Monthly Archives: July 2011

Summa III, Q.17-19 – Christ’s unity of will and unity of operation

Question 17. Christ’s unity of being

Article 1. Whether Christ is one or two?

Basically, “Christ is something that the Father is, and something that the Father is not.” He is both God and man.  Is He therefore “two?”

Now in Christ there are two substantial natures, the human and the Divine. Therefore Christ is one thing and another. Therefore Christ is two.

What, though, are we asking?  Who Christ is?  Or what He is “made” of.  Christ is one Person, and this is the one suppositum. Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity, and He is no less this One divine Person after the Incarnation than before. We can’t say “Christ is human nature” but that He has a human nature.  Christ is one, for His being is His Person.  He, the divine Person, is unchanged in the Incarnation.  “He IS.”

Article 2. Whether there is only one being in Christ?

Everything is said to be a being, inasmuch as it is one, for one and being are convertible. Therefore, if there were two beings in Christ, and not one only, Christ would be two, and not one.

There is only one being in Christ, inasmuch as He is one Person. Analogously, there is only one being in a human person, although there is a soul and a body.  Indeed, any material object has a formal and a material cause.  Now, Christ’s divinity is not the formal cause and His human nature the material: by no means.  Christ’s human nature, likewise, is not an “accident” attached to the “substance” of His divinity.  Thinking along these lines can help contemplate the union, but lack an exactness in understanding the unique reality of the hypostatic union. Still, it may be helpful to ponder this in understanding the oneness of Christ as person.

For a much fuller treatment, however, it may be helpful to read Fr. LaGrange’s discussion of the Incarnation in the Person from ST III, Question 2 (

Objection 3 and Reply:

Further, in the Trinity, although there are three Persons, yet on account of the unity of nature there is only one being. But in Christ there are two natures, though there is one Person. Therefore in Christ would there not be two beings?

Since the Divine Person is the same as the Nature, there is no distinction in the Divine Persons between the being of the Person and the being of the Nature, and, consequently, the three Persons have only one being. But they would have a triple being if the being of the Person were distinct in them from the being of the Nature.

Question 18. Christ’s unity of will

Article 1. Whether there are two wills in Christ?

An early heresy, monothelitism, claimed that there was only one will in Christ, but a human nature has a human will, and so this could not stand in a correct understanding of Christology. Unlike monophysitism, it did admit two natures in Christ, but obviously misunderstood what it meant to truly have both natures.

Much of this is related, then, to the understanding of the person and will, for the controversy at this point is whether a will belongs strictly to a person or to a nature. The will pertains to the perfection of human nature, being one of its natural powers, even as the intellect, as St. Thomas states in Summa Theologica I, Q79,80. Hence we must say that the Son of God assumed a human will, together with human nature.

“Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me. But yet not My will but Thine be done.”

In the sixth Council held at Constantinople it was decreed that it must be said that there are two wills in Christ, in Act. 18: “In accordance with what the Prophets of old taught us concerning Christ, and as He taught us Himself, and the Symbol of the Holy Fathers has handed down to us, we confess two natural wills in Him and two natural operations.”

Whatever was in the human nature of Christ was moved at the bidding of the Divine will; yet it does not follow that in Christ there was no movement of the will proper to human nature, for the good wills of other saints are moved by God’s will, “Who worketh” in them “both to will and to accomplish,” as is written Philippians 2:13.

Article 2. Whether in Christ there was a will of sensuality besides the will of reason?

The question pertains to the sensitive appetite, which comes from the body (the senses) but with a relation to the soul, as an operative power. There is “will” of sensuality, then, in Christ, and not merely a “will” related to reason.

“The Son of God must have assumed together with the human nature whatever belongs to animal nature; one of which things is the sensitive appetite, which is called the sensuality. Consequently it must be allowed that in Christ there was a sensual appetite, or sensuality.”

Unlike us in our fallen state, however, Christ’s sensitive passions were completely under the control of His human soul, instead of being a negative influence on it, as ours so often are. Sensuality is signified by the “serpent” not as regards the nature of the sensuality, which Christ assumed, but as regards the corruption of it, which was not in Christ.

Article 3. Whether in Christ there were two wills as regards the reason?

In every order there is one first mover. But the will is the first mover in the genus of human acts. Therefore in one man there is only one will, properly speaking, which is the will of reason. But Christ is one man. Therefore in Christ there is only one human will.

