Fr. Gabriel Amorth, Exorcist: Christ is the center of all creation, yes, even if Adam had not sinned

While the following has already been cited on this website (under the section on the Colossians where Christ’s headship and primacy is discussed), I thought it worth posting here, separately, after the post on Christ as the center of the angelic world as the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 331. Here is the citation directly from my book, A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ:

In recent times, an expert on angelology and demonology, the chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, Fr. Gabriel Amorth, wrote a most concise and lucid summation of the Franciscan thesis in his book An Exorcist Tells his Story. Before he ‘tells his story’, he begins by “first stating some basic facts about God’s plan for creation.” He writes:

“All too often we have the wrong concept of creation, and we take for granted the following wrong sequence of events. We believe that one day God created the angels; that He put them to the test, although we are not sure which test; and that as a result we have the division among angels and demons. The angels were rewarded with heaven, and the demons were punished with hell. Then we believe that on another day God created the universe, the minerals, the plants, the animals, and, in the end, man. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve obeyed Satan and disobeyed God; thus they sinned. At this point, to save mankind, God decided to send His Son.

“This is not what the Bible teaches us, and it is not the teaching of the Fathers. If this were so, the angels and creation would remain strangers to the mystery of Christ. If we read the Prologue of the Gospel of John and the two Christological hymns that open the letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians, we see that Christ is ‘the firstborn of all creatures’ (Col. 1:15). Everything was created for Him and in the expectation of Him. There is no theological discussion that makes any sense if it asks whether Christ would have been born without the sin of Adam. Christ is the center of creation; all creatures, both heavenly (the angels) and earthly (man) find in Him their summation. On the other hand, we can affirm that, given the sin of our forebears, Christ’s coming assumed a particular role: He came as Savior. The core of His action is contained within the Paschal Mystery: through the blood of His Cross, He reconciles all things in the heavens (angels) and on earth (man) to God. The role of every creature is dependent on this christocentric understanding.”

Fr. Gabriel Amorth, An Exorcist Tells his Story (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999) 19-20.

Msgr. Arthur Calkins comments on this passage and adds another quote of Amorth on how important this doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ is for understanding Our Lady.

fr. maximilian mary dean, F.I.

Catechism: Christ is the center of the angelic world

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #331 explicitly states: 

Christ is the centre of the angelic world. They are his angels: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him.” (Mt 25:31) They belong to him because they were created through and for him: “for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” (Col 1:16) They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?” (Heb 1:14)

Some would have us believe that there were two economies of grace: one economy before the fall of Adam and Eve which would include Adam and Eve before original sin and all of the Angels – the gratia Dei, and a second economy in Christ after the fall – the gratia Christi, which would be limited to Adam and his progeny. But if Jesus is the center of the angelic world, this clearly indicates that there is only one economy of divine grace, the gratia Christi: “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). The good Angels were created under Christ’s headship and Christ was, in the design of God, the firstborn of all creatures. The good Angels are centered on Him, not because of Adam’s sin and his need for Redemption, but simply because they were created through and for Christ, as St. Paul points out in his letter to the Colossians.

fr. maximilian mary dean, F.I.

Bl. John Duns Scotus – Primacy of Christ: a REVEALED truth

P L E A S E take 20 minutes to watch the section of this conference of my confrere, Fr. Agnellus M. Murphy, to the “Our Lady of Walsingham Ordinariate” where, to explain Our Lady’s place in God’s plan, he synthesizes the primacy of Christ. The pertinent part of the video with regards to the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ according to Bl. John Duns Scotus and the Apostle St. Paul starts at 6:20 and continues to 28:00, although I would recommend watching the whole 3 hour series – it is well done and very informative.


fr. maximilian mary dean, F.I.

St. Thomas Aquinas: unconditional Incarnation “possible” and “probable”

With all of my previous posts, one might have the false impression that I am “anti-Thomas.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. St. Thomas Aquinas is the champion of the stupendous doctrine on the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist – “transubstantiation” – which is central to my life and spirituality (and that of any true Franciscan, or Catholic, for that matter); after all, he wrote the Mass and Office for Corpus Domini. The icing on the cake, at least for me, is that he speaks of the dignity of the Mother of God as a “quasi-infinite”: “The humanity of Christ, from the fact that it is united to the Godhead; and created happiness from the fact that it is the fruition of God; and the Blessed Virgin from the fact that she is the mother of God; have all a certain infinite dignity from the infinite good, which is God. And on this account there cannot be anything better than these; just as there cannot be anything better than God. “ (Summa I, Q 25, art.6 – 4th reply). God could not have created a more beautiful and glorious Mother, and to think that she is my Mother in the order of grace…

Viva St. Thomas!

