Choose a topic from Vol 5:

Awareness of God

Awareness of God

The Faith of Israel

The Faith of Israel

The Importance of Man

The Importance of Man

Origin of the Gospels

Origin of the Gospels

The Divine Redeemer

The Divine Redeemer

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church

The Papacy

The Papacy

The Biblical Tradition

The Biblical Tradition

The Blessed Virgin Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Liturgy and Sacraments

Liturgy and Sacraments

Moral Problems

Moral Problems

Final Realities

Final Realities

The Ecumenical Movement

The Problem of Disunity
Reactions Among Non-Catholics
Bewildered Catholics
Combined Unity Services
Mutual Bible Study
Prospects of Reunion

The Divine Redeemer

101. In the Apostles' Creed we say: "I believe in God the Father Almighty . . . and in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary."

The words referring to the conception of Christ embody the teaching in the message of the angel to St. Joseph: "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Matt., 1:20.

102. Does it not follow that, not the First Person of the Holy Trinity, but the Holy Spirit was the Father of our Lord?

The answer to that problem lies in the fact that the miraculous and mysterious origin of the humanity of Jesus could not be due to any act of paternity at all. Natural generation of a child gives rise to a new person. But in the conception of Jesus by the Virgin Mary no new "person" came into existence. The already-existing Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God eternally begotten by the Father in an eternal spiritual generation, merely entered into a new manner of existence as human also, taking possession of and making His own the created human body and the created human soul of Mary's child. So the Eternal Son of God was made flesh and dwelt among us, being known in His human existence as Jesus Christ. As we read in Lk., 1:34-35, in response to Mary's astonished exclamation "I know not man", the angel of the annunciation replied: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born of you will be called holy, the son of God." Without any act of paternal generation, Mary was miraculously given by the Holy Spirit the power of conceiving a child. The only fatherhood in the case of Jesus was that associated with His pre-existence as a Divine Person and the Eternal Son of God the Father in heaven. The miraculous conception of that Eternal Son within the Virgin Mary is attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit in order to stress that the human nature she provided enabled the Eternal Son as the human Jesus to become "Incarnate Holiness"; that is, the Holy or utterly sinless One among human beings for the redemption of sinful humanity.

103. I have never been able to fathom the meaning of Simeon's words when Mary presented her child in the Temple: "This child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed."

The primary reference of Simeon's prediction was to Israel. He foresaw that the Jews would be divided into diametrically opposed camps either for or against Jesus, thus revealing the inner dispositions of their hearts. John 10:20 tells us how Simeon's prediction was later verified when he says of the Jews in regard to Jesus: "Many said he has a devil and is mad; but others said these are not the words of one that has a devil." Opposition to Jesus led eventually to His crucifixion, a fate in which Mary could not but be involved, the sword of suffering entering deeply into her own soul also. But while the immediate reference was to the Jews who had to decide during our Lord's own lifetime on earth what their attitude towards Him would be, the prediction contained a long term reference to all men in all later ages who came face to face with the problem of Christ. So He Himself said: "Do not think that I came to send peace upon the earth. I came, not to send peace but the sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father and the daughter against her mother . . . and a man's enemies shall be they of his own household." Matt., 10:34-35. On national levels in our own day we see strife between atheistic Communism and Christianity of any kind. On the level of individual families peace is destroyed when members adopt attitudes of devotion to or hostility towards Christ. The "New English Bible" translation of Simeon's words to Mary are helpful towards understanding the phrase that puzzles you. There we read: "This child is destined to be a sign which men reject; and you, too, will be pierced to the heart. Many in Israel will stand or fall because of Him, and thus the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare." That is, divisions over Christ reveal people's inner dispositions of soul towards Him and the provision God has made for their salvation.

104. The opening verse of St. John's Gospel reads: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

What St. John wanted to explain was that the Person of Christ was not that of an ordinary child with a created human body and soul who began life by being born in Bethlehem, but a Person who had eternally pre-existed in heaven before the Incarnation took place at all. Now we express ourselves by words, and indicate our will by words. So the centurion said to Christ: "Say but the word and my servant shall be healed." Also, on our human level, we say that a father lives over again in his son and, seeing the likeness, say of a son that "he is his father over again." With such thoughts in mind, St. John used the term "word" by which we express ourselves as a description of the Eternal Son of God who was in Himself the Image and Likeness of the Eternal Father; also, as the expression of the Father's creative will since through Him all things had been created in the first place; but still more as God's expression of Himself in human history and in a human life to accomplish our salvation. In all these senses he describes the Eternal Son of God as the "Word of God" who had become Incarnate in Jesus Christ. So St. Paul said simply: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." 2 Cor., 5:19.

105. Did St. John mean that the "Word" was the name of Christ's spirit when He was in heaven before the Incarnation?

St. John could not have meant that. He was using human language ,on our level, of which God certainly had no need on His level in heaven. Some confusion arises here from your speaking of Christ's spirit when He was in heaven. When our Lord was dying on the Cross He said: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." There He was speaking of His created human soul, and that did not exist before the Incarnation. The Uncreated Personality of Christ was in heaven before the Incarnation, and in that sense He could speak in His prayer to the Father of "the glory I had with Thee before the world was made." Jn., 17:5. Keep in mind that, in the Incarnation, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took as His own a created human body and soul in which He was born of the Virgin Mary to be our Saviour. In His Divine Nature He was equally God with the Father and the Holy Spirit; 'and God — as God — had no name by which He needed to call Himself either to Himself or to anybody else. Even when Moses asked God for His name to tell others, he was bidden: "Say that 'Jahweh' sent you" (which in the Hebrew language meant simply "Say that 'He who is', or the eternally 'Self-Existent One' sent you." Since the Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity was equally God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the description God gave of Himself to Moses as "Jahweh", the Supreme and Self-existent Being, would have been as applicable to the Person of Christ as to the other two Persons of the Holy Trinity. For it was to the Person of Christ as Divine that St. John referred when he described Him as the "Word" who in the beginning "was with God" and who "was God", and who "was made flesh and dwelt among us." But it remains that St. John's was a human way of speaking on our level, and no indication that the Eternal Son of God had as His name the "Word of God" in heaven. All that may seem very involved. But we are dealing with a profound mystery of divine revelation, of which we have to speak in some way; and St. John's way is full of deep meaning for us, if we devote time to reflecting upon it.

106. We Christadelphians believe Christ to be the "Son of God", but not "God the Son" in a Trinitarian sense.

The admission of the New Testament term "Son of God" as applying to Christ, but with a denial that He had any existence prior to His birth of the Virgin Mary, and any nature other than the human nature common to all other human beings, does not do justice to the full teaching of the Gospels. That full teaching affirms nothing less ffian that Christ the Son of God was God the Son, by whom all things were made, and who pre-existed co-equally and co-eternally with the Father and the Holy Spirit, each of these three Divine Persons possessing one and the same Divine Nature, and each therefore being equally God. Genuine Christianity, then, holds that God the Son came into this world to live a human life on earth and give that human life as a sacrifice on the Cross for the redemption of mankind.

