Jonathan Field's words will be in plain black. Robert Sungenis' words will be in blue.
* * * * *
I entertained such a thought because Mr. Field had not contacted me to discuss this issue, or even made me aware that he was contemplating a critique prior to his posting on Mr. Michael’s website. I find it hard to think that the timing of his essay is a mere coincidence. If I’m wrong, I apologize.
If I take issue with him on his treatment of Dr. Hahn, or his own notions of God's anger, immutability and eternity, there are countless other areas in which I am in complete agreement with him. His books on biblical apologetics are first rate, and in them he always deals thoroughly with his subject. His Not by Faith Alone is probably the best and most complete book on the subject ever written. I refer to it frequently and would not hesitate to recommend it to others (with certain reservations on his treatment of the topic of the Divine attributes, which I strongly disagree with).
So this response to his rebuttal should not be construed by my readers as a call to "avoid Mr. Sungenis like the plague." I have no intention to do damage to his excellent ministry, which is so needed in these days when we are bombarded by legions of modernist Scripture "scholars." This is not an attempt to "get even."
The truth is that I have been wanting to write a critique of his faulty notions of God's anger, immutability and eternity long before these debates about Dr. Hahn's theology arose in The Remnant. I waited a long time, hoping that his exposure to the traditional movement might slowly help his notions of God to come more into conformity with the scholastics and Catholic Tradition. I only finally wrote when it appeared to me that he was practicing double standards--condemning Dr. Hahn for novelties while engaging in his own.
[ . . . ]
Now I am asking him to show how his theories of immutability, eternity, and anger are consistent with his "rule." True, he stated a couple of times that his theories do not depart from the teachings of Ss. Augustine and Thomas on these issues. This is merely an assertion. If you read closely the other things he says, it becomes clear that he (knowingly or unknowingly) is in blatant contradiction with these two great Doctors, as well as 2,000 years of Catholic ontological Tradition.
He writes: "One can examine all the references to 'immutability' in Denzinger, as I have for example, and he will not find one statement by the Church that immutability means that God cannot change his mind, he will find that immutability means that only God Himself cannot change."
There are a couple of problems here. First, I never asked that he give a magisterial statement, but only that he show where his theories are supported by the consensus of prominent Fathers. The question of whether this doctrine has been given official approval by the Church is irrelevant to the discussion-- distracting away from the issues at hand. Not only does Mr. Sungenis (in presenting us with his notions of God and Atonement)-- violate his own "rule", he in reality violates the Church's rule, which states that we may never depart from the consensus.
I never said we could not depart from the consensus. In fact in my last letter to Mr. Field I specifically stated that, according to Pope Leo, if one departs from the consensus he must interpret Scripture literally and in its most obvious sense, unless reason or necessity compels him otherwise. What I have said is that novel ideas, such as Hahn’s ideas on the Holy Spirit, cannot be interpreted from Scripture as providing a feminine identity to the Holy Spirit (in distinction to the Father and the Son) and, in lieu of that lack of evidence from Scripture, Hahn is going to need support from the Fathers, but he has none, as he himself admits. So Hahn has no support from Scripture, the Fathers or the Magisterium.
As for Mr. Field’s remark: “First, I never asked that he give a magisterial statement, but only that he show where his theories are supported by the consensus of prominent Fathers. The question of whether this doctrine has been given official approval by the Church is irrelevant to the discussion-- distracting away from the issues at hand,” let me make it clear to Mr. Field that he is not the one who is going to set the parameters of this discussion. I am not confining my answers to only what Mr. Field deems as “relevant” to this discussion. If the Church, in her dogmatic proclamations, has never defined “immutability” as prohibiting a “change of mind” in God that is contingent on man’s free will response, but only in regards to the divine character of God, then that becomes very important as to how we interpret, favorable or unfavorable, all the evidence placed before us, including the patristic evidence.In spite of Mr. Sungenis’ avowed praise of Ss. Augustine and Thomas, the fact is that he clearly has contempt for the metaphysics of these two prominent Fathers (as well as the common metaphysic that runs through all schools). This would become clear to anyone who takes the time to explore his website and see the contemptuous statements Mr. Sungenis makes about the Medievals’ understanding of God’s immutability. He places the modern system of "Phenomenology" over the metaphysics of St Augustine and the scholastics--especially St. Thomas (see Question 30 on CAI's Q&A page for November of 2004). In doing so, he violates the thought of the Angelic Doctor, which Pope Leo XIII (Aeterni Patris, 16-19) raised above all other philosophical systems, and who is to be followed especially in metaphysical questions.
Mr. Field has now entered into a realm that is attempting to read my mind, and after that, make exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims. This is nothing but an attempt to marginalize me from the Traditionalist camp. I resent and disavow anything that he is saying. I don’t have “contempt for metaphysics” or do I make “contemptuous statements” about the Medievals understanding of God’s immutability. Perhaps Mr. Field needs to look up the word “contemptuous” before he throws it around with abandon. The only thing I have done is shed more light on what the implications and additional insights may be on the patristic and medieval thought on this topic. I do not “place the modern system of Phenomenology over the metaphysics of St Augustine and the scholastics.” I simply show that scholasticism has a few weak spots (sex, beauty, aethetics [sic], affects) that need some work, and it just so happens that Phenomenology helps fill the void in those particular areas. For example, Thomas understood sex merely as a biological function, whereas phenomenology sees it both as biology and as an expression of love between spouses.
As for Leo XIII, although he gave primacy to Thomas, he did not say that Thomas’ writings were the only one’s we could use, and he by no stretch of the imagination said that Thomas was correct on everything he wrote. Leo gave permission to use “the family of St. Dominic, which rightly claims this great teacher for its own glory, the statutes of the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Augustinians, the Society of Jesus, and many others all testify that they are bound by this law.” The fact is that all these other branches of the Catholic Church, although they give due reverence to Thomas, add different insights to the teaching of Thomas and help in areas where Thomas could not or did not expend his energies. To claim that Leo limited us to Thomas’ words or thoughts is simply reading into Leo something Leo did not say.Secondly, where do these Fathers make a real distinction between the mind or will of God and the substance or nature of God? Mr. Sungenis in essence is saying that God’s mind or will can change, but that his substance cannot change. The only way he could do this is by making a real distinction between the mind of God and the substance of God. But Catholic teaching has always maintained that God is absolutely simple and that the Divine mind is identical to the Divine substance. If the Divine substance is immutable and it is identical to the divine intellect, then logic demands that we conclude that the divine intellect is absolutely immutable.
I’m not making a distinction between “the mind or will of God and the substance or nature of God.” Obviously, Mr. Field didn’t understand what I stated to him in my last letter. God is God and He will not change. But the fact is that Scripture says that God does change His mind when confronted by human free will decisions. Accordingly, Thomas himself said that, because of human free will, God knows some things contingently (De Veritate, Q. 2, A. 12c). Perhaps Mr. Field should examine this little crinkle in Thomas’ theology before he makes the claim that I am showing “contempt” for Thomas’ metaphysics. The truth is that I have plumbed further into Thomas than Mr. Field has. I spent months reading about Thomas’ views of immutability and contingency in De Veritate, De Malo and De Potentia, all of which give different perspectives on the issues we are discussing than what is contained in the Summa.
It is crucial for the reader to grasp here that the failure of Mr. Sungenis to apprehend the nature of God’s absolute immutability is the fundamental error in his system which will later affect (and infect) his understanding of God’s eternity, God’s anger, and his understanding of Atonement.
