How is the salvation of Satan related to the Incarnation?

Last Friday, while I was working on my (now published) article on the apokatastasis of the fallen angels, I began wondering how Satan’s salvation and deification (assuming he can or will be saved) might be grounded upon the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. For obvious reasons, this is not a question that is discussed much in the theological tradition. And so I did what any blogger might do—I tweeted:

I confess I did not give the composition of the tweet much thought. After all, what does Twitter have to do with thought—hence my ill-formed question. I just wanted to provoke discussion. What I did not expect were the prompt corrections from multiple tweeters. It’s nonsense, I was told, to think of God as assuming more than one nature. Jesus is a human being, not some hybrid monstrosity. The correctors are absolutely correct . . . but I already knew that. Silly me. Folks have seen me tweet so many dumb things in the past that they not unreasonably assumed this might be one more dumb thing. As the quip goes, “Stupid is forever.” Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of this particular blogger. Sigh. Such is my life—living out the wit of H. L. Mencken.

Note to self: think thrice before hitting the publish button.

Once I realized that the Twitterverse wasn’t going to help me with my real question, I then did what I should have done in the first place—email the brilliant Jordan Daniel Wood, Ph.D. He wrote me back on Monday and gave me permission to publish his helpful response, minus the personal stuff. Hopefully Jordan’s thoughtful reply will generate the discussion I was hoping for.

* * *

Dear Father Aidan,

I’d say this briefly about the question of whether angelic nature is saved by the Incarnation. The answer is yes, absolutely. The salvation of the whole cosmos, angels included, comes about through the God-human alone, since the goal of deification is nothing less than the identification of created and uncreated natures. Surely angelic nature is also created. Therefore it is united to God in the one “place” or way that any creature is united to God–namely in the person of the Word Incarnate. It doesn’t matter that the Incarnation’s first realization is the humanity of Jesus. Why would that limit its salvific/uniting effect? For one thing, Christ’s human nature is also a rational nature, and angelic nature is also rational nature; therefore rational nature is saved by the Word becoming created rationality. In other words, the Word became the very principle of created rationality (which includes angelic nature) in his rational humanity.

Another point is this: If we’re going to circumscribe the Incarnation by the primary object of human nature, why not go further? Didn’t Christ become simply a human nature? If he only became a single human nature, how then did he save the whole of human nature–i.e. every human being? However you answer that question will inevitably open the very way to the salvation of all rational nature (angels included) through the Word’s Incarnation. And anyway, as you know, St. Maximus thinks that Incarnation is to be “actualized always and in all things,” angels included.

Peace,
Jordan

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43 Responses to How is the salvation of Satan related to the Incarnation?

  1. TJF says:

    I was honestly fairly shocked by the ignorance of some of the commenters on the twitter post, although maybe I shouldn’t be since I am probably just as ignorant of the stuff they read. But it remains the case that for most of the Greek fathers, in my understanding, the real division is between created and uncreated and not human vs. divine. St. Gregory says specifically that all noetic natures will be saved in De anima. There are so many problems with the idea that Christ only saved human nature. Stephen RL Clark is really good on this since he is highly proficient in contemporary biology as well as ancient philosophy. What exactly is human nature, is it our species? Because there were many more species of the genus homo running around until they went extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago, so I guess they aren’t saved? What exactly is a species and is it a natural kind that can be defined by a “nature?” The true definition of species merely indicates that breeding can occur, but as the species changes, there are branches that would appear to look like they do or do not share the same nature and this happens gradually over time. When you try to pin down exactly what human nature is, you will find yourself trying to fill your sieve with sand. He saved all created nature as the eminent JDW stated.

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  2. God only became Man to save mankind, which is part of the reason Lucifer and his cronies fell. Their phony pride would not let them accept the fact that God created another form of persons in His image and likeness. Besides that, man needs the incarnation in a way the angels don’t. Mankind has only abstract knowledge , so each of us needs time to think things through. Angels, because of perfect infused knowledge, already know all things perfectly instantly, so God is less merciful with them. I’m Catholic, and that’s what I’ve always been told.

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  3. Owen-Maximus says:

    Still stumped on Hebrews 2:14-16. Seems to say the opposite.

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    • jordandanielwood says:

      If I may, I don’t think that passage says the opposite of the claim that the Incarnation saved angels. For one thing, the Greek text is not so clear as most English translations make it. It doesn’t say that he did not take up “the nature of angels,” but rather “he did not take up from the angels.” What exactly he did not assume isn’t specified. Context suggests, second, that he did not take his origin *merely* from among angels. Two indicators. The author’s argument throughout this chapter is that Christ is superior to the angels exactly because he saves even humankind, flesh and blood, who is “a little lower than the angels” (Ps 8.5, quoted here). Denying that his incarnate condition was taken merely “from the angels” means that it was not confined to the angelic level; its scope extends even to the lowest rational beings, us. The logic thus does not obviously imply that Christ’s humanity excludes its touching angelic nature, only that the Incarnation is not restricted to an angelic theophany. The second clue that this statement means specifically to emphasize the descent of the Son (rather than restrict the scope of his unifying grace) is that he immediately goes on to say that what the Son took, he took “from the seed of Abraham.” Thus the horizontal trajectory of salvation history (i.e. from Israel) and the vertical trajectory (i.e. not just relatively incorporeal beings but even “flesh and blood”) are united in the Incarnation. Not only is this a possible interpretation of this text. But I’d say its logic implies the very thing made explicit, say, in Ephesians 1.10: that his “economy” aimed at nothing less than “recapitulating all things, that is, all things in heaven and on earth.” Surely if anything resides in heaven, it’s angelic nature. Therefore every nature at every level and at any historical moment is saved precisely and only by subsisting in and as the Word made flesh.

