Impeccability of Christ: Was it possible for Christ to Sin = Was Christ able to Sin?

This is a topic too large to be inserted into the PCA Ad Interim Report on Human Sexuality entry, which was the cause of this research. I will as organized as I could, make this a well informed entry on the subject. I was planning to make this short as my usual habit and principle, but based on my study, that is not possible for me to do. However, I would try to bring the main points up as early as possible, so that the tedious details would not interfere, as I want to be as thorough on this as possible.

This is a debate among reformed theologians. Or rather, opposing views are held among them because I am not aware of such debate, person to person but merely by articles written from each side of the opposing parties responding to each other, mostly indirectly. And I can assume that they would agree that this is a minor difference that a church should not split over, which I would concur. But as all things that concern God are serious, this is my due diligence: I dug through online resources, long articles, wrote to inquire a few whom I have great confidence in: i.e. Joseph Nally of Thirdmill, Alex Tseng (to my surprising gratitude and joy, he was more than willing to respond to my FB PM). I will account for my experience and all that I've learned in this long entry.

Reformed theologians who are the
peccability advocates (Jesus incarnate, had the ability to sin while on Earth): Stephen Tong (I'll also paste it in the comment incase the link broke), R.C. Sproul, Steve Cavallaro
Impeccability advocates: Kevin DeYoung, Joseph Nally (his article), W. G. T. Shedd, Carlton Wynne, John Owen, Bavinck

(Bavinck's The Divine and Human Nature of Christ: ...Even though He was in possession of the not-able-to-sin state of being...) Later in the same paragraph, great insight - because of His weak human nature, the possibility of being tempted and of suffering and dying. We say that it was possible that the incarnate Son to be tempted, even if we must speak of the impeccability of Christ. This is different than saying God cannot be tempted, not to mention that impeccability/peccability shouldn't even be applied to God.

I would add that though they may be on the same team (either for team peccability or team impeccability), it doesn't necessarily mean that they would agree with each other on the subject. For example: Carlton Wynne criticized Shedd's argument which DeYoung espoused, though they are both on the same team. Also, I've noticed that those who hold to the impeccability of Christ, may not have sufficient grasp of what they believe or are talking about. For example: They consider the impeccability of Christ no different to the impeccability of God. I shall share my experience of such encounters as best and constructive as possible.

First, these are established with most certainty through Reformation tradition:

The last one, the Impeccability of Christ, will be the focus of this study, as I make the other aforementioned points relevant to this.

Since I am certain now I have no problem with the impeccability of Christ, though I must say I also have no problem with the peccability of Christ, I will illustrate this first with St. Augustine's 4 stages of human free will (slightly off topic: The opponent of this is John Cassian - a Semi-Pelagianist, which I won't cover here, nor have I yet looked into):

 Pre-Fall ManPost-Fall ManReborn ManGlorified Man
able to sin
(posse peccare)
able to sinable to sinable to not sin
(posse non peccare)
able to not sin
(posse non peccare)
unable to not sin
(non posse non peccare)
able to not sin
(posse non peccare)
unable to sin
(non posse peccare)

Now according to Augustine's "chart", the sinless state of a man would be pre-fall and glorified stages. This is where the debate lies: Peccability advocates equate the incarnate Son's will with the pre-fall state, hence Jesus' human nature was made/created to be the same as the first Adam, pre-fall; while impeccability advocates place Jesus's incarnate state as the glorified state, hence Jesus' human nature was made/created to be not the same as the first Adam. This is why I have no reason to reject either impeccability or peccability of Christ just yet: Since either state does not discount Jesus as fully human. The glorification state proves that the ability to sin is not native to human nature.

Dr. Tseng explained the position for impeccability well: Adam fell and became corruptible [Human nature of] Christ was created to be impeccable, but inherited from Adam the corruptibility (physical decay) that resulted from the fall. Christ was raised to become incorruptible, as he overcame sin through death by his impeccable holiness as a man. The four stages of posse/non posse was a result of God’s decision and design by his potentia ordinata [ordained power of God, contrasting potentia absoluta - absolute power of God, what he could have done - prior to ordinata]. There is no inner necessity for God to make Christ tread the same path as Adam. In many ways, Christ was the very reverse of Adam.
Adam: peccable + incorruptible
Christ: impeccable + corruptible

That follows: In our glorious state, we would naturally become impeccable and incorruptible under his potentia ordinata. Although, I am not going to argue about Adam's incorruptible state (I am of the idea that Adam was originally corruptible [Genesis 3:22] but had the chance for incorruptibility, an opportunity he ruined in his fall), which is a debate for another topic. According to incorruptibility of Adam due to God's grace, I would allow it. But like peccability, I sometime fear that the definition for incorruptibility may have been abused here as well: i.e. would not have been corrupted does not imply incorruptibility. When I define impeccability or incorruptibility, I define it as not just without such "tendency", but also without the ability to, like man has no ability to fly = involarility (I made up the word from Latin). I'm not talking about flying in an airplane or gliding with a contraption. I meant that it's ontologically inaccurate for man to fly. Man is involarible. It is nonsensical to tempt a man to fly (of course, I'm not talking about the want to fly here). It's not that I would not fly, but I could not fly. Therefore, I suspect this debate may lack clear, agreeable definition on the word: peccability/impeccability. But then if there is difference in definition, it would appear that the peccability advocates realize the difference better than the impeccability advocates who hold to shallow definition: He could not have sinned vs. He would not have sinned. I shall not stop here however, in order to help clarify everything, regardless of agreement in definition.

But one would wonder, does Jesus' impeccability have to do with his divine nature or his human nature? The short answer is both, it cannot be just one or the other. Now here's the part that goes beyond logic, supra-logical: Persons sin, not nature. Jesus is the second person in the Trinity, this second person is God. However, Jesus' human nature which along with His divine nature make up His person in hypostatic union, is not part of the Trinity. The human nature of Christ had a beginning (the moment of incarnation) and is therefore not eternal: body, mind and will. In light of this, we cannot discount Christ's human nature even though his divine nature overcomes His human nature in the hypostatic union. There is certainly no question, that God is impeccable to sin. In fact, My understanding of this is closer to Stephen Tong's, as opposed to most others' view on God's sovereignty. Others would say, that even God is not absolutely free. I beg to differ, God is absolutely free, but He self-limits (freely binds) Himself. Therefore, I would not say that God is not absolutely free because He cannot sin, as others would. I would say that God is absolutely free but He is beyond hamartiology - the logical study of sin, the concept of sin. God is the creator of logic, He is the creator of the sense of sin. It is like the "Can God create a boulder so heavy He couldn't lift", you do not ask a painter if he could paint a boat that runs faster than the painter, unless you expect him to paint himself into the painting. Therefore, you do not ask if God could sin, it's simply invalid, in this sense, I agree that God is not able to sin, which is not a limitation on His sovereignty. And when God interacts with His creation, He does it in a very self-restrictive sense (potentia ordinata), such that His creatures could perceive Him and his actions. Self-imposed limitation does not constitute limitation on His sovereign will. So the divine nature pertaining to impeccability is never to be questioned.

It is fine I suppose, if one overlooks Christ's human nature, when speaking of His impeccability, nonetheless, one must not fall into the heresies of Apollinarism and turn Jesus' human nature to somewhat divine (God wearing a human "suite") or Monophysitism/Eutychian's theanthropic nature (a mixed God-man nature = tertium quid) or Monothelitism (two natures but one will), and all heresies that lead one to think that Christ's human nature is not creaturely, not created, and hence, not fully human. Therefore, if you were to say that the incarnate Christ's human nature is different from Adam's, you cannot think of that as an uncreated/non-created form. You can say that it is equivalent to the glorified state of man, which is still creaturely. This is most obviously noted in the Council of Chalcedon (451), and followed by Extra Calvinisticum, a title Lutherans gave Calvinists in their debate against Lutheran's consubstantiation: human body cannot be omnipresent in the bread, which would require divine attribute which cannot be contained in Christ's human nature and thus, outside (extra), not part of His human nature. The two natures are not confused, mixed together in hypostatic union. To argue a non-creaturely human nature, is to apply divine attribute to the human nature, which cannot be.

As a side note on the creatureliness of Christ's human nature: Now to give Stephen Tong some credit on whether Jesus' human nature was created or not, when some claimed that he is close to Apollinarianism , I would ask what was Jesus' human nature based on pertaining to the image and likeness of God? For Adam, we know that the image and likeness of God is not prototyped upon Adam, but God. But how would the image and likeness of God relate to the human nature of Jesus, whose personhood surely must have been the prototype of such himself. The image and likeness of God are not ex nihilo, so though created, Adam's nature was never totally ex-nihilo as the animals and plants and rocks, if so, what of Jesus' human nature?

One could simply conclude the Impeccability of Christ this way: Christ's personhood is different than our personhood in that not only we do not have the divine nature as Christ did, our human nature, even Adam's pre-fall nature, is not the same as that of Christ's, whose human nature was the prototype for our human nature-to-be in our glorification.

Though on the glorification state of human nature, I do wonder, what non posse peccare truly means? Do we consider it as a reduction of ability - unable to sin, as if it's a lesser state of human nature or something else? I once concluded that this was simply the grace of God's presence. God is always with us in glorification, hence God's presence overwhelms our ability to a point that sin is absolutely not possible, rather than an inability to sin. This human nature is of course, difference than the impeccability of God - God can't sin because attributes of creation do not apply to a creator.

Recent conversation with folks at church was interesting. The argument most of them presented for the impeccability of Christ begged me to ask the question: Do you think Christ's human nature was created? To which one answered: No. Because his argument for Christ's impeccability was no different than the argument for God's impeccability, which I certainly have no issue with. But Christ's impeccability is not the same as God's impeccability, simply because of Christ's dual natures. Maybe similar, but there must be a difference, as slight as they could be. As a result, I wonder perhaps there are many who hold to the impeccability of Christ, but would not accept that Christ's human nature was created, this is more of a statistical thing for me, from observation. I see no reason to, though tempting at times, staple them with the label "Apollinarianism" on this, because like some Arminians (ask them if they think they are worthy enough to be saved), they may have the right concept, but the wrong/different vocabulary to communicate, thanks to Babel. They would wonder, to some indefinite extend, how Christ laughed, cried, angered, etc. like we do.

If I were to defend the peccability of Christ simply because some have accused this as giving a sort of uncertainty to Christ's trials in temptation, as if we had to worry at first and then experienced a great relief when He passed those temptations, my argument would be: No, there was no need for worry, because possibility to sin does not imply positive probability to sin or vice versa. I can manipulate the probability of a coin toss by introducing interference so that it is always heads instead of tail, but this does not imply that the coin has no tails, it is still possible that the coin has both head and tail rather than both heads. The probability can still be zero regardless of Christ's human ability to sin, because of God's grace upon the incarnate Christ since birth. Therefore, from the position of the peccability of Christ, it was a different grace for the incarnate Son than that for Adam, as opposed (or not necessarily oppose) to Christ having a different human nature than Adam's where one was impeccable while the other was peccable, per the impeccability advocates.

When we use the term "possible to", it means having the ability to. Could. They are of the same meaning.

Also, could Christ get sick (harmed, injured, etc.)? If not, then one can only argue he's not the human in Adam's state, but in the glorified state, otherwise, that would make Christ not human. If he could get sick, then how is he impeccable on one hand and capable of getting sick (or corruptible) on the other? I find that the best solution is God's special grace again, which can also be translated into the glorified state of man. Union with God. The confusion of the two natures just seem like or close to the violation of the Chalcedonian formula as Steve Cavallaro puts it.

Now let's debate maturely:

What should be said of Christ's obedience on Earth, if He's impeccable? If He was impeccable, by definition, there is no need to speak of Christ's obedience. In what sense did Christ obey God? Of Christ's triumph and victories as man on Earth, are they who deny His peccability then not able to relate Christ's victories to their own works in Christ? Are not the experience of Holy Spirit led triumphs in worldly struggle lacking in these folks? Would this tempt us to do shallow superficial works of God and not live a life of sacrifice and love that is fully dependent on God. Or is it easier to say: That I have failed because I'm a man, Jesus did not fail, could not, because He's...well...impeccable. Not my business, I just repent and move on, no need to use an impossible model as my role model. Is there truly no relationship between Christ's HUMAN nature and ours?

Now if we are to be strict about the terms we use, then when we say, Christ was tempted, we speak of Christ as a person. Not just His human nature. But when we speak of His person, we inevitably involve the eternal Son, the divine nature, where sin is invalid such that impeccability is obvious. So in this sense, since nature do not sin, persons do, we do not consider either His human or divine nature only, but the person, whom the divine nature overpowers. As far as his human nature goes: Herman Bavinck puts it this way: his human nature became “the splendid, willing organ of his deity.” So Satan wasn't just merely tempting the man Jesus, he was also tempting the second person of the Trinity, he was tempting God. In this sense, Jesus was impeccable. But I feel that this is just a play of terminology at this point. By my current understanding, Satan never nor would ever tempt God. Satan, a pure spiritual creature, at best would disagree with or disapprove of God (i.e. book of Job), but as far as tempting goes, I fail to see such example in the Bible unless you refer to the temptation of Christ. But one could easily say, Satan was tempting the man Jesus rather than the confusion of the God Jesus due to the reference to the person of Jesus. Since the mysterious hypostatic union must be involved in this, then I think Tong's phrase is most apt: Impeccability of Christ? Ontologically (divine nature), Yes. Logically (human nature), No. Since Ontological essence supersedes the logical one, Jesus was impeccable.

