Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"God Suffers"

The Christology of the Sanctification of Work

Thesis: The “I” as Protagonist of All Free Action

(Actiones Sunt Suppositorum)

The pope’s theological development involved the clarification of the meaning of the Council of Chalcedon (451) by the Council of Constantinople III (680-681). Chalcedon had driven home what had already been clarified in the Council of Ephesus (431) that there were, indeed, two natures in Jesus Christ and the one Divine Person. Chalcedon, however, had not explained the relation of the two natures. It was not clear how Christ could have a human will that could be humanly free from within the perspective of human nature when the subject is a divine Person. The pope explains that a parallelism obtained
[1] during the 230 year interval between Chalcedon and Constantinople III.

“In the manuals, the theological development after Chalcedon has ordinarily come to be little considered. The impression thus frequently remains that dogmatic Christology finishes up with a certain parallelism between the two natures of Christ. This impression has also been the cause leading to the divisions since Chalcedon. But in effect the declaration of the true humanity and the true divinity of Christ can retain its significance only when there is clarification also of the mode of unity of the two natures, which the Council of Chalcedon has defined by the formula of ‘one person’ of Christ, at that time not yet fully examined.”

The Council of Constantinople III is the key to unlocking the entire conundrum. It consists in the exegesis of the John 6, 38: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” The acting Subject is the divine “I” of the Logos who states that He has not come into the created order of the humanity Jesus of Nazareth [concrete humanity with no human person] to do His (human) will, but the will of the Father. Ratzinger-Benedict comments: “Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his will the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6. 38, the Council proves the unity of the subject. In Jesus there are not two ‘I’s,’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the ‘I.’ This has become his ‘I,’ has been assumed into his ‘I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become pure assent to the will of the Father.”

What removes any trace of “parallelism” of the natures and transforms them into what the pope calls “compenetration,” is the assumption of the human will into the divine person without damaging it, but rather bringing it to its true fulfillment as dynamic freedom. Jesus of Nazareth – the concrete nature - is not damaged as man by becoming Jesus the Christ – the divine “I” of the Logos - , Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). Rather, it (the concrete human nature) is exalted precisely as human since Jesus Christ is the prototype of the meaning of man as proclaimed by St. Paul: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1, 4). Therefore, any suffering undergone by the humanity, Jesus of Nazareth, is the suffering of the divine Logos who is the Subject existentially dynamizing and exercising the human will.

Recall that Nestorius, who insisted correctly that Christ had two natures, and, not yet distinguishing between nature and person, affirmed that there were two persons in Christ. The Council of Ephesus condemned this by insisting that there was only one Person in Christ and that Mary was therefore the Mother of that divine Person, and therefore Mother of God.

God Does Not Suffer:

The Christology of Thomas Weinandy:

Thomas Weinandy holds that God cannot suffer because to suffer would mean a diminution in Being. Thus a suffering God could not be God as the perfection of Being, which He must be as Creator of the world. However, within Christian revelation, we can speak of the mystery of the suffering of the divine Person Jesus Christ Who has taken on a human nature and therefore taken on “a new mode or manner of existence, that is, as man. There is a change or newness in the mode of the existence of the Son… The Son now newly exists as man.”
[4] Given this “new mode or manner of existence” as man because of the assumption of human nature, Weinandy proclaims in an unqualified manner that “the eternal, almighty, all-perfect, unchangeable, and impassible divine Son, he who is equal to the Father in all ways, actually experienced, as a weak human being, the full reality of human suffering and death.”[5]

The Christology of Joseph Ratzinger:

Ratzinger-Benedict XVI offers God’s revelation of Himself to be Love.
[6] The very Being of God is not expressed as the Greek abstraction of Uncreated Substance but the relationality of Self-gift that is Agape. Within that revealed horizon (which is another level of experience), Ratzinger writes that the suffering of Christ is an unshakeable fact, and in order to suffer there must be the capacity to suffer. He offers the third century Father of the Church, Origen, who “straightforwardly declared that this theme cannot be reduced to the suffering humanity of Jesus, but that it colors the Christian conception of God himself.”[7] And that it will involve not only the suffering of the Son, but also the Father. He says: “The fact that the Father allows the Son to suffer constitutes the Father’s own Passion, and this is also the suffering of the Spirit, of whom Paul says that he sighs in us and that, in us and for us, he bears the passion of our longing for the fullness of redemption (Rom. 8, 26f).”[8] The large point that Ratzinger is making here is that one must enter into a different epistemological horizon that comes from the experience of Being as relation and self-gift to understand that, indeed, God suffers precisely because He is God.[9]

