Sunday, April 24, 2011

Would God Have Become Man If Man Had Not Sinned?

Did the Son of God become man because of sin, or because He is the creating prototype of man? Asked differently, if man did not sin, would God have become man? Or yet again, is the Incarnation a consequence of sin as a kind of stupendous footnote to sin, and therefore an “accident” to the “substantiality” of sin, or is Jesus Christ the original meaning of man? And yet again, is the Resurrection the original state of man as intended at the moment of creation? And in the light of this, we can ask, is Christianity a "religion" or is it "Anthropology" with a capital "A."

The touchstone to answer these questions is the text of Ephesians 1, 4:
“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will…”

The large point the pope makes on entry to the question of the Resurrection in his “Jesus of Nazareth” II is that the Resurrection is the “criterion” (242) of all of our judgments on the human person. “Only if Jesus is risen has anything really new occurred that changes the world and the situation of mankind. Then he becomes the criterion on which we can rely. For then God has truly revealed himself” (242). Another way of stating that is: Jesus Christ is not merely a resuscitated corps (Bultmann) like Lazarus (Jn. 11, 1), the daughter of the Jairus (Mk. 5, 22) or the son of the widow of Naim (Lk. 7, 11), all three of whom, like everyone else, died again. Jesus Christ enters into what could be called an “evolutionary leap.” His existence as man is not as an individual substance but as a relational Subject whose filial relation to God the Father is “Who He is.” His existence is a “pro-existence” (134).

Benedict is making the point made by Romano Guardini in his "The Lord:"

"Christ's effect upon the world can be compared with nothing in history save its own creation: 'In the beginning God created heaven, and earth." What takes place in Christ is of the same order as the original act of creation, though on a still higher level. For the beginning of the new creastion is as far superior to the love which created the stars, plants, animals and men. That is what the words mean 'I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?' (Lk. 12, 49). It is the fire of new becoming; not only 'truth' or 'love,' but the incandescence of new creation.

" How earnest these word are is clear from those that follow: 'But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!' 'Baptism' is the mystery of creative depths: grave and womb in one. Christ must pass through them because human hardness of heart does not allow him to take the other road. Down, down through terrible destruction he descends, to the nadir of divine creation whence saved existence can climb back into being.

"Now we understand what St. Paul meant with his 'excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ:' the realization that this is who Christ is, the Descender. To make this realization our own is the appha and omega of our lives, for it is not enough to know Jesus only as the Savior....

"How long must I wait? God knows. He can give himself to you overnight, you can also wait twenty years, but what are they in view of his advent? One day he will come. Once in the stillness of profound composure you will know: that is Christ! He who is creative love brings your intrinsic potentialities to life. Your ego at its profoundest is he.

"This is the literally all-excelling knowledge to which St. Paul refers. It springs like a spark from that 'fire'... To know Christ entails accepting his will as norm. We can participate in the beginning which is he only by becoming one with his will" [R. Guardini, "The Lord," Regnery (1954) 306-307].

Recall the grave danger that always threatens this experiential knowledge of Christ:

"As soon as a religious consciousness that preaches 'pure doctrine' comes into being, and with it an authority ready to spring to its defense, the danger of orthodoxy becomes acute . For what is orthodoxy but that attitude which considers obedience to the Law already salvation, and which would preserve the purity of the Law already salvation, and which would preserve the purity of the Law at all costs - even at the price of violence to the conscience? The moment rules of salvation, cult and communal pattern are fixed, one is tempted to believe that their strict observance is already holiness in the sight of God. The moment there is a hierarchy of offices,and powers, of tradition and law, there is also the danger of confusing authority and obedience with the kingdom of God. The moment human norms are applied to holiness, inflexible barriers drawn between right and wrong, the danger of laying hand on divine freedom, of entangling in rules and regulations that which falls from God's grace alone becomes considerable. No matter how noble a thought may be, once it enters the human heart it stimulates contradiction, untruth and evil. The same fate awaits that which comes from God. Order in faith and prayer, in office and discipline, tradition and practice is of genuine value; but it opens up negative possibilities. Wherever a decisive either-or is demanded in the realm of sacred truth; where the objective forms of cult, order and authority are all that count, there you may be sure, is also danger of 'the Pharisee' and his 'Law.' Danger of accepting outer values for intrinsic; danger of contradicting attitude and word; danger of judging God's freedom by legal standards - in short, danger of all the sins of which Christ accuses the Pharisees. The history of the Mosaic Law is a terrible warning. What had come, a holy thing, from God, was turned into an instrument of disaster. The moment definite revelation, the positive ordering of existence by God is believed, this possibility presents itself. It is good for the belilever to know this, that, as a member of the second covenant, he may be spared the fate of the first" [Guardini 171].

The Meaning of Eschatology

This, the above, is the grounding of Christian eschatology, the so-called “last things.” The point is that Christ is “the last thing” of man. The “last thing” for man is already here in that Christ is already here. He rose, and He lives!! He is present in the world but cannot be seen because we have lost the capacity to re-cognize Him. One must be like Him to experience Him within oneself – cognizing Him – and, therefore, when presented with His visible perception in the world, re-cognizing Him.