According to Carlton Wynne, an impeccability advocate, Both camps run the risk of reaching their conclusions by expanding one nature beyond its proper limit such that it overtakes and diminishes the other. The most severe distortions are committed by peccability advocates who discount Christ’s divine person as the subject of Christ’s incarnate activity. Wynne continued with another quote: As Geerhardus Vos explains, “Will or intellect or emotion in the human nature could not have sinned unless the underlying person had fallen from a state of moral rectitude.”

At every turn of proper arguments for impeccability, especially done by Wynne, I was able to struggle with counter equivalence from the perspective of God's grace, God's indwelling presence with pre-fall Adam contrasting with fallen men (grace from a distant), and that of Christ's (pre-fall condition at the very least, if not more just for the sake of accommodating impeccability) so that I will still be operating with the understanding of Christ's fully human nature without fail. Therefore, when Carlton said "In assuming a human nature and all of its essential attributes, the divine Son lived, obeyed, and suffered as one whose human will was a creaturely organ of the eternal Son, assumed “inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly,” and “inseparably”15 to himself as a member of the Godhead", was he referring to the creaturely organ as a member of the Godhead? Or did I read it wrong. Language can be a tricky thing. If he did, then we have serious disagreement here, being that I hold Christ's incarnate human nature not part of the trinity. I add the word incarnate here to sympathize with Tong's argument for the uncreated image and likeness of the second person of the Trinity in Christ's humanity, if we are to ponder on the meaning of "humanity" without the notion of incarnation if possible, from the perspective of the image of God, which is another can of worms, I believe. But it need not be discussed here.

Wynne basically criticized his impeccability fellows such as Shedd, for explaining Christ’s victory over temptation in terms of divine assistance, as though his divine powers commandeered his humanity at the moment of severest anguish. Of which I see parallel to my God's grace theory. And Wynne argues to situating Christ’s impeccability as a consequence of his divine person’s having taken on a human mind and will in the incarnation carries significant advantages over alternative proposals by impeccability advocates. Basically, Wynne puts emphasis of the person on the divinity more than the humanity, I believe, which maybe problematic - such as seeing the humanity (or will) as a mere creaturely organ, that may or may not be part of the Godhead. Wynne also further made this additional case to make his take on this more glorious: The divine Son was truly tempted in his humanity, making his triumph over sin and suffering all the more glorious. This I feel is more acceptable for peccability advocates rather than impeccability. There need not be degree of glory for the divine person, if nothing (i.e. human nature) of the person is peccable. I'm not even going to try to justify either sides under potentia ordinata, rather than potentia absoluta, because I think the concept of potentia absoluta though feasible logically, is still not sufficient for a Creator of logic.

I wonder if the impeccability advocates build their foundation from John Owen's works, mainly On Temptation:...Christ had the suffering part of temptation only; we have the sinning part also...which led to the discussion of what is temptation. And it was then broken down into two parts: Internal & external temptations, which was brought up in the PCA's ad interim report. In short, Christ did not have the internal temptation as we do. This internal temptation, I view as God's curse or God's turning His back in separation from mankind.

My critic on Wynne's: Our desperate situation signals our need for a Redeemer whose own volitional orientation was equally vulnerable to temptations, but whose moral rectitude impelled him to resist all of their allure. This we find in Christ alone...."Christ's unyielding will...his stubborn refusal to yield... Vulnerable, impelled, unyielding, obedience, free human will, these are the languages that implies peccability. I would love Wynne to elaborate.

Wynne's argument appear to not be far from my peccability of Christ understanding. His last statement: When we see him, we will be like him (1 John 3:2) and will no longer be able to sin. What a glorious day that will be. begs the question of the mysterious last state of human free will in God, unable to sin. Which I still struggle to understand: be it a complete removal of such ability or just simple an eternally perpetual ignorance of it in full union with God?

Conclusion, the impeccability advocates have yet to present a strong argument against peccability of Christ. The best argument is only the word play with the personhood of Christ - person sins, nature does not. But that is insufficient to uncover the humanity of Christ fully, for Satan was tempting the incarnate one, not God, or not just God if one must insist. While DeYoung and Shedd imagine a supercharged human nature from Jesus' divine nature (hence essentially equivalent to my "Grace of God theory Luke 2:40"), Wynne arguments just seem to be shifted to no different than the peccability advocates. As far as peccability goes, since all the arguments posted against the peccability advocates are largely agreed already by the peccability advocates, I feel that the peccability advocates know better at what they are talking about more than the impeccability advocates, rather than vice versa. Therefore, I don't mind taking both positions, due to the validity of both sides' claims in these ways, as long as the peccability advocates do not consider Jesus' peccability pertained to an uncertainty outcome, or the impeccability advocates do not hold Jesus' humanity, human mind, will, to be uncreated/non-creaturely. I believe it comes down to the semantic of the word impeccable after sufficient resources have been exhausted.

Practical Lessons:

This semantic is like an illusion of the Spinning Dancer (She's both spinning clockwise and also counter-clockwise: see animation below), so we best treat arguments like this with much kindness and not superiority or jealousy of knowledge.


I must pray that this understanding only draws me closer to God, to walk with God. That I know Thou will for me, what Thou find beautiful in me. And in all things I do, I seek impeccability before Thee, never leave me, command me to not be bored away from Thee. Have me not be led into haughtiness of shallow knowledge in loyalty such that I underestimate even the Devil, but always be confident in fear and humility of Thy knowledge in faithfulness which I am always growing in but never fully ascertain. Mortify my self indulgence, my hedonistic pursuit, but never wanting a moment of joy to be lost in Thy bosom, in Thy union, oh Blessed Savior my God! Amen!

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11 Responses to Impeccability of Christ: Was it possible for Christ to Sin = Was Christ able to Sin?

  1. timlyg says:

    Stephen Tong on Impeccability of Christ:

      答:Very very interesting question!耶稣如果有犯罪的可能性的话,那万一他犯罪了,怎么办呢?宇宙中间的救恩不是就没有可能成全了吗?那是很危险的。第二、如果耶稣绝对没有犯罪的可能性的话,他一定得胜,也一定是表演的,对不对?所以这个问题的背后,是很深的思想刺激出来的,我不知道是你自己想的,还是上了课以后,弄到没有办法写你的作业才来问我。我只有两句话。Onto logically,No!Logically,Yes!从逻辑来看,耶稣有可能犯罪。从本体论来看.没有可能犯罪。所以,从他的神性来看,他是绝对的、绝对的、得胜者的、真理的本体;从他的人性来看,他凡事与我们一样的软弱,但是他却没有犯罪。圣经没有说没有可能犯罪,只说他没有犯罪,所以他真正得胜。他的得胜是真的,正像他在十字架上受的痛苦,承担的苦难也是真的。



    Another take on the same subject by Stephen Tong:
    Excerpt from 罪恶源头的探讨 唐崇荣牧师传讲
    第三讲 - 我的「己」与神的「己」




    每次当我们谈到神的时候,就如同已经打开了圣所与至圣所之间的幔子,我们已经牵涉到至圣所「神」的本体,这位神是道德的源头、是善的的源头、是圣洁的源头、是义的源头、是永恒的真理的源头、是爱的源头。God is holy. God is love. God is light. God is good. God is righteous. 上帝是义的、是善的、是圣的、是爱的、是永恒之真理的本体,他也是美的本体,他也是 subjectivity of the truth in person, subjectivity of righteousness in person, subjectivity of holiness in person, subjectivity of goodness in person。这一位神本身是自由的本体,subjectivity of sovereignty in person。这一位绝对有自由、凭自己的意旨行做万事的上帝,那么,他有没有犯罪的可能?





    耶稣基督没有说:「唉!你读错了,我再读一次给你听,你少了一句话。」或者说:「你多了两句话!」耶稣不跟它辩论,耶稣说:「经上又记着说:『不可试探主 -- 你的神。』」(太四7;路四12)耶稣不是说:「我是你的主,你现在试探我,岂有此理!你知道不知道《圣经》说:『不可试探你的主。』」不是!耶稣基督那一句话的意思是说:「如果我跳下去,我不是走在正路上,我是故意试探我的上帝能不能保护我。凡是故意试探上帝的就是犯罪,我现在是以人的身分来受你的试探,而今天如果我不谨慎,我就变成试探我的主,我做人不可试探上帝,所以我不走这条路,我也不跳!」耶稣的意思是这样。你看见了,当撒但来试探耶稣的时候,耶稣基督如果不谨慎,会不会犯罪啊?你不敢回答了。我第一个问题是:「耶稣有没有受试探?」你说:「有……!」你拉得很长,好像小孩子一样。




  2. timlyg says:

    Steve Cavallaro's article for Peccability of Christ:
    I will also post the rest of his articles on the 12 Statements of PCA in my entry regarding those.


    We affirm the impeccability of Christ. The incarnate Son of God neither sinned (in thought, word, deed, or desire) nor had the possibility of sinning. Christ experienced temptation passively, in the form of trials and the devil’s entreaties, not actively, in the form of disordered desires. Christ had only the suffering part of temptation, where we also have the sinning part. Christ had no inward disposition or inclination unto the least evil, being perfect in all graces and all their operations at all times.

    There is an element of controversy here. Yes, “the incarnate Son of God neither sinned (in thought, word, deed or desire)”. The question is, “Was it possible for him to sin?”. The Report says He couldn’t. In the footnote they quote from Berkhof about the “essential bond between the human and divine natures.” This, to me sounds like mixture and close to violating the Chalcedonian formula. We still, confessionally, distinguish between the two complete natures while affirming one person. Monothelitism (one will) was condemned as well. The road of orthodoxy seems narrow between the two ditches error.

    2. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. WCF VIII

    We clearly do not believe that Jesus had a fallen nature like us. There was no sin original nor actual of His own which blemished and disqualified Him as the Lamb of God. The temptation He experienced was from outside of Himself, not due to an inward inclination to disobey. This the Report rightfully guards.

    Monophysitism (one nature) <======> Chalcedonian Orthodoxy <=====> Nestorianism (2 persons)

    Charles Hodge

    The Report reflects Kevin DeYoung’s article from 2019 on the Gospel Coalition blog which may have resulted from his work on this committee. He focuses on the work of W.G.T. Shedd. The focus is on the inability of Christ to sin. This is the majority report from the Church.

    It has been increasingly questioned in the last few hundred years, including by esteemed theologians like Charles Hodge. DeYoung notes that Shedd likely wrote in response to Hodges’ views. In his work The Person of Christ, Donald Macleod posits that Jesus was free from actual sin, and from inherent sin (corruption). This focuses on a biblical and not speculative position since he was not born of Adam.

    The late R.C. Sproul was a PCA theologian who also surmised that Jesus, pertaining to His humanity, was able to sin while also affirming that Jesus never did.

    “But if Christ’s divine nature prevented him from sinning, in what sense did he obey the law of God as the second Adam? At his birth, Jesus’ human nature was exactly the same as Adam’s before the fall, with respect to his moral capabilities. Jesus had what Augustine called the posse peccare and the posse non peccare, that is, the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. … Satan was not trying to get God to sin. He was trying to get the human nature of Christ to sin, so that he would not be qualified to be the Savior. …. I may be wrong, but I think it is wrong to to believe that Christ’s divine nature made it impossible for him to sin. If that were the case, the temptation, the tests, and the assuming of the responsibilities of the first Adam would have all been charades. This position protects the authenticity of the human nature because it was the human nature that carried out the mission of the second Adam on our behalf.” Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol. 1, pp. 251

    As a result, I think that asking us to affirm that Jesus could not sin, in addition to did not sin, may be an overreach. The Confession reflects the Chalcedonian Formula and doesn’t seem to directly address this issue. I agree with Sproul’s point even if I don’t like his articulation at all points. We don’t want to sound (or be) Nestorian. But Jesus was fully man as well as fully God. Not having inherited corruption, Jesus as the second Adam likely was in the same state as the first Adam. His perfect obedience for us should draw wonder and amazement (as Sproul notes on the next page) because he succeeded where Adam the first failed. A man not only had to die, but also perfectly obey. We don’t say that Jesus wasn’t able to die by virtue of the essential bond of his nature.

    Nevertheless, Christ endured, from without, real soul-wrenching temptations which qualified him to be our sympathetic high priest (Heb. 2:18; 4:15). Christ assumed a human nature that was susceptible to suffering and death.He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3).

