For those who are unfamiliar, the question of the “motive” of the Incarnation has a long history. Though it has its roots in the writings of the Church Fathers, it did not receive its first systematic treatment until the time of medieval scholasticism. At that juncture, opposing theses were advanced by two of the most authoritative scholastic theologians of the 13th century: St. Thomas Aquinas and Bl. John Duns Scotus. The former, which we may call the Thomistic thesis, argued that if Adam had not sinned, God would not have become man. Thomas wrote the following in his Summa Theologica: “the work of the Incarnation was ordained by God as a remedy for sin; so that, had sin not existed, the Incarnation would not have been.”1 Thus, for Thomas, the only reason for the Incarnation is the redemption of fallen man. The Scotistic thesis, on the other hand, argued that the Incarnation was willed by God from all eternity prior to any consideration of sin, and thus it would have come about even had Adam not sinned. For Scotus, God created the world and everyone in it for the sake of Christ, sin or no sin. Christ, then, was not an afterthought of God, but rather the first thought, so to speak.
The debate over which of the two theses was the correct one took center stage in the Christological writings of the early modern period. In fact, according to Trent Pomplun, “it could be argued that [during this period] no controversy was so celebrated as the age-old debate between Thomists and Scotists about the so-called ‘motive’ of the Incarnation.”2 All serious theologians of the major religious orders (i.e. Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, etc.) took part in the debate. The Dominicans, with some notable exceptions, adhered to the Thomistic thesis, while the Franciscans for the most part adopted that of Scotus. But even Dominicans like Capreolus (ca. 1380-1444) and Cajetan (ca. 1468-1534) had to wrestle with some of the principles of Scotus’s thesis, such as the application of the signa rationes to God’s eternal decree, all the while trying to remain faithful to Thomas’s overall position. The Jesuits either sided with one of the two theses or proposed a mitigated form of either thesis. By the eighteenth century, Scotus’s teaching had pretty much won out, though many Dominicans continued to voice their opposition to it. As it stands, the debate continues to this very day, though it is no longer one of the major points of discussion in contemporary Christologies.
Lets rather examine the next point of contention: while man cannot experience pity for the damned, he can experience a type of joy at their suffering. Its important to not move to this topic too quickly. Again, the wrathful move to this rather quickly as if it applies to them right now, in this life – which it does not. And the type of joy experienced at the suffering of the damned needs to be nuanced so as to avoid any type of cruel notion that is contrary to love.
Quote 3 – Summa Theologica II, II, Q. 94 A3
It is written (Psalm 57:11): “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge.”
Further, it is written (Isaiah 56:24): “They shall satiate [Douay: ‘They shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh.’] the sight of all flesh.” Now satiety denotes refreshment of the mind. Therefore the blessed will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked.
As we approach the joyous celebration of Christmas we Catholics typically focus on Luke’s Gospel; more specifically Luke 2, where we learn of the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the birth of our Savior and the announcement of that birth to the shepherds in the fields as well as their visit to behold the newborn baby Jesus. In this season of preparation for the birth of our Lord, I would rather in this reflection turn to another Gospel, that of John; and his telling us about the Holy Spirit and other major themes that distinguish this Gospel from the other three Synoptic Gospels. We are therefore able to supplement our present focus on the birth of our Lord with reflections upon our re-birth in Jesus Christ and His glory, even in crucifixion and death.
A planetary conjunction appears to be the most likely historical theory in regards to the Star of Bethlehem. Some theories have considered a comet, but Haley’s comet comes too early – around 12 B.C. And others consider that the Star could have been a super nova, but Comet 53 that could have become a supernova came after Herod’s death. The comet is a popular theory for the historicity of the Star of Bethlehem. There are records of a long-lasting comet event from Chinese astronomers, noticed in March of 5 B.C. and April of 4 B.C. The fact that these dates are near the date of Herod the Great’s death in 4 B.C. make it a possibility for the Gospel of Matthew’s record of the Star of Bethlehem.
Pilgrims of Christ has more or less migrated to a new Substack newsletter, which relies on email subscription for viewership. I’d like to invite you to subscribe to our Substack publication Missio Dei—a publication dedicated to proclaiming the Mission of God to the world. I started this independent publication with my classmate from Holy Apostles College and Seminary Jonathon Fessenden, a grad-student M.Th.-Apologetics. We are full of joy that the Holy Spirit is working in our lives encouraging us to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and through His resurrection raises us to new life. Missio Dei is a more tailored and precise model of subsidiarity by reaching out to those in our own circles of family, friends, and local parishes to promote our publication. We hope with your help we can begin to reach out in mission to those who have been isolated around our parish communities as a source for clarity of the Catholic faith. Please share with others our publication, God Bless! Please visit our website https://missiodei.substack.com/ and subscribe via email or follow us on Twitter @missiodei451