      *This is unambiguously St. Maximus’s view, as is made clear in Amb 7 and 41 especially.

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      • Owen-Maximus says:

        Thanks so much, Jordan. Your mind, sir, works at a very high level. I follow you on Ephesians 1.10, for sure. The doctrine of recapitulation is mind-blowingly beautiful. Respectfully, however, I do not see any of what you describe in Heb 1-2. Christ is superior to the angels, not “because he saves even humankind, flesh and blood,” but rather because he is very God. I realize the Greek text is more ambiguous than English versions, but it certainly makes clear that Οὐ…ἀγγέλων ἐπιλαμβάνεται, i.e., “he helps not [the] angels.” That is the pivotal statement, right? Thanks again.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Just to throw in DBH’s translation of Heb 2:14-16:

      Inasmuch, therefore, as the children have blood and flesh in common, he too shared in these same things, so that by death he might render the one holding the power of death–that is, the Slanderer–ineffectual, And might liberate those who had all their lives been bound in slavery by fear of death. For surely he does not reach out to angels, but rather reaches out to the seed of Abraham.

      Regarding the verb ἐπιλαμβάνεται (epilambanetai), he comments:

      literally, “takes,” “lays hold of,” “attains to,” “reaches,” “comes within the reach of,” “seizes.” Various scholars take the letter to be speaking of Christ either “taking on” the nature of human beings, or “reaching out to aid” human beings, or “becoming available” to human beings, or “seizing hold of” human beings.

      Don’t know if that’s helpful or not. An exegete of the Greek text I ain’t! 😎

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      • DBH says:

        It doesn’t matter. The issue here is not whom Christ unites to God, but only whom he liberates from the mortal state of being born of flesh and blood. Angels, not being mortal, do not need to be freed from the devil’s power over flesh and blood. Owen Maximus is confusing unrelated claims.

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        • Tom says:

          I’m gonna guess Owen supposes this confirms his problem. Given what you say here, David, the ‘incarnation’ of the Word to mortal flesh and blood is *not* the means by which angels also are redeemed; i.e., they’re redeemed independently of the Incarnation, which I think is what universalists (who believe Christ saves angels) want to avoid saying. Given that angels are not mortal and don’t have flesh and blood (though they are ’embodied’), how’s the Incarnation save them?

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        • Owen-Maximus says:

          I do see your point: the issue *in Hebrews 2:16* is not whom Christ unites to God. Not that Christ’s incarnation in general doesn’t unite fallen angels to God, indeed it may, but that the epistolary author in this case is only making a point about liberation of flesh-and-blood mortals.

          It’s a possible reading. 🙂 But when the writer states emphatically (δή) that “surely he lays hold not of angels,” it still makes me wonder, Why be so explicit concerning angels? I can understand your point about the context focusing on human beings and their liberation. I do agree but think he’s saying more.

          I think he’s actually saying, “this, not that”—mortal humans, not fallen angels. Seemingly with a polemical purpose. I’m open to reading this differently but, as I said below, I’d be more willing dismiss the text as erroneous than I would be to practice fanciful eisegesis.

          Not that I’m accusing you of the latter, sincerely. And I’m def not opposed to spiritual readings, as long as they don’t subvert the literal meaning of apostolic teaching.

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        • Owen-Maximus says:

          Just to clarify, I’d can’t think of any reason I would dismiss Heb 2:16 as erroneous. In principle, I just think dismissal is a more courageous move that unwarranted eisegesis.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Owen, you just need to start practicing some creative eisegesis–just like the Fathers did. 😎

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  4. Thomas says:

    > Christ’s human nature is also a rational nature, and angelic nature is also rational nature; therefore rational nature is saved by the Word becoming created rationality.

    The nature by which I am human is an animal nature; a dodo’s nature is also an animal nature, therefore … am I a dodo?

    It’s been a long time since my last logic class, and I’m quite foggy on the details, but that calls to mind the fallacy of the undistributed middle.

    A few of those claims also seem objectionable on substantive grounds. Christ did not “become a human nature”, for instance. There’s a distinction between a person or a subsistent and a nature without which orthodox Christology is impossible.

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    • This assumes that finite natures are so modally different that there is no essential overlap between them as if there is an isomorphic “angelic nature” that functions in contradistinction to “animal/human nature”. Most Christian theology still deals with nature in abstractions, not as identities actualized in persons. I am not saying that this is wrong, but perhaps not the complete picture.

