Monday, 4 June 2012

THAT JESUS CHRIST IS GOD. From the writings of Saint Alphonsus Liguori part 2

11. Another proof is what our Saviour himself says: "For what things whatsoever he (the Father) does, these the Son also does in like manner" (John, 5:19). Hence, Saint Hilary (On the Trinity, number 21) concludes that the Son of God is true God, like the Father. He could not have the same individual operation with the Father, unless he was consubstantial with the Father, for in God there is no distinction between operation and substance. 12. The third class of texts are those in which attributes are attributed to the Word, which cannot apply unless to God by Nature, of the same substance as the Father. First The Word is eternal according to the 1st verse of the Gospel of Saint John: "In the beginning was the Word." The verb ‘was’ denotes that the Word has always been, and even, as Saint Ambrose remarks, the Evangelist mentions the word "was" four times. Besides the word "was," the other words, "in the beginning," confirm the truth of the eternity of the Word: "In the beginning was the Word," that is to say, the Word existed before all other things. It is on this very text that the First Council of Nicaea founded the condemnation of that proposition of the Arians, "There was a time once when the Word had no existence." 13. The Arians, however, say that Saint Augustine interpreted the expression "in the beginning," by saying it meant the Father himself, and according to this interpretation, they say that the Word might exist in God previous to all created things, but not be eternal at the same time. To this we reply, that although we might admit this interpretation, and that "in the beginning" meant in the Father; still, if we admit that the Word was before all created things, it follows that the Word was eternal, and never made, because as "by him all things were made," if the Word was not eternal, but created, he should have created himself, an impossibility, based on the general maxim admitted by all. No one can give what he has not. 14. They assert, secondly, that the words "in the beginning" must be understood in the same way as in the passage in the 1st chapter of Genesis; "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth;" and as these were created in the beginning, so also the Word was created. The answer to this is, that Moses says: "In the beginning God created;" but Saint John does not say in the beginning the Word was created, but the Word was, and that by him all things were made. 15. They object, in the third place, that by the expression, "the Word," is not understood a person distinct from the Father, but the internal wisdom of the Father distinct from him, and by which all things were made. This explanation, however, cannot stand, for Saint John, speaking of the Word, says: "By him all things were made," and towards the end of the chapter: "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us;" now we cannot understand these expressions as referring to the internal wisdom of the Father, but indubitably to the Word, by whom all things were made, and who, being the Son of God, became flesh, as is declared in the same place: "And we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only-begotten of the Father." This is confirmed by the Apostle of the Hebrews, when he says, that by the Son (called by Saint John the Word) the world was created. "In these days has spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also, he made the world" (Hebrews 1:2). Besides, the eternity of the Word is proved by the text of the Apocalypse (1:8): "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who is, and who was, and who is to come;" and by the Epistle to the Hebrews (13:8): "Jesus Christ, yesterday, and to-day, and the same forever." 16. Arius always denied that the Word was eternal, but some of his latter followers, convinced by the Scriptures, admitted that he was eternal, but an eternal creature, and not a Divine Person. The answer given by many Theologians to this newly invented error is, that the very existence of an eternal creature is an impossibility. That a creature, they say, should be said to be created, it is necessary that it should be produced out of nothing, so that from a state of nonexistence, it passes to a state of existence, so that we must suppose a time in which this creature did not exist. But this reply is not sufficient to prove the fallacy of the argument, for Saint Thomas teaches, and the doctrine is most probable, that in order to assert that a thing is created, it is not necessary to suppose a time in which it was not, so that its nonexistence preceded its existence; but it is quite enough to suppose a creature, as nothing by its own nature, or by itself, but as having its existence altogether from God. "It is enough," says the Saint, " to say that a thing has come from nothing, that its non-existence should precede its existence, not in duration, but nature, inasmuch, as if left to itself, it never would have been anything, and it altogether derives its existence from another." Supposing then, that it is unnecessary to look for a time in which the thing did not exist, to call it a creature, God, who is eternal, might give to a creature existence from all eternity, which by its own nature it never could have had. It appears to me then, that the fit and proper reply to this argument is, that the Word being (as has been already proved) eternal, never could be called a creature, for it is an article of Faith, as all the Holy Fathers teach, that there never existed, in fact, an eternal creature, since all creatures were created in time, in the beginning, when, as Moses says, God created the world: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The creation of heaven and earth, according to the doctrine of all Fathers and Theologians, comprises the creation of all beings, both material and spiritual. The Word, on the contrary, had existence before there was any creature, as we see in the book of Proverbs, where Wisdom, that is the Word, thus speaks: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything, from the beginning" (Proverbs 8:22). The Word, therefore, is not a created being, since he existed before God had made anything. 