    They seek to emphasize the reality of Christ’s suffering in temptation and in death which makes Him perfect for being our Mediator. Hebrews wants us to know of the reality of His temptation, as well as His sinlessness, so we are encouraged to draw near to Him as our Great High Priest who alone is able to help us.

  3. timlyg says:

    Some forum discussion worth looking at:

    We cannot go about discussing the impeccability of Christ in the same way we discuss the communication of attributes in the two natures of Christ. This is primarily because persons sin, not natures. So the very question of whether Christ's human nature can sin is not a valid one. Robert Dabney elaborates on this and other points. Sorry for the long quote, but it is helpful:

    The old doctrine of the Reformed Churches asserted not only the actual sinlessness, which none but violent infidels impugn, but the impeccability of our Redeemer. In recent days, some of whom better things should have been expected, deny the latter. They concede to the God-man the posse non peccare: but deny to Him, or at least to the humanity, the non posse peccare. Their plea is in substance, that a being must be peccable in order to experience temptation, to be meritorious for resisting it, and to be an exemplar and encouragement to us, who are tempted. Thus argue Ullman, Farrar, the author of “Ecce Deus,” Dr. Schaff, and even Dr. Hodge; while Dr. Dorner, in his “History of Protestant Theol.,” revives the Nestorian and Pelagian doctrine, of a meritorious growth or progress of Christ’s humanity from peccability to impeccability, by virtue of the holy use of His initial contingency and selfdetermination of will.​

    Now, none will say that the second Person, as eternal Word, was, or is peccable. It would seem then, that the trait can only be asserted of the humanity. But, 1st, It is the unanimous testimony of the Apostles, as it is the creed of the Church, that the human nature never had its separate personality. It never existed, and never will exist for an instant, save in personal union with the Word. Hence, (a.) Since only a Person can sin, the question is irrelevant; and (b.) Since the humanity never was, in fact, alone, the question whether, if alone, it would not have been peccable, like Adam, is idle. Second: It is impossible that the person constituted in union with the eternal and immutable Word, can sin; for this union is an absolute shield to the lower nature, against error. In the God-man “dwells the fullness of the God-head bodily.” Col. 2:9; Col 1:19. Third, this lower nature, upon its union with the Word, was imbued with the full influences of the Holy Ghost. Ps. 45:7; Isaiah 11:2, 3; 61:1, 3; Luke 4:21; and 4:1; Jno. 1:32; 3:34. Fourth, Christ seems to assert his own impeccability. Jno. 14:30. “Satan cometh and hath nothing in me.” So Paul, 2 Cor. 5:21, Christ “knew no sin;” and in Heb. 13:8. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day and forever.” Jno. 10:36. “The Father hath sanctified and sent Him in the world.” Fifth: If this endowment of Christ’s person rose no higher than a posse non peccare, it seems obvious that there was a possibility of the failure of God’s whole counsel of redemption. For, as all agree, a sinning sacrifice and intercessor could redeem no one. There must have been then, at least a decretive necessity, that all his actions should be infallibly holy.​

    The pretext for imputing peccability to the Redeemer has been explained: it only remains to prove it groundless. He was certainly subjected to temptation, and was, in a sense, thus qualified to be a perfect example to and sympathizer with us, in our militant state. But this consists with his impeccability. These writers seem to think that if, in the hitherto sinless will of Jesus, there had been no contingency and self-determination when He came to be tempted, He could have had no actual realization of spiritual assaults, and no victory. Does not this amount to teaching that a rudiment at least of “concupiscence” in Him was necessary to this victory and merit. Then it would follow that we shall hold, with Pelagius, that concupiscence is not sin per se; for that cannot be sin per se, which is essential to right action, under a given condition assigned the responsible agent by God’s own providence.​

    In fact, the supposed stress of our opponents’ plea is dissolved, when we make the obvious distinction between the act of intellection of the natural desirableness seen in an object, and a spontaneous appetency for it apprehended as unlawful. It is the latter which is the sin of concupiscence. The former is likely to take place in any intellect, simply as a function of intelligence, just in proportion to the extent of its cognitive power, and is most certain to take place, as a simple function of intelligence, as to all possible objects, in the infinite mind of the holy God! So far as intellectual conception goes, none conceive so accurately as God, just how “the pleasures of sin which are but for a season,” appear to a fallible creature’s mind. To say that God feels the sin of “concupiscence” would be blasphemy. This distinction shows us how an impeccable being may be tempted. While the human will of Jesus was rendered absolutely incapable of concupiscence by the indwelling of the Godhead and its own native endowment; He could doubtless represent to Himself mentally precisely how a sinful object affects both mind and heart of His imperfect people. Does not this fit Him to feel for and to succor them? And is His victory over temptation the less meritorious, because it is complete? Let me explain. We will suppose that the idea of a forbidden object is suggested (possibly by an evil spirit,) before the intellect of a Christian. One of two things may happen. By the force of indwelling sin the presence of that idea in conception may result in some conscious glow of appetency towards the object; but the sanctified conscience is watchful and strong enough to quench this heat before it flames up into a wrong volition. This perhaps is the usual case with Christians. And there, our opponents would exclaim, is the wholesome self-discipline! There is the creditable and ennobling warfare against sin! Let us now suppose the other result; which, in the happier hours of eminent saints, doubtless follows sometimes: that when the tempting idea is presented in suggestion, the conscience is so prompt, and holy desires so pre-occupy the mind, that the thought is ejected before it even strikes the first spark of concupiscence; that the entire and immediate answer of the heart to it is negative. Is not this still more creditable than the former case? Surely! If we approved the man in the former case because the state of his soul’s moral atmosphere was such, that the evil spark went out before it set fire to the stream of action; we should still more approve, in the latter case, where the atmosphere of the soul was such that the spark of evil was not lighted at all. Will any one say, that here, there was no temptation. This is as though one should say, there was no battle, because the victory was complete and the victor unscathed.​

    —Robert Lewis Dabney, Syllabus and Notes of the Course of Systematic and Polemic Theology Taught in Union Theological Seminary, Virginia, 2nd ed. (St. Louis, MO: Presbyterian Publishing Company of St. Louis, 1878), 470-472.​

  4. timlyg says:

    Private message with Alex, I figure it's too important not to archive it so here it is:

    Dear Dr. Tseng, hope you are doing well. Got a quick question for you, what's your take on the impeccability of Christ? Given your strong argument before on Christ's Human Nature being created, I am really curious at your view on Impeccability of Christ. This was stirred by the PCA's ad interim report on human sexuality statement 8: Impeccability where Kevin DeYoung wrote strongly for it, even in his TGC article. But I also noticed there are other reformed ones such as Sproul, and possibly Warfield, who were more peccability advocates. Hope I could get your thoughts on this. Thank you very much!!!
    May 14, 2022, 11:26 PM
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Sproul’s Christology is highly problematic.
    You sent
    But what about impeccability of Christ? I saw online someone mentioned BB Warfield was also on the peccability side, but I couldn't find any reference to it.
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    The reason why I argue strongly for Christ’s creatureliness as a human being is that I am fully committed to the Reformed confessions. Confessional Reformed Christology is characterized by the Extra Calvinisticum, the doctrine that the finite cannot contain the infinite (finitum non capax infiniti).
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Reformed Christology thus insists sharply on the abiding distinction between Christ’s two natures.
    You sent
    Yea, thank you for those notes before. But the way I see it, especially the way Kevin DeYoung wrote about Impeccability of Christ, it seems to blur the distinction between Christ's two natures, and even make Christ's human nature not so human - If the Incarnate Christ was unable to sin.
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Everything that Christ did as a man, he did by the power of the Holy Spirit as a man, and not by exercising his divine powers as the Son of God. He who died on the cross IS God, but He did not die AS God.
    You sent
    yea, i remember Sproul had problem with that hymn about God dying.
    Shao Kai
    This would also mean that the actual sinlessness of his entire life and his lived experience, the passive and active righteousness that was subsequently imputed to His believers, was also a result of the sinlessness of His human nature.
    Shao Kai
    His actual sinlessness was not a result of the influence of the holiness of His divine nature. He was a godly man, and was given a human kind of holiness that was finite and qualitatively different from the holiness of God.
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    This why Reformed doctrine is so emphatic on the impeccability of Christ’s human nature. It is precisely because the emphasis on the creatureliness of Christ as a man.
    You sent
    not sure if I'm wrong about the meaning of impeccability of Christ here, my understanding of it is: The human nature of Christ before resurrection, was NOT able to sin. Is that about right?
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    That’s right
    You sent
    oh ok....
    You sent
    would Augustine's 4 stages of human free will (posse peccare....) be problematic as well?
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Western theology has always acknowledged that God could have created the first man as an impeccable creature. So there’s no contradiction between creatureliness and impeccability.
    You sent
    oh basically the creatureliness of Jesus' human nature was unlike Adam's, because Adam's pre-fall nature was peccable, while Jesus' incarnate human nature was impeccable?
    Shao Kai replied to you
    Shao Kai Tseng
    If you interpret them along Cassian’s lines, then they become problematic. But Calvin interpreted them in accordance with Augustine’s own text, which is not problematic at all
    Shao Kai replied to you
    Shao Kai
    So Reformed theology speaks of Christ human nature as corruptible (mortal, etc.) but not peccable
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    By the way I think Warfield is quite clear on impeccability
    You sent
    i see...hmmm interesting
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    I don’t have the text with me. But I do t think he ever denied it
    You sent
    i'll try to look into warfield...i have no reference
    You sent
    So the 3 times Satan tempted Christ, was basically Satan was too dumb to see His impeccability? Because looked like Satan thought He was peccable....that about right?
    You sent
    great chat btw, I wasn't expecting you to response, not to mention that quick. Thank you very very much Dr. Tseng!
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Haha that’s a great question
    You sent
    but seriously, that last question, if you don't mind LOL
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Satan is certainly described as the most foolish being in all of fallen creation
    You sent
    ah ok
    Shao Kai
    And the rhetoric, “If you are truly the Son of God,” was repeated at Golgotha, according to Matthew’s report.
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Satan thought he could tempt Jesus in the wilderness
    You sent
    I thought if we could argue that since Christ is 100% human, then this human nature is created; therefore, by the same line of thought, his human nature at least pre-glorification/resurrection, should also be peccable as Adam was.
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    When he failed, he turned to violence
    Shao Kai replied to you
    Shao Kai Tseng
    He was different from Adam in two fundamental ways
    You sent
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Adam was peccable (though not yet sinful) and incorruptible. He fell and became corruptible

    Christ was created to be impeccable, but inherited from Adam the corruptibility that resulted from the fall. Christ was raised to become incorruptible, as he overcame sin through death by his impeccable holiness as a man.
    You sent
    wow, cool....good stuff! I guess I need to look into the differences between peccability and corruptibility, seemed like same meaning to me
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    The four stages of posse/non posse was a result of God’s decision and design by his potentia ordinata. There is no inner necessity for God to make Christ tread the same path as Adam. In many ways, Christ was the very reverse of Adam.

    Adam: peccable + incorruptible
    Christ: impeccable + corruptible
    Shao Kai
    Mark Jones’s two books on Christ are the best expressions of Reformed Christology I’ve read so far
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    The Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ and Knowing Christ
    You sent
    ok, I'll read those two then
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    He explains impeccability in those books very well
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    You sent
    A Christian's Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ
    You sent
    Done, just bought that on Amazon kindle
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    You sent
    Knowing Christ - no digital version, I'll have to think about this, maybe buy it physical library really stuffed, maybe after I read the first one LOL
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    lol same here
    You sent
    Thank you very much sir!!! For your time especially!
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    You sent
    Hope to see you some days in person
    You sent
    you have a great weekend/Week! Blessings!
    Shao Kai
    Shao Kai Tseng
    Write to Shao Kai Tseng

  5. timlyg says:

    A good source (Though Roman Catholics) that is a summary of what I've learned:

    Copied here in case the link breaks:

    If Christ could not sin, how was he tempted in the desert?

    1st Sunday of Lent, Mark 1:12-15
    The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.

    We know that Jesus was truly tempted in the desert, for such is the teaching of Sacred Scripture. And yet, it should be clear that Our Savior could not – he simply could not – sin. The Lord Jesus is impeccable, he cannot sin.

    If the Church teaches that Jesus could not possibly sin, in what sense can we affirm that he was tempted in the desert?

    Jesus is impeccable – He could not possibly sin
    Insofar as we recognize that Jesus Christ is truly God, it is clear that he cannot possibly sin. God cannot sin, therefore Jesus cannot sin. It is impossible to even conceive of Christ sinning without mentally separating and dividing his divine and human natures – that is, one cannot think that Jesus could sin without becoming a Nestorian heretic.

    But, one says, “Jesus isn’t only God, he is also man. Therefore, his human nature allows him to have the possibility of sinning.”

    Clearly this cannot be the case: For a nature does not sin, but a person. And Jesus is a Divine Person, therefore, as God and as man, he cannot possibly sin. If Jesus could sin, then it would not be a man sinning, but God sinning through a human nature – and this is absurd.