Again, Fr. LaGrange is most helpful:

“In Christ there is one power or faculty of the human will; but if we consider the human will with reference to its acts, then there is a distinction between the natural will that is naturally inclined to good in itself, shrinking from what is harmful to nature, and the rational will, or free will, that is drawn to its object by comparison and deliberation.”

The will is sometimes taken for the power, and sometimes for the act. Hence we must say that if we are speaking of the power of the will, in Christ there is but one human will, but if we are speaking of the will as an act, we thus distinguish in Christ a will as nature, and a will as reason.

Article 4. Whether there was free-will in Christ?

The objection is made that free-will is indifferent. But Christ’s will was determined to good, since He could not sin, so there was no free-will in Christ.

Here is not this place to venture an in-depth discussion of the [I think false] idea of free will as indifference, but we may note that nominalist moral philosophers and theologians would seem to have been anticipated here.  Freedom does not, rightly understood, entail the indifference to do right or wrong.  After all, Christ came to “set us free” from sin; how then can true freedom involve the ability to sin?  On the contrary, it is to be freed from it.

Aristotle says (Ethic. iii, 2) choice differs from will in this, that will of itself regards the end, while choice regards the means. For one with the beatific vision, even as man (wayfarer), the end is always in view, and the means is thus never distorted.

Thus Thomas says in his reply to the third objection: The will of Christ, though determined to good, is not determined to this or that good. Hence it pertains to Christ, even as to the blessed, to choose with a free-will confirmed in good. (This is the ancient teaching of the freedom for excellence, as opposed to the freedom of indifference, mentioned above in reference especially to the nominalists)

Article 5. Whether the human will of Christ was altogether conformed to the Divine will in the thing willed?

He who desires to do another’s will, wills what the other wills. Hence it seems that Christ’s human will willed nothing but what was willed by His Divine will.

Augustine disagrees, saying “When Christ says ‘Not what I will, but what Thou wilt’ He shows Himself to have willed something else than did His Father; and this could only have been by His human heart, since He did not transfigure our weakness into His Divine but into His human will.”

It was the will of God that Christ should undergo pain, suffering, and death, not that these of themselves were willed by God, but for the sake of man’s salvation. We know that in his sorrowful prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, the man Jesus certainly did not positively will His passion (let this cup pass from Me). Yet He conformed His will by reason to that of the Father; “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” For He willed in His reason that the Divine will should be fulfilled although He said that He willed something else by another will.

Likewise, if the doctor prescribes bitter medicine, I take it not because I am merely doing his will, but willing it myself by reason of what it accomplishes.

Article 6. Whether there was contrariety of wills in Christ?

The purpose of this article is to explain that diversity of wills, which was discussed in the preceding article, was not such as to induce real contrariety, because they are considered under different aspects.

“Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” His reason, would we say, willed contrary to His flesh?

The Third Council of Constantinople says: “We confess two natural wills, not in opposition, as evil-minded heretics assert, but following His human will, and neither withstanding nor striving against, but rather being subject to, His Divine and omnipotent will.”

Contrariety can exist only where there is opposition in the same and as regards the same. There is no contrariety, for example, if I wish a man to be executed for the sake of protecting the community, and another wills him to be spared out of mercy, for we are not willing the act under the same aspect. Likewise, a difference in sensitive appetite and rational appetite approach something from two different aspects, and are not contrarieties. And hence it must be said that although the natural and the sensitive will in Christ wished what the Divine will did not wish, yet there was no contrariety of wills in Him.

In us the desires of the spirit are impeded or retarded by the desires of the flesh: this did not occur in Christ. Hence in Christ there was no contrariety of flesh and spirit, as in us.”

Question 19. The unity of Christ’s operation

Article 1. Whether in Christ there is only one operation of the Godhead and Manhood?

On account of the unity of hypostasis is there only one operation of the Godhead and Manhood? St.Ambrose says (De Fide ii, 8): “How can the same operation spring from different powers? Cannot the lesser operate as the greater? And can there be one operation where there are different substances?”

The heretics (see Question 18 art. 6) who placed one will in Christ placed one operation in Christ. Now, as in a mere man the body is moved by the soul, and the sensitive by the rational appetite, so in the Lord Jesus Christ the human nature is moved and ruled by the Divine.

What is moved by another has a twofold action: one which it has from its own form and the other, which it has inasmuch as it is moved by another; thus the operation of an axe of itself is to cleave; but inasmuch as it is moved by the craftsman, its operation is to make benches. We see then that Thomas here uphold’s first and second causality.  Indeed, this is necessary for man’s free will, for God is the primary mover of all, even insomuch as He holds things in existence.

