Essence of Christianity: Part II, The False or Theological Essence of Religion
THE Sacraments are a sensible presentation of that contradiction of idealism and materialism, of subjectivism and objectivism, which belongs to the inmost nature of religion. But the sacraments are nothing without Faith and Love. Hence the contradiction in the sacraments carries us back to the primary contradiction of Faith and Love.
The essence of religion, its latent nature, is the identity of the divine being with the human; but the form of religion, or its apparent, conscious nature, is the distinction between them. God is the human being; but he presents himself to the religious consciousness as a distinct being. Now, that which reveals the basis, the hidden essence of religion, is Love; that which constitutes its conscious form is Faith. Love identifies man with God and God with man, consequently it identifies man with man; faith separates God from man, consequently it separates man from man, for God is nothing else than the idea of the species invested with a mystical form, – the separation of God from man is therefore the separation of man from man, the unloosening of the social bond. By faith religion places itself in contradiction with morality, with reason, with the unsophisticated sense of truth in man; by love, it opposes itself again to this contradiction. Faith isolates God, it makes him a particular, distinct being: love universalises; it makes God a common being, the love of whom is one with the love of man. Faith produces in man an inward disunion, a disunion with himself, and by consequence in outward disunion also; but love heals the wounds which are made by faith in the heart of man. Faith makes belief in its God a law: love is freedom, – it condemns not even the atheist, because it is itself atheistic, itself denies, if not theoretically, at least practically, the existence of a particular, individual God, opposed to man. Love has God in itself: faith has God out of itself; it estranges God from man, it makes him an external object.
Faith, being inherently external, proceeds even to the adoption of outward fact as its object, and becomes historic faith. It is therefore of the nature of faith that it can become a totally external confession; and that with mere faith, as such, superstitious, magical effects are associated. [Hence the mere name of Christ has miraculous powers.] The devils believe that God is, without ceasing to be devils. Hence a distinction has been made between faith in God, and belief that there is a God. [“Gott plauben und an Gott glauben.”] But even with this bare belief in the existence of God, the assimilating power of love is intermingled – a power which by no means lies in the idea of faith as such and in so far as it relates to external things.
The only distinctions or judgments which are immanent to faith, which spring out of itself, are the distinctions of right or genuine, and wrong or false faith; or in general, of belief and unbelief. Faith discriminates thus: This is true, that is false. And it claims truth to itself alone. Faith has for its object a definite, specific truth, which is necessarily united with negation. Faith is in its nature exclusive. One thing alone is truth, one alone is God, one alone has the monopoly of being, the Son of God; all else is nothing, error, delusion. Jehovah alone is the true God; all other gods are vain idols.
Faith has in its mind something peculiar to itself; it rests on a peculiar revelation of God; it has not come to its possessions in an ordinary way, that way which stands open to all men alike. What stands open to all is common, and for that reason cannot form a special object of faith. That God is the creator, all men could know from Nature; but what this God is in person, can be known only by special grace, is the object of a special faith. And because he is only revealed in a peculiar manner, the object of this faith is himself a peculiar being. The God of the Christians is indeed the God of the heathens, but with a wide difference: – just such a difference as there is between me as I am to a friend, and me as I am to a stranger, who only knows me at a distance. God as he is an object to the Christians, is quite another than as he is an object to the heathens. The Christians know God personally, face to face. The heathens know only – and even this is too large an admission – “what,” and not “who,” God is; for which reason they fell into idolatry. The identity of the heathens and Christians before God is therefore altogether vague; what the heathens have in common with the Christians – if indeed we consent to be so liberal as to admit anything in common between them – is not that which is specifically Christian, not that which constitutes faith. In whatsoever the Christians are Christians, therein they are distinguished from the heathens; [“If I wish to be a Christian, I must believe and do what other people do not believe or do.” – Luther (Th. xvi. P. 569).] and they are Christians in virtue of their special knowledge of God; thus their mark of distinction is God. Speciality is the salt which first gives a flavour to the common being. What a being is in special, is the being itself; he alone knows me, who knows me in specie. Thus the special God, God as he is an object to the Christians, the personal God, is alone God. And this God is unknown to heathens, and to unbelievers in general; he does not exist for them. He is, indeed, said to exist for the heathens; but mediately, on condition that they cease to be heathens, and become Christians. Faith makes man partial and narrow; it deprives him of the freedom and ability to estimate duly what is different from himself. Faith is imprisoned within itself. It is true that the philosophical, or, in general, any scientific theorist, also limits himself by a definite system. But theoretic limitation, however fettered, short-sighted and narrow-hearted it may be, has still a freer character than faith, because the domain of theory is in itself a free one, because here the ground of decision is the nature of things, argument, reason. But faith refers the decision to conscience and interest, to the instinctive desire of happiness; for its object is a special, personal Being urging himself on recognition, and making, salvation dependent on that recognition.
