III. OBJECTIONS ANSWERED
- Before commencing, it would be well to remember, as St. Ambrose (1) remarks, that the texts of Scripture adduced by our adversaries, are not always to be taken in the same sense, as some of them refer to Christ as God, and more as man; but the heretics confuse one with the other, applying those which refer to him as man, as if they referred to him as God. ” The pious mind,” the Saint says, ” will distinguish between those which apply to him, according to the flesh, and according to the Divinity; but the sacrilegious mind will confound them, and distort, as injurious to the Divinity, whatever is written according to the humility of the flesh.” Now, this is exactly how the Arians proceed, in impugning the Divinity of the Word; they always fasten on those texts, in which Christ is said to be less than the Father. To upset most of their arguments, therefore, it will always be sufficient to explain, that Jesus, as man, is less than the Father, but as God, by the Word, to which his humanity is united, he is equal to the Father. When we speak, therefore, of Jesus Christ, as man, we can lawfully say that he is created, that he was made, that he obeys the Father, is subject to the Father, and so forth.
- We shall now review the captious objections of our opponents: First They object to us that text of St. John (xiv, 28) : ” The Father is greater than I am.” But, before quoting this passage, they ought to reflect that Christ, before speaking thus, said : ” If you loved me, you would, indeed, be glad, because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” Here, then, Jesus calls the Father greater than himself, inasmuch as he, as man, was going to the Father in heaven; but mark how, afterwards, speaking of himself, according to the Divine Nature, he says, “The Father and I are one;” and all the other texts already quoted (Sec. I.), are of the same tenor, and clearly prove the Divinity of the Word, and of Christ.
(1) St. Ambrose, l. 5, de Fide, c. 8, n. 115.
Second They object that Christ says : ” I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John, vi, 38); and also that passage of St. Paul : ” And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then the Son also himself shall be subject unto him, that put all things under him” (I. Corinth, xv, 28). The Son, therefore, obeys, and is subject to the Father, and, therefore, is not God. In regard to the first text, we answer that Jesus Christ then explained the two Wills, according to the two Natures he had to wit, the human will, by which he was to obey the Father, and the Divine Will, which was common both to him and the Father. As far as the second text goes, St. Paul only says, that the Son, as man, will be always subject to the Father; and that we do not deny. How, then, can it interfere with our belief in his Divinity ? Third They object that passage of the Acts of the Apostles (iii, 13) : ” The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus, whom you, indeed, delivered up,” &c. See here, they say, how a distinction is made between the Son and between the Father, who is called God. We answer, that this refers to Christ as man, and not as God; for the words, ” he glorified his Son,” are to be understood, as referring to Christ in his human nature. St. Ambrose, besides, gives another answer, when he says, ” that if the Father is understood by the name of God alone, it is because from him is all authority.”
- The following objections are just of the same character as the preceding. They object, fourthly, that text of the Proverbs : ” The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything from the beginning” (Prov. viii, 22). This is the text, according to the Vulgate, and the Hebrew original is just the same; but in the Greek Septuagint it is thus read : ” The Lord created me in the beginning of his ways.” Therefore, the Arians say, the Divine Wisdom which is here spoken of was created, and they strengthen their argument, by quoting from Ecclesiasticus (xxiv, 14) : ” From the beginning, and before all ages, I was created.” We answer, first of all, the true reading is that of the Vulgate, and that alone, according to the Decree of the Council of Trent, we are bound to obey; but though we even take the Greek, it is of no consequence, as the word created (here used in the text of Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus), as St. Jerome and St. Augustine (2) teach us, does not exactly mean creation, for the Greeks promiscuously used the words created and begotten, to signify sometimes creation, sometimes generation, as appears from Deuteronomy (xxxii, 16) : “Thou hast forsaken the God that begot thee, and hast forgotten the Lord that created thee.” Hence generation is taken for creation. There is a passage also in the Book of Proverbs, which, if we consider the text, can only be understood of the generation of the Divine Wisdom : ” I was set up from eternity, and of old, before the earth was made Before the hills I was brought forth” (Proverbs, viii, 23). We should remark here the expression, ” I was set up from eternity.” That shows how we ought to understand the word created is to be understood in the former quotation. We might also answer, with St. Hilary, that the word created refers to the human nature the Word assumed, and the words, brought forth, to the eternal generation of the Word (3). Wisdom here is spoken of as created, and, immediately after, as begotten; but creation is to be referred, not to the immutable nature of God, but to the human generation. ” Sapientia itaque quæ se dixit creatam, eadem in consequenti se dixit genitam : creationem referens ad Parentis inde mutabilem naturam, quæ extra humani partus speciem, et consuetudinem, sine imminutione aliqua, ac diminutione sui creavit ex seipsa quod genuit.” In the text of Ecclesiasticus, cited immediately after, it is clear that the Incarnate Wisdom is spoken of: “He that made me rested in my tabernacle ;” for this by the Incarnation was verified. God, who ” created” Jesus Christ according to his humanity, ” rested in his tabernacle” that is, reposed in that created humanity. The following passage is even, if possible, clearer : “Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect.” All this surely refers to the Incarnate Wisdom, who came from the stock of Israel and Jacob, and was then the root of all the elect. Read on this subject St. Augustine, St. Fulgentius; and, above all, St. Athanasius (4).