17. The materialists of modern times, however, cannot infer from this, that matter is eternal of itself, for although we admit that matter might exist from eternity, inasmuch as God could, from all eternity, give to it existence, which it had not of itself, (though he did not do so in fact); still, as we have proved in our book on the "Truth of the Faith," it could not exist from itself, it should have existence from God, for, according to the axiom so frequently repeated, it could not give to itself that (existence) which it had not to give. From Saint John’s expression regarding the Word, "by him all things were made," not alone his eternity is proved, but the power of creating likewise, which can belong to none but God; for, in order to create, an infinite power is necessary, which, as all theologians say, God could not communicate to a creature. Returning, however, to the subject of the eternity of the Word, we say, that if the Father should, by the necessity of the Divine Nature, generate the Son, the Father being eternal, the Son should also be eternal, keeping always in mind, the Father the Generator, the Son as the Generated. Thus, the error of the modern materialists, the basis of whose system is, that matter is eternal, falls to the ground. 18. Now, it being admitted, that by the Word all things were made, it is a necessary consequence, that the Word was not made by Himself, for otherwise, there would exist a being made, but not made by the Word, and this is opposed to the text of Saint John, who says, that "by him all things were made." This is the great argument of Saint Augustine, against the Arians, when they assert that the Word was made: "How," says the Saint, "can it be possible, that the Word is made, when God by the Word made all things? “If the Word of God himself was made, by what other Word was he made? If you say it was by the Word of the Word, that, I say, is the only Son of God; but, if you say it is not by the Word of the Word, then, you must admit, that that Word, by whom all things were made, was not made himself, for he could not, who made all things, be made by himself." 19. The Arians, too much pressed by this argument to answer it, endeavour to do so by a quibble. Saint John, say they, does not tell us that all things were made by Him, but rather through Him, and hence, they infer that the Word was not the principal cause of the creation of the World, but only an instrument the Father made use of in creating it, and therefore, they agree that the Word is not God. But we answer that the creation of the World, as described by David and Saint Paul, is attributed to the Son of God. "In the beginning, O Lord," says David, "you founded the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands" (Psalm 101:26 in the Vulgate or Psalm 102:25 in the Hebrew); and Saint Paul, writing to the Hebrews, dictates almost a whole chapter to prove the same thing; see these passages: "But to the Son, your throne, God, is for ever and ever" (1:8), and again, verse 13, "But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool." Here Saint Paul declares, that that Son of God, called by Saint John "the Word" has created the heavens and the earth, and is really God, and, as God, was not a simple instrument, but the Creator-in-Chief of the world. Neither will the quibble of the Arians on the words ‘by’ and ‘through’, avail, for in many places of the Scriptures we find the word ‘through’ conjoined with the principal cause: (See Genesis 4:1; Proverbs 8:15; 1 Corinth 1:1). 20. There is another proof of the Divinity of the Word in the 5th chapter of Saint John, where the Father wills that all honour should be given to the Son, the same as to himself: "But he has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son, as they honour the Father" (John 5:22-23). The Divinity of the Word and of the Holy Ghost is also proved by the precept given to the Apostles: "Go ye, therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). The Holy Fathers, Saint Athanasius, Saint Hilary, Saint Fulgentius, and several others, made use of this text to convince the Arians; for, Baptism being ordained in the name of the three Divine Persons, it is clear that they have equal power and authority, and are God; for if the Son and the Holy Ghost were creatures we would be baptized in the name of the Father, who is God, and of two creatures; but Saint Paul, writing to the Corinthians, states that this is opposed to our Faith, "Lest any should say that you are baptized in my name" (1 Corinth 1:15). 21. Finally, there are two powerful arguments, to prove the Divinity of the Word. The first is taken from the power manifested by the Word in the fact related in the fifth chapter of Saint Luke, where Christ, in healing the man sick of the palsy, pardoned him his sins, saying: "Man, your sins are forgiven you" (Luke 5:20). Now, God alone has the power of forgiving sins, and the very Pharisees knew this, for they said: "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Luke, 5:21). 22. The second proof is taken from the very words of Christ himself, in which he declares himself to be the Son of God. He several times spoke in this manner, but most especially when he asked his disciples what they thought of him: "Jesus says to them, Whom do you think I am? Simon Peter answered and said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona, because flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:15-17.) He also declared it as we have seen above, when Caiphas asked him, "Are you Christ, the Son of the Blessed God? And Jesus said to him, I am" (Mark 14:61-62). See now the argument. The Arians say that Christ is not the true Son of God, but they never said he was a liar; on the contrary, they praise him, as the most excellent of all men, and enriched, above all others, with virtues and divine gifts. Now, if this man (according to them), called himself the Son of God, when he was but a mere creature, or if he even permitted that others should consider him the Son of God, and that so many should be scandalized in hearing him called the Son of God, when he was not so in reality, he ought at least declare the truth, otherwise he was the most impious of men. But no; he never said a word, though the Jews were under the impression that he was guilty of blasphemy, and allowed himself to be condemned and crucified on that charge, for this was the great crime he was accused of before Pilate, "according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God" (John 19:7). In fine, we reply to all opponents, after Jesus Christ expressly declared himself the Son of God, as we remarked in Saint Mark’s Gospel, chapter 14, verse 62, " I am” though this declaration was what cost him his life, who will dare to deny, after it, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?