Is Christianity an idealism? (3)

However, God and the world, spirit and flesh are not only in opposition, but also in contradiction, because sin has entered between them. Therefore, secondly, the flesh as a unity of spirit and matter is an ethical concept with a negative meaning. Then carnal life will mean living according to the law of sin, and carnal man will be the sinful man. This means that the spirit that directs itself to sin is also flesh. On the other hand, spiritual life will mean living according to the law of the Holy Spirit or according to the will of God, and a spiritual person will be the sinless, good person. Then the body of such a person, who is directed to the good, is also a spirit.

The best commentary on the correct understanding of the opposition between spirit and flesh is the Pauline notions of the old and the new man. From this the essence of Christian morality becomes clear to us. It does not consist in torturing the flesh to give supremacy to the spirit in man, as any idealistic ethic teaches, but in directing the whole person, revived and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill the requirements of God’s will. These considerations are confirmed by the authoritative research of one of the most demanding and unprejudiced historians of Christianity, Hans von Soden. It is he who concludes that the biblical concept of the spirit is completely different from that of idealism, because the Bible speaks of the divine spirit, while idealism seeks the spirit only in man. [6] For the Christian consciousness, therefore, spirit and matter as immanent quantities are equivalent. Both are absolutely necessary and mutually conditioned in their existence. Above them stands the Holy Spirit as their Creator. In contrast to idealism, for Christianity matter is a creation of God. It makes possible human existence in time and space or in history in general. It is the place where the ideal or spiritual values are realized. Therefore, the app. Paul says that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). The positive meaning of matter stands out best in the resurrection of Jesus. It is her apotheosis, because in it she receives her spiritualization and perpetuation. No religion has raised matter to such a height that it borders on God’s nearness as Christianity.

In the light of the Pauline-Ioanist doctrine of the spirit, we can also gain a correct understanding of the basic biblical idea of ​​the creation of the world. As is well known, the greatest suspicion of idealism comes from the claim of Christianity that the world is a creative act of the spirit. However, such a statement is, according to some, impossible, just as it is impossible for a cause to produce an action contrary to its essence. There is a law that says the action must be equal to the cause. Spirit, therefore, according to him, cannot create matter or reality at all. We do not observe such an act anywhere in the world and it cannot be reproduced experimentally. The objection is really serious, however, within the limits of a premise that cannot be valid for the biblical teaching of the creation of the world. The latter cannot be expressed primarily by the cause-and-effect scheme, which has a purely naturalistic character. According to her, if there is a reason, action must necessarily follow. Both are mutually conditioned and cannot exist separately. According to this scheme, the world is an iron necessity, without which the root cause cannot be imagined. The notions of the absolute, the idea, the immovable engine, which philosophy and metaphysics form through abstract thinking, have the same meaning. They all have nothing to do with the biblical teaching of creation from nothing (creatio ex nihilo), which is purely personal. According to him, the world was created by the free and sovereign decision of a personal Spirit. The latter could exist without the world, which represents no need for Him. God is an absolute master who does not depend on anything. That there is something else besides Him due to His free will. The world depends on this will at all times. That is why man’s natural reactions to the world are gratitude or protest. [8] If the world existed by necessity, we would come to terms with it. For some, however, the world is a precious gift that rips out their gratitude, and for others it is the embodiment of disorder, suffering and chaos, and so they protest that it exists in such a form. The world came into being in the same way as the manifestations of the human will. However, the Spirit who created the world is neither Plato’s idea of ​​good nor Hegel’s absolute reason, but the Holy Spirit, ie the One Who includes matter in His possibilities. For the Spirit as Creator of visible reality, we really have no analogy in experience. The human spirit is capable of creativity, but not in the proper sense of the word. He can realize his ideas only with the help of the available matter. The sculptor, for example, realizes the conceived image with the help of stone, wood, clay, etc. Therefore, according to the Bible, the human spirit is not something completely independent and autonomous, but a reflection of the Holy Spirit. Only the latter creates in the absolute and own sense of the word, realizing His ideas directly, without the help of any intermediary. – However, not only for the Spirit-Creator of the world we have no analogy in the experience, but also for the creative act itself, because it is unique and unrepeatable. We cannot imagine it visually, because we ourselves, together with everything that exists, are included in it. [9] In order to reproduce the creation of the world, we must stand outside it so that it can emerge before our consciousness in its entirety. This means that we have to find the Archimedean point and from there take a worldview, which unfortunately we are not able to do. Such an attempt would be doomed to the same failure as man’s desire to jump over his shadow. The magic circle in which we are closed is broken only at one point in history. This is the person of Jesus Christ, whose work bears the character of a second or new creation (recreatio). It is here that, as we saw earlier, the Holy Spirit manifested itself as a creative, world-renewing force. Only in the person and work of Jesus Christ do we have a revelation of the spirit in the true and proper sense of the word. Jesus Christ did not come to bring any new philosophy or morality, as many think. Whoever seeks in Him only the philosopher or the moral preacher, he would do better to go to Socrates, Goethe or Kant. The work of Jesus Christ is of the rank of creation, because He creates a new reality, embodied in the new man. All moral systems, no matter how lofty and strict their requirements, suffer from one major drawback: from the time of Socrates to Kant, the principle has been that once a person has realized his duty to good, he has the necessary strength and can do so.

