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Felix Culpa: A Thomistic Primacy of Christ

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A distinctive doctrine of the Scotistic school (one shared by many scholastic doctors outside the Scotistic school) is that of the “Absolute Primacy of Christ.” The Absolute Primacy of Christ refers to the idea that the decree of the incarnation was absolute and not relative, i.e., God decreed the incarnation absolutely, without consideration of any preceding conditions. A significant consequence of this idea is that even if man had not fallen, Christ would have become incarnate.

St. Thomas famously rejected the premise that “if man had not sinned, God would have become incarnate.” (ST.III.Q1.A3.T) His argument runs thus, “such things as spring from God’s will, and beyond the creature’s due, can be made known to us only through being revealed in the Sacred Scripture,” “everywhere in the Sacred Scripture the sin of the first man is assigned as the reason of the Incarnation,” therefore, the conclusion follows. (ibid., C.2) The major premise is evident. St. Thomas confirms the minor premise by appealing to Luke 19:10, For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost, and 1 Timothy 1:15, Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.

An objection appears from the fact that the absolution of sin is not the only effect of the incarnation but also many others, such as the infusion of sanctifying grace. St. Thomas responds that “if man had not sinned, he would have been endowed with the light of Divine wisdom, and would have been perfected by God with the righteousness of justice in order to know and carry out everything needful.” (ibid., Rep1)

Does this not impugn the central reality that is the incarnation? To understand why it does not, we must consider some of the principles of the Thomistic synthesis which may be applied to this question. In this, we see that the benefits of Bl. Scotus