“Wherever the mover and the moved have different forms or operative faculties, there must the operation of the mover and the proper operation of the moved be distinct; although the moved shares in the operation of the mover, and the mover makes use of the operation of the moved, and, consequently, each acts in communion with the other.”

“Therefore in Christ the human nature has its proper form and power whereby it acts; and so has the Divine.” I cannot emphasis enough here that proper Christology and proper understanding of ourselves as free creatures yet dependant upon God go hand in hand.  And error in one inevitably leads to an error in the other.

Pope Leo says both the Divine and the human nature in Christ “do what is proper to each in union with the other, i.e. the Word operates what belongs to the Word, and the flesh carries out what belongs to flesh.”

Article 2. Whether in Christ there are several human operations?

Further, powers and habits are distinguished by their acts. Now in Christ’s soul there were divers powers and habits; were there therefore also divers operations? No, for “operation is consequent upon the nature.” In Christ there is only one human nature, and likewise, only one human operation.

If there is any operation in man which does not proceed from the reason and the will, it is not simply a human operation, but belongs to man by reason of some part of human nature. There is, in Aristotelian and Thomistic ethics, an important distinction between acts of man and human acts. In fact, true ethics is the study of voluntary human action. Voluntary action always proceeds from the will and intellect, and thus, other actions and their operations are not properly human acts.  For example, a human may fall due to gravity, but this is an act insomuch as he is made of matter; it is not particular to what makes him human: his rational nature.

Article 3. Whether the human action of Christ could be meritorious to Him?

No one merits what is due to him, but Christ is the Son of God by nature, and the eternal inheritance is due to Him, which other men merit by their works. It seems, therefore, that Christ Who from the beginning was the Word of God could not merit anything for Himself.

“Becoming obedient unto death . . . For which cause God also hath exalted Him.” (Philippians 2:8-9)

Thomas mentions the principle of predilection here, according to 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?”

“Nevertheless, in a secondary manner anyone may be a cause, to himself, of having certain good things, inasmuch as he cooperates with God in the matter, and thus whoever has anything by his own merit has it, in a manner, of himself. Hence it is better to have a thing by merit than without merit.” Christ, in His human nature, merits as we do, conforming His human will to God and cooperating with His grace.

“We must say that Christ had, by merit, the glory of His body and whatever pertained to His outward excellence, as His Ascension, veneration, and the rest. And thus it is clear that He could merit for Himself.”

Earlier we said that Christ was both comprehensor and wayfarer at the same time.  It is, then, as wayfarer that Christ merited for Himself.

Article 4. Whether Christ could merit for others?

It is written: “The soul that sinneth, the same shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) and also: “Noah and Daniel and Job be in the city. . . they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; but they shall only deliver their own souls by their justice.” Is it possible, then, that Christ merited for others?

Thankfully, the completion of this doctrine is cleared up by Paul: “As by the offense of one, unto all men to condemnation; so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life” (Romans 5:18).  But Adam’s demerits reached to the condemnation of others. Much more, therefore, does the merit of Christ reach others.

It is important here to remember that original sin does not impute the guilt of personal sin on each person.  We are born sinners taken as “in sin” because we lack the graces of our first parents, but we are not born sinners taken as “having sinned.”

“As many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27); and it is by grace that it is granted to man to be incorporated with Christ. And thus man’s salvation is from grace.

Summa III, Question 16 (Updated and Completed)

Here are the forthcoming articles to be considered.

Question 16. Things which are applicable to Christ in his being and becoming

  1. Is this true: “God is man”?
  2. Is this true: “Man is God”?
  3. May Christ be called a lordly man?
  4. May what belongs to the Son of Man be predicated of the Son of God, and conversely?
  5. May what belongs to the Son of Man be predicated of the Divine nature, and what belongs to the Son of God of the human nature?
  6. Is this true: “The Son of God was made man”?
  7. Is this true: “Man became God”?
  8. Is this true: “Christ is a creature”?
  9. Is this true: “This man,” pointing out Christ, “began to be”? or “always was”?
  10. Is this true: “Christ as man is a creature”?
  11. Is this true: “Christ as man is God”?
  12. Is this true: “Christ as man is a hypostasis or person”?