The impasses that Terence Tilley refers to
[10] and that Weinandy excoriates[11] as semantic camouflage can be found precisely here where the same words are used in two different epistemological horizons deriving from two distinct levels of experience. And it is precisely here that Benedict has called for a “broadening of reason,”[12]and “a new trajectory of thinking” in a world shrunken by individualizing experience and positivistic reductionism. Tilley remarked in his recent CTSA address (Halifax 6/7/09): “The problem of how a person could have both divine and human properties was not resolved [by Chalcedon]. The theological effect of the Chalcedonian strategy of attributing properties to two natures, rather than to the person of Christ, basically left the impasse intact.” It seems that this assessment is basically sound particularly in the light of Ratzinger’s appraisal of Chalcedon that I offer in continuation.

Constantinople III Existentializes Chalcedon

Ratzinger-Benedict offers the exegesis that Constantinople III (680-681), championed by Maximus the Confessor, worked on the Council of Chalcedon (451). In the retreat that he preached to John Paul II in the Lent of 1983, he was most clear in stating that Christology did not come to an end in Chalcedon. In the 230 year hiatus between the two councils, the basic struggle (besides imperial politics) was to understand how the human will of Jesus Christ could be human, free and at the same time the will of a divine Person.

Ratzinger makes the point that as Chalcedon stood in 451, the two natures were understood to be in parallel, and have since been understood down to the present day. Impasse. He remarks that “In the manuals, the theological development after Chalcedon has ordinarily come to be little considered. The impression thus frequently remains that dogmatic Christology finishes up with a certain parallelism between the two natures of Christ. This impression has also been the cause leading to the divisions since Chalcedon.”
[13] The solution offered by Chalcedon was the one Person of Christ. But the rub has always been: What do we understand by divine Person? Scholastic philosophy using Greek epistemology and metaphysics has always worked “from below” and offered the anthropology of “individual substance of a rational nature.” Working “from above,” the Fathers distinguish nature and person, and then, within the Trinity, Person “from” and “for” Person in the light of Christ’s words “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 3) and “The Father is greater than I” (Jn 14, 28). Now person may be a relational term, but “nature” or ousia is not. They are terms of specification and distinction. What else could be expected from the terminology of Chalcedon of two natures and one person except that there be a parallelism between them? And I would suggest that it is a “parallelism” that is behind Weinandy’s solution of “as man” to solve the question of the suffering God.

It is the impasse of this “parallelism” that Ratzinger wants to overcome by crossing an experiential threshold from sense experience and abstractive objectifying thought to the experience of the “I” in the free act of self-transcendence. The insight championed by Maximus the Confessor in the Council of Constantinople III (680-681) doctrinally broke the impasse which in real time has yet to fully take place.

For it to take place, Ratzinger teaches that the Third Council of Constantinople does two things: 1) “it teaches that the unity of God and man in Christ involves no amputation or reduction in any way of human nature. In conjoining himself to man, his creature, God does not violate or diminish him; in doing so, he brings him for the first time to his real fullness;” 2) “On the other hand (and this is no less important) it abolishes all dualism or parallelism of the two natures, such as had always seemed necessary in order to safeguard Jesus’ human freedom. In such attempts it had been forgotten that when the human will is taken up into the will of God, freedom is not destroyed; indeed, only then does genuine freedom come into its own.”
[14] The issue of Constantinople III was not “human nature” as an objectified abstract “thing-in-itself.” Rather, it worked from the Johannine text of 6, 38: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” The issue is the dynamic and freedom of the human will. And the pre-supposition that bogged down in a parallelism of natures was taken from within a Greek metaphysical substantialist anthropology, i.e. freedom is the indetermination of the accidental faculty of will (as a kind of substantialized autonomy) before concrete, finite, non-absolute goods. On the contrary, within a relational metaphysic taken from the meaning of person in the Trinity, freedom is taken to be the plenitude of being-for the other, such that John Paul II will write, “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom”[15]

The insight that will drive the breakthrough to understanding that it is a divine Person Who suffers with ontological fullness of divinity is the insight that there is only one “I” in Jesus Christ, and that “I” is the divine Logos of the Father who wills with his human will and performs divine/human actions. There is no action “as God” and another one “as man.” Every free action in Christ is protagonized by that self-same “I.” The divine “I” wills the Will of the Father through the medium of his human will which is not destroyed or diminished but heightened to its pristine free obedience before sin. By that obedience, Adam experienced “the original solitude”
[16] of being “like” God in act and unlike the rest of creation; hence, alone. Indetermination before concrete goods is not the essence of freedom but a concrete state after sin.

