Summary Against Modern Thought: Arguments Used Against The Incarnation

Summary Against Modern Thought: Arguments Used Against The Incarnation

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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.


  1. C-Marie

    The sin of Adam and Eve merited the punishment of death with no possibility of coming back to life. A man was needed, who was not at all subject to the eternal death punishment, but who, through the use of His free will, would suffer the full punishment for sin, and Who could not be held by death as He was wholly innocent of sin, both personal sin and Adam and Eve’s sin, and so the Resurrection from death would come to pass. And the Resirrection did come to pass.

    The only way all of this could come about, was if God Himself created a sinless man, Who was like us in all ways but sin. And the only way that be, was f God took upon Himself, human nature, set aside His glory and became man, retaining Who He is, God, fully divine, and taking upon Himself, human nature, fully human. And the Son of God did just that.

    “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4: 15.

    To our reasoning, how could this be?? But for God, all things are possible. God ordained that this was the only solution, as this solution retained the use of the gift of free will to humankind.

    “35Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour would pass from Him.
    36“Abba, Father,” He said, “all things are possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14.

    After this was accomplished, the reception of salvation from eternal death could be accepted or rejected, by the use of man’s free will. God has done all that can be done to save mankind from eternal death.

    God bless and receive Jesus’ salvation,

  2. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Those look like pretty solid contra-arguments the Good Doctor laid out. I don’t see how he’s going to wriggle out of this one. It’s like Houdini, manacled hand and foot and dropped into the Water Torture, the top padlocked in place, kicking about, bubbles rising from his doomed mouth — he’s done for, how can he possibly escape?

    Tune in next week!

  3. C-Marie

    Am really looking forward to his arguments For the Incarnation!!! Keeping in mind that God created our reason, and:

    “18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    19 For it is written,

    20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

    God bless, C-Marie

  4. Oldavid

    I very much admire our valiant C-Marie but I think there is a more succinct apologetic.

    It has to do with infinite Justice and Mercy.

    Every sin is an offence against infinite perfection. Such an offence requires an infinite retribution (according to Justice). There is no way that a finite being (like Man) could ever make satisfaction for any offence against the infinite perfection. (No Justice possible). However, if the infinite mercy of absolute perfection should assume humanity and be the appropriate Sacrifice then the Man Who is God can be the necessary retribution required of Man (according to Justice) but delivered according to the Mercy of God; His own Sacrifice.

  5. C-Marie

    As retribution can be defined as : “Punishment administered in return for a wrong committed.”

    Would it not be: … then the Man Who is God can suffer the fullness of the necessary punishment required of Man (according to Justice)…

    Rather than: ” …. then the Man Who is God can be the necessary retribution required of Man (according to Justice)….”

    God bless, C-Marie

  6. Oldavid

    An interesting observation, Madam C-Marie.
    Initially my dull wit had some difficulty with the distinction you were making. After some consideration, though, I’ll stick with my original for the following reason: A punishment for a wrong is not entirely synonymous with retribution. For example, I may have committed an offence and been fined an amount I could not pay but you could, with your magnificent generosity, pay the fine for me. Technically, a retribution has been made but I have not been appropriately punished even if I agree to give you the pocket money I had to go the pictures.

    Would that be an appropriate metaphor for the purpose of the Incarnation, do you think?

    Consider also that Creation is the manifestation of God’s Power, Intellect and boundlessly generous Will. It’s what He does because He can. Scarily, He doesn’t “need” any of us miserable wretches, we’re only vehicles for the manifestation of His Justice, Mercy and infinite Generosity.

    I bet that good ole Tom could write a whole ‘nother Summa to explain that in detail.