I thought it important to leave the original post, which can be seen at the bottom of the page after the footnotes. Here I present the essay:

We must use care when predicating terms of Christ, because He is uniquely one person with two natures.  Any time we speak of things beyond our ordinary experience, we run the risk of speaking falsely; we can barely speak clearly of the things we experience every day. The key to almost every issue we will encounter will be the distinction between concrete and abstract terms, and so we first turn to this, that we may better understand what it is we are doing when we say “A is B.”

We abstract by taking the universal from the particular. Thus we speak of flesh without having to mean “this flesh.” Once we speak of “this flesh,” however, we are predicating a universal to a concrete thing.  We can say of my skin that it is flesh, but we cannot say of “fleshness” that “it is my skin.” We easily recognize here that an abstract can be said of concrete things in some ways but not in others.

It must be observed concerning this communication that concrete names, such as God, man, in opposition to abstract names, such as Godhead, humanity, signify directly the suppositum, and indirectly the nature.1

When we therefore ask if phrases such as “Man is God,” “God is Man,” and “Christ as man is God,” we must distinguish abstract and concrete terms, and care must be taken to affirm that the terms can be predicated of the subject. Many heresies have come about by improper predication of terms to Christ, either because something about Christ was explicitly denied, or because, unintentionally, these things were not thought through.

We are concerned here with what is technically called the communication of idioms. “Idiom” is derived from the Greek and means the same as property in Latin.2 We will see that, when using concrete terms, we can often predicate concrete terms of concrete subjects, but not so when it comes to abstract words of abstract subjects.

We will look at two examples before looking at some of the specific words that can or cannot be predicated of the Incarnate Word.  First, we see this problem when one wishes to say that “Socrates is man” and “Socrates sits,” and then further, asks if one may say that “man sits.”  If the term man signifies a certain man, Socrates, it may well be true.  But we likewise affirm that Socrates is man because of the human nature.  We cannot, in saying that “man sits,” somehow affirm that “humanity sits.”

Secondly, we can and must say, therefore, that Mary is the Mother of God.  We certainly say that God is three persons.  Mary, however, is not the mother of three persons.  The syllogism “Mary is the Mother of Jesus, Jesus is God, therefore Mary is the Mother of God” is therefore true.  The syllogism “Mary is the Mother of God, God is three persons, therefore, Mary is the mother of the Trinity” is certainly not true.

A solid grasp of the reason for the truth of the first syllogism and the falsity of the second will clear up almost all the problems faced when answering the questions posed in Question 16 of the Third part of the Summa Theologica.

However, a failure to understand these distinctions will result, and has resulted, in many an error, as the heresies confirm.  All Christians accept that God is now a man, but not all understand the proposition in the same way.3 Some, failing to understand this as pertaining to a nature of Christ, understood Christ to not be truly God.  Others made the opposite error, seeing Him as a man only “apparently.”

St. Thomas begins his treatment of the Incarnation in the Summa Contra Gentiles by discussing these various heresies.  It cannot be stated too clearly that understanding the way that a word is predicated of the subject, and whether that subject be the Person of Christ or one of His natures, is of extreme importance in properly speaking of the Word Incarnate.

If we speak of the Person of Christ, we may speak of either nature, as long as we do not limit the Person to that nature.  For example, we may affirm statements such as God is man and Man is God, because in each, we are referring to Christ as Person and a nature of Him. In the phrase “God is man,” The word  “man” signifies the suppositum that subsists in the human nature. Likewise, in the phrase “man is God,” the term man stands for the Person of Christ, “For this word “man” may stand for any hypostasis of human nature; and thus it may stand for the Person of the Son of God, Whom we say is a hypostasis of human nature.4

We see then that we may predicate something specific to one nature to the Person of Christ.  We can say, then, as in Article 4, that  what belongs to the Son of Man belongs to the Son of God, because “since there is one hypostasis of both natures, the same hypostasis is signified by the name of either nature.”5

We may not, however, predicate something of one nature to the other.  We cannot, for example, say that “Christ as man is God,” for it is not in virtue of the fact that He is man that He is God, but because of the divine nature, and the fact that He is a Divine Person. Thus the answer to article 5 is in the negative: “in the mystery of Incarnation the Divine and human natures are not the same; but the hypostasis of the two natures is the same. And hence what belongs to one nature cannot be predicated of the other if they are taken in the abstract.”6

In the next two articles, we examine whether one may say that “God was made man” and “Man was made God.” We see that we may affirm the first, but must deny the second. This is because the Person, the second of the Trinity, has always existed, but the Incarnate Christ, and thus His human nature, has not.  God was made man, for Jesus, always and eternally God, became man, and so was made man.

