Summa Theologica, Part III, Question 1 Summarized

Question 1. The fitness of the Incarnation

Article 1. Whether it was fitting that God should become incarnate?

Objection 1. It would seem unfitting for God, perfect from all eternity, to not remain as He is, without flesh and not united with it

Objection 2. It is unfitting that things infinitely separate and unique in essence should be joined together, and God’s simplicity is infinitely different than created flesh.

Objection 3. Likewise, a body is as distant from the highest spirit as evil is from the highest good, and it would certainly be unfitting for God to assume evil.

Objection 4. Further, since God is above all things and provident over all things, it would seem unfitting that he become one of these things. As part of the “things” of creation, it would seem the governance of creation would be transferred to a mere part of itself.

On the contrary, It would seem most fitting that by visible things the invisible things of God should be made known; “For the invisible things of God . . . are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”

I answer that, To each things, that is befitting which belongs to it by reason of its very nature; thus, to reason befits man, since this belongs to him because he is of a rational nature. But the very nature of God is goodness, and it belongs to the essence of goodness to communicate itself to others. Hence it belongs to the essence of the highest good to communicate itself and it is manifest that it was fitting that God should become incarnate.

Reply to Objection 1. It was not that some change was brought about in God, but rather in the way He is united to creation, and more exactly, that the creature is changed, as is natural for mutable things, by being united to God.

Reply to Objection 2. It is not on the basis of humanities natural capacity, of upon God’s will to save man, that God unites Himself to man.

Reply to Objection 3. Creation is by nature good, as a participant in being. God, by assuming a human nature, in no way had to take on the faults of man, and assumed no evil in the incarnation.

Reply to Objection 4.  In no way, except by the dull wittedness of man in thinking naturally and not supernaturally, is it assumed that in becoming Incarnate, any limit to God’s omnipresence and governance of the entire order of creation took place.

Article 2. Whether it was necessary for the restoration of the human race that the Word of God should become incarnate?

Objection 1. It seems unnecessary because to become incarnate adds no perfection to God, as savior, that was somehow lacking.

Objection 2. Man should satisfy for sin, and it seems God would require nothing from man beyond the power of man to do so, given God’s merciful nature.

Objection 3. God’s majesty, known by man, is necessary for man’s coming to salvation. But God’s becoming man would seem to lower Him and hurt man’s seeing Him as “above all things.”

On the contrary, What frees the human race from perdition is necessary for the salvation of man, and this was necessary in as much as it was the way our loving God has chosen.

I answer that, the incarnation cannot be deemed necessary in an absolute way, but in that it was most fitting for man.  God, of course, being omnipotent, could have chosen other ways.

God therefore chose to “meet us where we are” so to speak, and to save us in a way that let us cooperate with Him in our salvation.  The incarnation was most fitting to increase faith, hope, and love.

In becoming man, and letting it be through a man as well as through God that we are saved, He upheld the dignity of man. There are other reasons of course, in God’s wisdom and unknown to us, for God’s choosing this means.

Reply to Objection 1. This reason has to do with the first kind of necessity, without which we cannot attain to the end.

Reply to Objection 2. This objection forgets the difference between congruent and condign merit.  God does let man “work out his own salvation” in the congruent manner.

Reply to Objection 3. By taking flesh God did not lessen His dignity.  As above, it is us who were raised up to know Him.

Article 3. Whether, if man had not sinned, God would have become incarnate?

Objection 1. Augustine says “Many other things are to be considered in Incarnation of Christ besides absolution from sin”

Objection 2. God naturally perfects His works, and so becoming man (and thus part of creation) would be to perfect it, regardless of sin.

Objection 3. God would have become man to give grace to man in a way man did not have it originally; otherwise it seems man would have attained less favor from God by NOT sinning.

Objection 4 It is said of Christ that He “was predestined the Son of God in power.” And predestination is from all eternity.

Objection 5. The Church seems to have been prefigured in the marriage of Adam and Eve before the fall, and thus its Head was to be Christ, as Man, regardless.

On the contrary, “Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.” (1Tim 1:15)

I answer that, There are different valid opinions on this matter, but we must go with what the majority of evidence from Scripture (our only source of knowledge of such supernatural things) tells us, and this is that Christ came “to save sinful man.”

Reply to Objection 1. Everything that Augustine speaks of here has a proximate relation to the fact of sin, of some loss incurred by humanity from it, etc.

Reply to Objection 2. Natural things are perfect inasmuch as they reach their natural capacity, and need not be “supernaturalized.”

