Yesterday I discovered that for the past several years I have misunderstood David B Hart’s view of the fall of creation. I shared my misunderstanding on Facebook and Twitter, generating some interesting responses. Perhaps the most interesting—and certainly the most provocative—reflection came from Jordan Daniel Wood, who succinctly summarized the position of St Maximus the Confessor. I just had to share his reflection here on Eclectic Orthodoxy.
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On three separate occasions, Maximus says Adam’s fall occurred “at the same instant he came to be.” I spend about 35 pages of the upcoming book trying to explain what this means. Most scholars simply act as if he didn’t mean this, but rather that Adam did enjoy some moments, however fleeting, of actual sinless—almost deified—existence. But I think that’s wrong, and that his clear claim that Adam’s fall and coming to be were “simultaneous” (hama) means just that: from his very origins in this world of phenomena Adam is fallen.
Crucial here, though, is another insight: this world of phenomena is not yet the world, not yet creation, and so not yet even begun—except in Christ, whose historical Incarnation is the true beginning of Adam and of the true (and only) world. This false world began in a false beginning. And that false beginning (Maximus follows Gregory of Nyssa here) is at once the condition and consequence of Adam’s primordial transgression. Now I think (and argue at some length) that for Maximus “Adam” means something like “the whole of human nature as it subsists in and as the entire set of human persons” (there is no Man in itself). Thus the false beginning of this false world is the condition and cause of all human sins; and God’s acceptance of this false beginning is at once his act of creation and his reaction to the fall—in the same act. Now Maximus moved beyond even Gregory by reconfiguring the Origenist pair “judgment and providence” in the most astonishing way: Evagrius, for example, understood judgment as God’s salvific reaction to the primordial fall (the creation of finite difference) and providence as God’s ubiquitous work of guiding all fragmented being back to its primordial union. Maximus identifies providence with the hypostatic union—the Son’s conception in Mary—and judgment with the crucifixion, even as these retain their Origenist function. The Incarnation is simultaneously the ground and goal of God’s universal providence. The cross is the condition and consequence of our universal sin. On the cross the Son suffers, experiences, the very “principles” of the false world we create and thereby grants hypostasis to even that possibility. A most astounding thought: Christ hypostasizes in his Passion the very conditions of our rejecting him! But because he realizes the conditions of the fall as simultaneously his response to our fall, he unites even our false world, the fallen world, the sum total of all our free foolishness and mad stupidity (sin)—all this is simultaneously united to his divinity, the very power of resurrection.
So Maximus has taken Gregory’s formal principle (creation as cause and response to sin) and Evagrius’s formal metaphysical pair, judgment and providence, and filled these with the positive content of the Incarnation: Christ both activates and overcomes the conditions and consequences of every sin of every rational being in his Passion (judgment) and thereby secures the deification of all creation in principle (providence), which deification is implicit all the logoi of this world. Thus false world bears within its own principles the seeds of its destruction, which is also its true salvation, true creation of the true world and “Adam.” Christ is God’s act of creation. Christ is thus bearer and destroyer of the false world we illicitly “create.” Christ thus suffers that we might be free, even though we are fools. He does so because there is no limits to his erotic love for us and thus no limits to his kenosis, to his degree of self-abasement that he might destroy all and so save all from their own delusions, which they attempt to incarnate through their own persons. The true Incarnation makes possible and obliterates all false incarnations. So yes, “Adam” fell from the very start; but no, he wasn’t really the true Adam. We are caught in between these two, in a “world” whose dark depths do still indeed bear the logoi of God’s true world, for Christ lies there “as if in a womb” (Amb 6), awaiting his birth in all.
The cross’ rejection of the status quo, of how things presently are in their corrupted state, constitutes the refusal to reconcile with evil – the only way for creation to come into true existence, is by way of the destruction of evil. This is why all theodicies are non-starters.
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“Adam’s primordial transgression”
I have a problem right there.
For there to be a transgression evil must already be possible. But then we come back to the same problem: Whence evil? How did the mere possibility of evil enter reality?
If spiritual creatures are to have a genuine history and passage from non-existence to God, this may entail the possibility of sin because to be a rational creature means successively pass to divinization. And I think there is a qualitative difference between the questions ‘Why did God create evil?’ and ‘Why did God permit evil?’ if evil is something that comes posterior to the act of creation is destroyed before the ultimate realisation of creation.
I agree with you. Actually I think that John Hick’s soul-making theodicy makes perfect sense.
But we are discussing Maximus the Confessor’s idea which entails a “transgression” by Adam. But if Adam’s sin was a reflection of how he was made then there is no transgression, no violation of God’s will in creation. Rather, as you imply, God made creation in a way that would permit evil. To put it plainly, for some good purpose God made creation in a fallen state.
Adam hasn’t been made yet, that is the point of the Origen/Nyssa/Maximus proto-eschatology. Adam’s true creation is in Christ, with the incarnation as the starting point.
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I think when you arrive at this level of theological abstraction it’s not difficult to unite Christian soteriology with, for example, the Buddhist.
I wonder in Maximus’ scheme whether the first Adam is an individual man who falls and passes on his fallen state to his biological descendants somehow; or Adam is the type of all fallen pneumato-somatic beings we know as man, and Adam’s sin represents the same mistake we all made in coming to this present fallen state.
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I think it makes sense to believe in the idea of a choice by the firstborn. I don’t think the firstborn are individuals which made a choice that bound their descendants, but that they stand for the whole of humanity. The question remains if that choice is a metaphor or a myth of some kind, or else an actual pre-cosmic event. I lean towards the latter. In my case it’s simpler because I believe that there is really only one human subject growing towards God through many individual lives.
There’s something in this reminiscent of Tillich’s idea of Adam’s fall from “dreaming innocence” into finitude …
Also maybe an unexpected point of contact with Hinduism? Because this sure makes the phenomenal world sound a lot like illusion … maya … lila … no? Surprising.
