Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cont'd: Would God Have Become Man if Man Had Not Sinned?"

The Ultimate Question: What is the metaphysics of Christian anthropology? Is man an "individual substance of a rational nature" to whom "grace" is added in some constitutive but accidental way? Or, is man as image of the divine Persons constitutively relational in the sense that his "hard wiring" or metaphysical structure consists in "being-for," and if so, how does that affect our question? Or simpler: Is Christ the Meaning of Man? And if so, how does [or should] that affect culture?

And if we get that far, what horizon of knowledge or awareness are we in?

Joseph Ratzinger begins his theological career with the patristic (Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine), medieval (Bonaventure) and modern (Newman) understanding of revelation and faith. Revelation is the action of the divine Person as self-gift on the Cross, and faith is the action of receptivity that is also self-gift that removes the "veil" of revelation. This experiential knowing that is faith is not primarily conceptual but a consciousness such as the supreme testimony, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16, 16). This testimony, according to Ratzinger’s account comes from Simon’s entering into Christ's relation to the Father by prayer: “And it came to pass as he was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him, and he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ And they answered and said, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and others, that one of the ancient prophets has risen again.’ And he said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ of God’” (Lk. 9, 18). And then the announcement that Ratzinger calls “theological epistemology.”[1] This has to deal with “like” knowing “like,” and this because to “know” in the biblical and realist sense consists in being one being with another. Adam, “(t)he man “knew” Eve, his wife”[2] by the act of becoming one flesh – one being - with her. Ratzinger explains: “By nature, knowledge depends on a certain similarity between the knower and the known. The old axiom is that like is known by like. In matters of the mind and where persons are concerned, this means that knowledge calls for a certain degree of empathy, by which we enter, so to speak, into the person or intellectual reality concerned, become one with him or it, and thus become able to understand (intellegere = ab intus legere).”[3]

Since prayer is the incarnate living out of the purely relational Person of the Logos toward the Father, Simon enters into this relational act to the point of transforming the orientation of his persona. He begins to image the act which is the constitutive structure of the Divinity. He begins to make the total gift of himself in prayer. Ratzinger had just presented the ontological physiognomy of Christ Himself in prayer as the incarnation and disclosure of what He is as divine Person. As divine Person He is pure relation as gift to the Father. By praying with Christ, Simon begins to enter into this act. He begins to experience a metamorphosis into becoming a relational being like Christ, and as such experience “ab intus” what it means to be “another Christ.”

That happening, Christ says, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church… (Mt. 16, 17-18). As Simon’s acts are self-giving, his whole begins to become relational and therefore transformed “Christically.” And since Christ is “the cornerstone,”
[4] Simon becomes the “rock,” Peter. As his being actualizes as relation, Christ changes his name from Simon-Bar-Jona to “Peter.”

Having cut his teeth on the relationality of revelation and faith, and finding that both pertain to the anthropological profile of the human person and not exceptional adjuncts, Ratzinger discovers the different paths taken by Christology, such as the theology of the Incarnation (using the Greek metaphysics of being in the first Councils of the Church in East and West: Nicea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople I-II-III) and theology of the Cross (St. Paul’s activity of resurrection) that have gone in different directions, really find their solution in this “new” Christology and anthropology of being-in-relation. For example: Jesus Christ is not simply “static” being but the activity of Love and Word. Ratzinger says: “His existence is thus his word. He is word because he is love. From the cross faith understands in increasing measure that this Jesus did not just do and say something; that in him message and person are identical, that he always already is what he says.”
[5] His name is “Jesus” (this individual from Nazareth) “Christ” (the living, saving God). “For we have found that the being of Christ (‘incarnation’ theology!) is actualitas, stepping beyond and out of oneself, the exodus of departure from self; it is not a being that rests in itself, but the act of being sent, of being son, of serving. Conversely, this ‘doing’ is not just ‘dong’ but ‘being;’ it reaches down into the depths of being and coincides with it. This being is exodus, transformation. So at this point a properly understood theology of being and of the incarnation must pass over into the theology of the cross and become one with it; conversely, a theology of the cross that gives its full measure must Passover into the theology of the Son and of being.”[6]

Now, returning to the question: how does this revelation of the relationality of the person of Christ affect whether man was created in the image of God as an individual substance of a rational nature to whom the grace of a supernatural endowment was added after sin? Ratzinger frames the question in terms of the separation of Christology (the theology of Christ) and soteriology (the theology of redemption).

