The Problem with Natural Reason

Christmas Saturday

John 1:14

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, a glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John says that the Word that was “made flesh” “dwelt among us,” that is, he walked among men on earth like any other man; although he is God, he became a citizen of Nazareth and Capernaum and also acted like any other man, as also St. Paul says in Philippians 2:6-8…This is why this “becoming like men” and this “dwelling”  should not be understood according to his human nature. For according to that nature, he became like man by his birth of Mary; there he came into the human nature and became like man according to nature. Rather, it is to be understood according to his outward lifestyle and demeanor that he also engaged in eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, work, rest; also used house and city, walking and standing, clothing and garment, and all human behavior and demeanor, so that no one could have recognized him as a God, if John and the gospel had not proclaimed him. John says furthermore: “And we saw his glory,”
that is, his divinity, in his miracles and teaching. The little word “glory” we also see in Hebrews 1:3, “He is the radiance of the glory of God” where the divine nature is so called…Here John also expresses who the Word is about whom he and Moses have spoken so far, namely, the one Son of God who has all the glory the Father has. This is why he calls him the one, only-begotten, so as to set him apart from all the other children of God who are not natural children as this one is. But thereby his true divinity is indicated; for he were not God, he could not be called “the only-begotten Son” before
the others, which means: He and none other is God’s Son. This may not be said about the holy angels and men; for none of them is uniquely God’s Son, but are all brothers and equally created creatures, chosen children by grace, not born children by nature. The “seeing” John talks about we should not only refer to physical sight; for the Jews saw his glory as well, but still did not consider it to be the glory of the only-begotten Son of God. Instead, we should refer it to that the believers saw and believed this with the heart. The unbelievers, whose eyes are trained on worldly glory, disregarded this divine glory. These two types of glory also do not tolerate each other: Those who want to be glorious before the world must be shameful before God. Contrariwise, those who are shameful before the world for God’s sake are glorious before God. Scripture puts grace and truth commonly side-by-side. “Grace” means that everything he is and does is pleasing before God. “Truth” means that everything he is and does is utterly good and right, so that nothing is in him that is not pleasing and righteous. Contrariwise, there is nothing but disgrace and falsehood in men, so that everything they do is displeasing before God. It is also utterly false and only pure outward appearance, as it says in Psalm 116:11, “All men are liars;” in Psalm 39:5, “How are all men a mere breath.” Yet this is said against the arrogant papists and Pelagians who find something that is good and true outside of Christ in whom alone are grace and truth. And while it is true that some things are true and pleasant, as, e.g., natural reason that says: “Three plus two equals five;” God is to be honored, etc. But natural reason never gets to do what it recognizes should be done, but as soon as it should put such insight into practice, it turns things up side down, calling good what is evil and evil what is good, calling honoring God what dishonors him and vice versa. This is why man is nothing but a liar and vain that he can only use such natural reason contrary to God.

St. Louis ed., 11:202-205.

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