St. Thomas sums up the fundamental position of the scholastics regarding God's absolute immutability:
It must be said that the act of God’s intellect is His substance. For if his act of understanding were other than His substance, then something else would be the act and perfection of the divine substance, to which the divine substance would be related as potency is to act, which is altogether impossible, because the act of understanding is the perfection and act of the one understanding.
(Summa, First Part, Q.14, art. 4)
This just shows that Mr. Field doesn’t understand the issues. I would no more claim that God’s intellect or mind is different than His substance than I would claim that Mr. Field is not human.
Because Mr. Sungenis admits of real change in the mind of God, then he logically must admit into his system a notion of "time" into the Godhead which will measure that change. He writes:
There is no significance to postulating that God is an "Eternal Now," or there is no "time in eternity." All that we can conclude is that in eternity time is not calibrated in the same way it is on earth. In the existence of each eternal being, none of them can go back to the previous moment or ahead to the next moment while in the present moment. Whether we say God sees all things in their immediacy, or that all things are known to him simultaneously, does not negate that the Father, Son or Holy Spirit cannot exist in and/or go back to the past or ahead to the future, even though they thoroughly know the past and the future.
(Not By Bread Alone, pp. 392-393 )
Mr. Field is confusing two entirely different things. He hasn’t first figured out how Thomas can say that God doesn’t change, yet also say that God knows some things contingently. When he figures that out, then he can start examining the issue of time. In any case, what I said in NBBA has little to do with whether there is “time” in the Godhead. My goal in the NBBA section was to show the fallacy of common verbiage attributed to God. Theologians often use oxymoronic language like “Eternal Now” to appear as if they know what they are talking about when describing God. The fact is God is incomprehensible, and the only things we are left with are the aspects of His being and actions, which sometimes seem contradictory to our limited minds. When we compare Thomas’ more absolutistic language in the Summa to the conditional language in De Veritate, De Malo and De Potentia, we leave with an understanding that Thomas, like everyone else in history, could not piece everything together. That is why we had a Thomas/Molinist controversy, a controversy that has not been solved, and probably never will be solved. If the pope was so high on Thomas he would have accepted his explanation without reserve, but the fact is that he didn’t, since he evidently saw weakness or incompleteness in it. Thomas himself recognized the sheer complexity and insolvability of this problem when he admitted that God knows some things contingently. The logical question, of course, is: how can God know some things contingently (e.g., 1 Samuel 23:1-14) when He, as God, is infinite and knows the end from the beginning? No one can understand that, including Mr. Field, so all this bluster about “time” and “eternity” is not going to prove anything for him. Thomas was so firm about the fact that God knows some things contingently that he said without this vital truth, then man acts out of necessity to the divine will, which then makes all basis for reward and punishment and all principles of moral philosophy superfluous (De Potentia, Q. 3, A. 7). He also says that if man is moved by necessity from the immutable divine will, it is a heretical theology (De Veritate Q. 24, A. 1c; and De Malo Q. 6, q.un.c). These were precisely the truths that helped fight the Lutherans and that Calvinists who were saying that man had no free will and that everything was performed by necessity due to the immutability of God’s will, all of which the Council of Trent found heretical.
In his response to me he writes: "If there is no past, present or future in eternity, yet mutable beings such as ourselves will inhabit eternity and will experience movement and change (since Thomas insists that only God is immutable) and time is defined, according to the Thomist, as a process of change, then how can eternity not have time if it is inhabited by mutable creatures?"
Basically Mr. Sungenis is asking how is it that a creature’s mutability is consistent with the fact that it is in "eternity". If the creature's changeability is consistent with it being in eternity, then what’s to stop us from saying that God’s "eternity" is also consistent with changeability? Mr. Sungenis fails to see here that he is equivocating his use of "eternity." The word eternity is properly to be predicated of God alone, since He alone is absolutely immutable. When the word is applied to creatures it is used in a analogical sense--and only applies to those aspects of the creature’s being that can then be said to be "immutable."
When we enter into eternity we do not enter into God’s Eternity (which would be tantamount to saying that we become God), but only enter a changeless state in which our intellects will apprehend the vision of God without change or succession. It is under the aspect of the Beatific Vision that we can be said to "immutable" and therefore "in eternity." Other aspects of our being, such as our bodies, could be said to be in eternity since they will partake in a state of endless duration. What is certain is that we are not in God’s eternity which is the measure of absolute immutability.
Whatever sense we take eternity in, we will see that is always based on some kind of changeless or immutable state in the creature. Once Mr. Sungenis distinguishes between the various senses of "eternity" his difficulties will vanish. The truth remains, though, that God is absolutely immutable and is not in any way measured by time (which classically is defined as the measure of change). God alone is the only Being that can properly be said to be "eternal."In His eternity there is no past, present and future. God’s changeless eternity is a single "Eternal Now" in whom there is no " change or shadow of alteration." (Ps.101)
The verse Mr. Field wants, but did not quote correctly, is Psalm 101:27-28: “They shall perish but thou remainest: and all of them shall grow old like a garment: And as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art always the selfsame, and thy years shall not fail.” James says something similar in James 1:17: “Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.” As usual, these quotes are taken out of their context. The context has nothing to do with the complexities of the divine will in relation to contingencies. It has only to do with God’s character that will never change. If it changed, then he wouldn’t be God, because then we would have two Gods – the one that was and the one that is now.
Mr. Sungenis says that the notion of an Eternal Now has "no significance" and it will be his task to show us how his theories are supported in the consensus of prominent Fathers.
St. Thomas clarifies the various ways that we predicate "eternity" to creatures:
Eternity truly and properly is in God alone, because eternity follows on immutability, as appears from the first article. But God alone is altogether immutable ... Accordingly, however, as some receive immutability from Him, they share in His eternity. Thus some receive immutability from God by never ceasing to exist; in that sense it is said of the earth that it standeth forever. And in this way it can be attributed to the Angels ... Some again share more fully in the nature of eternity in being or in operation, like the angels, and the blessed who enjoy the Word, because as regards that vision of the Word, no changing thoughts exist in the Saints as Augustine says (De Trin.XV)
(Summa, First Part, Q.10, art. 3 )
So we “share in His eternity.” No great revelation there, and nothing with which to disagree.
Because Mr. Sungenis believes that God is mutable in his mind and will (not in the substance itself), and admits of time in God which is the measure of those changes, he no longer has to hold that God is pure act but can admit the notion that God is in potency to the determinations of his creatures who can really change his decisions.
Mr. Field has it all wrong, and now I can see why he is on this track. I don’t for a second believe God is mutable, and I don’t hold a distinction between His potency and His act. What Mr. Field hasn’t understood is that we have both an immutable God and a God who, as Thomas says, knows some things contingently. If Mr. Field can put those two together, I wish him the best.
Once he makes God passive in relation to the creature the way is paved to predicate real anger in God.
No, God’s anger has nothing to do with passivity. Anger in God is real because it comes from God, period.
Anger, as the scholastics understood it, is a passion in the person angry. That means the person is passive in regard to something; he undergoes or suffers something. Moreover anger formally implies sorrow at the presence of an evil. None of these finite aspects of anger can be predicated of God which has every perfection and is not passive in regards to Himself or the creature but is rather pure act without any mixture of potency.