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If there is a hint of Vedanta, I wouldn’t say that it is in a way that contradicts Christianity. Creation as we know it is fallen reality and so maya. There are veils which hide the presence of God from our perception in this cosmos as a result of mortality that pervades it.
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Not suggesting a contradiction of Christianity – more like, an opening for some interfaith dialogue that I hadn’t recognized before.
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The Doors of the Sea has passages that wouldn’t be entirely out of place in book on Vedanta, specifically passages regarding veils over creation
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Maya, yes. Lila is a more ambiguous category.
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I thought I knew that “Christianity” regards creation as real rather than illusory. This probably tells me I need to read more theology.
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I can’t yet wrap my head around it, I will need to think on it more and I look forward to JDW’s book.
Based on what is is definitely a misreading, it seems to me to be saying that death/destruction/suffering play a positive role in God bringing salvation to the world. And doesn’t it also make destruction and violence original to creation if it is the condition of Adam. Based on The Beauty of the Infinite, I took away the idea that in Christianity, creation is a fundamentally harmonious act, not simultaneous with the subjection of the cosmos to death.
I’d love someone smarter than me to correct my misunderstandings here
On the one hand one has to hold to a distinction between possibility and intention, while the other hand lets go of the notion of linearity of time. Creation is good, the possibility of evil a condition of its coming to be.
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Really interesting discussion. Certainly so far as I can tell DBH’s views are that no finite will can be held responsible for the fall, which rules out fallen angels just as much as Adam.
What I don’t understand is where this rejection of a finite origin of evil is combined with the view that evil is nevertheless 100% contingent in the sense that there genuinely could have been paradise / the good creation from the start. This view tends to say that evil as mere ‘possibility’ is indeed built into creation, but its realisation is contingent.
I find this odd because:
1) if both finite wills and God’s will are ruled out, what is left?
2) the mere ‘possibility’ of evil seems to me to be a species of evil anyway – just as a landmine, with the possibility of blowing someone up, is still evil even if nobody happens to step on it in the end.
Also, if original sin and fallenness is in some way ‘built in’ and not the result of a finite act, shouldn’t it be totally universal and affect every rational will without exception? In which case shouldn’t there be no ‘good’ angels – at least no angels which started out free of original sin? I’m not sure if DBH would say that even the best angels began in original sin; or perhaps he might hold with Barth that good angels are not the same species as demons who just happened to make the right choice, but rather are bit like ‘divine dogs’ or a kind of divine automata which act as a kind of extension of God.
You are wrong. I have never said such a thing.
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About finite wills, that is.
I have no opinions regarding angels or demons. The Christian conception of both, I might however note, has gone through such radical revisions over the centuries that later traditions regarding them are largely unrelated to the views prevalent in the early church.
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On that note, would DBH-style universalism also encompass the salvation of the demons? I’m guessing you would say “depends how you define ‘demon'” but may as well ask anyway.
All means all. The arguments in my book apply to all rational natures.
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I’ve been thinking about this recently. The redemption of demons/fallen angels/Satan is definitely a beautiful thought and I think even more broadly widens the scope of God’s salvific work, but are we not anthropomorphizing Demons a little bit? DBH’s argument about The Good as the only truly free choice a human can make is a great argument, and I think it’s pretty irrefutable, but it applies specifically to free will as understood in a human nature. Who’s to say that demons or fallen angels couldn’t possess an entirely different sort of nature which is actually capable of freely choosing evil? I know that’s not rationally possible for a human being, but is it possible that Angels possess some other form of “will” which actually is capable of eternally choosing not-God? Verses like 1 Peter 1:12 seem to suggest that human beings and Angels are more fundamentally different in nature than we might imagine.
Rambling here. I guess what I’m getting at is that I’ve seen people use DBH’s free will argument to advocate for the salvation of Demons/Satan, and I’m inclined to agree, but it also feels like with as little concrete information as we are given about these beings’ existence, treating their free-will like a human being’s might be an overstep.
A rational intellect can be only an insatiable desire for the good. There is no other kind of spiritual existence. There is no other possible kind of freedom of the will. God is not a finite object toward which human reason just happens to be directed; he is the infinite end of rationality as such, the fullness of transcendental perfection that is the sole possible final cause of any kind of rational liberty. Your question is the equivalent of asking “Why couldn’t there be other kinds of circles that are in fact squares?”
Moreover, the argument of Meditation One would still hold in the case of demonic beings.
DBH, I appreciate the reply! That makes sense. I still maintain that I think some of the arguments around Angelic or Demonic beings tend to apply human ideas to non-human beings, but that universal understanding of “rational nature” is helpful.
Again, no. This definition of rational freedom is not merely a description of human behavior that can be applied to other spiritual beings only suppositiously. It is a definition of rational freedom to which no alternative is logically possible. There is no other way for any being, human or otherwise, to be either rational or free. Just as 2+2=4 in all possible worlds.
I hear you. What I meant was that in general discussions about angelic beings (not just limited to the topic of their salvation or lack thereof), I have regularly hear Christians attempt to draw conclusions about those beings based on anthropomorphisms, essentially just imagining angels as human beings with superpowers. I don’t even know how helpful those discussions are anyway, but they become especially unhelpful when we misapply ourselves to the subject.
That said, I think your articulation of a rational nature is correct and not simply a human understanding applied to some other sort of being, and is helpful in how I understand the term in general. So thank you!
Ah. I agree, then. Anthropomorphisms are hard to avoid, admittedly, but it can lead to some rather silly images.
Dr. Hart, you might “have no opinions regarding angels or demons,” but you’ve written more about elves, fairies and mermaids than any religious scholar that I know. You’ve also pointed directly to the best sources I’ve found on the “views prevalent in the early church” regarding angels, demons and whatnot (Dale Martin, for example). Although I’m sure that it’s a good general policy to “have no opinions regarding angels or demons,” I do appreciate the occasional knowledge that you drop regarding creatures with spiritual bodies and the like.
