentage. They lie at the basis of our modern assertion of equal rights, of justice to the individual in social and state arrangements, of the desire for brotherhood, peace and amity among classes and nations. It is Christian love which is sustaining the best, purest and most self-sacrificing efforts for the raising of the fallen, the rescue of the drunkard, the promotion of enlightenment, virtues, social order and happiness. It is proving itself the grand civilizing agency in other regions of the world. Christian missions, with their benign effects in the spread of education, the checking of social evils and barbarities, the creation of trade and industry, the change in the status of women, the advance in social and civilized life, generally, is the demonstration of it (see Dennis, Christian Missions and Social Progress).
(c) Testimony of Professor Huxley:
Professor Huxley will not be regarded as a biased witness on behalf of Christianity. Yet this is what he writes on the influence of the Christian Scriptures, and his words may be a fitting close to this article: "Throughout the history of the western world," he says, "the Scriptures, Jewish, and Christian, have been the great instigators of revolt against the worst forms of clerical and political despotism. The Bible has been the Magna Charta of the poor, and of the oppressed; down to modern times no state has had a constitution in which the interests of the people are so largely taken into account, in which the duties, so much more than the privileges, of rulers are insisted upon, as that drawn up for Israel in Dt and Lev; nowhere is the fundamental truth that the welfare of the State, in the long run, depends upon the uprightness of the citizen so strongly laid down. Assuredly the Bible talks no trash about the rights of man; but it insists upon the equality of duties, on the liberty to bring about that righteousness which is somewhat different from struggling for `rights'; on the fraternity of taking thought for one's neighbor as for one's self."
See works cited in PartI above; also Kuenen, Hibbert Lectures for 1882, National Religions and Universal Religions; W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire; M. Dods, Mohammed, Buddha, and Christ; on early expansion of Christianity, Harnack, Mission and Expansion of Christianity, and Orr, Neglected Factors in the Study of the Early Progress of Christianity; on the essence of Christianity, W. Douglas Mackenzie, The Final Faith; on the influence of Christianity, C. L. Brace, Gesta Christi; Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church; C. Schmidt, Social Results of Early Christianity; Lecky, History of European Morals; Dennis, Christian Missions and Social Progress; Reports of World Miss. Conference, 1910.