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Wondering Will wrote:

Gentlemen,

I challenged my in-laws with the question:

  • Could the Second Person of the Trinity have hypostatically united with anything in addition to human nature?
  • In other words, is it impossible — a logical contradiction — that the Infinite and Eternal Son assume any additional nature(s) of His creation?

My in-laws were revolted by the thought and immediately said no, it is not possible.

I'm not asking if it's probable, nor do I speculate reasons why He would want to do this, and this question is unrelated to saving us from sin.

  • Do we know for sure the Son did, and can only, unite Himself permanently to one created thing?

Will

  { Could the Son also unite Himself to aliens and what saves us: the death or the blood of Christ? }

Mike replied:

Hi Will,

I'm not a team member with any theology or philosophy degree but let me throw in my two cents.

Based on the Revelation that the Lord has revealed to us, I would agree with your in-laws.

That said, we all know God's job description. He is not limited by anything and can do anything He wishes.

I see no reason why He could not hypostatically unite Himself with mankind, here on Earth, in addition to another human species in a different place and location in the universe.

We would not be aware of this because His Will would be not to reveal this to us, based on what is best for our salvation so the answer to your last question:

  • Do we know for sure the Son did, and can only, unite Himself permanently to one created thing?

Would be no.

Just my two cents.

Mike

John replied:

Hi, Will —

A different hypostatic union (the combination of divine and human natures in the single person of Christ) presents other problems. The purpose of the union was to enter into a covenant, which by their nature are irrevocable.

So once united to Man, or with an alien sapient being, the union is permanent. Hence any subsequent union would, by definition, mean that His Humanity and His Divinity would be fused to His Alienness.

It also presents another problem. The Covenant between Jesus and the Church, is Matrimonial so a similar union with Martians would make the Lord a polygamist. That might work for some Mormons but doesn't work theologically for Christians.

There are some that would argue God in His Omnipotence can do anything, as He is sovereign but we must be careful not to fall into Minimalism. God isn't capricious. He doesn't decide what is good and evil. What is good, is good by its nature, as God is good in His nature. Evil is the absence of good and a rebellion to God. Likewise when it comes to this matter.

Christ united Himself to Man completely in a Covenant. That is an exclusive marriage bond.

His Sacrifice was once and for all so even if alien species fell from Grace, Christ's Sacrifice, in and through the One Incarnation, would be the source of their salvation.

John

Will replied:

John,

Thanks for responding. Yes, the premise we begin with is that God cannot contradict Himself. This means He cannot will anything against truth or love. That's a given.

You said:
His Humanity and His Divinity would be fused to His Alienness.

Although His Divine Person would be fused with the alien nature, I'm not sure that necessitates His Humanity being fused to His Alienness.

  • While His Divine Person assumes two (or more) created natures, that doesn't mean the two (or more) natures would have to mix?

Yes, I thought of the matrimonial covenant notion. That's very important in our relationship with God however He could choose to assume another created nature without it being covenantal.

For example, if God willed to assume the generic nature of an angel, it might be just because, and not in order to make a covenant.

I'm not saying I think He did assume other created natures, but I also don't want to place God into the small comfortable box of our limited minds.

Will

John replied:

Will,

My point about the fusing of the alien and human natures is because the fusion of both is inextricable. Jesus Christ is True God and True Man. You can't separate the two. If you do, you fall into Nestorianism So once He's fused to man, all of Himself would have to fused to say the Klingon, Romulan, or whatever culture.

  • After the Incarnation, the Eternal Word is now and forever Jesus Christ . . . and who is Jesus Christ?

For that, we go back to the relevant councils:

So were Jesus to fuse to another species, He would be fusing who He is now, post Incarnation.

To fuse oneself in that kind of union is by its very definition to assume their nature. Other unions might be possible, or better put communions, but nothing akin to the Hypostatic Union. Indeed by assuming Human Nature, the Eternal Word actually became part of all His creation and united Himself to it through His Humanity. That's the whole point of Genesis 1 and the establishment of the Sabbath. The Hebrew word of seven is the same word for Oath, the essential first element of a covenant so the use of seven days in the creation narrative must be understood that God would enter into a covenant with all Creation through His crowing jewel, Man. Once you understand the Old Testament notion of covenant you know it is an exchange of Persons, not just promises. A covenant can only happen between two beings that are same so He (Jesus) condescended in assuming human nature, in order to elevate human nature to His Divine Nature.

Later we read in Genesis 2 the marriage covenant. The two will become one flesh . . . Adam saying you are flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone (Genesis 2:23) so the union between God and man is like no other one.