Faith gives man a peculiar sense of his own dignity and importance. The believer finds himself distinguished above other men, exalted above the natural man; he knows himself to be a person of distinction. in the possession of peculiar privileges; believers are aristocrats, unbelievers plebeians. God is this distinction and pre-eminence of believers above unbelievers, personified. Because faith represents man's own nature as that of another being, the believer does not contemplate his dignity immediately in himself, but in this supposed distinct person. The consciousness of his own pre-eminence presents itself as a consciousness of this person; he has the sense of his own dignity in this divine personality. [“I am proud and exalting on account of my blessedness and the forgiveness of my sins, but through what? Through the gory and pride of another, namely, the Lord Christ” – Luther (Th. ii. P. 344). He that Lord.” – i Cor. i. 3I.]
As the servant feels himself honoured in the dignity of his master, nay, fancies himself greater than a free, independent man of lower rank than his master, so it is with the believer. [A military officer who had been adjutant of the Russian general Munnich said: “When I was his adjutant I felt myself greater than now that I command”.] He denies all merit in himself, merely that he may leave all merit to his Lord, because his own desire of honour is satisfied in the honour of his Lord. Faith is arrogant, but it is distinguished from natural arrogance in this, that it clothes its feeling of superiority, its pride, in the idea of another person, for whom unbeliever is an object of peculiar favour. This distinct person, however, is simply his own hidden self, his personified, contented desire of happiness: for he his no other qualities than these, that he is the benefactor, the Redeemer, the Saviour – qualities in which the believer has reference only to himself, to his own eternal salvation. In fact, we have here the characteristic principle, of religion, that it changes that which is naturally active into the passive. The heathen elevates himself, the Christian feels himself elevated. The Christian converts into a matter of feeling of receptivity, what to the heathen is a matter of spontaneity. The humility of the believer is an invented arrogance, – an arrogance none the less because it has not the appearance, the external characteristics of arrogance. He feels himself pre-eminent: this pre-eminence, however, is not a result of his activity, but a matter of grace; he has been made pre-eminent; he can do nothing towards it himself. He does not make himself the end of his own activity, but the end, the object of God.
Faith is essentially determinate, specific. God according to the specific view taken of him by faith, is alone the true God. This Jesus, such as I conceive him, is the Christ, the true, sole prophet, the only-begotten Son of God, And this particular conception thou must believe, if thou wouldst not forfeit thy salvation. Faith is imperative. It is therefore necessary – it lies in the nature of faith – that it be fixed as dogma. Dogma only gives a formula to what faith had already on its tongue or in its mind. That when once a fundamental dogma is established, it gives rise to more special questions, which must also be thrown into a dogmatic form, that hence there results a burdensome multiplicity of dogmas, – this is certainly a fatal consequence, but does not do away with the necessity that faith should fix itself in dogmas, in order that every one may know definitely what he must believe and how he can win salvation.
That which in the present day, even from the standpoint of believing Christianity, is rejected, is compassionated as an aberration, as a misinterpretation, or is even ridiculed, is purely a consequence of the inmost nature of faith. Faith is essentially illiberal, prejudiced; for it is concerned not only with individual salvation, but with the honour of God. And just as we are solicitous as to whether we show due honour to a superior in rank, so it is with faith. The apostle Paul is absorbed in the glory, the honour, the merits of Christ. Dogmatic, exclusive, scrupulous particularity, lies in the nature of faith. In food and other matters, indifferent to faith, it is certainly liberal; but by no means in relation to objects of faith. He who is not for Christ is against him; that which is not christian is antichristian. But what is christian? This must be absolutely determined, this cannot be free. If the articles of faith are set down in books which proceed from various authors, handed down in the form of incidental, mutually contradictory, occasional dicta, – then dogmatic demarcation and definition are even an external necessity. Christianity owes its perpetuation to the dogmatic formulas of the Church.
