Re: Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Tue Nov 22 2005 - 11:20:47 EST

At 10:43 AM 11/22/2005, Ted Davis wrote:

>As already indicated, I am one of those who "find the doctrine of
>divine impassibility deeply unsatisfying." Open theism might not
>be true, but it's just too hard for me to reconcile the biblical
>picture of the suffering servant (which frankly I do take to be
>genuinely prophetic of the Incarnate God) with the WCF. .. I just
>can't anthropomorphize all of those figures of speech (some of them,
>yes, but not all of them). - Ted

### Communication of Idioms.

A technical expression in the theology of the
<>Incarnation. It means
that the properties of the Divine Word can be ascribed to the man
Christ, and that the properties of the man Christ can be predicated
of the Word. The language of Scripture and of the Fathers shows that
such a mutual interexchange of predicates is legitimate; in this
article its source and the rules determining its use will be briefly


The source of the communicatio idiomatum is not to be found in the
close moral union between Christ and
<>God as maintained by the
Nestorians, nor in
<>Christ's fullness of
grace and supernatural gifts, nor, again, in the fact that the Word
owns the human nature of Christ by right of creation.
<>God the Father and the
<>Holy Ghost have the same
right and interest as the Son in all created things except in the
human nature of <>Jesus
Christ. This the Son by Assumption has made His own in a way that is
not theirs, i.e., by the incommunicable property of personal union.
In Christ there is one person with two natures, the human and the
Divine. In ordinary language all the properties of a subject are
predicated of its person; consequently the properties of
<>Christ's two natures must
be predicated of his one person, since they have only one subject of
predication. He Who is the
<>Word of God on account of
His eternal generation is also the subject of human properties; and
He Who is the man Christ on account of having assumed human nature is
the subject of Divine attributes. Christ is
<>God is man.


The communicatio idiomatum is based on the oneness of person
subsisting in the two natures of
<>Jesus Christ. Hence it
can be used as long as both the subject and the predicate of a
sentence stand for the person of
<>Jesus Christ, or present
a common subject of predication. For in this case we simply affirm
that He Who subsists in the Divine nature and possesses certain
Divine properties is the same as He Who subsists in the human nature
and possesses certain human properties. The following considerations
will show the application of this principle more in detail:

(1) In general, concrete terms stand for the person: hence,
statements interchanging the Divine and human properties of Christ
are, generally speaking, correct if both their subjects and
predicates be concrete terms. We may safely say,
"<>God is man", though we
must observer certain cautions:
    * The concrete human names of Christ describe His person
according to His human nature. They presuppose the Incarnation, and
their application to Christ previously to the completion of the
<>hypostatic union would
involve the Nestorian view that
<>Christ's human nature had
its own subsistence. Consequently, such expressions as "man became
<>God" are to be avoided.
    * Concrete terms used reduplicatively emphasize the nature rather
than the person. The statement
"<>God as
<>God has suffered" means
that <>God according to His
Divine nature has suffered; needless to say, such statements are false.
    * Certain expressions, though correct in themselves, are for
extrinsic reasons, inadmissible; the statement "One of the Trinity
was crucified" was misapplied in a Monophysite sense and was
therefore forbidden by Pope Hormisdas; the
<>Arians misinterpreted the
words "Christ is a creature"; both
<>Arians and Nestorians
misused the expressions "Christ had a beginning" and "Christ is less
than the Father" or "less than
<>God"; the Docetists
abused the terms "incorporeal" and "impassible".
(2) Abstract terms generally stand for their respective nature. Now
in Christ there are two natures. Hence statements interchanging the
Divine and human properties of Christ are, generally speaking,
incorrect if their subject and predicate, either one or both, be
abstract terms. We cannot say "the Divinity is mortal", or, "the
humanity is increated". The following cautions, however, must be added:
    * Aside from the personal relations in
<>God there is no real
distinction admissible in Him. Hence abstract names and
<>attributes of God, though
standing formally for the Divine nature, imply really also the Divine
persons. Absolutely speaking, we may replace a concrete Divine name
by its corresponding abstract one and still keep the communication
idiomatum. Thus we may say "Omnipotence was crucified", in the sense
that He Who is omnipotent (Omnipotence) is the same as He Who was
crucified. But such expressions are liable to be misunderstood and
great care must be exercised in their use.
    * There is less danger in the use of those abstract terms which
express attributes appropriated to the Second person of the Trinity.
We may say "Eternal Wisdom became man".
    * There is no communicatio idiomatum between the two natures of
Christ, or between the Word and the human nature as such or its
parts. The fundamental error of the
<>Ubiquitists consists in
predicating of the human nature or of humanity the properties of the
Divine nature. We cannot say that "the Word is the humanity", and
still less that "the Word is the soul" or "the body of Christ".
(3) In statements which interchange the Divine and the human
properties of Christ, care must be taken not to deny or destroy one
of <>Christ's natures or
its properties. This is apt to be done:
    * In negative sentences: though it be true that Christ did not
die according to His Divine nature, we cannot say, "Christ did not
die", without impairing His human nature;
    * in exclusive sentences: if we say "Christ is only
<>God" or "Christ is only
man", we destroy either His human or His Divine nature;
    * in the use of ambiguous terms: the
<>Arians, the Nestorians,
and the Adoptionists misused the term "servant", inferring from the
expression, "Christ is the servant of
<>God", conclusions
agreeing with their respective heresies.

No, I am not ROMAN Catholic, but I believe they are correct here. ~ Janice
Received on Tue Nov 22 11:22:17 2005

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