Okey dokey – thanks for the reply DBH and sorry to express your view incorrectly. I should have phrased that as ‘individual finite act of a specific finite will’ – or would that also be wrong? I thought that you denied that the general fallenness of the world could be traced back to single, finite, cataclysmic historical event ‘event’, born out of some mythical golden age (whether in Heaven or Eden) which served as the efficient cause for our current misery. But that doesn’t preclude one holding that the difficult conditions of this world are in some sense dependent on our fallen finite natures, rather than the other way around – so I was assuming you held to something like that (although what the origin of all those finite wills being fallen seems an unanswered question to me).
On angelic/demonic wills, I appreciate you may have no fixed opinion on the matter, but do you think it would be at least permissible to hold that all wills – even the ‘angels’ begin with original sin – given your specialist knowledge of the relevant texts? I suppose the sinlessness of Mary is a related topic – if everything is fallen, and it’s not down to a specific historical event which some things (i.e. angels) could have avoided, how can there be wills which have been sinless from the start?
Sure, the act of creation is outside time – but given that all created being is in time, and therefore all individual sins are in time, it is indeed perplexing if it turns out the cause/origin of the world’s falleness cannot be located in any specific moment/act in time.
To expand, I have no idea in what sense you hold that the fallenness of the world is really contingent, and in what sense you might say that creation really ‘could’ have been perfect from the start if only something had gone differently. What is the mechanism by which things could have gone differently?
Also, regardless of whether or not this ‘mechanism’ is identifiable, I think you have pointed to the fact that the possibility of sin is not the same as its actuality – and that it’s fine for God to will the possibility of sin and evil if it’s a necessary feature of creation, although you hold sin/evil is not itself necessary, only its possibility (and that God logically can will the possibility of evil but not evil itslef) But what do you make of my argument that the distinction is not relevant here – the ‘possibility’ of a landmine blowing someone up means a landmine exists, and that itself is a kind of evil even if nobody steps on it. Or to put It another way, isn’t a will that ‘could’ choose evil in fact already evil, inasmuch that it is emancipated from the good?
The landmine comparison doesn’t hold up in that in the case of the possibility of evil, evil isn’t created, but rather the possibility that it could be by secondary causality and then only always as a departure from creation’s good. As such the actualization of evil is a devolution into destruction and never creative.
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Thanks Robert, you make things a lot clearer. Iagree that it is helpful to claim that the possibility of evil is created, whereas evil itself if not. Yet I don’t see how you can hold that the landmine is evil – it isn’t ‘doing something evil’ until somebody steps on it, and if nobody steps in it, this evil is never actualised, so doesn’t that meant that the landmine is not itself evil, but merely something with the possibility of evil?
Still I think I get your basic point. Where I remain confused is where and in what sense the ‘fallenness’ of the world can be said to be genuinely contingent – because I don’t see any juncture (finite and temporal or otherwise) that could represent a logical moment in which the great aboriginal catastrophe genuinely could have been avoided.
But maybe that kind of ‘logically could have been otherwise’ is not an essential component of contingency? Do you think it could be acceptable to hold that the actualisation of evil is a kind of inevitable consequence of creation – not in the sense that evil becomes a positive ingredient of the good, which is clearly heterodox, but is simply a tragic and unintended temporary consequence of the good? i.e. God does not ‘use’ evil to make good, but God makes good alone and evil just hitches a ride? But only as an unreal non-reality that is destined to total destruction.
Similar, maybe, to the principle of ‘double effect’ – which I understand to state that it is problematic to bring about a simple evil, even if intended to lead to some good; whereas it is fine to bring about a good even if you know that some parasitic evil is an inevitable consequence of this good.
I would say that while it is not a theodicy the possibility of evil is a condition of our coming into being, our coming into perfection. Keeping firm in mind that this world is not yet creation, as Jordan points out “not yet even begun.” I concur with his reading of Maximus and Nyssa, that with Christ’s incarnation creation truly begins. With advent of Christ the horizon of evil narrows – the beginning of creation in Christ brings true freedom, and the more free we become the less choices we have.
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Thanks Robert. I agree 100% with all of that – I wish I had your knack for bringing in appropriate related insights from the Fathers. I suppose I was also wanting to focus on the more specific question of whether it could be acceptable to view the ‘possibility’ of evil as being a little closer to an inevitability – almost like the possibility of evil has a kind of potency of its own that ends up making the tragic fall into actual evil an inevitability.
I know this risks raising the worry that this makes ‘evil essential to God’ or ‘evil essential to creation’. But to the first claim I would say that it is not that God uses evil to make good, but rather that evil is inevitably (albeit only temporally) parasitic on the good, i.e. evil is not an ingredient required to make the good of cake – instead evil is more like the tummy ache that follows eating too much cake, and until we learn how to use good appropriately! And for the second claim I’d say the same, and also add in the insight you point to that in a sense creation only really refers to the new creation (and to Christ as its first fruits) – all the evil of this world is not really creation but a kind of shadow side of the real good creation (the new creation) with no real being of its own.
It is inevitable after the fact, and this is where we find ourselves presently – ‘after the fact’. But the Christian account has consistently maintained that evil is not necessary to creation – evil and death remain accidental and are not inevitable to creation, to true creation. Christ as the firstborn of creation demonstrates that to be truly human, to be truly free and alive is to be without sin – death and evil are not merely sidelined, they are brought to destruction by the Paschal triumph. One of the pillars of conciliar Christology is Christ the true man in whom evil and death are wholly absent. Christ as the beginning and end of creation ‘sidelines’ evil, exposing the imposter leading the false aionon, a corrupt order that has come to an end. Pilate you are but a footnote.
