William L. BROWNSBERGER. Jesus the Mediator. Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2013. pp. 150. $49.95 hb. ISBN 978-0-8132-2119-9. Reviewed by Cathal DOHERTY sj, School of Theology and Ministry, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
This important monograph is an investigation of the knowledge and consciousness of Christ under the aspect of soteriology. Neither a comprehensive christological nor a soteriological treatise, it consists in a concise study of several theses concerning the identity and psychological faculties of Jesus as underlying conditions of the Redemption. The main subject matter is how the Incarnate Word suffers and acts humanly as Mediator. Clearly written and easy to follow, the logical layout of the work follows the scholastic maxim by which the first in the order of intention is the last in the order of execution.
The first chapter, therefore, starts out not from the Redemption, but from a deliberation on Christ’s human consciousness, defending a ‘maximalist’ view of Christ’s knowing, according to which Christ’s immediate knowledge of God is the foundational condition of his consciousness. Accordingly, two moments of objective knowledge join in his self-understanding: the beatific vision and Jesus’ reflection on his own subjective experience.
One of the most interesting aspects of this chapter is its defense of the maximalist position in the face of apparent scriptural inconsistencies. It vigorously contends that biblical exegesis needs to enter into the ambit of the theological and the ecclesial, with an emphasis on the narrative unity of Jesus Christ across the gospels conditioned by the fact that he is an historical person. The supposition that one must choose between particular gospels, or between the gospels and the Magisterium, is a failure to situate scriptural studies in their proper place, without which the very enterprise of theology becomes impossible. The Arian controversy is marshaled in evidence. The only choice in biblical interpretation, it is claimed, is between the arduous and the incoherent.
In order to act as Savior of humanity, it is appropriate that Christ have only a single subjectivity with a clear human consciousness. It follows that Christ has subjective human knowledge of the world, including particular human beings. This human knowledge of particular human beings is grounded in the beatific vision, rather than the experiential mode of human knowing. Christ’s human knowledge, therefore, is not simply an adornment of his human nature due to the grace of union, but is soteriologically significant.
Following chapters explore the instrumental character of Christ’s humanity in salvation, including an investigation of Maurice Blondel’s ‘panchristism’ according to which the understanding of the Mediator is constitutive of reality: Christus in quo omnia constant. Christ is the Vinculum substantiale in which the finite is rooted in the Infinite in a manner complementary to the exitus of creation. Reality is constituted through being known by a comprehensive human intellect and in being united in the Person of Christ to the creative intellect of God. The Eucharist is a prelude to the final assimilation to the Incarnate Word of all that exists.
The subsequent chapter on the scholastic notion of Esse secundarium seeks to show that Christ himself in one Person is the integration of finite and Infinite Being, a living bridge between the holy Infinity and the finite order. What Christ does, therefore, is rooted in who he is.
The final chapter explores how Christ’s emotions, including his anger, are salvific. Jesus’ anger restores justice and is perfective of the human person in relation to God. In other words, his anger, like the Cross, is redemptive. In fact, there is nothing about Jesus Christ that is not redemptive.
In sum, this is an engaging monograph, carefully researched, gracefully crafted in careful prose and containing many useful leads for the student of dogmatic theology to follow up. It is an important addition to any theological library.