    It is simply and absolutely impossible for Christ to sin, because he is God and God cannot sin.

    Further, we add that, even in his humanity, our Savior could not sin because his human will was perfectly united to his divine will; and his human intellect enjoyed an immediate knowledge and vision of God.

    Thus, although the human will is the type of thing which can sin (because it is not divine), yet Christ’s human will was so elevated by the grace of the hypostatic union as to be entirely free from every possibility of sin.

    The Second Council of Constantinople condemned Theodore of Mopsuestia for claiming that it was only after the Resurrection that Jesus became impeccable and entirely unable to sin. Thus, Christians are not free to think that Jesus could have possibly sinned at any time during his life on earth.

    But, if Jesus couldn’t sin, was he really free?

    Of course our Savior had free will! After all, the ability to sin does not make us more free, but less free. God cannot sin, and so he is absolutely free –his freedom is essentially greater than our freedom, in fact.

    Further, the saints in heaven (together with the angels) cannot sin – for they enjoy the fullness of the beatific vision – and they are most certainly free. (cf. CCC 1045)

    What a terrible thought, that being free from sin would make us a slave! It is knowledge and truth (together with goodness and beauty) which makes us free, not sin – And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

    Sin and the ability to sin do not make us free, but rather enslave us: Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the son abideth for ever. If therefore the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)

    The confusion comes from misrepresenting the true meaning of freedom. Freedom is the ability to choose, but the choice to sin is actually a lessening of choice. Evil is not a positive reality, but is a deficiency, a tendency toward non-being. Thus, the sinfulness of an action is that action’s tendency toward non-existence and non-being. Further, the creature’s “ability” to sin is an expression of its tendency toward non-being.

    Thus, it should be clear that the choice to sin is itself a movement toward non-existence. If that movement and tendency toward nothingness be taken away, then the creature becomes progressively more free. God is pure being, pure existence – and therefore, he is perfect goodness with no admixture of evil or of sin, nor even of the possibility of sin.

    Freedom is the ability to do what one wills, but the will is attracted to goodness. Hence, if the will is fully alive (and informed perfectly by the intellect) it will be attracted to the good infallibly – and this means that the human will, when the intellect enjoys the beatific vision, cannot possibly be attracted to evil or to sin. Yet, the man is free, for he does whatever he will – but he can now only will that which is good, that which the will is naturally directed towards.

    Jesus only suffered external temptations

    Notice that Scripture does not simply say that Jesus was tempted, but that he was tempted by Satan.

    We began this article by asking: “If Christ could not sin, how was he tempted in the desert?” And the answer is simple: He was tempted not by any defect of his will, nor by any sinful inclination, but by Satan (that is, from an exterior temptation).

    There are three types of temptation: From the world, from the flesh and from the devil. Now, it is clear that Jesus could not possibly be tempted by the flesh – for this refers to the tendency toward non-existence, the interior attraction to sinfulness. But, Jesus could not sin, therefore he could not be tempted interiorly by the flesh.

    However, our Savior was most certainly tempted by both the world and the devil – for these are exterior temptations, insofar as they do not originate within a man, but come from other forces which act upon him. The world tempted Christ through men who sought to entice him with vain and worldly glory, or who attempted to terrify him through the threat and execution of punishments. But these temptations did not weaken his will for even a moment – and hence there was no sin involved in his part, nor was there even the possibility of sin.

    The devil tempted Christ when he was in the desert. But this too was an exterior temptation which did not, even for the slightest moment, turn his human will from the divine mission.

    And yet, we must admit that these were real temptations.

    The mere fact the Jesus did not and could not sin, do not make the temptations any less real. Is a temptation less real because we do not consent to it? Of course not! Is a temptation not a temptation if we push it aside immediately and without giving in to sin at all? No! Then, if our consent does not make a temptation any less real, why would the temptations in the desert be less real simply because Christ did not and could not possibly consent to sin?

    Rather indeed, we say that our Savior suffered temptation in a manner even more grievous than we – for we have many times given into temptation early on, and thus the temptation ends and the sin begins; but our Lord never gave in, but instead bore the temptation to the end without the least consent of the will.

    But he was tempted like us in all things!

    St. Paul writes: For we have not a high priest, who can not have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

    Yes, Christ was indeed tempted, but not in those ways which involve sin – i.e. he was not tempted through an interior weakness of the will. Thus, he was tempted just was we are, excepting in those ways which involve sin.

    Indeed, we can see that there are several ways in which we are tempted but in which Christ could not have been tempted: We are tempted by memories of past sins (but Christ had no past sins), we are tempted by doubt (which could not be in Christ), and many other ways besides.

    Our Lord could not suffer any temptation as an interior struggle arising from his human will. However, he could be tempted through an exterior struggle against Satan and the world. And this was real temptation, which extended to every aspect of the human soul, but was without sin and without even the possibility of sin.

    Posted by Father Ryan Erlenbush

    Labels: Morality, Sacred Doctrine, Sacred Scripture, Thomistic Scriptural Commentary
    Sam said...
    Is it a sin to desire something sinful but reject it? Is interior attraction sinful in itself even if the act is rejected?

    For example, if a man were tempted to lust after a woman, but pulled his eyes away, would the desire to look at her be sinful? Or would it only be sinful if he gave in and lusted?

    February 24, 2012 at 9:41 AM
    A Sinner said...
    It might help to remember that "temptation" just means "testing." Jesus's will was certainly tested by the world and the devil. It was tested and found utterly impervious to the attempts to derail it. But testing something infallibly destined to still testing it. If I'm testing a train's ability to not derail in high winds, the fact that the train is too heavy and steady to ever be tipped off the tracks by wind doesn't mean that putting it through the wind tunnel isn't still a test, or that it didn't still have to resist the force of the wind with the force of its own mass and inertia. That's still a test.

    February 24, 2012 at 9:45 AM
    Tito Edwards said...
    If Satan is a fallen angel, that means he had perfect knowledge from day one. Hence he knew Jesus was unable to be tempted.

    Yet, if Scripture states that Satan tempted him, that can only mean that Satan did not know that Jesus was the Son of God.

    Which begs the question, that with perfect knowledge and that Jesus is infinite, ie, He was there when Satan was created, then Satan did not recognize that Jesus was the Son of God when He appeared on Earth?

    February 24, 2012 at 9:53 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    Most of the Church Fathers hold that Satan did not realize that Jesus was true God.
    Indeed, Satan does not have perfect knowledge of all things -- he is still limited, being a creature (even if a powerful creature).

    The flesh of Christ hid his divinity ... especially, because our Lord was hungry (after the 40 day fast), Satan doubted whether Jesus was truly divine.

    Great question! +

    February 24, 2012 at 11:41 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    Interior temptations are not sins in themselves, but they are the result of sin.
    That is, without original sin and concupiscence, a man would never suffer interior temptations.

    This is another reason why our Lord was not tempted interiorly (in addition to being God, and possessing the beatific vision as man).

    Hope it is clearer now! +

    February 24, 2012 at 11:43 AM
    Dismas said...
    "Further, the saints in heaven (together with the angels) cannot sin – for they enjoy the fullness of the beatific vision – and they are most certainly free. (cf. CCC 1045)"

    Does this mean that Satan and all the fallen angels weren't in Heaven and didn't enjoy the fullness of the beatific vision? If they enjoyed the fullness of the beatific vision prior to their fall and could not sin, how did they manage to get cast out of Heaven?

    February 24, 2012 at 2:55 PM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    That is correct ... Satan (and all the angels) did not start off with the beatific vision -- even though they were craeted in the state of grace, they had a moment to choose before being given the beatific vision.

    Thus, Satan was cast of "heaven", meaning of the "upper parts", not meaning heaven proper -- after all, many times when Scripture says "heaven" or the "heavens", we are to understand something other than heaven proper (e.g. the birds are in the "heavens").

    Thanks for the question, and helping me to clarify a bit! +

    February 24, 2012 at 4:00 PM
    Michelangelo said...
    Dear Father,

    Excellent explanation! The little phrase that helps me to keep clear in my mind the Church's teaching on Christ as True God and True Man is:

    Jesus is one "Who" and two "Whats".

    He is one Divine Person with two natures, a Divine and a Human nature. He took on His Human nature at the Annunciation when He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Mother. God bless you, Father.

    February 24, 2012 at 5:09 PM
    Michelangelo said...
    Dear Father,

    On the related subject of Jesus's Agony in the Garden where He prays to the Father to let this chalice of suffering pass, but "not My will but Thine be done". I think you mentioned this in a previous post, but is it proper to say that Jesus experienced the normal healthy dread of suffering, that function of our nervous system and mind which kick into gear when, for example, we learn we must have what we fear will be painful surgery? This isn't temptation per se, but it is the body "doing its thing" to help us to avoid danger. Thank you and God bless.

    February 24, 2012 at 5:20 PM
    Passerby said...
    I have already heard this kind of explanation, and I always find it hollow in one way for which I have yet to find a satisfactory answer. So, let me ask here. This article discusses in great length how the ability to sin does not make us more free, but less free. Yet, to the question why there is so much evil in the world, the standard answer is that the evil is the consequence of human freedom. Note that in this case notion 'freedom' must include the ability to sin, otherwise that answer would be plain stupid. Now, if we are to claim that it is not quite so, and that taking away the ability to sin makes one more free, we are back to square one with the question why there is so much evil in the world. In that case, one has every right in asking why then couldn't God make Adam free in that way that he has not the ability to sin, since then we would have both freedom and no evil and suffering.

    February 25, 2012 at 2:25 AM
    Father S. said...
    This points to a larger issue in terms of understanding. In my experience, many Catholics (at least here in the Midwest) have the sense that temptation and sin are equivalent. In point of fact, they are quite different. Sin requires a human act, i.e., an act composed of desire, judgement, and an act of the will. In short, sin requires cooperation with temptation.

    When any person is tempted, there cannot be sin unless that person averts to the sin that is suggested. Desire, in itself, is not sinful.

    Kind Regards,
    Father S.

    February 25, 2012 at 5:50 AM
    David Urbanski said...
    I noticed this morning that the verbs used in the first line of this passage are very vivid and strong: ekballei in Greek and expulsit in the Vulgate. In Mark, the very moment after Jesus is given his mission ("with you I am well pleased") the Spirit immediately "throws him out" into the desert. The Latin verb is the same used to mean "expel" or "disown." It's as if Jesus is disowned by God. I don't know how this fits into the discussion exactly, but as I read it, it certainly cast a very human kind of empty loneliness onto the scene. Not despair, but a desolation of some kind it seems.

    February 25, 2012 at 5:53 AM
    Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...
    Dear Mr. Edwards, A Bishop Fulton J. Sheen noted in , "Life of Christ," the Devil did not know that Jesus was The Messiah and so Satan began his tempting by saying, "If..".

    February 25, 2012 at 6:41 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    If I understand your comment correctly, then yes -- God could have made the world without sin, he could have created Adam not only in grace but with the beatific vision such that he could not sin (and there would still be freedom).

    Indeed, these explanations of evil which say that "in order to give man freedom, God had to allow for the possibility of sin" are radically contrary to the Catholic and Christian Tradition.
    They became popular only after the rise of Protestantism and the modern era.

    The better answer is that God had no obligation to make a world entirely without sin. He had no obligation to make the world at all.
    But, allowing us to fall into sin, God shows us great mercy insofar as he saves at least some.
    Hence, sin and evil are permitted in order that God may bring about some greater good and also show us his mercy.

    Peace! +

    February 25, 2012 at 10:02 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    Yes, I believe you are correct ... insofar as avoiding pain is considered as an instinct, our Savior did indeed avoid the suffering of the Cross.
    However, there was not the slightest weakness in his will.

    Peace! +

    February 25, 2012 at 10:05 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    @Father S.,
    You are correct that temptation (even interior temptation) is not sin per se -- because concupiscence is not sin.
    However, we must also be clear: Christ did not suffer from concupiscence and so could not have had any interior temptations.

    "Desire, in itself, is not sinful" (as you say). But, our Savior could not have had even an inordinate desire ... because he had no original sin, and because he enjoyed the beatific vision, and because he is God himself.

    Peace! +

    February 25, 2012 at 10:07 AM
    Passerby said...
    Thank you for your straight answer. If you put things that way, then there is indeed no this kind of problem, but then we have a God that creates men to suffer for his own pleasure. As they say in an article on evil on catholic encyclopedia - God has not made the world primarily for man's good, but for His own pleasure. The problem is I kind of don't like such God, but I suppose that's the matter of taste. Thank you anyway.

    February 25, 2012 at 11:13 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    The traditional Catholic theory would not promote this horrible idea of God which you put forward.

    God creates man out of goodness and love. Where what is given is not demanded, but an act of generosity, there can be no judgment against God.
    They say "Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth" ... I see the goodness of God in creating the world, and it is to our benefit (not for his pleasure, but for ours).

    February 25, 2012 at 11:27 AM
    Greg L said...

    Are you asserting that it was ontologically impossible for Jesus to sin or "merely" logically impossible?