Let it be clear. The will of Christ does not will. Nor does the Logos deploy the human will “as man.” He wills with his human will. The divine Person, the “I” of the Son, wills as ontological relation to the Father with “His” human will. It is “His.” The “I Am” of God “(has) come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (Jn. 6, 38).

What is the enemy here? The reifying tendency of the human mind. Without wanting to do this, nor even being aware that we do it, we objectify the will that is the very person of ourselves into an acting “thing.” We reflect back on ourselves in the act of willing and form a concept of ourselves willing. The human will presents itself as an autonomous subject that, in the thought of Robert Sokolowski, is a mirage.
[17] But in Christ, there is no other self willing than the “I” of the Logos. There is no human “I,” and therefore there is no “as man.” For sure, there is an ontological human nature that is assumed by the Logos and through which the Logos lives out His constitutive ontological relationality to the Father. But the ontological protagonist is the divine “I.” We tend to project this first order noetic experience onto Christ with the baggage of the mirage. Hence, instead of the divine Person willing with two wills as the same “I,” we so easily say that the human will wills with its own “autonomy,” “as man.” More than “reified,” it has become “personified.” We shall see that Weinandy will eventually affirm that, indeed, Jesus Christ has a human “I.”

And yet, it must be asked if the human will in Christ is distinct from His divine Will by way of an ontological “addition” to His divine Person? Yes, but, Ratzinger answers, on the level of the ontological “I,” “this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes one will with it, not in a natural manner but along the path of freedom. The metaphysical two-ness of a human and a divine will is not abrogated, but in the realm of the person, in the real of freedom, the fusion of both takes place, with the result that they become one will, not naturally, but personally. This free unity – a form of unity created by love – is higher and more interior than a merely natural unity. It corresponds to the highest unity there is, namely, trinitarian unity.”

It is the same divine “I” willing with two wills, and hence they are “one,” not ontologically, but personally. We could say “protagonistically.” How could they be two when they are distinct modes of willing by the same Person? We are on the cusp here of two epistemological horizons: two natures on the level of sense perception and concept; and one Transcendent and uncreated “I” living out His very Person as relation to the Father with both ontologically distinct (uncreated and created) wills.

Because of its importance, I transcribe Ratzinger’s epistemological and ontological description from another angle: “the Logos so humbles himself that he adopts a man’s will as his own and addresses the Father with the ‘I’ of this human being; he transfers his own ‘I’ to this man and thus transforms human speech into the eternal Word, into his blessed ‘Yes, Father.’ By imparting his own ‘I’, his own identity, to this human being he liberates him, redeems him, makes him God. Now we can take the real meaning of ‘God has become man’ in both hands, as it were: the Son transforms the anguish of a man into his own filial obedience, the speech of the servant into the Word which is the Son.”

The key to the entire mystery is the astounding mystery of the “I Am” of God Himself becoming man. But there is only One “I”. There are not two. Again, in the text used by Constantinople III, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me,” (Jn. 6, 38), Ratzinger comments again that “Here the divine Logos is speaking, and speaking of the human will of Jesus in the mode by which he calls his will the will of the Logos. With this exegesis of John 6, 38, the Council proves the unity of the subject. In Jesus there are not two ‘I’s, but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought of Jesus using the ‘I.’ This has become his ‘I,’ has been assumed into his ‘I,’ because the human will has become fully one with the will of the Logos, and with it has become pure assent to the will of the Father.”


For Ratzinger, God does not act as man. God, indeed, acts in a man. Weinandy holds that if God suffered in a man, He would not suffer in a “genuine human manner” but instead “in a divine manner.” He holds that there would be no real redemption because God would not really be man because He would not experience what a man experiences. But that is precisely what the total self-gift of the divine Person is able to do. His kenosis consists in actually entering into all the human actions, even the smallest and the most human.