The eschaton as the “Last Thing” will come not only at the end of the world as The Second Coming. In reality it has already come. In fact it has always been here. We are looking right at it but cannot re-cognize it. God in Christ has pre-existed the world. Christ accompanied the People of God into Egypt, and out. In the exodus, He was the Fire by night, the Cloud by day, the rock that followed them in the desert, which, when struck, watered them. He was the manna that fed them as bread and fowl as meat. He was the Word spoken by the angel, received by the Virgin, made Flesh in her womb, lived an ordinary working life, spoke Himself as Word of God, suffered for our sins, died, rose, ascended to the right Hand of the Father and continues to be “with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28,20).

In His three years of public life, He restored the twelve tribes with the twelve apostles and told them to gather all the nations into a People of God – a Church – that will be a single Christ by the power of three sacraments: Baptism, Order and Eucharist. Nothing more is essentially needed. The danger has always been dressing David in the armor of Saul to defeat Goliath. Baptism yields the layfaithful; Order gives the hierarchical minister in direct tactile union with Christ; Eucharist is the action of self gift whereby the Church of always passes from the Christ of “already” to the Christ of the “not yet” through the Christological anthropology of self-gift in work.


The Christological Anthropology of Resurrection

Continuing the line of thought in Benedict’s Easter Vigil Homily, he asks: “What happened there? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and for me personally? Above all: what happened? Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is in a totally new life. But how could this happen? What forces were in operation?” He answers: “The crucial point is that this man Jesus was not alone, he was not an “I” closed in upon itself. He was one single reality with the living God, so closely united with him as to form one person with him. He found himself, so to speak, in an embrace with him who is life itself, an embrace not just on the emotional level, but one which included and permeated his being. His own life was not just his own, it was an existential communion with God, a `being taken up’ into God, and hence, it could not in reality be taken away from him. Out of love, he could allow himself to be killed, but precisely by dong so he broke the definitiveness of death, because in him the definitiveness of life was present. He was one single reality with indestructible life, in such a way that it burst forth anew through death. Let us express the same thing once again from another angle. His death was an act of love. At the Last Supper he anticipated death and transformed into self-giving. His existential communion with God was concretely an existential communion with God’s love, and this love is the real power against death, it is stronger than death. The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of `dying and becoming.’ It ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.”The Christology is the following: The divine nature and the human nature are not sitting in parallel next to each other tied together by the Person of the Logos. We have seen in other postings below that the act of existence and dynamics of the man, Jesus of Nazareth, is the Esse of the divine Logos. That means, not that the humanity of Christ existed in fact and functioned as a “pure nature” endowed with human intellect and will as the knowing and consenting source of the crucifixion. Rather, it means that the humanity of Jesus Christ is the humanity of the Person of the Logos and that He willed obedience to the Father’s will. He said “Yes” to the will of the Father, and the human will and divine will were one “Yes” of the “I” of the Son of God. To give this some clarity, elsewhere Benedict said:“In the manuals, the theological development after Chalcedon (451) 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. The 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 the `one person’ of Christ, at that time not yet fully examined. In fact only that unity of divinity and humanity which in Christ is not parallelism, where one stands alongside the other, but real compenetration – compenetration between God and man – means salvation for humankind. Only thus in fact does that true `being with God’ take place, without which liberation and freedom do not exist.” The key here is that the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth (no human person is present) is totally absorbed, not by a “divine nature,” but in the divine Person of the Logos. The result is that the human will of Jesus is the will of the divine Person Who says “Yes” to the Father with it, and with it ladened with all the sins of all men of all time (2 Cor. 5, 21: “He made him to be sin”). The assumption of the human will by the Person of the Logos is not an absorption by a parallel divine nature which would overpower and annul its humanness. Rather, this concrete human nature becomes that of the divine Person who lives out His divine Personhood precisely as human. The relation, or self-gift, of the Person-divinity brings the initial imaging of God that man is to fulfillment. Gaudium et spes #22 says: “He” – the divine Person - “worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart, he loved.” Instead of annulling human freedom, the assumption and exercise of the humanity by the divine Person increases that freedom and brings it to its fulfillment. Notice that John Paul II teaches that “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully I the total gift of himself and call his disciples to share in his freedom”[10] The obedience of Christ to death precisely with the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth does not remove its autonomy and freedom. It enhances it. It is precisely the divine Person of the Logos saying and living out the “Yes” of obedience with the human will that is our Redemption. It is not a parallelism of natures bound together by the glue of the “glue” of the divine Person, but the compenetration of nature and Person that is Incarnation and RedemptionBenedict continues:“If God joins himself to his creature – man/woman – he does not wound or diminish it: he brings it to its plenitude. But on the other hand (and this is no less important) there remains no trace of that dualism or parallelism of the two natures which in the course of history was frequently judged necessary to defend the human liberty of Jesus. Such studies forgot that the assumption of the human will into the divine will does not destroy freedom, but on the contrary generates true liberty. The Council of Constantinople has analysed concretely the problem of the will of joss. We are reminded firmly that there exists a specific will of the man Jesus that is not absorbed into the divine will. But this human will follows the divine will and thus becomes a single will with it, not, however, in a forced way but by way of freedom. The metaphysical duplicity of a human will and a divine will is not eliminated, but in the personal sphere, the area of freedom, there is accomplished a fusion of the two, so that this becomes not one single natural will but one personal will. This free union – a mode of union created by love – is a union higher and more intimate than a purely natural union. It corresponds to the highest union which can exist, the union of the Trinity. The Council explains this union by a saying of the Lord given in the Gospel of John: `I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who sent me’ Jn. 6, 38). 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,’ but only one. The Logos speaks of the will and human thought 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 our assent to the will of the Father…“(T)he Logos stoops to assume as his own the will of man, and speaks to the Father with the `I’ of this man, and thereby transforms the word of a man into the eternal word, into his own blessed `Yes, Father.’ While giving to this man his own `I,’ his own identity, the logos frees the man, saves him, divinizes him. We here touch almost palpably on the reality meant by the phrase `God became man:’ the Son transforms the anguish of a man into the obedience of the Son, transforms the speech of the `servant’ into the words transformation of any person, which is at the same time the one thing ultimately desirable: divinization. Thus the prayer which enters into the prayer of Jesus, and which in the body of Christ becomes the prayer of Jesus Christ, can be defined as the `laboratory’ of freedom. Here and in no other place occurs that profound change in a person which we need for the world to become better.” Ultimately, we are looking here at the anthropology of divinization and therefore resurrection.Semantically, the hagiographers of the New Testament used different words for “life” and “living” to communicate this anthropology of divinization. For example, when Jesus Christ refers to Trinitarian Life or eternal life, St. John as well as the synoptic writers use the Greek word ζωη.