That said, this does present some interesting issues as we may someday discover intelligent life from another planet. Of course, it would be nice to discover intelligent life on this planet again!! but there are myriad of issues and questions that arise.

  • Did life on other planets fall from grace?
  • If they are sapient, do they have eternal souls?
  • Did they fall as well?

If they did, my reading of Scripture is the Christ died once for all. There is no other Sacrifice so their salvation must still come in and through the Incarnation and His Atonement.

Jimmy Akin has some related thoughts on this as well.

John

Will replied:

Yes,

With the exception of Akin's thoughts, I've considered those points, however, by virtue of God's Persons being infinite and eternal, we need to keep in mind a covenant with God, while being similar, is also different than one between humans. As a finite created being, when we give our person to another in covenant it must be exclusive. It may be possible that if His infinite Personhood assumed another created nature, the natures would remain distinct. Remember, although we're given grace, we don't intrinsically have a divine nature.

So far I think the question of whether the eternal infinite Person of the Son can be united to more than one created nature remains a mystery. Consider, if we were, to worship oak trees; it would be idolatrous. But if, hypothetically, God revealed in Scripture and Tradition that He assumed a human nature and an oak nature, it would be different. Since He revealed no such thing, we can safely assume this did not occur but it doesn't necessarily mean He couldn't have done it, or did not do it with some unimaginable creature across the universe.

I theologize that God will eventually permeate His universe through the mediation of man (and not also an alien) and that we have a unique relationship with Him by virtue of the hypostatic union; but I won't be disappointed if I find out He assumed another nature or generic nature of angels too, to have a closer relationship with them. If this has been dogmatically defined as impossible or not occurring, I'd very very happy to completely close my mind to the possibility. As of now, I don't believe it, but am open.

  • Any other thoughts from anyone?

Will

Mike replied:

Hi, Will —

I changed my mind and agree with John's answers to your questions.

Mike

Will replied:

John and Mike,

If you feel like having your brains picked again.

I had a discussion the other night with like-minded friends on the true meaning of blood as life (Leviticus 17:11) and how it relates to both modern science and our Catholic faith. The discussion covered:

  • the Noahic covenant forbidding us to eat blood
  • the re-affirmation of this condemnation at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15
  • Old Testament blood sacrifices and the lamb's blood at Passover as prefigurements of Christ's blood
  • the Eucharistic Precious Blood as being the conduit for nourishing grace in the New Covenant, and
  • how the proposition We are saved by the blood of Christ makes sense to us in the era of modern science.

My concern is that blood may have a natural power that we moderns no longer understand or appreciate. Perhaps you could give me your take on this question:

  • What exactly saves us: the death of Christ or the blood of Christ?
  • If, hypothetically, Christ died on the Cross with no bleeding, would it save mankind?
  • Likewise, if He bled but did not die, would that save mankind?

Will

John replied:

Dear Will —

Let me waddle into this mystery.

First of all; as it relates to us drinking or eating the blood of animals, that is the natural effect or power that we moderns don't appreciate. I assure you that when I eat a nice juicy steak, I appreciate it.

The pagans believed that by drinking the blood of the animal, they were receiving the life of the said animal . . . as in the life force . . . the soul, as it were. It was part of pagan rituals practiced in Egypt that the Hebrews had adopted so it was forbidden. Other pagans also did this. For that reason, the Council of Jerusalem issued a pastoral provision against it, mostly so that it did not cause scandal amongst the Jewish members of the Church, but also to prevent the non-Jewish believers from relapsing.

Now to what saves us. Our Protestant brothers really love to try to put this all into nice equations. Some might say His death saves, but His Bloods cleanses us, etc, etc.

I choose not to go there. Rather I would say we are saved in and through the Incarnation. Every single breath, thought, and experience, that Jesus Christ had as a man was in obedience to the Father, including His obedience of Death on the Cross and His Resurrection which saves us. Ultimately, that means we are saved by His Love, which manifested itself in obedience. It was the complete and selfless giving of Himself to the Father, for our sake, which was an act of His Will.

So in answering your first question, we can say it was His Will. Scripture gives us various paradigms to explain mysteries.

The juridical or legal paradigm is but one. In that paradigm, the wages of sin is death and without the shedding blood there is no remission of sin. In that paradigm both are necessary.

Take away either one, and you don't have atonement but the paradigm also requires a perfect victim that had no blemish.

In my book, trying to put this all in a neat mathematical formula like the Pythagorean theorem is not a great idea. It leads to heresy. That's what happens when we try to over-define the Mysteries of Faith.