      This is where Bulgakov’s Sophiology is so helpful. We have in Bulgakov the ability to speak of esssences in more than abstract terms. So, when considered at the level of Divine-humanity, I am far more inclined to say that at the eschatological horizon all natures are in *some way* human, because they are subsumed and recapitulated in Christ’s Divine-humanity.

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      • Thomas says:

        I think one issue here is the formal structure of the argument. Either it commits the fallacy of distributed middle, or it begs the question, or it asserts humans and angels are not different species. It does not follow immediately from the fact that human natures are rational that anything true of human natures are true of rational natures.

        > Most Christian theology still deals with nature in abstractions, not as identities actualized in persons. I am not saying that this is wrong, but perhaps not the complete picture.

        I think that this distinction is worked out quite well in many of the theologians influenced by Aristotle. The distinction between a subsistent thing and its nature nicely accomplishes this, to my mind.

        I’m not sure quite what to make of this:

        > This assumes that finite natures are so modally different that there is no essential overlap between them as if there is an isomorphic “angelic nature” that functions in contradistinction to “animal/human nature”

        It seems to me the case that distinguishing between universals (genera, species), forms (which are not intrinsically universal, at least in Aristotle/Aquinas, but are imminent causes of particulars), and things (subsistents, persons) is the only way can avoid reifying abstractions or affirm the Incarnation.

        To say that the Word took on an Angelic nature because he took on a human nature confuses a genus (an abstraction) with a substantial form (which is not, of itself, abstract). I would be curious how you avoid the reductio that, by the same token, he became a rabbit (given that we are not only rational creatures, but also mammals).

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        • jordandanielwood says:

          What you call a “reductio” Maximus calls the whole point of the Incarnation: “The Word of God, very God, wills always and *in all things* to actualize the mystery of his Incarnation” (Amb 7.22). The reason why becoming and thus giving subsistence to human nature both extends to all created genera (yes, rabbits too) and yet is not a confusion is because that identification is not a *generic* identification. It is you who are operating among abstractions here. The person of the Word is neither of his natures in the way a natural species belongs to a genus, or in the way two species relate generically. The Incarnation’s concrete identity is itself the Word, the Logos, Christ, and so the condition and effect of that unity neither violates nor is subject to any logic restricted to what is possible in abstract logic (among genera and species and individuals qua instances of formal/generic/specific content). This, I think, is what Jedidiah was alluding to.

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          • Thomas says:

            Dr. Wood

            My position here is simply that it is true to say that the Word is a human being, but false to say that he is a rabbit or an angel. On the supposition that, by becoming human, there is a certain bond affected with us in virtue of sharing the same nature, it would follow that things that do not have that nature do not share that same bond (though they may benefit indirectly in some fashion.)

            I’m not clear, after that answer, whether or not we are in agreement on that point.

            I’m also unclear on most of this response. For instance:

            > The person of the Word is neither of his natures in the way a natural species belongs to a genus, or in the way two species relate generically.

            Do you take me as asserting this, because I indicated the logic initially proposed was formally fallacious? Or do you have in mind something else?

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        • Well, I will be the first to admit the idiosyncratic character of my views on this issue. But, in my opinion most language around natures and essences in the Classical tradition, while not wrong (I do affirm the distinctions) is really a series of compound abstractions and negations that leads us no closer to any real kataphatic affirmation of what things essentially are. Which is to say, the Aristotelean language employed by Aquinas is useful, but is only disclosing part of the story.

          If we look at this in a different, and more eschatological and apocalyptic key, the permeability of finite natures is also already part of the estuary that the NT is emerging from. So, the idea that humans could become angelic is already present in the Enochic literature, and is reinforced to a degree in Paul, and I would argue is also present in the angelic witness in Revelation (one of the four beasts of revelation is already human in form, and the connection between the human/animal/angelic is already present in the Apocalypse.

          So, I’ll just come out and let my view stand in all of its strangeness here, there are only two natures, both of which are Sophianic: 1) Infinite, and 2) finite. All creaturely natures are simply modalities of Creaturely Sophia, which is human. The modalities of genus and species do not diminish the fundamental unity of the upper register of essence. And, while creatures, angelic, animal, vegetable, mineral, et.al. present in difference and multiplicity in the present age, they are eschatologically considered only one thing essentially – the Pleromic Body of Christ, which is and always has been essentially human, a joining of Divine and Creaturely Sophia. So, a rabbit hasn’t yet truly become a rabbit until it has become a human (Lewis gets this in his Narnia books) in a very real way, nor has an angel become truly an angel until it has become human (remember that the warning in Ps. 82 says that the gods will die like humans).

          I am more of an intuitive thinker who is prone to logical leaps, so I lack the ability to systematically and metaphysically flesh the argument out in detail. But if Jordan’s reading of Maximus is correct, and Bulgakov’s Sophiology is correct (at least in the broadest sense), then the cosmos itself is in a very real sense a human creation, a human body, which is the Body of Christ, created by a Divine human who is the Logos of all of logoi. If we want to say that the Logos is not human, then I could understand a more elaborate and perduring sense of the multiplicity of natures as isomorphisms. However, because these are all summed up and recapitulated in one Logos who is human, the cosmos in its infinite quantatative unfolding is a human reality that is (at least eschatologically considered) fully divinized.