  7. Joy

    The substitutionary principle or theory is what C Marie is pushing and that has been described as immoral and depraved by respected theologians

    Jesus died because of our sin not because he had to perform a metaphysical manoeuvre.
    Jesus was killed by humans because he was perfect.
    God did not remain distant from humans but became part of the suffering of mankind.
    This is what the atonement IS. His life and his death showed mankind his example and relating everything back to Adam and Eve and a mistake by God? or even Adam/eve/someone in a garden ages before, is just silly.
    The substitutionary theory is a lame explanation for the incarnation and or the AtOneMent.
    God, through the life of Jesus became closer to mankind and showed mankind the way, as is explicitly stated in the gospels.
    There’s something strange going on with management of people’s guilt, of human guilt.
    Something is very wrong in the methodology and teaching of those who construct a metaphysical or spiritual trap, effectively. God is not that unkind or irrational.
    If Jesus were here again today, the same thing would happen again, but his miracles and a change in the written law which has happened since his death and resurrection might prevent the baying crowd form having its evil way. Unless Twitter had anything to do with it. The crowds or individuals would kill him all over again, or try to. Possibly even his own.

    The life and death of Jesus is Good News, not bad news, as is often promoted by the more negative and pessimistic thugs

  8. C-Marie

    In taking thought on this, the following comes to mind.

    First of all, God Is Love, and that is why He made us, because Love gives and shares with the beloved. So, we are beloved unto God, and when Adam and Eve sinned and broke the relationship of Love God had with them, and they with Him, He determined to reeatablish the relationship of Love through the gift of Free Will.

    How this could be accomplished, only God knew. The fullness of the punishment must be paid in full, and since no human being who was subject to the sin’s effects could be the one to use the gift of free will to accomplish this, as their free will was now tainted with sin, another had to be found who was fully human and who had never sinned and who was not subject to Adam and Eve’s punishment for their sin, and who had full free use of the gift of free will.

    As the result of Adam and Eve’s sin, all future human beings would be tainted by it, whether they sinned personally or not, every human being would need a way to enter into the Love relationship with God Who is Love.

    And so, a new Adam must be created who would be wholly untouched by Adam and Eve’s sin, as He would be the new Adam.

    The only way that could come about would be by God’s only begotten Son, taking on the human nature while retaining His Divine nature. The one to accomplish this, had to be of the same human nature as Adam and Eve, and completely untainted by their sin.

    This was accomplished through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. In the womb of Mother Mary, Jesus’ humanity was created by the Holy Spirit. Jesus lived His entire life in perfect obedience to God our Father, even unto His death on the Cross. He arose from the dead, as death could not hold Him because He was of the new creation and there was no sin in Him..

    We are commanded to receive Jesus in Love, as our Lord and Saviour and God, and to live our lives in Him and with Him, in obedience to God our Father, following the leading, guiding, and teaching by the Holy Spirit.

    We will see what next week brings!!
    God bless, C-Marie

  9. Oldavid

    C-Marie, free will is in the nature of Man; Adam and Eve couldn’t have done the Primordial Sin without it. I used to like to speculate what Creation might have been like if Adam and Eve had not betrayed God and their primordial nature. Anyhow, we can only work with what we’ve got. Something to contemplate: one of those ancient mystics said “Oh happy fault (Original Sin) that got for us so sublime a Redeemer”.

    Joyous, I think you must be getting your theology out of the Scofield Bible, or the Talmud, or something similar. Next you’ll be telling us that the Iscariot was a great saint because he was instrumental in the mission of the proto-Messiah. (Haven’t you already done that somewhere way back?) From there it should be only a short step into Kabbalah and Sabbatean Frankism.

  10. C-Marie

    True to a point.

    Maybe this sentence was not seen, note the word “tainted”, please.

    “How this could be accomplished, only God knew. The fullness of the punishment must be paid in full, and since no human being who was subject to the sin’s effects could be the one to use the gift of free will to accomplish this, as their free will was now tainted with sin, another had to be found who was fully human and who had never sinned and who was not subject to Adam and Eve’s punishment for their sin, and who had full free use of the gift of free will.”

    But off to sleep as I have cataract surgery in the morning.
    God bless, C -Marie

  11. Oldavid

    No, C-Marie, it’s not about punishment or revenge.

  12. C-Marie

    The Incarnation: It is about God Nimself takin on our humanity, in sinlessness, and Him teaching, and suffering the punishment of death, which death was utter separation from God, and from which there was no way for us to live Eternal Life with God, ever, but Jesus rose again from the dead and gained salvation for us all through all that He went theough for us. And Jesus was the only One Who could suffer such and die and live again.

