Sunday, November 13, 2005

Personhood and Incarnation

Questions from Lesson 11. We're drawing ever closer to the final. I'm looking forward to moving on to the theology courses, but this has been an interesting class. Maybe I'll have to pursue more education in philosophy when this course of study is over. Lessee... maybe in 2010 when I finally finish this program.

What is a Christology "from below"?

"Christology from below" is meant to describe A Christology that emphasizes the human aspect of Jesus Christ. This emphasis was meant to counter monophystism, which denied that Chirst had two natures and believed only in His Divine nature. This Christology rightly notes Jesus's human nature but puts more focus on that than on His Divinity. While monophysitism hid or denied the humanity of Christ, Christology from below threatens to lower God to our own image or our own concepts. It tends to make Jesus appear to be a human person rather than a Divine person. To see Christ properly, we must keep in mind both his human and Divine natures.

What in Christian doctrine is a "mystery"? Why isn't it logically contradictory ?

A mystery is a reality that cannot be deduced or proven by reason, that must be shown to us through Divine revelation. However, it also cannot contradict fact. By "contradict," we do not mean something that is out of the ordinary or unexplainable, as that is the very definition of mystery. However, it cannot stand in direct opposition to fact or stand against a mutually exclusive fact.

Why must all our terms that refer to God and the order of grace be analogical? What is an analogy?

God is beyond our comprehension, and His true nature cannot be fully known to us. However, we can find in our experience parallels to God's character. These parallels or analogies allow us to relate concepts to God. For example, we claim to be able to understand an artist by knowing the creations of the artist. Given that God also creates, we can parallel the create acts of the artist to the creative acts of God can see the goodness and widsom of God in the created world. We can find an analogy in the human family for the Divine family, the Trinity.

Analogies do not get at the true essence of God, but they can suggest a smilitude by which we can come to better understand or approach that essence.

Is Jesus Christ a human person? If not how is he "like us in all things but sin" as the New Testament teaches?

Jesus is not a human person, but he is a human being and has a human nature. He also has a Divine nature. While His Divine essence and its existence are one and the same, his human essence and existence are distinct. Having a human nature, Jesus was subject to pain, sorrow, joy, temptation, hunger, and all other feelings and sensations that humans experience. However, sin is not a feeling or sensation but
an act of the will, a choice to favor our human will over God's.

If we take Christ's words in the Garden of Gethsemane to be accurate, we have to accept that will is tied to essence. Jesus clearly distinguishes His will from the Father's. If His will is different, it must in some way arise from that which makes Him different from the father, and that would have to be His human essence. Otherwise, Jesus's Divine person would want something different from the Father's Divine person. The will He speaks of, then, must arise from His human essence. It is in His choice in the garden that He best exemplifies the way. He denies the will that arises from his human essence and chooses the will of the Father, which ultimately must be the will of His Divine person as well. His choices, in all things, conform to God's will, not to his human will.

So He is like us in all things but sin, not because His will arises from something different than our but because He consistently chooses God's will over the will arising from His human essence. We, on the other hand, may sometimes choose God's will, but due to our imperfections, we frequently choose our own will.

Why are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not three Gods?

God is the necessary being, the One in whom existence and essence are the same.
God is by necessity One because He is all perfect, all knowing, all powerful, and actualize all that is possible (all potentiality). If the three Divine Persons were separate in essence, then each would be lacking something that the others have. That would mean three gods that are not all perfect. Such gods could not be the necessary beings we believe them to be. If they were separate in existence, at least two would be redundant. I could say unnecessary, but I think that would be sophistry. Redundancy, however, isn't indicative of perfection, and it's contradictory to say that there are three supreme beings. So the three cannot have separate existence.

So, next question, given this sharing of existence and essence, what is personhood?

Describe the human person from the viewpoint of reason and of Christian faith. Apply this doctrine to the Incarnation. Be sure to include the definition of the person found in the Catechism.

I'm not able to find a clear definition of person in the Catechism. From our lectures and reading, we can assert that a person has essence and existence.

Here's the Catechism's description of the Divine persons:

Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance."89 Indeed "everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship."90 "Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son."91

By analogy, we would then say that a person has essence and existence and lives in relationship with others. The Incarnation has essence and existence, but His essence and existence are one, which is the definition of necessary Being. So the personhood of the Incarnation is different than our personhood. His personhood is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit but is in relationship with them. The human person lives in community with others and only becomes fully human in relation to living in a human community.

I'll have to think about this one some more.
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