Saturday, July 11, 2009

Trent on Justification - Chapter Two

Whence it came to pass, that the heavenly Father, the father of mercies and the God of all comfort, when that blessed fulness of the time was come, sent unto men, Jesus Christ, His own Son – who had been, both before the Law, and during the time of the Law, to many of the holy fathers announced and promised – that He might both redeem the Jews who were under the Law, and that the Gentiles, who followed not after justice, might attain to justice, and that all men might receive the adoption of sons. Him God hath proposed as a propitiator, through faith in his blood, for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world. [§2]

"Whence it came to pass…": This chapter continues the thought begun in §1, discussed here. The sense, then, is: "Since it is the case that man caught in sin cannot justify himself either by nature or by deeds…" This being the case, God sent his Son Jesus Christ. He takes action on our behalf, it being impossible for us to climb out of the hole we have dug for ourselves.

So Christ came to redeem the Jews, and so that we Gentiles "might attain to justice," and so that we all (Jews and Gentiles) might receive adoption as sons. Secondly, he came to be "a propitiator, through faith in his blood, for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world."

How does St. Thomas measure up to this? Just fine. He teaches us that the purpose of the Incarnation was to take away both original sin and actual sin. But this is not a particularly controversial chapter, except perhaps for certain Calvinists who might deny that Christ was a propitiator not just for Christians but for the whole world. But they must wrestle with the explicit teaching of 1 John 2:2, which Trent has merely quoted:

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. [emphasis added]

6 comments:

Mike Burgess said...

Indeed, and the propitiation He made goes along just fine with the teaching that He assumed the universal human nature, which is impersonal, by adding humanity to His divinity.

Marvelous posts lately, Reginald. I wonder if you would care to delve into the question of how the assumption of human nature by Christ bears on the applicability of justification to all men?

Reginald de Piperno said...

Thanks Mike. :-)

I wonder if you would care to delve into the question of how the assumption of human nature by Christ bears on the applicability of justification to all men?

Heh. I'm not opposed to it, but neither am I up for it in terms of feeling sufficiently capable of it yet. And that I am not adequate for the task should be obvious from this question:

I thought that I read someplace (Pelikan, maybe?) that we do not believe Christ assumed the universal human nature because it would imply a participation in divinity that does not exist for the unbeliever?

These waters are over my head, and I can't swim well enough yet.

--RdP

Mike Burgess said...

Let me think for a bit. I'll get back to you on this tomorrow.

Reginald de Piperno said...

I found the passage I thought I remembered reading: ST iii q.2 a.2 ad 3.

"The Word of God 'did not assume human nature in general, but "in atomo"'--that is, in an individual--as Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 11) otherwise every man would be the Word of God, even as Christ was."

What do you think?

Peace,

RdP

Mike Burgess said...

I have come to the conclusion that St. John Damascene meant that Christ was Incarnated as *a* man, not "in* every man. Thus, "in atomo." But the human nature He assumed is common to all humanity; there are no humans who do not have that human nature. Thus, He assumed univeral human nature and makes possible divinization for those whom He wills should be so divinized.

Jay Dyer had some great remarks and reading suggestions on this issue, I will cobble together some links.

Reginald de Piperno said...

I think I follow you now. Thanks. That makes good sense.

It goes without saying, though, that I obviously am not in a position to address your question (from your first comment), since you had to explain the underpinnings of it to me here. :-( Maybe someday.