While I may disagree with him when he says that it is “more probable” that the Incarnation of the Word was willed by God primarily (or even exclusively) as a remedy to sin, that does not mean I am against him. St. Thomas Aquinas has fought the good fight, taken his crown, and is a canonized Saint and Doctor of the Church; I, on the other hand, need his prayers, example and teachings to help me work out my salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Phil 2:12). So…

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for me, that I too may be made worthy of the promises of Christ!

That said, and having commented from a scotistic point of view on his teaching regarding the primary motive for the Incarnation, I would like to underscore that he never excludes the possibility of the contrary position that Christ’s coming in the flesh could have been God’s will even if Adam had not sinned. The teaching of the Angelic Doctor is that there are two opinions:

There are different opinions about this question. For some say that even if man had not sinned, the Son of Man would have become incarnate. Others assert the contrary… (Summa Theologica III, I, 3)

So the latter, for him, was “more probable,” yet he concludes his presentation with, “Even had sin not existed, God could have become incarnate” (ibid). In his commentary on the Sentences he states regarding an unconditional Incarnation that this “opinion can also be called probable” (In Sent. III, d.1, q.1, a.3). That said, St. Thomas does not rule out what will come to be known as the Franciscan thesis which was especially developed and championed by Bl. John Duns Scotus. Rather, he sees it as “possible” and even “probable,” while embracing the view that he deems “more probable.”

Bl. John Duns Scotus, on the other hand, is very articulate and definitive on the subject. Unlike Thomas who sees both views as opinions worthy of consideration and doesn’t give much weight to the argument (i.e. Aquinas writes, “this is not a very important question” In 1 Tim., c.1, lect.4), the Subtle Doctor does not consider the position of “no sin, no Incarnation” as possible or probable because, according to logic and the Scriptures, this was not God’s plan and is not how God operates. And, obviously, for him the question was central.

The scotistic doctrine on the absolute primacy of Christ constitutes, to use Dr. Mark Miravalle’s comment, “a Copernican revolution” in Theology (and consequently Mariology) because it places Christ the Sun of Justice and His Immaculate Mother clothed with the sun at the center of God’s plan, as opposed to placing Adam and Eve and the earthly paradise at the center and attempting to “measure” Christ and Mary according to man’s need for redemption from sin. I think it is clear enough that a christocentric Theology, Christology, Mariology, Angelology and spirituality have different accents and rhythms than that which results from a Theology where Christology is centered on sin – even if both positions uphold all of the essential dogmas of the Faith. The difference is huge, just as in our solar system there is huge difference between saying the sun is at the center or the earth, even if everything can be calculated (with great difficulty) by saying that the earth is at the center, when everyone was crying out, “Earth centered!”, the idea of a solar system was revolutionary.

Since I have already extensively treated Scotus’ positions throughout this website, I will not repeat that work in the posts, but I do hope to highlight some of his principle arguments and then frequently quote and refer to his thoughts throughout future posts and discussion. An Overview of his doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ and his specific Writings on the subject are available at the links.

fr. maximilian mary dean, F.I.

Dumb ox or dunce – Part II E

Aquinas’ fifth [and perhaps most interesting] argument in favor of Scotus’ position, and his response to the contrary:

Objection 5. Further, the mystery of Incarnation was revealed to the first man, as is plain from Genesis 2:23. “This now is bone of my bones,” etc. which the Apostle says is “a great sacrament . . . in Christ and in the Church,” as is plain from Ephesians 5:32. But man could not be fore-conscious of his fall, for the same reason that the angels could not, as Augustine proves (Gen. ad lit. xi, 18). Therefore, even if man had not sinned, God would have become incarnate.

His response:

Reply to Objection 5. Nothing prevents an effect from being revealed to one to whom the cause is not revealed. Hence, the mystery of Incarnation could be revealed to the first man without his being fore-conscious of his fall. For not everyone who knows the effect knows the cause.

Adam knew about the Incarnation before the fall

First, let us establish the tradition before looking at his response. St. Thomas Aquinas, in defending his position that had Adam not sinned the Incarnation would not have taken place, finds it necessary to acknowledge and defend himself against a tradition that confirms that before the fall God had revealed to Adam the mystery of the Incarnation. Obviously, if Adam knew about the Incarnation before the fall, this presents a slight difficulty to the thomistic position that the Incarnation was completely occasioned by Adam’s sin.

Note well that the Angelic Doctor does not ignore the tradition (he is the one who presents it as an objection to his thesis), nor does he write it off as a bunch of malarchy (he deals with it concretely elsewhere in his Summa, as we shall see below). He takes this tradition very seriously and feels the necessity to dance around it with distinctions to maintain his position without denying the tradition itself. His insistence on acknowledging and maintaining this tradition is extremely interesting because today it is either unknown, ignored or written off as unsubstantial. For him it appeared to be part of the deposit of the Faith, an undeniable truth which he mentions at least twice in his Summa. So, is Adam’s foreknowledge of the Christ a piece of Sacred Tradition lost in the shuffle? Well, not if I can have anything to do with it. 🙂

The Church Fathers

This tradition of Adam’s foreknowledge of the Incarnation before he fell into original sin is found in the Church Fathers, and specifically in St. Jerome and Tertullian.

