Monday, 4 June 2012

THAT JESUS CHRIST IS GOD. From the writings of Saint Alphonsus Liguori. part 1

1. The Dogma of the Catholic Church is, that the Divine Word, that is, the Person of the Son of God, is, by his nature, God, as the Father is God, and in all things is equal to the Father, is perfect and eternal, like the Father, and is consubstantial with the Father. Arius, on the contrary, blasphemously asserted that the "Word was neither God, not eternal, nor consubstantial, nor like unto the Father; but a mere creature, created in time, but of higher excellence than all other creatures; so that even by him, as by an instrument, God created all other things. Several of the followers of Arius softened down his doctrine; some said that the Word was like the Father, others that he was created from eternity, but none of them would ever admit that he was consubstantial with the Father. When we prove the Catholic doctrine, however, expressed in the proposition at the beginning of this chapter, we shall have refuted, not alone the Arians, Anomeans, Eunomians, and Aerians, who followed in everything the doctrine of Arius, but also the Basilians, who were Semi-Arians. {We might add the Jehovah Witnesses, who have sadly followed Arius in his great Trinitarian error.} All these will be proved to be in error, when we show that the Word is in all things, not only like unto the Father, but consubstantial to the Father, that is of the very same substance as the Father, as likewise will be proved to be in error those who laid the foundations of this heresy, by teaching that Christ was only a mere man, born like all others, from Joseph and Mary, and having no existence before his birth. By proving the Catholic truth that the Word is true God, like the Father, all these heretics will be put down, for as the Word in Christ assumed human nature in one Person, as Saint John says: "The Word was made flesh;" if we prove that the Word is true God, it is manifest that Christ is not a mere man, but man and God. 2. There are many texts of Scripture to prove this, which may be divided into three classes. In the first class are included all those texts in which the Word is called God, not by grace or predestination, as the Socinians say, but true God in Nature and substance. {The Socinians are those 16th century Protestants who question the reality of the Trinity. The Unitarians and the Jehovah Witnesses are their chief modern followers.} In the Gospel of Saint John we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing that was made" (John 1.) Saint Hilary (On the Trinity, number 10) looked on this passage as proving so clearly the Divinity of the Word, that he says, “When I hear the Word was God, I hear it not only said but proved that the Word is God. Here the thing signified is a substance where it is said ‘was God’. For to be, to exist, is not accidental, but substantial." Objection 1. The holy doctor had previously met the objection of those who said that even Moses was called God by Pharaoh (Exodus 8), and that judges were called Gods in the 81st Psalm of the Vulgate (Psalm 82 in the Hebrew), by saying : It is one thing to be, as it were, appointed a God, another to be God himself; in Pharaoh’s case a God was appointed as it were (that is Moses), but neither in name or Nature was he a God, as the Just are also called God: "I said you are gods." Now the expression "I said," refers more to the person speaking than to the name of the thing itself; it is, then, the person who speaks who imposes the name, but it is not naturally the name of the thing itself. But here he says the Word is God, the thing itself exists in the Word; the substance of the Word is announced in the very name. Thus, says the Saint, the name of God given to Pharaoh and the Judges mentioned by David in the 81st Psalm (Psalm 82) was only given them by the Lord as a mark of their authority, but was not their proper name; but when Saint John speaks of the Word, he does not say that he was called God, but that he was in reality God: "The Word was God." 3. Objection 2. The Socinians next object that the text of Saint John should not be read with the same punctuation as we read it, but thus: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was. God the same was in the beginning," et cetera, but this travesty of the text is totally opposed to all the copies of the Scriptures we know, to the sense of all the Councils, and to all antiquity. We never find the text cut up in this way; it always was written, "The Word was God." Besides, if we allowed this Socinian reading of the text, the whole sense would be lost; it would be, in fact, ridiculous, as if Saint John wanted to assert that God existed, after saying already that the Word was with God. There are, however, many other texts in which the Word is called God, and the learned Socinians themselves are so convinced of the weakness of this argument, as calculated only to make their cause ridiculous, that they tried other means of invalidating it, but, as we shall presently see, without succeeding. 