(2) St. Hieron. in Cap. 4; Ep. ad Eph. St. August. lib. de Fid. & Simb. (3) St. Hilar. lib. de Synod, c. 5. (4) St. Aug. l. 5, de Trin. c. 12; St. Fulgent, lib. contra serm. fastid. Arian. St. Athanas. Orat. contra Arian.
36.- They object, fifthly, that St. Paul says of Christ, in his Epistle to the Colossians (i, 15) : ” Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. ” Hence, they infer that Christ is the most excellent of creatures, but still only a creature. We may here reply, that the Apostle speaks of Christ in this text, according to his human nature, as St. Cyril explains it (5). But it is generally interpreted of the Divine Nature, and he is called the first-born of all creatures, because by him all creatures were made, as St. Basil explains it (6) : ” Since in him were made all things in heaven and on earth.” In the same manner, he is called, in the Apocalypse, ” the first born of the dead” (Apoc. i, 5); because, as St. Basil again explains it, he was the cause of the resurrection of the dead. Or he may be called the first-born, because he was generated before all things, as Tertullian (7) explains it : ” The first-born, because he was born before all things; the only-begotten, as the only-begotten of God.” St. Ambrose (8) says the same thing. We read the first-born we read the only-begotten; the first born, because there was none before him the only-begotten, because there was none after him.
- They object, sixthly, that expression of St. John the Baptist (John, i, 15) : ” He that shall come after me is preferred before me” (ante me factus est); therefore, say they, the Word was created. St. Ambrose (9) answers, that all that St. John meant by the expression, ” was made before me” (ante me factus est), was, that he was preferred or placed before him, for he immediately assigns the reason : ” Because he was before me,” that is, because he preceded him for all eternity, and he was, therefore, not even worthy to ” unloose the latchet of his shoe.” The same answer meets the passage of St. Paul: ” Being made so much better than the angels” (Heb. i, 4), that is, he was honoured so much more than the angels.
- They object, seventhly, that text of St. John (17, 3) : ” Now this is eternal life, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Hence it is declared, say they, that the Father only is true God; but we answer, that the word “only” does not exclude from the Divinity, unless creatures alone, as St. Matthew says : ” No one knoweth the Son but the Father, nor the Father but the Son” (Matt, xi, 27).
(5) St. Cyril, l. 25; Thesaur. (6) St. Basil, l. 4, con. Eunom. (7) Tertul. con. Frax. c. 7. (8) St. Ambrose, l. 1, de Fide. (9) St. Ambrose, l. 3, de Fide.
Now, it would be a false conclusion to deduce from this that the Father does not know himself; and, therefore, the word “only” in the former text is to be taken, as in the twelfth verse of the thirty-second chapter of Deuteronomy : ” The Lord alone was his leader, and there was no strange God with him.” Another proof is that text of St. John (xvi, 32) : ” And shall leave me alone.” Here the word alone (solum) does not mean that he is excluded from the Father, for he immediately adds : ” And yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” And thus, likewise, must we understand that text of St. Paul : ” We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one; for although there be that are called gods, either in heaven or on earth, yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (I. Cor. viii, 5, 6). Here the expression, ” One God, the Father,” is meant to exclude the false gods, but not the Divinity of Jesus Christ, no more than saying “Our Lord Jesus Christ,” excludes the Father from being still our Lord.
