I was listening to Fr. Groeschel today and I’m almost positive he said that if Jesus had been accepted, rather than killed, his incarnation, rather than his death, would have saved us. True? If so, then what was the purpose of his death?
What Father Groeschel - whom I also heard - put forth is one opinion that has been held in Church history. I personally do not subscribe to it, but there is nothing that I am aware of prohibiting it.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that if God had wanted to save us by some other means then He did, He could have. This is the most commonly accepted opinion.
Now as far as His Incarnation is concerned, it is very true that there was tremendous value to it. In fact, in the very early Church, there was a tremendous emphasis on His Incarnation in our salvation. This was certainly a large factor in our salvation, because it accomplished something very important: it united humanity with Divinity. This in and of itself was really half the battle.
It also did something else very important: it allowed a man to offer God obedience with the perfect Love of God Himself. Many theologians, including perhaps most prominently St. Thomas, believed that even one act by the Incarnate Son would be enough to save the world. This is because one act would have been an act of obedience by an infinite person, and so of a value so much greater than all of the sins of alll of humanity put together.
Why, then, did Christ die? There are varying opinions. Some hold that His death was necessary. I am one of them. According to St. Athanasius, in Christ’s death He paid the debt of death that humanity owed. God had told Adam that the penalty for sin was death. St. Paul repeated the teaching: “the wages of sin is death.” By dying, Christ satisfied this for us because we are in His body. This is where the mystical body of Christ is so important, and why one must belong to the Church, which is the body of Christ. As St. Paul teaches, those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into His death. In some mysterious way, when we are baptized, we become a part of the true body of Christ, and so we die with Him in His death, and we rise with Him in His Resurrection.
St. Thomas presents some other reasons for why Christ may have died [reason #1 was what I just explained about fulfilling the wage of sin):
[quote]Secondly, in order to show the reality of the flesh assumed. For, as Eusebius says (Orat. de Laud. Constant. xv), “if, after dwelling among men Christ were suddenly to disappear from men’s sight, as though shunning death, then by all men He would be likened to a phantom.” Thirdly, that by dying He might deliver us from fearing death: hence it is written (Hebrews 2:14-15) that He communicated “to flesh and blood, that through death He might destroy him who had the empire of death and might deliver them who, through the fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to servitude.” Fourthly, that by dying in the body to the likeness of sin–that is, to its penalty–He might set us the example of dying to sin spiritually. Hence it is written (Romans 6:10): “For in that He died to sin, He died once, but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God: so do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God.” Fifthly, that by rising from the dead, and manifesting His power whereby He overthrew death, He might instill into us the hope of rising from the dead. Hence the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 15:12): “If Christ be preached that He rose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection from the dead?” - Summa Theologica, III, 50, 1
Peace and God bless