It is only the believing unbelief of modern times which hides itself behind the Bible, and opposes the biblical dicta to dogmatic definitions, in order that it may set itself free from the limits of dogma by arbitrary exegesis. But faith has already disappeared, is become indifferent, when the determinate tenets of faith are felt as limitations. It is only religious indifference under the appearance of religion that makes the Bible, which in its nature and origin is indefinite, a standard of faith, and under the pretext of believing only the essential, retains nothing which deserves the name of faith; – for example, substituting for the distinctly characterised Son of God, held up by the Church, the vague negative definition of a Sinless Man, who can claim to be the Son of God in a sense applicable to no other being, – in a word, of a man, whom one may not trust oneself to call either a man or a God. But that it is merely indifference which makes a hiding-place for itself behind the Bible, is evident from the fact that even what stands in the Bible, if it contradicts the standpoint of the present day, is regarded as not obligatory, or is even denied; nay, actions which are essentially christian, which are the logical consequences of faith, such as the separation of believers from unbelievers, are now designated as unchristian.
The Church was perfectly justified in adjudging damnation to heretics and unbelievers, [To faith, so long as it has any vital heat, any character, the heretic is always on a level with the unbeliever, with the atheist.] for this condemnation is involved in the nature of faith. Faith at first appears to be only an unprejudiced separation of believers from unbelievers; but this separation is a highly critical distinction. The believer has God for him, the unbeliever, against him; – it is only as a possible believer that the unbeliever has God not against Him; – and therein precisely lies the ground of the requirement that he should leave the ranks of unbelief. But that which has God against it is worthless, rejected, reprobate; for that which has God against it is itself against God. To believe, is synonymous with goodness; not to believe, with wickedness. Faith, narrow and prejudiced refers all unbelief to the moral disposition. In its view the unbeliever is an enemy to Christ out of obduracy, out of wickedness. [Already in the New Testament the idea of disobedience is associated with unbelief. “The cardinal wickedness is unbelief.” – Luther (xiii. p. 647).] Hence faith has fellowship with believers only; unbelievers it rejects. It is well-disposed towards believers, but ill-disposed towards unbelievers. In faith there lies a malignant principle.
It is owing to the egoism, the vanity, the self-complacency of Christians, that they can see the motes in the faith of non-christian nations, but cannot perceive the beam in their own. It is only in the mode in which faith embodies itself that Christians differ from the followers of other religions. The distinction is founded only on climate or on natural temperament. A warlike or ardently sensuous people will naturally attest its distinctive religious character by deeds, by force of arms. But the nature of faith as such is everywhere the same. It is essential to faith to condemn, to anathematise. All blessings, all good it accumulates on itself, on its God, as the lover on his beloved; all curses, all hardship and evil it casts on unbelief. The believer is blessed, well-pleasing to God, a partaker of everlasting, felicity; the unbeliever is accursed, rejected of God and abjured by men: for what God rejects man must not receive, must not indulge; – that would be a criticism of the divine judgment. The Turks exterminate unbelievers with fire and sword, the Christians with the flames of hell. But the fires of the other world blaze forth into this, to glare through the night of unbelief. As the believer already here below anticipates the joys of heaven, so the flames of the abyss must be seen to flash here as a foretaste of the awaiting hell, – at least in the moments when faith attains its highest enthusiasm. [God himself by no means entirely reserves the punishment of blasphemers, of unbelievers, of heretics, for the future; he often punishes them in this life also, “for the benefit of Christendom and the strengthening of faith:” as, for example, the heretics Cerinthus and Arius. See Luther (Th. xiv. p. 13).] It is true that Christianity ordains no persecution of heretics, still less conversion by force of arms. But so far as faith anathematises, it necessarily generates hostile dispositions, – the dispositions out of which the persecution of heretics arises. To love the man who does not believe in Christ, is a sin against Christ, is to love the enemy of Christ. That which God, which Christ does not love, man must not love; his love would be a contradiction of the divine will, consequently a sin. God, it is true, loves all men; but only when and because they are Christians, or at least may be and desire to be such.
To be a Christian is to be beloved by God; not to be a Christian is to be hated by God, an object of the divine anger. The Christian must therefore love only Christians – others only as possible Christians; he must only love what faith hallows and blesses. Faith is the baptism of love. Love to man as man is only natural love. Christian love is supernatural, glorified, sanctified love; therefore it loves only what is Christian. The maxim, “Love your enemies,” has reference only to personal enemies, not to public enemies, the enemies of God, the enemies of faith, unbelievers. He who loves the men whom Christ denies, does not believe Christ, denies his Lord and God. Faith abolishes the natural ties of humanity; to universal, natural unity, it substitutes a particular unity.
