VATICAN, June 7, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis again sparked calls for clarification today as he stated before the crowds in St. Peter’s Square: “God cannot be God without man.”
The pope was speaking from a written text at his Wednesday general audience.
According to theologians who spoke with LifeSite, there is a danger the phrase by itself could be taken in an erroneous way.
In context, the Pope said:
Dear brothers and sisters, we are never alone. We can be far, hostile; we can even say we are ‘without God.’ But Jesus Christ’s Gospel reveals to us that God cannot be without us: He will never be a God ‘without man’; it is He who cannot be without us, and this is a great mystery! God cannot be God without man: this is a great mystery!
John Paul Meenan, professor of theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, a Catholic college in Eastern Ontario, told LifeSiteNews that while the second phrase (God cannot be God without man) is open to misinterpretation, the Pope’s first wording (He will never be a God ‘without man’) is less problematic since it is in the future tense, “since God is now in an eternal covenant with man.” Professor Meenan said it is not true that ‘God cannot be God without man’ in a universal sense.
Meenan was particularly concerned about the statement because it could be taken to support a modernist falsehood known as “process theology” which posits “God perfects himself by creation or grows with creation.”
Another credentialed Catholic lay theologian known to LifeSiteNews but wishing to remain anonymous explained, “Because of The Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, it is true that God remains eternally joined to mankind through the human nature of Jesus Christ, Second of the Three Divine Persons of The Most Blessed Trinity.”
“Nonetheless, God has absolutely no actual need of mankind, our relationship with God being entirely dependent on that gratuitous superabundance of the infinite Divine Love of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” the theologian added.
Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130-c.208), a bishop, martyr, and Father of the Church, wrote in his famous work Against the Heresies:
In the beginning it was not because he had need of man that God fashioned Adam but so as to have someone on whom to set his blessings. For, not only before Adam but even before creation, the Word glorified the Father while dwelling in him and was glorified by the Father.
Saint Irenaeus added:
When people stand in the light, it is not they who illumine the light and cause it to shine but who are illumined and made to shine by it. Far from contributing anything at all to it, they benefit from the light and are lit up by it. This is how it is in serving God: our service contributes nothing to God for God has no need of man's service; but to those who serve and follow him God gives life, incorruptibility and eternal glory.