John Duns Scotus: His View of Christ, Part Two

John Duns Scotus: His View of Christ, Part Two

I would like to add a few thoughts to the blog I wrote last month regarding John Duns Scotus’ teaching that Christ is the final goal of creation. Indeed, Christ provides the pattern and model for the whole of creation. The Letters of St. Paul, moreover, speak about Christ’s primacyin these matters.In his Letter to the Colossians, for example, we read Paul’s most celebrated passage about the “primacy of Christ,” that is, about Christ’s having first place and being the central focus of creation: “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible…all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).

Franciscans and the “Primacy of Christ”

Most Franciscans have, in one way or another, embraced this vision. Whether conscious of it or not, we tend to see all created things as pieces of a beautiful puzzle that only makes sense when fitted into the larger framework, that is, into the image of Christ.

For several years, I’ve kept an audiotape on St. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians by Stephen Doyle, OFM, a well-known Franciscan Scripture scholar and popular preacher. I’ve often listened to these tapes because I find in them an engaging explanation of the Franciscan/Scotist approach to the primacy of Christ. Franciscan spirituality simply exudes naturally from this friar as he talks about Paul’s view of Christ, “the firstborn of all creation.”

According to Father Stephen, “There is nothing in this world that makes sense apart from Jesus Christ” and “whatever exists in this world was made for the sake of Jesus Christ.”

He waxes poetic: “If we looked around and listened to this world about us, and if the singing birds could be formed into a chorus and the rustling breeze and tinkling rain could have a voice and the roar of the ocean could be put into words, they would all have one thing to say: ‘We were made for the sake of Jesus Christ.’”

More from Father Stephen

The friar also offers a good answer to the riddle: How can it be that Christ, who came after Adam and Eve, nonetheless came before them in the mind of God? How can the Incarnate Word be first and last at the same time? Borrowing a popular analogy found in St. Francis de Sales’ Treatise on the Love of God, Father Stephen explains:

If you wanted to make wine, what would you do? First of all, you would have to plant a vineyard. Then you would have to fertilize the vines. You would have to trim them, pick the grapes and let them ferment. Finally, you would get some wine.

What was the first thing on your mind? The wine.
What was the last thing you got? The wine.

In the same way, Jesus’ late arrival on the scene, notes Father Stephen, does not contradict his holding first place in God’s mind at the creation of the universe. Christ is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega.

I hope my two blogs help explain John Duns Scotus’ awesome view of Christ as the “head over all things” (Ephesians 1:22) and the glorious destination toward which all creation is straining.

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Image: Franciscan Media

 
 

About the Author

Jack Wintz, O.F.M., is a familiar face at Franciscan Media. His articles and photos have been appearing in the pages of St. Anthony Messenger magazine for over 38 years. He has been writing Friar Jack’s E-spirations for AmericanCatholic.org for over ten years. This free e-newsletter reaches over 50,000 readers around the world.