Let it not be objected to this, that it is said in the Bible, “Judge not, that ye be not judged;” and that thus, as faith leaves to God the judgment, so it leaves to him the sentence of condemnation. This and other similar sayings have authority only as the private law of Christians, not as their public law; belong only to ethics, not to dogmatics. It is an indication of indifference to faith, to introduce such sayings into the region of dogma. The distinction between the unbeliever and the man is a fruit of modern philanthropy. To faith, the man is merged in the believer; to it, the essential difference between man and the brute rests only on religious belief. Faith alone comprehends in itself all virtues which can make man pleasing to God; and God is the absolute measure, his pleasure the highest law the believer is thus alone the legitimate, normal man, man as he ought to be, man as he is recognised by God. Wherever we find Christians making a distinction between the man and the believer, there the human mind has already severed itself from faith; there man has value in himself, independently of faith. Hence faith is true, unfeigned, only where the specific difference of faith operates in all its severity. If the edge of this difference is blunted, faith itself naturally becomes indifferent, effete. Faith is liberal only in things intrinsically indifferent. The liberalism of the apostle Paul presupposes the acceptance of the fundamental articles of faith. Where everything is made to depend on the fundamental articles of faith, there arises the distinction between essential and non-essential belief. In the sphere of the non-essential there is no law, – there you are free. But obviously it is only on condition of your leaving the rights of faith intact, that faith allows you freedom.
It is therefore an altogether false defence to say, that faith leaves judgment to God. It leaves to him only the moral judgment with respect to faith, only the judgment as to its moral character, as to whether the faith of Christians be feigned or genuine. So far as classes are concerned, faith knows already whom God will place on the right hand, and whom on the left; in relation to the persons who compose the classes faith is uncertain; but that believers are heirs of the Eternal Kingdom is beyond all doubt. Apart from this, however, the God who distinguishes between believers and unbelievers, the condemning and rewarding God, is nothing else than faith itself. What God condemns, faith condemns, and vice versa. Faith is a consuming fire to its opposite. [Thus the apostle Paul cursed “Elymas the sorcerer” with blindness, because he withstood the faith. – Acts xiii. 8- ii.] This fire of faith regarded objectively. is the anger of God, or what is the same thing, hell; for hell evidently has its foundation in the anger of God. But this hell lies in faith itself, in its sentence of damnation. The flames of hell are only the flashings of the exterminating vindictive glance which faith casts on unbelievers.
Thus faith is essentially a spirit of partisanship. He who is not for Christ is against Him. [Historically considered, this saying, as well as the others cited PP. 384, 385, may be perfectly justified. But the Bible is not to be regarded as an historical or temporal, but as an eternal book.] Faith knows only friends or enemies, it understands no neutrality; it is preoccupied only with itself. Faith is essentially intolerant; essentially, because with faith is always associated the illusion that its cause is the cause of God, its honour his honour. The God of faith is nothing, else than the objective nature of faith – faith become an object to itself. Hence in the religious consciousness also the cause of faith and the cause of God are identified. God himself is interested: the interest of faith is the nearest interest of God. “He who toucheth you,” says the prophet Zachariah, “toucheth the apple of His eye.” That which wounds faith, wounds God, that which denies faith, denies God himself.
Faith knows no other distinction than that between the service of God and the service of idols. Faith alone gives honour to God; unbelief withdraws from God that which is due to him. Unbelief is an injury to God, religious high treason. The heathens worship demons; their gods are devils. “I say that the things which the gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” But the devil is the negation of God; he hates God, wills that there should be no God. Thus faith is blind to what there is of goodness and truth lying at the foundation of heathen worship; it sees in everything which does not do homage to its God, i.e., to itself, a worship of idols, and in the worship of idols only the work of the devil. Faith must therefore, even in feeling, be only negative towards this negation of God: it is by inherent necessity intolerant towards its opposite, and in general towards whatever does not thoroughly accord with itself. Tolerance on its part would be intolerance towards God, who has the right to unconditional, undivided sovereignty. Nothing ought to subsist, nothing to exist, which does not acknowledge God, which does not acknowledge faith: – That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” [Phil. ii. 10, 11. “When the name of Jesus Christ is beard, all that is unbelieving and ungodly in heaven or on earth shall be terrified.” – Luther (Th. xvi. P. 322). “In morte pagani Christianus gloriatur, quia Christus glorificatur.” – Divus Bernardus. Sermo exhort. ad Milites Tenipli.]
