There is, however, another point to be considered here. Under the influence of the Messianic dogmas, and led by the impression which Christ made, Paul became the author of the speculative idea that not only was God in Christ, but that Christ himself was possessed of a peculiar nature of a heavenly kind. With the Jews, this was not a notion that necessarily shattered the framework of the Messianic idea; but with the Greeks it inevitably set an entirely new theory in motion. Christ’s appearance in itself, the entrance of a divine being into the world, came of necessity to rank as the chief fact, as itself the real redemption. Paul did not, indeed, himself look upon it in this light; for him the crucial facts are the death on the cross and the resurrection, and he regards Christ’s entrance into the world from an ethical point of view and as an example for us to follow: “For our sakes he became poor”; he humbled himself and renounced the world. Bat this state of things could not last. The fact of redemption could not permanently occupy the second place; it was too large. But when moved into the first place it threatened the very existence of the Gospel, by drawing away men’s thoughts and interests in another direction. When we look at the history of dogma, who can deny that that was what happened? To what extent it happened we shall see in the following lectures.
In the third place: the new church possessed a sacred book, the Old Testament. Paul, although he taught that the law had become of no avail, found a means of preserving the whole of the Old Testament. What a blessing to the church this book has proved! As a book of edification, of consolation, of wisdom, of counsel, as a book of history, what an incomparable importance it has had for Christian life and apologetics! Which of the religions that Christianity encountered on Greek or Roman ground could boast of a similar book? Yet the possession of this book has not been an unqualified advantage to the church. To begin with, there are many of its pages which exhibit a religion and a morality other than Christian. No matter how resolutely people tried to spiritualize it and give it an inner meaning by construing it in some special way, their efforts did not avail to get rid of the original sense in its entirety. There was always a danger of an inferior and obsolete principle forcing its way into Christianity through the Old Testament. This, indeed, was what actually occurred. Nor was it only in individual aspects that it occurred; the whole aim was changed. Moreover, on the new ground religion was intimately connected with a political power, namely, with nationality. How if people were seduced into again seeking such a connexion, not, indeed, with Judaism, but with a new nation, and not with ancient national laws, but with something of an analogous character 1 And when even a Paul here and there declared Old Testament laws to be still authoritative in spite of their having undergone an allegorical transformation, how could anyone restrain his successors from also proclaiming other laws, remodelled to suit the circumstances of the time, as valid ordinances of God? This brings us to the second point. Although whatever was drawn from the Old Testament by way of authoritative precept may have been inoffensive in substance, it was a menace to Christian freedom of both kinds. It threatened the freedom which comes from within, and also the freedom to form church communities and to arrange for public worship and discipline.