    I ask because in the Office of Readings for the First Sunday of Lent we read in Augustine's commentary on Psalm 62 that "[I]f he (Jesus) were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation."

    If Jesus were ontologically incapable of sin then any temptation, whether interior or exterior, would seem to be no temptation at all thus making the divide became Jesus and us insuperable However, if sin were ontologically possible but logically impossible (i.e. due to the perfect conformance of the human will to the divine) then we would be able to "learn" from Jesus' example.

    I would appreciate your thoughts.

    In Christ,

    February 25, 2012 at 3:05 PM
    Passerby said...
    Wouldn't promote? Well, I don't know how trustworthy catholic encyclopedia is, but I quote:

    Secondly, to the question why God should have chosen to create, when creation was in no way needful for His own perfection, St. Thomas answers that God's object in creating is Himself; He creates in order to manifest his own goodness, power, and wisdom, and is pleased with that reflection or similitude of Himself in which the goodness of creation consists. God's pleasure is the one supremely perfect motive for action, (...) This is accordingly the sufficient reason for the existence of the universe, and even for the suffering which moral evil has introduced into it. God has not made the world primarily for man's good, but for His own pleasure; good for man lies in conforming himself to the supreme purpose of creation, and evil in departing from it (C.G., III, xvii, cxliv).

    As for that gift-horse, that argument tacitly supposes that one is fond of horses which doesn't have to be the case. Taken that supposition away we have a situation that one is given (imposed?) a horse he has no specific desire for, which he can't return, and which by the way has bad teeth. As I said, it seems to be a matter of taste. I for example can't see the goodness and generosity in creating a world which has evil and suffering in it, if one could have created a world without it, especially if we are to claim that he could have done so and even preserve freedom and consequently love and all the other good stuff that goes with it.

    February 25, 2012 at 11:23 PM
    deum videre said...
    Can we, please, go back to the fallen angels for a while? If they fell because they said 'non serviam', but didn't do so in perfect knowledge and beatific vision, then how come there is no way that God can ever forgive them? I always thought that the Catholic teaching was that there can be no atonement for the sin of the fallen angels exactly because it was committed in full knowledge and while enjoying beatific vision. Please clarify this for me.

    February 26, 2012 at 5:20 AM
    Father S. said...
    @ Father,

    I don't disagree. Did I lead you to think otherwise?

    As it happens, even inordinate desire is not sinful. This is something that needs to be very clear. The lack of clarity is what leads people to identify a call to avoid cooperation with inordinate desire with rejection of the person. (e.g., same-sex desire)

    Kind Regards,
    Father S.

    February 26, 2012 at 10:08 AM
    mrd said...
    I am understand what your are trying to say, but the puzzle to me, is if one is not at all attracted to the evil how is one tempted? Example If I am a billionaire I simply would not be attracted to steal 1000.00. If I am married to a sports illustrated model, its unlikely I will be tempted to seek a prostitute. How could Jesus be tempted in a meaningful sense if Sin is not attractive on any level, even the good component of the sin ( for the will is only attracted to the good)

    February 26, 2012 at 10:12 AM
    Anonymous said...
    Allow me to discuss the statement, "God cannot sin, and so he is absolutely free –his freedom is essentially greater than our freedom, in fact." My question is about God's will. Since God is perfect, for God to make a choice implies that there are two or more ways in which perfection is attainable. Perhaps, in His perfection, God does not choose but simply and directly does the perfect thing. Like creating every possible universe which a perfect being can be fulfilled with. Can anyone prove that God makes choices?

    February 26, 2012 at 10:52 AM
    Nick said...
    A very good Scriptural argument to make is from Hebrews 3, directly quoting Psalm 95.

    7 Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost says [in Ps 95]:
    Today if you shall hear his voice, 8 harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the desert, 9 where your fathers **tempted me**, proved and saw my works, 10 forty years: for which cause I was offended with this generation, and I said: They always err in heart. And they have not known my ways. 11 As I have sworn in my wrath: If they shall enter into my rest.

    Here the Scriptures plainly say that God was "tempted" by the Israelites. This is the same Greek word for "tempt" as used for Jesus. The only acceptable understanding is that of an external provocation, without the slightest suggestion that God could ever succumb.

    This is a good text to know when speaking with Jehovah's (False) Witnesses, because they say Jesus could not be Divine since He was tempted.

    February 26, 2012 at 12:34 PM
    Unknown said...
    Very good reflections father! Extremely insightful. I've never really considered these theological questions before. Eastern Catholic theologies might differ from you on some points, but the overall thrust is the same. I'll go and think about it some more and maybe see if I can dig up some legitimate differences in theological opinion to continue the conversation.

    February 26, 2012 at 12:34 PM
    Anonymous said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    February 26, 2012 at 1:02 PM
    Anonymous said...

    If evil is "a tendency toward non-being" (the Augustinian position), what kind of ontological status has Satan?

    February 26, 2012 at 1:29 PM
    Charles said...

    Passerby,I believe,that the only pleasure which God created the world for is to get back all souls.

    So the pleasure through creating this world,which God is pleased with, is the acquiring back not only all souls,Jesus spirit substance since all by Him,but also the flesh body on the last day which their origin,I believe,are Lucifer and His
    angels. This is the charity,love and mercy of God through His Son Jesus.

    Also it is through our behaviour both by being in this world and with nature in general,which determines our future in the next world.The more we love the world,and our flesh,the more we are away from God,so in a way the world itself is not a friend of God.

    Regarding Jesus'temptation,I believe that Jesus' soul was not under the grip of Satan,like humans were, through Adam's sin.

    So the fact that Jesus was the redeemer,it was vital for Him to be immaculate in order to be free from all evil influences in whatever way they would come.

    This is confirmed in Luke 4:13And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

    14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee:

    So here scripture is confirming that when Jesus was in the desert,He was not in the power of the spirit,which means He was as a normal human being,and this gives us a good reason why He was tempted.

    I am expecting your correction father.

    February 26, 2012 at 1:53 PM
    stephenj said...
    The temptation refers, i think, to Satan's behavior rather than Jesus' behavior. There was an effort made by the devil to divert our Lord from his task. There is no scriptural indication that the devil was successful in this effort. The effort to cause one to sin is in itself the sinful part of the interaction. That our Lord was not deceived into sin is entirely unsurprising. Doubtless his human nature fully understood the efforts of the adversary. Scripture does not dwell on any aspect of an internal struggle, and it need not: even the notion that Jesus was in fact tempted through the efforts of the devil is rather laughable. The semantic argument here is really the source of the confusion: Just because person 1 tries to tempt person 2 does not necessarily imply any sin at any level for person 2.

    February 26, 2012 at 6:50 PM
    Anonymous said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    February 26, 2012 at 9:50 PM
    Anonymous said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    February 26, 2012 at 10:34 PM
    yan said...
    Hi Fr.,

    Simple question I think [for a change]: if the devil didn't know Jesus was the Son of God, how do we explain the gospel passages which state that the demons knew who He was?


    February 26, 2012 at 10:49 PM
    Anonymous said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    February 27, 2012 at 1:35 AM
    Nicholas said...
    Tito Edwards said...
    If Satan is a fallen angel, that means he had perfect knowledge from day one. Hence he knew Jesus was unable to be tempted.

    Yet, if Scripture states that Satan tempted him, that can only mean that Satan did not know that Jesus was the Son of God.

    Which begs the question, that with perfect knowledge and that Jesus is infinite, ie, He was there when Satan was created, then Satan did not recognize that Jesus was the Son of God when He appeared on Earth?
    February 24, 2012 9:53 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    Most of the Church Fathers hold that Satan did not realize that Jesus was true God.
    Indeed, Satan does not have perfect knowledge of all things -- he is still limited, being a creature (even if a powerful creature).

    The flesh of Christ hid his divinity ... especially, because our Lord was hungry (after the 40 day fast), Satan doubted whether Jesus was truly divine.

    Great question! +
    February 24, 2012 11:41 AM

    Sorry for reviving a long done topic. I just feel uneasy with the theory that the Devil did not know Jesus was the Son of God as the event was preceded by His baptism (Mt 4:13; Mk 1:9; Lk 3:2). At the baptism, the Father announced "This is my Son, the Beloved; he is my Chosen One.

    Please help me in my lack of understanding.

    February 27, 2012 at 2:05 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    To those who made purely anonymous comments...
    I have asked many times that all comments have at least a pseudonym attached.
    You have till noon Pacific time to claim your comments, or they will be deleted.

    Once a comment is claimed, then I will consider answering.

    At least use a name/pseudonym at the end of the comment ... like so,

    - Fr. Ryan

    February 27, 2012 at 9:06 AM
    mrd said...
    Dear Father:
    Again trying to understand this, to be troublesome temptation has to be "attractive" in some fashion. I am not attracted to every kind of sin. No one is. So most people are tempted in this or that manner depending on their own flaws. It is not a "temptation" to me to offer an opportunity to do something sinful that I simply have no attraction to. Just to make the point, clear It is simply impossible for a heterosexual to be tempted to indulge in homosexual activity, they would not find this sin at all attractive. So a temptation here is impossible, or at least meaningless. Now in the Case of Jesus you are stating that no sin would of course be in any way attractive, and this is of course consistent with the traditional teaching. I do not dispute it. Still do you not think then it is paradoxical to describe his encounter with the Devil as "temptation", I am not sure what the word could possibly mean in this context. It would seem that a temptation must be at least attractive to some degree or one is not "tempted" Again I am not "tempted" to engage in some activities so it is rather effortless to not engage in them, regardless of whether they are sinful or not. If this was True of Jesus regarding anything sinful, ie he has no desire for it, what do we mean by temptation?
    I think this is a paradox, that is not easily answered by the traditional teaching.

    February 27, 2012 at 10:56 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    @Greg L,
    I do not believe something could be a "logical" impossibility while at the same time being an "ontological" possibility.

    I just don't understand.
    If 2 + 2 cannot logically equal 5, then 2 apples and 2 apples most certainly cannot ontologically equal 5 apples.

    So to, if God cannot sin (as a logical impossibility), then most certainly it is an ontological impossibility for Jesus to sin.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:17 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    In one sense, God made the world for his pleasure ... insofar as he was not obligated to do so.
    On the other hand, it is out of love for us that he created us.
    He does not benefit from creation, we do.

    And thus, to say that you don't really care for "horses" (mocking my analogy of looking a gift-horse in the mouth), is a very silly thing ... you are saying that you don't really care whether you exist or not and that, if your existence is not just as you like it, then you may well rather not exist at all.

    Such ingratitude!

    February 27, 2012 at 11:20 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    @Deum Videre,
    please look at my earlier article on why hell is eternal ...

    Here you will see why the angels only make one choice for or against God.
    It is part of their very nature (and our souls are similar to this after the separation from the body).

    February 27, 2012 at 11:22 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    @Father S.,
    I presumed that we were in complete agreement, but only wanted to make it very clear for others (besides yourself) that Jesus not only did not sin, but was not even the subject of inordinate desires.

    Peace! +

    February 27, 2012 at 11:22 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    Jesus would see the good in all actions (even in sinful actions), but would not be attracted to that good in an inordinate or irrational way.
    Thus, the temptation could only be exterior, but was still a real temptation (insofar as our Savior was assaulted from without).

    A temptation does not become real only when the will consents, after all.
    Think more on this truth, and you will see the meaning of the traditional doctrine.

    Peace to you! And keep searching! +

    February 27, 2012 at 11:25 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    God is not free (in the sense we normally say "free") when it comes to things within the Trinity.
    The Father could not have done anything other than generate the Son, for example.
    Still even here there is a freedom which is beyond what we can comprehend -- for God is not in any way restricted by either nature or being or by any outside force.
    It is a mystery indeed!

    When it comes to the world, God is free insofar as he did not need to create the world, and he could have made it either better or worse than it is.
    So he had/has many choices there!

    February 27, 2012 at 11:27 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    You are mostly correct ... except that, when in the desert, Jesus was not a "mere man" or a "normal human being" ... he was (and always will be) fully God and fully man.
    However, his divinity was hidden through the weakness brought on from the fast.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:29 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    Good points!

    February 27, 2012 at 11:29 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    The demons (and Satan himself) did not know with certainty, but they suspected.

    However, during periods of great suffering, Jesus seemed to be a mere man and to be abandoned by God ... hence Satan tempted him in the desert and inspired the Romans and Jews to conspire to kill him.

    Had Satan known with certainty that Jesus is God, he would never have had him put to death -- since he would know that this would bring about his [Satan's] destruction.

    Peace to you! +

    February 27, 2012 at 11:31 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    See my above comment to Yan.

    Satan suspected but was not sure.
    Especially when Jesus was weak through suffering and bodily fatigue, Satan thought "perhaps he is only a prophet?" and "has God abandoned him?"

    February 27, 2012 at 11:32 AM
    Anonymous said...

    If evil is "a tendency toward non-being" (the Augustinian position), what kind of ontological status has Satan?"