          Forgive the tangential nature of the response, but I really do lack the skill to give you a clearer metaphysical answer on how this all works. With that said though, I really don’t see how essence as a real identity that is really hypostatically expressed can function in actuality in any manner other than this.

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    • jordandanielwood says:

      The fallacy of the undistributed middle is irrelevant here since the claim I made is not that Christ is an angel because he’s human, but rather that both humanity and angelic natures belong to the genus of “rational being,” and surely (at least according to the Porphyrian logic most the Fathers knew) any more determinate species possesses the principle of its genus in common with other species of the same genus. And since I do not accept self-subsisting genera, I.e. I think genera and species actually exist only in and as the sum total of all subjects which bear them, then Christ’s becoming human means that his humanity possessed the very principle by which angels belong to the genus “rational being.” In fact, in line with the ancient view of man as microcosm, one reason the Word becomes human is exactly because in the human being converge all generic principles of created nature. So my claim is neither logically fallacious nor very original.

      As for the objection to saying that Christ possessed “a human nature,” I’m sorry to say that almost all defenders of Chalcedon in the 5th-7th centuries said exactly this. That’s why Severus of Antioch raised the dilemma against them as to whether Christ’s human nature was particular/proper or generic/universal. St Maximus, for his part, says that his humanity is both particular (“a” human nature) and universal “human nature”). And I think he’s correct that this is the only way coherently to explicate Chalcedon. But I leave the details for my forthcoming book. Suffice it to say that far from violating the proper christological understanding of nature and subsistence, my view upholds them and makes them possible at all.

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    • jordandanielwood says:

      The fallacy of the undistributed middle doesn’t apply here since I did not claim that Christ was angelic because he was human but rather that more determinate species possesses the generic principle in common with species of the same genus. So no, you’re not a dodo because you are human, but because you are human you possess the same generic principle of animal nature as a dodo does–how else would you both be called animals at all? So you’ve misrepresented my argument. And, further, since I do not accept that genera as such are self-subsisting, i.e. they exist qua genera only in and as the sum total of all the subjects that bear them, then Christ’s being a rational creature (qua human) is quite relevant to his saving the entire set of subjects which are rational (e.g. angels too). In fact, in line with the ancient view of man as microcosm, one reason the Word became human is precisely because the human being possesses all the generic principles of created nature. Thus my claim is neither logically fallacious nor particularly original.

      As for your objection that it is substantively objectionable to say that Christ became “a human nature,” well, I’m sorry to say that nearly every defender of Chalcedonian christology in the 5th-7th centuries said exactly this. Hence Severus of Antioch raised the dilemma against them as to whether Christ’s human nature was particular/proper or generic/universal. Maximus, for instance, replied that it is both. And indeed I think he’s correct, and that this is the only way coherently to defend and explicate Chalcedon in the face of miaphysite objections. But I’ll leave the details of that argument for my forthcoming book. Suffice it is to say that far from somehow compromising the proper christological understanding of nature and person, my position positively explains it, indeed makes it possible at all–since it is not my position, but rather that of the Neochalcedonians. Once more, my claims here have been neither fallacious nor new.

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      • Thomas says:

        This formulation, though, begs the question. It does not follow from the fact that Christ redeems human nature, that Christ redeems other natures for which a common genus can be identified. That’s the question to be answered

        Humans, in addition to being rational, are also physical objects. As are blueberry muffins. Will my breakfast muffin be reconstituted from its dark fate by the incarnation?

        Moreover, a number of your premises are just as controversial as your conclusion. It’s not at all clear that humans and angels actually share a common genus, since angelic cognition differs essentially from our own. It’s quite controversial to say that genera are intrinsic principles in things, rather than beings of reason that result from human abstraction. Etc.

        As to this:

        > it is substantively objectionable to say that Christ became “a human nature,” well, I’m sorry to say that nearly every defender of Chalcedonian christology in the 5th-7th centuries said exactly this.

        They did not. It’s not the case that you or I are a “human nature”. (Have you ever been to a party and, on coming home, told yourself: “it’s so nice to meet new human natures”?) We are human beings. We have a human nature, but we are not a human nature. It’s not merely grammatically weird, it’s incorrect metaphysically. To confuse the two is to conflate persons/things with natures.

        That is why we say “Christ became man”, or “Christ put on a human nature”, but not “Christ became a human nature.”

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        • TJF says:

          I guess that depends on whether you’re an idealist and panpsychist?

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        • I’m not sure I’ve ever claimed my claims were universally uncontroversial. I did say they were not new, which is true. And perhaps they’re controversial among those who’ve forgotten that not even Aquinas’s metaphysics are the official metaphysics of the Church (per Fides et Ratio).

