St. Thomas Aquinas: the opinion “no sin, no Incarnation” is more probable
Before giving his reserved opinion, he gives a strong “to the contrary” against those who hold an Incarnation even if man had not sinned. He writes:
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Verb. Apost. viii, 2), expounding what is set down in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”; “Therefore, if man had not sinned, the Son of Man would not have come.” And on 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners,” a gloss says, “There was no cause of Christ’s coming into the world, except to save sinners. Take away diseases, take away wounds, and there is no need of medicine.” (Summa Theologica P.III, Q.1, Art.3).
The Angelic Doctor holds that this position is more probable due to the Scriptural affirmations that Christ came to save sinners (Lk 19:10 and 1 Tm 1:15 being examples). Besides the great St. Augustine, he thus finds himself aligned with St. Anselm’s soteriological teaching and with his colleague at the University of Paris, St. Bonaventure, just to mention a few. For them, Christ comes as the remedy for sin and any other motives or blessings associated with the Incarnation are subordinate to this; therefore, for them, the primary reason for the Incarnation is the Redemption of man from sin.
Obviously, from this standpoint the supreme Masterpiece of all of God’s creation, indeed its King and Lord, its Alpha and Omega, namely the Incarnate Word, is, in the end, a remedy, a medicine, a cure for man’s fall. This would mean that the Humanity of Christ, His Most Sacred Heart, His Church – in a word, Jesus Himself exists for us as a remedy. His Incarnation, then, is subordinated to man’s sin and need for Redemption. His primacy in all creation, His headship over men and Angels, His kingship, as such, are all dependent upon sin; they are conditioned (and not unconditional); they are relative to sin (and not absolute). I point this out here to spell out some of the consequences of this position. The implications are many and far reaching: ie. the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God and Queen of Heaven is predestined based on man’s need for Redemption (no sin, no Incarnation, and therefore no Mother of God, no Queen of the Angels, etc.); the good Angels are only “accidentally” under Christ’s headship (if at all); Christ “come in the flesh” (1 Jn 4:2), according to Aquinas and this school, would not have come at all and thus would never have been King of the Angels or the universe or anything had Adam not sinned; consequently, the universe is centered on Christ thanks to the “happy fault” of Adam; and the list goes on.
As can be seen throughout this website, and as we will see in later posts, the Scriptures, while they speak of the urgency of man’s absolute need for Redemption after the fall and while they speak at length of Christ’s redemptive mission, nonetheless, also clearly reveal a christocentric “purpose” in creation (cfr. Eph 1:9-11) that does not depend on any foreknowledge of sin, but which is simply God’s design and immutable decree in creating the universe and sending His only begotten Son to recapulate all things in Christ (Col 1:20). I do not grow weary in pointing out that we exist for Christ! and not vice versa (cfr. 1 Cor 3:23; Col 1:16; Rm 14:8; etc.).
We do well to keep these things in mind as we take a look at the specific responses and rationale that St. Thomas Aquinas uses to support what he considers the “more probable” opinion.
Fr. Maximilian M. Dean