St. Jerome: The first prophet Adam prophesied this about Christ and the Church: that Our Lord and Savior would have left His God and His mother, the heavenly Jerusalem; that He would come to earth for the sake of His Body, the Church; that the Church would have been taken from His side and for her the Word would have been made flesh. (Commentary on Eph. 5:31-32)

Tertullian mentions it in passing here: What had he [Adam] that was spiritual? Is it because he prophetically declared the great mystery of Christ and the church? Ephesians 5:32 This is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and he shall cleave unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24 But this (gift of prophecy) only came on him afterwards, when God infused into him the ecstasy, or spiritual quality, in which prophecy consists. (Treatise on the soul, Ch.21)

 The contents: mystic sleep of Adam, revelation of Christ, prophecy of Adam

Let’s look at the two specific texts of Aquinas confirming the tradition in order to understand what the scholastics had received from the Church Fathers regarding Adam and his foreknowledge of the Incarnation.

1. St. Thomas writes that man does, however, seem to have had foreknowledge of the Incarnation of Christ, from the fact that he said (Genesis 2:24): “Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife,” of which the Apostle says (Ephesians 5:32) that “this is a great sacrament . . . in Christ and the Church,” and it is incredible [literally “not-believable”] that the first man was ignorant about this sacrament.
( Summa II-II, Q.2, art.7 – “I answer that..”).

2. As cited above, he acknowledges this tradition as one which could pose a problem to his thesis on a Incarnation caused by sin, and he describes it thus: the mystery of Incarnation was revealed to the first man, as is plain from Genesis 2:23. “This now is bone of my bones,” etc. which the Apostle says is “a great sacrament . . . in Christ and in the Church,” as is plain from Ephesians 5:32.
(Summa III, Q.1, art.3 – Objection 5)

What we have here is a Patristic interpretation, and perhaps an Apostolic Tradition, about Eph 5:32 and Gen 2:23-24. In essence St. Paul provides the hermeneutic or interpretive key to understanding Gen 2:21-24. First, Genesis:

Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep, He took one of his ribs, and filled up flesh for it. And the Lord God built the rib which He took from Adam into a woman: and brought her to Adam. And Adam said: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh. Gen 2:21-24

And the interpretive key:

“For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery – I mean in reference to Christ and to the Church. Eph 5:31-32

The tradition is specifically this, that when Adam was put into that deep, mystic sleep, the Lord YHWH revealed to him the mystery of Christ and the Church and for this reason a man and woman espouse and form one flesh. In this context, when Adam awoke from that mystic sleep and was presented Eve, he had been shown the great mystery of Christ, the Divine Bridegroom who would be his descendant, and the Church, the Bride, who would be taken from the side of Christ, and he exclaimed prophetically: 1) of Christ that He would leave His heavenly Father and His mother, the heavenly Jerusalem, to become one with His Bride the Church, and 2) of the Church taken from the side of Christ, This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Adam saw in himself a prefigurement of the New Adam – as St. Paul points out, Adam, a figure of him who was to come (Rm 5:14) – and was stunned at the beauty and grace of Eve, a prefigurement of the Bride of Christ, the Church, the true Mother of all the living (Gn 3:20), taken from His side.

As a brief corollary which, God willing, I will be permitted to develop later, the whole “theology of the body” of Bl. John Paul II seems to be an implicit confirmation of the absolute primacy of Christ because in the beginning – before the fall – man and woman, husband and wife, reflected in their relationship this mystery of life and union between Christ and the Church. In other words, if St. Thomas Aquinas were alive today and acknowledged John Paul II’s theology of the body, he would have to add a sixth objection to his position and make some more fancy distinctions to accept the ordinary magisterium of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body and maintain that indeed Adam and Eve reflected the great mystery of Christ and His Church before the fall, all the while asserting that had Adam not sinned, none of this was to be.

Aquinas’ response and the crazy logic (IMHO) that flows from it

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that this tradition is authentic (after all, St. Thomas did!). This means that Adam knew about the Incarnation of the Word before the fall. St. Thomas here is on the defensive because logically it would seem odd, if not outright impossible, that God would have revealed the Incarnation of the Word to Adam before he had sinned if Christ’s coming was solely to be a remedy of Adam’s transgression. The Angelical Doctor ignores the fact that this would be illogical and only responds that, as crazy as it may be, it was nonetheless possible that God could have willed the Incarnation as a remedy for sin and yet shown Adam the truth of the Incarnation before the fall:

Nothing prevents an effect from being revealed to one to whom the cause is not revealed. Hence, the mystery of Incarnation could be revealed to the first man without his being fore-conscious of his fall. For not everyone who knows the effect knows the cause.

