Fulton Sheen on the Two Wills of Jesus Christ

Recently, I’ve been reading The Life of Christ by the Venerable Fulton Sheen, I had come across an event in which Sheen brings to light the relationship of Jesus’ human will and the obedience of it toward His Divine will. Sheen explains that during the wedding at Cana when “His mother was asking for a miracle; He was implying that a miracle worked as a sign of His Divinity would be the beginning of His death. The moment He showed Himself before men as the Son of God, He would drawn upon Himself their hatred.”

By taking a look at the text prior the miracle at Cana, should we ask does it illustrate His human will’s hesitation because of His knowledge, as Sheen explains, that it will lead to his death?

Jesus asks Mary, “Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My Hour is not yet come.”

Sheen explains, “’What is that to Me and to thee?’ This is a Hebrew phrase which is difficult to translate into English. St. John rendered it very literally in Greek, and the Vulgate preserved its literalism…Knox translates it freely, ‘Why dost thou trouble me with that?”

An almost natural question from a Christian, or even someone who is aware of the nature of Christ, would ask, “Why would Christ respond in such a way?” As Sheen alludes to in his explanation of the events of Cana it’s because “He was telling His mother that she was virtually pronouncing a sentence of death over Him.”

Christ knew the miracle of turning water into wine would lead him to the garden and later to the cross, however, just as he did at Gethsemane, He submitted to the divinely will of God for the purpose of redeeming the sin of mankind. He administered his first miracle knowing that it was the purpose of his Incarnation to be the lamb to atone for the sins of mankind

11 thoughts on “Fulton Sheen on the Two Wills of Jesus Christ

  1. Fr. Harrison Ayre states the following about the 2 wills of Christ (https://www.simplycatholic.com/christology-101-christs-two-wills/):

    “If Jesus does not have a human will, then that means our wills are of no importance, thus what we choose and act upon with our wills plays no role in our salvation. This would destroy all teaching about sin and personal responsibility. Further, it would create an unfair picture of God who, in creating Adam and Eve, punished them for something for which they are not responsible. We can see, just from these simple examples, why the teaching of the two wills of Jesus is so important. If he doesn’t have a will like ours, our will is both unimportant and unredeemed.

    The basis for the doctrine of the two wills of Jesus is developed by St. Maximus the Confessor (d. 662) who, in meditating on the words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, notes where Jesus asks the Father to take his suffering from him. Yet, Jesus concludes, “But not what I will but what you will” (Mk 14:36). Here St. Maximus notes the two wills at play and states that it is the moment where the Son most perfectly draws the human will into a complete union with the divine will. It is the moment where Jesus as both man and God takes what is ours and unites it ever more perfectly with God. It is a part of his action of redemption of our humanity.”

    In a way this gets back to my conversation with Douglas yesterday regarding his post. I am still of the opinion, from a Catholic standpoint, that the process believers call growing in faith is precisely this giving over of our wills to the Divine Will (God not imposing His Divine Will upon our human will). It can be viewed as ‘work’ or as ‘meritorious’ in as much as it is a surrendering of our own person and our own egos to serve a greater good, which is God. This is why so few go to heaven directly without going to a place of purgation to refine our wills to that of God Himself; for there is nobody in heaven who has not surrendered his own will to that of God. The heavenly body, including all the human souls who have become Children of God (Saints), have the same will as the Father.

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    1. I was meditating on your conversation with @armourofchrist yesterday and what Sheen has to say here. It seems that Douglas, and the Confessional Lutheran, position is one that radically separates human nature from the spiritual life or soul—if I’m following him correctly. The difficulty with this is that humanity’s nature is a composite of both body and soul, whereas Christ’s human will is obedient to the Divine; our natural end is not obedient to the spiritual—as De Lubac and the Nouvelle theologians argue.

      From what I understand, the Lutheran distinction comes from the theological proposition of Simul Justus et Peccator. So, that of course, gets into our understand of what occurs under there sanctifying grace of Baptism. Catholics would say that our original sin is completely washed away, which then grace can be infused to life a holy life. The Lutheran position is one that grace is imputed because although we are saved that sin is still there.