To quote one of my colleagues, John Salza: “When Aquinas says that there is no passion in God he does not mean that God does not become angry at evil. Aquinas speaks of "passion" in the context of sensual appetite, which is a movement out of one's essential condition or connatural disposition toward a potentiality. Since God is pure actuality and is immutable, He can have no "passions" in this sense. Thus, Aquinas' teaching on the absence of passions in God cannot be used to demonstrate that God does not get angry at sin...In citing Aquinas, Mr. Latar evidently views anger only as a disordered passion (which it could be in certain circumstances), but not as a justifiable response to something that is contrary to truth. Jesus Himself burned with anger at the money changers in the Temple, and yet His divinity was not somehow compromised by His anger. We agree that anger, when it is a disordered passion, cannot be attributed to God because such anger desires the evil of another for vengeance's sake, as Aquinas teaches. However, anger is God's natural response to offenses against His nature, namely truth and justice. For God's truth to be upheld and His justice to be restored, God's anger must be propitiated. This is why Christ chose to die on the cross, and why God desires to see Christ's sacrifice sacramentally re-presented in the Holy Mass from the rising of the sun to its setting around the world. This is foundational for truly understanding the atonement.”
Mr. Sungenis wants to make God to be a changing God with real passions. He departs from the consensus of Fathers who held these biblical descriptions of God to be metaphorical or anthropomorphical--not real. Mr Sungenis says just the opposite and therefore shows himself to be opposed to the consensus:
Here are the facts: there is no consensus among the Fathers on the issue of God’s anger. Of all the Fathers, there are only about ten who spoke to the issue of emotions in God, and only six of those in any great length. The problem is that these six Fathers take two different tracks. Tertullian, Lactantius and Cyprian defend emotive qualities in God quite vigorously, while Augustine, Origen and Gregory of Nyssa seem to downplay it (although they downplay it in the sense of saving God from the taint of human frailties and perturbations, as noted even in certain Scriptures: Eccl 7:10 "Be not quickly angry: for anger rests in the bosom of a fool"; Sirach 30:26: "Envy and anger shorten a man's days, and pensiveness will bring old age before the time").
In order to save God from human frailties associated with emotion, Augustine interprets "anger" as a metaphor for vengeance:
"...and thus even God Himself is said in Scripture to be angry, and yet without any perturbation. For this word is used of the effect of His vengeance..." (City of God, 5, 9).
In another place, he speaks of God's anger as the "full effect" (not merely "effect") of his righteous retribution in order to distinguish it from a human being enraged with passion:
"Nor is He enraged with a passion similar to human anger, but is angry, not in the sense of desiring vengeance, but in the peculiar sense of giving full effect to the sentence of a righteous retribution." (Reply to Faustus, 22, 21)
Likewise, he again shows his desire to free God from the accusation of having the "turbulent emotions" associated with human beings:
"We must take care, however, to understand, that the anger of God is free from any turbulent emotion; for His anger is an expression for His just method of taking vengeance: as the law might be said to be angry when its ministers are moved to punish by its sanction"(Homilies on the Psalms, LXXVII).
"Moreover, the anger and jealousy of God are not emotions of God; as some do charge upon the Scriptures which they do not understand: but under the name of anger is to be understood the avenging of iniquity; under the name of jealousy, the exaction of chastity" (Homilies on the Psalms, LXXVII, 8)
"The anger of God is not a disturbing emotion of His mind, but a judgment by which punishment is inflicted upon sin. His thought and reconsideration also are the unchangeable reason which changes things; for He does not, like man, repent of anything He has done, because in all matters His decision is as inflexible as His prescience is certain. But if Scripture were not to use such expressions as the above, it would not familiarly insinuate itself into the minds of all classes of men, whom it seeks access to for their good, that it may alarm the proud, arouse the careless, exercise the inquisitive, and satisfy the intelligent; and this it could not do, did it not first stoop, and in a manner descend, to them where they lie" (City of God, 15, 25).
The problem with this proposed solution is twofold:
1) Scripture does not always speak of God's vengeance as necessarily following from God's anger, but often speaks of His anger independently, and as an affect that can be assuaged by appeals to His pity or compassion; or speaks of His anger dissipating in and of itself, and which does not result in vengeance (Exodus 4:14; Exodus 32:9-14; Exodus 33:1-5; Deut 9:19-20; 2Sam 24:1; 2Chron 28:11-13; Jonah 3:9-10; Sirach 46:2; Romans 9:22).
Moreover, a majority of the Fathers themselves speak of appeasing God's anger for the express purpose of warding off his vengeance, making a clear distinction between His anger and His vengeance, as we see, for example in Gregory Nanziansus: Orations, 16: "Let us anticipate His anger by confession; let us desire to see Him appeased, after He was wroth. Who knows, he says, if He will turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him? This I know certainly, I the sponsor of the loving-kindness of God. And when He has laid aside that which is unnatural to Him, His anger, He will betake Himself to that which is natural, His mercy." [NB: Yet Gregory insisted that God was impassible].
2) Scripture itself distances God's anger from human anger (e.g., Judith 8:15: "For God will not threaten like man, nor be inflamed to anger like the son of man"), thus Scripture itself is cognizant of the distinction Augustine emphasized, but did not do so by making an inseparable connection between anger and vengeance, as Augustine did.
Augustine himself seems to recognize this dimension of the argument, since his desire is to keep God serene in instances where human emotions would be irrational:
"Fools, again, who avoid the exercise of compassion as a vice, because they are not sufficiently moved by a sense of duty without feeling also distressful emotion, are frozen into hard insensibility, which is very different from the calm of a rational serenity. God, on the other hand, is properly called compassionate; and the sense in which He is so will be understood by those whom piety and diligence have made fit to understand" (De Moribus, 27, 54).
3) Augustine does not interact with Lactantius, Tertullian or Cyprian. Tertullian and Cyprian predated Augustine by two centuries, while Lactantius predated him close to a century, thus showing that the patristic evidence has a pedigree that antedates Augustine, and, at the least, shows a divergence in the patristic evidence, with no resolution in Church dogmatics.
Absent from Augustine's treatment is the effort raised by both Lactantius and Tertullian to distinguish the affects of the Christian God from the lack thereof from the pagan Gods, and to explain to the Christian community the perfect nature of God's affects so that no one misunderstands them or confuses them with human affects.
For example, in The Anger of God, Lactantius argues that the tendency to understand God's anger merely as vengeance originates from a pagan world view, in this case Cicero:
"For the definition given by Cicero, "Anger is the desire of taking vengeance," does not differ much from those already mentioned. But that anger which we may call either fury or rage ought not to exist even in man, because it is altogether vicious; but the anger which relates to the correction of vices ought not to be taken away from man; nor can it be taken away from God, because it is both serviceable for the affairs of men, and necessary" (Anger of God, Ch 17)
Lactantius continues: "Therefore the arguments are found to be empty and false, either of those who, when they will not admit that God is angry, will have it that He shows kindness, because this, indeed, cannot take place without anger; or of those who think that there is no emotion of the mind in God. And because there are some affections to which God is not liable, as desire, fear, avarice, grief, and envy, they have said that He is entirely free from all affection. For He is not liable to these, because they are vicious affections; but as to those which belong to virtue,--that is, anger towards the wicked, regard towards the good, pity towards the afflicted, -- inasmuch as they are worthy of the divine power, He has affections of His own, both just and true."
