Diluting The Divinity Of Christ

Our previous article highlighted Sr. Elizabeth Johnson's interview in " U.S. Catholic " magazine (April 1992) wherein she denied that Our Blessed Lord was always aware of His divinity during His earthly Ministry. The Catholic Church, however, teaches that from the first moment of His conception in His Virgin-Mother's womb, Jesus of Nazareth knew Who He was: namely, the Eternal Son of God.

Sr. Elizabeth Johnson is only one of many "theologians" who bring into question the very divinity of the Word made flesh. Already in 1979, Cardinal William Baum had warned the Bishops of the United States:

"The Mystery of the Incarnation is being challenged in a profound new way by many theologians, and if you have not yet felt the effects of this in your local dioceses, you will in time. These effects are already being felt in our seminaries and universities and, undoubtedly, will affect preaching and teaching in local churches... Many of these present day attacks are [very similar, if not identical] to ancient fourth and fifth century heresies which were condemned by the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon."
(OSV, May 27, 1979)

Reaffirmation of Truth

Such attacks expressing denials and doubts about Christ's knowledge of His divinity and messiahship (being spread by dissenter theologians) have led the Successor of Peter to reaffirm Catholic doctrine concerning the absolute uniqueness of Christ – as set forth in the dogmatic definitions of The Councils of the Church.

"From the trinitarian mystery one also understands the meaning of the Christological foundation of mission. Only by recognizing Jesus Christ as sole and universal Saviour because He is the Word of the Father, made flesh, will human beings be able to enter into communion with God. They will be able to do so only through Christ, under the action of the Spirit. This unique and universal mediation, far from being an obstacle on the path to God, is the only way established by God Himself. Christ is fully aware of this, since He, and He alone, is the 'definitive self-revelation of God'
(cf. Redemptoris Missio, 5).

.... It is clear, then, why one must call attention to some deviations which, regarding the authentic faith in Christ, can bring negative consequences to all missionary activity.... The encounter and dialogue with cultures directed toward faith in Christ would be of no use if they did not occur in full communion with the universal Church and her Catholic tradition. It certainly is not permissible to reject or ignore anything which the great Christological Councils of the first centuries said, as sometimes happens. Whatever has been proclaimed as the faith of the Church remains such forever and cannot be erased. In this context, Redemptoris Missio guards against introducing any sort of separation between the Word and Jesus Christ
(cf. RM n.6).

... The same may be said in regard to those who no longer speak explicitly about the divinity of Christ and those who put the revelation of God in Christ on the same level as the writings or traditions of other religions. A theocentrism which would not acknowledge Christ in His full identity would be unacceptable to the Catholic faith."
(Pope John Paul II, Address to Pontifical Urban University. 4/11/91)

The speculations of such dissenter theologians as Karl Rahner, Bernard Lonergan, Edward Schillebeeckx, Gregory Baum, Raymond Brown, Richard McBrien, Monika Hellwig, etc. – and among Protestants [such as] Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and John Macquarrie — have led to the denial that Jesus Christ always knew He was God. This is, of course, to give the lie to what the Catholic Creed declares: namely, that Jesus is "true God and true Man" and that in Christ there is only one person, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

Contemporary neo-Modernists are, of course, uncomfortable with the dogma of the Church concerning the "mystery of the Son of God made man", and have bent every effort to reduce Christ to a mere man subject to the same ignorance, errors, and moral imperfections that the rest of mankind are heir to. For them, Christ did not enjoy either the Beatific Vision from the first moment of human conception, or possess any infused knowledge.

It is bad enough when modern catechetical texts supply ample evidence of a heretical reductionism (See, e.g., Benziger's "In Christ Jesus" 8th grade text, page 66: "As a human being, Jesus did not understand why good people suffer, why disasters strike, or why people die").
It is even worse to read the following criticism of the Christology presented in the Provisional text of the Universal Catechism sent to all episcopal conferences:

"In two areas the text seems to expouse as doctrine what has traditionally been held as theological opinion. NN. 1280 and 1311 abruptly introduce the question of infused knowledge in Christ. They ignore the current and real discussion of this question in both theology and exegesis. N. 1311 implies, at least, that the human nature of Christ enjoyed the beatific vision. These kinds of assertions appear to leave little room for a developing knowledge and self-consciousness in Jesus during His earthly life. Questions of Jesus' ignorance are explained away as things that the Father willed not to have revealed to Jesus' disciples. Any possibility of consequence for the humanity of Jesus is thus excluded. In this way the text overlooks the (possible) consequences of this New Testament data for alternative theological opinions regarding the knowledge and self-consciousness of Jesus."

This tendentious (and deplorable) commentary appeared in the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Catechism for the Universal Church ( National Conference of Catholic Bishops, March 1990).

Clear Warning

Clearly, the warnings of Cardinal Baum and Pope John Paul II concerning what passes for Christology today.... are right on target.

About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:  jlikoudis@cuf.org, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage

Dissent from the Magisterium.... is not compatible with being a "good Catholic".
- Pope John Paul II -