I missed last week’s theology post. But to make sense of this week’s post from Briggs, we need to go back one week. It is also useful. Aquinas is sound when it comes to the Trinity, and he is refuting errors. So, two posts from the Schoolmaster.
1 There also have been others who denied the truth of the Incarnation and introduced a kind of fictional incarnation. The Manicheans said that God’s Son assumed not a real, but a fantasy, body; thus, He could not be a true man, but only an apparent one. Consequently, the things He did as man—such as being born, eating, drinking, walking, suffering, and being buried—were done not in truth but in a kind of false appearance. Thus, clearly, they reduce the whole mystery of the Incarnation to a fiction.
2 First, of course, this position wipes out the authority of Scripture. Since the likeness of flesh is not flesh, the likeness of walking not walking, and so of the rest, Scripture lies in saying: “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14)—if it was but fantasy flesh. It also lies when it says that Jesus Christ walked, ate, died, and was buried——if these things took place only in an apparent fantasy. But, if even in a moderate way the authority of Scripture be decried, there will no longer be anything fixed in our faith which depends on sacred Scripture, as in John’s words (20:31): “These are written, that you may believe.”
3 Someone can say, of course, that the truth is certainly not lacking to sacred Scripture when it deals with an appearance as though it were a fact, because the likenesses of things are equivocally and figuratively called by the names of the things themselves; a man in a picture, for example, is called a man equivocally. Sacred Scripture itself is accustomed to this manner of speech; thus the Apostle: “And the rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). Of course, many bodily things are found to be said of God in Scripture by reason of mere metaphor: so He is named lamb, or lion, or something of the sort.
4 However, although the likenesses of things may at times take the names of things by equivocation, it is nonetheless unsuitable to sacred Scripture to set down the whole story of one event under such an equivocation, and so to do it that from other Scriptural passages the plain truth cannot be had. For from this would follow not men’s instruction, but their deception instead, whereas the Apostle says: “For what things soever were written, were written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4); and in 2 Timothy (3:16): “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach and to instruct.”
Moreover, the entire Gospel story would be but poetry and fable if it narrated the apparent similarities of things as the things themselves; whereas 2 Peter (1:16) says: “For we have not by following artificial fables made known to you the power of the Lord, Jesus Christ.”
1 The opinions of Valentine, of course, were close to these in regard to the mystery of the Incarnation. For he said that Christ did not have an earthly body, but brought one from heaven; that He received nothing from the Virgin Mother, but passed through her as through an aqueduct.
The occasion of his error he seems to have found in some words of sacred Scripture. For we read in John (3:13, 31): “No man has ascended into heaven, but He that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven… He that comes from above, is above all”; and in John (6:38) our Lord says: “I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me.” And 1 Corinthians (15:47) has: “The first man was of the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven, heavenly.” All of these they want to have so understood that one believes that Christ came down from heaven even in the body.
2 But this position of Valentine and that of the Manicheans just mentioned proceed from one false root: they believed that all these earthly things were created by the devil. And so, since “the Son of God appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil,” as 1 John (3:8) says, it was unsuitable for Him to assume a body from a creature of the devil, since Paul also says: “What fellowship has light with darkness? What concord has Christ with Belial?” (Il Cor. 6:14-15).
3 And since things which come from the same root produce similar fruits, this position lapses into the same discordant falsity as the previous one. For in every single species there are determined essential principles (matter, I mean, and form) from which comes the essential constitution of the species in things composed of matter and form. But just as human flesh and bone and the like are the proper matter of man, so fire, air, earth, and water and the like, such as we sense, are the matter of flesh and bone and parts of this kind. Therefore, if the body of Christ was not earthly, it was not true flesh and true bone, but in appearance only. And thus, also, He was not a true, but an apparent man, whereas, as was noted, He Himself nonetheless says: “A spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have (Luke 24:39).
4 A heavenly body, moreover, is in its nature incorruptible and inalterable, and cannot be moved outside of its own place. Of course, it was not seemly that the Son of God should diminish the dignity of the nature He assumed, but that He exalt it. Therefore, He did not carry a celestial or incorruptible body below; rather, He assumed an earthly body, capable of suffering, and rendered it incorruptible and heavenly.
5 Again, the Apostle says about the Son of God that He “was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3). But the body of David was earthly. Therefore, too, was the body of Christ.
6 The Apostle further says that “God sent His Son, made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). And Matthew (1:16) says: “Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” But He would not be called made of her, or born of her, if He had only passed through her as a channel, assuming nothing from her. Therefore, He assumed His body from her.
7 Furthermore, Mary could not be called the Mother of Jesus, which the Evangelist (Mat. 1:18) witnesses, unless He had received something from her.
Now a few comments.
- The Manicheans and Valentine think creation is evil. Thus God could not be part of it. The orthodox view is that the world was made good. God made it, God could be part of it, to redeem it. Because it was fallen
- From this, because he was flesh and rose again, then ascended to heaven, so he can do so for us. In this we should have hope. Because he was human and died, as all humans do, and then rose again, we should not fear death for it will bring us to him
- We should honour Mary, for bearing Christ, made as all children are in the womb, and nursing him, raising him. We should honour Joseph, who acted as his earthly father. The incarnation should refute the arguments of the Manichee: that this world is without any beauty. It should refute the arguments of the Gnostics: that what we choose to do with our bodies does not matter. It does. And it should honour womankind, for one of them bore Christ
Calvin can wait for a week.