Indeed, the legal paradigm itself eventually becomes problematic. The natural end to this paradigm, if followed too far is that God, the Father, has anger management problems. That His anger at sin could not be satiated unless He took it out on His Son in order to forgive us.

The fact is there have been several Atonement theories espoused and proposed in the last 2,000 years. Among them, that Christ paid a ransom for our sin. Well, think about that:

  • Who did He pay that ransom to?
    <The answer is satan.>

And yes there is some truth in that paradigm as well, just as there is in Anselm's Satisfaction theory but every theory carried too far, leads to a heresy.

For me it is sufficient to say that Christ gave Himself for us, to give Himself to us.

John

Will replied:

Thanks John,

It's funny when I hear the phrase Christ paid a ransom for our sin, I see that ransom being paid to the Father, not satan. The infinite injustice of sin alienates us from the Father, and is made up for or eradicated by Christ, and justice and right-relationship are restored. When I see ransom, I think bail money.

Regardless of that, one thing you point to is the fact that every act has form and matter:

  1. the first affecting the soul of the moral agent, and
  2. the second affecting the external order.

For example, if I consent to steal but am diverted by meeting an old friend in the store, I have incurred guilt as if I stole but the store was not affected. Hence, with Christ, one could say Christ was formally crucified in the Garden of Gethsemane when He specifically surrendered His Will or consented to the Crucifixion (Your will be done Father, not mine, <Luke 22:42>), and materially experienced that choice on Calvary. Both are needed for man to be saved.

While we accuse Protestants of trying to neatly package the language of Scripture to one formula, we don't want to go the opposite direction of, chalking up as a mystery, that which can be intelligible. That point of demarcation of apprehension and mystery moves when the Church accepts particular theological explanations of things. In fact, the Church teaches that the deposit of faith, which is infallible, is not only the Word of God strictly speaking, but also that which has historically or logically been necessary to properly understand the Word of God.

That said, I think there may be something profound that the ancients may have known intuitively that we moderns have lost. We know the data regarding blood: it was understood as life by both pagans and Jews from the beginning of recorded history. Blood covenants were universally ubiquitous in the ancient world as a way to share life/self with (an)other(s), and blood poured or sprinkled on something (like doorposts) or someone (like the people of Israel) was a way to be cleansed of sin: life blots out death.

The fact that we drink the Blood of Christ, who is the Ultimate Sacrifice making all others unnecessary, seems to prove the ancients had something grounded in truth. If the Blood of the New Lamb saves us from spiritual death as the blood of the old lamb saved Israelites from physical death, it makes sense that we are commanded by Christ to consume it — without which we have no life within us (John 6:53).

So there seems to be something profound that is waiting to be more clearly articulated on this subject — on a truth pre-moderns knew universally and that we could prune and perfect, rather than ignore, in our era of modern science.

Will

John replied:

Will,

The early notions of ransom was that it was paid to satan. In fact, Augustine later proposed the Mouse Trap theory that God trapped or tricked satan into executing Christ who was completely sinless.

We were being held captive by satan, not by the Father, hence the ransom was owed to him.

When we talk in terms of paying a debt to the Father, that's the Satisfaction model later espoused by Anselm.

Like I noted, there is truth in both these models. The Greek Fathers, on the other hand, didn't go anywhere near this approach. Rather they talked in terms of healing and giving new life and there is truth there.

But to your specific question:

  • Was it His Blood or His Death?

Well, it's clearly both, when we take a literal approach to Scripture. Christ had to die and shed blood. If either component is missing then there is no atonement. He also had to be obedient so there isn't a breath that Jesus took and experienced that He, as a man, had that isn't integral and necessary, right down to having His diapers changed as a baby.

As for over-defining, it's not just our Protestant brothers. It's pretty much Western Christianity. Yes, we should indeed ponder the Mystery but the question posed in this discussion is trying to reduce a mystery to an equation. It's not either or it's both and and more over it's actually all of the above!

Now as to the nature of the blood of animals, again I would say, it's not some scientific thing that the ancients knew. Yes, there is life in the blood, of course: biological life. The blood delivers oxygen to the cells and expels carbon dioxide. It also delivers nutrition but the life essence of the soul, or be it the power of the animal, as the pagans believed, does not scientifically reside in the blood.

The dietary laws were based on the fact that certain animals had been used to sacrifice to other pagan gods, who were also animal figures. Pigs were sacrificed to gods represented by:

  • bulls
  • calves
  • cows, or
  • sheep.

Hence, God told the Hebrews, don't kill and eat pigs. Rather slaughter sheep and cows and eat them. That served as a daily reminder.

