ACCORDING TO SCOTUS, CHRIST WASN’T ORIGINALLY SENT BY GOD TO SUFFER A BLOODY DEATH TO REDEEM HUMANKIND – HE WAS SENT TO CROWN GOD’S CREATION AS ITS KING
“IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD”
In order to understand the teaching of Blessed John Duns Scotus more fully let me begin by explaining the pagan attitude to God before Jesus came to redeem us. The ancient Greeks had argued to the existence of a god, and even to a god who was responsible for creation. But reason alone would not allow them to believe that this god would take any interest in His creation whatsoever, let alone love it. God couldn’t possibly contemplate anything less than Himself. This logic was revealed as flawed by St John about four hundred years later when he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him” (Jn 1:1-4).
God could, and indeed does, love us because He loves us all in His ‘other self’, who St John describes as ‘the Word’, the perfect expression of Himself, ‘in whom all things are created’. When, in order to implement what was God’s plan from the beginning, that ‘Word’ is made flesh, St John calls Him the Son, whose name on earth is Jesus. Although St John’s Gospel was the last to be written, his profound teaching about the Logos, ‘the Word’ was not new, it was central to the teaching of St Paul written down almost a generation earlier, and St Paul in his turn insisted that all that he taught about Christ had been handed to him by his predecessors, “He is the image of the invisible God; He is the primacy of all created things. In Him everything in heaven and on earth was created. The whole universe has been created through Him and for Him. And He exists before everything and all things are held together by Him. For in Him the complete being of God came to dwell” (Col 1:15 seq.).
Although Scotus was a student at Paris only a few decades after St Thomas Aquinas and St Bonaventure, he differed from both of them in this: from all eternity, eons before, and quite independent of man’s fall from grace, God’s plan was to create all things in ‘the Word’, and then ‘the Word’ would be made flesh as His masterwork, to be the King of Creation – Christ the King. He would rule with a love powerful enough to penetrate everyone and draw them up into His mystical body. There, in, with and through Him, they would be caught up into the life and loving that endlessly surged to and fro between the Father and the Son. There was only one thing that could sabotage this plan. Just as God had freely chosen to love, in order to share His life with others, these others would have to be made free to chose to love Him in return, so that they could share in the fruits of the mutual loving for which they were created. As their failure was not part of God’s initial plan, it did not stop Christ coming, because He was coming anyway. Unlike his contemporaries then, it was quite unthinkable for Scotus to countenance for a single moment that God’s sublime plan, conceived for others to share in His own glory, should be destroyed by creatures made from the ‘slime of the earth’. His coming into this world ‘in the fullness of time’, was originally intended to be a celebration that would sadly have to be postponed indefinitely, until humankind could be rescued from what had been its undoing at the Fall…
ST FRANCIS’ VISION
Now Christ had a new role, never originally intended. He had to explain to everyone what had happened to them after their Fall from grace. Then he had to inspire them to turn back to the only love that would restore them. Only this would enable them to be re-integrated into God’s original plan, and enjoy the experience of the fullness of love for which they have been created. When, what one could describe as God’s ‘plan A’ had failed, God had to put into action ‘plan B’ by sending Christ with a new role, never originally intended. He had to explain to everyone what had happened to them since they had chosen love of self over love of God. Then he had to inspire them to turn back to the only love that would restore them. Only this would enable them to be re-integrated into God’s original plan and enjoy the experience of the fullness of love for which they had been created. This was the teaching of Blessed John Duns Scotus based entirely on the vision of St Francis.
CHRIST THE KING
So according to Scotus, Christ wasn’t firstly sent by God to suffer an awful and bloody death to redeem humankind, He was sent firstly to crown God’s creation as its king. But when human beings rejected God, He sent Jesus to turn back the clock and give them another chance by redeeming them, so that the Kingdom of God would be inaugurated on earth as originally intended. Then Jesus would rule over it as Christ the King.
– The above is an extract of an article by David Torkington called “Another Chance”, published in “Messenger of Saint Anthony”, issue January 2013. For subscriptions etc., please contact: Messenger of Saint Anthony, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 35123 Padua, Italy.