Why can we not say that man became God? A wall that has always existed can be made white, but white cannot be “made a wall,” for white must exist in something.  Now, we do not predicate Christ’s humanity as a metaphysical accident, but we do affirm that its existence is in the Person of Christ.  For man to be made God, we would have to adhere to the heresy of Nestorius, for a man cannot exist without a person existing, and so either this person would have to have been annihilated when He became Christ, or else there would be two persons in Christ. For this reason, we affirm that Mary is the Mother of God, for she is the mother of Christ, the Person.

Nestorius’ preferred title for Mary was Christotokos, and not Theotokos. Of course, many protestants today prefer the title used by Nestorius.  Old heresies reaffirm themselves because of a lack of proper understanding, and when we do not divide Christ into parts as if the man and God were separate. Thus, “the holy virgin gave birth in the flesh to God united with the flesh according to hypostasis, for that reason we call her Theotokos… If anyone does not confess [this], let him be anathema.”7 The title belongs to Mary, but its most important purpose is what it affirms of Christ.

We likewise cannot say that Christ is a creature, or that “this man, pointing to Christ, began to be.”  This is because, when speaking of Christ, we ought to be speaking of the person.  We do not point to someone in speaking of a nature, but of the person.  If we fail to do likewise here, we risk the error of Arius. Christ has a created nature, but Christ is not created, and therefore did not “begin to be.”

When we say something of Christ, speaking simply, we affirm or deny something of Him as Incarnate Person.  However, we may specify that we are speaking of Christ “as man.” We can, say that Christ, as man, is a creature.  For His human nature is created, and thus, as any particular existing instance of human nature, is a creature. We may not say that Christ as man is God.  For the human nature is distinct from the divine, and thus “as man” cannot be equated with “is God.”  The same follows when it is asked if Christ, as man, is a hypostasis or a person.  We must deny this, because the Person is the divine Person, the second of the Trinity. This last question, however, is not so simple, for “man” could be taken in a certain manner, since, as said above, it belongs to a human nature to be in a person. Nevertheless, Thomas suggests its avoidance because of the danger of a Nestorian understanding of the phrase.

It should be clear at this point that care must be taken when predicated one thing of another, for we must know exactly what the term we are predicating is being predicated of. The danger always exists of saying “A is B,” where A is not clearly understood.  If we mean by “A” a nature, and it is understood as being said of the Person (or vice versa), the correct doctrine of the Incarnation can be entirely distorted. History has shown this, and Thomas has done us a great service in clearly laying out not only what may and may not be said of the “Things which are applicable to Christ in his being and becoming,” but the reasons for making such distinctions as well.


  1. LaGrange, Christ the Savior, pg. 421
  2. Ibid, pg. 420
  3. McDermott, Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation (pg. 496)
  4. Aquinas, ST III, q. 16, a.2
  5. LaGrange, pg. 423
  6. ST, III, q. 16, a.5
  7. St. Cyril, 3rd letter to Nestorius

Original Post:

This is the future site, to be edited of course, of Question 16, which will be treated differently than the general summaries.  My plan here will be to articulate the terminological issues in detail, so important to understanding what we mean in speaking of Christ, Christ “as man,” etc, and terms such as “God is man” and “man is God” when referring to the Incarnation.

Here are the forthcoming articles to be considered.

  1. Is this true: “God is man”?
  2. Is this true: “Man is God”?
  3. May Christ be called a lordly man?
  4. May what belongs to the Son of Man be predicated of the Son of God, and conversely?
  5. May what belongs to the Son of Man be predicated of the Divine nature, and what belongs to the Son of God of the human nature?
  6. Is this true: “The Son of God was made man”?
  7. Is this true: “Man became God”?
  8. Is this true: “Christ is a creature”?
  9. Is this true: “This man,” pointing out Christ, “began to be”? or “always was”?
  10. Is this true: “Christ as man is a creature”?
  11. Is this true: “Christ as man is God”?
  12. Is this true: “Christ as man is a hypostasis or person”?

I post this now because “it is the office of the wise man to order,” but I , being far from wise, will soon post the summaries of Questions 17-19…and then return to post my essay on Question 16.

Speculative Philosophy and Abstraction

Philosophy, the love of wisdom, can in practice be divided into useful categories, so that each can be studied separately.  In the end, we want to view reality as a unified whole (after all, what is the “universe” if not a unified concept of reality?).  Still, we do well to analyze, to break down knowledge and understand its parts.