In Against Marcion Tertullian writes something very similar to Lactantius: "Whence has found its way to the heretics an argument of this kind: If God is angry, and jealous, and roused, and grieved, He must therefore be corrupted, and must therefore die. Fortunately, however, it is a part of the creed of Christians even to believe that God did die, and yet that He is alive for evermore. Superlative is their folly, who prejudge divine things from human; so that, because in man's corrupt condition there are found passions of this description, therefore there must be deemed to exist in God also sensations of the same kind. Discriminate between the natures, and assign to them their respective senses, which are as diverse as their natures require, although they seem to have a community of designations. We read, indeed, of God's right hand, and eyes, and feet: these must not, however, be compared with those of human beings, because they are associated in one and the same name. Now, as great as shall be the difference between the divine and the human body, although their members pass under identical names, so great will also be the diversity between the divine and the human soul, notwithstanding that their sensations are designated by the same names. These sensations in the human being are rendered just as corrupt by the corruptibility of man's substance, as in God they are rendered incorruptible by the incorruption of the divine essence. Do you really believe the Creator to be God? By all means, is your reply. How then do you suppose that in God there is anything human, and not that all is divine? Him whom you do not deny to be God, you confess to be not human; because, when you confess Him to be God, you have, in fact, already determined that He is undoubtedly diverse from every sort of human conditions. Furthermore, although you allow, with others, that man was inbreathed by God into a living soul, not God by man, it is yet palpably absurd of you to be placing human characteristics in God rather than divine ones in man, and clothing God in the likeness of man, instead of man in the image of God. And this, therefore, is to be deemed the likeness of God in man, that the human soul have the same emotions and sensations as God, although they are not of the same kind; differing as they do both in their conditions and their issues according to their nature. Then, again, with respect to the opposite sensations,--I mean meekness, patience, mercy, and the very parent of them all, goodness, why do you form your opinion of the divine displays of these (from the human qualities)? For we indeed do not possess them in perfection, because it is God alone who is perfect. So also in regard to those others,--namely, anger and irritation. we are not affected by them in so happy a manner, because God alone is truly happy, by reason of His property of incorruptibility. Angry He will possibly be, but not irritated, nor dangerously tempted; He will be moved, but not subverted. All appliances He must needs use, because of all contingencies; as many sensations as there are causes: anger because of the wicked, and indignation because of the ungrateful, and jealousy because of the proud, and whatsoever else is a hinderance to the evil. So, again, mercy on account of the erring, and patience on account of the impenitent, and pre-eminent resources on account of the meritorious, and whatsoever is necessary to the good. All these affections He is moved by in that peculiar manner of His own, in which it is profoundly fit that He should be affected; and it is owing to Him that man is also similarly affected in a way which is equally his own. (Against Marcion 2, 16)
4) We also find Augustine himself speaking in terms closer to Lactantius and Tertullian. For example: "Now the children of wrath God punishes in anger; whereas it is in mercy that He punishes the children of grace" (Merits, 2, 25), clearly making a distinction between "punishment" and "anger." The "anger," if it is God's righteous indignation against the wicked, is clearly a wholly different divine disposition than that which is directed to the children of grace.
Considering that these Fathers (Origen, Augustine, Gregory, Lactantius, Tertullian and Cyprian) have varying opinions on how they understand God's anger in Scripture, then there is no consensus among them, and in that case we are not bound to either opinion. We, as Leo XIII teaches, are only bound to them "whenever they all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible...for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the Apostles as a matter of Catholic faith."
And in cases where an exposition is "beyond what the Fathers have done," Pope Leo says "he must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition...provided he carefully observes the rule...not to depart from the literal and obvious sense..." (Providentisimus Deus).
The inquiry I am presenting is certainly not "beyond what the Fathers have done" since Lactantius, Tertullian and Cyprian clearly make room for the affective nature of God, and some of the other Fathers who do not address the anger of God directly, nevertheless speak of appeasing God so that he will turn away from the punishment he planned, clearly making a distinction between anger and punishment. Lactantius has written the best treatise on the anger of God that the Church possesses, and the Church has never condemned it or said it is not worthy for pious instruction.
As for "interpreting Scripture in their literal and obvious sense" if there remains a question as to the propriety of the inquiry, a logical deduction of Scripture certainly does not forbid seeing an affective nature in God, provided we observe the cautions expressed by the Fathers.
[Field citing Sungenis]:Yes, and that is what Scripture says of God, even as it also holds to God’s immutability. In Mr. Field’s world the two are contradictory. Mr. Field’s God is someone who merely applies all these words to Himself just so that he can speak our language, as it were. Mr. Field’s God is basically a dramatist who writes that He has affective reactions to man’s actions, but doesn’t really have them at all. Mr. Field’s God is more like Buddha, an unfeeling intellect who only uses words to mask reality. It is like the little boy who saw his dog get run over by a truck, and whose mother tells him not to worry because he will see his pet someday in doggy heaven. The words “doggy heaven,” of course, are not real, and are only used to pacify the boy. Mr. Field’s God is very similar. He only says he is angry so as to satisfy our human sensibilities and to show us how terrible our punishment will be (e.g., Zech 1:15: "And I am angry with a great anger with the wealthy nations: for I was angry a little, but they helped forward the evil"). In order to accomplish this, Mr. Field has to make a disjunction between immutability and anger, wherein the immutability is real; the anger is not. The anger only becomes a metaphor for something else that is real, e.g., God’s vengeance. That can easily be disproven, as I have done above with the Fathers and Scripture, and will do below.
God is an intensely personal being. He loves, He hates, He has joy, He has sorrow, He sings, He laughs, He is jealous, He is kind, He has pity, He has anger ... God’s personality is not anthropomorphic. God really has these personal qualities.
(Not By Faith Alone, pp. 13-14)
In his response to me he tries to use the more traditional language and admits that God anger is metaphorical since being "out of control" or "irrational" usually accompanies human anger which he denies of God. But this, as we shall see does not belong to the definition of anger, but is accidental to its notion.
He writes: "I have no problem, in certain senses [my emphasis], calling the anger of God "metaphorical,"since the usual connotation of anger in human terms is someone who is out of control and irrational. God’s anger is neither. His anger is perfectly suited to his divinity, and is without whim, irrationality or frivolousness. In this sense, he was perfectly justified in becoming angry at Moses in Exodus 4:14, but also perfectly just in not following His anger with punishment. In that sense it is easy to agree with Augustine: "Now when God is said to be angry, we do not attribute to Him such a disturbed feeling as exists in the mind of an angry man; but we call His just displeasure against sin by the name ‘anger,’ a word transferred by analogy from human emotions."
[Editor's Note: While Sungenis quotes St. Augustine above and says "it is easy to agree" with the saint, in his book Not By Bread Alone he quotes this very same passage of St. Augustine and then proceeds to disagree with the saint: "... Augustine distorts the issue and consequently betrays a bias in his reasoning, since he equates the personal nature of God to an impersonal legal sanction ... Augustine does not provide a rationale for his belief, except his aversion to the capricious rage of an untempered man ... the danger in Augustine's view is that God's emotive disposition is unjustifiably hidden under the word 'analogy,' thereby depriving us of fully knowing God's personality ..." - from NBBA, p. 355, emphasis added.]
Perhaps the “editor” should pay attention to the wording I used. Above I said “In that SENSE it is easy to agree with Augustine,” not that I agree with Augustine in every other sense. I am only agreeing to the point that one can object to anger in God which is characterized by disturbed feeling as it exists in the mind of an impetuous angry man.
[Editor: He then goes on to approvingly quote Protestant author John Stott with the introductory words, "As John Stott correctly concludes ..." If Hahn is justifiably chastised by Ferrara for quoting liberal Catholics such as Congar, Sungenis should not get a free pass for relying on the works of Protestant authors to correct the views of our Catholic saints.]
So the next time the “editor” approvingly quotes from someone other than a Father of the Church, I will be the first to point out this intolerable error of his.