4. Objection 3. It is astonishing to see how numerous are the cavils of the Arians. The Word, they say, is called God, not the God the fountain of all nature, whose name is always written in Greek with the article (o Theos), such, however, is not the case in the text; but we may remark that in this very chapter, Saint John, speaking of the supreme God, "there was a man sent from God, whose name was John," does not use the article, neither is it used in the 12th, 13th, or 18th verses. In many other parts of the Scriptures, where the name of God is mentioned, the article is omitted, as in Saint Matthew 14:33, and 27:43; in Saint Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, 8:4 and 6; to the Romans, 1:7; to the Ephesians, 4:6; and on the other hand we see that in the Acts of the Apostles, 7:43; in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 4:4, and in that to the Galatians, 4:8, they speak of an Idol as God, and use the article, and it is most certain that neither Saint Luke nor Saint Paul ever intended to speak of an Idol as the supreme God. Besides, as Saint John Chrysostom teaches, from whom this whole answer, we may say, is taken, the Word is called God, sometimes even with the addition of that article, on whose omission in Saint John they lay such stress, as is the case in the original of that text of Saint Paul, Romans 9:5: "Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed for ever." Saint Thomas remarks, that in the first cited passage the article is omitted in the name of God, as the name there stands in the position not of a subject, but a predicate. 5. Objection 4. They object, fourthly, that in the text of Saint John the Word is called God, not because he is so by Nature and Substance, but only by Dignity and Authority, just as they say the name of God is given in the Scriptures to the angels and to judges. We have already answered this objection by Saint Hilary (see our Number 2, above), that it is one thing to give to an object the name of God, another to say that he is God. But there is, besides, another answer. It is not true that the name of God is an appellative name, so that it can be positively and absolutely applied to one who is not God by Nature; for although some creatures are called Gods, it never happened that any one of them was called "God," absolutely, or was called true God, or the highest God, or singularly God, as Jesus Christ is called by Saint John: "And we know that the Son of God is come, and he has given us understanding, that we may know the true God, and may be in his true Son" (1 John Epistle 5:20). And Saint Paul says "Looking for the blessed hope and the coming of the glory of the great God, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ" (Epistle to Titus, 2:13), and to the Romans, 9:5: "Of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things God, blessed for ever." We likewise read in Saint Luke, that Zachary, prophesying regarding his Son, says "And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest, for you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways" (Luke 1:76), and again, in verse 78: "Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high has visited us." 6. Another most convincing proof of the Divinity of the Word is deduced from the 1st chapter of Saint John, already quoted. In it, these words occur: "All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing that was made." Now any one denying the Divinity of the Word must admit from these words that either the Word was eternal, or that the Word was made by himself. It is evidently repugnant to reason to say the Word made himself. Therefore we must admit that the Word was not made, otherwise Saint John would be stating a falsehood when he says, "Without him was made nothing that was made." This is the argument of Saint Augustine (On the Trinity, Chapter 6), and from these words he clearly proves that the Word is of the same substance as the Father. 7. We shall now investigate the passages of the second class, in which the Divine Nature and the very substance of the Father is attributed to the Word. First, the Incarnate Word, himself, says: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). The Arians say that Christ here does not speak of the unity of Nature but of Will, and Calvin, though he professes not to be an Arian, explains it in the same manner. "The ancients," he says, "abused this passage, in order to prove that Christ is consubstantial with the Father, for here Christ does not dispute of the unity of substance, but of the consent he had with the Father." The Holy Fathers, however, more deserving of credit than Calvin and the Arians, always understood it of the unity of substance. Here are the words of Saint Athanasius (Against the Arians, number 9): "If the two are one they must be so according to the Divinity, inasmuch as the Son is consubstantial to the Father they are, therefore, two, as Father and Son, but only one as God is one." Hear also, Saint Cyprian: "The Lord says, I and the Father are one, and