Felix culpa

Where can I read about the dictrine of felix culpa?

My understanding is that Thomas Aquinas taught that there were two possibilities: If Adam and Eve had never sinned Jesus would never have been incarnated. If they sinned Jesus needed to be incarnated and that’s what happened.
My understanding is that Bonaventura only taught that Jesus would have been incarnated. He never taught that the other option of Thomas Aquinas. I mean, sure Jesus only incarnated due to the fact that Adam and Eve sinned but I don’t think Bonaventura could think of a world without Jesus being incarnated.
Am I wright or wrong?

I would think that philosophy aside, the Liturgy of the Catholic Church best expresses its faith.

The Exsultet calls the felix culpa the “truly necessary (certe necessarium) sin of Adam…that earned so great, so glorious a redeemer.”

This strongly points to the thought that the Second Person of the Trinity would not have been incarnated without the Fall.

As for Bonaventure, he did hold the belief that had Adam not sinned, the Incarnation would not have taken place.

It may be that Bonaventure just saw the question as futile, since Adam did sin, and Aquinas was presenting a “what if” scenario.



It’s important to understand the meaning of “necessary” as Aquinas applies it to Our Lord’s incarnation. When we hear the word “necessary” we usually understand it with the meaning Aquinas calls the “first way” - a way Aquinas specifies “was not necessary”.I answer that, A thing is said to be necessary for a certain end in two ways. First, when the end cannot be without it; as food is necessary for the preservation of human life. Secondly, when the end is attained better and more conveniently, as a horse is necessary for a journey. In the first way it was not necessary that God should become incarnate for the restoration of human nature. For God with His omnipotent power could have restored human nature in many other ways. But in the second way it was necessary that God should become incarnate for the restoration of human nature. Hence Augustine says (De Trin. xii, 10): “We shall also show that other ways were not wanting to God, to Whose power all things are equally subject; but that there was not a more fitting way of healing our misery.”
Regarding an Incarnation if man had not sinned, Aquinas did not rule out the possibility even tho he personally did not believe there would have been one.I answer that, There are different opinions about this question. For some say that even if man had not sinned, the Son of Man would have become incarnate. Others assert the contrary, and seemingly our assent ought rather to be given to this opinion.

For such things as spring from God’s will, and beyond the creature’s due, can be made known to us only through being revealed in the Sacred Scripture, in which the Divine Will is made known to us. Hence, since everywhere in the Sacred Scripture the sin of the first man is assigned as the reason of Incarnation, it is more in accordance with this to say that the work of Incarnation was ordained by God as a remedy for sin; so that, had sin not existed, Incarnation would not have been. And yet the power of God is not limited to this; even had sin not existed, God could have become incarnate.


There must be other great texts about this!

Here are some links on “absolute primacy” - the theological opinion that Jesus would have become incarnate even if man had not sinned.



Series of talks on youtube by Fr. Maxmillian Mary ( youtube.com/watch?v=PX9jEyK5s6E&list=PLC1BAA696E9734715 )
based on his book “A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ: Blessed John Duns Scotus and the Franciscan Thesis"
( amazon.com/Primer-Absolute-Primacy-Christ-Franciscan/dp/1601140401 )

Regarding what Bonaventure taught, the Catholic Encylopedia entry on him states: Bonaventure’s theological writings may be classed under four heads: dogmatic, mystic, exegetical, and homiletic. His dogmatic teaching is found chiefly in his “Commentary on the Sentences” and in his “Breviloquium”. Treating of the Incarnation, Bonaventure does not differ substantially from St. Thomas. In answer to the question: “Would the Incarnation have taken place if Adam had not sinned?”, he answers in the negative.


What is the official teaching of the Church on this?

Is reading about this really going to help us understand the truth about this?

Answer this:
Which of these two options would you choose: being in Heaven with Jesus who has a body and soul or being in Heaven with Jesus who does not have a body and soul?
So you choose the option Adam sinning. But we don"t want to choose sin!
How do we solve this?

There is no official teaching on whether or not Jesus would have been incarnated if Adam & Eve had not sinned. Thus, the “official teaching”, so to speak, is that it is open to personal interpretation at this time.

Is reading about this really going to help us understand the truth about this?

Not “truth” in the sense that we’d be able to say one of the views is the true one and the other one is definitely erroneous/false.

But it could well be that in reading works of saintly authors on the topic, you could gain insights and understanding in other areas connected with the topic. Eg. God’s love for us; 2 natures in Jesus; atonement; …
I would say if it is a topic that interests you, you would be likely to get beneficial insights ---- as long as you don’t go in with the thought that what you read will prove which of the two views is the true one. Reading can give you a preference for one view or the other, but it is important to keep in mind that God has not yet revealed which (or even if) one of those two views is the correct one.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.