It appears as if the “editor” has just taken off his mask and revealed his motivation. He wants to catch me in some kind of contradiction so that he can make Ferrara look bad for pointing out that Hahn finds support among liberal Catholics. Yet earlier Mr. Field insisted that this essay wasn’t for the purpose of “getting even” with me. Perhaps he and his editor ought to exchange notes before they write their essays. The truth of the matter is that if Stott can give us added insight to an already known truth, then he is useful for us, just as Aristotle, a virtual pagan, was useful to Thomas in forming his philosophy and theology. As for Congar, he is a known liberal who has done much to influence the Catholic hierarchy with his liberal ideas, and continues to do so from the grave. Stott, on the other hand, has no such influence. Moreover, Congar’s comment about the Holy Spirit is thoroughly incorrect (“there must be in God, in a transcendent form, something that corresponds to masculinity and something that corresponds to femininity”). And the fact that Hahn would use this quote from Congar means precisely what I indicated above, that is, that Hahn wants to see more than mere analogies and metaphors when he is “searching for the identity of the Holy Spirit.” If there is a “transcendent form...that corresponds to femininity” in God, and it is to the Holy Spirit alone that Hahn wants to attribute this feminine transcendence, then obviously we are way beyond metaphors and into the identity of the Holy Spirit.
There are several problems with his notion of God’s anger. Anger, even when perfectly controlled (such as in Jesus denouncing the Pharisees) is still a passion and as such cannot be predicated of the Divine Nature until we remove all that is finite from its notion. Passions, whatever way you define them, imply a change of state in the being that undergoes it and therefore cannot apply to God who is pure act-- pure immutable Being.
Says who? Unfortunately, Mr. Field finds himself having to make up his own definitions of anger in order to justify his position. He conveniently avoids the distinctions so that he can satisfy his own arguments. In fact, I don’t think Mr. Field knows what “pure act” really is. He seems to be under the impression that “pure act” means God can’t do one thing at one time and one thing at another. But if that is the definition of “pure act,” then let’s ask Mr. Field how the world came into being. God was, shall we say, all by Himself before the world was created. But if we use Mr. Field’s definition of “pure act” then God can’t create the world because that act would be something different than what God acted previously.
Let’s play this out even further. Considering that God is “pure act” (in Mr. Field’s definition of the term), then how can God beget Christ as a man? Would not this entail that God, in His eternal and immutable being, always knew he would beget Christ as a man? But if He always knew it, then Christ as man was always contemplated by God from all eternity, and man and his sin was always known eternally and immutably as well. But Christ becoming man and man’s sin, as Scripture teaches, are contingencies, that is, they were not necessities (in Thomas’ use of the term). But how could they be contingencies when, in fact, they were part of God’s mind from all eternity? How would one separate God’s knowing that these events would take place from the substance of God Himself, if both are from all eternity with no end? I don’t think Mr. Field has thought these things out, but Thomas did, and thus he held to God as both immutable and that He knows some things contingently. That is the best we have been able to do. What we don’t want to do is take Mr. Field’s one-sided myopic view of God.Also if God’s happiness could be affected by His creatures then we must conclude that He is not infinite; that He does not possess perfect happiness in Himself --since the creature would be able to add or subtract something from that happiness.
Mr. Field is making up his own rules, once again. He keeps putting items of this discussion at odds with one another rather than seeing both as true yet incomprehensible for us. I could say the same for God’s glory. He, as infinite God, has perfect glory. Yet He indicates that He is receiving glory from His creation. Well, if God is all-glorious, how can He receive any more glory from His creation? Evidently, as opposed to Mr. Field, God does not think about this in quantities.
To be really angry is also incompatible with pure happiness since anger presupposes sorrow at the loss of some good. What Mr. Sungenis is implying is that God somehow needs the creature to honor and love Him in order to be perfectly happy. When the creature sins God really feels a loss (sorrow) which causes Him to become righteously angry. When the sinner propitiates God’s anger through Christ’s sacrifice, then God is no longer sorrowful and his anger is propitiated. All this is manifestly absurd and flies in the face of sound philosophy and Catholic Tradition which teaches that God is absolutely happy in Himself and is entirely unaffected by the creature.
The only thing “absurd and that “flies in the face” is Mr. Field’s narrow-minded theology, since he has put artificial limits on God. In one sense, yes, we can say that God is absolutely happy in Himself and unaffected by the creature; in another sense, God is affected by His creature. Both are true, and neither contradicts the other. This is precisely why the Fathers did not have a consensus on the issue of God’s anger, and why Thomas speaks both of God’s immutability and His knowing some things contingently. Mr. Field is not going to solve this great paradox by jumping to one side of the fence. We have many instances in Catholic history (and Protestantism) of theologians doing precisely that, and ending up in error (eg., Lucidus, Gottschalk, the Jansenists, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli).
Saint Thomas demonstrates that the passions have not only a material or bodily element, but also a formal element which is sorrow. Saint Thomas writes:
In the passions of the sensitive appetite there may be distinguished a certain material element --namely the bodily change--and a certain formal element, which is on part of the appetite, Thus in anger the material element is the rising of the blood about the heart or something of this kind, but the formal, the appetite for vengeance. Again, as regards the formal element of certain passions a certain imperfection is implied, as in desire, which is the good we have not, and in sorrow, which is about the evil we have. This also applies to anger which supposes sorrow.
(Summa, First Part, Q. 20, Art. 1, reply Obj.2)
Thomas is talking only about human passions, not divine. Mr. Field’s quote is misplaced.
Since Saint Thomas teaches that the passion of anger formally includes sorrow --which he says is an imperfection, then it cannot be predicated of God who is by definition an absolutely perfect being. Therefore the only sense that anger can be predicated of God is metaphorically or "anthropomorphically." It cannot "really" or "ontologically" be in God.
In Mr. Field’s theology, then, because sorrow is bad, God would be totally unaffected by the pleas of His Son in the Garden and totally unaffected by the sufferings of His Son (although Isaiah 53 says He is affected); and God would be totally unaffected by the obstinance of man (even though He pleads with them “Why will you die, O house of Israel. I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” – Ezk. 18:32-33); and God would be totally unaffected by the sin of the world (even though He says: “And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” – Genesis 6:6).
Mr. Field’s God is an entity that is just constantly happy, even though babies are being aborted by the truckload, and homosexuals are running rampant, and people are being lost to Satan every day. Why? Because Mr. Field can’t get passed his self-imposed notion that sorrow is bad and that it cannot be in the same God that has happiness. Scripture could say it a thousand times, but Mr. Field’s metaphysics will win out, because he puts more stock in his metaphysics than he does in Scripture, even though the Church has never defined these issues, and in fact, has refused to do so.
But let us look at another twist to this. Here is what Thomas writes in the same passage Mr. Field quoted above:
Reply OBJ 2: Certain other passions, however, as love and joy, imply no imperfection. Since therefore none of these can be attributed to God on their material side, as has been said (r 1); neither can those that even on their formal side imply imperfection be attributed to Him; except metaphorically, and from likeness of effects, as already shown (Q3, A2,r 2; Q19, A11). Whereas, those that do not imply imperfection, such as love and joy, can be properly predicated of God, though without attributing passion to Him, as said before (Q19, A11).
This shows the difficulty Thomas himself has with this issue, and why he has detractors in the patristics. Note that Thomas has to keep making distinctions in order to fit everything together, but distinctions he does not first prove before citing them. Here he calls love and joy “passions” but then, because he earlier called passions “imperfections” (since he said passions originate in human beings), he now has to say that love and joy, even though they are passions, are “no imperfections.”
Thus, because love and joy are, shall we say, “perfect passions,” Thomas says they can be “predicated of God,” but with the caveat that we do so “without attributing passion to Him.”
This is sometimes the dead-end that pure metaphysics will lead to. You reach a dead-end because the result is illogical, so you create another category of distinction to solve the problem. It doesn’t matter whether you can prove that the distinction really exists or is valid, since, if it makes your syllogism work then the distinction is accepted. We can thank Aristotle for that, because his philosophy is an unending appeal to distinctions (as opposed to the universals of Plato).
