Did Christ have Faith and Hope in His Human Nature?

Dr. Taylor Marshall says that Christ could not have had the theological virtues of faith and hope in his human nature, because Christ had the Beatific Vision of God from His conception/Incarnation. Of course, this question refers only to the human nature of Christ. His Divine Nature is the object of faith and hope; His Divine Nature is Love by its very Nature.

Now there is something to be said for Dr. Marshall’s position. We mere weak and fallen sinners obtain the theological virtues at our Baptism: love, faith, and hope. But faith is a belief in things not yet known fully. “Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not apparent.” (Hebrews 11:1). And hope is an anticipation of things not yet obtained fully. Love is a perfect virtue; it continues for those who die in a state of grace even forever. But faith and hope in this life are imperfect. We have faith because we do not have full knowledge and full surety, as we will have with the Beatific Vision of God in Heaven. We have hope because we have not yet fully obtained the salvation of eternal life, though our salvation has begun. “But when the perfect arrives, the imperfect passes away.” (1 Cor 13:10). So the Magisterium teaches infallibly that faith and hope pass away when we receive the Beatific Vision, in Heaven.

In one sense, when the Beatific Vision begins, faith does end. For the Beatific Vision gives each person direct knowledge and absolute certainty of the truths that formerly were known, partially and imperfectly, by the virtue of faith. But in another sense, faith continues in a higher form. For all the blessed in Heaven are faithful; they are not apostates. They have not lost their faith, but rather it has been transfigured into the true pure direct knowledge of God.

In one sense, when the Beatific Vision begins, hope does end. For the Beatific Vision gives each person the full enjoyment of God, neighbor, and self, in a type and degree of happiness that formerly was only hoped for. But in another sense, hope continues in a higher form. For all the blessed in Heaven are joyful; they are not in despair. They have not lost their hope, but rather it has been transfigured into the enjoyment of Heaven. They have not lost the ordering of values that is based not only on love, but on faith and hope.

Our God is faithful. Our God is our hope. So in a sense God is not only love, He is also faith and hope.

Now we come to the question as to whether the human nature of Christ had faith and hope. It is true that He had the Beatific Vision of God, that is, of His own Divine Nature, in His human nature from conception (the Incarnation). For the two natures of Christ are joined in a thorough and fundamental manner, so as to constitute one Person. Christ did not have the type of faith that is imperfect, that believes in things not yet seen, for He saw all things of faith in the Beatific Vision.

But when each of the faithful receives the Beatific Vision, our virtue of faith is not extinguished, but rather is transformed into direct knowledge of the things of faith. So it must also be true for the human nature of Christ, like us in all things but sin, that his human nature had this perfect form of faith. We are the faithful of Christ, and He himself is perfect in faith even in His finite human nature.

When each of the faithful in Heaven knows God by the Beatific Vision, and loves God by the Beatific Union, we enjoy that union with God, thereby obtaining the eternal happiness for which we long hoped. When hope receives the object of its desire: eternal happiness with God, hope has not been extinguished, but rather fulfilled and perfected. And so it was also with Christ in the Beatific Vision and Beatific Union that He had from His conception. Our hope is in Christ, and He himself is the perfect fulfillment of that hope, even in his finite human nature.

In addition, there is another reason for us to hold that Jesus had the theological virtues of faith and hope, as well as love, in His human nature. In my article How could Christ suffer the Passion and Crucifixion if He had the Beatific Vision at the same time? I propose that Christ was temporarily deprived of the Beatific Vision — by his own willingness — so that He could suffer most fully for our salvation. For those who have the Beatific Vision cannot suffer. If so, then at that time Christ exercised the theological virtues of faith and hope, as well as love, just as we exercise them. For He is like us in all things but sin.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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