The overriding insight of Ratzinger-Benedict XVI is the constitutive relationality of being. To be is to-be-in-relation. The reality of this transcends gross – let us say, Newtonian - sensible perception and abstract thought. One must enter into the experience of the self as going out of self, say, to be in love, to believe, in order to have this consciousness, and by reflecting on it, to conceptualize it. This is the reason Benedict writes encyclicals like “God is Love,” “Saved by Hope” and “Charity in Truth,” and gives four major addresses on the topic of “broadening reason.”

Weinandy and the Human (sic) “I” of Christ

Weinandy’s orthodoxy waxes ambiguous when he proposes (very late in the book [209-211]) that there is a human “I” in Christ. In its simplest terms, there is no salvation if the divine “I” of God did not become man and restore us to the original divinization that we had as images and likenesses of God “from the beginning” and before sin. We simply cannot be saved by a human “I.”
Weinandy’s admission: “If the Son is man and has identified himself as a man, then, it seems to me, that he exists, as incarnate, totally within the parameters or boundaries of all that is human. Thus the Son of God not only has a human body, soul, intellect, will, and emotions, etc., but equally he also has an integral human ‘I,’ a psychological center within which all of these are expressed and experienced. The human ‘I’ of Jesus is the human psychological self-consciousness of the divine Son. He thought, spoke, and acted as well as underwent all his experiences from within the limits of his human ‘I.’”
[22] His “as man” finally exposes itself and throws light back on his distinction of “God in man” and God as man.”

I would offer that what is askew in the theology of Weinandy is a radical dissimilarity between God and man whereby it would be impossible to fit his thought into GS #22. Could it be possible to say that “in reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear?” Could Weinandy say that “Christ the Lord… 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”? Would it be possible to say that “by his incarnation, he, the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved.” My question is: was this the divine “I” of the Logos that did all these human things? Or was it human nature? Which is what “as man” seems to mean.

[1] And continues to obtain today in that there is a turgid reluctance to migrate from an epistemology of object to that of subject.
[2] Ratzinger-Benedict XVI “Journey To Easter” Crossroad (1987)
[3] Ibid.101-102.
[4] T. Weinandy, “Does God Suffer?” op. cit. 197.
[5] Ibid. 206.
[6] Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est” #1: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1Jn. 4, 16).
[7] J. Ratzinger, “Paschal Mystery As Core and Foundation” in Towards a Civilization of Love, Ignatius (1985) 154.
[8] Ibid
[9] Weinandy will also say something similar but he will mean that it is precisely because God cannot suffer as God, that He can suffer as man. If He suffered as God, He would cease to be God, and therefore could not suffer as man. Cf. Weinandy 203.
[10] Terence Tilley, CTSA Meeting Halifax, 6/7/09.
[11] Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap.O.F.M., Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly #32, Number 3, Fall
[12] BenedictXVI has made a play on the world stage for a universal dissemination of this enlargement of reason by an experiential faith. He gave four major lectures and addresses in the space of two years: Regensburg September 12, 2006, Address to European Professors (June 24, 2007), The Sixth European Symposium of University Professors (June 7, 2008), Lecture at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” January 17, 2008. In each of these, Benedict called for the “broadening of reason” by the experience of faith as self-transcendence. His point: one can see more by becoming more.

[13] Ratzinger-Benedict XVI “Journey To Easter” Crossroad (1987) 100.
[14] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” Ignatius (1986) 38.
[15] John Paul II, “Veritatis Splendor” #85.
[16] The obedience by which Adam experienced the “original solitude” of being uniquely the image of the divine Persons. See John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, DSP (2006) (Waldstein) 146-156.
[17] Consider the remarks of Robert Sokolowski concerning the “concepts in our minds” as if they were entities that populate a certain space. He insists that “the concept as a mental entity is a transcendental mirage, something analogous to the mirages we occasionally encounter in our experience of things;” (“Pictures, Quotations, and distinctions” Fourteen Essays in Phenomenology” UNDP 176. The same could applied to desires as acts of willing.
[18] J. Ratzinger, “Behold the Pierced One,” op. cit. 39.
[19] Ibid 41.
[20] J. Ratzinger, “Journey to Easter,” Crossroad (1987) 101-102.
[21] Regensburg (2006), The Sixth European Symposium of University Professors, (June 7, 20008), Address to European Professors (June 24, 2007), CELAM Conference in Aparecida, Brazil (May13, 2007), and Sapienza University at the Vatican (January 17, 2008).
[22] T. Weinandy, op. cit 209

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