After studying logic, which is more of a preparation and ordering of the mind toward the study of philosophy than a part of philosophy itself, we can look at two general branches of philosophy: Practical and Speculative.

Practical philosophy aims at action, for the sake of conduct or operation. It is not merely knowledge for its own sake, but links “is” with “ought.”  The truths we derive from it are not “complete” until put into action, until we “do” these truths.  Major branches of practical philosophy include the arts of “doing” which are ethics, economics, and politics, but may also include arts of “making” such as the fine arts.

In speculative philosophy, we seek knowledge for its own sake. It is divided into three parts, and these depend directly on their relation to matter.  The most abstract is metaphysics, mathematics is an intermediate knowledge, and natural philosophy (known simply as physics in older usage) is directly related to matter.




Natural philosophy

We will here focus on the latter three, the speculative sciences, and seek to better understand these levels of abstraction.  To do so, we must understand abstraction, and see how it is related to but different from separation.

All three of these sciences have there origin in sense knowledge.  They therefore start with sensible objects, and this means material being. In the study of natural philosophy, therefore, we merely abstract the universal from the particular.  We study the features of flesh and bones, apart from this particular flesh or this particular bone. This is to consider objects as they contain common sensible matter, which is to say that we are considering matter as such, such as flesh and bones, but not particular matter, such as “this flesh” and “these bones,” because our interest is in what “flesh and bones” do, and not what some particular set of flesh and bones do. We do not imply however, that flesh or bones actually exist apart from particular flesh and particular bones.

St. Thomas proposes that we use “to abstract” or “abstraction” in a narrow sense to cover only cases where we think apart things which do not exist apart, when from AB, I abstract A without suggesting that A exists apart from AB (McInerny, Metaphysics Lecture). So A here can represent “flesh,” and B is the particular flesh that we study.  We need not imply that flesh exists apart from particular flesh to study flesh.  We can ponder A, then, apart from B, without implying that A ever actually exists apart from B. Thus, whenever we define flesh, we do not define “this flesh,” but rather, flesh in general.  In doing so, we still must include matter in the definition, because matter is a part of what it is to be “flesh.”

Freedom from all sensible matter, including in the definition of what is studied, brings us to mathematics.  For we do not need to include matter in the definition of a circle as we do when we define flesh.  However, there are no existing circles apart from matter.  We see that the difference, then, is that while both require matter to exist, mathematical objects do not require that matter be part of their very definition.  This comprises the major difference in how we understand math as the second level of abstraction.

Metaphysics goes beyond this by not only abstracting the object of study from sensible matter, but understanding that some things can exist and be defined apart from any matter whatsoever. In other words, this subject is attained by an abstraction of the third order properly called a separation, whereby the mind leaves aside all the limitations of matter and cognizes an object that is intelligible without reference to matter and so is independent of matter in both meaning and existence. (Elements of Philosophy) Separation in the narrow sense is taken to characterize metaphysics. In the narrow sense, separation is the consideration of A without B when A exists apart from B. (McInerny)

When we look at God, whose existence is already proven in natural philosophy, we see one such immaterial being.  We also see, in psychology, the existence of our soul, which can exist apart from matter and, although defined by it as the form of the body, is a substantial form and can exist on its own, apart from the material body.  These are basic examples of how we arrive at this level of abstraction and see that things do truly exist so that metaphysics as a separate branch of study is a legitimate endeavor.

In brief, the differentiation of the sciences comes about by the different ways of demonstrating properties of these objects. This distinction does not (necessarily) arise because of the different objects studied, but from the diversity of principles that can be found in the objects of study. In logic, definition come about through “middle terms,” and the middle terms of the three speculative sciences we have looked at are arrived at precisely by the type or level of abstraction used.

The use of analogy in the study of metaphysics is relevant here.  Analogy is a kind of predication midway between univocation and equivocation. This is necessary primarily because “being” cannot be a genus, for if being were a genus, substance and accidents would have to differ in something other than “being.”  Therefore, recognizing this difference, but knowing it cannot be other than within being, we realize that we must use being analogously when speaking of different modes of being.  This is important here, for analogous terms are so called by the fact that they arise by a sort of incomplete abstraction (separation), whereas univocal terms arise from complete abstraction.

