The Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ In Theology

Rev. François Laisney

Dogma of Faith

That Our Lord Jesus Christ be true God and true man—in other words, that the son of Mary be also the Son of God, of the same Divine Nature as His Father, nay of the same Divine Substance as the Father—is a Dogma of Faith; it is above our reason and so cannot be proved.

However, this dogma which is at the very heart of the Catholic Faith can be defended against attacks of incredulity; it can be shown from the testimony of Revelation, found both in the Holy Scripture and in Tradition.

What is faith?

Of certain things, we know them to be true by immediate evidence such as the evidence of our eyes to know that the sun is shining in the sky. Of other things, we know them to be true by deduction: using strict logic from known principles to arrive at a conclusion. Of the divine mysteries, however, because they are beyond the reach of reason, we can only accept them as true by faith because the Three Divine Persons act always as One when dealing with creatures; knowing of their distinction is completely inaccessible to reason. We accept divine mysteries on faith.

Human faith

We accept more than the mysteries of our religion on faith; in fact, most of our knowledge of earthly things is by human faith in our human teachers. An example I often give is this very simple one: every one knows that the surface of a circle (the area) is πr²; but most would not be able to demonstrate it: they learnt it at school—by faith in their human teacher. Even those who can demonstrate it first learnt it in the lower grades by faith and only later were able to demonstrate it: St. Augustine insists on this point, that faith naturally precedes understanding, even in human matters.

Supernatural Faith

Hence in divine matters, they are very wrong (and proud) those who say that they refuse to believe that which they do not understand; the Beatific Vision is the reward of a life of Faith, and without faith in the truths revealed by God, the Beatific Vision is not possible.

The knowledge of Faith relies on the testimony of God:

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the testimony of God in himself. He that believeth not the Son, maketh him a liar: because he believeth not in the testimony which God hath testified of his Son. And this is the testimony, that God hath given to us eternal life. And this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son, hath life. He that hath not the Son, hath not life. These things I write to you, that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 Jn 5:9-13)

Motives of credibility

Miracles and prophecies are the signature of God on true Revelation, which thereby stands in sharp contrast to false revelation such as Islam, where Mohammed pretends to be a prophet but was neither prophesied by others before he came nor did he prophesy about anything after he came. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only founder of religion who had been anticipated not only hundreds of years before his coming but even thousands, nay from the very first days of mankind when God said to the devil in the presence of Adam and Eve:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: it shall crush thy head. (Gen 3:15)

Hence St. Pius X required every priest to swear in the Anti-modernist oath:

I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time.

When he says proofs, he does not mean internal evidence of truths (proofs of logic), but external proofs which we call motives of credibility because they give us motives to believe.

Scriptural proofs

Both the Old and New Testament teach the Divinity of Christ: “beholding them afar off” (Heb 11:13) in the Old and very closely in the New.

By testimony of others

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life: For the Life was manifested; and we have seen and do bear witness, and declare unto you the Life Eternal, which was with the Father, and hath appeared to us: that which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship may be with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn 1:1-3).

Those words are of St. John the Evangelist in his epistle, the same John who wrote at the very beginning of his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him: and without Him was made nothing that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (Jn. 1:1-4)

Given that St. John follows the plan of the Torah (e.g. he starts with the Seven Days: see Jn 1:29,35,43, 2:1), the contrast with Genesis is clear: in the beginning God created all things, but not the Word: by the Word all things were made! In the beginning God said: “let there be light”, the light was made but not the Word by which the light was made! And that Word or Logos, which IS GOD (verse 1) “was made flesh” (verse 14): that is Our Lord Jesus Christ!

St. John the Baptist gave testimony: Our Lord Jesus Christ “is the Son of God” (Jn 1:34); not “a son of God” but THE Son of God (there is the article in Greek). Now the Fathers always argued rightly that, unless our Lord Jesus Christ had the same Nature as the Father, He would not be The true Son of God. Adoption does not give equality, but generation does give equality of nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not “receive the adoption of sons” (Gal 4:5) as we did (by sanctifying grace), but He is The Son of God.

Again at the end of his Gospel, St. John concludes (with the article): “these things are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn 20:31). In this sense, He is the Only-begotten (Jn 1:14,18, Jn 3:16,18, 1 Jn 4:9).

By Jesus’ miracles

Moses received the Law from God, but our Lord Jesus Christ gives the New Law, as Lawgiver: see the whole sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-6-7). The Apostles do miracles “in His Name” (Mk 16:17), they pray “in His Name” (Jn 14:13-14), etc., but Our Lord Jesus Christ does miracles by His own power: He commands and the sickness departs, the devils are cast out, and even the dead rise: His power is not a ministerial power, but a personal power. He acts as having His supreme power over all things, men, and even angels.

That this power over creation be a proof of His Divinity, we can see in St. Athanasius, who argues against the Arians that if Jesus were not true God, He could not have made the Holy Eucharist: transforming the bread into His Body and the wine into His Blood requires Divine Power. The same Word “by which all things were made” (Jn 1:2) can do it; but if He were not truly Divine, He could not. In this sense, the faith in the Holy Eucharist is a test of Faith (even today).