I think we can all agree with Thomas that this is possible, namely, that God could reveal an effect without showing its cause. So, yes, the mystery of the Incarnation could be revealed to the first man without his being fore-conscious of his fall. But is it likely? If Christ is to come solely to remedy sin, then there would be not reason for God to reveal this to Adam before the fall. So it remains odd, to say the least.

The tradition: Adam knew about the Christ, the God-Man; he knew and was ecstatic about the union of Christ the Lord with His people, the Church; he knew that he and Eve were to marvellously reflect that great mystery of the union of Christ and the Church.

And yet, if we follow St. Thomas on the cause of the Incarnation, all of these beautiful things revealed to Adam before the fall were to be occasioned by sin!?! Let’s spell this out: According to the thomistic position, if Adam had not sinned, Christ, the God-Man would never have come; but God chose to reveal His coming to him without showing the cause? If there were no original sin, God would not have established the Church and espoused her (that’s us) to Himself in Christ Jesus; but He chose to reveal to Adam this great mystery of the mystical espousals of Christ and the Church without showing that this great mystery and intimacy presupposed Adam’s unfaithfulness and transgression? Since, according to this position, Christ and His Bride the Church are occasioned by and the remedy to Adam’s sin, this means that Adam and Eve gloriously prefigured the fruitful union of Christ and His Church because of sin; or expressed another way, without the disobedience of Adam’s sin, Adam and Eve would not have prefigured Christ and the Church. So, in the thomistic scheme of things, God starts with a plan A – an economy of grace without Christ, the gratia Dei – and before plan A is ruptured, He already reveals to Adam a better, more beautiful and glorious plan B which will be caused by Adam and Eve’s disobedience but which would not be realized if Adam obeyed God’s original plan, so that while they are still in the gratia Dei of plan A, God reveals to them the gratia Christi of plan B.

Folks, are you with me? Can you not see that if Adam foreknew of Christ before the fall this would clearly indicate (and perhaps even prove) that God created Adam and Eve with a view to Christ? That there was only one plan (no afterthoughts) with one economy of grace, namely the gratia Christi? In other words, when God created the world He had one plan, one mystery, one purpose, Jesus Christ. He willed Christ and the Church, then He began creating. Adam and Eve were created to reflect His glorious plan by their union and fruitfulness and He revealed this to them. Sin did not change this plan in its substance, but necessitated punishment and reconciliation. And actually, from this point of view, we can say that Adam and Eve (and the fallen angels) went against God’s plan to recapitulate all things in Christ.

As such, the Redemption from sin is caused by sin, but the Incarnation is not. Actually, the Redemption necessarily presupposes the Incarnation of the Word; whereas the Incarnation of the Word does not necessarily presuppose the Redemption. For Scotus and the Franciscan thesis, this tradition of Adam’s foreknowledge of the Incarnation fits in nicely with the doctrine of the unconditional, absolute predestination of Christ to grace and glory without any consideration of sin. In the scotistic framework, Adam and Eve were to reflect that great mystery of the union of Christ and the Church because, sin or no sin, they were created to prefigure Christ and His Bride. Actually, had they not sinned they would have reflected this great mystery even better.

Let me conclude this post with a little story I read in the National Catholic Register at the time of the beatification of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD (aka Edith Stein) back in 1998. After translating several volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas into German, one of the nuns of her community in recreation asked St. Teresa Benedicta what she thought of St. Thomas’ writings. She responded more or less like this, “I agree with him in everything; but when it comes to the Incarnation, I follow Scotus.”

Amen. Viva Bl. John Duns Scotus!

Fr. Maximilian M. Dean

St. Bernard – Christ Redeemer of the Holy Angels?!?

St. Bernard of Clairvaux – Christ redeemed the good Angels

It is fascinating that in speaking of Christ as Savior – soteriology – St. Bernard, while he does not come to the same conclusion as Bl. John Duns Scotus on the absolute primacy of Christ and on the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, nonetheless argues for a preservative redemption of the Holy Angels. This thought is almost unheard of, and yet if he is correct and Christ indeed redeemed the Angels by preserving them from falling, this would indicate that the Incarnation was not simply willed as a remedy for man’s sin, but that Christ would have come as Mediator of grace and glory to men and Angels quite regardless of Adam’s sin. Also, a preservative redemption of the good Angels would be coherent with the preservative redemption of Our Lady, thus an implicit confirmation of Scotus’ doctrine (now dogma of the Church) on the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Mother.