Therefore, it is by a sort of incomplete abstraction from one subject that we understand such terms as goodness and even being itself.  The primary subject that we abstract these analogies from is being itself, which is God.  For example, God is not [merely] “good” but is goodness itself, whereas other things are “good” by way of analogy, and this goodness is understood as related to God’s goodness but not univocal to it.

The understanding of abstraction and separation, then, are not only important for understanding the difference in the speculative sciences, but in understanding metaphysical topics. It is especially important in contemplating how all created things relate to God without falling into the areas of thinking that God’s being and our being, for example, are completely univocal (e.g. Scotus) or completely equivocal (Maimonides?).

What makes us rational animals, different as human from all other animals, is our ability to abstract the universal from the particular, and to seek higher things.  We are, by nature, made to learn from the sensible material things around us, but to know things beyond them, and this by abstraction.  We are, as has been often said, a microcosm, the link between the spiritual and the material world, being the one unique creature that we know of to participate in both. We are made to know being, and in the end, Being Himself.

Question 15. The defects of soul assumed by Christ

Article 1. Whether there was sin in Christ?

No.  Christ assumed our human nature, with its possibility of corruption, as material, and therefore the possibility of physical evil.  However, moral evil in no way was assumed or even possible.

Article 2. Whether there was the “fomes” of sin in Christ?

Christ, by the Holy Spirit, had the fullness of grace and all the virtues most perfectly. Likewise, His body was completely subject to His soul, and in no way the slave of it, as can be said of us in our fallen state.  He had perfect control of His passions, by perfect virtue.

Article 3. Whether in Christ there was ignorance?

“He came to enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). The fullness of infused knowledge leaves no room for ignorance in Christ, just as the fullness of virtue leaves no room for the “fomes” of sin.

Article 4. Whether Christ’s soul was passible?

Christ assumed a true human nature.  Therefore, the body, by nature, is corruptible and mortal.  Even in our created state, Adam was not given the preternatural gifts then he too would have been, by his natural material body, mortal.  This is not a moral evil, and Christ took on this passible, mortal nature in His body.

Article 5. Whether there was sensible pain in Christ?

“Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.”

Christ’s body was able to be hurt, since it was passible and mortal, as above stated. In a real body/soul relationship, the mortal body, when damage is inflicted upon it, feels sensible pain.  It is one part of our nature that we recognize all too well.

Article 6. Whether there was sorrow in Christ?

“My soul is sorrowful even unto death.”

There is a true correlation between pain and sorrow. In psychology, aversion is a repugnance to an evil presenting itself.  Sorry follows this, if the evil actually afflicts the knowing subject.  As Christ was able to feel pain in His body and experience evil (in others, such as the sins of His disciples, etc) in His soul, He likewise felt sorrow.

Article 7. Whether there was fear in Christ?

It is written (Mark 14:33): Jesus “began to fear and to be heavy.”

As sorrow is caused by the apprehension of a present evil, so also is fear caused by the apprehension of a future evil (again this is basic Aristotelian psychology).

It is worth simply quoting Thomas in full here: “Now the apprehension of a future evil, if the evil be quite certain, does not arouse fear. Hence the Philosopher says that we do not fear a thing unless there is some hope of avoiding it. For when there is no hope of avoiding it the evil is considered present, and thus it causes sorrow rather than fear. Hence fear may be considered in two ways. First, inasmuch as the sensitive appetite naturally shrinks from bodily hurt, by sorrow if it is present, and by fear if it is future; and thus fear was in Christ, even as sorrow. Secondly, fear may be considered in the uncertainty of the future event, as when at night we are frightened at a sound, not knowing what it is; and in this way there was no fear in Christ.”

Article 8. Whether there was wonder in Christ?

As we spoke of earlier regarding Christ’s knowledge, both in its perfection and in His empirically learned knowledge through true human experience, the answer to the question of wonder is based on empirical knowledge experience as part of having a true human intellect: “things could be new and unwonted with regard to His empiric knowledge, in regard to which new things could occur to Him day by day…and He assumed this affection for our instruction, i.e. in order to teach us to wonder at what He Himself wondered at.”

Augustine says “Our Lord wondered in order to show us that we, who still need to be so affected, must wonder. Hence all these emotions are not signs of a disturbed mind, but of a master teaching.”

Article 9. Whether there was anger in Christ?

Anger is the movement towards an evil that is hard to overcome for the sake of avoiding it. It is an effect of sorrow There arises within a person a desire to repel this injury brought upon himself or others. Christ certainly had anger, as God hates sin.  Obviously, there was not sin in this anger, as there often is in us, but a mere passion for the destruction of evil and upholding of justice. Christ, we may say, had a righteous indignation, seeking the glory of God and the overcoming of evil.