Benedict asserts the significance of the Greek words, particularly two of them: ζωη and βίος with regard to the Resurrection: “It goes without saying that the life of him who has risen from the dead is not once again βίος, the bio-logical form of our mortal life inside history; it is ζωη, new, different, definitive life; life which has stepped beyond the mortal realm of βίος and history, a realm which has here been surpassed by a greater power. And in fact the resurrection narratives of the New Testament allow us to see clearly that the life of him who has risen again does not lie within the historical βίος, but beyond and above it. It is also true, of course, that this new life begot itself in and had to do so, because after all it is there for history, and the Christian message is basically nothing else than the transmission of the testimony that love has here broken through death and thus transformed fundamentally the situation of al of us. Once we have realized this, it is no longer difficult to find the right kind of hermeneutics for the difficult business of expounding the biblical resurrection narratives, that is, to acquire a clear understanding of the sense in which they must properly be understood.”[15]In another rendering of the same argument, Benedict says: “Jesus is not one who has `returned’ from the dead like for example the young man of Naim and Lazarus, called back again to an earthly life, which then had to end in a final death. The Resurrection of Jesus is not, for example, an overcoming of clinical death, which we also know about today, which must however at a certain moment end in a clinical death without return. That matters do not stand like this is not only shown by the Evangelists, but also by the same Credo of Paul’s (1 Cor. 15, 3-11) in so far as it describes the successive appearances of the risen Jesus with the Greek word ophthe, customarily translated as `he appeared;’ perhaps we should say more correctly: `made himself seen.’ This formula would make clear that what is treated of here is something different: that Jesus, after the Resurrection, belongs to a sphere of reality which is normally withdrawn from our senses. Only so can it be explained that Jesus was not recognized, as all the Evangelists agree in telling us. He no longer belongs to the world perceptible to the senses, but to the world of God. He can therefore be seen only by one to whom he grants it. And involved also in such a way of seeing are likewise the heart, the spirit, the whole inward person. Even in everyday life, seeing is not that simple process we generally take it to be. Two people looking at the world at the same time rarely see the same thing. Moreover seeing is always from within. According to circumstances, one person can perceive the beauty of things or only their usefulness; one can read in another’s countenance preoccupation, love, hidden s suffering, dissimulation, or notice nothing. All of this appears manifest to the sense also but comes however to be perceived only by a process of the mind and senses together, which is all the more demanding, the more profoundly the sensible manifestation of a thing arises from the depths of reality. Something analogous is true of the risen Lord: he manifested himself to the senses, and yet can stimulate only those senses that sees better than through the senses.“Taking the whole passage into account, we should then admit that Jesus did not live like are-animated corpse but in virtue of divine power, beyond the region of what is physically and chemically measurable. But it is also true that he himself, this person, the Jesus sentenced two days earlier, was alive…. Resurrection and appearance are two distinct facts, clearly separated in the confession. The Resurrection does not come to an end with the appearances. The appearances are not the Resurrection, but only its reflection. Before all this it is an event for Jesus himself, occurring between him and the Father in virtue of the power of the Holy Spirit; then the event happening to Jesus himself becomes accessible to other people because it is he who makes it accessible. And with this we are back again at the question of the tomb, for which the answer is now found. The tomb is not the central point of the message of the Resurrection; it is instead the Lord in his new life.”

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