1st reply to Fr. Erlenbush on the knowledge of Christ

During a discussion on lying and mental reservation at the New Theological Movement blog, another topic was raised concerning the knowledge of Christ. Someone raised the question as to whether or not Christ used mental reservation in saying that He did not know the day or hour of a future event, the passing away of heaven and earth at the time of His Return for the general Judgment.

{13:31} Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.
{13:32} But concerning that day or hour, no one knows, neither the Angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

My stated position was:

“Christ did not make use of strict mental reservation. He in fact did not know, in his human mind, the day and hour. His statement that he did not know is a true statement, properly understood.”

I said ‘in his human mind’ because Christ has two natures, human and Divine, and therefore He has two wills, one human and one Divine, and two minds, one human and one Divine. Why does the verse say that the Father knows, the Son does not know, without mention of the Spirit? It is because the distinction being made is between the Divine Nature of the Three Persons, who each and all have the same omniscience, and the human nature of the Son. So the Father, Son, and Spirit each know the day and hour, as they know all things, in the Divine Mind. But the finite human mind of Jesus is not all knowing. At the time of His statement, I believe that He did not know the exact day or hour in his human mind.

But whether or not Jesus knew this particular point of knowledge in His human mind at the time of His statement is largely irrelevant to the question of heresy. The question at hand is whether or not the human knowledge of Christ is finite and limited in his human mind. For we all agree that God is all-knowing and therefore each of the Three Persons is all-knowing. Christ is all-knowing in His Divine Nature. But my position is that He is not all-knowing in His human nature.

On the basis of my brief statement quoted above, that Christ did not know something in his human mind, Father Reginaldus accused me of heresy. Just prior to my post, he had said this:

On the other hand, regarding the case of the priest who has heard the sins in confession and is later asked about them…I do think that hilaron (8:49pm) has made a good point regarding legitimate mental reservation — “I” do not know, insofar as I do not know them of myself but only from my priesthood [much as Christ “does not know” the day or the hour of the end times, insofar as he does not know them “of” his human nature; though, of course, knowing all things, he certainly does know the time of the end —as Gregory the Great clearly stated, condemning the contrary opinion as a manifest heresy]

At first, there seemed to be no conflict between Fr. Reginaldus’ statement above and mine on this subject, unless his assertion that Christ did not know something ” ‘of’ his human nature” means something other than an expression of the limitation of His finite human mind. And this turns out to be the case. After my post saying “He in fact did not know, in his human mind, the day and hour,” he accused me of heresy:

“Christ did know that day and the hour in his human intellect. The theory that ronconte has presented was condemned by Gregory the Great as the heresy of “agnoeticism”.”

So from this assertion, it is now clear that Fr. Reginaldus believes that when Christ said the Son does not know the day or hour, He did know the day and hour in both His Divine Mind and His human mind. So his position that Christ meant he did not know ” ‘of’ his human nature,” indicated something else (see below).

Is it a heresy for me to say that Christ did not know something in his human mind? The agnoetic heresy holds to the false idea that Christ was not all-knowing. A number of different heretical groups held to this particular heretical idea, for various reasons. Some denied the omniscience of God entirely. Some denied that Christ was co-equal as God with the Father. Some denied that Christ had a human intellect, making him devoid of knowledge. In general, the agnoetic heresy follows from various heresies on the natures of Christ.

However, it is not an agnoetic heresy, nor a heresy at all, to assert that the human nature and therefore the human mind of Christ is finite. For it is a dogma of the Faith that Christ, in his human nature, is truly human and is like us in all things but sin.

So does the human mind of Christ have the same limits to knowledge as any of us? Not quite. For it is generally held that Christ had the Beatific Vision of God during His life among us, even before His death, Resurrection and Ascension to Heaven. So the question is whether any human mind or any created mind in Heaven is omniscient. Interestingly, Christ gives us the answer in the very verse that began this controversy. Even “the Angels in heaven”, who have the Beatific Vision, do not know the day and hour. Therefore, the finite created minds of angels and of humans, even with the Beatific Vision, are not all-knowing.

Since Christ’s human nature is like us in all things but sin, He must have human knowledge, human acts of will, and human consciousness. But this in no way denies His Divine knowledge, Divine will, and all that can be said about the one Divine Nature of the Three Persons. Therefore, the human mind of Christ, though united in His human nature with His Divine Nature, and though having the Beatific Vision of God, does not know all things. For a finite human mind, even that of Christ or Mary or an Angel, cannot know all things. Neither can any finite mind know in the manner of the Divine Nature. For the Divine Nature knows all things all at once, in one timeless eternal Act.

Fr. Reginaldus’ position

On the topic of the knowledge of the day and hour, Fr. Reginaldus adopts the opinion of St. Augustine and of St. Gregory the Great that Christ knew the day and hour in both His Divine Nature and His human nature. But since this knowledge came to His human nature from His Divine Nature, Christ states that He does not know, meaning He does not know from His human nature, but only from His Divine Nature. This opinion is the majority opinion (or common opinion) of theologians. Augustine expresses the position as a commentary on Scripture. Pope St. Gregory expressed it in a letter to Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria [Denzinger, n. 248]. The opinion is not a doctrine or dogma of the Magisterium.