Therefore faith postulates a future, a world where faith has no longer an opposite, or where at least this opposite exists only in order to enhance the self-complacency of triumphant faith. Hell sweetens the joys of happy believers. “The elect will come forth to behold the torments of the ungodly, and at this spectacle they will not be smitten with sorrow; on the contrary, while they see the unspeakable sufferings of the ungodly, they, intoxicated with joy, will thank God for their own salvation.”
[Petrus L. 1. iv. dist. 50, c. 4. But this passage is by no means a declaration of Peter Lombard himself. He is far too modest, timid, and dependent on the authorities of Christianity to have ventured to advance such a tenet on his own account. No! This position is a universal declaration, a characteristic expression of Christian, of believing love. The doctrine of some Fathers of the Church, e.g., of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, that the punishment of the damned would have an end, sprung not out of Christian or Church doctrine, but out of Platonism. Hence the doctrine that the punishment of hell is finite, was rejected not only by the Catholic but also by the Protestant church. (Augsb. Confess. art. 17). A precious example of the exclusive, misanthropical narrowness of Christian love, is the passage cited from Buddens by Strauss (Christl. Glaubensl. B. ii. a. 547), according to which not infants in general, but those of Christians exclusively, would have a share in the divine grace and blessings if they died unbaptised.]
Faith is the opposite of love. Love recognises virtue even in sin, truth in error. It is only since the power of faith has been supplanted by the power of the natural unity of mankind, the power of reason, of humanity, that truth has been seen even in polytheism, in idolatry generally, – or at least that there has been any attempt to explain on positive grounds what faith, in its bigotry, derives only from the devil. Hence love is reconcilable with reason alone, not with faith; for as reason, so also love is free, universal, in its nature; whereas faith is narrow-hearted, limited. Only where reason rules, does universal love rule; reason is itself nothing else than universal love. It was faith, not love, not reason, which invented Hell. To love, Hell is a horror; to reason, an absurdity. It would be a pitiable mistake to regard Hell as a mere aberration of faith, a false faith. Hell stands already in the bible. Faith is everywhere like itself; at least positive religious faith, faith in the sense in which it is here taken, and must be taken unless we would mix with it the elements of reason, of culture, – a mixture which indeed renders the character of faith unrecognisable.
Thus if faith does not contradict Christianity, neither do those dispositions which result from faith, neither do the actions which result from those dispositions. Faith condemns, anathematises; all the actions, all the dispositions, which contradict love, humanity, reason, accord with faith. All the horrors of Christian religious history, which our believers aver not to be due to Christianity, have truly arisen out of Christianity, because they have arisen out of faith. This repudiation of them is indeed a necessary consequence of faith; for faith claims for itself only what is good, everything bad it casts on the shoulders of unbelief, or of misbelief, or of men in general. But this very denial of faith that it is itself to blame for the evil in Christianity, is a striking proof that it is really the originator of that evil, because it is a proof of the narrowness, partiality, and intolerance which render it well-disposed only to itself, to its own adherents, but ill-disposed, unjust towards others. According to faith, the good which Christians do, is not done by the man, but by the Christian, by faith; but the evil which Christians do, is not done by the Christian, but by the man. The evil which faith has wrought in Christendom thus corresponds to the nature of faith, – of faith as it is described in the oldest and most sacred records of Christianity, of the Bible. “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed,” [“Fugite, abhorrete hunc doctorem” But why should I flee from him because the anger, i.e., the curse of God rests on His head.] Anathema esto, Gal. i. 9. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” 2 Cor. iv. 14-17. “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe,” 2 Thess. i. 7-10. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” Heb. xi. 6. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John iii. 16. “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the spirit of antichrist,” i John iv. 2, 3. “Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son,” i John ii. 22. “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds,” 2 John ix. 11. Thus speaks the apostle of love. But the love which he celebrates is only the brotherly love of Christians. “God is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe,” 1 Tim. iv. 10. A fatal “specially!” “Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” Gal. vi. 10. An equally pregnant “especially!” “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself,” Titus iii. 10,11. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” [The passage Luke ix. 56, as the parallel of which is cited John iii. 17, receives its completion and rectification in the immediately following v. 18: “He that believer in him is not condemned; but he that believer not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”] John iii. 36. “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea,” Mark ix. 42; Matt. xviii. 6. “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned,” Mark xvi. 16. The distinction between faith as it is expressed in the Bible and faith as it has exhibited itself in later times, is only the distinction between the bud and the plant. In the bud I cannot so plainly see what is obvious in the matured plant; and yet the plant lay already in the bud. But that which is obvious, sophists of course will not condescend to recognise; they confine themselves to the distinction between explicit and implicit existence, – wilfully overlooking their essential identity.