107. One cannot believe Christ to be the Son of God, yet to be God! He cannot be both.

In the Holy Trinity the eternal relationships between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as Persons occur within one and the same Divine Nature which all three equally possess, and each of the three, therefore is equally God. But of that mysterious doctrine we'll see more later. Let us turn to the Gospels. John, 3:16 tells us that God "so loved the world as to give His only-begotten (not 'created') Sonf" When the Second Divine Person, coming from beyond this world into this world, assumed His manhood as Christ, there dwelt among us One who was both God and man. In Him there was but one Person, that of the eternally-existing Son of God, possessing two natures, the one He had ever possessed as Uncreated and Divine, the other created and born of the Virgin Mary within the time-sequence of this world. Speaking of His personal pre-existence Christ said: "Before Abraham was, I am," Jn., 8:56; and later, in Jn., 10:30, "I and the Father are one" (meaning "One Being"). On both occasions the Jews threatened to stone Him to death because, they said, "being a man, you make yourself God." They had not misunderstood Him. Nor did St. Thomas misunderstand Him when he addressed Him with the words: "My Lord and my God." Jn., 20:28.

108. In John 14:18, Jesus said: "The Father is greater than I." That does not suggest equality with the Father.

Since in Christ there was but the one Person, He had to use the personal pronoun "I" whether referring to His Uncreated Divine Nature or and in that sense declared: "I and the Father are one". His created human nature, however, was less than the Father, and speaking in virtue of His humanity Christ said: "The Father is greater than I." All such difficulties are solved by a correct notion of Christ as "God-mademan", yet made man in such a way that He never ceased to be God. As man, in the name of all mankind He could offer reparation for the sins of men — a reparation which derived its infinite value for our salvation from the fact that by the Incarnation He was God Himself in the midst of the humanity He had come to redeem.

109. If Jesus was God, He must always have known all things.

Jesus was the name given to the child born into this world of the Virgin Mary. But that child was the Eternal Son of God who, without relinquishing His Divinity, became man and dwelt among us. Jesus was, therefore, truly God and truly man. Both aspects must be kept in mind. St. Luke, in his Gospel, gives us a glimpse of both aspects when he shows, in 2:48, that Jesus was aware of His divine origin by recording His reply to Joseph and Mary: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?"; and then, in verse 52, stresses His humanity by saying that Jesus "grew in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men." In other words, Jesus led a truly human life. When the Eternal Son of God became Incarnate, the created human nature which He made His own included an essentially finite or limited body and soul, together with a limited human intelligence and a limited human will. He was not an "omniscient" little boy, nor an "omnipotent" little boy. That is why He was able, in a human way, to learn, acquiring knowledge and growing "in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men."

110. Such teaching has one and the same Person as God knowing all things, yet as man not knowing all things. Is not that rather paradoxical?

Not in the light of the two-fold nature of Christ. We cannot hope, of course, to eliminate all elements of mystery in our efforts to understand Him. Ordinary psychology will not be of much help to us here, for our science in that field is based on the study of human beings who do not happen to be anything more than ordinary run-of-the-mill examples of created humanity. Christ was altogether unique, with no parallel in human history before or since. As a Divine Person, existing simultaneously both as God and as man, He had two sets of knowledge, that of His Uncreated Divine Intelligence and that which He acquired by His created and essentially limited human intelligence. The omniscience He had as God was an immediate comprehension of all things and not, as we might imagine, an accumulated store of human concepts and ideas; and His awareness as God of all truth did not automatically, as it were, overflow into His human intelligence with particular items of human knowledge. There is no reason for doubting that the Person of Christ could communicate His Divine knowledge as He willed to His human mind, but even such knowledge would have to be "broken down" to a created human mind's finite capacity of receiving it. There are immense problems here, for His human mind could not know by means of inadequate human ideas the higher kind of knowledge He possessed as God. But, as St. Cyril of Alexandria put it, the limitations normal to the created human nature He had assumed did not exclude His exercising of His divine prerogatives if and when He willed; although He did not normally use those in His day-to-day human activities.

111. According to Mark, 13:32, speaking of the end of the world, Christ said: "Of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Among the last words spoken by Christ to His disciples before His ascension, as translated in the "New English Bible", Acts, 1:7, were: "It is not for you to know about dates or times, which the Father has set within His own control." The whole created order of reality is subject to the will of its Creator, of whose mind and purposes created beings — even the angels — have a right only to such information as He chooses to reveal to them. The Son, in His Divine Nature and as co-equal with the Father, shared in the knowledge declared proper to the Father. But when we turn to the Son as Incarnate, that is, as made man and speaking there and then to His disciples, we have to ask how much of the Divine Knowledge had been communicated to His created human intelligence. Certainly all the revealed truth necessary for the fulfilment of His mission as Teacher and Saviour of mankind would have been transferred from the Divine Intelligence to His human mind for the purpose of instructing us on our own human level. But knowledge of the time when God intended to bring human history in the world as we know it to an end was not connected with the saving mission of the Son as Incarnate; and He could truly tell His disciples, speaking as man, that He did not know when the end would be.

112. On one occasion Jesus did not know who had touched Him and had to ask who it was (Lk., 8:45). If He were God, that would not have been necessary.

Jesus was the name of one who was man as well as God, and there were many things He did which He could not have done were He not God as well as man. Both aspects must always be kept in mind. However, in the present case, Luke 8:47 indicates that He did know who had touched Him. A sick woman had pressed through the crowd and touched the hem of His garment, believing that if she did so she would be cured. But there was a good deal of superstition mixed up with her expectation, as though just by touching His garments she would be cured as if by magic. According to St. Luke, our Lord's question made her realise that she had been discovered. St. Matthew's account, 9:22, says simply: "Jesus turning and seeing her." St. Luke continues by saying that she came forward trembling and declaring "why she had touched him." Jesus took the occasion to correct her superstition by stressing that it was her faith and not any mere contact with His garments that had won the favour for her. This case came definitely within the scope of His mission, in which, John 2:25 tells us, He "needed no one to give testimony of any man, for He knew what was in man."

113. Did the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn., 11:1-44) really happen, or was it—as has been said—a story invented as a parable to illustrate the teaching of Jesus?

The event, definitely historical, was, it is true, one of profound significance from a doctrinal point of view, But St. John certainly did not invent a non-historical episode in order to make the teachings of Christ more impressive. So many Jews came afterwards to see Lazarus out of curiosity that the chief priests, in order to prevent further possible conversions, thought to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus (Jn., 12:10). While St. John's intention was to stress the religious meaning of the miracle which brought Lazarus back from death, the symbolism of the event would have had no actual value had the event itself not been a reality

114. Why did not the first three Gospels mention so wonderful a miracle?

St. John himself gives the key to that when, at the end of his Gospel, he says that there were many other things that Jesus did, far more than could be put into writing by the evangelists. In other words, for their summary accounts, a selection of incidents had to be made; and the first three evangelists were mainly concerned with the ministry of Jesus in Galilee, not in Judea. As a matter of fact, they record two miracles of raising the dead which Jesus wrought there, that of the daughter of Jairus (Mk., 5:41) and that of the son of the widow of Nairn (Lk., 7:14). St. John, supplementing their accounts with details of the ministry in Judea, recorded the case of Lazarus which occurred there, and which was more in accord with the scope of his own Gospel.

115. What did Jesus mean when He said to Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life"?

Jesus, as the Son of the Eternal God made man, had come into this world from beyond it. He spoke of the glory He had with the Father "before the world was." Jn., 17:5. He, the Author of life, came that we might have life "and have it more abundantly" (Jn., 10:10); that is, more abundantly than our parents could give it, something over and above merely natural life — a supernatural, spiritual and eternal life. He Himself is the source of that kind of life. We derive it from Him. It is a fact now in those who belong to and are spiritually united with Him; and this will be manifest both physically and spiritually when our bodies are reunited with our souls in the resurrection on the Last Day. Physical death for a Christian, then, is not of any real importance. The spiritual life in the soul is independent of that and will continue as if physical death had not happened at all. Here we see the significance of the resurrection of Lazarus as associated with the teaching of Jesus on the occasion of it. For the miracle showed the power of Jesus over death, and that the physical death of the body will be no obstacle to its resurrection by divine power to the higher order of reality awaiting us in eternity— a promise the fulfilment of which we will owe to Christ who rightly said, both of Himself and for us: "I am the resurrection and the life."