Here is the text of the Mellifluous Doctor:

“You say, ‘I don’t see how it could be possible that there was a redemption for the Angels. The authority of the Scriptures, in fact, does not seem to uphold anywhere that they were imprisoned by sin or subject to death so as to need redemption – except, perhaps, those who were carried away by the irreparable sin of pride and do not merit to be redeemed. If, therefore, the Angels were never redeemed – the good because they had no need of it, the bad because the do not deserve it; the former because they did not fall, the latter because they are not capable of forgiveness – in what sense do you maintain that Christ the Lord was redemption for them?’ Listen for a minute. He who lifted fallen man up again assigned him to an Angel who is at his side so that he may not fall, thus freeing man from slavery and preserving the angel from entering into it. In this sense He was redemption equally for both of them, freeing the former and preserving the latter. It is clear, therefore, that Christ the Lord was, for the Angels, redemption, justification, wisdom and sanctification”.
(Sermon on the Song of songs, XXII, 6).

For a deeper understanding of salvation from this perspective of the primacy of Christ see the section on Christ as Redeemer and Christ came for our salvation by scrolling down under Eph 1:3-10.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us!

Fr. Maximilian M. Dean

Dumb ox or dunce – Part II D

Aquinas’ fourth argument in favor of Scotus’ position, and his response to the contrary:

Objection 4. Further, God’s predestination is eternal. But it is said of Christ (Romans 1:4): “Who was predestined the Son of God in power.” Therefore, even before sin, it was necessary that the Son of God should become incarnate, in order to fulfil God’s predestination.

His response:

Reply to Objection 4. Predestination presupposes the foreknowledge of future things; and hence, as God predestines the salvation of anyone to be brought about by the prayers of others, so also He predestined the work of Incarnation to be the remedy of human sin.

While we could argue with the Angelic Doctor that it is possible that God predestined Christ to be “the Son of God in power” solely on account of man’s sin, that certainly is not an argument in favor of Aquinas’ position. At best this possibility only shows that there are two principal opinions regarding the Incarnation: either Christ was predestined first and prior to any consideration of sin (and thus Mary, the Angels and the Saints were predestined in Christ “before the foundation of the world” regardless of sin cfr. Eph 1:4); or sin was foreseen first and prior to any consideration of Christ’s predestination (and consequently the predestination of Mary and the Saints in Christ was based on a foreknowledge of sin).

Yes, both Aquinas and Scotus know that God is outside of time; but to speak intelligently about a well ordered plan (namely, God’s plan in creation), one has to speak of a priority. They differ on what that priority is in God’s design. Scotus speaks amply of this in his writings on the subject (see Scotus’ writings); I have dealt with this several times on this website – one can see, for example, the section on Col 1:15-20 (scroll down to “priority in God”). Here’s the video link on the subject:

For the Angelic Doctor the priority looks like this: First God knows and loves Himself from all eternity; then He wills to create Angels and men (under the economy of gratia Dei); God foresees Adam’s sin; God wills to remedy sin by sending His Son as a propitiation; God predestines the Humanity of Christ to glory; God predestines men (including Mary, but not the Angels) to grace and glory in Christ the Redeemer (a new and better better economy of grace, the gratia Christi, thanks to Adam’s fall).

For the Subtle Doctor the priority looks like this: God is God and He first knows and loves Himself; secondly, He wills to share His goodness in creation; thirdly, He wills “to be loved by Him who can love Him with the greatest love—speaking of the love of someone who is extrinsic to Himself. And fourthly, He foresees the union of that nature that must love Him with the greatest love even if no one had fallen” (Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4). From here God predestines His Immaculate Mother, then all of the elect (the “celestial court” – men and angels) in Christ before the foundation of the world (for Scotus there is only one economy of grace, the gratia Christi, for the entire celestial court of Angels and Saints, and this before any consideration of Adam’s sin); then He foresees the fall and its remedy.

We repeat that both Scotus and Aquinas acknowledge that this priority in the divine intentions is outside of time. God is utterly simple and He does not will by a succession of moments, but all at once. In one deliberation He wills creation with all of its order and beauty. Where they disagree is what that priority is in this orderly and beautiful plan of the Creator. Does God predestine Christ primarily, and foresee secondarily that He will redeem the human race? Or does God foresee the sin of Adam and predestine Christ based on Adam’s need for Redemption? Both Doctors are speaking about a priority, outside of time and with complete foreknowledge; both Doctors are speaking about the actual economy of grace (and not a hypothetical, counterfactual “what would have happened if…”).

The Angelical Doctor holds that God, foreknowing future things, predestined the work of Incarnation to be the remedy of human sin” (cfr. above). Christ’s coming was occasioned by man’s need for Redemption.

The Subtle Doctor maintains an absolute predestination of Christ, that is, in immutable decree willed by God which is not relative to sin or anything else that might accrue to man through the Incarnation. The Incarnation, according to Scotus, is simply not occasioned by anything, but is a free act of God and the ‘top priority’ in His creative design. He writes:

“It is said that the fall of man is the necessary [in the sense of decisive] reason for this predestination.  Since God saw that man would fall, He saw that he would be redeemed in this way, and so He foresaw [Christ’s] human nature to be assumed and to be glorified with so great a glory. I declare, however, that the fall was not the cause of Christ’s predestination.  In fact, even if no man or angel had fallen, nor any man but Christ were to be created, Christ would still have been predestined this way” (Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4).

