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Thursday, December 06, 2018

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I see a number of problems with the quoted statement.

1. Christ's salvific role (or lack of same in a hypothetical alternative case) does not involve any "characterisation" of his Divine Essence whatsoever, according to classical theism. All divine "roles" within Creation are relational rather than substantial/essential attributes in God, attributed by extrinsic denomination, just as the Sun's role in warming us does not affect it or "render it such". The formal and efficient causality is all one-way. However, these roles do correspond to essential characteristics in Him (e.g., mercy, justice, etc.). The "difference" they make to what might otherwise be, is all on our finite, contingent side.

2. To say that "if Jesus is a person of the Godhead then it must hold that his essence is immutable and above contingent change" is theologically erroneous if said without qualification. That qualification is to add the word "divine" before the word "essence", since his human nature was undeniably subject to change. But, once this is done, then the rest of the attempted inference does not follow, since all of the contingency attributed by orthodox Christianity to Christ's salvific roles is attributed via the instrumentality of the mutable and (considered a priori) contingent human nature.

3. It is not universally agreed among theologians, whether ancient or modern, that without the Fall there would have been no Incarnation. Some have speculated that unfallen humanity could still have been taken to a new spiritual level by the Incarnation, without the need for the redemptive dimension.

4. Whatever the case with the above question, with or without Incarnation, with or without Creation itself, talk of an "unemployable" Christ makes no sense, given his Divine Person is the eternal and intrinsically necessary Divine Logos.

Regarding your response Bill, my only major reservation is your and denial of (1), when it is (2) that is problematic. The man Jesus is a person of the Godhead, if we understand "the man Jesus" to be denominative rather than descriptive. If we replace it in both (1) and (2) with "the human nature of Jesus", then (1) can and must be denied.

(2) is a problem because, if "the man Jesus" stands in for the whole person (divine plus human), then we have to deny it as stated simpliciter, since the divinity has the quality of being saviour by extrinsic denomination as noted above. But even if we restrict "the man Jesus" to mean "the human nature of Jesus", I am not sure the rest of the statement follows, if we are using the word "essentially" in the technical sense, that is, to mean "without which it would not be the thing it is" or "belonging to the intrinsic nature per se". Whereas I believe the proposition is fair enough if said according to every-day usage and connotations.

Fr. Kirby,

Your comments are superb. Thank you very much.

As for #3, does the RCC have an official position on this question?

As for #4, I don't think we have any real disagreement. We agree that the 2nd person of the Trinity, considered in itself, and thus apart from the Incarnation, does not have a human nature, and is therefore not a man. That is why "Jesus is a person of the Godhead" is false.

Matt,

Here is something that puzzles me.

If the Word is a necessary being, and the union of the Word with human nature is not accidental, but essential, are we to conclude that the Word has a concrete human body and human soul in every possible world, and thus at every time? It would seem so. If x is united with N essentially, then x is united with N in every possible world in which x exists. So if x is a necessary being, then x is united with N in every possible world, period, which is to say that there is no possible world in which x is not united with N. Therefore,

1) If the Word is united to a human nature essentially, then there is no possible world in which the Word is not united to a human nature.

But then how is this consistent with the belief that the Incarnation was an historical event that occurred at a particular time and whose occurrence was contingent, not necessary? God became man to save man from the sin he incurred with Adam's fall, a fall that was itself contingent upon Adam's free choice to violate the divine command. That is,

2) There are possible worlds in which God does not create at all, and possible worlds in which God creates humans but there is no Fall, no need for Redemption, and thus no need for Incarnation.

Therefore

3) There are possible worlds in which the Word is not united to a human nature.

Therefore

4) It is not the case that the Word is united to a human nature essentially. (From 1, 3 by modus tollens)

Therefore

5) The Word is united to a human nature accidentally.

But this is contrary to the orthodox view at least as explained by Fr. White who draws upon Thomas. White tells us that "the humanity of Jesus is united to the Word as an intrinsic, 'conjoined instrument.' The being of the man Jesus is the being of the Word." (83) We are also told that the unity is "substantial not accidental." (83)

See here: https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2018/10/more-on-the-hypostatic-union-1.html

Bill,

"Jesus is a person of the Godhead" is true because the name Jesus is a personal denomination, not a reference to an essence or nature. "Jesus' humanity is a person of the Godhead" is, however false. And your preceding sentence is true, given your careful qualifications.

Before I attempt to answer your question, allow me to quote from the article of Aquinas referenced by White and yourself.