116. Was it not strange teaching that if one hates not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, and his own life also, he cannot be Christ's disciple? (Lk., 14:26).

To understand such teaching one must take into account the setting in which it was given and the actual sense intended. As regards the setting, the preceding verse (25) tells us that a great crowd had followed Jesus and were gathered about Him. Many were probably there out of curiosity, having seen or heard of miracles He had wrought, or because they admired Him for His love of the poor, or because they were fascinated by His remarkable teaching ability. But to be moved by curiosity, to be filled with admiration, to be spell-bound while hearing His words — these things were not enough; and, as He often did, He took this opportunity of telling them in a startling and challenging way that the condition of their becoming actually His disciples was that they must rise above all natural ties and all forms of self-interest that would stand in the way of their doing so. He left it to their common sense to grasp the meaning of His words. His reference to "hating" was not concerned with feelings or emotions or ill-will to be entertained towards others. The question was one of conflicting claims. Should anyone allow the love of his nearest and dearest relatives or even of his own life itself to prevail over the claims of Christ upon him, then he is not fit to be a disciple of Christ. That was a tremendous utterance and would, of course, have been outrageous in anyone not conscious of possessing rights over us which only God Himself can claim.

117. Were Christ God as well as man, how could He cry out on the Cross: "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?" Matt., 27:46.

Firstly, Christ could not possibly have meant that God had really forsaken Him, for when actually dying He said: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." Lk., 23:46. Secondly, the words He used could not refer to any experience in the Divine Nature which He shared with the Eternal Father as Second Person of the Holy Trinity; they could refer only to an experience proper to the created human nature in which He was redeeming mankind. What was that experience? It was the experience described in Psalm 21 (Ps. 22 of the Authorised Version), for the words He uttered were the opening words of that psalm. The sufferings and the dispositions of the psalmist himself were really a prediction or foreshadowing of His own. When we turn to Psalm 21, we find that it consists of two parts, in the first of which (verses 1-21) the psalmist addresses God in an extreme distress to which God has abandoned him, but in which God has not abandoned him. In the second half of the psalm (verses 22 to the end), the psalmist expresses his continued confidence in God, thanksgiving for his deliverance and happiness that through his sufferings all nations will be blessed and God Himself glorified. So there is no trace of despair in the psalm itself; and no trace of despair or of actual abandonment by God in the words taken from the psalm and used by Christ on Calvary. Seen in its proper context, therefore, the cry expresses a sense of dereliction as part of the sufferings of the passion of Christ, with no loss of confidence and trust in God's protection during affliction but rather with a certainty of eventual deliverance.

118. Your references to the Trinity make me ask: Who is the God we are supposed to worship?

In the Apostles' Creed we say: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." He is our Maker, as well as of all else in this universe, although among material beings man alone can be articulate in proclaiming the fact. True, God is an invisible Spirit, not a visible material being like the created things around us. But in addition to such knowledge of Him as is possible to reason alone, God Himself has told us much of His nature and purposes by divine revelation in both the Old and the New Testaments. "God is a Spirit", Jesus told the Samaritan woman, "and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." Jn., 4.24. Moreover, God is our Father, the very source of our existence by creation, who, although omnipresent or allpervasive throughout creation and full of love for us, is yet transcendent or distinct from the created universe by nature, infinitely exceeding in perfection all His creatures taken together, a fact stressed by declaring Him to be in heaven and not of earth. Finally, to Him we are answerable for the way we live in this world. Such is the God we are obliged to acknowledge in word and in deed, reverencing Him and manifesting our love for Him by trying to fulfil His will in all that we do.

119. Are there really three Divine Beings or just One?

There is but one Divine Being. Christians are monotheists, holding firmly to the doctrine that there is but one God. But the one Godhead or Divine Nature is threefold as regards personality. There are three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, equally possessing one and the same Divine Nature. This means trinitarian monotheism, admittedly a great mystery to us, for where human beings are concerned we experience in each case one human nature and one person, never three persons possessing one and the same human nature. But although the Christian doctrine involves a mystery, it does not involve a contradiction. We do not say that there is one God, yet three Gods; nor that there are three Divine Persons, yet only one Divine Person. The mystery of the Trinity means that God is a "Tri-unity", relatively three from a personal point of view, absolutely one as regards Divinity.

120. What basis is there in Scripture for the doctrine of the Trinity?

All passages in the New Testament where it is emphasised that there is but one God, yet where references are made separately to the Father, or to the Son existing before the creation of the world and forming a unity with the Father, or to the Holy Spirit as equally personal, all three equally possessing the atrributes proper to the one God. For instance, in announcing the birth of Christ, the angel said to the Virgin Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and the Holy (one) which shall be born of you will be called the Son of God." Lk., 1:35. The association of the Father-Son reference and also of the Holy Spirit with the power of the Most High is indication enough of a Trinity of Persons in God. Again, at the baptism of Jesus by John, the Spirit of God is manifested as descending upon Jesus and the voice of the Father is heard, saying: "This is my beloved Son." Still later, at the Last Supper, Jesus said: "I am in the Father and the Father in me . . . and He will give you another Comforter that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth." Jn., 14:11, 16. These and many other references culminated in the final commission to the apostles, bidding them go and teach all nations, "baptising them in the name" (the one name, not "names") "of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Matt., 28:19. All three Divine Persons are equally God as regards possession of one and the same Divine Nature — a truth expressed by the term "Trinity".

121. When was the doctrine as such instituted?

The doctrine is contained in the New Testament. We could know of it only by divine revelation, since God alone could tell of His own inner nature and life. Of necessity, the formulation of the truth in theological terms came later, as thinking men pondered over the doctrine, trying to understand its significance more deeply. The early Christian writer Tertullian (160-220 A.D.) was the first to use the actual word "Trinity" to express the tri-unity of three Divine Persons possessing one and the same Divine Nature or as equally being the one God.

122. When was the doctrine accepted by the Church?

From the very beginning, although later attempts to formulate and explain it were accepted by the Church as correct or rejected as false when they came along. St. Paul, in 2 Cor., 13-13, written at least ten years before the Gospels, embodied the doctrine in his formula of blessing: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all". One of the earliest Christian writings, the "Didache", about 90 A.D., recorded as the baptismal formula to be used the words given in Matt., 28:19. When the Arian heretics in 320 A.D. denied the Divinity of Christ, the Council of Nicea, 325 A.D., defined as an Article of Faith that the Person of Christ is truly God, consubstantial with the Father and equally possessing the Godhead with Him. In 381 A.D., the Council of Constantinople defined a similar doctrine about the Holy Spirit, to exclude other errors that had arisen. So the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was formulated and accepted throughout the whole Church, a doctrine of the Living God constituted as the First Person of an Eternal Father expressing Himself in a Second Person of the Eternal Son, the Infinite Love between them forming a Third Eternal Person as the Holy Spirit. There is no question here, of course, of a chronological succession of one Person after another. The relationships are eternally simultaneous even as it is of the very Nature of God Himself to be eternal.

123. You have said the coming of the Son of God into this world as man for our redemption fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. Yet Father J. L. McKenzie says, in his "Bible Dictionary", p. 698: "It is a common misconception of Old Testament prophecy that it means prediction."