So in this view, the emotion of joy can be predicated to God, but the emotion of sorrow cannot. Thus, if we read in Genesis 6:6: “And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground,” the sorrow and grief, so explicit in the text, cannot be predicated upon God because they are “imperfections.”
But in the following passage, Zephaniah 3:17, when we read: “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing,” we, as opposed to the emotion of sorrow in Genesis 6:6, can predicate the emotion of joy in Zephaniah 3:17 to God, but just as long as we don’t couple the joy with “passion.” So we can apply an emotion to God (that is, “joy”) as long as we don’t attribute the passion of the emotion of joy to God. Ah, the joys of Aristotle!
Now, notice that Thomas has no problem in seeing true emotion in God (for Thomas nowhere claims that “joy” is not an emotion). But he assures us that, although he sees emotion in God, he sees it without passion. How that can be possible Thomas doesn’t explain. It is just the natural consequence of his practice of making Aristotelian distinctions.
Here is another problem. In the same paragraph Thomas said: “In the passions of the sensitive appetite there may be distinguished a certain material element - namely, the bodily change - and a certain formal element, which is on the part of the appetite. Thus in anger, as the Philosopher says (De Anima iii,15,63,64), the material element is the kindling of the blood about the heart; but the formal, the appetite for revenge. Again, as regards the formal element of certain passions a certain imperfection is implied, as in desire, which is of the good we have not, and in sorrow, which is about the evil we have. This applies also to anger, which supposes sorrow.”
Thus, Thomas’ objection to predicating “anger” to God is solely based on what he calls the “formal” element of anger resulting in an “appetite for revenge,” and thus, because Thomas does not want to picture God as a revengeful deity (NB: “revenge” connoting the sin of getting back at someone for the sheer pleasure of seeing them suffer), Thomas classifies “anger” as an “imperfection.”
Now, isn’t it odd that Thomas can so easily make a disjunction between the emotion of joy and the passion of joy, yet when it comes to making a distinction between human “appetite for revenge” from righteous divine vengeance upon the wicked, Thomas can’t seem to make the proper distinction?? This is what happens when you make too many distinctions or your distinctions are arbitrary – they sometimes come back to bite you. It is the same reason that Aristotelian philosophy never had a compete answer to the problems that confront us.
Interestingly enough, it is precisely the distinction between “revengeful anger” and “righteous divine anger” that Lactantius, followed by Tertullian and Cyprian, argued against the pagan Cicero, as I noted above in the quote from Lactantius. Thomas, so fond of making distinctions, can’t seem to make the needed distinction when it would force him to a different conclusion. The bottom line is this: Anger does not necessarily create an “appetite for revenge.” It is only unbridled anger that creates such deleterious passions. Righteous anger produces a cognitive indignation against evil and a pure desire to see the evil eradicated, either by repentance of the sinner or the vengeance of God if he does not repent.Mr. Sungenis will surely say that this notion of God reduces the anger of God to mere "play-acting." It certainly does not. When God says He is angry He is expressing something that is real in Him. In saying that God’s anger is metaphorical the scholastics do not deny a real and ontological foundation for anger in God. So when God says He is angry He does not merely express it for our "sensibilities"--it expresses something real in Him. But since God is absolutely immutable it cannot imply a change of state in Him, either in His mind or in His will which is identical to His substance. It does not imply sadness or any passion or interruption of the Divine happiness. These imperfections can only apply to finite creatures.
So if anger implies none of these imperfections then what does God’s anger signify? Is there any real foundation of anger in God once we remove from it all that is finite in its notion? Yes there is. Either it signifies God’s absolute opposition to sin ( without punishment ) or else his opposition to sin-- with punishment-- to evildoers who transgress his Holy Law, as St. Augustine holds. What it cannot imply is a real change in the Godhead.
I’m going to hold Mr. Field to this. I want him to find in the writings of Augustine where Augustine says that God’s anger is “God’s absolute opposition to sin (without punishment).” Every passage I find in Augustine says “anger” is a metaphor for punishment. In fact, I don’t think Mr. Field will be able to find his definition in any scholastic work. If he can’t, then Mr. Field has invented another meaning for God’s anger, that is, another distinction to satisfy his syllogism, but one that he hasn’t proved yet. As for his statement that “it cannot imply is a real change in the Godhead,” I never said it did, since the Godhead doesn’t change, rather, the Godhead, when dealing with man’s free will, can change a decision, as even Thomas says, God knows some things contingently. Decisions based on contingencies, then, are part of the unchangeable Godhead.
The same goes with "appeasement" motif which is prominent in both Scripture and Tradition. This notion must also be predicated of God metaphorically since to "be appeased" implies a change in the one appeased. To change is a finite imperfection since it implies that one acquires something that it lacked previously. Only when we remove all finite imperfection from it’s notion can we predicate it of God analogically. "Being appeased "cannot imply a real change in God.
Mr. Field is constantly making up his own rules, and his metaphysics is quite confused. Appeasement does not necessitate that God change in His being anymore than God changed when Christ became man. There is a mystery here that Mr. Field is avoiding. He thinks that his self-made syllogisms are the cure-all for antinomies, but they are not. And this is the limit of metaphysics and Aristotelian logic as a whole. When we are dealing with God we are dealing with incomprehensibilities. We are only scratching the surface in understanding the Trinity, the Incarnation, predestination, begetting, procession, and many other issues about God.
So what do we mean when we say that God "is appeased."? In regards to God, it can only mean that the "demands of Divine justice has been met". It does not mean that the creature really gives something to God. In regards to the creature, God is appeased when the creature puts itself into proper relation with God. "Being appeased" therefore implies a change in the creature-- not in God. This is what St. Augustine means when he says: "When God ‘thinks and has second thoughts’ this merely means that changeable realities come into relation with his immutable reason."(St. Augustine, City of God, 15: 26)
Of course. Who would disagree with Augustine here? He is saying the same thing here that I’ve been saying (but not necessarily what Mr. Field has been saying). Everything has to come into “relation with his immutable reason.” Is there anything that doesn’t? Does God not know the end from the beginning? Did God forget something? Of course not. The sin of the devil, the sin of Adam, the free will decisions of each and every human being have all be accounted for within God’s “immutable reason.” Anything less and we would not have a God, we would have an impotent being posing as God.
But the question is not whether things that change will come into relation with his immutable reason, but HOW they do so and still maintain the change as a real change, uncoerced and unnecessitated by God. This is precisely why Thomas admitted that, despite God’s immutability, man has a genuine free will, uncoerced and unnecessitated by God, such that the syllogistic result is that God must know some things contingently. But what does it mean and how do we explain that God knows some things contingently as opposed to knowing things omnisciently? I don’t know, and Thomas doesn’t know, and the Church doesn’t know either, because it is the mystery of the Godhead. The only thing Thomas’ Aristotelian logic could tell him was, in order to save the veracity of God, man cannot be moved by necessity and God can knows some things contingently, otherwise, “all moral philosophy is overthrown.”
As for Mr. Field’s statement: “So what do we mean when we say that God is appeased? In regards to God, it can only mean that the demands of Divine justice has been met. It does not mean that the creature really gives something to God,” let’s examine this.
In reality, it is closer to Luther’s and Calvin’s idea of the atonement, since they thought of it as Christ meeting the legal demands of God’s justice. Catholic theology says no, God is appeased through sacrifice so that he is propitiated enough to turn away his wrath.