          First you denied that Neochalcedonians in the 5th-7th centuries spoke of Christ’s humanity as “a” human nature, and now you’re denying it’s correct to say the Word “became” a human nature. So you’ve moved the goal posts here. Which is fine, as I happen to think you’re wrong on both counts. Surely you’re aware of the centuries-long debate among Neoplatonic philosophers/commentators as to whether universals/genera subsist “before,” “in,” or “after” their particular instances, or indeed all of these together. And surely you’re aware of, say, Plotinus’s and Proclus’s and Simplicius’s rejection of “particular natures” on several grounds, but above all because an immutably perfect Intellect cannot take for intellectual objects that which is subject to variability (as particular natures would be). So perhaps you agree with them or with the Stoics or some version of Aristotelianism, which in different ways deny or modify the idea of “particular natures.” But you’d be wrong to think that this is self-evident, as if the very concept of a “nature” already ruled it out. And then too, as I’ve already mentioned, anti-Chalcedonians such as Severus of Antioch raised an objection on this basis against, for instance, John Grammaticus, putting to him the question of whether Christ’s human nature is “particular/individual” or “universal/generic” (e.g. Leontius of Byzantium, CNE, PG 86 1917B). St. Maximus, for instance, says both (Ep 15, PG 91, 557C). So again, whether you agree with the Neochalcedonians or not, it’s a distortion to overlook the fact that this was indeed a major point of contention in the christological debates of that era and that in fact most Neochacledonians defended some version of the both-and thesis regarding Christ’s universal and particular humanity. The peculiar pressures of christological thinking were themselves a major impetus for rethinking the metaphysics of nature. And of course Neochalcedonians did this in tandem with developing in crucial ways the very idea of “hypostasis” or “prosopon,” since the latter are in no way natures (generic or otherwise) and yet exist positively “in themselves,” as they put it. As I said, I leave all those details for my forthcoming book on Maximus (and see too Johannes Zachhuber’s relevant work here).

          As for your worry over saying the Word “became” (a and the) human nature, you’ll first of all need to admit that you’ve got a problem with the very language of John’s Gospel. There I don’t recall reading that “The Word possessed flesh,” but that he “became” it. Nor is it clear that the flesh he became is merely an abstraction or a simple reference to the generic principle of bodilness or any of that. He became the flesh born of Mary, caressed by her, touched by the bleeding woman, struck by the Roman soldiers, crucified on Golgotha, laid in the tomb, forbidden to be touched in its risen condition, offered in the Eucharist, etc. In what sense, then? Thence you’ll need to explain the relation between “possessing” and “being” (a) nature. You’ll face three immediate problems for your overly tidy distinction. First, if he is to “become” flesh then he must be what he possesses, since what he possesses is alone qualified by becoming (i.e. human nature). Consider Christ’s composition, as it were. Surely he is one hypostasis/person and two natures (with their respective powers and activities). But then what is it that he “becomes” when the Word “becomes” flesh? Not his divine nature. Nor does he become his own person since “he” is the subject of becoming. That leaves his human nature. Granted, it’s still more complex, since his becoming human is the very same event or act of his humanity’s becoming at all. But we should admit here, at the very least, that a simple notion of “assuming” or “taking up” humanity hasn’t really done justice to the truth of Incarnation; for what is taken up is there at all because of the taking up. In fact it’s better to say that the taking up is also the generating and that the generating–the being at all–just is the hypostasis (the determinate subsistence and reality) of the Word. Thence arises your second problem: it seems fairly evident that an *identity*–a hypostatic and personal *identity* (which Maximus always stresses: tautotes vs., say, merely henosis)–must be implied in the taking up, for Christ’s humanity has no actuality whatsoever except insofar as it *is* him. His human nature is not, therefore, something Christ merely “possesses” (though there’s nothing wrong with the language in itself); it *is* him or it is not at all. Admittedly this “is” is an identity very different from, say, generic or specific or accidental identity. But it is more positive and fundamental than any of these and therefore all the more necessary to confess. More, hypostatic identity is itself the condition of the possibility for the difference between Christ’s two natures at all (cf. Maximus, Amb 5): if Christ’s own person is not the “is” of his own humanity, then his own humanity wouldn’t exist at all in order even to differ from his divinity by nature. Merely saying that Christ “has” a nature or becomes in some sense an instance of the abstraction “humanity” doesn’t even register these subtleties, let alone make an adequate metaphysical account of the Incarnation. Third and finally, we must posit the identity of Christ’s person with his humanity if we want to confess–as we must–that “God the Son died.” His humanity was mortal, and he is mortal by virtue of the fact that he is his humanity. You will want to qualify this by noting, correctly, that natures as such neither suffer nor act. Quite right! All the more necessary then to posit a still more fundamental identity than any conceivable in merely abstract (generic/specific/accidental) terms. If the Word were not his very humanity then the Word could not have died. But the Word did die. So the Word is his humanity (which doesn’t mean he is *only* his humanity, only that he *is* at least his humanity–he “becomes” it). None of this, I submit, makes very much sense if all we do is scrupulously uphold the “undue precision” (to use Cyril of Alexandria’s phrase) of merely saying that Christ did not “become” but only “possessed” his humanity.