The context of his article on prophecy shows that he means "exclusively" prediction. He holds that the whole pattern of Old Testament history was prophetic of a Saviour to come. He was aware, however, of passages some interpreters mistakenly thought to be predictive through reading back into them meanings they did not actually contain. But in spite of such instances it would be too much to say that Old Testament prophecy did not mean prediction. In the non-Catholic "Peake's (Revised) Commentary on the Bible" (1962), Dr. Muilenburg, in his article "Old Testament Prophecy", p.476, writes: "The prophet, be it noted, speaks of the future as well as of the present. The notion commonly held in the past that the prophets did not predict or foretell events is contradicted by every prophet whose words have been preserved."

124. Do non-Catholic biblical scholars support Father McKenzie?

In the general sense of his article, yes. An outstanding non- Catholic, Dr. H. H. Rowley, Professor of Hebrew at Manchester University, says in his book "The Re-Discovery of the Old Testament", p.95: "In modern times the predictive element in their work" (i.e., of the Old Testament prophets) "has been denied or minimised, and they have been hailed as preachers of righteousness, social reformers, or statesmen. That may in some measure be true, but these functions were only incidental to their true mission. Prediction seems to have been rather more fundamental to their mission. Deuteronomy declares that he whose prediction is fulfilled can alone be accepted" (for) "the prophet is one who predicts. Similarly, Deutero-Isaiah points to the fulfilment of prophecy as the basis of trust in the message he brings." St. Augustine pointed out centuries ago, in his commentary "On Exodus", n.17, that a prophet was but "an announcer of God's word to men." But, as should be clear, all depended on what God's word was about. Admittedly, it was about contemporary problems, consisting of denunciations of current abuses and exhortations urging Israel to return to genuine religion and morality. But it would be wrong to make that the only interpretation of prophecy, to the exclusion of prediction. Isaiah, 42:9, records God's word to him: "New things do I declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them."

125. The New Testament quotes prophecies about Christ centuries before he was born.

It rightly does so. For Israel, as God's chosen people, was intended to be a preparation for the coming of a promised Messiah, which we know to have occurred in the Incarnation. In the messages of the prophets of old, therefore, God included, either explicitly or implicitly, and whether the prophets themselves were fully aware of their significance or not — which is of no great importance — many references to the future life and redemptive work of Christ, and to our own future destinies in the light of that life and work. Jesus Himself, in the synagogue at Nazareth, quoting to the Jews the words of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; wherefore He has anointed me to preach the gospel" (Is., 61:1), declared them to be a prediction of Himself, saying: "This day is fulfilled this scripture in your ears." Lk., 4:21. It remains, then, that the Christian appeal to the Old Testament prophecies is valid, and indeed very impressive, granted a serious and impartial study of them and of their subsequent fulfilment.

126. If the predictions of their own prophets were fulfilled in Christ, why did not the Jews themselves recognise the fact instead of rejecting his claims?

Not all Jews rejected Him. St. Mark, 12:37, tells us that "the people heard him gladly." He made an immense impression upon them. They were His people. He was born among them and in a special way for them, fulfilling the promises of their religion about the Messiah to come. He restricted to them His own public ministry while on earth, saying that He was not sent except to the house of Israel (Matt., 15:24). The twelve apostles He chose were all Jews, as were His thousands of converts. To speak of thousands is not an exaggeration. St. Paul could write that after His resurrection Jesus appeared on one occasion in Galilee to more than five hundred of His disciples at once (I Cor., 15:6). It was only after the Sanhedrin, the highest governing body of the Jews, consisting of 71 members drawn from the high priests, the scribes or lawyers (most of them Pharisees) and the elders or educated laity, had officially rejected Him, that full effect was given to His universal mission by the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, and by the commanding of the apostles to preach the gospel to all nations (Matt., 28:19).

127. Why did the learned members of the Sanhedrin, Israel's official leaders, fail to recognise Christ as the Messiah of their prophecies?

Because they brought such worldly ambitions and vested selfinterests to the reading of those prophecies that they were really looking for someone else altogether, an imaginary Messiah to whom Jesus bore no resemblance. They were expecting another David, another earthly king, another ruler of a restored Israel in this world. For them, the predicted "Day of Judgment" meant doom for the surrounding heathen nations and their own triumphant prosperity in a kind of Utopia on earth. But God had never promised such a Utopia; and in view of the false hopes they had built up, the gospel Christ preached of a kingdom of God based on supernatural faith, heavenly hopes, and an all-consuming love of God issuing in the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount as one's rule of life, was quite alien to their way of thinking. In view of the growing popular enthusiasm, the Sanhedrin had the choice either of accepting Him or of getting rid of Him. Jesus knew the choice they would make, quoting to His disciples the telling expressions of Isaiah 6:9 that they see, yet see not; hear, yet hear not, for their hearts are hardened. Otherwise they might see and hear and be converted, and I would heal them (Matt., 13:13-15). St. Paul, however, tells us in Romans, chapter eleven, that God has not irrevocably cast off the Jews and that their failure to live up to His original choice of them will not be permanent. The day will come when all of them will accept Christ as did the apostles and the first disciples, forming with Christians the true "Israel" or "People of God".

128. In Luke, 13:23-24, Jesus, who had spoken of the kingdom of God, was asked whether those who are saved will be few; but He merely replied: "Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many will seek to enter and will not be able."

From verses 18 to 30 of the chapter you mention Jesus was speaking of the kingdom of God as the messianic kingdom He had come to establish on earth as a means of salvation for all who would become faithful members of it. In v. 19 He gave a parable likening it to a tiny mustard seed, growing into a great tree. In v.21 He compared it with leaven affecting the whole loaf of bread by its penetrating influence. In vv.23-30 He gave a parable about the relationship of the Jews to the messianic kingdom He was putting before them. In it He predicted the refusal of the Jews as a people through their official leaders to comply with His invitation, and spoke of their shock on seeing many "from the east and the west, from the north and the south", that is, the Gentiles, enjoying the inheritance of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the messianic kingdom predicted in the Old Testament, with themselves excluded from it. This recalls John the Baptist's warning to the Jews: "Say not, we have Abraham for our father. I tell you God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham." Matt., 3:9. Quite likely, when the man put the question in v.23: "Lord, are they few that are saved?" the sense was: "Will Israel as a whole or only a remnant find entrance into the kingdom you preach?" And we have seen our Lord's answer to that. If the man's question be interpreted as referring to ultimate salvation in the kingdom of heaven's final and eternal fulfilment, then Jesus by-passed it, refusing to say what proportion of humanity will attain to final salvavation, merely bidding His listeners to make sure that they at least chose the way leading to it.

129. To say the least, Jesus was asking the Jews to accept a new religion, understandably a hard choice to make.

He was offering them the development of the Jewish religion into what God intended it to become. Of its very nature the Jewish religion was one which looked forward to a future fulfilment in the advent of the Messiah. From Abraham came a special people chosen by God to prepare for a special event, the coming of the Saviour of mankind. In Christ, God Himself came into our history as a dramatic fulfilment of His promises of old. So our Lord said He had come, not to destroy, but to fulfil the law and the prophets (Matt., 5:17). What He established was really the continued community of God's chosen people. It is true that He gave new teachings, prescribed new ways of worship, and instituted a new authority. But this meant not so much a new religion as the predicted development of the Jewish religion, of which only particular, imperfect and preparatory elements were abolished. Our Christian history, therefore, goes right back to Abraham. It includes the liberation of God's people from slavery in Egypt by Moses, and all else which paved the way for Christ, the real liberator from the slavery of sin. It was for us that God called our father Abraham. To us He sent the prophets of old and finally John the Baptist who was the immediate fore-runner of Christ whom we accept as our Saviour, into whose life we are incorporated by baptism, and in, with and through whom we should try to live as the "People of God".

