with the effect of the death of Christ upon the sinner. One of these is the so-called governmental theory, wherein the death of Christ is set forth as for the sake of good government, so that the forgiveness of sins shall not be thought a sign of laxity. Again, by other theologians the death of Jesus is extolled because of the moral influence it exerts, since Christ’s devotion unto death incites a like devotion in us.
Excepting in relatively narrow circles these theories have been seriously studied only by professed theologians. That Christ died for us, and that we are saved by him, is indeed the living truth of the Church in all ages, and a false impression of the fact is given by dwelling upon theories as if they were central. At best they bear only the relationship of philosophy to life.
Another explanation, or (better) system of beliefs, has been far more influential in the Church. Belief in mysterious powers attached to food, feasts, ceremonial rites and sacred things is all but universal. Primitive man seldom connects sacrifice with notions of propitiation, indeed only in highly ethicized religions is the consciousness of sin or of guilt pre-eminent. Sacrifice was believed to exert an influence on the deity which is quasi-physical, and in sacrificial feasts God and worshipper are in mysterious union. Sometimes, indeed, such contact with deity is thought to be dangerous, and the rites indicate avoidance (tabu), and sometimes it is thought desirable.
So universal are such ideas that the problem in particular religions is not their origin but their form. In the Old Testament repeatedly they are found in conflict with the prophetic ideals. Sometimes the prophets denounce them, sometimes ignore them, sometimes attempt to reform and control them. Jesus ignores them, his emphasis being so strong upon the ethical and spiritual that the rest is passed by. In the early Church, still Jewish, the belief was in the coming of a mysterious power from God which produced ecstasy and worked wonders. St Paul also believes in this, but insists that it is subordinate to the peaceable fruits of righteousness. With the naturalization of the Church in the Gentile world ethical ideas became less prominent, and the sacramental system prevailed. By baptism and the Lord’s Supper grace is given (ex opere operato), so that man is renewed and made capable of salvation. Already in the 2nd century baptism was described as a bath in which the health of the soul is restored, and the Lord’s Supper as the potion of immortality. Similar notions present in the ethnic faiths take the Christian facts into their service, the belief of the multitude without essential change remaining vague and undefined. While the theologians discussed doctrine the people longed for mystery, as it satisfied their religious natures. By sacraments they felt themselves brought into the presence of God, and to sacraments they looked for aid. Many sacraments were adopted by portions of the Church, until at last the sacred number seven was agreed upon.
As the way of salvation was modified, so too was the idea of salvation: the dream of a Messianic kingdom on earth, with its corollary the resurrection of the physical body, faded away, especially after the Roman empire adopted The concepts of salvation.Christianity; It was no longer the Jewish nation against the heathen empire, for the Jewish nation had ceased to be, and the empire and the Church were one. Salvation henceforth is not the descent of the New Jerusalem out of heaven, but the ascent of the saints to heaven; for the individual it is not the resurrection of the body but the immortality of the soul. So Jesus is no longer Christ or Messiah, but the Son of God. These terms again are variously interpreted: heaven is still thought of by many under the imagery of the book of Revelation, and by others it is conceived as a mystical union of the soul with God through the intelligence or of feelings. Yet the older conceptions still continue, Christianity not becoming purely and simply Greek. Again and again individuals and groups turn back to the Semitic cycle of hopes and ideas, while the reconciliation of the two systems, Jewish and Graeco-Roman, becomes the task of exegetes and theologians.
These hopes and theories of salvation, however, do not explain the power of Christianity. Jesus wearied himself with the healing of man’s physical ailments, and he was remembered as the great physician. Early Christian literature is filled with medical terms, applied (it is true) for the greater part to the cure of souls. The records of the Church are also filled with the efforts of Jesus’ followers to heal the diseases and satisfy the wants of men. A vast activity animated the early Church: to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to succour the diseased, to rescue the fallen, to visit the prisoners, to forgive the erring, to teach the ignorant, were ministries of salvation. A mighty power impelled men to deny themselves in the service of others, and to find in this service their own true life. None the less the first place is given to the salvation of the soul, since, created for an unending existence, it is of transcendent importance. While man is fallen and by nature vile, nevertheless his possibilities are so vast that in comparison the affairs of earth are insignificant. The word, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” comes to mean that the individual soul outvalues the whole world. With emphasis upon God as creator and ruler, and upon man as made in God’s image, endowed with an unending existence, and subject to eternal torture if not redeemed, the concept of personality has been exalted at the expense of that of nature, and the future has been magnified at the expense of the present. Thus a future heaven is man’s true home, and theology instead of philosophy or natural science is his proper study.
Indeed, intellectual interest centred in religion. Natural science was forsaken, except in so far as it ministered to theology. Because the Old Testament contained references to the origin and the objects of the universe, a certain amount of natural science was necessary, but it was only in this connexion that it had any value. By Augustine’s time this process is complete. His writings contain most of the knowledge of his age, but it is strictly subordinate to his theological purpose. Hence, when the barbarians submerged southern Europe, theology alone survived. The Church entered upon a new task. In the beginning Christianity had been the teacher of religion to highly civilized peoples—now it became the civilizing agent to the barbarians, the teacher of better customs, the upholder of law and the source of knowledge. The learned men were monks and priests, the universities were Church institutions, and theology was the queen of the sciences.
The relation of cult to creed is still undetermined. Theoretically the first depends on the second, for its purpose is twofold: the excitation of worthy religious emotions and the attaining of our desires; and how shall these objects be Theology and worship.attained unless we know him whom we worship and to whom we pray? But it is plausibly maintained that the reverse is true, namely, that theology rests on cult. In the beginnings of consciousness instinctive reactions precede definite thoughts, and even in mature life thoughts often follow acts instead of preceding them. Our religious consciousness is simply our ordinary consciousness obeying its laws. So unpurposed does cult grow up that it combines many elements of diverse origin, and is seldom precisely and wholly in accordance with the creed. No doubt the two interact, cult influencing creed and creed modifying cult—cult, perhaps, being most powerful in forming the actual religious faith of the multitude. Cult divides into two unequal parts, the stimulation of the religious emotions and the control of piety. In the Church service it came early to centre in the sacrament of the Eucharist (q.v.). In the earliest period the services were characterized by extreme freedom, and by manifestations of ecstasy which were believed to indicate the presence of the spirit of God; but as the years went by the original enthusiasm faded away, the cult became more and more controlled, until ultimately it was completely subject to the priesthood, and through the priesthood to the Church. In the Roman communion the structure of the sacred edifice, the positions and attitudes of the priest and the congregation, the order of service, emphasize the mystery and the divine efficacy of the sacrament. The worshipper feels himself in the immediate presence of God, and enters into physical relations with him. Participation in the mass also releases from guilt, as the Lamb of God offered up atones for sin and intercedes