    PS. I posted as anonymous because there are no other viable identity choices for me.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:44 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    Thank you for using a pseudonym at the end of your comment ... that is just fine!

    Satan is not pure evil, else he would not exist. Rather, there is some good in him -- and in this sense he still participates in God.
    Satan and God are not polar opposites ... Satan in no way is comparable to God, as an evil counter-god.

    Rather, he is a mere creature, who participates in God's goodness ... but does not participate in the supernatural goodness of salvation.

    Hope that is clearer now! +

    February 27, 2012 at 12:04 PM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    Several purely anonymous comments (not having even a pseudonym placed at the bottom of the comment) which were unclaimed, have been deleted.

    In the future, all wholly anonymous comments will not even be posted.

    It is just too difficult to try to respond to numerous "anonymouses" ... if you want to join the discussion, have the good manners to provide a name or pseudonym.

    February 27, 2012 at 12:08 PM
    Richard A said...

    I don't think you quite understand how temptation and sin actually work in our lives. Several years ago a powerful Chicago congressman - was it Dan Rostenkowski? - was compelled to resign when the extent of his financial corruption was revealed. What struck me at the time was the incredulity of some observers at how a man as rich as he was would stoop to diverting something like $5400 from his office's postal allowance into his personal account. And of course, Tiger Woods is, or was, married to a Sports Illustrated model. Which did not serve to keep him from the other pretty ladies, did it?

    If you have a billion dollars, it will be because you like having money. Even another 100 grand. If you have a swimsuit model wife - unless her appearance is far down the list of her attractive qualities - it will be because you like the pretty girls. And you will notice your wife is not the only one.

    February 27, 2012 at 1:24 PM
    Your Conscience said...
    Dear Father Ryan Erlenbush, comments submitted under "Anonymous" are in fact submitted under the pseudonym "Anonymous" and were in fact openly invited for posting under that pseudonym by you/your blog. It may come across as lacking in "good manners", indeed hypocritical, for you to then allege that such posters lacked "good manners" for having accepted your invitation, for using the pseudonym you so kindly offered. Again, such posters did provide a pseudonym, indeed the one you offered them to use: "Anonymous", and they were accepting your/your blog's own invitation to post as such. If you find it difficult to try to respond to numerous "Anonymouses", your blog gives you a tool: the date/time of the post. For example, "Anonymous 11:44 AM". Perhaps your blog also gives you the opportunity to remove the "Anonymous" pseudonym from your blog's menu choices, for I've seen many other blogs that seem to have done that rather than invite and then insult the invited guests.

    February 27, 2012 at 3:23 PM
    Questor said...
    Dear Fr. Ryan Erlenbush,

    If "It is simply and absolutely impossible for Christ to sin... even in his humanity, our Savior could not sin", can you tell us, why does the Catholic Church teach the following:

    (1) "Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom." (CCC#1861)

    (2) "the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning... is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach." (CCC#1732)

    According to CCC#1861, it seems that if Jesus had "human freedom", then there must have been "a radical possibility of mortal sin". And conversely, if it was impossible for Jesus to sin, then Jesus did not have "human freedom", i.e. he -lacked- human freedom.

    Likewise, according to CCC#1732, it seems that if the acts of Jesus were in any way human, or if there was any "basis of praise" for Jesus (or God), then there was "the possibility of... sinning". Otherwise, there's no "basis of praise" for Jesus or God.

    How do you explain this seeming contradiction without saying that the Catechism is not saying what it says?

    And if Jesus was not tempted "by any defect of his will, nor by any sinful inclination" nor "by the flesh", then what is the sense in saying that Jesus was tempted in "all things like as we are"? If it's "excepting in those ways which involve sin", i.e. if it's not all things like as we are, then how is that "all things like as we are"? What exactly does the phrase "all things like as we are" really mean?

    Another translation such as "similarly been tested in every way" might be used, but that too seems problematic, as how could Jesus have been tested "similarly" and "in every way" if he was not inclined in the same ways and to the same things as other people? For example, we don't "similarly test in every way" how a man would react in space by sending a rock into space, do we? And how could a man be tested "in every way" in just a relatively few days time? Indeed, to test "in every way" in just a few days time would mean not testing over a longer period of time, and thus not be "in every way".

    Maybe you might answer the question if asked differently: How does Jesus "sympathize with our weaknesses" if he doesn't have and never has had our weaknesses?

    Thank you for your patience.

    February 27, 2012 at 3:54 PM
    Questor said...
    Fr. Ryan Erlenbush, I take note of your statement that "Had Satan known with certainty that Jesus is God, he would never have had him put to death -- since he would know that this would bring about his [Satan's] destruction."

    That raises some questions: Did Satan have to "know with certainty" in order to "bring about his [Satan's] destruction"? If not, did he also not know that too?

    And by "certainty", do you mean "moral certainty" or do you mean "absolute certainty"? Which is the standard for bringing about one's destruction?

    And had not Satan already "brought about" his [Satan's] destruction before Jesus was put to death, in the sense that he had already committed a capital offense of some sort?

    Again, thank you for your patience.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:08 PM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    @Your Conscience,
    When a person leaves a comment, above the box where the comment is written one will find the following:

    "If you want your comment to be published: Use a name or pseudonym, and keep it short (generally, less than 100 words), to the point, and civil.

    All comments must be approved by a blog-administrator. If your comment is deleted, please don't take it personally."

    I do not remove the ability to post as "anonymous" because I want to allow people to post without having a subscription to blogger or other such accounts.
    Still, it is extremely difficult to try to respond to many different comments when I can't tell whether they are from the same person or different people.

    Why don't you start your own blog? Then you can allow free speach to whomever you choose. +

    February 27, 2012 at 5:16 PM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    You ask a couple of very good questions!

    1) CCC 1861 is very clearly speaking of human freedom in this life of viatores, prior to the beatific vision.
    In heaven, the saints are free, though mortal sin no longer remains a possibility.
    Yet, to be clear, it is indeed true that the human will is in itself (as a creature) capable of sin ... and in this sense, we may even say that Christ's human will (considered as a creature, in itself and not as "of Jesus") was "capable of sin" ... however, in concrete reality, Jesus could not possibly sin ... and thus, he was totally free.

    2) Regarding the question of growing in merit ... it is true that Christ merited all things in the very first moment of his existence ... indeed, he did not essentially grow in holiness or in merit throughout his life.
    This is a mater of faith ... and your intuition here is correct. Christ, because he possessed the beatific vision, did not grow in holiness or in merit throughout his life, but was full of grace and perfect in merit from the first moment of his existence.

    Finally, regarding Christ's temptations ... Scripture says (in a most literal translation), he was "tempted in all things in like manner - apart from sin" ... meaning, he was tempted in every way we are, excepting in those which arise from sin.

    For example: Do you really think Jesus was tempted from memories of past sins? Of course not! It is blasphemy.

    Likewise, he was not tempted from concupiscence, because he did not have original sin.

    Without weakness of the will, he could only suffer exterior temptations ... and he suffered them to the end, in a manner far greater than we have. +

    February 27, 2012 at 5:27 PM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    I have not been very clear ... what I mean to say is that Satan DID NOT know with certainty (not even moral certainty) that Jesus was God ... and this is why he had him put to death ... had he known, he would have realized that the death of Jesus would bring about the salvation of sinners -- and he would never had desired to have Jesus put to death.

    So, the "destruction" of Satan, of which I speak, does not refer to his fall from heaven, but to the harrowing of hell.

    Hope it is clearer now! +

    February 27, 2012 at 5:36 PM
    P Dan Long said...
    Re: gift horse with bad teeth. I quote:
    And thus, to say that you don't really care for "horses" (mocking my analogy of looking a gift-horse in the mouth), is a very silly thing ... you are saying that you don't really care whether you exist or not and that, if your existence is not just as you like it, then you may well rather not exist at all.

    Such ingratitude!
    Dear Fr. I was hoping for a better response than that. I am a catholic priest for 18 years and I see many young people- due to many sinful situations, etc... saying" " I prefer not to" why should I live, I did not ask to be born, I never wanted to be, so I will live my life as I see fit or take my life...." to respond to them "such ingrates" is to not hear their pain and confusion.... And also a question I find hard to answer--- why would such a good God, who wants me to freely love him, leave me only the "choice" of loving the "gift horse" (right now I am dealing with a woman who was abused by her father for over 8 years)... loving him, accepting the cross, or living forever in hell.... why can't this Good God, there seems to be no alternative, between God or hell (after this life) it would seem, if I could choose hell, nothingness or God, I would willingly choose nothings- preferring never to have lived than heaven or hell--- there are people so damaged that would say it would have been if I never had been born (Job)... how is it freedom when the choice is God's way or no way (hell).... Fr. DL

    February 28, 2012 at 5:56 AM
    Passerby said...
    Father, you say:

    you are saying that you don't really care whether you exist or not and that, if your existence is not just as you like it, then you may well rather not exist at all. Such ingratitude!

    Yes, that is precisely what I am saying. And calling it 'ingratitude' isn't much of an argument, you are aware of that? I mean, this kind of thing angers me. When you call me ingrateful, you actually suppose the thing that you should prove. The thing being the goodness and the beauty of the world. I honestly said I don't like it. Should I lie?

    February 28, 2012 at 6:01 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    I'm sorry ... I am not clear on what it is you are looking for.

    If you are searching for pastoral counsel, that is one thing.
    If you are hoping to engage in theological discussion, that is quite another.

    The comment box here is really only suited to theological discussion ... feel free to email me if you want to talk on a more pastoral level.

    Regarding the theological point: It is a simple axiom that being is good ... it is not the type of thing which can be proven ... though to deny it can be shown absurd -- since, if being is not good, then there is utterly no meaning at all.

    If you are seriously doubting whether existence is worth it ... the only advice I can give here is that you should get off the internet, get off the blogs, go to your local parish priest and talk with him.
    Get in touch with family or friends quickly, don't be alone for any extended period.
    Find a counselor quick (your parish priest should be able to help with this).

    Peace to you. +

    February 28, 2012 at 10:21 AM
    Anonymous said...
    The difference between people and animals: I think someone like Passerby could feel painfully – excruciatingly – the dilemma presented (loving all-powerful God, yet world of evil and horrible temporal suffering and existence of hell) without being suicidal, if such a person recognized that they have an indestructible soul and hence have no power to put themselves completely out of existence. (They’d be in even less in danger of suicide if they also believe in hell.) Such a one would not seek suicide, but rather understanding – but they’d seek it rather urgently, desperate for an answer to the intellectual dilemma so painful to them. Apparent contradictions such as Passerby is struggling with, Fr DL re-articulating, are surely able to be resolved…
    - T

    February 28, 2012 at 4:59 PM
    Passerby said...
    But this is theological discussion, isn't it? We are discussing what freedom is, and where the supposition that man can be free even without possibility to sin leads us. You now say that goodness of existence is an axiom. Yes, I agree, within that theory it is an axiom. But let us now consider where does that axiom, together with human (but no Jesus-human) kind of freedom, lead us. You are aware that my thinking existence not worth it is a sin within that worldview? Therefore, in thinking existence not worth it, I am exercising my human (no Jesus) kind of freedom. And it is not pleasant, you can take my word for it. If I didn't have that kind of freedom, then I would think existence is real nice. Since I have to exist, that would be much better. What's more, if I keep thinking the way I do till I die, I go to hell. Actually, that's what hell is - not wanting for all eternity something that God wants, which therefore is, and suffering because of it. So, resuming all that, we have a God that out of his pleasure created the world as it is, gave us the ability not to like it, and then said 'if you like it, good for you, if not - go to hell (literally)'. Therefore, something is good by the sheer fact that it is (i.e. exists) and that God is the strongest who makes to be all that is. That is the christian theory, when you get to the bottom of it?

    PS. I do think existence not worth it, but I won't kill myself just yet, don’t worry.

    February 29, 2012 at 2:36 AM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    In order to have theological discourse, the basic premises of faith and reason must be already accepted.
    Thus, theological discussion is possible for a Catholic and a protestant, but not for a Catholic and an atheist.

    Rather, when the fundamental axioms of the faith are not accepted, the discussion must be philosophical.
    And a Catholic and atheist can have a philosophical discussion (as can a Catholic and an Hindu).

    However, if even the basic premises of philosophy are doubted -- as in the principle of non-contradiction or the fact that being is good -- then even philosophical discourse is impossible.

    You have rejected the axiom that being is good ... thus, no, this is not theological nor even philosophical discourse.
    Nothing more can be done ... at least, not in terms of rational discussion in comment boxes.

    Rather, better to get out and see the beauty in creation, be with other people in friendship, etc. Easier to regain reason in the world than on the web. +

    February 29, 2012 at 10:30 AM
    Marko Ivančičević said...
    The proposition you are making is only apparently christian. It seems horiffic. But you are missing one big thing. God revealed Himself and all those things. It would be horrible if He didn't. But He did and we can know His Revelation and thus we can be saved from the eternal fires of Hell.