130. Christians hold that they are no longer bound by laws in the Old Testament which the New Testament declares to have been made "void" and "abolished".

That is true as regards particular observances proper to the Law of Moses, which had been binding upon the Jews. So St. Paul wrote to the Romans, in 10:4, that "the law came to an end with Christ, and everyone who has faith (in Him) may be justified." Earlier, in 6:15, he wrote: "We are not under the law but under grace." In 2 Cor., 3:7-14, expressly referring to the law of Moses, he said this law had been made "void" or "done away". Christ fulfilled the prediction of Jeremiah 31:31, that God would give Israel "a new Covenant not according to the Covenant He made with their fathers." Israel of old consisted of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The new Covenant given in Christ extended "Israel" or the "People of God" to all believers in the Gospel, to whatever nation they might belong, even though they were not actual descendants of Abraham. In place of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Christ founded His new covenanted people on His own chosen Twelve Apostles and said to them: "You shall sit on twelve seats, judging the tribes of Israel" (Matt., 19:28), a symbolical way of saying that Israel of old would yield place to the New Israel which God had intended it to become. This really fulfilled God's promise to Abraham that in him "shall all nations be blessed" (Gen., 18:18).

131. Where do Christians stand now in regard to the Old Testament?

They accept both the Old and the New Testaments as the inspired Word of God. The Old Testament contains a history of God's religious dealings with mankind prior to the coming of Christ. There we have accounts of God's promises to and Covenants with Adam, Abraham, Jacob whose twelve sons gave rise to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and above all with Moses. In these Covenants there were laws adapted to different periods, being particularly detailed in the Mosaic Code of legal and ritual obligations. These are no longer in force under the New Law of the Gospel of Christ. But there is much else in the Old Testament, such as the messages of the prophets, religious teachings of the highest importance, many inspired hymns and prayers which Christians find a great aid to piety. Above all, however, we find the history of God's plan for our salvation and of His activities during its different preparatory stages — a plan ever developing yet ever the same which Christ came "not to destroy but to fulfil". We Christians should remember that the New Testament speaks of Abraham as our father. His history and the history of the inheritance promised to him and in which we share is our history also. So we see in the Old Testament an account of what in times past God has done for us. That cannot be nullified like the various incidental and provisionary laws adapted to prevailing circumstances; and we treasure the Old Testament together with the New Testament which fulfils and completes it.

132. Romans 3:23 declares that there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, since all have sinned and fallen short of the justice of God.

St. Paul, after admitting that the Jews had indeed been privileged as God's Chosen People and the recipients of His messages through the prophets, was stressing that as regards the basic need of redemption there was no distinction between Jews and Gentiles because all were equally members of a fallen human race; that is, fallen into a state of sinful estrangement from God and at variance with His purposes. From this disaster human beings could not redeem themselves, their only hope of salvation being found in Christ. St. Paul saw Adam as the constituted head of the human race, so that there is a real moral unity or solidarity of all mankind in him; and with Adam all human beings fell from a state of grace into a state of sin. So, in Rom., 5:12, he writes: "As by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death, so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned." In 1 Cor., 15:22 he writes: "As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive." St. Paul had in mind a corporate racial sinfulness affecting all humanity. Cardinal Newman, in his clear and masterly style, wrote in his "Apologia" (1864) that the history of humanity through all the centuries forced him to conclude that "either there is no Creator, or this living society of men is in a true sense discarded from His presence. Did I see a boy of good make and mind, with the tokens on him of a refined nature, cast upon the world without provision, unable to say whence he came, his birthplace or his family connections, I should conclude that there was some mystery connected with his history, and that he was one of whom, for one cause or another, his parents were ashamed. Thus only should I be able to account for the contrast between the promise and the contrast of his being. And so I argue about the world; — if there be a God, since there is a God, the human race is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity. It is out of joint with the purposes of its Creator. This is a fact, a fact as true as the fact of its existence; and thus the doctrine of what is theologically called original sin becomes to me almost as certain as that the world exists."

133. Do Catholic theologians today accept such an explanation?

All do, except a few widely-publicised theorists who do not like the idea of a primitive calamity affecting the whole human race. These theorists agree that there is no Christianity which does not acknowledge a universal sinfulness requiring as a remedy the Incarnation and a Redemption wrought by Christ on Calvary. But they suggest that we do not know how sin began. They accept the theory of man's origin by evolution, not in a single couple, but in an emerging group of many human beings. Perhaps, they say, owing to the limitations of human nature, a sinful misuse of freewill was inevitable, God tolerating this in view of a greater eventual good. Everyone, as a consequence, has always been born into a perverted environment, with a tendency to sin by imitating others or by their contagious influence, but not inheriting any sinful state from an individual parent of the human race. In this sense, there would have been no "Fall" as commonly understood, and no transmission of sin from an "Adam" to his posterity. It would be better, according to these theorists, to speak, not of being born in "original sin", but rather of being born "into the sin of the world". They interpret St. Paul as having wanted only to preach Christ as our Saviour, merely using the Genesis story as an illustration of Him as the Head of the redeemed human race, without intending to affirm any actual truth historically in the Old Testament account of the "symbolical" Adam. Such, briefly, is the general theory of these new theologians. But in July, 1966, a Convention of Theologians met in Rome to discuss the whole subject, Pope Paul VI himself giving them an initial address. He encouraged them to study the problem of original sin more deeply, trying to get the best theological explanation possible, but not at the expense of religious truths known by divine revelation and guaranteed by Scripture, by Christian tradition, by the definitions of the Councils of Carthage (418 A.D.), Orange (529 A.D.), and Trent (1546 A.D.), and by the declarations of both Pius XII in his Encyclical "Humani Generis" (1950) and of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). According to these sources mentioned by the Pope there was a fall from God's grace at the beginning of man's history, with a privation of it affecting all human beings and inherited by way of propagation, not merely lost by later individuals through imitation of others or by contagion from a perverted environment; and no new theories which do not fit in with this can be regarded as acceptable. It scarcely needs saying that Catholics do not look to tentative opinions of speculative theologians instead of to the authoritative teachings of the Church in order to find out what the authentic Catholic doctrine really is. Father A. M. Dubarle's comment (Q.33 above) is relevant here. Personally, priests when vesting for Mass need make no reservations in saying the appointed liturgical prayer: "Restore to me, 0 Lord, the raiment of immortality forfeited by the sin of my first parent; and although unworthy to approach your sacred mystery, may 1 be found worthy of eternal happiness."

134. Was the whole work of our redemption accomplished by the sufferings of Christ on the Cross?

The redemptive work of Christ, considered in itself, cannot be exclusively restricted to the sufferings of His passion and eventual death on the Cross. Every single action of His whole life from the moment of His conception right through until His resurrection and ascension into heaven contributed towards our redemption. St. Paul, speaking of the ascension in Eph., 4:8, says that "ascending on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." All taken collectively came within the scope of God's great gift of His only-begotten Son, as St. John puts it, "that the world might be saved through him." Jn., 3:17. But while redemption cannot be exclusively restricted to the passion and death of Christ, it can be in a special way attributed to that passion and death since, in God's plan, they constituted the principal element in the redemptive work, all else having value as centred in them and taken together with them. So Christ Himself stressed as the main feature of His life on earth: "The Son of Man is come to give His life, a ransom for many." Matt., 20:28.

135. Since ail three Persons of the Trinity are equally God, when God the Son died on the Cross for our redemption, did God the Father and God the Holy Spirit also die?