- They also adduce the sixth verse of the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians : ” One God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.” We answer that the words : ” One God, and Father of all,” do not exclude the Divinity of the other two Persons; for the word, Father, is not here taken in its strict sense, as denoting the Person of the Father alone, but in that essential sense, by which the word, Father, is applied to the whole Trinity, which we invoke when we say : – Our Father, who art in heaven.” We thus, also, answer the other text adduced from St. Paul to Timothy : ” For there is one God and one Mediator of God and man, the man, Christ Jesus (I. Tim. ii, 5). The expression, ” one God,” does not exclude the Divinity of Jesus Christ; but, as St. Augustine remarks, the words which immediately follow ” one Mediator of God and man,” prove that Jesus Christ is both God and man. ” God alone,” the Saint says, ” could not feel death, nor man alone could not subdue it.”
- They object, eighthly, the text : ” But of that day or time, no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father” (Mark, xiii, 32). So, say they, the Son is not omniscient. Some have answered this, by saying, that the Son did not know the day of judgment as man, but only as God; but this does not meet the objection, since we know from the Scriptures, that to Christ, even as man, the fullness of knowledge was given : ” And we saw the glory, the glory as it were, of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John, i, 14); and again : ” In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Collos. ii, 3). And St. Ambrose (10), treating of this point, says : ” How could he be ignorant of the day of judgment, who told the hour, and the place, and the signs, and the causes of judgment.” The African Church, therefore, obliged Leporius to retract, when he said, that Christ, as man, did not know the day of judgment, and he at once obeyed. “We, therefore, answer, that it is said the Son did not know the day of judgment, as it would be of no use, nor fit that men should know it. This is the way in which St. Augustine explains it. We are, therefore, to conclude that the Father did not wish that the Son should make known the day, and the Son, as his Father’s Legate, said in his name, he did not know it, not having received a commission from his Father to make it known.
- They object, ninthly, that the Father alone is called good, to the exclusion of the Son : ” And Jesus said to him : Why callest thou me good? None is good but one, that is God” (Mark, x, 18). Christ, therefore, they say, confesses that he is not God. St. Ambrose (11) answers this. Christ, he says, wished to reprove the young man, who called him good, and still would not believe he was God, whereas, God alone is essentially good; it is, says the Saint, as if our Lord should say : ” Either do not call me good, or believe me to be God.”
- They object, tenthly, that Christ has not full power over all creatures, since he said to the mother of St. James and St. John : ” To sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give you” (Matt, xx, 23). We answer, it cannot be denied according to the Scriptures, that Christ received all power from his Father : ” Knowing that the Father had given him all things into his hands” (John, xiii, 3); ” All things are delivered to me by my Father” (Matt, xi, 27); ” All power is given to me in heaven, and on earth” (Matt, xxviii, 18). How, then, are we to understand his inability to give places to the sons of Zebedee? We have the answer from our Lord himself: ” It is not mine,” he says, ” to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father.” See, then, the answer : ” It is not mine to give you ;” not because he had not the power of giving it, but I cannot give it to you, who think you have a right to heaven, because you are related to me; for heaven is the portion of those only for whom it has been prepared by my Father; to them, Christ, as being equal to the Father, can give it. ” As all things,” says St. Augustine (12), “which the Father has, are mine, this is also mine, and I have prepared it with the Father.”
(10) St. Ambrose, l. 5, de Fide. c. 16, n. 204. (11) St. Ambrose, l. 2, de Fide. c. 1. (12) St. Angus. /. 1, de Trin. c. 12.
- They object, eleventhly, that text : ” The Son cannot do anything from himself, but what he sees the Father doing” (John, v, 19). St. Thomas (13) answers this. ” When it said that the Son cannot do anything for himself, no power is taken from the Son, which the Father has, for it is immediately added : “For what things soever he doth, these the Son also doth, in like manner ;” but it is there that the Son has the power, from his Father, from whom he also has his Nature.” Hence, Hilary (14) says : ” This is the Unity of the Divine Nature; ut ita per se agat Filius quod non agat a se” The same reply will meet all the other texts they adduce, as : ” My doctrine is not mine” (John, vii, 16); ” The Father loves the Son, and shows him all things” (John, v, 20); ” All things are delivered to me by my Father” (Matt, xi, 27). All these texts prove, they say, that the Son cannot be God by Nature and Substance. But we answer, that the Son, being generated by the Father, receives everything from him by communication, and the Father, generating, communicates to him all he has, except the Paternity; and this is the distinction between Him and the Son, for the power, the wisdom, and the will, are all the same in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Arians adduce several other texts, but the reader will find no especial difficulty in answering them, by merely referring to what he has already read.
(13) St. Thomas, 1, p. 9, 42, a. 6, ad 1. (14) Hilar. de Trin. l. 9.