THE INTERNAL CONFLICTS OF THE CHURCH
Dramatic was the external course of Church history, fighting against exclusive Patriotism and Imperialism, dramatic too, her internal struggles for a true doctrine and an ethical ideal.
1. The Struggle for a True Doctrine.--The central problem for the living Church has always been: Who was Jesus? and how to worship Him? The restless spirit of humanity endeavoured to define the details both in His relation to God and to the world. The Church did not define her doctrine in advance, but bit by bit, pragmatically, according to the questions and doubts raised in the Christian communities. The refused solutions of a raised question were called heresy, the adopted solution by the Church was called orthodoxy. No heresy came merely as an abstract theory, but every one was a dramatic movement, an organisation, a camp, a deed--and not merely a word. That made the struggle against it more difficult. Docetism, Nicolaism, Gnosticism, Chiliasm, Manichaism, Monatism, Monarchism, Monophysitism, Monotheletism, Arianism, Nestorianism--every one of these terms means both a theory and a drama. The Church had to correct the opinion of the heretics for herself, and to fight against them for themselves.
The doctrine of the Church was regarded by the heretics as incorrect or insufficient, and by outsiders as wicked. Celsus, an Epicurean writer, despised the Christian doctrine as of "barbarous origin." The people of Smyrna being aroused against the Christians and their bishop, Polycarp, cried: "Away with the Atheists!" the heathen misunderstood the Church doctrine and called the Christians atheists, as Montanus, a Christian heretic, misunderstood the Church doctrine and regarded Jesus only as his own Percursor and himself as an incarnation of the Holy Spirit. But the Church did not care either for the pressure from without or from within, she went on her way cheerfully, struggling and believing, showing to the world her saints and martyrs as her argument and Christ as the guarantee of her ultimate victory.
The Church had also a dramatic struggle with the philosophers. She rather was inclusive concerning the different opposed systems. John of Damascus based his theology upon Aristotle, like Thomas Aquinas, and Gregory of Nyssa based his own upon Plato, as the Scottish School did in the nineteenth century. Pantheism and Deism were both against the Church. Pantheism thought God immanent, Deism thought God transcendent. The Church had already in its creeds the true parts of both of these systems. She taught that God is by His essence transcendent to this world, which is His image, but immanent in the world pragmatically, or dramatically, i.e. visiting this world and acting in this world.
Materialism and spiritualism excluded each other, but both held the Church in contempt as a "rough philosophy for the people." Yet the Church included the true parts for both, not by asserting anything about the atoms but by recognising two different worlds, the world of bodies and the world of spirits, in a dramatic union in this transitory Universe.
In the same way the Church cut off the extremities and one-sidedness in empiricism and supernaturalism, in rationalism and mysticism, in optimism and pessimism. All these systems represented the human effort to solve the riddle of our life without taking any notice of the Church and her wisdom. And all failed to become the universally accepted truth, but all of them helped the Church unconsciously to her own orientation and strength. The Church collided with any extreme philosophy. Her wisdom was broad as life, simple as life on the one hand, and manifold as life on the other; mystical as the starry night and pragmatic as a weekday.