God, as God, cannot die. But when God the Son became incarnate, so that under the name of Jesus Christ He not only possessed as God the uncreated Divine Nature but also possessed as man a created human nature born of the Virgin Mary, He could allow that human nature to be put to death on the Cross. Since, in Christ, one and the same Divine Person possessed two natures, the Divine and human, it can be said that the Second Divine Person, or God the Son, gave, not His Divine Life, but His human life on the Cross for the salvation of mankind. And as only God the Son, not God the Father and not God the Holy Spirit, became man in the incarnation, the death in His human nature which is true of God the Son cannot be equally ascribed to God the Father and to God the Holy Spirit. We must keep in mind that God the Son, after the incarnation — and only God the Son — was both true God and true man. As God, He could not die; as man, He could.

136. As an unbeliever, but not inhuman, I am utterly repelled by your doctrine that God should decree the suffering of the innocent for the guilty, even sentencing to death one whom you declare to be "his own beloved son!"

Here we can only ask unbelievers to try at least to see the Christian position in the light of Christian principles and agree that it makes some kind of sense in view of those even if to unbelievers themselves, not accepting those principles, the doctrine seems absurd or even a travesty of justice. St. Paul knew that the doctrine would appear to be nonsense to those not having faith in the divinely-revealed truth on which it is based. "We preach Christ crucified," he wrote, "to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles folly; but (to us) the power of God and the wisdom of God." I Cor., 1:23.

137. The very idea of "Supreme Innocence" suffering and dying on a cross can only appear to most thinking people as a mockery of justice and a hideous distortion of love.

The mockery of justice and the distortion of love or charity was on the part of men. But God's allowing the event that shocks you to happen was, in fact, the supreme vindication of justice and manifestation of charity. For on the Cross the supremely innocent Christ was voluntarily undertaking to repair all mockeries of justice and distortions of charity of which men have at any time been guilty — including those involved in putting Him to death. There was nothing vindictive in God's permission of this. His motive was solely the objective ideal of justice which demands that violated moral order should be repaired. As only one of infinite dignity could make adequate reparation for offences against an Infinite Majesty, God "so loved the world as to give His onlybegotten Son." Jn., 3:16. So justice and love blended. Christ, being God, could make that adequate reparation. Being man, He could make it as representative of men on whom, as the ones guilty of sin, the obligation of expiating moral evil necessarily fell. On Calvary, God did not punish Christ instead of guilty men. He accepted Christ's voluntary sacrifice on behalf of guilty men with whom, as man, He had identified Himself. In Christ "humanity" repaired "humanity's" evil work; and those saved will find themselves in heaven by a supreme act of God's mercy with all obligations of justice fulfilled, not with eternally unpaid debts. One must see the problem, not partially and superficially, but completely, taking all aspects of it into consideration.

138. Granted its significance, the fact of Christ's death is within our reach. But Christianity demands that we accept also as a fact that "on the third day He rose again from the dead."

You imply that here is a fact — if it be a fact — which is not within our reach; but that is only a half-truth. In general, however, before dealing with particular difficulties, it is worth noting that it is far easier to admit the resurrection of Christ than to explain the historical fact of Christianity without such a resurrection. Christ was put to death, and the hopes of His disciples died with Him. Had He stayed dead, His religion would have remained dead also. A new experience of Him as having risen from the tomb was necessary to compensate for the apparently disastrous ending of His earthly career. That experience was granted to His apostles and as new men with incredible courage and energy they set about establishing the religion of Christ which is with us to this day.

139. Could you name any scientific historians who class the resurrection of Christ as a historical fact as certain as any other historical fact of the period?

Any who would do so would not be conforming to the rules of scientific history as we understand that expression. The scientific historian deals only with observable events naturally verifiable by the average man not possessing special and supernatural means of knowledge. At most, where the resurrection of Christ is concerned, historians interested in the subject can record that the apostles proclaimed as a fact that they had met and conversed with the living risen Christ, after the tomb in which He had been buried had been found empty. What we must realise is that, although the time and place of Christ's death and burial, and the finding of the empty tomb three days later, belong to history, there was a non-historical element in the actual resurrection itself which was strangely in the world's history, yet not of the world's history. Although linked with this world as we know it, the resurrection confronts us with a kind of "fourth dimension" transcending it.

140. Why do scientific historians by-pass the resurrection of Christ?

Because of the non-historical element I have mentioned. The resurrection of Christ was not like that of Lazarus in the presence of witnesses, and who was restored to life in this world under the same conditions as before, his crowds of visitors being duly reported to the Sanhedrin (Jn., 21:9). No human being in this world saw the resurrection of Christ actually occur. As for what did occur, St. Paul gives us a clue in I Cor., 15:44 where, speaking of the mystery of our own bodily death and future resurrection, he says: "It is sown a natural body: it shall rise a spiritual body." As our bodily resurrection will be like that of Christ, His was as ours will be. Had we been in the sepulchre at the moment of the resurrection, we would not have seen Him begin living again as He had been in this world before His death, rise to His feet from the place where His body had been laid, and walk out of the tomb. His body suddenly underwent a mysterious change, its material substance becoming "spiritualised" and receiving a new and supernatural mode of being. Having become reunited with the soul He had commended into His Father's keeping, His body made a transition from this world to higher invisible realms of existence. Had we been present and were we historians, what would we be able to record of our experience? Only that, as we stood and watched, the grave clothes had suddenly subsided but had remained otherwise undisturbed, showing that the body which had unaccountably disappeared had not been removed by other people entering the tomb to take it away.

141. What is the attitude of serious unbiased historians?

There are many departments of history. Historians who, whether Christian or non-Christian, are sufficiently versed in biblical critical studies, agree that the resurrection of Christ can be neither affirmed nor denied in the name of strictly scientific history. All admit that the apostles confidently proclaimed the resurrection of Christ, demanding faith in it on the basis of the fulfilment of biblical prophecies and on their own experiences as first-hand witnesses to whom He had appeared. But the historical admission that the apostles did this cannot take one so far that he does not have to make an act of faith with the help of God's grace in the actual and mysterious event of Christ's resurrection. Unbelieving historians would say — and rightly from their point of view — that if the resurrection actually occurred, it would be so outside the course of natural events that it would be beyond the scope of scientific historical investigation; and that, lacking faith, they have no choice but to leave it as an unsolved problem. Historians who are believing Christians agree that, as a mystery of faith, the resurrection cannot be proved by merely scientific research. A profound study of history may make a good historian, but it will not necessarily make a Christian. It cannot give faith. But this does not mean, at the other extreme, that the resurrection was non-historical. It involved the intervention of God in the natural and historical order of this world with which we are familiar, but with results in another order of reality beyond our comprehension. We follow such historical evidence as does exist as far as we can, only to find ourselves on the borderland between what we can discover for ourselves and what we must accept by faith. If men reject faith in the resurrection of Christ, not historical reasons, but other factors altogether account for their doing so.