We should not be too surprised to think of the fall before time, if we can consider its redemption also to be before time (and who doubts that!). But truly, to speak of “before” is very deceptive to begin with, linearity applied to the non-linear. Let’s not get hung up about before, after, during etc. as it belies a prejudice of the now, a tyranny of the moment foisted on the timeless.
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Actually, I am pretty surprised to think about the fall as being before (or, if you prefer, ‘above’ time) IF we also want to hold that the fall is completely non-necessary to creation.
The reason is this: all things are ultimately enfolded within God’s own causality as the primary cause.
Now some actions might be attributable to God alone, e.g. the creation of the world – no secondary creaturely causes are involved here (yes stuff going on in the world is made up of secondary causes, but the actual ontic donation of being is not mediated through secondary causes).
Whereas other actions (e.g. a specific act of good or evil that I perform today) are attributable both to God’s primary will and to our own, secondary, creaturely wills. For example, Jesus’ preaching is attributable both to his human, secondary will, and the divine will sitting ‘above’ it all. This includes our own bad actions too, albeit these are brought about by God ‘indirectly’ – still by God’s will but in its permissive, rather than perfect, mode.
But here’s the thing: in the case of our individual evil actions, yes they are in some sense enfolded in God’s will, but there is still a specific finite action within the realm of created secondary causality that God ‘forsees’, which explains why it is part of God’s permissive will. God can permit things from ‘above’ but this permission still refers to a specific efficient cause in the ‘below’.
But if the ‘fall’ is not related to any specific bad action – if there is no efficient cause within the web of secondary causality which we can identify as its origin – then it seems that there is nothing for God’s permissive will to latch onto. That would imply that it is part of perfect will – i.e. that God is the only origin of the reason the non-necessary possibility of original sin is actualised – which is surely unacceptable. What say you?
IF you’re right that original sin is a possibility, not a necessary, given creation, we must remember that a possibility can be actualised either by only two things A) God doing it ‘alone’, as in God’s act of creation; or B) God doing it via secondary causes, as in creaturely actions. But if original sin is ‘above’ history, doesn’t that place its origins ‘above’ creaturely, secondary causes? And if it’s above creaturely secondary causes, where can its origin be but God?
I say David the objections do not hold in that just as redemption is “before/above” time while yet also taking place within time (i.e. through the Christ event), so likewise with the fall: before time and yet also in time. That is to affirm that the fall finds its cause in the concrete agency in time. But here’s the kicker, we cannot think of the historical coming after the before of eternity for reason that successive unfolding of events (i.e. before, during, after) does not pertain to God. It is applying creaturely diastematic mode of being to divine adiastematic being (and doing). If we think that the historical has to happen first for it to be real and in order to have a causal effect, then we have applied temporal unfolding to the divine order of being and knowing.
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Can we even make sense of St Paul putting redemption before time, “he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world” Eph. 1:4 if the fall isn’t likewise before time? By this does Paul mean to trivialize the historical unfolding of events, be these events redemptive or lapsarian? I think not.
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Robert, I don’t disagree with the points you make but I really don’t see how they deal with the problem raised. I’m not worried about the ‘order’ of causation, temporal, logical or otherwise. I absolutely 100% agree that there is no need for the historical to happen ‘first’ (whether logically or temporally) for it to be real and in order to have a causal effect. I don’t see how anything I’ve said above implies that – perhaps I am making an assumption without realising it, but I don’t see one.
Just to clarify, here are some scenarios you may imagine I am worried about but I am not:
1. I do X today, and God knows this and responds to this eternally. Not a problem. I’m not worried about how God can know this. This makes complete sense given the atemporal reality of God.
2. God chooses to redeem us eternally, with the historical concomitant of Jesus of Nazareth. I’m also not worried about how God does this. God just eternally knows what we will do and responds ‘before’ (or ‘above’) we even do it – again no problem given the atemporal reality of God.
Rather I am only worried about the very specific circumstance in which you seem to claim that ‘the fall finds its cause in the concrete agency in time’ but then give no actual historical cause. ‘before time and yet also in time’ is fine by me. But your explication of what you mean by this, to my mind, ends up sounding like ‘before time and that’s it’ – or, at best, ‘before time and with a temporal effect’.
If I choose to sin today, or not sin, God knows this eternally and responds to my action eternally. In this sense my specific sin is both ‘before time and yet also in time’. But you have no corresponding historical actualisation of ‘the fall’. How then can it be attributed to the human will, or anything else in creation? Creatures consist of their secondary causes – if there are no secondary causes involved in the fall, then I don’t see how it can have a contingent creaturely origin. That is a problem related to the definition of creation and secondary causes, not a problem of logical ordering of events or atemporality.
Just to clarify then I have no problem with seeing the fall as in some way ‘eternal’ – in fact that’s what I assume must be the case, as I certainly don’t see how Adam and Eve (or angels or anything else) could bring about ‘the fall’, and I see the falls origins as lying beyond historical time. But given this I don’t think it can be characterised as contingent – it seems to be an inevitable consequence of metaphysically unavoidable human ignorance.
Again, absolutely nothing to do with worries about how God could know the fall would occur if it wasn’t necessary – this is very much a worry I don’t have, as God knows (and responds to) plenty of things which are truly contingent. It’s just that something with no secondary causes whatsoever cannot be part of creation, and so cannot be contingent.
So I don’t see what the fuss is all about.
Nothing I have said negates the fall having secondary causation in time.That’s the unfolding of the false start, the incomplete creation of Genesis 1. We are chosen in Christ before the beginning of the world – but redemption would be incoherent if sin did not have a cause in time, but what then to make of the redemptive act of election before time, before the cause of the fall had taken place in time? Obviously the reality of the redemptive act is not awaiting the fall to happen in time, so neither is the reality of fall awaiting the actual cause in time.
