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Henceforward his estimate of things was an entirely different one. All that had before seemed to him great and important, was now of little worth. He saw everything in a new light. His whole being was radically changed. Rarely, indeed, has such an entire alteration taken place in any man.
Previous to his conversion, the law had been his chief delight; he had been contented with himself and vainglorious; he had found himself without fault, and trusted optimistically in his own strength. Afterwards arose the consciousness that he had been Messiah's enemy and persecutor of the cause of God. Hence mistrust and even condemnation of the whole of his previous life. Then the crucified Jesus had been a fanatic and a blasphemer, overtaken by a just punishment; now this same sufferer on the cross was the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Son of God. So decisive an experience, producing such an entire reversal of all values, was bound to become an unparalleled incentive to thought and inquiry. To think now meant to re-think. The convert's first duty, the first point that he was bound to clear up for himself, was that during the whole of his previous life he had been pursuing a wrong course, and that now he was in the right
Paul changed his previous thoughts so entirely that it is lost labour nowadays to attempt to trace his course back to the ideas which he entertained before his conversion. In fact, we are completely ignorant as to what ideas he exactly had at that time. One thing alone is certain, that he abandoned those which he had and buried them out of sight. The apostle had one theology and one alone, and that is a Christian one. Each single word of his epistles flows from his Christian consciousness. There is no natural theology for him personally, no presupposition of sin, death, and the judgment which preceded his knowledge of Jesus. It was the knowledge of Jesus, on the contrary, which dictated to him the shape and fashion of all his presuppositions. If, in spite of this, we appear to derive a contrary impression from whole portions of his letters, then this is to be traced to the second source of his theology-his apologetic interest.
For he that was converted in so violent a fashion is now missionary to the Gentiles. The judgment is near at hand : his task is to save out of heathenism as many as are predestined to salvation. The theology which is presented to us in his letters is neither that of the Jewish Rabbi nor yet that of the convert of Damascus reflecting on his previous and his present state, but it is that of the missionary. What he did was not merely to turn his thoughts to account for the practical aims of his mission, but, as far as we know them, he formed them during and for his mission. St Paul's line of thought may best be termed Christian missionary theology from eschatological point of view. Why else should he have employed the Greek language and Greek forms and conceptions, and thrust the really rabbinical train of thought so completely into the background ? Or why else, again, should he have attached so great an importance to conversion, which divides, or ought to divide, the life of every Christian into two halves? But if the Pauline theology is a missionary theology, then it is the theology of an apologist, the first great system of Christian apologetics — compared with
which all the apologetic thoughts of the early Church at Jerusalem are but as modest preliminaries.
In the next place, the great twofold divisions of this system of apologetics is the result of St Paul's peculiar position between Gentiles, Jews, and Judaizing Christians. It is first a theology of redemption the basis of his missionary preaching to the Greeks ; and secondly, anti-Jewish apologetics—the defence of that same preaching against Judaizers and Jews. His theological work, however, is not exhausted in his tireless efforts to seek and to save the lost and to beat back the foes from without. He aims likewise at a theology for mature Christians.
He seeks to penetrate to the depths of the thoughts about God contained in the Holy Scriptures and in the revelation of Christ. It is a Christian gnosis which has penetrated even into the world of spirits and into the divine mysteries. We must now attempt to present these three great facts of his system of thought separately, though they frequently, of course, intersect and blend with each other.
THE PAULINE THEOLOGY.
THE PAULINE SOTERIOLOGY.
St Paul understood the word “salvation’ in a very wide and comprehensive sense—not merely as liberation from evil or from sin, but as salvation out of this present evil world into the good world which in a sense is future but has now already begun. Hence the simplest division of our subject will be : This present evil world and its powers; the crisis; Jesus the Saviour; the salvation of believers.
This Present Evil World and its Powers. In his missionary preaching St Paul began with the message of the judgment that is to come. Under the lurid light of the day of judgment he revealed the entire destruction of his hearers. The theoretical basis of this preaching is a radically pessimistic view of the whole world, which takes no account of the difference between Jew and Gentile, a pessimism which extends to the whole human race, and even beyond it to nature and the supersensuous world itself.
In the first place, the whole human race, the whole of creation, is doomed to death. Since Adam, death has seized upon the sovereignty and reigns supreme. It has found its way everywhere. There are no exceptions. That is not a matter of course, it is unnatural. Man's will is to live. Hence he feels his mortality as a hard slavery which causes him to sigh in deepest melancholy.
Whence comes this doom of death, mysterious and yet certain ?
The Jew Paul answers, from sin. The wages of sin is death. Since Adam's sin death goes in and out amongst men like a hereditary disease; but at the same time it is the consequence of the sin of each individual. For all men have sinned and therefore all die. The universality of sin follows as a simple inference from the universality of death. St Paul is here thinking, in the first place, of individuals. They are free agents—freely have they sinned and so incurred the penalty of death. Thus far St Paul has not diverged from the teaching of the Rabbis. But he soon leaves that teaching behind him when he declares that it is not in the power of the individual's free will to accept or to reject sin. Sin has acquired a sovereign power over the human race since Adam. There is a kingdom of sin, and that is humanity itself.
We all, Jews and Gentiles, are under sin. There is a law of sin in our members to which we are subject. Hereby St Paul declares the necessity of sin for all men, and not merely its actual universality. He gives expression to this thought of the necessity of sin in opposition to the rabbinical doctrine, led' thereto perhaps by a deeper insight into the innermost life of the soul and the play of motives,