    March 1, 2012 at 4:20 AM
    P Dan Long said...
    we have a God that out of his pleasure created the world as it is, gave us the ability not to like it, and then said 'if you like it, good for you, if not - go to hell (literally)'. --- passerby summarized well, the apparent dilemma and misconception of the word freedom. It seems there is no freedom (we are not rationally free not to choose God) - my question is most people do not understand freedom and would say there is no freedom in a choice that boils down to heaven or hell. How do you present a simple layman's explication of freedom to such people--- where is their misconception and how to correct it? when they say I only have two choices- heaven or hell- therefore I reject this kind of "game" or choice... ?

    March 1, 2012 at 4:51 AM
    Passerby said...
    @Father: But you are running from the discussion in a dishonest way. Don't you see that I accepted your axiom in a previous post and then considered what kind of implications that axiom has. Beware, the same axiom within different theories has different implications. For example, both euclidean and non-euclidean geometric theories have lines in it. It's just that lines in non-euclidean theories are no more so straight. The same thing is with the term 'good'. That term has one meaning in everyday speech, but when one considers implications the same term has in your theory, it seems to me it is no more 'so straight'. In everyday speech, good is generally considered as something one would like. In your theory, it is more of a reference point. Just like unit on a number line. It is put somewhere on the line, and if you happen to be on the same side as it is then you are positive, but if you happen to be on the other side then you are negative. In other words the world is as it is, that is the way God liked it, and he is the mightiest of us all, his will is done. He is the reference point. If you like it his way - good for you, you are on the positive side, if not then suffer. To put the same thing another way, I have a question for you - what does the goodness of creation mean to those who are in hell?

    PS. As for that counsel of yours, to get out and see the beauty of creation, maybe I am writing this from a wheelchair in an institution with wicked nurses which don't like taking me out? Maybe I am writing this from a basement in Gaza strip/Iraq/Afghanistan, and I can't get out since there are bombs everywhere, while my family and friends are already killed? That is a possibility, isn't it? But alas no, I am writing this from a peaceful and beautiful town in Europe, and I do get out to marvel the beauty of creation (especially nature). But I still don't find it worthy. And it still isn't much of an argument.

    March 1, 2012 at 10:52 AM
    Anonymous said...

    I am wondering the status of a missing comment I had signed...

    It had a question about the implications of existence as a good in itself on our attitudes towards the putting down of animals. I humbly submit that though such – and the questions of Passerby which inspired it - may perhaps lean toward more of a philosophical consideration, the great theologian St Thomas did not shy away from elucidating philosophical considerations for the reader as well as theological ones.

    If somehow my signature failed, can this count as “claiming” the comment for publication?

    - T

    March 1, 2012 at 7:05 PM
    Father Ryan Erlenbush said...
    I'm sorry, the comment must not have gone through.
    I didn't delete it ... it must have just been lost in cyber-space.

    Truly, apologies.

    If you would like to re-submit, please feel free. Though, in truth, I probably won't have time to respond.

    Peace to you. +

    March 1, 2012 at 7:11 PM
    Anonymous said...

    If my may comment on one thing – the idea that you are presenting that good means one thing on one worldview and another thing in another worldview, one thing when spoken of creation another when spoken of God and his nature, I am not sure is fairly stating the case.

    Have you ever read the divided line section in Plato’s Republic? That section has helped to shape my (still very imperfect) understanding of what we mean when we say God is good. That passage speaks to the various goods of this world having their origin in a Good surpassing them all.

    In other words (as I understand it…), if the sunshine feels good, if the flower looks good, the chocolate tastes good; and (moving towards more intangibles), if the intellectually beautiful order of geometry is good, if the justice of a properly resolved court case is good, if the love of mother for child is good – to the extent that these can all be called good univocally (and I think there’s a readily perceivable – though hard to articulate – way that they can), to that extent (what they have in common) they reveal their Cause, reveal God.

    For me, this helps make God’s goodness a bit – just a bit – easier to think about, nearer, more comprehensible, more “real”. I don’t know if I am expressing it well at all though…

    It may not directly answer the “problem of evil” aspect of your question, why this good God created the world with so little of his own goodness in it… but it does perhaps reassure that the things we do like about it – the things that really are good, not the bad parts like war and wicked nurses and stubbed toes – those things we wish were all in all – will in fact be all in all when we go to heaven. Provided we choose heaven. I think it may be hard to choose heaven if we think of the wicked and nasty parts of the world as reflecting God’s nature, when – they don’t.

    I have a hard enough time understanding / trying to explain goodness of God that I will not make any attempt to try and offer any ideas towards explaining the evil in the world (there are wiser people than I who have and can address that). But perhaps these thoughts are maybe a start towards thinking out at least one aspect to your questions and eventually getting to the whole?

    So sorry Fr. Ryan this is very long – if you read it and it is not worth the length, please do not publish. But perhaps ramblings like this are not wholly unproductive…

    - T

    March 1, 2012 at 7:50 PM
    Anonymous said...
    Father Ryan,

    Thanks for the insightful article, somehow you've always managed to ask some very enlightening questions that I've never even thought about!

    I have a questions related to the discussion in this thread about free-will.

    You said that free-will as defined for human beings on earth is actually less free than that possessed by the saints in beatific vision since they are no longer able to choose evil.

    I had always thought that the reason God gave us free will is to be able to love him freely, i.e. if we have a choice not to love Him then our choice to love Him is meaningful.

    He could have created us to be automatons or robots that are unable to choose not love Him, completely subservient to all His commands. Is this the definition of freedom you are talking about?

    It also raises the question about our Blessed Mother, since we praise her Fiat (yes) to the Incarnation so much. If she was unable to say No, why do we even celebrate her Yes?

    A final question, is there a reason why only Mary is Immaculately Conceived? Could God also not create everyone in the same way and prevent anyone to go to hell?

    Your clarifications on these matters are very much appreciated.


    March 6, 2012 at 10:38 AM
    yan said...
    Hi Fr., thanks for your reply. You said:

    The demons (and Satan himself) did not know with certainty, but they suspected.

    However, during periods of great suffering, Jesus seemed to be a mere man and to be abandoned by God ... hence Satan tempted him in the desert and inspired the Romans and Jews to conspire to kill him.

    Had Satan known with certainty that Jesus is God, he would never have had him put to death -- since he would know that this would bring about his [Satan's] destruction.

    Peace to you! +
    February 27, 2012 11:31 AM

    3 questions: 1] how do we know that the evil one knew that if Christ were God that His death would fulfill God's plan?

    2] I still don't see the textual basis for lowering the degree of knowledge of Christ to mere suspicion when the text says that the demons knew who He was. Isn't the point of view that they did know Him vindicated by virtue of the fact that He told them what to do, and they obeyed Him? 'Come out of him; go into those swine, etc., etc.'

    3] would it be reasonable to explain the temptation and the crucifixion [and slaughter of the innocents] despite the demons' knowledge of Christ by reference to their inability to will or do anything but evil?

    March 8, 2012 at 9:01 PM
    Anonymous said...
    @ Passerby
    I realize this post is from some time ago and do not know if my comment will even be posted, but it seems that your idea of freedom is seriously misunderstood. To be free to choose an action does not in any way free you from the consequence of that action. No such thing could exist. However, you are nonetheless free to choose and with that choice, the consequences inherent in it. If this were not so, what good would choice be? Then, and only then, would life be truly meaningless, for no action on my part could yield any result at all, whether for good or evil. To argue that choice should be free of consequence or else, is not in fact ‘free choice’, is to argue for absolute chaos, which is impossible.
    As for the goodness of God, He does not want you to choose a specific thing to please Him or for His good. God is complete; He does not need you to do anything for Him. Rather, God pursues you for your good, because you are made to share in Him, an unimaginable gift, and are thus incomplete without Him; He wants you to be whole. It is not a will God exerts on humanity to ‘follow Him or else’, but an ultimate respect for our choice, just as the path He laid out for us isn’t a demand to obey Him, but a road placed with care for our good, which can only be achieved in Him. Would you argue that a parent, telling their child to stay away from a hot stove is concerned only with a totalitarian concept of obedience, or that the parent is demanding a ‘my way or the highway’ ultimatum? No, the parent is concerned for the good of the child. To say that your freedom is a farce because the only choices are to touch the stove or not to touch it, and to bear the consequences of such a choice, is to deny the purpose of choice and thus, become the very realization of meaningless.
    All of this said I see good in the fact that you find the world unworthy. You are unsatisfied; that is good because, if you were satisfied, you would not bother to look further. I was just such a person, restless and unsatisfied. I urge you, be restless, demand answers, seek… Most of all be open to what you find.

    - Brand New Catholic
    January 2, 2013 at 9:52 AM
    Anonymous said...
    Thank you Fr. on your article. The way I explain Jesus' temptation is I 1st ask the person what food they really dislike. Then I state if I came to you with a barrel full of that food and asked you to do something and in return you would get that barrel of food, would you do it? You see I just tempted you BUT you were not tempted. Now satan came to Jesus with a barrel full of sin and tempted Jesus BUT Jesus was not tempted.

    February 17, 2013 at 4:19 PM
    Lee said...
    Satan did not believe that God could create a man that was unable to sin or be tempted by evil. All the effort Satan made to tempt Jesus failed and this is to prove to us that we have a messiah that in nature is like God, righteous, unable to be tempted by evil and incapable of sin. This was the lamb without spot or blemish and the example to us of the perfection we are to follow after. We are to be transformed to be in the image of Jesus who was the image of the invisible God.

    June 28, 2013 at 8:23 AM
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  6. timlyg says:

    Someone's (Dr. Steven Cook) attempt to understand this:

    Cook's background: Dr. Steven R. Cook is a Christian educator. He is protestant, conservative, and a traditional dispensationalist.

    Copied here just in case:
    he production of sin is based on ability and opportunity. Before their fall into sin, Adam and Eve had the capacity and opportunity either to obey or disobey God. Even before they had a sin nature, Adam and Eve could manufacture sin from the source of their own volition. Adam and Eve’s abilities are described by the Latin phrases posse peccare (able to sin), and posse non peccare (able not to sin). They truly had free choice to obey God or Satan. Free choice also belonged to Lucifer at his own fall, when he turned away from God through self-corruption, and enticed a third of the angels to sin with him (Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:12-18; Rev. 12:4, 9). The Christian, who has God’s word and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, also has the ability to obey God and resist both external and internal temptation (Rom. 6:11; Col. 3:5). The Christian does not have to sin, but chooses to do so by an act of his will when he yields to temptation. Jesus’ temptations were external (just like Adam and Eve’s), whereas all humanity after the fall, both saved and unsaved, encounter temptations both external (from other fallen creatures, both angelic and human) and internal (the sin nature).

    The unbeliever, who is devoid of the Holy Spirit, cannot be obedient to God. This inability is described by the Latin phrase non posse non peccare (not able not to sin, or positively stated able only to sin). The unbeliever has neither the Holy Spirit nor God’s word, and therefore is perpetually governed by his sinful nature and the satanically-controlled world in which he lives. The unbeliever can be moral or immoral, religious or irreligious, but he can only produce sin because he resides in a state of spiritual death.

    God cannot sin (Hab. 1:13; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18). This truth is described by the Latin phrase non posse peccare (not able to sin). Because God is perfect righteousness, He cannot act contrary to His own holy nature; therefore, He can never manufacture sin. This is true of Jesus right now in heaven where there is no more temptation, and this is also be true of a believer who enters into heaven at death, the rapture, or after history has closed. So then, the Latin phrases are:

    posse peccare (able to sin)
    posse non peccare (able not to sin)
    non posse non peccare (not able not to sin, or positively stated able only to sin)
    non posse peccare (not able to sin)
    “Could not” or “Would not” sin?