Faith necessarily passes into hatred, hatred into persecution, where the power of faith meets with no contradiction, where it does not find itself in collision with a power foreign to faith, the power of love, of humanity, of the sense of justice. Faith left to itself necessarily exalts itself above the laws of natural morality. The doctrine of faith is the doctrine of duty towards God, – the highest duty of faith. By how much God is higher than man, by so much higher are duties to God than duties towards man; and duties towards God necessarily come into collision with common human duties. God is not only believed in, conceived as the universal being, the Father of men, as Love: – such faith is the faith of love; – he is also represented as a personal being, a being by himself. And so far as God is regarded as separate from man, as an individual being so far are duties to God separated from duties to man. – Faith is, in the religious sentiment, separated from morality, from love.
[“Faith, it is true, is not “without good works,” nay, according to Luther's declaration, it is as impossible to separate faith from works as to separate heat and light from fire. Nevertheless, and this is the main point, good works do not belong to the article of justification before God, i.e., men are justified and “saved without works, through faith alone.” Faith is thus expressly distinguished from good works; faith alone avails before God, not good works; faith alone is the cause of salvation, not virtue; thus faith alone has substantial significance, virtue only accidental; i.e., faith alone has religious significance, divine authority – and not morality. It is well known that many have gone so far as to maintain that good works are not necessary, but are even injurious obstructive to salvation.” Quite correctly.]
Let it not be replied that faith in God is faith in love, in goodness itself; and that thus faith is itself an expression of a morally good disposition. In the idea of personality, ethical definitions vanish; they are only collateral things, mere accidents. The chief thing is the subject, the divine Ego. Love to God himself, since it is love to a personal being, is not a moral but a personal love. Innumerable devout hymns breathe nothing but love to the Lord; but in this love there appears no spark of an exalted moral idea or disposition.
Faith is the highest to itself, because its object is a divine personality. Hence it makes salvation dependent on itself, not on the fulfilment of common human duties. But that which has eternal salvation as its consequence, necessarily becomes in the mind of man the chief thing. As therefore inwardly morality is subordinate to faith, so it must also be outwardly, practically subordinate, nay, sacrificed, to faith. It is inevitable that there should be actions in which faith exhibits itself in distinction from morality, or rather in contradiction with it; – actions which are morally bad, but which according to faith are laudable, because they have in view the advantage of faith. All salvation depends on faith: it follows that all again depends on the salvation of faith. If faith is endangered, eternal salvation and the honour of God are endangered. Hence faith absolves from everything; for, strictly considered, it is the sole subjective good in man, as God is the sole good and positive being: – the highest commandment therefore is: Believe!
For the very reason that there is no natural, inherent connection between faith and the moral disposition, that, on the contrary, it lies in the nature of faith that it is indifferent to moral duties, that it sacrifices the love of man to the honour of God, – for this reason it is required that faith should have good works as its consequence, that it should prove itself by love. Faith destitute of love, or indifferent to love, contradicts the reason, the natural sense of right in man, moral feeling, on which love immediately urges itself as a law. Hence faith, in contradiction with its intrinsic character, has limits imposed on it by morality: a faith which effects nothing good, which does not attest itself by love, comes to be held as not a true and living faith. But this limitation does not arise out of faith itself. It is the power of love, a power independent of faith, which gives laws to it; for moral character is here made the criterion of the genuineness of faith, the truth of faith is made dependent on the truth of ethics: – a relation which, however, is subversive of faith.
