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Document Details :
Title: Totum Suscepit
Subtitle: Een christologische peiling aan de hand van Augustinus' visie op de voorbestemming van Christus en Zijn menselijke willen - An Analysis of Augustinus' View on Christ's Predestination and His Human Willing as a Christological Sounding
Author(s): DEN BOK, Nico
Volume: 56 Issue: 2 Date: 1995
Among scholars it is quite common to assume that Augustine's contribution to the christological discussions of his days was neither very substantial nor original. However, if Augustine who was invited to attend to the council of Ephese (431) but had died before it started, had been asked to elaborate on his personal christological thoughts, some attenders may have had the feeling that these thoughts were somehow ahead of their time.
The christological analysis of this article hinges on Augustine's thoughts about the predestination of Christ. These thoughts are developed within an anthropological context, in the quest for gratuitous grace; the nanlysis does not focus on this idea, however, but on the view of the nature of Christ's human willing which is entailed in it. The example of Christ's predestination shows, almost by the way, that very important anthropological distinctions return in a christological context. For in Christ too, human nature consists of body and mind and, within the mind, of knowing and willing and, within willing, of disposition ('voluntas') and consent ('liberum arbitrium').
Now, the first two distinctions are not new to christological reflection in the late fourth and early fifth centuries (although, for instance, Cyrillus of Alexandria was still hesitant in admitting a human soul or mind in Christ). The last distinction, however, is original; it not only anticipates the later analyses of the 'two wills' of Christ, but also provides an important refinement of these analyses (within Christ's human will dispositions have to be distinguished from consents) as well as an important clarification (concerning the unity of the divine and human will in Christ).
Augustine's formulations reveal that according to him Christ's human mind has a complex of perfect dispositions created in Him by the Holy Spirit (just as the saints in heaven are supposed to have). Moreover, His consent is unable to fail (at least partly because of that good dispositional complex). The formulations do not reveal, however, who is consenting and to whom the dispositions belong: a human or a divine subject. Yet, a clue to this question can be found in texts which discuss the relation between divine foreknowledge and human free will. Here, Augustine defines will as the power that can determine itself to will or not to will. It turns out to be most illuminating to relate this definition to those descriptions of willing which refer to disposition and consent. Thus, the will is that power which (in cooperation with the intellect) produces acts of consent or dissent. Augustine's term 'liberum arbitrium' often refers to these acts and not to the power(s) that produces them.
Applied to christology we may suppose that Christ, while having human acts of will (and of intellect), does not have a human will (and intellect) - in the sense we just defined. Hence, it must be the will of God the Son producing human acts of consent or judgement. We are justified in still calling these acts human because of the fact that they are time-bound and limited, situated within human dispositions and a human body. It is hard to imagine a more genuine descending of God Himself into human reality than the condescendence presupposed in this view of Christ's will.
If we accept this interpretation many of Augustine's main christological thoughts become remarkably coherent.