Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A response to Reza Aslan's lecture at Politics and Prose

The following is a response to a lecture found here:

It is a pity Mr. Aslan cannot push through his intuition that the Incarnation is human life/ human suffering "with a net" (to paraphrase). First, if human persons have immortal souls, we benefit from the same promise that life is not a needless tragedy. Second, there is a profound sense in which any descent of God must needs be a 'passion.' Any involvement with sensible matter, as in genetic development, becoming, etc., involves a 'pati' (Latin); that is, something or someone is acted upon and changed. Even at the level of human intelligence, an insight (i.e. the grasping of an abstract form/ intelligible species) had by summoning a material image in the brain is a 'pati,' since one attains a perfection which he or she did not previously possess. (cf. Verbum by Bernard Lonergan, SJ) I am Catholic and am edified by the declarations over so many centuries which accord with reason and are not modern embarrassments. The Council of Chalcedon declared the two natures in Christ, for instance. Knowing what we know from my second paragraph, it could be no other way: the 'form' (i.e. soul) animating a developing, material body cannot be the same soul which is the immutable second Person of the Trinity. And the technical term, 'person', introduced by the Church to handle the relations within the Trinity, is equally useful in all this. How can the man Jesus Christ have an identity with the Son? Everything in the universe (proportionate to the human mind) is composed of matter, form, and existence (corresponding to the sensible residue of experience, an answer to the question, What is it?, and an answer to the question, Is it?, respectively). So, Christ's human nature involves body (matter) and soul (form), but receives its existential component from the simple, divine act, making him a Divine Person (as opposed to a human person). Personhood and identity allow the apparent contradiction of the God-Man to be reconciled.