Augustine says that “he is eaten up by zeal for the house of God, who seeks to better whatever He sees to be evil in it, and if he cannot right it, bears with it and sighs.”

Article 10. Whether Christ was at once a wayfarer and a comprehensor?

“Why wilt Thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man turning in to lodge?” (Jeremiah 14:8)

A man is called a wayfarer from tending to beatitude, and a comprehensor from having already obtained beatitude. Christ was at the same time both, for He as a Divine Person never lacked the beatific vision, but as human, mortal and passible as we said, and having His passion, death, and resurrection still in front of Him, still awaited final glory. In this way, He was still tending toward beatitude.



Question 14. The defects of body assumed by the Son of God

Article 1. Whether the Son of God in human nature ought to have assumed defects of body?

His soul had every perfection, even as human.  Ought not His body, then, have the same? Is not the pain and mortality of the body the result of sin?

It was fitting for the body assumed by the Son of God to be subject to human infirmities and defects; and especially for three reasons.”

  1. It was in order to satisfy for the sin of the human race that the Son of God came into the world. One satisfies for another’s sin by taking on himself the punishment due to the sin of the other. Isaiah 53:4says “Surely He hath borne our infirmities.”
  2. Secondly, in order to cause belief in Incarnation. Human nature is understood by men only as it is subject to these defects. Philippians 2:7: “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.”
  3. Thirdly, in order to show us an example of patience against passibility and defects. Hebrews 12:3 says He “endured such opposition from sinners against Himself, that you be not wearied.”

Article 2. Whether Christ was of necessity subject to these defects?

Romans 8:3 says that God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Now it is a condition of sinful flesh to be under the necessity of dying, and suffering other like passions. Therefore the necessity of suffering these defects was in Christ’s flesh.

Of course, it was not a necessity of “constraint,” brought about by an external agent.  Nothing over God (since this cannot exist) forced this as an absolute necessity. However, it was a “natural” necessity, resulting from the natural principles of a human body composed of matter and form. It is likewise not necessary (constraint) that God make a circle, but if He does make a circle, it is necessary (by nature) that it be round, have no straight lines, and no corners, etc.

Article 3. Whether Christ contracted these defects?

The cause of death and such like defects in human nature is sin, since “by sin death entered into this world,” (Romans 5:12). Effects follow cause. Contracting defects would be the effect, and sin would be the cause.  Obviously, this cannot be the case for Christ.

It is interesting to note here something Thomas says: The flesh of the Virgin was conceived in original sin, and therefore contracted these defects. But from the Virgin, Christ’s flesh assumed the nature without sin, and He might likewise have assumed the nature without its penalties.

Some have taken this to be a Thomist rejection of the immaculate conception.  However, Thomas also believed in Mary’s sinlessness.  How is this?  In short, at the time, many thought that the soul was infused in the body at 40 days after conception.  This was not a taught “fact” but an admitted speculation. (We have seen such “theologians” as Nancy Pelosi try to show that St. Thomas would have been pro-first trimester abortion by this, a fanciful idea, for sure).  And so, Mary’s body, before receiving her soul, would have contracted this original sin.  However, when her soul was united to the body (and this would be the first moment of there being a “person” Mary) she was protected from all sin, saved from it by the merits of her son. This is a brief look at a much more complex topic, but worth noting here.

Article 4. Whether Christ ought to have assumed all the bodily defects of men?

He did not, for this was by nature impossible, since some infirmities are contrary to each other, being caused by contrary principles, and it could not be that Christ assumed all human infirmities. There are some defects that are incompatible with the perfection of knowledge and grace, as ignorance, a proneness towards evil, and a difficulty in well-doing. Some other defects do not flow from the whole of human nature in common on account of the sin of our first parent, but are caused in some men by certain particular causes, as leprosy, epilepsy, etc. Basically, Christ had to take on what was a given in our nature as fallen, but not all possibilities of physical evil.

For example, how could He have been both quadriplegic and at the same time have a malformed hand and clubbed feet? In other words, it is simply not necessary that Christ take on every possible infirmity, but those that are material to the salvation of us by His becoming true man, capable of suffering as we do.

He assumed our defects economically, in order to satisfy for our sin, and not that they belonged to Him of Himself. Hence it was not necessary for Him to assume them all, but only such as sufficed to satisfy for the sin of the whole nature.”