Fr. Maximilian M. Dean

Dumb ox or dunce – Part II C

Aquinas’ third argument in favor of Scotus’ position, and his response to the contrary:

Objection 3. Further, human nature has not been made more capable of grace by sin. But after sin it is capable of the grace of union, which is the greatest grace. Therefore, if man had not sinned, human nature would have been capable of this grace; nor would God have withheld from human nature any good it was capable of. Therefore, if man had not sinned, God would have become incarnate.

His response:

Reply to Objection 3. A double capability may be remarked in human nature: one, in respect of the order of natural power, and this is always fulfilled by God, Who apportions to each according to its natural capability; the other in respect to the order of the Divine power, which all creatures implicitly obey; and the capability we speak of pertains to this. But God does not fulfil all such capabilities, otherwise God could do only what He has done in creatures, and this is false, as stated above (I, 105, 6). But there is no reason why human nature should not have been raised to something greater after sin. For God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good therefrom; hence it is written (Romans 5:20): “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” Hence, too, in the blessing of the Paschal candle, we say: “O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!”

This response of St. Thomas sends the Subtle Doctor and his followers into a tizzy.

First, note that for the Angelic Doctor without the fall of Adam man is naturally capax Dei – capable of God and would have continued under the original economy of grace (according to this opinion) which is the gratia Dei. In other words, man would have been capable of the grace of union with God without the Incarnation. After the fall that capacity is restored through the Redemption. For Scotus the capax Dei is not natural to man before the fall, but a gift we receive through Christ the Incarnate Word. We have here a clear division between the thomistic school of thought and the Franciscan, scotistic school. For the latter, there is only one order of grace, the gratia Christi. In other words, sin does not make us more capable of grace, but less capable. For the Franciscan school, the grace of union with God through, with and in Christ, which is indeed the greatest of graces for us, is not occasioned by sin, but hindered by it – hence the need for the Redemption. And furthermore, from the scotistic point of view, had Adam not sinned we would have been capable of corresponding to this grace in Christ more readily, as in the case of the Virgin Mary who was, by a singular grace, preserved from the contamination of original sin and was thus able to correspond more fully to this grace of union in Christ. We see here the christocentric perspective of St. Francis and the Franciscans – Christ is the center and not an add-on or an afterthought.

Second, the logic of Thomas’ objection in favor of an Incarnation without sin does not correspond fully to the position taken up by Scotus, hence, Thomas’ refutal does not debunk the arguments that Scotus will present decades after him. Specifically, Scotus never argues that God would have become incarnate to fulfill a human capacity of grace, the grace of union. For the Subtle Doctor the Incarnation is not occasioned by any benefit rendered to other creatures, but is simply willed for its own sake as God’s supreme communication of His love, grace and glory to a created nature (the Humanity of Christ) and His will to receive the maximum love and glory ad extra from the Heart of Jesus. That Angels and men have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing on high in Christ” (Eph 1:3) is divine revelation; but that does not mean that the Incarnation was willed primarily for our benefit, let alone for our Redemption. Let us repeat what was stated before, we exist for Christ and not Him for us (cfr. 1 Cor 3:23; Col 1:16; Rm 14:8; etc.). Since, for Scotus, the Incarnation is not occasioned or conditioned by any creature but is simply a pure act of divine love and generosity, Aquinas’ argument that God is not bound to fulfill all human capabilities does not even enter the discussion because, for Scotus, Christ is willed first in the order of things, and man is willed second, so that the Incarnation (sin or no sin) does not depend on man’s needs or capabilities. Christ comes for the glory of God and God wills to bless us in Him.

What is irksome about the final part of the Angelic Doctor’s response is that he is claiming that we are more blessed because of the sin of Adam than if he had not sinned at all, that the new economy of grace with man’s sin is better than God’s original economy of grace without sin, that we should rejoice in the fall of Adam because this caused the Incarnation, that God would have left out his Masterpiece in all creation, the summum opus Dei, if Adam had been a “good boy” and behaved himself, but since he was a “naughty boy” God chose to accomplish a better plan. For Scotus, and I quote:

“If the fall were the reason for Christ’s predestination, it would follow that the greatest work of God [summum opus Dei—namely, the Incarnation] was essentially occasioned: greatest work, because the glory of all creation is not as great in intensity as is the glory of Christ.  Hence, it seems very absurd to claim that God would have left so great a work [i.e. the Incarnation] undone on account of a good deed performed by Adam, such as Adam’s not sinning” (Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4).