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Thanks Robert. Well, when you talk of the ‘unfolding of a false start’ that rather makes it sound like you are just referring to the beginning of human history as being the logical consequence, the effect, of something that has already been determined atemporally. If you hold that, then while the ‘unfolding of a false start’ might refer to the first individual sin, which yes occurs in the world of secondary causation, it doesn’t appear to refer to the actual cause of original sin itself. If that’s the case, I think your position implicitly denies that original sin has a secondary cause, even if all the individual sins that occur within the network of original sin all have their own secondary causes.
Whereas if you are totally committed to there being a secondary cause that truly brings the fall about, then surely that must mean there is specific point in time at which someone/thing makes the choice to bring original sin about. Not just the first moment where original sin takes effect, but a point at which a contingency may or may not be enacted – where a choice is made that could have gone another way but just so happens not to. Personally I find this incoherent and regard it as mythology. I gather DBH also denies that any first couple or angelical will caused original sin to emerge – I had thought ou did too, but maybe that’s an unwarranted assumption.
This is of course a complex area and I am likely not articulating my concerns properly. Even without bringing atemporality and God into the conversation (and how can we not?) I personally find the notions of necessity and contingency basically impossible to pin down precisely anyway. But is that necessarily impossible or merely contingently impossible? 🙂
I aver that to create is to redeem, and only the fallen require redemption. This is accomplished before time and also in time. To create is to create the possibility of evil, the possibility of the absence of good. But I cannot explain how God can be removed from anything or from anywhere – this to me seems to be the true conundrum of evil. That set aside for a moment – if we can allow that to create is to create a distance, an interval of sorts which is good but which is an imperfect potential which holds the possibility of being and non-being, the seeds of good and of bad, then we can see the advent of creation as it unfolds in time as the story of fall and redemption. But this story is not yet written in full, creation hasn’t completed until redemption is complete.Then it will be truly created for it will have been redeemed, the possibility of evil removed. God will be All in all.
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Hi Robert. I don’t disagree with any of that – and in particular I would agree completely that ‘to create is to redeem’.
I also agree with you that all this is accomplished ‘before time but also in time’.
I’m merely saying that I wouldn’t then describe the fall as contingent or merely ‘possible’ relative to God’s decision to create. That is, I don’t see a genuine sense in which creation really could have gone another way and avoided the fall (yes God Incarnate went another way – he didn’t sin – but that is a special case, and it doesn’t seem to me that the non-God-incarnate bits of creation actually could have avoided the fall.
Yes creation itself is obviously contingent (on God’s will to create), and therefore in one sense ‘the fall’ is also contingent and only possible, in the specific sense that, if creation didn’t exist, the fall obviously would not exist.
But it seems to me that, once we assume creation as a given, then the fall becomes essential *relative* to God’s decision to create. You say it yourself – ‘to create is to redeem’ – this means creation implies redemption, and redemption implies the fall (O felix culpa!). If that’s the case then the fall isn’t simply a ‘possibility’ of creation as you put it, it becomes an unavoidable part of the story of creation. As you say, it’s not the end of the story – it doesn’t define creation forever, and the ‘true’ creation is the new creation, of which our ‘creation is just a kind of derive lesser version that is awaiting its redemption. But it still seems to be the case that the ‘possibility’ of the fall is so strong as to be inevitable, given the creation’s necessary initial imperfection.
(to clarify, I was only arguing that IF creation could have been created without the fall, and the fall was therefore a mere possible, then for that claim to make sense I would expect there to be an identifiable temporal moment in creation where the event of the fall could have been introduced or avoided. But as I think creation is unavoidable tied up with the fall – to create is to redeem – then I don’t hold that the fall is contingent in the relevant sense, and therefore I don’t think there needs to be such a temporal moment)
I am very confused by this exchange. Are the two opposing views here actually identical then? If “to create is to redeem” then Robert’s view must be that creation involves redemption, and redemption involves the fall, which makes the fall necessary to creation. This is confusing as earlier Robert has said the fall is contingent and not necessary to creation. Maybe he’s just saying that in the sense that it isn’t necessary to the ‘creation’ in the sense of not being necessary to the ‘new creation’, or the ‘real creation’. But that the new creation – because it is necessarily a redeemed creation – implies another ‘unreal creation’ (i.e. our own fallen creation) that temporally proceeds the new creation, but logically proceeds from it. This seems to make the fallness of the old creation a given, that proceeds from the necessary status of the new creation as being ‘redeemed’, because “to create is to redeem”. So the fall is not necessary for the ‘new creation, but it is necessary for the ‘old creation’, and the new creation implies the old creation. Is that right?
HipDo – What is helpful is to keep in mind that to create is an act of the will, but what is possible to will for the creature is not an act of the will on God’s part. What is possible for and is eventually willed by the creature is the intention of the creature – and what is intended may or may not align with God’s intention for the creature. To fall away then is not necessary but it is possible.
What the future holds is always known to God and thus the coincidence of creation and redemption. It is we who move from the possible to the actual – but not all that we actualize finds its rationale in God.
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Robert, you said that “I aver that to create is to redeem, and only the fallen require redemption.”
It sounds like you are now saying something more like “I aver that to create *contingently happens to be such as* to redeem”. Your initial statement sounded like creation intrinsically involved redemption, and therefore intrinsically involved the fall, but now you are stressing again that the fall is a contingent choice made by the creature.
Still, if you can’t point to a specific secondary cause that exists in time and actually causes the fall, I don’t see how you can say it is something that has been contingently chosen by the creature and could have gone another way. The only place that ‘the creature’ exists is in creation, and creation is intrinsically temporal as the existenzform of the creature – yes it also has a kind of virtual or intentional existence in the mind of God, but even if God timelessly knows the creature chooses to fall, in order for God to know this (if it really is a contingent choice of the creation) then there must be an actual temporal moment at which this fall occurs, otherwise there is nothing in creation for God to actually know. God knows timelessly that David commits sin X, yes, but I have to actually commit sin X in order for it to be my choice! Likewise God can know that humans are fallen either way, but God can only know humans have *contingently chosen* to fall if there is a moment at which *humans contingently choose to fall*.