142. Surely if Christ rose from the dead He is certainly God, as we declare Him to be.

That is true; and the reasons why those who lack faith in Christ as God, lack faith also in His resurrection. If unbelievers could prove that the resurrection did not occur, then, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians "our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain;" and we are "false witnesses" (I Cor., 15:14). But there is no historical evidence that it did not occur, as there would have been had the Jewish rulers been able to produce the dead body of the supposedly risen Christ. But that they could not do. Meantime, there are sound reasons which, while they do not compel faith, do prove that believers are not victims of credulity. Firstly, the apostles unanimously proclaimed the truth of the resurrection and of Christ's repeated appearances to them. It is to be noted that these appearances were to men whose hopes had been shattered and who were not expecting them; that they spoke of them in the language of absolute conviction; and that they were so changed by them from their previous timidity that all were prepared to die as martyrs for the truth of them. Secondly, all four evangelists record the fact that Christ's tomb was found empty on the third day after His death. Had it not been empty the apostles could, of course, easily have been refuted. Jewish leaders had recourse to spreading the story that the disciples had removed and hidden the body. But in that case the apostles would have themselves known that Christ had not risen and would not have been so foolish as to die for a useless lie. Thirdly, if all had ended with Christ's death there would be no two-thousand-years'-old Christian Church with us to this day, owing its origin, expansion and persistence to the faith preached by the apostles. The resurrection of Christ was, therefore, a reality, not created by faith but providing for our faith as reasonable a foundation as one could rightly expect.

143. Why is it that historians, writing as historians, never seem to commit themselves as to whether the resurrection actually occurred or not?

Because historians, as historians, are not engaged in writing an account of their personal religious convictions. What can be said is that the historian who is personally a Christian and who believes in the actual resurrection of Christ has a key which enables him to bridge the apparent gap in history during the fifty days between the death of Christ and the proclamation of the resurrection-gospel by the apostles on the first Pentecost Sunday of the Christian era. But the historian who lacks that faith has to resign himself to not being able to bridge that gap, saying that he does not know what happened as an alternative to the account of the various appearances of Christ given by the apostles themselves.

144. Where did our Lord's ascension take place, in Galilee or in Judea?

It occurred in Judea, not in Galilee. In Acts, 1:3, St. Luke tells us that to His apostles our Lord "showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God." The many appearances during forty days clearly left room for their occurrence now in Judea, now in Galilee, both of which localities are mentioned in the Gospels. But in Acts, 1:12, St. Luke makes it clear that the final appearance occurred in Judea, concluding with the ascension of our Lord into heaven from Mt. Olivet, the apostles returning from there to Jerusalem, a walk "within a sabbath day's journey"; that is, about six furlongs or three-quarters of a mile, the distance permissible on a Jewish sabbath.

145. Acts 1:9 says that, as the apostles looked on, "he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." In other words, he ascended bodily. Are we to believe that he defied the laws of gravitation? And where did his body go?

His body certainly did not continue going up and up in any geographical or astronomical sense! What did happen? In the resurrection, His body had undergone a transformation elevating it to a state of existence transcending our earth-bound conditions of space and time (See n.140 above). When the cloud received Him out of the sight of the apostles, He simply dissociated His body from our visible material world, resuming the conditions of the invisible realms of reality then normal to Him. To understand this we have to think, not in terms of measurable distance, but in terms of difference between modes or ways of existing. The risen body of Christ was free from its former earthly limitations, conforming to natural physical laws only to the degree in which He willed it to do so. For example, before the resurrection, it would have been abnormal for Jesus to render His body invisible and intangible; after the resurrection, the abnormal thing was to render it visible and tangible. John, 8:59 tells us that when the Jews took up stones to stone Him, He "hid himself and passed through their midst." If, as some commentators hold, He then rendered Himself invisible, that would be the miracle. On the other hand, it was a miracle in the opposite direction when He suddenly appeared after His resurrection, rendering Himself visible and standing among the disciples when they were gathered together in a room for fear of the Jews, the doors being shut (Jn., 20:19).

146. How do you explain His appearances to His disciples?

In each of His intermittent appearances to them, He returned from the spiritual and heavenly realms to which He belonged even bodily from the moment of the resurrection, rendering Himself visible once more on their own level. He thus kept His promise made to them during His last discourse to them immediately before His passion and death: "I go away, but I will return to you." Jnv 14:28. Each manifestation of Himself to them during the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension was such a return. The various appearances were not merely subjective impressions caused by the disciples' own imaginations. The manifestations were objective and supernaturally caused actualisations of Himself as they had known Him. On the occasion of the last of these, He ascended visibly above the levels of earth before their eyes, until a cloud formed beneath Him, removing Him from their sight. This ascent symbolised His final transition to the different, higher and invisible sphere of existence that was already His by virtue of His resurrection- transformation; and they understood that it was the last of His appearances to them. But before departing from them, He gave them two vitally important instructions. Firstly, the messianic kingdom as understood by the Jews was not about to be realised according to the wrong ideas they had about it. The disciples were to return to Jerusalem and await further enlightenment from the coming of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the mission they would receive would not be restricted to Israel, but extended to the whole world. Conscious of a mission they had to accomplish and of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit awaiting them, fortified also by the parting blessing Jesus had bestowed upon them, the disciples "returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Lk., 24:52), an enthusiasm and gladness quite inexplicable had they not been returning there from a very real experience indeed.

147. Although an agnostic, I have read and appreciated Father Teilhard de Chardin's book "The Phenomenon of Man", with its original ideas and new scientific terms to explain man's evolution.

The late Father Teilhard de Chardin S.J. would have been pleased to hear of your interest, but not so much of its impact upon you. Having devoted a lifetime to a scientific study of palaeontology and kindred subjects, he believed he had found a way towards reconciling science but the "whole of creation" (Rom., 8:19) is tending towards a final perfection in Christ. Scientists, Teilhard argued, being firmly convinced that all visible things are the result of evolution, should find no difficulty in the idea of an evolutionary process of the whole material universe towards an eternal destiny in Christ and under the guidance of Christ. And this would mean that science and religion, far from being opposed to each other, should be accepted as completing each other. In the first and main section of his book, therefore, he dealt with man as a "phenomenon"; that is, simply as an observable object in this world, adapted to the scrutiny of scientists and philosophers. In doing so, in order to express what he believed to be his own new insights into man's evolutionary development, he invented many new terms and expressions which you find so fascinating. But you should not overlook the "Epilogue" in the last few pages of the book containing his religious reflections and which he entitled "The Christian Phenomenon."

148. For Teilhard, there is only one way for mankind, that of the evolutionary process according to nature's laws until we are all one in the universal mind or "noosphere", which he called "Point Omega".

Father de Chardin held that this material universe began at what he called "Point Alpha" as a result of a creative act by God. Only after evolving for millions of years did it produce and fit this earth to be a biosphere of plant and animal life, and, with the emergence of man, to be the source of conscious thought and of human personalisation. As a Christian, he believed that the Christ who was born in Bethlehem was indeed the Word Incarnate, God-made-man. But he also spoke of Christ — not of the "noosphere" — as the "Point Omega" of the whole evolutionary process, and of His origin among mankind as a "Christogenesis", not as a coming into this world from beyond it, but as an anticipated consummation of cosmic evolution operating from within it in order to help it towards its eternal destiny. The ambiguity of that explanation, which seemed to reduce the supernatural to the merely natural order, making Christ Himself a product of the evolutionary process, led to doubts about Father de Chardin's Christian orthodoxy. Even his words in the "Epilogue" that Christ occupies the centre of the "spiritually- converging world", and that "the redeeming Incarnation is the most realistic and cosmic of all men's faiths and hopes", did not dispel all misgivings. So we find him writing to reassure the Father-General of the Jesuits: "I am irretrievably bound to the Christ of the Gospels."