Neither is my position that of the agnoetic heresy. Pope Gregory mentions agnoeticism in the same letter. But he does not state or imply that any alternate opinion on the knowledge of the Son about the day and hour is an agnoetic error. If one were to claim that Christ did not know something in His Divine Nature, then the error would be heretical and agnoetic. This letter of the Pope to a Patriarch is not a teaching document addressed to the Church. It is an severe exaggeration to claim that any contrary interpretation on this point about the knowledge of Christ on the day and hour is a heresy of any kind.

My opinion on the meaning of the verse saying the Son does not know the day or hour is not a dogma or doctrine; I could be mistaken. But even if this point were incorrect, it is not contrary to any dogma or doctrine, and so it is not a heresy. I disagree with the all-too-common approach in theology today whereby very little is found to be in the realm of theological opinion, and almost any comment or opinion by any Pope, or Bishop, or Saint, or Father is treated as if it establishes a doctrine or dogma. Neither is the most common opinion of theologians binding on the faithful. A heresy is generally an idea contrary to an infallible teaching of the Magisterium (though there may be some exceptions to this). And there is no infallible teaching on the interpretation of the verse in question.

Online Accusations

What Fr. Reginaldus has done is unfortunately a common type of false accusation found in many Catholic online discussions. He takes a single sentence with which he reasonably disagrees, but then he exaggerates and distorts its meaning, so as to make a briefly stated opinion into a heresy. He also exaggerates and distorts a text from a magisterial source, so as to misrepresent his opinion on the same question as if it were dogma. A legitimate theological difference of opinion is then represented as if it were heresy versus dogma.

I would not accuse someone of heresy based on a single sentence in a brief comment. Nor would I accuse someone of heresy without making a theological argument to support my assertion. If I accuse any person or idea of heresy, it is accompanied by a lengthy presentation of correct doctrine, based on sources in Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. But I also do not make grave accusations under cover of anonymity. I use my real name.

It is all to easy, when one is using pseudonym or speaking anonymously, for us fallen sinners to go to excess in our discussions. I continue to criticize Fr. Reginaldus, not so much for making use of the anonymity of the internet, but for presenting himself as a teacher of doctrine, even to the extent that he would make a grave (and in my view false) accusation of heresy, while hiding behind the pseudonym ‘Reginaldus’. He discredits his namesake (Reginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.) in this way.

On the Knowledge of Christ

Speaking now more generally on the question of the human nature, human mind, and human knowledge of Christ, my theological position is that Christ is all-knowing in His Divine Mind, but that His finite mind is not all-knowing. I agree with the exposition on this topic in this article of the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“(1) The Council of Basle (Sess. XXII) condemned the proposition of a certain Augustinus de Roma: “Anima Christi videt Deum tam clare. Et intense quam clare et intense Deus videt seipsum” (The soul of Christ sees God as clearly and intimately as God perceives Himself). It is quite clear that, however perfect the human soul of Christ is, it always remains finite and limited; hence its knowledge cannot be unlimited and infinite.”

“(2) Though the knowledge in the human soul of Christ was not infinite, it was most perfect and embraced the widest range, extending to the Divine ideas already realized, or still to be realized. Nescience of any of these matters would amount to positive ignorance in Christ, as the ignorance of law in a judge. For Christ is not merely our infallible teacher, but also the universal mediator, the supreme judge, the sovereign king of all creation.”

Christ had no ignorance of any matter on faith or morals or salvation, nor on any matter about which He had a need to know, for Himself or for His teaching. But in my opinion, the exact day or hour of the passing away of Heaven and earth was not, at the time that He spoke on the subject, at all necessary or even relevant to His teaching. It was not ordinate for His Body the Church, nor for His human mind at the time, to know this detail.

But the general limitation of the human knowledge of Christ as finite follows from the union of His two natures, such that the infinite Divine Nature does not overwhelm or change the finite human nature, nor does the human nature detract from the Divine Nature.

“We teach…that one and the same Christ, the only-begotten Son and Lord must be recognized as subsisting in two natures without mixture, change, division or separation. The union does not suppress the difference between the natures; indeed, the proper quality of each remains” (Council of Chalcedon, DS 302).

If the human mind of Christ were all-knowing, then it would not have one of its proper qualities as part of human nature: to be finite.

“He is by nature a true man, capable of human action, human knowledge, human acts of will, and human consciousness, and also capable of human suffering, patience, obedience, passion and death. Only by virtue of his being completely human can we understand and explain the texts about the obedience of Christ unto death” (Pope John Paul II, Audiences)

The human mind of Christ, even in Heaven, does not know God as God knows Himself, does not possess all knowledge all in one Act, as the Divine Nature does, and is not properly called omniscient. This limitation of the human knowledge of Christ is a doctrine of the Magisterium:

“This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”, and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience. This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave”.” (CCC, n. 472).

The above discussion is sufficient to refute the false accusation made by Fr. Reginaldus on the question of agnoeticism.

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