          So no, we do not merely say that “Christ became man” since, well, “we” are not all Thomas Aquinas, nor are we beholden to the tertia pars in all matters orthodox christology. We say “Christ became man,” since his humanity bore the universal principle (logos) of all humanity, which universal subsists only in the entire set of all human beings (so I’d agree with your remark about going to a party; I’d merely dispute that you’ve yet thought through all the implications of that point). And we also say “Christ became a human nature,” precisely because, again, there is no real humanity as such that is not particularized in and as persons (you don’t meet *mere* human natures at a party, but you do meet particular and personalized instances of it). And surely Jesus Christ was at least (but not only) a particular member of humanity–in fact, the one that hung on a particular cross at a particular time and place. And we say that “Christ took up (a and all) human nature,” since his taking up is his becoming, and his becoming is his humanity’s becoming there to be taken up at all.

          In general, then, you do well to distinguish persons from natures. What you lack is a coherent way to bring back together what God has joined together in himself.

          As for the remark about your breakfast muffin being reconstituted by the Incarnation–you say that as if it were absurd! Surely you’ve heard that I’m fond of Maximus’s declaration that, “The Word of God, very God, wills always and in all things to actualize the mystery of his Incarnation” (Amb 7.22). So either your muffin is good (and thus real), in which case it is possible at all because of and in the Word’s Incarnation; or else it’s an awful muffin (and thus no real thing), in which case the question itself is senseless.

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  5. Chris E.W. Green says:

    Shared this on Facebook earlier without knowing the conversation unfolding here! At Fr Al’s prompting, I’ll share it here as well, in solidarity with JDW:

    Jordan is right, ISTM. And, at least on one reading, Hebrews shows us why and how he is right—and that’s surprising because several passages in Hebrews seem to negate the possibility.

    Hebrews says outright that Jesus assumes human, not angelic, nature (Heb. 1.4ff). And that “all things” have been subjected to humans, not angels (Heb. 2.5). It also says he came to help “Abraham’s descendants,” not angels (Heb. 2.16), and that he, in his victory, “became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs” (Heb. 1.4).

    Still, if all things have been subjected to humanity, including angels, the servants of our salvation, and if the human has been made divine, then all things are redeemed in and through that divinized humanity. And this is why, at the end, angels are gathered with humans (Heb. 12.22ff). And why showing hospitality to strangers we sometimes “entertain angels unawares” (Heb. 13.2).

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    • Owen-Maximus says:

      If (1) all things have been subjected to humanity, including angels, the servants of our salvation, and
      if (2) the human has been made divine,
      then (3) all things are redeemed in and through that divinized humanity.

      I can get on board with this. Seems like Paul’s very point in Rom 8:21: the deified children of God will lead the ascent of creation into divine glory.

      The difference between angels and the rest of creation, however, is their free will to worship God or not. I still wonder if that creates an obstacle to an unqualified assertion that “all things are redeemed in and through divinized humanity.” Since rabbits and rocks don’t possess the kind of freedom humans and angels do, the former are glorified with us, automatically as it were, because of our mediatorial stewardship and microcosmic role in creation.

      But angels are creatures that can resist and reject divine glory. In this way, they may spurn the faith/faithfulness of Abraham, the very criterion implicitly required of rational creatures to receive the Savior’s help in Heb 2:16. It seems that creation is caught up in man’s divinization only to the extent that it either has no rational capacity to choose, or uses its (e.g. angelic) rational capacity to willingly participate in God’s glory.

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  6. Chris E.W. Green says:

    In his first homily on Psalm 15, Origen argues that Christ is an angel—”the angel of the Lord.” In the course of his expositions, he first quotes Ps. 33.8, “The angel of the Lord camps around those who fear him and delivers them,” then Gen. 48.15-16: “‘The God who nourished me form my youth, the angel who delivered me from all evils, bless these children,” and concludes: “What angel delivers from all evils? I, for one, do not believe that Michael or Gabriel or any of the holy angels can ‘deliver from all evils’… Whom, then, am I to seek, who delivers from all evils, but the one who also has authority to bless… Who is this angel who delivers from all evils? Jesus Christ, who is called by the name ‘angel of great counsel.'”

    Origen realizes, of course, that some are sure to be offended by the claim that Jesus is an angel, so he immediately counters that misunderstanding: “And do not suppose that I degrade Christ by calling him an angel, just as I do not degrade him by calling him a human being, less than the angels. For out of his love of humanity he did not consider being equal to God a thing to be grasped, but to become a human being in his appearance and to humble himself and to become subject even to death, death on a cross, just as it was also a work of his love of humanity toward the angels, that he became an angel. And just as he adorned the race of human beings by becoming a human being, for it would not have been adorned or completed if Christ had not become a human being, in the same way what was lacking in the race of angels the Christ of God adorned by becoming an angel and supplying, by himself, what was lacking in that race. So also the Christ of God adorned all things by becoming an angel, and he adorned all things solely by being a god, since he had been adorned, having been begotten as a god by the paternal Godhead.”

    However strange this may seem at first to some, I think it’s pretty undeniably necessary. And that’s why Maximus insists on it, as Jordan (and others in this thread) said.