    Am awaiting next week now. Forgot about daylight savings time here!
    God bless, C-Marie

  13. Joy

    Oldavid, not so.
    It’s Calvinism, that pushes the idea and invented the notion of substitution regarding atonement of sin.
    St Anselm is one who said it was immoral and deprave. That’s why a child can see it’s wrong but it takes an adult to teach it. I recall thinking it sounded a bit rum when hearing it as a child.
    “that’s not fair on God” and “why did he need to do that?” These thoughts never made it to speech but it’s another stumbling block for those who listen and dismiss Christianity.

  14. Oldavid

    Phew! Keith Ward sounds just like Richard Dawkins in tone, accent and style.

    Like I said, Joy and Keith, it’s not about revenge or punishment, it’s about Justice and Mercy.

    Keith, and most Evangelical silly sentimentalists simply assume that God is one of them; created in their own “image and likeness”.

    Why is “Calvinism” any less credible than any of the other 40 odd thousand versions of “private interpretation of “Sola Scriptura””?

    Later on we can get to why the Hell do you believe Scripture anyway.

  15. swordfishtrombone


    God has done all that can be done to save mankind from eternal death.

    I don’t care about being dead, I care about suffering while I’m still alive. It seems like your God has done absolutely nothing at all to prevent any of that with his genius plan.

  16. Joy

    Don’t project Oldavid, see if you can do it without. Just for fun?
    At no stage does anybody need to talk about the topic of justice when it’s revenge that’s being depicted, quite clearly, not only. that, but it’s carried out “on God’s behalf” oh so often.
    Ultimate Justice also belongs to God, not to you. What happens on earth is subject to all the rest of the earthly influences and physical powers.
    Vengeance is not justice, except by mankind’s standards. Hence your error in mistaking the two and then accusing your opponents (who incidentally are polar opposite but have not forgotten their manners)
    The first two lines were all I read, or about as far as the Richard Dawkins , justice/mercy remark.
    If you would listen or ask what others think first rather than putting words and in this case, beliefs in the court of others to defend which really belong to you, it might render a more fruitful discussion

  17. Joy

    I understand what you say and why you say it. It is an insult to your intelligence and that of most people who have some kind of faith in God, to ignore and act as if the problem of evil and suffering were easy to solve and reconcile with the notion of a loving God, or even the notion of ultimate truth wisdom and beauty, goodness…
    This is because the universe, if God exists, there is more, than what we see today. We do not know all there is to know. Unlike claims made by most unyielding christian believers in God.

    They forget we don’t know everything but behave as if the system is already closed to truth or discovery, although they tend to say their arguing for a physically open system, metaphysically, they either overtly or indirectly admit it’s all been ‘worked out’. It hasn’t. There are theories and ideas, some of which are wrong. The universe is a mystery for a reason, that’s what I believe.
    They become trapped…it’s easy to do and only discovering the truth in what Jesus said, is it likely that they or anybody else can extract themselves from it.
    Somebody taught them, perhaps as children, or by parents, that they are better in God’s eyes than someone who does not have faith or know that God is there. Jesus did not reject Thomas, even though he must have witnessed some of the miracles he performed during his life. I wont’ go on, but that opens up a while lot of other ideas, to me, about what Jesus did and what they saw.

  18. Joy

    Another couple of thoughts having done Oldavid the courtesy that he does not show anybody else but since it’s the Christian way:
    Now you object to a point of fact about Kieth Ward’s truthful statement by galloping off with another sense of “unfairness” by asking::
    “why only calvinism”?
    Because the topic is a theory developed and promulgated by Calvin. Just fact, not judgement or revenge but truth.
    The fundamentals are a specific list of doctrines. Many of which you and I might share as beliefs, but can you think for a moment and notice that there is a difference between claiming that you are only a Christian if you believe the fundamentals? Catholics don’t “officially” believe some on the list, such as the substitutionary principle of the atonement.
    Oldavid, I really think you need to calm down. If you trust God

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