How Christ can be recognized as Son of God –
I sent my explanations as to the question: “Is Jesus Christ the Son of God?” to acquaintances and friends, who are not regular readers of the EINSICHT but who I knew had an interest in fundamental theological problems. I received various reactions. A former classmate of mine who after the school exit exam studied theology wrote to me: “I have tried to read your article – but for me these philosophical thoughts about Jesus being the Son of God are simply not comprehensive. In my opinion I can only approach the deepest secret of Jesus in a biblical-theological way. My intellect is to small to plumb the secret of Jesus. My advice: Please read Mt. 11,1 ff. ([John the Baptist – in prison himself makes his disciples ask Jesus:] “Are you the one who is to come – or are we to wait for another one?”) – and the answer Jesus gave was perfect, no better answer was possible.”
John who lived waiting for the Messiah to come and of whom Christ himself speaks as the greatest “among those born of a woman” (Mt.11, 11) could very well understand Christ’s answer as an instance of the divine mission of the latter: “The blind see, the lame walk, the leper get cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the gospel is preached to the poor and blessed is he who is not scandalized by me.” (Mt. 11,5 f.) But this answer is indeed directed to the ability of John who, seeing, recognized in these examples the work of God, that is, of the Son of God.
I got an approving answer from a fellow student who intensely occupied himself with the post-Conciliar development of the church and of the letter of whom I want to quote some sentences: “I largely agree to your explanations about the question of how Christ can be recognized as Son of God. Some remarks:
- You say: The mere handing down of knowledge – Scripture and Tradition –... is not in itself a foundation to be able to say with conviction that He is the “Word made flesh” (John 1, 1 ff.) But on the other hand the moment (of recognition) looked for must indeed be contained in this material. So it still does hold the basis for obtaining the insight, only the passage which leads to the insight has not yet been located and evaluated (…)
- You say: So the question asked at the beginning: Is Christ the Son of God? is answered – at least in general terms. However, this question is not yet answered, but it is obviously only shown what has to be done so that it can be answered.”
Concerning the momentum to be searched in tradition, I had already postulated in EINSICHT of Sept. 2013, p. 84: “In the tradition there must be a moment, an original point which shows me the way to accede to the absolute person, who must then be shown to be this person, and Who reveals Himself.” I had then defined this momentum further as one which gives testimony of itself.
“This momentum – formally seen –, as it ought to/must exceeds the level of merely stating the being of God, and though not conveyed externally, that is by some other manner, it must testify for itself. As God is not a mere being but an absolute requirement which in itself requires its absolute fulfillment, so a requirement which also requires its required being.” (EINSICHT no. 4 of Dec. 2013, p. 115)
Now in order to comply with the requirement of what still must be done to give a complete answer to the asked question “Is Jesus Christ the Son of God?”, I want to continue with further definitions concerning the problem of testifying for itself. These are, however, rather to be seen as comments than as systematically leading further.
As I cannot produce Gods way of being in myself – if I could do so, I would be God myself!, He has to testify for Himself (Ego eimi eimi, ἐγώ εἰμι εἰμι – I am he who I am). He must show Himself as God, reveal how He is God, where His divinity as such emerges, as it ought to emerge. The concept of God must be applied equally to Christ and therefore be complete with the reality of that which God claims of Himself. The concept of God, that is, the absolute as the bonum (the good) and the verum (the true) has to grasp as also comprehend the one who shows Himself as such. When applying this requirement it is not sufficient to stop at the verum and bonum as such but must reflect absolute Good (as Person), the absolute True (as Person). I.e., one must be able to connect and must identify the concept of the Absolute with the historical, real Person of Christ. So the (conceptually) absolutely good/true must not only be possible to be connected with that which is via Tradition presented to me or presents itself of Christ, but it has to be identical with this concept: bonum/verum = Christ (bonus/verus). It must show that Christ is the Absolute Good. Bonum and Christ must be identical: Ab = Ac.
But which conditions can I state on which it is possible to get this understanding? I need to be able to comprehend by insight that the concept of love/love of atonement conveyed to me about Christ via Scripture and Tradition (conveying his intention on an interpersonal level throughout all times) is the Absolute position of Good being a Being as such.
The task of religious philosophy is among others to show the conditions on which I – knowing about the historical person of Jesus – can recognize him as the God revealing himself and know about Him as God. It is only by this insight that one can establish a clear conviction of ones faith. Clear concepts are thus referenced to the concept of God who revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. The need is to form, to develop, a conviction that in the historically verifiable Person of Jesus, the Son of God has revealed himself, being born of Mary, the virgin who received Him from the Holy Spirit: the absolutely holy one who has come
- To expand His love that is truly interpersonal,
- To atone for our sins, so that we would be able – once atoned for as sinners – again to communicate with Him.