For those who follow Aquinas in the “no sin, no Incarnation” opinion, it seems inevitable that they conclude that evil leads to a greater good.  The Angelic Doctor defends his thesis precisely in this fashion:

“For God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good therefrom; hence it is written (Romans 5:20): “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” Hence, too, in the blessing of the Paschal candle, we say: “O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!”

We have two texts here being interpreted as confirmations that God allows evil so as to bring about a greater good. But St. Paul makes it clear that he does not mean this statement as a cause and effect – namely, because sin and evil and wickedness abound (cause), therefore grace and good and blessing abound the more (effect). “What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means.” (Rm 6:1). I would propose that we interpret the Pauline passage as a primacy of grace over sin as opposed to a response to sin: grace is more powerful and towers above sin so that even if sin abounds, grace abounds all the more; in this way we say that grace, a positive gift of God, is sublime in itself and does not abound because of sin, but superabounds because God’s goodness cannot be eclipsed or outdone by evil. If grace abounded because of sin, then the absurd conclusion would follow that we should promote sin: pornography, abortion, divorce, stealing, homosexuality, murdur, greed, hatred, war, etc. because, after all, the more sin abounds, the more grace will abound – absurd! And yet the “no sin, no Incarnation” opinion leads us precisely to this conclusion that we should thank God for sin because we are now blessed with a better economy of grace in Christ Jesus. Actually, they would have us conclude that Christ Himself should thank Adam for sinning since, according to this opinion, Christ’s predestination to union, grace and glory depends on the fall of the human race and without sin the Sacred Heart of Jesus would not even have existed and been united to the Divine Person of the Word.

To the contrary, Scotus writes:

“Therefore, since the positive act of the divine will regarding the predestined in common precedes all the acts of His will concerning either the reprobate or the fall of anyone whatever, it does not seem that the predestination of Christ to be the Head of the heavenly court was occasioned by the fall or by the demerit of the reprobate.  Therefore, God first loves Himself, and nearest in relation to this is his love for the soul of Christ that is to have the greatest glory in the world.  And among all created things to be willed, this was first willed—an existence foreseen prior to all merit and hence prior to all demerit.” (Reportatio Barcinonensis, II, d.7, q.3)

Regarding the Exultet, I have already dealt at length with this in the section on Romans 8 (scroll down to “O happy fault”). For convenience I will put the video on the subject here as well:


Fr. Maximilian M. Dean

Dumb ox or dunce – Part II, B

Aquinas’ second argument in favor of Scotus’ position, and his response to the contrary:

Objection 2. Further, it belongs to the omnipotence of the Divine power to perfect His works, and to manifest Himself by some infinite effect. But no mere creature can be called an infinite effect, since it is finite of its very essence. Now, seemingly, in the work of Incarnation alone is an infinite effect of the Divine power manifested in a special manner by which power things infinitely distant are united, inasmuch as it has been brought about that man is God. And in this work especially the universe would seem to be perfected, inasmuch as the last creature–viz. man–is united to the first principle–viz. God. Therefore, even if man had not sinned, God would have become incarnate.

His response:

Reply to Objection 2. The infinity of Divine power is shown in the mode of production of things from nothing. Again, it suffices for the perfection of the universe that the creature be ordained in a natural manner to God as to an end. But that a creature should be united to God in person exceeds the limits of the perfection of nature.

Here the Angelic Doctor is basically denying that the perfection of man, namely, his union with God the first principle, would have been accomplished through Christ the Mediator if there were no need for the Redemption. As a result, he is distinguishing two economies of grace: one in Christ, gratia Christi, and one apart from Christ, gratia Dei. Adam and Eve before the fall would have fallen into the category of the gratia Dei, which, in the thomistic scheme, would be the category of the Angels to this day. So before the fall, Adam and Eve were not under the headship of Christ, but were receiving grace directly from God. After the fall, thanks to the merciful Redemption, they and all of their progeny now fall under the headship of Jesus, the gratia Christi. This would mean that the Angels always remain under the gratia Dei, since they never need a Redemption; thus the headship of Christ over them would be “accidental” whereas His headship over us would be as a result of sin.

For the Subtle Doctor and the Franciscan school there is only one economy of grace for men and Angels, the gratia Christi. All of the Angels and all men, including Adam and Eve before the fall, are always under the headship of Christ. This syncs up with the Pauline passages where the Angels are under Christ’s headship (cfr. Col 1:15-18; Eph 1:10, 21-23; 3:8-11; Heb 1; etc.)