Reply to Objection 3. Man was already perfect in his natural capacity at creation, nothing needing to be added.  It is a mystery, but we say: “O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!”

Reply to Objection 4. God’s predestination and His foreknowledge are one.

Reply to Objection 5. Man need not know the purpose of something for its very existence to be revealed.

Article 4. Whether God became incarnate in order to take away actual sin, rather than to take away original sin?

Objection 1. Actual sin seems more contrary to man’s end, and so it would be the primary purpose of Christ.

Objection 2. Because Christ suffered sensual pain on the Cross, its intention must coincide with the cause of sensual pain, being actual sin.

Objection 3. Christ came to save each individual person as individual, and not just corporately, and so our individual sins must be His chief purpose of remedy.

On the contrary, “Behold the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the ‘sin’ of the world.”

I answer that, Christ certainly came into the world to take away both original sin and the particular sins of man.  The “greatness” of sin can be understood both intensively and extensively, and the whole human race is affected by original sin.  This is the primary sin that Christ came to take away inasmuch as “the good of the race is a more Divine thing than the good of an individual,” as the Philosopher says.

Reply to Objection 1. This reason looks to the intensive greatness of sin.

Reply to Objection 2. The reward of pains suffered in the future are not the original cause of pains suffered, which is original sin.  Therefore Christ came to wipe away the cause.

Reply to Objection 3. Although a man can account Christ’s gifts as given for him alone, he should not to consider them not to be given to others, and so Christ came to wipe away the sin of all which came first from original sin. He died to cure original sin and thus in each particular as a result.

Article 5. Whether it was fitting that God should become incarnate in the beginning of the human race?

Objection 1. It would seem that it was fitting that God should become incarnate in the beginning of the human race, because the merciful and charitable do not delay in giving aid to those in need.

Objection 2. It seems that more would have been saved if Christ had come earlier, and thus it would be more fitting of a loving God to come at the beginning.

Objection 3. The work of grace, more perfect in order than that of nature, should precede that of nature, and thus, Christ should come at the beginning.

On the contrary, It is written “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent His Son”

I answer that, Since the work of Incarnation is principally ordained to the restoration of the human race by blotting out sin, it would not be proper for Him to come before sin. Nor was it fitting that God should become incarnate immediately after sin, for sin was from pride, and so man must be humbled through time to see his need for redemption.

Reply to Objection 1. Charity does not delay, but does consider the circumstances.  Medicine, as other aids, must be given at the proper time if they are to cause healing.

Reply to Objection 2. God knew when and where, in His merciful omnipotence, the elect would be saved by their accepting Him. ”It is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy(Rom 9).”

Reply to Objection 3. God’s perfection as cause proceeds, in time, that of the effect, which is the perfection of man in union with Him.

Article 6. Whether Incarnation ought to have been put off till the end of the world?

Objection 1. It would seem so, for according to the Psalm, “My old age in plentiful mercy”–i.e. “in the last days. “Therefore the Incarnation ought to have been put off till the end of the world.

Objection 2. Perfection comes after imperfection in time. Therefore, what is most perfect ought to be the very last in time, the Incarnation being most perfect.

Objection 3. It makes little sense for Christ’s Incarnation to come separate from His coming at the end of time in judgement, rather than all together as one event.

On the contrary, “In the midst of the years Thou shalt make it known.”

I answer that, As it was not fitting that God should become incarnate at the beginning of the world, so also it was not fitting that the Incarnation should be put off till the end of the world.

Perfection proceeds imperfection in one way and the reverse is true in another.  The work of the Incarnation shows both, as, by the Incarnation, human nature is raised to perfection, but will be manifest in each of the elect at the end of time when each is raised to glory.

Secondly, God at various points throughout time, in His wisdom has acted through various men that we may know our need for salvation and have the law and then grace so as to obtain it. His timing in each prophet is by His wisdom, and even more so His Incarnation.

Thirdly, God shows his diversity of power, saving some by the hope of a future redeemer and others by faith in One already come.

Reply to Objection 1. We should not confuse the youth of the body and the “youth” of soul, and thus the error of the first objection.

Reply to Objection 2. The work of Incarnation is both final cause and efficient cause of the perfection of man.

Reply to Objection 3. As Chrysostom says, “There are two comings of Christ: the first, for the remission of sins; the second, to judge the world. For if He had not done so, all would have perished together, since all have sinned and need the glory of God.”


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