But maybe that is not quite your position. Amen to “what is possible to will for the creature is not an act of the will on God’s part”. Could you not just say that while God only wills the good of the creature, the nature of the creature is just such that fallenness will occur? Not because of anything positive in that nature, not because of anything that God creates in the nature, but just that the irrationality of evil is always lurking behind the scenes ready to seduce and tempt to destruction. God does not himself determine that the fall happens. It’s just the case that the creature is such that the fall will happen (God does not determine the nature of the creature to be like this, it is just the case that the evil of the fall is unavoidably parasitic on that nature in a way that God could not prevent).
David: “It sounds like you are now saying something more like “I aver that to create *contingently happens to be such as* to redeem”
Me: nope – it only sounds like if we smuggle diastematic temporality into divine mode of doing and knowing.
David: “in order for God to know this (if it really is a contingent choice of the creation) then there must be an actual temporal moment at which this fall occurs”
Me: smuggle! God’s knowledge is not dependent on temporal moments…..
David: “God can only know humans have *contingently chosen* to fall if there is a moment at which *humans contingently choose to fall
Me: yes but that moment does not have to occur for God to know that it will. Stop foisting your diastematic modality upon God 🙂
David: “It’s just the case that the creature is such that the fall will happen” … “the evil of the fall is unavoidably parasitic on that nature in a way that God could not prevent”
Me: hmmm, not really, as I maintain it is not inevitable
For myself, the idea that I think is being advocated here, I find that what can help make grasping this idea better (at least one aspect of it) can be helped with the aid of the mythic narrative of the Ainulindalë in Tolkien mythology of the Silimarilion. A quick point as an aside is that this this narrative is a mythic narrative even within it’s fictional frame, that is it is a myth narrative passed by a Noldor Elf to Men This was either via the Anglo-Saxon Ælfwine being told the ancient stories via the Elf Pengolodh after landing on Tol Eressëa and bringing it back to England, or via Bilbo through Gondorian historians and later transmissions. However either way being put into a story form by the High Elven folk into a form that Men could understand, from what they were told by the Valar, in a form which they could understand, which was describing an existence before time and ‘events’ that were inexpressible to those in time and space in terms of how they would ‘truly’ be. This is just to say, that even in it’s own fictional context this story is a myth to enable an understanding of what happened, not an objective description of the events as such.
Now using that as a story as an image or place-holder to perhaps understand this, particularly if we see not just the Ainur but image with them also all Men (with Hobbits who are part of Men), Elves and Dwarves (since their adopted) as Children of Illuvatar, they come into being with Illuvatar, coming into being from nothing and grow towards Him and developing their own nature in terms of the themes they practice and understand, in union with each other into the great theme which Illuvatar leads them into or calls them to join in, the theme that will be the world and their own nature, that Illuvatar gives life and being to (in the story the two form two distinct phases, but considering it is a story to understand rather than objective description we could see this more playing out in unity, Illuvatar giving form to both their themes and themselves). But confusing in mistaking the source of their desire and the good brings discord from the start, affecting all of them, some more than others, and the emerging world that forms along with their own development, that all arises from their beginning of coming into being or called into being, before time itself, emerges the universe with it’s history and then the their descent of fall into it, at various levels (Melkor to Morgoth and his demons, Children of Illuvatar and Valar and Maiar and the Ainu who remain with Illuvatar). The Second Music is, that is the completion of the Music which will take up the themes and complete them (bring true creation is yet to be heard), however, within the creation that is you would not find the Fall anywhere within it. That universe as it currently stood shadowed by a discord arising from the Fall prior to time and space would be fallen throughout.
Now if in our coming into being, into the call and contemplation of God, our collective coming towards Him, all within the Genesis 1 narrative that we are still in (it has yet to be completed) and our collective nature of ‘Adam’ and other spiritual and rational natures all in some sense Fell in a similar way towards non-being in that coming into being, that because we are called into existence as persons (that is in unity and relation to each other), and Fell due to a discord due to ignorance and mistake, to various levels, as Adam and Eve mistake the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, by going to non-being, rather than that of Life, Christ, true wisdom and source of our being, the creation that emerges that we are participating in, possibly even co or sub-creators as Tolkien liked to say, that emerges is that fallen, shadow filled death bounded one. But it is incomplete and not yet creation, sourced in and overcome in the Incarnation, in which Christ in and with us in our emergence being and existence, keeps us and overcomes the mistakes and falls and destroying all evil and suffering in that confused emergence and completing creation so that it is very good.
Not sure if this is how DBH, or Robert understand this, but it helps me somewhat conceive of it a bit, and I think of the Fall actually needs to be seen as a prior to time event which encompasses the whole of creation as it emerges.
Yes that is helpful Grant in that it calls into question “the hegemony of the linearity of time” (yes you can quote me on that, LOL). We fall into the trap to understand “cause before effect” to be restricted to temporal succession of events. But this is theology, not physics.
It seems clear to me, that if it is reasonable to believe, with St Paul, that redemption was from before time (“he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world” Eph. 1:4 a recurring theme of Pauline theology) the fall likewise must be understood atemporally as well. This is why the Origen/Nyssan/Maximinian (if it is right to lump them together, likely not) proto-eschatological vision has much to go for it, in my estimation. The alternatives don’t hold up to scrutiny and pale in comparison.
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It’s been fascinating lurking and watching this discussion. To be honest, I’ve never thought to make the leap from “timeless election/redemption” to “timeless fall” and I don’t know how I feel about it. Definitely something for me to chew on and pray about going forward.
I don’t exactly know how to articulate my unease with the idea, but to take a stab at it; I think I might be uncomfortable with the idea of “eternalising” sin/the-fall. There’s definitely a certain elegance to abstracting the fall narrative into a timeless metaphysical event outside of this cosmos, but it’s the same sort of elegance that I perceive in a strict Zoroastrian-esque dualism between good and evil, or the invincible catholic conviction that humanity will be carved down the middle into “the saved” and “the damned” forever and ever at the final judgement. I believe DBH refers to this sort of elegance as “sublimity” and opposes it to “Beauty proper.”
