Wednesday, July 3, 2013

God is still incarnate, but "wishes us to press on" beyond all that nonetheless

according to the Farrow indictment of St. Augustine, whom Farrow accuses of falling unacceptably short of St. Irenaeus:
"the Lord himself 'wishes us rather to press on; and, instead of weakly clinging to temporal things, even though these have been put on and worn by Him for our salvation, to pass over them quickly, and to struggle to attain to himself, who has freed our nature from the bondage of temporal things, and has set it down at the right hand of the Father'" (De doctrina Christiana I.xxxiv/38; cf. Ascension and ecclesia, 117-121, but esp. 119-121, where other problematic passages are cited).
Augustine's "firm confession of resurrection, ascension and parousia in the flesh rules out any retraction of the incarnation on an ontological level" (121), but there is this dangerous retraction "on the subjective level" (120).

Note, however, that even here (the most problematic of the passages cited by Farrow at this point), the ground of our freedom "from the bondage of temporal things" is precisely the session of human nature "at the right hand of the Father".

Still, Farrow may be on to something.  Note how this same passage appears in the Library of liberal arts translation by D. W. Robertson, Jr. (p. 30):
"the Lord Himself, although He saw fit to become our road [(via, as in Jn 14:6)], did not wish to hold us upon it, but wishes that we pass on, lest we cling in infirmity to temporal things, even though He took them up and wore them for our salvation.  Rather, let us run through them quickly that we may be worthy to approach and to reach Him who freed our nature from temporal things and made a place for it on the right hand of the Father."
From PL 34, cols. 33-34 (the edition ready-to-hand, but far from the best):
“nec ipse Dominus, in quantum via nostra esse dignatus est, tenere nos voluerit, sed transire; ne rebus temporalibus, quamvis ab illo pro salute nostra susceptis et gestis, hæreamus infirmiter, sed per eas potius curramus alacriter, ut ad eum ipsum, qui nostram naturam a temporalibus liberavit, et collocavit ad dexteram Patris, provehi atque pervehi mereamur.”
I would have said "the Lord himself, although He saw fit to become our Way, did not want us to occupy [(tenere)], but to pass quickly along [(transire) it]", etc.  (So I should probably look more closely at the whole of the Latin (in a properly critical edition).)

In any case, Ascension and ecclesia pp. 119-121 does raise some questions about St. Augustine.

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