He says: “In the course of the historical development of the Christian faith two aspects of it which people became accustomed to call ‘Christology’ and ‘soteriology’ visibly parted company. The former term came to denote the doctrine of the being of Jesus, which was tereated moroe and more as a self-contained ontological exception and thus transformed into an object of speculation over something special, incompreohensible and confined to Jesus alone. Soteriology then came to denote the doctrine of the redemption: after dealing with the ontological crossword puzzle [fitting together one person, two natures, human soul, two intellects, two wills, etc.] – the question how man and God could in Jesus be one – people went on to enquire quite separately what Jesus had really done and how the effect of his deed impinges on us. That the two questions parted company, that the person and his work were made the subjects of separate enquiries and treatises, led to both problems becoming incomprehensible and insoluble.”[7] He offers the perfect example of “satisfaction theory” of St. Anselm where the work of Christ on the Cross was addressing the injustice done to God, which, being infinite by reason of the infinite Godhead, demanded that an infinite God make reparation that the finite offending man could not. In such an account, God appears as a brutal figure – anything but Love and forgiveness – and Jesus as performing a work that is unjustly imposed on him. Ratzinger comments that Anselm’s “view has put a decisive stamp on the second millennium of Western Christendom, which takes it for granted that Christ had to die on the cross in order to make good the infinite offence which had been committed and in this way to restore the damaged order of things.”[8]

The original question is: Would Christ have come had man not sinned?

I ask, How could it be otherwise? And if we take the position that Christ enters the human condition to save man in the exceptional situation that man has sinned and cannot be saved from God’s wrath unless God Himself becomes man and pays the infinite debt as infinite Person, such an account presents us with an even more intolerable God Who demands that kind of justice. It would contradict everything that the New Testament tells us about God. As Ratzinger comments on Anselm’s theory of satisfaction: “This picture is as false as it is widespread. In the Bible the cross does not appear as part of a mechanism of injured right; on the contrary, in the Bible the cross is quite the reverse: it is the expression of the radical nature of the love which gives itself completely, of the process in which one is what one does, and does what one is; it is the expression of a life that is completely being for others.”[9]

What is striking is that even raising the question as to whether Christ would have become man if there were no sin betrays a deep misunderstanding in our consciousness – as deep and widespread as Anselm’s theory of satisfaction is accepted. It betrays a deep misunderstanding of ourselves and of creation, and of God. It is an as yet undisclosed atheism since in reality consciousness of God is the context for all meaningful thought. The values of good and bad point to a deeply "remembered" experience within man of profound ontological tendencies that derive from imaging the divine Persons. As Ratzinger remarked in Texas in 1990:That's it! That is what my nature points to and seeks." What underlies our asking the question is the rationalized and mechanized metaphysics of substance and the positivism of science and technology that has leached on to it that keeps us misinterpreting ourselves and forging a secularized culture and individualism. It is in this light that we must study and attempt to immerse ourselves in the mind of Benedict XVI. His first words in Washington at Nationals Park were: “I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk. 22, 32).I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2, 14ff.).” His words at Yankee Stadium: “And this, dear friends, is the particular challenge which the Successor of Saint Peter serts before you today. As ‘a choseon people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,’ follow faithfully in the footsteps of those who have gone before you! Hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom in this land!” And “the Kingdom of God is… a Person, with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth.”[10]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 26.
[2] Genesis, 4, 1.
[3] J. Ratzinger, op. cit 25.
[4] “This [Jesus Christ] is ‘The stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the corner stone.’ Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (”Acts 4, 11; Psalm 117).
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 152.
[6] Ibid. 171-172.
[7] Ibid. 172.
[8] Ibid. 173-174.
[9] Ibid 214.
[10] John Paul II, “Mission of the Redeemer,” #18.

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