      What is interesting is that Augustine in On Nature and Grace, argues for synergism—a cooperation of the will toward grace. And this is the last era of Augustine’s works. So, I’m interested in where this development of mono comes from? Luther?

      I’ve had these discussions before, so what I’m interested at this point is where are the origins of these ideas.

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      1. I really don’t know myself. As a protestant that went to many denominational churches I cannot remember any pastor tackling this point of theology. All I know now is what we as Catholics believe because we have had great theologians that spent much time and ink to develop the theology that we have come to accept as a given. I hardly give it a thought anymore . . . it is like a staple such as bread.

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      2. We are both body and soul yes, but apart from the gift of faith our souls are spiritually, blind and dead, in bondage to sin death and the devil. Christ didn’t have original sin, He is God in flesh, He was able to be obedient where we cannot.

        You are correct we believe that original sin remains, even though we are forgiven.

        As for my closing thought. Theologians have erred, some early father’s have erred, yet there are good things in their writtings, but I always place Scripture above anything said by them. Although,Luther, Pieper, ect closely echo Scripture and you see in thier writtings how close they hold to the scripture principal.

        I will help with any passages of Scripture, but out of my own experience, quoting the saints and comparing their thoughts isnt as helpful as comparing what God has said in Scripture.

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      3. Is faith in the Lutheran tradition something you have? (Since it is a gift received) Once you have it? Can it be lost? If we want to quote scripture it seems like at the end of Hebrews 10, the author says the faith, once had, can be lost:

        Hebrews 10:29 Do you not think that a much worse punishment is due the one who has contempt for the Son of God, considers unclean the covenant-blood by which he was consecrated, and insults the spirit of grace?

        How do you understand that passage?

        There is what I seem not to understand. Augustine uses scripture, for example; I would say above anything else in On Nature and Grace. When I make a claim, I look to scripture first. I’m not confident necessarily in my own ability to discern whether the Holy Spirit speaks to me. So, isn’t it natural to turn to some of the great theologians for guidance. Heck, I’d take a look at Lutheran theologians and scholars all the time. When it comes to historical matters, I think, “I wonder what Paul Maier says on the topic.”

        If you read Augustine’s On Nature and Grace; he argues his position by scripture. So, he makes a claim then supports it with scripture. In fact, in that specific document he says many times, “Do not take my word for it, but take St. Paul’s.”

        So, am I wrong to think that Luther, Melanchthon, and Pieper (or any of us) make a positive claim and then support it with scripture passages is no different than Augustine?

        And if that is the case, is it prudent to see who has the best position based on the case that they make?

        Perhaps, I should I ask, “how do you understand scripture? I would surely think that you appeal to the great minds of your own tradition.

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      4. Faith is a gift given through the Word of the Gospel. This is the Spirits work. You can reject the Spirit, as Paul states in acts, as Jesus talks about the seed on the different soil and can lose the deposit of the Spirit by grieving the spirit and chasing back after addictive sins etc.

        Theologians err when they assert reason over scripture. The most grievous of this is when human nature insists on meriting grace or having some part of salvation. The theologian errs not only when he allows that sinful nature to overrule what scripture teaches, but blasphemes Gods name by shoehorning that idea into scripture.

        Without clear quotations I cannot give examples or discuss Augustines position, because context is key as even the reader could misinterprete the theologian when taken out of context. Much like taking scripture out of context or approaching scripture with preconceived ideas instead of submission to scripture allowing scripture to interpret scripture, following proper exegetical hermeneutics, not letting the ego, the I, to assert it’s fallen sinful reasoning as the basis for interpretation.

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      5. On another note, I am unable to create a category when I post. I noticed some authors have their name as a category but I am unable to make one. Any chance that one could be made for my posts? This is why I’ve been posting in uncategorized.

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  2. Phillip, perhaps Douglas would like to give an explanation of the well known bit of scripture we all know:

    Philippians 2:12

    12 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but much more now in my absence,) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.

    It seems to speak for itself but perhaps Douglas reads this differently.

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