Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Would God Have Become Man If Man Had Not Sinned?

John Paul II suggests: Yes!

The argument is the following: Jesus Christ is the prototype in the creation of man, not an afterthought, even though He comes chronologically after the first man. Gaudium et spes #22 reads: "For Adam, the first man, was a type of Him who was to come" (Rom 5, 14). This bears the following footnote (#20) from Tertullian: "For in all the form which was molded in the clay, Christ was in his thoughts as the man who is to be." Therefore, when God thought man, he did not think Adam, he thought Christ. Jesus Christ is incarnate God. The logic is: if Christ is prototypical of man, He is not an afterthought contingent on sin.


Ephesians 1, 4 gives us a lead: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world… He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons…”


Gaudium et Spes #22 reads: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling…He who is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1, 15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin.”

“Man and Woman He Created Them:” (Waldstein) October 6, 1982: John Paul II:

“When we compare the testimony of the ‘beginning’ reported in the first chapters of Genesis with the testimony of Ephesians, we must deduce that the reality of the creation of man was already permeated by the perennial election of man in Christ…

5. “From the ‘beginning,’ man, male and female, shared in this supernatural gift. This endowment was given in view of him, who from eternity was ‘beloved’ as Son, although –according to he dimensions of time and history – it preceded the Incarnation of this ‘beloved Son’ and also the ‘redemption’ wekjo have in him ‘through his blood’ (Eph. 1, 7).

"Redemption was to become the source of man’s supernatural endowment after sin and, in a certain sense, despite sin (my emphasis). This supernatural endowment that was the fruit of man’s election in Christ before the ages – was brought about precisely out of regard for him, that one and only Beloved, while chronologically anticipating his coming in the body.”[1]

“The Theology of the Body” (Osservatore Romano Translation):

“Man, male and female, shared from the beginning in this supernatural gift. This bounty was granted in consideration of him, who from eternity was beloved as Son, even though – according to the dimensions of time and history – it had preceded the Incarnation of this beloved Son and also the redemption which we have in him through his blood(cf. Eph 1, 7).

"The redemption was to become the source of man’s supernatural endowment after sin and, in a certain sense, in spite of sin [my emphasis]. This supernatural endowment which took place before original sin, that is, the grace of justice and original innocence – an endowment which was the fruit of man’s election in Christ before the ages – was accomplished precisely in reference to him, to the beloved One, while anticipating chronologically his coming in the body.”[2]

Christopher West “The Theology of the Body Explained:[3]

“The letter to the Ephesians opens up before us the supernatural world of the eternal mystery, of the eternal plans of God the Father concerning man. These plans,’ the Pope reminds us, ‘precede the “creation of the world,” and therefore also the creation of man. At the same time those divine plans begin to be put into effect already in the entire reality of creation’ (334). This sheds new light on the nature and origin of the grace of original innocence. ‘The letter to the Ephesians leads us to approach this situation – that is, the state of man before original sin – from the point of view of the mystery hidden in God from eternity’ (333-334). According to this mystery, God chose us in Christ ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph 1, 4). This means that ‘before sin, man bore in his soul the fruit of eternal election in Christ’ (334).

"It seems that John Paul cannot stress this point enough. Comparing the testimony of the ‘beginning’ with the testimony of Ephesians, he says that ‘one must deduce that the reality of man’s creation was already imbued with the perennial election of man in Christ…. Man, male and female shared from the “beginning” in this supernatural gift.’ And again he says that this supernatural endowment in Christ ‘took place before original sin’ (334-335). Rereading the account of creation in light of the New Testament, we realize that man’s destiny in Christ is already implied in his creation in the image of God. For it is Christ who ‘is the image of the invisible God.’ Thus, it is in Christ that we image God right from the beginning (See Col. 1, 15-16).

"With these statement, the Holy Father appears to be adding his input to a centuries-old theological debate
: Would Christ have come had man no sinned? In any case, this pope’s opinion on the matter seems clear. For him, Jesus Christ – the incarnate Christ – ‘is the center of the universe and of history.’ For him, it seems even to entertain the idea of a universe without an incarnate Christ is to miss a central point of the ‘great mystery’ of God’s love for humanity.

Christ is ‘the first-born of all creation’ (Col. 1, 15). Everything – especially man in his original unity as male and female – was created for him, through him, and in expectation of him. When we reread man’s beginning in view of the ‘great mystery’ of Ephesians, we can see that Christ’s incarnate communion with the Church is already anticipated and in some sense ‘contained’ in the original incarnate communion of man and woman. And this original unity in ‘one flesh’ was constituted by God before sin. Man and woman’s original unity, therefore, was a beatifying participation in grace (see #20). This grace made original man ‘holy and blameless’ before God. Here John Paul reminds us that their primordial (or original) holiness and purity were also expressed in their being naked without shame. The Holy Father then asserts that this original bounty was granted to man in view of Christ, who from eternity was ‘beloved’ as Son, ‘even though – according to the dimensions of time and history – it had preceded the Incarnation’ (334).

If this is the case, the Incarnation is not an afterthoughta second plan intended to rectify the first, supposedly thwarted when man sinned. Of course sin put man on a major detour, one might say, in realizing God’s plan. But sin is not an insurmountable roadblock. Sin is not more powerful than God’s eternal plan to unity us with Christ. God’s plan for man and for the universe continues in spite of sin.

The grace of original innocence, John Paul tells us, ‘was accomplished precisely in reference to [Christ] while anticipating chronologically his coming in the body’ (335). And, recalling our reflections on Genesis, that grace was given ‘in an irrevocable way, despite the subsequent sin and death.’ It is true that man lost this grace as a result of sin. The entrance of shame attests to this. But he did not lose it forever. Christ’s resurrection bears witness that the grace of the mystery of creation becomes, for anyone open to receiving it, the grace of the mystery of redemption. ‘The redemption was to become the source of man’s supernatural endowment after sin and, in a certain sense, in spite of sin’ (335). In this way God’s eternal plan for man – remaining the same yesterday, today, and forever – is definitively accomplished in his beloved Son.

John Paul wants to stress the continuity between God’s plan in the mystery of creation and his plan in the mystery of redemption. But at the same time we can deduce a ‘new’ dimension to God’s self-gift – the revelation of his mercy. After sin, in order to fulfill ‘the mystery hidden for ages in God’ (Eph. 3, 9), Christ would first have to reconcile man to the Father. This means that his Incarnation and his bodily gift of self would now entail his suffering and death. ‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses’ (Eph. 1, 7-8) One might call it the necessary prerequisite for the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan for us ‘to be his sons through Jesus Christ’ (1, 5). From the perspective of the spousal analogy, if spouses have been at enmity with each other, they must first reconcile before they re-unite in ‘one flesh.’ Christ’s self-gift on the cross is the reconciliation of estranged spouses that opens the way for their eternal consummate communion.’”

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

Joseph Ratzinger begins his theological career with the patristic and medieval (Bonaventure) 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" to 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).

[1] John Paul II “Man and Woman He Created Them” trans. Michael Waldstein (2006) 505.
[2] John Paul II “The Theology of the Body,” Pauline Books and Media (1997) 334-335.
[3] Christopher West, “The Theology of the Body Explained” Pauline Books and Media (2006) 348.
[4] Ibid 349.

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