Another long couple of weeks ahead of us. Why did Our Lord become flesh? Our good saint leads off the best way.
1 Faith in the Incarnation, of course, is counted foolishness by unbelievers, as the Apostle has it: “It pleased God by the foolishness of our preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21); and it seems foolish to preach a thing which is not just impossible, but also unbecoming; therefore, the unbelievers press on their fight against the Incarnation, and they try not only to show that what the Catholic faith preaches is impossible, but also that it is inharmonious, and that it ill befits the divine goodness.
2 For it does befit the divine goodness that all things stand fast in order. Now, the order of things is this: that God be exalted above all things, but man hemmed in among the lowest creatures. Therefore, it ill befits the divine majesty to be united to human nature.
3 Once more; if it was suitable for God to become man, this had to be for some usefulness coming therefrom. But whatever be the usefulness granted, since God is omnipotent He could produce this usefulness merely by His will. Therefore, since it becomes everything whatever to be done as quickly as possible, it was unnecessary for a utility of this sort that God unite human nature to Himself.
4 Since God is, moreover, the universal cause of all things. He should especially attend the usefulness of things in their universal entirety. But the assumption of human nature looks only to the usefulness of man. It was, therefore, not seemly for God, if He was to take on a foreign nature, to assume only human nature.
5 Moreover, the more one thing is like another, the more suitably it is united to the other. But the angelic nature is more like God and closer to Him than human nature. Therefore, it was not suitable to assume human nature and pass over the angelic.
6 There is more. The chief thing in man is his understanding of the truth. And in this man seems to be impeded if God assumed human nature, for man is thus given an occasion of error, its result is agreement with those who held that God is not exalted above all bodies. Therefore, it contributed nothing useful to human nature for God to assume human nature.
7 Again, we can learn from experience that many an error concerning the Incarnation of God has arisen. It seems, then, that it was not becoming human salvation that God should be incarnate.
8 Furthermore, among all the things that God has done, that appears the greatest: His own assumption of flesh. But from the greatest work one should look for the greatest usefulness. If, then, the Incarnation of God is ordered to the salvation of men, it appears that it was becoming that He should have saved the entire human race, since even all men’s salvation scarcely seems to be useful enough that so great a work should have been done for it.
9 What is more, if God assumed human nature for the salvation of men, apparently it was suitable that there be enough indications for men of His divinity. But it seems this did not happen, for some other men simply assisted by the divine power and without God’s union to their nature are discovered doing miracles like or even greater than those which Christ did (cf. John 24:12). It seems, then, that Gods, Incarnation did not take place with enough care for human salvation.
10 There is more. If it was necessary for human salvation that God take on flesh, since there were men from the beginning of the world, it appears that from the beginning of the world He ought to have assumed human nature, and not, so to say, in the last days, for it seems that the salvation of all the preceding men was passed over.
11 For the same reason, also, He should have dwelt among men to the very end of the world, in order to instruct men by His presence and govern them.
12 Then, too, this is, above all, useful to men: to solidify in them the hope of future beatitude. But this hope would have been better conceived from an incarnate God if He had assumed an immortal, impassible, and glorious flesh and had displayed this to all men. Therefore, it seems not suitable to have assumed a mortal and frail flesh.
13 Apparently it was suitable, furthermore, to show that whatever is in the world is from God, He should have put to use the abundance of earthly things, living in riches and the greatest honors. It is the contrary we read of Him: that He. led a poor and abject life, that He suffered a shameful death. Therefore, what the faith preaches about the incarnate God is not suitable.
14 The fact, moreover, that He suffered abjectly did most to obscure His divinity. Nonetheless, the most necessary thing for men all the while was this: that they know His divinity, if He was God incarnate. It seems, then, that what the faith preaches, is not in harmony with human salvation.
15 Let a man say that the Son of God underwent death by reason of His obedience to the Father, this also appears unreasonable. For obedience consists in one’s conforming himself to the will of him who commands. But the will of God the Father cannot be unreasonable. If, then, it was unbecoming for God made man to suffer death because death seems contrary to divinity which is life, the reason for this thing cannot suitably be found in obedience to the Father.
16 God’s will, moreover, is not for the death of men, even sinners, but for life, as Ezekiel (18:23, 32) says: “I will not the death Of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live.” By so much the less, then, could it have been the will of God that the most perfect man be subject to death.
17 It seems, furthermore, impious and cruel to command an innocent to be led to death, especially on behalf of the impious who are worthy of death. But the man Christ Jesus was innocent. Therefore, it would have been impious if at the command of God the Father He had undergone death.
18 But let a man say that this was necessary as a demonstration of humility, as the Apostle appears to say, that Christ “humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death” (Phil. 2:8): this reason is not suitable either, because, in the first place, one must commend humility in him who has a superior to whom he can be subject. This cannot be said of God. Therefore, it was not suitable for God’s Word to be humbled unto death.
19 Again, men were able to be informed sufficiently about humility by the divine words, to which faith must wholly cling, and by human examples. Therefore, to set an example of humility it was not necessary for the Word of God either to assume flesh or to undergo death.
20 But, again, let one say that it was necessary for the cleansing of our sins that Christ undergo death and the other seemingly abject things; as the Apostle says: “He was delivered up for our sins” (Rom. 4:25); and again: “He was offered once to exhaust the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). This, too, seems awkward, because, in the first place, only by God’s grace are men cleansed of sins.
21 In the next place, because, if satisfaction was required, it was suitable that he should give satisfaction who had sinned. For in the just judgment of God “every one shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6:5).
22 Again, if it was becoming for someone greater than, pure man to satisfy for man, it seems it would have been sufficient for an angel to take flesh and fulfill this sort of satisfaction, since an angel is by nature superior to a man.
23 What is more, sin is not expiated by sin, but increased. Then, if Christ had to satisfy by death, His death should have been such that no man sinned therein; that is to say, He should have died not a violent, but a natural, death.
24 If Christ, moreover, had to die for the sins of men, since men sin frequently He should have had to undergo death frequently.
25 Now, let one say that it was especially because of original sin that Christ had to be born and to suffer, and that sin had infected the whole human race when the first man sinned. But this seems impossible. For, if other men are not equal to satisfying for original sin, neither does the death of Christ seem to have been satisfactory for the sins of the human race, since He Himself died in His human, not in His divine nature.
26 Furthermore, if Christ made satisfaction enough for the sins of the human race, it seems unjust that men still suffer the penalties which were brought in, Scripture says, by sin.
27 There is more. If Christ made satisfaction enough for the sins of the human race, no further remedies for the absolution of sins need be sought. But they are constantly sought by all who have care for their salvation. Therefore, it seems that Christ did not sufficiently take away the sins of men.
28 These and similar points, then, can make it appear to a man that what the Catholic faith preaches about the Incarnation has not been harmonious with the divine majesty and wisdom.