Saturday, 23 January 2016
A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ, by Fr. Maximilian Mary Dean, FI
Fr Maximilian Mary Dean, FI, A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ: Blessed Duns Scotus and the Franciscan Thesis, 2006 Academy of the Immaculate
This is a quite beautiful little book. It defends the view of Blessed Duns Scotus, against St. Thomas Aquinas, that the incarnation of Christ had primacy in the plan of God and would have taken place even if Adam had not sinned and brought about the Fall. The author seeks to make this rather speculative, but deeply significant thesis accessible to the ordinary Catholic reader. He also offers a little background information about Blessed Duns Scotus. He points out that among Catholic theologians, he was particularly reviled after the Reformation, hence the term 'dunce.'
Father Dean affirms that Christ came into the world to save sinners. However, he points out that the Scriptures do not say this was the sole reason for Christ coming. He argues that as the Scriptures were written after the fact of sin, inevitably their focus is on the redemptive aspect of the incarnation. He identifies several weaknesses of the Thomist position (that the incarnation was occasioned by sin). Firstly, it would mean that the creation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary would be continent upon sin. Secondly, all the graces that flow from redemption, the divinization of the redeemed and their adoption as sons of God would be contingent upon sin. Most importantly, the supremacy of Christ as head of the Church and the centre of creation would be contingent upon the Fall, making Christ's primacy a relative primacy. He thus argues that the absolute primacy of Christ depends upon the incarnation being the foremost stage in the plan of God.
Central to the Scotist thesis is the predestination of Christ and through Him the elect. Readers who are allergic to Augustinian predestinarianism will thus find it an uncomfortable read. What is particularly fascinating is that Scotus seems to have held that election as well as the incarnation in the plan of God was Supralapsarian. That Scotus was a Supralapsarian makes him more rigid in his predestinarianism than most Calvinists. To support the Scotist thesis, Fr Dean takes a look at two key Scriptural passages. These are Ephesians 1:3-10 and Romans 8:29. These texts are central to understanding the relationship between creation, the incarnation and predestination.
The establishment of the primacy of Christ provides basis for understanding the mediation of both our Lord and His Blessed Mother Mary. Christ was predestined before the creation of the world and is thus the source of all the graces received by creation. By taking on human nature, Christ is able to elevate the creature to be a partaker of the divine nature. The predestination of Christ as the mediator of grace to nature entails the predestination of Mary, His Mother. This establishes her place as the mediator of grace. This mariological emphasis gives the Scotist an huge advantage in defending the doctrines of Mariology over the Thomist.
This is an extremely valuable book. I particularly like the fact that the author has worked hard to make this deep theology very accessible to the average reader. A lot of Catholic theological works tend to aim either too high and confuse the reader, or dumb down too much and patronize lay readers.