Thomas himself says this: “This is properly the effect of a sacrifice, that through it God is appeased, as even man is ready to forgive an injury done unto him by accepting a gift which is offered to him...And so in the same way, what Christ suffered was so great a good that, on account of that good found in human nature, God has been appeased over all the offenses of mankind” (ST III, Q. 49, Art. 4, emphasis added; See also ST 1a, 2ae, 87, 1-6; 3, 48, 2; De Veritate, 28, 2).
The Catechism of Trent stated: “...our heavenly Father, oftentimes grievously offended by our crimes, might be turned away from wrath to mercy” (CCT, p. 255).
The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “...Redemption has reference to both God and man. On God’s part, it is the acceptation of satisfactory amends whereby the Divine honor is repaired and the Divine wrath appeased....The judicial axiom ‘honor est in honorante, injuria in injuriato’ (honour is measured by the dignity of him who receives it) shows that mortal sin bears in a way an infinite malice and that nothing short of a person possessing infinite worth is capable of making full amends for it....‘For an adequate satisfaction,’ says St. Thomas, ‘it is necessary that the act of him who satisfies should possess an infinite value and proceed from one who is both God and Man’” (ST, III, Q. 1, a. 2, ad 2um (1911 edition, vol. 12, p. 678).
The Encyclopedia continues: “Satisfaction, or the payment of a debt in full, means, in the moral order, an acceptable reparation of honor offered to the person offended and, of course, implies a penal and painful work” (ibid., p. 678).
But wait a minute. Didn’t Mr. Field tell us that we could add nothing to God? Didn’t he say “This notion must also be predicated of God metaphorically since to "be appeased" implies a change in the one appeased. To change is a finite imperfection since it implies that one acquires something that it lacked previously”? But yet the Catholic encyclopedia says: “the Divine honor is repaired and the Divine wrath appeased” and says the atonement is “an acceptable reparation of honor offered to the person offended” and the Catechism says that God is “oftentimes grievously offended by our crimes” and we hope that He “might be turned away from wrath to mercy.”
But according to Mr. Field’s theology, we can’t really “repair” God’s honor, because God “doesn’t change” (at least Mr. Field’s definition of change). We can’t really “offend” God, or we can’t, as the Catechism of Trent says, “grievously offend” God, because, according to Mr. Field God “doesn’t change” (at least Mr. Field’s definition of change). We can’t “turn him away from wrath to mercy” because, according to Mr. Field’s God “doesn’t change” and He is “pure act” and is “immutable” (at least Mr. Field’s definition of those terms).
So all this flowery language put in use by the revered 1911 encyclopedia and the Council of Trent’s catechism is superfluous, because, according to Mr. Field, we really don’t do any of these things to God. They are all metaphors, and actually, they only refer to what changes in us, not God. Well, I hope you’re beginning to see that Mr. Field’s theology is nothing but a dog chasing its tail. It purports to have answers by placing God so far above everything, but in reality it turns God into an unaffected and impersonal entity that is no better than Buddha or Zoroaster. Moreover, it turns the Bible into the wax nose of its reader’s whims.It may be objected here that if the creature does not really give something to God then the Atonement that Jesus offered to the Father loses its objectivity -- being only for our sensibilities or our own good. This is not true. Atonement is objectively directed and ordered to God. Atonement is not primarily ordered to perfecting the subject. If it were it would lose its objective character and by nature would turn the creature selfishly inward towards itself rather than unselfishly outward towards God. It is only fitting that the creature offer something to God to make restitution for the infinite offense it commits against God’s Honor. This it can accomplish through the Blood of Jesus Christ which has infinite value.
Yes, Mr. Field senses that he has got himself into a trap, and therefore he is trying to head off the objection. But it’s one thing to assert that, although the creature doesn’t give something to God, nevertheless, the Atonement is still objective, but it is quite another thing to explain how that can be so. This is the problem with Mr. Field’s metaphysics: when he runs into a contradiction, he either creates another category or just makes an assertion to overcome the contradiction. But I’m nobody’s fool. Mr. Field hasn’t even begun to explain how the Atonement can be objective to a God that he says “doesn’t change” and is unaffected by his creature.
Mr. Field says that one is “to make restitution for the infinite offense it commits against God’s honor.” First, where does the Church teach that the Atonement is an act of “making restitution”? It doesn’t. We saw above that the Atonement is an act of appeasing God or making a propitiation to Him through sacrifice. By the appeasement, a restitution is produced, since God now restores what He took away. But He only restores what He took away when proper appeasement is offered to Him. Moses laid on the ground prostrate for 40 days without food or water in order to appease God for Israel’s sins, so that He wouldn’t destroy them all, as He said He would (cf., Exodus 32:9; Dt 9:9). David offered incense to God so that God would relent of the punishment He promised him (1 Chronicles 21:26-27). Job offered sacrifices for his three friends so that God would turn away His wrath (Job 42:7). Christ did the same. His sacrifice, being that He was God’s Son and was sinless, appeased God enough that He could offer salvation to the whole human race. These things move God to act such that if they were not offered there would be no appeasement and no redemption. Is God changing? No, His very immutability being requires that He be propitiated, since there can be no other way to turn Him from anger and preserve His honor.[Editor's Note: The infinite value of Our Lord's Precious Blood is also something which Mr. Sungenis inadvertently denies, when he says things like:
Every ounce of blood spilt, every blow to the head, every spit in the face, every thorn in the forehead, every nail and spear in the body, were all calculated, expected and necessary to serve as a propitiatory sacrifice to God the Father, to avert His wrath and preserve His honor ... we can rest assured that God the Father required no more from Christ than what was absolutely necessary to appease His wrath and preserve His honor, and by the same token, did not miss, or consider incidental, any suffering which Christ underwent.
("The Theological Underpinnings of Mel Gibson’s 'The Passion of the Christ': Why Did Jesus Have to Undergo Such an Excruciating Death?", The Remnant, March 2004)
This one-sided view does not take into account the traditional teaching of the Catholic Faith that Our Lord's sufferings were so meritorious that even one drop of His Blood would have sufficed to redeem the world:
The only begotten Son of God ... who innocent, immolated on the altar of the Cross is known to have poured out not a little drop of blood, which however on account of union with the Word would have been sufficient for the redemption of the whole human race, but copiously as a kind of flowing stream, so that 'from the soles of His feet even to the top of His Head no soundness was found in Him [Is. 1:6]."
(Clement VI, Unigenitus Dei Filius, Denz. 550)
Pie pellicane, Iesu Domine, me immundum munda tuo sanguine - Cuius una stilla salvum facere totum mundum quit ab omni scelere [Merciful pelican, Lord Jesus, cleanse me, unclean, with Thy blood - one drop of which can make the whole world saved of every sin.]
(Hymn Adoro te devote, attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas)
O Jesus, when I consider the great price of Your Blood, I rejoice at its immensity, for one drop alone would have been enough for the salvation of all sinners.
(St. Mary Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul)
What do we learn from the sufferings and death of Christ? ... It was not necessary for Jesus to suffer so intensely in order to redeem all men. As His merits are infinite, He could have wiped away the sins of a thousand worlds by shedding one drop of His Blood. But He chose to suffer agonies because He loves us.
(Fr. Louis Morrow, My Catholic Faith, Sarto House, 1954, p.71)
Both aspects must be given consideration.]
If this is the best the “editor” can do, then he doesn’t have anything. It is not the blood of Christ, in itself, which is the ultimate propitiation, but the fact that the shed blood led to Christ’s death. He gave His life as a ransom for many. So it is superfluous to quibble about whether one drop or a thousand drops of blood would have sufficed, since the only amount that would have ultimately sufficed is the amount that took His life. As for Clement VI (which is the only reference of note), he is not speaking about the Atonement, per se, but about Indulgences, and thus he digresses into symbolic language about a “flowing stream [of blood]” coming from Christ in order to give us the treasury of merit.