Perhaps one quibble i have could be phrased like so: “If the fall is timeless/eternal/forever, then how can we/all be saved?” This discussion has made me think of how my Hare Krishna mates talk about samsara being eternal: “there’s always someone to save.” If the fall is eternal, then surely damnation is likewise eternal. Sure, an individual soul might be able to move from a “damned” state to a “saved” state, but if the fall is timeless and everlasting/eternal, wouldn’t the consequent damnation be timeless and everlasting too, thus nullifying a “final” victory of good over evil?
With all that said, it’s still a new idea for me that the fall is atemporal and I need to process it further before committing to anything.
Thanks Grant. I find this way of thinking and, in particular, a narrative approach to theology to be incredibly illuminating. My reading of Tolkien’s mythology here though basically paints the fall as a kind of ‘tragic inevitability’ rather than something totally contingent. Perhaps not a ‘physical’ necessity, as if we could find some first couple or another cataclysmic event that necessarily occurs and brings the fall about – but instead a kind of metaphysical or even narrative necessity, such that, if humans exist, their initial (and metaphysical unavoidable) ignorance inevitably leads them to fall into sin for a time.
I don’t have a problem with seeing the fall as ‘eternal’ or a prior event if that means that God creates creation with the fall in mind and reacting to it accordingly. Or in the sense that the nature of humanity/creation is just eternally such that it will initially begin with the problems of the fall.
It’s just that I find it incoherent if we try to both maintain that the fall is eternal AND it is a genuine contingent that really could have been different – and that’s because, if the fall is contingent, there is no metaphysical ‘space’ in which the fall could occur in eternity other than via God (and I obviously don’t think God would ‘choose’ the fall when God could do otherwise).
I meant to add, Stephen Duffy’s ‘Our Hearts of Darkness: Original Sin Revisited’ says something similar in case anybody’s interested:
Click to access 49.4.1.pdf
And TIK: I’d suggest that the eternality of the fall need not mean it goes on in time forever, but rather just that it has an eternal component and is eternally in the mind of God. An eternal cause need not imply an endless effect. The fall just means that humans begin their journey towards God in sin, but it does not mean the journey stays in sin an stay ‘fallen’ forever.
Again here I am just talking for myself, but I would say David (and TIK) that to me there is a confusion here over eternal (a property belonging only to God, only He is eternal) and something origining outside, ‘before’ and logically prior to our time and space universe and time as it exists in our universe (considering quatum physics this should be even less of an issue then at eariler times).
Basically I am not saying sin is somehow eternal in God’s mind (I don’t think that is even possible, as sin is a mistake, an error or ignorance) or that somehow sin or death are equal to God, to life, Origen flat out denies that even being possible as I gather it. No, all creation as a origin point, all created beings within it do, though it beings logically prior to the universe as it is. Again, goint to the Ainulindalë, the Ainur come into existence logically prior to the existence of Eä (the World that is) which the narrative (again a story the Elves told Men, which they got from the Valar) is not the same as the ‘Timeless Halls in which the Ainu, those spirits are created and develop, grow towards Illuvatar and develop their natures. The Halls are ‘timeless’ in relation to Eä, but are not eternal as Illuvatar is, there is movement, beginning and growth, equally as they develop their themes and natures together and distinctly, misconception as to where their nature and desire are found lead to a fall back towards non-being (inherent possiblity in calling finite spirits from non-being towards the infinity of God as DBH argues), this here being first Melkor mistaking the ‘Void’, nothingness for where the ‘Flame Imperishable’ is, in his desire to make, create and be, falls away from God, for the ‘Flame Imperishable’ is with Illuvatar and indeed is Iluvatar (being the Holy Spirit). The discord which arises and takes hold to varying degrees of all is in mistaken desire of mising where creating and being is found and the direction towards it, no seeing it clearly and increasingly less, of lossing sight of the inivation of Iluvatar to achieve that desire directly and freely, and increasingly turning away, trying to dominate, fear, spite, envy and so on emerging. The discord affects the all to varying extents as all are brought into existence as persons in unity, existing in a haramony, in a symphony. Which as partipates in their growth to being brings about the Eä, the World that is.
So no, there is no eternal to sin and death, it is both contingent, and has it’s being in our reaction in our origin and emergance from non-being, in that we are still in Genesis 1, still creation being called into being, the Fall happens in that context (as in Genesis 2) in our innocent and immaturity. The cosmos that comes into play from that Fall from confusion after and call into being is the result of that, our call and origin being logicially prior to the universe as it is, and so not a event in it’s temporal history, but an event prior to it, but not to our origin and creation. Again a distinct before time in terms of time as it exists and is in this universe, but not eternal (as only God is eternal), and not timeless in times of no begining or forever in existence. Hence why I consider the Ainulindalë a useful image and narrative to understand this (putting the idea into a story which has seeming temporal and spacial categories to allow better comprehension (including making distinct various movements which likely existed even in the fictional world more in unity, of the creation of the Ainu and Timeless Halls, their development of themes and tunes, the Great Music and Illuvatar then making it Be).
As to the inevitability in Tolkien I think this sense comes more from both Elves and Men (the story being that coming from Elves to Men in a way they can understand and is the tranlsation of Men), and of those existing within a Fallen world which currently defines their understanding. For their perspective that is how it must seem (it also conttains with it an element of grim fatalism from the Geremanic mythology that inspires much of the mythology), but it isn’t the perspective of Illuvatar and many elements in the mythology, the small moments and eucatastrophes which are the light shining into the darkness and confusion which deny all such views as belong to the truth.
Thanks Grant. I find your reflections fascinating.