There are some who maintain the primacy of Christ and an Incarnation because of man’s need for a Mediator (sin or no sin). In this case the primary motive of the Incarnation would be man’s deification, or divinization, or theosis in Christ (in Catholic theology these terms are valid, provided we maintain that man “participates in the divine nature” 2 Pt 1:4 while remaining a creature – no pantheism allowed! God is God, and we are not). They approach the Incarnation in this fashion: if Adam had not sinned, Christ would have come to elevate man to a participation of the divine, trinitarian life. In this case, Christ is the Mediator of divine grace regardless of any consideration of sin and thus all men and Angels would fall under the headship of Christ. Here we speak of one economy of grace, gratia Christi, for all of the elect. This motive for the Incarnation finds many confirmations in the prayers of the Mass which express the universal mediation of Christ (sin or no sin), i.e. “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity”; and “Through Him and with Him and in Him, to You, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, is all honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” With the absolute primacy of Christ these prayers express a single economy of grace: the gratia Christi, and would be true even if there were no original sin.

However, and this may come as a shock even to those who are acquainted with the Franciscan thesis, the Subtle Doctor even denies this latter explanation as the primary motive of the Incarnation. For him the Incarnation is not occasioned by anything created (neither man’s need for Redemption nor his need for the grace of divine sonship), but is willed by God first and absolutely without any consideration of other creatures – Christ is willed and predestined first, and this to receive the maximum grace and glory from God in His Sacred Humanity and to offer perfect latria, that is, to give the maximum glory to God ad extra. This is the perfect communication of divine love outside of the Godhead and this was the centerpiece of God’s plan, then everything else is willed in Christ and for Christ. First, the Humanity of Christ is predestined to the maximum grace and glory through the hypostatic union, then everyone else is predestined in Christ. More on this later (or look up the section on Scotus). This is, by the way, what St. Francis de Sales taught (see this link: St. Francis de Sales, the Providence of God, & the Primary Motive of the Incarnation).

Obviously, it goes without saying that there is no “first” and “second” and “third” and “then” in God who is outside of time. This is true indeed; however, there is priority in God’s plan and we simply have to use human terms to communicate this, terms like “first”, “before”, “then”, “after”. While St. Thomas Aquinas and Bl. John Duns Scotus both speak of a priority in the divine decree of creation, they are also both fully aware that God did not “think out” His plan of creation in successive moments because God is above time, not in it; God created time as opposed to we who were created in time. Both Doctors are agreed that God willed in an orderly fashion without succession of moments; however, they disagree about what that orderly fashion is.

Fr. Maximilian M. Dean

Dumb ox or dunce – Part II, A

Aquinas’ first argument in favor of Scotus’ position, and his response to the contrary:

Objection 1. It would seem that if man had not sinned, God would still have become incarnate. For the cause remaining, the effect also remains. But as Augustine says (De Trin. xiii, 17): “Many other things are to be considered in Incarnation of Christ besides absolution from sin”; and these were discussed above (Article 2). Therefore if man had not sinned, God would have become incarnate. (Summa P.III, Q.1, Art.3).

And his response:

Reply to Objection 1. All the other causes which are assigned in the preceding article have to do with a remedy for sin. For if man had not sinned, he would have been endowed with the light of Divine wisdom, and would have been perfected by God with the righteousness of justice in order to know and carry out everything needful. But because man, on deserting God, had stooped to corporeal things, it was necessary that God should take flesh, and by corporeal things should afford him the remedy of salvation. Hence, on John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh,” St. Augustine says (Tract. ii): “Flesh had blinded thee, flesh heals thee; for Christ came and overthrew the vices of the flesh.”

In substance, and this is why the discussion is so important, if we say with the Angelic Doctor that had Adam not sinned the Word would not have become incarnate, then this reduces the mediation of Christ to a conditional one. The Mediator exists as a reparation; the Mediator is sent to redeem and His mediation is but a part of man’s Redemption. Hence Thomas’ statement: “For if man had not sinned, he would have been endowed with the light of Divine wisdom, and would have been perfected by God with the righteousness of justice in order to know and carry out everything needful.” In other words, Christ’s mediation would have been superfluous if Adam had not sinned and man would have been in friendship with God directly without any Mediator. From the thomistic perspective, Christ’s mediation was only a remedy to sin after man lost that “light of Divine wisdom” and the mediation of Jesus was not central to God’s plan, but a sort of “plan B” because Adam and Eve would rupture their relationship with God.

We do well to note here that for Scotus and the Franciscan school Christ’s mediation (and consequently the subordinate mediation of His Mother) is unconditional, absolute. When God predestined us and the Angels, it was in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). As such, Redemption is a form (quintessential for us after the fall!) of His mediation. As such, Christ is Mediator and King to the Angels, not because of the sin of Adam, but simply because God willed it that way – Christ was predestined to be the Head of the whole Church, of all the elect – angelic and human, quite apart from any consideration of man’s fall. God always willed to mediate His grace and glory through the union of the Word with the Sacred Humanity of Christ and His headship extends from Adam and Eve before the fall, to the Angels, to all the elect because they are predestined to grace and glory in Him.

Fr. Maximilian M. Dean