Faith does indeed make man happy; but this much is certain: it infuses into him no really moral dispositions. If it ameliorate man, if it have moral dispositions as its consequence, this proceeds solely from the inward conviction of the irreversible reality of morals: – a conviction independent of religious faith. It is morality alone, and by no means faith, that cries out in the conscience of the believer: thy faith is nothing, if it does not make thee good. It is not to be denied that the assurance of eternal salvation, the forgiveness of sins, the sense of favour and release from all punishment, inclines man to do good. The man who has this confidence possesses all things; he is happy; he becomes indifferent to the good things of this world; no envy, no avarice, no ambition, no sensual desire, can enslave him; everything earthly vanishes in the prospect of heavenly grace and eternal bliss. But in him good works do not proceed from essentially virtuous dispositions. It is not love, not the object of love, man, the basis of all morality, which is the motive of his good works. No! he does good not for the sake of goodness itself, not for the sake of man, but for the sake of God – out of gratitude to God, who has done all for him, and for whom therefore he must on his side do all that lies in his power. He forsakes sin, because it wounds God, his Saviour, his Benefactor. [“Therefore good works must follow faith, as an expression of thankfulness to God.” Apol. der Augs. Conf. art. 3. “How can I make a return to thee for thy deeds of love in works? yet it is something acceptable to thee, if I quench and tame the lusts of the flesh, that they may not anew inflame my heart with fresh sins.” “If sin bestirs itself, I am not overcome; a glance at the cross of Jesus destroys its charms.” – Gesangbuch der Evangel. Brudergemeinen (Moravian Hymn-book).] The idea of virtue is here the idea of compensatory sacrifice. God has sacrificed himself for man; therefore man must sacrifice himself to God. The greater the sacrifice the better the deed. The more anything contradicts man and Nature, the greater the abnegation, the greater is the virtue. This merely negative idea of goodness has been especially realised and developed by Catholicism. Its highest moral idea is that of sacrifice; hence the high significance attached to the denial of sexual love, – to virginity. Chastity, or rather virginity, is the characteristic virtue of the Catholic faith, for this reason, that it has no basis in Nature. It is the most fanatical, transcendental, fantastical virtue, the virtue of supra-naturalistic faith; – to faith, the highest virtue, but in itself no virtue at all. Thus faith makes that a virtue which intrinsically, substantially, is no virtue; it has therefore no sense of virtue; it must necessarily depreciate true virtue because it so exalts a merely apparent virtue, because it is guided by no idea but that of the negation, the contradiction of human nature.
But although the deeds opposed to love which mark Christian religious history, are in accordance with Christianity, and its antagonists are therefore right in imputing to it the horrible actions resulting from dogmatic creeds; those deeds nevertheless at the same time contradict Christianity, because Christianity is not only a religion of faith, but of love also, pledges us not only to faith, but to love. Uncharitable actions, hatred of heretics, at once accord and clash with Christianity? How is that possible? Perfectly. Christianity sanctions both the actions that spring out of love, and the actions that spring from faith without love. If Christianity had made love only its law, its adherents would be right, the horrors of Christian religious history could not be imputed to it; if it had made faith only its law, the reproaches of its antagonists would be unconditionally, unrestrictedly true. But Christianity has not made love free; it has not raised itself to the height of accepting love as absolute. And it has not given this freedom, nay, cannot give it, because it is a religion, – and hence subjects love to the dominion of faith. Love is only the exoteric, faith the esoteric doctrine of Christianity; love is only the morality, faith the religion of the Christian religion.
God is love. This is the sublimest dictum of Christianity. But the contradiction of faith and love is contained in the very proposition. Love is only a predicate, God the subject. What, then, is this subject in distinction from love? And I must necessarily ask this question, make this distinction.
The necessity of the distinction would be done away with only if it were said conversely: Love is God, love is the absolute being. Thus love would take the position of the substance. in the proposition “God is love,” the subject is the darkness in which faith shrouds itself; the predicate is the light, which first illuminates the intrinsically dark subject. In the predicate I affirm love, in the subject faith. Love does not alone fill my soul: I leave a place open for my uncharitableness by thinking, of God as a subject in distinction from the predicate. It is therefore inevitable that at one moment I lose the thought of love, at another the thought of God, that at one moment I sacrifice the personality of God to the divinity of love, at another the divinity of love to the personality of God. The history of Christianity has given sufficient proof of this contradiction. Catholicism, especially, has celebrated Love as the essential deity with so much enthusiasm, that to it the personality of God has been entirely lost in this love. But at the same time it has sacrificed love to the majesty of faith. Faith cling to the self-subsistence of God; love does away with it. “God is love” means, God is nothing, by himself: he who loves, gives up his egoistical independence; he makes what he loves indispensable, essential to his existence. But while Self is being sunk in the depths of love, the idea of the Person rises up again and disturbs the harmony of the divine and human nature which had been established by love. Faith advances with its pretensions, and allows only just so much to Love as belongs to a predicate in the ordinary sense. It does not permit love freely to unfold itself it makes love the abstract, and itself the concrete, the fact, the basis. The love of faith is only a rhetorical figure, a poetical fiction of faith, – faith in ecstasy. If faith comes to itself, Love is fled.
This theoretic contradiction must necessarily manifest itself practically. Necessarily; for in Christianity love is tainted by faith, it is not free, it is not apprehended truly. A love which is limited by faith is an untrue love.
[The only limitation which is not contradictory to the nature of love is the self-limitation of love by reason, intelligence. The love which despises the stringency, the law of the intelligence, is theoretically false and practically noxious.]