However, Christ rejects this moral optimism and claims that there is a tragic contradiction between the requirements of good and the possibility of their fulfillment, from which one can never get rid of oneself. According to Him, this contradiction is a dangerous disease that leads to death. It is here, where every morality, even the highest, is powerless, that the work of Jesus Christ begins. It consists in recreating and renewing human nature through the creative, life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.

He who has experienced with particular force this revival and renewal process in himself and has built his philosophy of Christian existence on it, is ap. Paul. In tracing the highlights of his life, we can reproduce this process most plastically. Paul’s youth passes under the sign of the above-mentioned tragic contradiction, which he experiences with the energy of his boisterous and expansive temperament. This is evidenced by the following words of his: “I have a desire for good, but I do not find the strength to do it. For it is not the good that I do that I do, but the evil that I do not want, that I do. : 18, 19, 21, 24). At the moment when his will to fulfill the Old Testament law reaches the greatest tension and in this state he declares a life and death struggle against Christians as opponents of this law and of obsolete morality in general, ap. Paul meets the risen Jesus at the gates of Damascus. Here he experienced an inner revolution under the influence of the Spirit manifested in Jesus. This unusual event the biographer of the app. Paul, Luke, describes it this way: “But when Saul was on his way and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven shone on him. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, sir? The Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute. It’s hard for you to kick against rye. He spoke tremblingly and terribly: Lord, what do you want me to do? And the LORD said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou shalt do. The Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you on the way, sent me to see and be filled with the Holy Spirit… And suddenly it was as if scales fell from his eyes and he immediately saw and when he got up, he was baptized and immediately began to preach in the synagogue of Jesus, that he is the Son of God ”(Acts 9: 3-6, 17, 18, 20). The app itself. Paul gives the following commentary on the event: “But their minds (that is, the Jews to whom Paul belonged in the pre-Christian period of his life) were dulled, because to this day, when the Old Testament is read, the same remains. a veil that is removed through Christ. To this day, when Moses is read, a veil rests on their hearts. But when they turn to the Lord, the veil is removed. And the Lord is the Spirit. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. All of us with open faces, as in a mirror, looking at the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory as from the Spirit of the Lord ”(2 Cor. 3: 14-18). The fruit of this inner spiritual revolution, caused by the encounter with Jesus as Spirit, is the new man. “So then he that is in Christ is a new creature; the ancient passed; behold, all things are become new ”(2 Cor. 5:17). The tragic contradiction between the strict requirements of the moral law and the impossibility of fulfilling them disappears. The new man acquires graceful strength to carry out God’s will, even in the most difficult conditions, with joy and a pure heart. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). Here is the work of Jesus Christ, expressed not in abducted formulas, but in several facts of the life of one of His most zealous disciples, charged with explosive energy. On these directly experienced facts this disciple builds his doctrine of the Spirit as a creative force capable of recreating human nature. It is this Spirit that Christianity considers to be the Creator of the world.

N.B. For the first time this text by KONSTANTIN TSITSELKOV was published in the magazine Spiritual Culture, vol. 6, 1949, pp. 12-23.






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