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August 15, 2005

Ch. XVI. Q. 98. If Man Had Not Sinned

SCOTIST theologians say that the Incarnation would have taken place even if man had not sinned, but the Thomists deny this.1

2. The chief Scotist arguments are as follows: (a) In certain places Scripture seems to treat the Incarnation as the complement and eternally intended sequel of creation;2 (b) The fact that man is created in the divine image points to his participation in the divine nature,3 an event not possible, so far as men can see, except through the Incarnation; (c) The revealed benefits of the Incarnation exceed in range mere salvation from sin and its consequences;4 and it seems unlikely that sin should open up greater possibilities of glory than perseverance in original righteousness. No other means, apparently, could secure so great a glory for men as does the Incarnation.5

3. On the other hand, Thomists say that Scripture defines the purpose of the Incarnation to be salvation from sin and death.6 They explain the passages used by Scotists by God's foreknowledge of the fall. The Incarnation, they urge, was eternally ordained in view of sin foreseen, and not as a necessary sequel of creation. They say further that our inability to imagine a better way of bringing man to God, if he had not sinned, cannot determine the resourcefulness of God, which transcends our imagination.7

4. The question is not only speculative, but presupposes a condition contrary to fact. It admits of no final answer. The fact of sin determines the state of the question, and therefore Scripture emphasizes the remedial purpose of the Incarnation - an emphasis which Scotists are apt to disregard, at the cost of failing to do adequate justice to the doctrine of Christ's death. It is to be admitted, however, that the question under consideration, by its very suggestion, enlarges our sense of the fulness of purpose of the Incarnation.8

1 For the history of this question, B.F. Westcott, Epp. of St. John, pp. 285-317.

2 Ephes. i. 9-12; Col. i. 19.

3 St. Pet. i. 4.

4 Ephes. ii. 19-22; iii. 18-20; iv. 13.

5 B.F. Westcott, pp. 317-328; P.G. Medd, One Mediator, §§ 58-63; A.J. Mason, Faith of the Gospel, ch. vi. 5: Fr. Suarez, Theologiae Summa, Pars II. T. XIV. Disp. V. §§ ii-vi: F. X. Schouppe, Elem. Theol. Dogm., VIII. §88.

6 St. Matt. xviii. 11; St. Luke xix. 10; St. John iii. 16; 1 St. John iii. 5, 8.

7 St. Thomas, III. i. 3; W. Bright, Sermons of St. Leo, note 134; H.P. Liddon, Univ. Sermons, 1st Series, pp. 184, 241.

8 Incarnation, ch. iii. 7; D. Stone, Outlines of Christ. Dogma, pp. 54-56, 286-288.

Posted by AKMA at August 15, 2005 10:39 AM