Love knows no law but itself; it is divine through itself; it needs not the sanction of faith; it is its own basis. The love which is bound by faith is a narrow-hearted, false love, contradicting the idea of love, i.e., self-contradictory, – a love which has only a semblance of holiness, for it hides in itself the hatred that belongs to faith; it is only benevolent so long as faith is not injured. Hence, in this contradiction with itself, in order to retain the semblance of love, it falls into the most diabolical sophisms, as we see in Augustine's apology for the persecution of heretics. Love is limited by faith; hence it does not regard even the uncharitable actions which faith suggests as in contradiction with itself; it interprets the deeds of hatred which are committed for the sake of faith as deeds of love. And it necessarily falls into such contradictions, because the limitation of love by faith is itself a contradiction. If it once is subjected to this limitation, it has given up its own judgment, its inherent measure and criterion, its self-subsistence; it is delivered up without power of resistance to the promptings of faith.
Here we have again an example, that much which is not found in the letter of the Bible, is nevertheless there in principle. We find the same contradictions in the Bible as in Augustine, as in Catholicism generally; only that in the latter they are definitely declared, they are developed into a conspicuous, and therefore revolting existence. The Bible curses through faith, blesses through love. But the only love it knows is a love founded on faith. Thus here already it is a love which curses, an unreliable love, a love which gives me no guarantee that it will not turn into hatred; for if I do not acknowledge the articles of faith, I am out of the sphere of love, a child of hell, an object of anathema, of the anger of God, to whom the existence of unbelievers is a vexation, a thorn in the eye. Christian love has not overcome hell, because it has not overcome faith. Love is in itself unbelieving, faith unloving. And love is unbelieving because it knows nothing more divine than itself, because it believes only in itself as absolute truth.
Christian love is already signalised as a particular, limited love, by the very epithet, Christian. But love is in its nature universal. So Iona as Christian love does not renounce its qualification of Christian, does not make universal love. The unity was not referred to its true origin. National differences indeed disappeared; but in their place difference of faith, the opposition of Christian and un-Christian, more vehement than a national antagonism, and also more malignant, made its appearance in history.
All love founded on a special historical phenomenon contradicts, as has been said, the nature of love, which endures no limits, which triumphs over all particularity. Man is to be loved for man's sake. Man is an object of love because he is an end in himself, because he is a rational and loving being. This is the law of the species, the law of the intelligence. Love should be immediate, undetermined by anything else than its object; – nay, only as such is it love. But if I interpose between my fellowman and myself the idea of an individuality, in whom the idea of the species is supposed to be already realised, I annihilate the very soul of love, I disturb the unity by the idea of a third external to us; for in that case my fellowman is an object of love to me only on account of his resemblance or relation to this model, not for his own sake. Here all the contradictions reappear which we have in the personality of God, where the idea of the personality by itself, without regard to the qualities which render it worthy of love and reverence, fixes itself in the consciousness and feelings. Love is the subjective reality of the species, as reason is its objective reality. In love, in reason, the need of an intermediate person disappears. Christ is nothing but an image, under which the unity of the species has impressed itself on the popular consciousness. Christ loved men: he wished to bless and unite them all without distinction of sex, race, rank, or nationality. Christ is the love of mankind to itself embodied in an image – in accordance with the nature of religion as we have developed it – or contemplated as a person, but a person who (we mean, of course, as a religious object) has only the significance of an image, who is only ideal. For this reason love is pronounced to be the characteristic mark of the disciples. But love, as has been said, is nothing else than the active proof, the realisation of the unity of the race, through the medium of the moral disposition. The species is not an abstraction; it exists in feeling, in the moral sentiment, in the energy of love. It is the species which infuses love into me. A loving heart is the heart of the species throbbing in the individual. Thus Christ, as the consciousness of love, is the consciousness of the species. We are all one in Christ. Christ is the consciousness of our identity. He therefore who loves man for the sake of man, who rises to the love of the species, to universal love, adequate to the nature of the species, [Active love is and must of course always be particular and limited, i.e., directed to one's neighbour. But it is yet in its nature universal, since it loves man for man's sake, in the name of the race. Christian love, on the contrary, is in its nature exclusive.] he is a Christian, is Christ himself. He does what Christ did, what made Christ Christ. Thus, where there arises the consciousness of the species as a species, the idea of humanity as a whole, Christ disappears, without, however, his true nature disappearing for he was the substitute for the consciousness of the species, the image under which it was made present to the people, and became the law of the popular life.
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