The Hebrews were told by Pharaoh and Joseph to settle in Goshen because they were shepherds. They slaughtered sheep. The Egyptians worshiped a sheep god so shepherds were an offense.

I would also recommend the Epistle of Barnabas.

The author gives some interesting interpretations on this subject as well.

John

Will replied:

John,

In that case, I give little credence to the ransom model. Christ defeated the devil; He didn't have to pay him anything. Despite the power he had, nothing is owed to the devil. It seems like the satisfaction model complements perfectly the divinization notion of the Easterners, like the heads and tails of a coin. Now that justice has been redressed, divinization can be re-offered.

Yes, sacrificing animals to false gods is what God was weaning Israel from. The First Commandment is the foundation for all the rest. Nonetheless, it is a great mystery as to why people around the world — who never met each other until modern times — were killing animals to their gods and using their blood.

  • If you knew nothing but atheism all your life and then converted last week to either polytheism or Judaism, would you have an immediate compulsion to want to kill animals for your G/god(s) and use their blood for the sake of union?

This somehow made great sense to the ancients.

The only thing I'd add to your blood comments is that I hesitate a little in reducing blood to what we have discovered through modern science. Also, try not to be closed to a mystical meaning we may have lost in our reductionist, scientific, cultural mind-set.

After all, the source and summit of our entire faith is the imperative that we eat the Body and drink the Blood of our Savior, which is the conduit of divine life for us.

Will

John replied:

Will,

We owed the debt to satan; both models apply.

Again, if you go too far with any model, you wind up in trouble. The satisfaction model leads down the road to a monstrous Father, that must take out His wrath on His Son.

Nothing could further from the truth.

The Church has not defined atonement. The fact is our Soteriology or doctrines of justification, are not fully defined. For the most part, the Church has given us parameters.

Most them, if you read the documents of the Council of Trent, stated what Justification is not. Vatican I and II really began addressing what justification was.

When looking at atonement, we need to look at all the paradigms. All have truths but none of them are perfect, especially when carried out to their extreme.

The whole Juridical approach virtually ignores the adoption, sonship aspect, and the notion of the Covenant, which is a total giving of self.

There is a lot here to be unpacked.

More later,

John

Will replied:

John,

You said:
We owed the debt to satan . . .

But satan's authority is illegitimate. He's more like a hostage taker than a landlord. Someone either:

  • pays the hostage taker the ($$) money he demands or
  • you [capture/kill] him.

I see Christ's Act as the latter.

I'm aware of the models and how they're not dogmatically defined. Interesting how the CCC mentions substitution. Vicarious satisfaction is made to re-introduce justice which is lost in sin.

I think the only way to go too far with this is to mistake God as making arbitrary rules rather than providing the satisfaction it takes to fix the natural consequences of sin. Sin is huge.

The covenant model is present implicitly throughout the Bible, both Testaments, as the over-arching theme of divine Revelation.

Will

John replied:

Will,

Without going and looking up the Scripture texts, Paul talks about being debtors to sin. (Romans 8:12-14) That implies a debt we owed satan. I'm not saying this is a stand alone theory. None of them are but there is an aspect of this which holds truths.

The substitutionary model is also part of the picture. That's the one Evangelicals prefer.

My point is that all models must be considered when discussing atonement and the only reason I brought up the various models of Atonement is because, just as is the case with Atonement, the question about what saves us, His Blood or His Death, is not a binary question.

Look in the same chapter that Paul tells the Romans we are justified by faith apart from works of the law, (Romans 3:27-28)

Paul says we're justified freely and by His Love.

  • Which is it? <Both, of course.>
  • How many different ways can we say all this?

We are saved by His death, but washed and redeemed by His Blood. It's all one package and, by the way, if Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14) so His Resurrection saves us.

It's great that we contemplate these things and even discuss them. It helps us to delve into the Mystery . . . so I'm not knocking the question at all. I'm just saying we can't definitively answer this question . . . picking one model or equation over the other.

This isn't a recipe.

Warmly,

John

A friend Robert Leblanc commented:

Hi, guys —

I sent the following link to Will and other friends earlier this year. Perhaps it will be helpful here.

Regarding ransom the following piece on atonement says:

“But unfortunately, at first, and for a long period of theological history, this truth was somewhat obscured by a strange confusion, which would seem to have arisen from the natural tendency to take a figure too literally, and to apply it in details which were not contemplated by those who first made use of it.”

Peace,

Bob

Will replied:

John, Mike, and Bob,

Thanks for all your feedback!

Will

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