"Obj. 2: Further, whatever comes to a thing that is complete in being comes to it accidentally, for an accident is said to be what can come or go without the subject being corrupted. But human nature came to Christ in time, Who had perfect being from eternity. Therefore it came to Him accidentally. Obj. 3: Further, whatever does not pertain to the nature or the essence of a thing is its accident, for whatever is, is either a substance or an accident. But human nature does not pertain to the Divine Essence or Nature of the Son of God, for the union did not take place in the nature, as was said above (A. 1). Hence the human nature must have accrued accidentally to the Son of God."

"Reply Obj. 2: Whatever accrues after the completion of the being comes accidentally, unless it be taken into communion with the complete being, just as in the resurrection the body comes to the soul which pre-exists, yet not accidentally, because it is assumed unto the same being, so that the body has vital being through the soul; but it is not so with whiteness, for the being of whiteness is other than the being of man to which whiteness comes. But the Word of God from all eternity had complete being in hypostasis or person; while in time the human nature accrued to it, not as if it were assumed unto one being inasmuch as this is of the nature (even as the body is assumed to the being of the soul), but to one being inasmuch as this is of the hypostasis or person. Hence the human nature is not accidentally united to the Son of God. Reply Obj. 3: Accident is divided against substance. Now substance, as is plain from Metaph. v, 25, is taken in two ways: first, for essence or nature; secondly, for suppositum or hypostasis--hence the union having taken place in the hypostasis, is enough to show that it is not an accidental union, although the union did not take place in the nature."

So, it is clear that when the "accidental" acquisition of the human nature is being denied by Aquinas, the denial is using a definition of accidental that is not equivalent to "non-essential to the already existing nature", since the latter adjectival phrase is in fact affirmed implicitly.

Instead, what is denied is the proposition that the human nature is not substantial and subsistent, but merely a quality accruing or outer garment 'stuck on' to the Nature of the Logos. But such a proposition would impinge upon both the reality of the humanity and the impassibility of the divinity.

See also these 2 quotations from the same article:

"Whatever is predicated accidentally, predicates, not substance, but quantity, or quality, or some other mode of being."

"Now the Catholic faith, holding the mean between the aforesaid positions, does not affirm that the union of God and man took place in the essence or nature, nor yet in something accidental, but midway, in a subsistence or hypostasis."

BTW, I am not a Roman Catholic priest, but belong to the Anglican Catholic Church. I can't remember whether I've mentioned that before or not here or in our emailed correspondence. Not that it matters in this context, but I did not want to misrepresent my jurisdictional membership. Having said that, I am pretty certain no Catholic jurisdiction, Eastern or Western, has ever pronounced dogmatically on the quite speculative question of what would have happened regarding the Incarnation without the human Fall.

Fr Kirby,

It is clear that 'Jesus' cannot be a name for an essence or nature. When you say that 'Jesus' is a personal denomination, I take it you mean that 'Jesus' names the 2nd person of the Trinity which, after the Incarnaton, is the person of Jesus. Is that right?

But one who does not assume the one-person-two-natures Christology would more reasonably take 'Jesus' to be a name for a particular man, who would not have existed had God not created a material universe, unlike the Son (Word, Logos) who exists of metaphysical necessity. Will you grant me that?

"When you say that 'Jesus' is a personal denomination, I take it you mean that 'Jesus' names the 2nd person of the Trinity which, after the Incarnaton, is the person of Jesus. Is that right?"

Yes, though I would prefer to express it thusly, "Jesus names the 2nd Person of the Trinity, who acquires this personal name (from a human perspective) with and via his human nature at the time of the Incarnation".

"But one who does not assume the one-person-two-natures Christology would more reasonably take 'Jesus' to be a name for a particular man, who would not have existed had God not created a material universe, unlike the Son (Word, Logos) who exists of metaphysical necessity. Will you grant me that?"

Not assuming the Chalcedonian Christology could mean all sorts of things, depending on whether any kind of Incarnation was assumed, and if so, which non-orthodox one was framing the judgement. However, since for every other human being the human nature as concretised substantially is subsistent in its own nature, whereas Christ's Human Nature is anhypostatic of itself, contingency of that nature's actualisation as concrete would indeed "more reasonably" imply contingency of the associated personal hypostasis if this enhypostatic union is denied or unknown.

If one does work within the orthodox paradigm, the statement would become "Jesus is the name for a particular man, who would not have existed as a man with this human name had God not created a material universe, but would have existed instead only in His eternal Divine Nature as God the Son, which is metaphysically necessary."

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