149. Too many, in my opinion, are living in the "noosphere" of the first century.

The "noosphere" was a de Chardin flight of fancy. Just as the air forms the atmosphere surrounding the earth, so Father de Chardin mentally pictured the multiplication of human beings as forming by thenconstant thinking a dense intellectual mind-sphere or "noosphere" ("nous" being Greek for "mind") enveloping our planet. Your present point, however, is that as a religionless agnostic you think people should by now have outgrown belief in Christianity. Yet, for all your admiration of some of Father de Chardin's ideas, you are at variance with him here. As a matter of fact, one of his own great desires had been to die on the day of Christ's resurrection, which meant so much to him. He was granted that wish. He offered Mass on the morning of Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, in New York, U.S.A., dying later that same day. Unless you could have assisted at that Mass with the same faith as his, he would regard your mind as poles apart from his.

150. To me, your explanations show you cannot at present tune into the same wave-length from the "noosphere" as Bertrand Russell, Julian Huxley and myself.

A "noosphere" from which we can derive ideas by tuning into it does not exist. In any case, the same "noosphere" could not be providing yourself with a kind of half-truth and myself with a kind of half-truth in this matter by different wave-lengths; for our positions are straightout contradictions. I believe firmly in the Divinity of Christ who was born into this world of the Blessed Virgin Mary for our redemption but who, before the Incarnation, existed and ever continues existing as the Eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. That doctrine Bertrand Russell, Julian Huxley and yourself reject as quite false. Nor, despite the difficulties in which Father Teilhard de Chardin became involved in his efforts to blend a scientific evolutionary philosophy with a Christ-centred doctrine of man and of man's eternal destiny, could you claim that your present position is in any way reconcilable with his basic beliefs.

151. What have been the reactions of competent non-Catholic scholars to Teilhard de Chardin's work?

These vary from enthusiastic support through qualified approval to complete rejection. The Anglican Canon C. E. Raven, who holds doctorates in both science and theology, offers nothing but praise in his book, "Teilhard de Chardin: Scientist and Seer." At the other extreme, the archaeologist and biblical scholar, Professor W. F. Albright, a Methodist, says in his book, "History, Archaeology and Christian Humanism," that Teilhard's main work "The Phenomenon of Man" is mere speculation "based on misuse of the principle of analogy." He declares the book to be "full of the most amazing examples of loose analogical thinking . . . applications of patterns which somewhat resemble one another, usually quite superficially." And he concludes that Teilhard offers us "the rosy illusions of a dreamer" and "a travesty of New Testament eschatology;" that is, of New Testament teachings about the Second Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, and the end of human history in this world as we know it.

152. Despite Rome's official disapproval, why are Teilhard de Chardin's evolutionary ideas now being taught as facts to students in Catholic secondary schools?

I am not aware that such is the case. That students are duly informed concerning his theories when the opportunity presents itself within the syllabus of studies I have no doubt; and that is as it should be. When, after his death in 1955, Father Teilhard's writings were published, above all his "Phenomenon of Man", they attained such publicity and caused so much excitement in so many different countries that people even began to speak of the "Phenomenon of Teilhard de Chardin." Heated controversies arose between supporters and opponents of his views throughout the press of the civilised world. Scientists, philosophers and theologians were critical of those aspects of his work which touched upon their particular fields. But multitudes of readers were deeply impressed by the immense sweep of his vision, embracing as it seemed the whole of reality. Teilhardian "Associations" were formed to promote the reading and discussion of his various works, and more and more books were being written about them. The official position of the Church in regard to his writings consists in her instructions to teachers that they must safeguard students from dangers to their faith arising from the ambiguities and incidental errors to be found in his books (See n.29 above). Teilhard himself foresaw the possibility of such errors. "I might well have deceived myself," he wrote, "on a number of points. Let others, then, try to do better." In our Catholic secondary schools, then, some account of Teilhard de Chardin's theories should be given at appropriate times as a preparation for later references to his work which will so often be encountered; but attention should be drawn to the hypothetical nature of many of his scientific assumptions; to the confusion arising from ambiguities in much of his philosophical thinking; and, from the viewpoint of the faith, to the danger of reducing everything to a natural evolutionary level as if Christianity involved no supernatural order of reality at all. In general, it can be taken for granted that no students in any of our Catholic schools are left under the impression that Father de Chardin's writings have been officially approved by the Church as being fully in agreement with the requirements of the Catholic Faith. With no particular authority attaching to it, what Father Teilhard believed to be probable takes its place among a host of other speculative theories in matters of science, philosophy and theology facing the test of time and the sorting out of elements of lasting value from those lacking such inherent powers of survival.

153. In Acts 2:16, Peter told the Jews in Jerusalem that the Pentecostal descent of the Holy Spirit on the assembled disciples fulfilled the prediction of the Old Testament prophet Joel. Had Joel himself that idea?

Joel lived about 400 B.C. and like other prophets proclaimed God's word, God's word often referring both to the present and the future. Joel's prediction of the distant future was far more significant than he himself understood, and he could not clearly decipher it. In the first part of his book he describes a contemporary plague of locusts which had devastated the land, declared it God's punishment of the people's sins, and promised that repentance would bring deliverance from it. Prophetically, he saw the whole episode as a type of a future Day of the Lord when God's judgment would fall upon the surrounding nations for their ill-treatment of Israel as His people. Meantime, His people in Jerusalem would find safety and deliverance in the Holy City by invoking the name of the Lord. Moreover, God would pour out His Holy Spirit upon them, effecting in them a deeply religious renewal. That prediction of Joel was fulfilled, not in the form in which he interpreted his vision, but in the way God Himself made clear by the actual events on the Pentecost Sunday which inaugurated the predicted messianic era of the "New Israel."

154. If Joel himself did not realise what he was predicting, how did St. Peter know it?

St. Peter knew that the fulfilment of all Old Testament messianic prophecies had come with Jesus, the Saviour of mankind. Moreover, Jesus had promised the apostles, in His discourse after the Last Supper, that "the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things." Jn., 14:26. Also, immediately before the ascension, He told them: "I will send the gift promised by my Father upon you; but stay in Jerusalem until you are endowed with power from on high." Lk., 24:29. In the Incarnation itself there was an intervention from on high and from outside humanity by the Eternal Son of God to fulfil the work of redemption from within humanity. In a similar way, a further intervention from on high by the Holy Spirit was necessary to enable the Church to begin her mission among humanity. When, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the small group of assembled disciples in Jerusalem, with signs and wonders amazing and perplexing to onlooking local and visiting Jews from distant places, St. Peter had but to quote the description of the outpouring of the Spirit as predicted by Joel for all to see the fulfilment of at least that part of his prophecy in the events they had witnessed. St. Peter went on to say that the source of the gift was Jesus of Nazareth, crucified, risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and the one hope of salvation for all prepared to believe in Him, to repent of their sins, and to be baptised in His name. This promise, he said, "is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Him." Acts, 2:41, tells us that, as a result of this first discourse of St. Peter, "there were added that day about three thousand souls" — a first contribution towards the amazing growth of the Church.

155. Joel 2:32 says that deliverance shall be in Jerusalem "and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call." What did he himself intend by that?

Joel, with his inadequate ideas, had in mind Jews resident in Jerusalem and such Jews as the Lord would have called there from their dispersion among the nations about to fall under God's judgments. It was, however, a common theme of Israel's prophets that by its infidelities Israel of old was preparing a doom for itself, but that this would not prevent God's promises to Abraham from being fulfilled. Some of the children of Abraham would remain faithful and would survive as a remnant. The Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit inaugurated the messianic era, and those Jews who accepted Christ as the fulfilment of Israel's expectations and hopes formed "the remnant whom the Lord had called." As St. Paul puts it, in Romans 11:5, "At this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." But since the Church founded by Christ as the "New Israel of God" was destined to expand among all nations and last till the end of time, the Old Testament idea of a "remnant" as applying to members of the particular nation of the Jews constituting the Israel of old has no place now in Christianity itself.

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