Only when the creature unselfishly and objectively seeks God’s honor and glory is it subjectively perfected in its own being. This perfection of the creature is the flip side of God’s exterior glory which it seeks. Therefore the Atonement must, by its very nature, be objectively ordered to God.. But though we must maintain the objectivity of Atonement against the modernists who make it merely a subjective thing, it does not follow that God properly "receives" anything from the creature as I have made clear from the teachings of the Fathers and Medieval Doctors. Though what I say here is my own solution to the problem (and therefore is open to improvement), the fact remains that any explanation that would reject and suppress the metaphysical principles laid out by the great Catholic Fathers and Doctors (who teach that God is absolutely immutable) must be wholly rejected by any Catholic, especially one who calls himself traditional.
Mr. Field hasn’t made anything clear, except that he has a narrow view of God and an incomplete view of the Fathers and Medievals.
In making God passive in respect to the creature, Mr. Sungenis does something that no Augustinian, Thomist, Scotist, or even Molinist would dare say of God who is pure act and learns nothing from the creature. That God knows what the creature will do is not derived from the actions of creatures themselves but from the knowledge of his own eternal edicts which determine those actions (and which come about freely in rational creatures). It is true that all the different schools have various ways of explaining God’s knowledge and human contingency. What is important to note though is that none of them make God passive in regards to the creature. Even Molina, who posited the highly dubious theory of "middle knowledge" (scientia media) in God, places it in God and not in the creature.
Mr. Field has been building straw men to combat this whole essay, and now is no exception. He phrases his objection in metaphysical terms (e.g., “making God passive in respect to the creature”), and then faults me for not holding to it, but there is only one problem: I’ve never said that I desire to “make God passive in respect to the creature.” I’ve explained quite carefully the two-sided nature of this problem, and, unlike Mr. Field, I’m not going to run to one side and pretend I’ve found the answer, since then, I will only have created more problems.
Mr. Sungenis stands entirely alone contrary to all the Fathers, Medieval Doctors and Scholastics in claiming that God is a changing God (in His mind and will) and who can actually receive something from the creature. In this way his notion of God is strongly akin to the god of the modernists who is not pure Being but rather a god who is ever becoming--who moves "in time" with the creature.
It is obvious by the description Mr. Field uses of my views that he hasn’t understood my views. He came into this dialogue with an image of what he thinks I believe, and he is leaving with it also.
[Jonathan Field citing Sungenis]:
Whether we say God sees all things in their immediacy, or that all things are known to him simultaneously, does not negate that the Father, Son or Holy Spirit cannot exist in and/or go back to the past or ahead to the future, even though they thoroughly know the past and the future.
(Not By Bread Alone, pp. 392-393)
Mr. Sungenis must show his readers now how this is supported in the consensus of prominent Fathers.
I’ve already answered this earlier.
Mr. Sungenis admits that Saint Thomas teaches that God is immutable but that this truth does not negate that God could really "change his mind," since (he says) St. Thomas makes room for human contingencies in his system. Yes, Saint Thomas makes room for contingencies but shows that they are already known in the immutable will of God. God does not change His will but eternally wills that certain things will change. Those contingencies are already determined (either by His positive or permissive will) in His eternal edicts. There is absolutely no room in St. Thomas for God to change his mind.
Then Mr. Fields doesn’t know Thomas like he thinks he does. My guess is that Mr. Fields has never read De Veritate, or De Malo or De Potentia. Of course God knows the contingencies in his immutable will, but that doesn’t make them any less contingent, otherwise they are not real contingencies. In Mr. Field’s magical world he has not the slightest shame for the oxymoronic conclusion that “contingencies are already determined,” but unfortunately, that’s what happens when you only look at one side of the issue and ignore the other. If contingencies are already “determined,” then things are done of necessity, and man has no free will, and all basis for moral philosophy is uprooted. THAT is what Thomas says. I suggest Mr. Field study it.
St. Thomas explains:
The will of God is entirely unchangeable. On this point we must consider that to change the will is one thing, to will that certain things should be changed is another. It is possible to will a thing to be done now and its contrary afterwards, and yet for the will to remain permanently the same; but the will would be changed if one should begin to will what before he had not willed, or seized to will what he had willed before. This cannot happen unless we presuppose change either in the knowledge or the disposition of the substance of the one who wills..... Now it has already been shown that both the substance of God and His knowledge [mind] are entirely unchangeable (QQ. IX, A.I; XIV, A.15 ). Therefore His will must be entirely unchangeable.
(Summa, First Part, Q.19, Art. 7)
Very simple. If God has determined within Himself that he can change His mind when confronted by man’s free will decision, then God is not changing in His character or substance when God changes His mind upon man’s repentance.
For example, when God says in Malachi 3:6-7: "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts,” he is assuring the Jews that His invitation is the same as it has always been. It has not changed. If they return to God, He will return to them. That is real contingency, and it is a contingency that is created by God Himself. Everything depends on whether the Jews will return to God. If they don’t, God won’t return to them and He will punish them. If they do, God will return and bless them. As it stands, the context of Malachi shows that they are already under God’s judgment for their sins. Thus, what will “change” if they repent is God’s former decision to punish them. This is not play-acting. This is real contingency. God does not lie. Play-acting is lying. Pretending you are going to punish someone if they don’t repent but having no intention of punishing them is lying.
Now, does God know what their decision will be? I assume so, since He is omniscient. But we also know that God does not lie, and thus the contingency in Malachi 3:6-7 has to be real, not only for the Jews but for God Himself. If He does not lie, then God cannot make the scene merely appear as a contingency, but it must be a real contingency that is not overwhelmed by God’s omniscience. If the contingency is overwhelmed by God’s omniscience, then human actions are done out of necessity (e.g., it was a necessity that Adam sin). (And it may be right here that Thomas would agree that God knows some things contingently). So we have God’s omniscience and real contingency. I don’t have an explanation for how they fit together, and neither does Thomas nor Mr. Field. Mr. Field only pretends that he has an answer for it, since it is easy for him to subsume everything under “immutability” without dealing with the particulars. But if it was that easy, then the history of this issue would not have been a such a struggle, and one without resolution.Mr. Sungenis says that I do not understand all that is implied in Atonement and that I have not thought these questions through. The truth is he does not know me. As anyone who knows me will vouch, hardly a day has gone by in the last 15 years that I have not studied and contemplated the attributes of God as well as how it relates to the Redemption. I have based my studies on sound teachers of Catholic doctrine. In particular, I have made the Church's two most prominent theologians my faithful guides-- St. Augustine and St. Thomas. Not that I claim they developed sufficiently every aspect of Redemption. But any so called "development" that would suppress the clear metaphysical teaching of these Doctors (as well as countless others) must be heartily rejected as a doctrinal corruption unworthy of a Catholic.
If Mr. Sungenis supposes that what I laid out above in regards to God’s immutability, eternity, anger, appeasement and eternal edicts do not represent the teaching of scholastics, but rather due to my own "nebulous" or "half-baked" ideas, then I challenge him to find even one reputable Augustinian or Thomist theologian in the Church today (conservative or traditionalist) who will agree that his own views are compatible with and do not present any major departure from the metaphysics of the two prominent Doctors, Ss. Augustine and Thomas--- or to agree with him that my presentation of God’s immutability and eternity, anger and explanation of "appeasement" are not accurately derived from the principles of the St. Augustine, the great scholastic Doctors and especially St. Thomas.
Meanwhile it is the task of Mr. Sungenis to demonstrate to us that he has not departed from his "rule" that states that all theories must be supported in the consensus of prominent Fathers.