Jesus receives worship

Some say that Jesus never said He was God. This is not true. Our Lord is humble, He does not go around boasting; but He does teach the truth to those who are open to it: “You call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am” (Jn 13:13). Now the word Lord in this context is in English the translation of the Latin Dominus, of the Greek Kyrie, which is the word constantly used in the Septuagint for the Hebrew Tetragram—Yawhe. That the word Lord means this when applied to Our Lord Jesus Christ is extremely clear in St. Paul:

He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names [what is that Name if not the Yawhe = Kyrie]. That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord unto the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:8-11)

"Every knee should bow” means that Our Lord Jesus Christ ought to be adored by all men, all creatures!

Jesus Himself prompted the adoration of those open to the truth. Thus, one day He healed a man born blind “that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (Jn 9:3) [see how at the very beginning of the miracle He calls Himself God], then that man stood up courageously for Him in the court of the pharisees, but that man only confessed Him as a prophet (Jn 9:17): he was expelled from the synagogue. But to confess Him as a prophet is not enough. So, Jesus met him in the Temple and asked him:

Dost thou believe in the Son of God? He answered, and said: Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him? And Jesus said to him: Thou hast both seen him; and it is He that talketh with thee. And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored Him. (Jn 9:35-38)

Positively, Jesus prompts this adoration, and approves him in the next verse:

For judgment I am come into this world; that they who see not, may see; and they who see, may become blind. (Jn 9:39)

Already He had received the adoration of the Magi, of many whom He healed, of the Apostles (e.g. after He calmed the tempest), and after His Resurrection. This is so much the more remarkable that the Devil had tempted Christ saying: “All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.” (Mt 4:9) And our Lord had answered: “Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Mt 4:10)

Now this is the very same word adore (or its Greek equivalent) in all these passages! And in the passage of Deuteronomy quoted by our Lord, the Hebrew Scripture has the words, Yawhe Elo-him ("the Lord God”). Our Lord will not adore the devil, because the devil is not God; but He teaches His Disciples to adore Him because He is God.

Jesus was already announced in the Old Testament as God

This is the whole first chapter of St. Paul to the Hebrews. To show them the superiority of the New above the Old Testament, St. Paul shows the superiority of Christ above the Angels (Heb 1-2), above Moses (Heb 3-4) and above Aaron (Heb 5).

Speaking to the Hebrews, who were familiar with the Scriptures, he adds quotes after quote:

God ... in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the world. (Heb 1:2)

Moses, St. John and St. Paul all agree.

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power [Christ as God], making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high [Christ as man] (Heb 1:3).

Being made so much better than the angels [therefore He is God!], as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels hath he said at any time, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? (Heb 1:4-5 cit. Ps 2:6 and 2 Sam 7:14)

And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith: And let all the angels of God adore Him. (Heb 1:6 cit. Ps 96:7)

And to the angels indeed he saith: He that maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But to the Son: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Heb 1:7-8 quoting Ps 44:7)

Then he quotes Palm 101 and lastly Psalm 109:1:

But to which of the angels said he at any time: Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool? (Heb. 1:13)

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself had quoted this Psalm arguing to the Pharisees that He was Lord of David:

How do the scribes say, that Christ is the son of David? For David himself saith by the Holy Ghost: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool. (Mk. 12:35-36)

Now there would be many other passages in the Old Testament, such as the very name Emmanuel for the Son of the Virgin, meaning God with us! (Is 7:14). Isaias describes Him as:

For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. (Is 9:6)

He is already announced a true God and true man.

Finally, Jesus teaches his perfect equality and unity with the Father: “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30).

The Mystery of God

If, searching for a deeper knowledge of God, you ask me what He is, I would say that God is so much above us that we cannot have a word adequate to express what He is. This is already true for the truths we know by our reason, how much more for the truths of Faith.

If you ask the greatest philosophers, or above them, the greatest Saints and Doctors of the Church, they will all say the same thing: God is so much above us, we do not have adequate words.

If you go to heaven and ask the Saints in Glory, and even the highest angels, cherubim and seraphim, and above them, if you ask Our Lady in Heaven, they will all say the same: God is so much above us, we do not have any adequate word to express what He is. Our words are limited, and we need to add one to another to say more, but it will always remain limited: God is infinite. And He is simple: as soon as you use multiple words, you do not express His divine simplicity.

Only One can say God adequately: God himself!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Father perfectly expresses what he is in one perfect Word, adequately precisely because the Word is God. Nothing less than God could express God adequately. And it is the joy of the Saints to hear that Word!

The Word is not made, out of nothing, but generated, proceeding out of the substance of the Father. Now because God is simple, when the Father gives his very substance to the Son, He gives it whole and entire; He cannot give it only in part because there is no part in God. Therefore, receiving the whole and entire nature of God, the Son is true God, equal with the Father.

Moreover, since material things, when you give them, you lose them, but spiritual things, when you give them, you do not lose them: you still have them; it follows that the Father still possesses entirely the Divine Substance He gives the Son, not another but that very same Divine Substance. Therefore the Father and the Son are not two gods, but are together One True God: “I and the Father are one.”

God is Charity. When you know something good, you love it. The Son is the “Word breathing Love”. From the Father and the Son proceeds one Flame of Love, the Holy Ghost, equal with the Father and the Son, One God with the Father and the Son. Charity unites: the Three Divine Persons are One true God.

That Our Lord Jesus Christ is God is something we know by faith, and something we know to be reasonable by the testimony of Holy Scripture and by our understanding of God as the Supreme Being thinking and loving Himself with a love that cannot be contained.

My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? (Ps. 41:3)

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