From this reflection, that Christ is the Absolute, the only One alone Who may and can set the true standard, we arrive at the basis of a religious relationship with Him, a religious life where I strive to communicate with Him (in prayer or by the sacraments which let me take part in an active participation of divine life), i.e. with whom I can develop an interpersonal relationship of my own, i. e. which takes into consideration the difference between Creator and creature, between Father and child, which is neither formed by fear of the absolute nor by being equal in rank – as for example with other persons in our environment—but is formed through reverence for God.
If I have grasped this – the Son of God is the only true absolute One – then errors and false prophets from other religions would exclude themselves as being equal ways to salvation. (Exodus 20,2: “I am the Lord, thy God (...) Thou shalt not have other gods besides me.”) However, this means as well that I indeed can/must respect someone who has adopted another religion in the (subjective) belief to have chosen the right one, as the access to God, the faith in him, is also always an act of grace, suitably given by God, whom one can accept or refuse. Therefore, I accept with hope that the other one who adheres to a wrong religion, converts, because he is principally able to come to God.
If I suppose that God has been shown to me as absolute Lord, then it is also the duty of every Christian to form this relationship not in a solipsist way – resting in and on myself – but also to win other persons – my neighbours – over to this as well, to open for them the “good news” (Evangelium), the Gospel, where the good news (Eu angelion) does not always need to be happiness. This insight, that the claim of absolute right is justified, includes that the requirements and institutions which Christ has made, that is established – the foundation of the Church as an institution of salvation, the institution of the sacraments, the theological doctrines and the moral principles are absolutely valid, without any exception. Then I also know that I, when receiving holy Communion, am immediately receiving Him, He calls in on me, not as he met the disciples as a real person and called in on them, but in a hidden way – under the Species of bread and wine. But this hiddenness is also especially difficult to form a personal relationship with Christ as an interpersonal relationship just as one builds a relationship towards his wife, or as she builds up towards her husband, or towards the children or friends.
“From the position of this knowledge it becomes thus understandable that by intentionally negating, by disdaining and in a radical refusal of the absolutely required love for God, this love of God is not able to be reached. But as this love is an absolute requirement for any interpersonal relationship which looks for its moral fulfillment, any other form of a human relationship is consequently perverted and has to fail necessarily, for example a form which can only refer to humanism as substance. For if this human relationship is not nourished by the absolute love appearing in God and through this love to a love fed thereof, then the contents which must necessarily be taken as a unit for an interpersonal relationship can now only be the expression of absolute arbitrariness, a cruelty which at least implicitly negates its own reasonability toward the other person, destroys it in praxis, especially if this surrogate of an interpersonal “union” represents the declared intentional refusal of the love of God“. (My explanations in “Die Theorie der Interpersonalität im Spätwerk J. G. Fichtes”, Munich 1974, p. 307)
If I do not have this belief, i.e., if I do not have the certainty that Christ is the Son of God, who after His earthly life ascended into heaven and is now seated enthroned at the right of God, then my religious position, which I have for example adopted for reasons of tradition (through parental training), remains insecure, hypothetical. Under faith, then, my faith would be the absorption of the ethnic soul the particulars of which I am unaware of. Then the following scheme is the result: If A is valid, then also B is valid. If Christ is the Son of God, then also His commandment is valid. But I do not know, I have no conviction that Christ is the Son of God, I only assume He is. Therefore His commandment, His Institution (the Church), His importance for our salvation as such remain hypothetical, questionable. The word of Christ: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14,6) remains doubtful to me.
So if A is not certain, then all other moments remain relatively uncertain, towards other institutions as well which even say B = B, like Islam which says “Allah is god and Mohammed is his prophet”, and which allows no doubt to arise about this. Partly convinced, Muslims have good reasons to look with contempt on a Christianity which is not certain in its most central position, namely: that Christ is the Son of God.
However, what can remain is a moral certainty is that which can be connected with one’s religious position. So even though reformist theologians have left the orthodox Catholic position but who protest against abortion, prostitution or homosexuality they are still considered conservative (Wojtyla, Ratzinger).
This hypothetical position of faith has also a traditionalist version which is hard to be discovered as such. Although there the faith is not immediate either, there are quite a few so-called traditionalists who count on their theological knowledge. They compare pre- and post-conciliar positions and find out the divergences. Thus it becomes quickly clear to them that the different positions about the same subject are contradictory. But not having a requirement for clarity of the truth, they decide to accept the pre-Conciliar teaching without validating it for themselves (even within tradition).
But if I am firmly convinced that Christ is the Son of God Who has manifested Himself historically as a Person (et incarnatus est – and is made flesh) and Who has revealed himself as God, then all other religions which also refer to God are ruled out as true religions. They cannot be considered as true ways of salvation either – as the reformist Church does, which considers Judaism and Islam as (legitimate) ways of salvation.
(EINSICHT of February 2014, no. 1, p. 9-12)