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  7. Hi Father Kimal. I love your heart. It’s so big. And so compassionate. And that in the end is what matters. It’s all very well us wanting the devil to face ‘justice’ but that shows us something so interesting. We are still wanting someone to blame. As we desire mercy, how dare we claim any being should be denied it. No matter who they are. I would say to deny anyone mercy, shows us a wound in our own heart that needs looking at…..for myself it took me a while. At first I could not wish him to be forgiven, after all my life’s pain. But I realise, that makes me as bad as him! For having the desire to have him separated from God. I have prayed for him once. But I was not sure how wise it was. I think,the way he is, and the way I am giving him to much attention is unwise. So I place him in the merciful hands off the almighty. I don’t understand the lake of fire. But if it is a purging fire, for an ‘eternity’ then maybe there is hope. At the end of the day I will say this. I have to believe there is hope for him. Because if there is not, I cannot see hope for myself, as I too have sinned and fallen short; I realise I dare not condemn any being. That’s not my job, but it is my weakness, and by so doing my own demise! And how dare we suggest the heart of God to small and the evil of the Devil to large for it. That, is the scourge of Christianity today. And the reason many are leaving in droves. Thankyou for being so brave Father Kimal. Thankyou.

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  8. Tom says:

    Owen-Maximus: I do not see any of what you [Jordan] describe in Heb 1-2 … it certainly makes clear that … “he helps not [the] angels.”

    Tom: As I thought about this question, my mind ended up in Rom 8.18-21 (“For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”)

    So here at least all creation (κτίσις) finds its end in and as redeemed humanity finds it glorious end in Christ. And this is true even though we could (I suspect) bring the language of Hebrews to bear upon it and say for example that “it is not trees or cows or fish Christ comes to help,” although it remains true that tree, cows, and fish will come into their end through our coming into ours. Trees, cows, and fish are not immediately addressed by Christ’s life and passion the way human beings are, though the former are implicated in the latter). My point is that the interest in Hebrews saying “he helps not the angels” may only be to designate Christ’s ‘humanity’ as particularly required by human beings who are, uniquely, a microcosm of the whole, which presumably leaves open the question of whether angelic natures are also implicated in the Incarnation in the same way other non-human natures in Rom 8 are implicated in the effects of the Incarnation.

    Thomas: It does not follow from the fact that Christ redeems human nature, that Christ redeems other natures for which a common genus can be identified. That’s the question to be answered.

    Tom: St. Paul, it seems, answered it. We know from Rom 8 that other natures for which a common genus can be identified (i.e., all the distinct/diverse natures that constitute “creation” itself) are in fact implicated in the saving work of Christ, even if the effects are mediated to those natures through the final redemption of embodied human beings.

    I suspect that angelic natures are not so distinct from us. They are embodied (as well as rational) after all, not pure/absolute Spirit as only God could be. That is, their existence and agency (their knowing and choosing) are circumscribed within the whole and so are finite in scope and effect – which is all the body is functionally anyhow. The one genus we all share (angels, humans, tree, and cows) is that of embodied created-being (embodied as in subject naturally by some principle of limited perception and agency). “Creation” is by definition one – angels included. If Christ enters creation through the one creature he made to microcosm of the whole, the whole is implicated in Christ’s entrance.

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    • Tom says:

      Ugh – typos.

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    • Owen-Maximus says:

      Thanks Tom. I was also thinking about Rom 8. Please see my response to Chris Green above. I basically make the point that angels and humans differ from the rest of creation bc they possess free will to resist God. I actually think Paul is making a similar point about the defeated devil in Heb 2:14-16.

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        You are of course correct, Owen, that angels, like human beings, are rational creatures and therefore different from all non-rational creatures; but how is this relevant to the issue at hand? Recall St Isaac’s argument: just as the God who is absolute love will not abandon human beings to hell, neither will he abandon the fallen angels.

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      • Owen-Maximus says:

        Thanks Fr Aidan. Human and angelic rationality, and the free will of each, seems relevant to me, in that it helps reconcile two disparate, seemingly contradictory NT texts. Rom 8 teaches creation will find liberation via the children of God; Heb 2 teaches Christ came not to help angels. Hebrews qualifies Romans in this regard, namely by contrasting the only two types of rational creatures able to reject God, and pointing to human beings alone as the recipients of incarnational assistance. St Isaac should certainly be heard on this. But I still haven’t heard a convincing reading of Heb 2:16. I am willing to be convinced by a different reading, and if I hear a good one, I’ll shut up about it. 🙂

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Respectfully, I suggest you are reading the Bible from the wrong hermeneutic. There is no virtue in reconciling contradictory texts if one has not first adopted an interpretive framework of Trinitarian love. Are there difficult biblical texts? Of course. If one were to put one’s mind to it, e.g., one could “prove” from Scripture (1) that God’s love is conditional and we are saved by our obedience to the moral law, or (2) that God’s love only intends a portion of humanity (the elect), or that ____ (fill in the blank). It all depends on one’s hermeneutic.

          I deem it unlikely that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews was addressing the very specific question that St Isaac or Sergius Bulgakov are addressing, namely, Does God’s salvific will intend all rational beings, and if so, how does this relate to the eternal Word’s enfleshment in Jesus Christ? No matter how one resolves the exegetical question posed by Heb 2:14-16, one is still left with the pressing question, Can God be absolute and unconditional Love if he condemns to eternal perdition even one of his rational creatures?

