Faith and Ignorance
Thursday of Pentecost 2
2 June 2016
In his On the Trinity, Augustine of Hippo simply follows the pattern of sound teaching set forth by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2, in which it is confessed that Christ is fully God and fully man. He does not try to reconcile that which is irreconcilable. He does not try to harmonize that which God does not choose to harmonize according to our human and fallible reason. He sets forth the sound pattern of words.
 
How hard this is to swallow for our "know it all" world. Acceptance of mystery is not the strong suit of the people of this generation. That which is impenetrable to human reason is thought to be impossible and ruled out tout court. Yet, what kind of God is unable to present to us a description of that which is impossible for us to fully understand? No God at all. The God of the Bible remains free; and is not subject to the limitations of our human reason. He condescends to give himself to us, although He seldom descends to explaining how He's capable of doing it. The brute fact of the incarnation is not susceptible to a "just so" story. How God can be man without becoming a mélange of the two natures, I have no idea. However, this is exactly how God has revealed himself to us in Christ our Lord.
 
Christ, according to his human nature, is less than the Father. Christ, according to his divine nature, is equal to the Father. The Bishop of Hippo does not bother to tell us how these things are possible. He lets stand what God in His wisdom has set forth in the divine Word, without an explanation when God has not revealed one to us. Faith believes what God has said and confesses ignorance when God has not spoken in matters of the faith.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"On account of the incarnation of the Word of God for the working out of our salvation, that the man Christ Jesus might be the Mediator between God and men (1Ti 2:5), many things are said in such a way in the sacred books as to signify, or even most expressly declare, the Father to be greater than the Son; men have erred through a want of careful examination or consideration of the whole tenor of the Scriptures, and have endeavored to transfer those things which are said of Jesus Christ according to the flesh, to that substance of His which was eternal before the incarnation, and is eternal. They say, for instance, that the Son is less than the Father, because it is written that the Lord Himself said, 'My Father is greater than I' (Jn 14:28).
 
"The truth shows that after the same sense the Son is less also than Himself; for how was He not made less also than Himself, who 'made Himself nothing, and took upon Him the form of a servant?' For He did not so take the form of a servant that He should lose the form of God, in which He was equal to the Father. If, then, the form of a servant was so taken that the form of God was not lost, since both in the form of a servant and in the form of God He Himself is the same only-begotten Son of God the Father, in the form of God equal to the Father, in the form of a servant the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; is there anyone who cannot perceive that He Himself in the form of God is also greater than Himself, but yet likewise in the form of a servant less than Himself? And not, therefore, without cause the Scripture says both one and the other, both that the Son is equal to the Father, and that the Father is greater than the Son. For there is no confusion when the former is understood as on account of the form of God, and the latter as on account of the form of a servant.
 
"In truth, this rule for clearing the question through all the sacred Scriptures is set forth in one chapter of an epistle of the Apostle Paul, where this distinction is commended to us plainly enough. For he says, 'Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.' (Phil 2:6-7). The Son of God, then, is equal to God the Father in nature, but less in 'likeness.' For in the form of a servant which He took He is less than the Father; but in the form of God, in which also He was before, He took the form of a servant, He is equal to the Father. In the form of God He is the Word, through whom  'All things were made' (Jn 1:3); but in the form of a servant He was 'born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons' (Gal 4:4-5).
 
"Similarly, in the form of God He made man; in the form of a servant He was made man. For if the Father alone had made man without the Son, it would not have been written, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' (Gn 1:26). Therefore, because the form of God took the form of a servant, both is God and both is man; but both God, on account of God who takes; and both man, on account of man who is taken. For neither by that taking is the one of them turned and changed into the other. The divinity is not changed into the creature, so as to cease to be divinity; nor the creature into divinity, so as to cease to be creature"

Augustine, On the Trinity, 1.7
Hebrews 5:1-10

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
 
So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"; as he says also in another place, "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."
 
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (ESV)
Prayer
Almighty and everlasting God, since You have given us, Your servants, grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of the true faith, and to worship the true Unity in the power of Your divine majesty, keep us also steadfast in this true faith and worship, and defend us ever from all our adversaries; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Holy Trinity)
 
For Jane Schoen, that the Lord would be with her as she approaches testing
 
For all those who are suffering persecution at the hands of Islam, that they might faithfully confess the Lordship of the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, the God of all grace and mercy
 
For all police, that they might provide service and bring safety to our communities and that God would watch over and protect them in their calling
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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