again it is written of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." Saint Ambrose takes it in the same sense, as do Saint Augustine and Saint John Chrysostom, as we shall see presently; why the very Jews took it in this sense, for they took up stones to stone him, as Saint John relates, (10:32): "Many good works I have shown you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me? The Jews answered him: For a good work we stone you not, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself God." "See," says Saint Augustine "how the Jews understood what the Arians will not understand, for they are vexed to find that these words I and the Father are one, cannot be understood, unless the equality of the Son with the Father be admitted." Saint John Chrysostom here remarks that if the Jews erred in believing that our Saviour wished to announce himself as equal in power to the Father, he could immediately have explained the mistake, but he did not do so, but, quite the contrary, he confirms what he before said the more he is pressed; he does not excuse himself, but reprehends them; he again says he is equal to the Father: "If I do not the works of my Father" he says, " believe me not; but if I do, though you will not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (John 10:37-38). We have seen that Christ expressly declared in the Council of Caiphas, that he was the true Son of God: "Again the High Priest asked him and said to him: Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed God? And Jesus said to him, I am" (Mark 14:61-62). Who shall then dare to say that Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, when he himself has said so? 8. Again, say the Arians, when our Saviour prayed to his Father for all his disciples, he said: "And the glory you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, as we also are one" (John, 17:22). Now in this passage, say they, Christ certainly speaks of the unity of will, and not of the unity of substance. But we reply: It is one thing to say that "I and the Father are one," quite another thing, "that they may be one, as we are also one," just as it is one thing to say, "your heavenly Father is perfect," and another to say, "Be ye therefore perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). For the particle ‘as’ denotes, as Saint Athanasius says, likeness or imitation, but not equality of conjunction. So as our Lord here exhorts us to imitate the Divine perfection as far as we can, he prays that his disciples may be united with God as far as they can, which surely cannot be understood except as a union of the will. When he says, however: "I and the Father are one," there is no allusion to imitation; he there speaks of a union of substance; he there positively and absolutely asserts that he is one and the same with the Father: "We are one" 9. There are, besides, many other texts which most clearly corroborate this. Our Lord says, in Saint John, 16:15, and 17:10; "All things whatsoever the Father has are mine." "And all my things are yours, and yours are mine." Now, as these expressions are used by him without any limitation, they evidently prove his consubstantiality with the Father, for when he asserts that he has everything the Father has, who will dare to say that the Father has something more than the Son? And if we denied to the Son the same substance as the Father, we would deny him every thing, for then he would be infinitely less than the Father; but Jesus says that he has all the Father has, without exception, consequently he is in everything equal to the Father: "He has nothing less than the Father," says Saint Augustine, "when he says that All things whatsoever the Father has are mine, he is, therefore, his equal". 10. Saint Paul proves the same when he says, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant" (Phil, 2:6). Now here the Apostle says Christ humbled himself, "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant," and that can only be understood of the two Natures, in which Christ was, for he humbled himself to take the nature of a servant, being already in the Divine Nature, as is proved from the antecedent expressions, "who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God." If Christ usurped nothing by declaring himself equal to God, it cannot be denied that he is of the same substance with God, for otherwise it would be a "robbery" to say that he was equal to God. Saint Augustine, also, explaining that passage of Saint John, 14:28, "The Father is greater than I," says that he is less than the Father, according to the form of a servant, which he took by becoming man, but that, according to the form of God, which he had by Nature, and which he did not lose by becoming man, he was not less than the Father, but his co-equal. "To be equal to God in the form of God," says the Saint, "was, not a robbery, but Nature. He, therefore," says this Father of the Church (in Epistle 66), "is greater, because he humbled himself, taking the form of a servant, but not losing the form of God".