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        • Tom says:

          Owen: Heb 2 teaches Christ came not to help angels.

          Tom: As I say, it seems perfectly fine for “came not to help angels” to be relative to the earthly incarnate career of Jesus, his life and passion, as it relates to events this side of the Eschaton. Bear in mind, the writer is deep in reflection upon Israel. If you want to hold to v. 16 to so strict an interpretation (“For surely it is not the angels he helps, but the descendants of Abraham”) then we Gentiles are as excluded as angels, since v. 16 says only it was ‘Jews’ he came to help. But we don’t collapse the gospel to this, even if it’s quite appropriate for this writer to address this Jewish audience by limiting those Christ came to help to “Abraham’s descendants.” True in context. False otherwise.

          Anyhow, and if the implications of the Incarnation for angels are to play out in the Eschaton, it’s fine for Hebrews to limit the effects of Christ’s coming contextually to this world as we presently know it. It’s not like other passages don’t bring the saving work of Christ to bear upon “all things” without exception. Col 1 is as explicit as any of us need require: “…through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” What more do you need, Owen? The Incarnation reconciles all things in heaven.

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          • Owen-Maximus says:

            Well said, Tom. Col 1 may be the master stroke.

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          • Tom says:

            I’d like to take credit, but Fr Al coaches me on the side about what to say. ;o)

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          • Tom says:

            A last thought, Owen.

            I recall running across an essay or dissertation some time ago (sorry, can’t recall) which had to do with the angelology of the Jewish recipients of Hebrews in light of early Jewish apocalyptic. I suppose the connection is the role which Jews believed angels had in the coming of the Law to Israel and the importance which the Law has in Hebrews. What else would lead the writer to Hebrews to give such attention to angels (who otherwise don’t figure in outside Hebrews in a big way) but some inordinate preoccupation with angels on the part of the recipients? If we should suppose some such problem, Heb 2.16 is not really relevant to our question (Does Christ reconcile angels), even if the exact background is more out of our reach.

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      • Tom says:

        Owen, in your response to Chris re: Rm 8, you seem on board. You’re only concern is that you suppose (as we all do) that rational creatures come to enjoy the saving effects of Christ’s work by “willingly participating” in it. So what’s the problem? Posit the same need to choose and grace to do so with respect to angels.

        If you don’t think angels are, or shall in any future circumstance be, capable of surrendering themselves to Christ, I can see how that’s a problem. I don’t suppose angels have foreclosed upon themselves in this sense.

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        • Owen-Maximus says:

          The notion of willing participation has to do mainly with the reconciling of Rom 8 and Heb 2 concerning angels. But my main concern is what seems to be an explicit piece of apostolic testimony applying directly to the question of Satan’s salvation. Which seems to speak in the negative. Hermeneutics are important. Why isn’t our entire hermeneutic concerning angels, demons, and the devil derived from Heb 2:16? It certainly seems to speak clearly to the issue. I would actually rather someone courageously say the text is in error than to create a philosophical system in which the text ends up saying just the opposite of what it clearly claims. Isn’t this a case of shaving off the “rough edges” for the sake of systematics?

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            It’s not a matter of shaving off the rough edges for the sake of systematics, but rather of the gospel itself. If it’s the case that God has freely created angels from out of nothing, foreknowing that some will be damned, then his character as absolute love and goodness is called into radical question. If eternal perdition is good enough for the angels, why isn’t it good enough for human beings? Is God’s election of humanity to eternal salvation simply an arbitrary choice? If yes, how are we entitled to call God good? At this point the entire universalist position collapses, as St Augustine pointed out in his discussion of the misericordes. As you might recall, he took the “anthropic universalists” to task for not being as compassionate as the Origenists who confessed the eventual salvation of Satan. In his judgment they were simply being illogical.

            Hermeneutics is just not important; it’s decisive. There is no plain meaning of Scripture, as it must always be interpreted. Augustine believed that Scripture clearly and plainly taught that God has predestined some human beings to eternal salvation and passed over others (preterition), thereby indirectly predestinating the rest to perdition. When asked to justify the manifest arbitrariness of God’s decision, he would appeal, as all infernalists do, to the inscrutable wisdom of God. But once inscrutability is admitted into the argument, the assertion that “God is good” becomes equivocal and therefore gobbledegook. And that is why Heb 2:16 cannot function as a decisive objection to salvation of the fallen angels. Your interpretation of it has to be theologically wrong, because it conflicts with the gospel of God’s absolute, unconditional, and inclusive love as revealed in Jesus Christ.

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  9. Tom says:

    Owen: Why isn’t our entire hermeneutic concerning angels, demons, and the devil derived from Heb 2:16?

    Tom: Cause you get to Col 1 before Hebrews! ;o) But if it came down to having to admit a real difference between Paul and the writer to Hebrews, the scales tip in Paul’s favor, no?

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  10. St Isaac and St Bulgakov have already definitively settled the issue of the universal salvation of angels and demons as far as I’m concerned.

    The question keeping me up at night now is “What about the jinn, asuras, fae, genies, fairies and hungry ghosts!”

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