what kind of relation was there between this rational religion taught by Jesus and the Christian theology which Reinhard accepted
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter three||
In order to make the Kingdom of God a practical reality, it was necessary for Him to dissociate it from all the forces of this world, and to bring morality and religion into the closest connexion. “The law of love was the indissoluble bond by which Jesus for ever united morality with religion.” “Moral instruction was the principal content and the very essence of all His discourses.” His efforts “were directed to the establishment of a purely ethical organisation.”
It was important, therefore, to overthrow superstition and to bring religion within the domain of reason. First of all the priesthood must be deprived for ever of its influence. Then an improvement of the social condition of mankind must be introduced, since the level of morality depends upon social conditions. Jesus was a social reformer. Through the attainment of “the highest perfection of which Society is capable, universal peace” was “gradually to be brought about.”
But the point of primary importance for Him was the alliance of religion with reason. Reason was to maintain its freedom by the aid of religion, and religion was not to be withdrawn from the critical judgment of reason: all things were to be tested, and only the best retained.
“From these data it is easy to determine the characteristics of a religion which is to be the religion of all mankind: it must be ethical, intelligible, and spiritual.”
After the plan of Jesus has been expounded on these lines, Reinhard shows, in the second part of his work, that, prior to Jesus, no great man of antiquity had devised a plan of beneficence of a scope commensurate with the whole human race. In the third part the conclusion is drawn that Jesus is the uniquely divine Teacher.
But before the author can venture to draw this conclusion, he feels it necessary first to show that the plan of Jesus was no chimera. If we were obliged to admit its impracticability Jesus would have to be ranked with the visionaries and enthusiasts; and these, however noble and virtuous, can only injure the cause of rational religion. “Visionary enthusiasm and enlightened reason—who that knows anything of the human mind can conceive these two as united in a single soul?” But Jesus was no visionary enthusiast. “With what calmness, self-mastery, and cool determination does He think out and pursue His divine purpose?” By the truths which He revealed and declared to be divine communications He did not desire to put pressure upon the human mind, but only to guide it. “It would be impossible to show a more conscientious respect and a more delicate consideration for the rights of human reason than is shown by Jesus. He will conquer only by convincing.” “He is willing to bear with contradiction, and condescends to meet the most irrational objections and the most ill-natured misrepresentations with the most incredible patience.”
It was well for Reinhard that he had no suspicion how full of enthusiasm Jesus was, and how He trod reason under His feet!
But what kind of relation was there between this rational religion taught by Jesus and the Christian theology which Reinhard accepted? How does he harmonise the symbolical view of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper which he here expounds with ecclesiastical doctrine? How does he pass from the conception of the divine teacher to that of the Son of God?
This is a question which he does not feel himself obliged to answer. For him the one circle of thought revolves freely within the other, but they never come into contact with each other.
So far as concerns the presentation of the teaching, the Life of Jesus by Opitz follows the same lines as that of Reinhard. It is disfigured, however, by a number of lapses of taste, and by a crass supernaturalism in the description of the miracles and experiences of the Great Teacher.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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