    A question that has troubled theologians for many years is whether Jesus, during His time on earth, could have sinned? The Bible teaches that Jesus is undiminished deity combined together forever with true humanity into one Person, which in theology is called the hypostatic union. At a point in time, God the Son took upon Himself true humanity and walked on the earth. He lived a sinless life and died a substitutionary death for all mankind (1 Cor. 15:3-4; John 6:69; 9:16; Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 3:18; 1 John 3:5). Regarding the union of Jesus’ two natures, Joseph Sahl states:

    In the Incarnation the eternal Son of God was inseparably united to an unfallen human nature. Thus He is unique from all other men not only in that He was kept from the consequences of Adam’s sin in His perfect humanity but also in that He was the God-Man. In this way one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, possessed a divine nature as well as a human nature. Though the divine nature of Christ had eternal existence apart from the humanity of Jesus Christ (Heb 10:5), that was not true of His human nature. His humanity exists only in union with His deity. Thus the personality expressed in the humanity of Jesus Christ was nothing less than that personality of God the Son, the Eternal Word who became flesh.[1]

    R. B. Thieme Jr. argues that in His humanity Jesus was peccable (able to sin). He believes that as God, Jesus was non posse peccare (not able to sin), but as a human, He was posse non peccare (able not to sin) because He continually relied on Scripture and the Holy Spirit to resist external temptations. In short, he believes that as God, Jesus could not sin, but as a human, He would not sin. In his book, The Integrity of God, he states:

    Remember that Christ in His humanity could be tempted and could have sinned. In His deity, however, neither could He be tempted nor could He commit sin. If you add up these characteristics, the God-Man in hypostatic union was temptable but impeccable. In other words, through His human volition He was able to avoid sin when He was tempted as a man; in His divine essence, the integrity of God meant sin was completely out of the question.[2]

    Lewis Sperry Chafer argues that the humanity of Christ was impeccable (could not sin). The argument by Chafer is that God the Son took upon Himself humanity, and that what happened with regard to His human nature, happened to His divine nature as well. For Chafer, to say that Jesus could sin, is to say that God can sin, and that’s an impossible act. Chafer argues:

    Since this bond of union which unites Christ’s two natures—for He is one person—is so complete, the humanity of Christ could not sin. Should His humanity sin, God would sin. When the absolute deity of Christ is recognized, there is no logic which is more inexorable than this. Though unsupported unfallen humanity might sin, a theanthropic Person even if He incorporates an unfallen human nature is incapable of sinning. The contention that could, but would not, sin is far removed from the contention that Christ could not sin. The former either denies His deity or else dishonors God with the calumnious averment that God is Himself capable of sinning. Again, it must be declared that Christ’s human traits which did not involve moral issues could be exhibited freely. The idea might be admitted with certain reservations that He was both omnipotent and impotent, omniscient and ignorant, infinite and finite, unlimited and limited; but it could never be allowed that He was both peccable and impeccable.[3]

    The Bible teaches that Jesus faced real temptations (Matt. 4:11), and whether one believes that He could not sin, or would not sin, it clearly teaches that He did not sin (Heb. 4:15). Jesus did not manufacture any personal sin for which He needed to atone, for if He had sinned, He would have disqualified Himself from going to the cross as an atoning sacrifice for others. Jesus died on the cross, bearing the sin of the world, dying in the place of sinners (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8).

    Did Jesus have one will or two wills?

    Another matter related to this subject is whether Jesus had one will or two wills. Jesus is both God and man, existing as one person with two natures. Some argue that since Jesus has two natures, He therefore has two wills. However, others argue that Jesus—though having two natures—is one Person, and therefore has one will. If will belongs to nature, then Jesus has two, but if will belongs to personhood, then Jesus has one. In favor of the one-will view, John F. Walvoord writes:

    In view of the complete divine and human natures in Christ, the question has been raised whether each nature had its corresponding will. If by will is meant desire, it is clear that there could be conflicting desires in the divine and human natures of Christ. If by will, however, is meant that resulting moral decision, one person can have only one will. In the case of Christ, this will was always the will of God. Hence, when Christ prayed in the garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt 26:39), here, as in all other cases, the ultimate sovereign will of Christ was to do the Father’s will. It was natural to the human nature to desire to avoid the cross even as it was in keeping with the divine nature to avoid the contact with sin involved in substitution. The will of God, however, was that Christ should die, and this Christ willingly did. It is therefore no more proper to speak of two wills in Christ than it is of two wills in an ordinary believer who has both a sin nature and a new nature. A conflict of desires should not be equated with a conflict of moral choice.[4]

    Joseph Sahl also believes Jesus had only one will:

    Though Christ was of both human and divine desires, He had only one determinative will. That determinative will is in the eternal Logos and continuously follows the will of the Father. Therefore statements one may make about what the humanity of Christ could or could not do must always be tempered by this understanding of the theanthropic Person.[5]

    Charles C. Ryrie disagrees with Walvoord & Sahl and argues that Christ had two wills, one for each nature. Ryrie states:

    Did Christ have one or two wills? Chalcedon said one Christ in two natures united in one Person, implying two wills. In the seventh century the Monothelites insisted that Christ had but one will, but this view was declared heresy by the Council at Constantinople in 680. If will is defined as a “behavior complex” as Bushwell does, then our Lord may be said to have had a divine behavior pattern and a perfect human one as well; hence two wills. If will is defined as the resulting moral decision as Walvoord does, then the person of Christ always made only one moral decision; hence one will. However, it seems to me that every single decision stemmed from either the “will” of His divine nature or the “will” of His human nature or a blending of both, making it proper to think of two “wills.”[6]

    Lewis S. Chafer also believes Jesus had two wills:

    What can be said, further, of the matter of will with regard to the theanthropic Person? Did He have one or two wills? The answer given to the Monothelites has never had to be changed. In order to be truly God, Christ had to have and did have, a divine will; similarly, to be really man, He had to have, and did have, a human will. Both wills worked harmoniously in obedience to the pleasure of the Father, the human will ever in subjection and following the divine.[7]

    The question of whether Jesus has one will or two perplexes even some of the best theologians. If volition is a part of the human and divine nature, then Christ has two wills because He has two natures (Ryrie & Chafer). However, if volition is a part of personhood, then Christ has one will because He is only one Person (Walvoord & Sahl).

    Biblically, Jesus is fully God and fully man, existing as one Person with two natures, fully divine and fully human, without any diminishment or mixture of those two natures so as to reduce or pollute them. Whether Jesus has one will or two wills as some theologians argue, He was always compliant with the will of the Father, and this has resulted in our so great salvation.

    Dr. Steven R. Cook

  7. timlyg says:

    Another source for this study, and thus far, the best and most concise that I've come across:
    By DAVID DE BRUYN: He is a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minnesota and the University of South Africa (D.Th.). David hosts a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa, serves as a frequent conference speaker, and is a lecturer at Shepherds Seminary Africa.

    A good take from this one is this statement: Whatever is true of the nature propagates to the Person, according to that nature. According to his divine nature, Christ was not able to sin. According to his human nature, Christ was able not to sin.
    [So it's not enough to just say "Non Posse Peccare" But also "Posse non Peccare", which is the complete view of Augustine's 4th state of man]

    Bruyn also tackled important questions: Why tempt Jesus after all?
    And he also warned against multiple heresies:
    If we were to say that the divine nature canceled out any ability to sin, that would be the heresy of Eutychianism, mixing the natures. If we said that he never did possess any real human inclinations but only a human body, we’d be guilty of Apollinarianism. If we claimed that “his human side” could sin, we would be guilty of Nestorianism—dividing the person into two. If we claimed that Jesus the Man could sin and only avoid sin because of God’s presence, we’d be close to Ebionism, denying the divinity of Christ.
    [Although I think he went to far with the Ebionism accusation. My view is close to his accusation of "close" to Ebionism, so Christ could sin but His divine nature is present in His person, therefore He would/could never sin. And "would never" is different than when we say we "would never" because without God's grace, we would fail. There is no such thing as "without God's grace" in union, much less hypostatic union of man and divine in one person, with God]

    His article copied here just in case:

    The Doctrine of Impeccability: A Test Case for the Hypostatic Union
    #hypostatic union #impeccability


    During this time of Advent and Christmas, the church rightly turns its attention to the mystery of the Incarnation. That God became man, while remaining fully God, is one of the deepest biblical doctrines to plumb.

    Whenever there is some intersection of the human and the divine, there is a fathomless mystery at work—divine election and human freedom, divine and human authorship of Scripture, divine agency and human action. So it is with the Incarnation: the mystery of how one Person could come to have two natures, without dividing the Person or mixing the natures. Orthodoxy always seems balanced on a knife-edge: the fall into heresy is swift if one attempts to explain away the biblical data while leaning too heavily to one side or the other.

    One way to illustrate the peril and the precision which is required when handling this doctrine is to consider the doctrine of impeccability. Simply put, impeccability states that Christ was not able to sin. When it is put as prosaically as that, the usual pushback is that the doctrine of impeccability makes a farce of Satan’s temptation of Jesus. Why tempt One who is immune to temptation, and unable to fall? One may as well seek to lure herbivores with red meat, or entice the deaf with a beautiful melody.

    Those comparisons are flawed, as we’ll see. Before we answer the question of temptation, we should begin with the two natures of Christ, and how they affect impeccability.

    Christ is fully God. God cannot sin, for sin is a violation of God’s will and nature. God cannot be other than himself. For this reason, sin is not tempting to God at all (Jas 1:13).

    Christ is fully man. Born of a virgin, and through the miracle of divine conception, Jesus was born without a sin nature. Adam before the fall was able not to sin. Adam after the fall, with a sin nature, was not able not to sin. Christ’s human nature was as Adam’s pre-fall: able not to sin.

    Whatever is true of the nature propagates to the Person, according to that nature. According to his divine nature, Christ was not able to sin. According to his human nature, Christ was able not to sin.

    Whatever belongs to natures, Christ has two of, and whatever belongs to Persons, Christ has one of. Christ has a divine will (identical to the will of the Triune Godhead), and a human will (“not My will but Thine be done”, Jesus said in the Garden). It is impossible for the divine will to sin. It is possible for the unfallen human will not to sin. These two unite in the hypostatic union, where the Formula of Chalcedon describes the union as, “two natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He was parted or divided into Two Persons, but One and the Self-same Son and Only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ.”

    Here we see the nearly unbearable weight of this doctrine upon human understanding. If we were to say that the divine nature canceled out any ability to sin, that would be the heresy of Eutychianism, mixing the natures. If we said that he never did possess any real human inclinations but only a human body, we’d be guilty of Apollinarianism. If we claimed that “his human side” could sin, we would be guilty of Nestorianism—dividing the person into two. If we claimed that Jesus the Man could sin and only avoid sin because of God’s presence, we’d be close to Ebionism, denying the divinity of Christ.

    Instead, we are left with the same kind of conundrums we have in other areas. According to his divine nature, Jesus is omnipresent; according to his human nature, Jesus is localized in a glorified body. According to his divine nature, Jesus was immortal; according to his human nature, Jesus could die. These are both true in the Person, without canceling the other out.

    Natures don’t sin, persons do, and it is simply impossible that the Person who is God could sin.

    In the case of whether Jesus could have sinned, most theologians have landed on impeccability. There have been exceptions, Charles Hodge and A. W. Tozer being two notable ones. But most have decided that a nature that cannot sin when united with a nature that is able not to sin leads to a Person who is not able to sin. Impossibility united with mere potential seems to still result in impossibility. Natures don’t sin, persons do, and it is simply impossible that the Person who is God could sin.

    This returns us to the temptation of Christ. What was the point of tempting an impeccable Person? First, we are not sure of what Satan knew of the incarnate Christ’s peccability. If it is a mystery to us, it could certainly have been a mystery to spiritual forces of darkness. Second, the fact that Jesus could not sin is not the reason he did not sin. It is true that Jesus could not sin. But the writer of Hebrews never posits Christ’s divine nature as the reason for his perfection. Instead, we read that “he learned obedience by the things He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). In other words, Jesus did not sin because of his faith and obedience—the same tools available to us.

    Bruce Ware illustrates this with a long distance open-water swimmer. Such swimmers have support boats trailing them. These make it impossible for them to drown. The support boats, however, are not the reason they do not drown. The reason they do not drown is because they keep swimming with endurance, and finish the race. Yes, Jesus had the “support boat” of his divine nature: he could not sin. But the reason he did not sink into sin was that he kept obeying, kept trusting, kept resisting Satan to the end.

    Jesus did not sin because of his faith and obedience—the same tools available to us.

    Behold, the wondrous mystery: God and Man, the Word made flesh, the born child who is the Mighty God.

    Come, let us adore him.

  8. timlyg says:

    I just came across Reformed Forum's 2018 podcast on this very subject.

    In it they referenced RC Sproul (vs.?) Sinclair Ferguson on this question, shown in Youtube video below:

    However, though Sproul's stand is clear, even calling the impeccability of Christ a form of Docetism, Ferguson didn't really seem to answer the question and Sproul apparently was even trying to call him out on it, in a subtle way. Though Ferguson may have sided with Sproul based on his explanation, or he just simply doesn't know the answer.

    Interestingly, The impeccability of Christ in His humanity (emphasis on HUMANITY), instead of thinking any side of the Divine Nature, can be solved by Augustine's human's non posse peccare. Why couldn't Sproul see that?
    Of course, the textbook go to is to say that Humanity does not sin, Person does.

  9. timlyg says:

    Stephen Tong mentioned the question of impeccability here as a side note, without answer, when referring to John 16:10 in his Hebrews series:

  10. timlyg says:

    Stephen Tong in his Hebrew Series, first chapter of Hebrews, acknowledged that he was aware that most Reformed theologians advocated the impeccability of Christ:

    However, Tong used James 1:13 因为神不能被恶试探,他也不试探人, to deny Christ suffered temptation as God, raised the question of where the value of temptation/trial before Jesus was? If Jesus was merely "pretending" to be tempted. But here, Tong did not clarify his position, merely questioned the Reformed stand on this.

    All in all, what Tong never touched on was outside the box of viewing Jesus' impeccability in His divine nature: Can a man be impeccable? Augustine would say yes, a man WILL become impeccable in Christ. Thus, Christ is that prototype in the new creation. As this creature, Jesus was impeccable.

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