I should add that when I spoke of the ‘eternality’ of the fall I wasn’t meaning to impute sin and evil into the divine being itself or to imply that original it is eternal in the same way God is. I think I meant much the same as you – that its origin, in a sense, sits logically prior to our actual historical existence, even though it still follows logically after God’s decision to create and the time of the new creation. So I agree completely when you say:
“The cosmos that comes into play from that Fall from confusion after and call into being is the result of that, our call and origin being logicially prior to the universe as it is, and so not an event in its temporal history, but an event prior to it, but not to our origin and creation.”
This reminds me a little of Barth who states that the “fallen state is the consequence of no single historical act: it is the unavoidable presupposition of all human history”
The thing is, given that it seems that on this scheme the fall is logically prior to our actual historical existence, I don’t see any metaphysical ‘space’ during which the fall could genuinely have been avoided by creation – and therefore I’m not too attached to saying it is contingent. I mean, yes it’s contingent in the sense that it’s contingent on God’s decision to make the new creation, the true creation. But it seems to me that, once God’s decision to create is taken into account, then it becomes inevitable – I don’t see any logical ‘moment’ at which creation could somehow have chosen not to fall into sin.
I would also say that it seems that some initial epistemic distance from God is unavoidable, which makes some level of ignorance unavoidable – and this “misconception as to where their nature and desire are found lead to a fall back towards non-being”. This situation if what I would call original sin. Every specific historical sin is, at least in theory, avoidable, but the actual conditions of original sin are settled before we come on the scene and so unavoidable.
Incidentally, you mention that ‘the discord affects the all to varying extents’ – I was wondering whether there were anything analogous to unfallen angels in Tolkien’s tale? I am interested because tend to think that if original sin really does affect ‘the all’ then it makes the existence of totally unfallen beings problematic – what makes one thing fall but not another, when the ‘fall’ is a supra-temporal that sits above us all? If there are such beings, then I would prefer to say that there is something in their nature which makes them like this, and which intrinsically could not have been granted to humans or demons, rather than say they just contingently happened to luck out and avoid the fall while the rest of us pick up the pieces. So demons aren’t angels gone wrong, but a different species entirely.
I would say that considered in line with St Orgien’s conception of rational spirits prior to our temporal space universe coming from non-being who fall from that contemplation/growth towards God resulting in our fallen universe (assuming I understand that correctly), with the image of Genesis 1 of things being called into being to develop into their nature with the Ainulindalë as a narrative model, that the space God makes for us and that initial emergence with the fall into ignorance, of mistaking as Melkor does the void of nothingness for the Flame Impermissible, or of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of Life, which is where being God and like God is to be found (that is the Logos and Christ) (with the curse and fallen creation that emerges being that that understanding in reality, since we understand the privation that is evil and that we nor creation is what is should be instead of the path of true knowledge and wisdom). I would not agree (obviously 🙂 ) that I think this is inevitable, rather that origin had the possibility as with Ainulindalë and Genesis 2 of a mistaken in apprehension and so fall and subsequent nature of realised nature/creation/music, which was inherent as DBH argues to rational spirits called from non-being into the infinity of God (that they could mistakenly in that initial arising fall to non-being) but that this is a mistaken of immaturity (as in the narrative of Genesis 2, or with Melkor and then all the Ainur in the Ainulindalë).
In Genesis 2 the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents the false illusionary mistake for the tree of life (true knowledge, life, being, the Logos that is Christ in which our logoi exist and have our being) or the story of the Ainulindalë with the Void being imaged and place representing Melkor and then all the Ainur mistaking to vary extents with the discord the true source of their desires in the non-being they are called from (thus the mystery of sin and death, and the power of the effect of death). However in this emergence and origin of us as ‘Adam’ and in relation with all rational spirits and creation as with St Origen beholding God, the infinity horizon before us (which I agree necessitates an epistemic distance from Him to create the true ‘space’ for us to be, and creation to be something true and real along with necessary dimensions such as origin, movement, growth and so on) but as the images of both Ainulindalë and Genesis 2 provide don’t make such inevitable, a degree of lack of understanding, immaturity is necessary (to be and have the true freedom and participation in the Divine Life, Love and Dance of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit we are called into, but we could not have made the mistaken in that initial growth and beholding, or in the song and music or in the apprehension of the Tree (of God and existence if you like) but the stumble and misconception was always possible. So I think that that emergence does give the ‘space’ for not falling (as in the Ainulindalë the Fall to nothingness and discord is not inevitable but it is possible, and produces the incomplete and fallen world and natures that come from it. Thinking in terms of all our universe and time itself possibly as a quantum fluctuation in the quantum sea of created existence, and the relationship of consciousness to quantum universe (while not wanting to tie my colours to current such speculations) makes this idea even more likely in my mind.
Anyway I know there allot of possible rambling there, but I do think and hold that I think there is in that origin a place and ‘space’ for a fall that isn’t unavoidable but was a necessary possibility, though of course in God’s whole creative Act it is of course part of what happens and so Christ is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world as the Incarnation is the heart of creation, so so takes the Fall of our secondary reactions into that Act, to redemption and salvation become part of the full creation (Genesis 1 completed).
When it comes to your last question, of angels or indeed all other spiritual beings and intellects (I don’t know if angels are all there are) but thinking of St Origen’s view that in the fall before time the spirits fell into various ranks, Satan and demons being the most fallen and effected by the Fall, then perhaps humans (and possibly other spiritual beings) and then angels being the least fallen, we could see not quite the same but a similar movement in the Ainulindalë. Melkor and those most affected by the discord fall into demonic status, Melkor becoming Morgoth, Marion Sauron, Curumo becoming Saruman and so on (even if this take place in different parts over time in Eä). Taking the idea of the various Children of Illuvatar also being present this could include them as well as a next level, and then the rest of the Valar and Maiar in Eä and then the Ainur who remain in the Timeless Halls (closest to Illuvatar and existence). So there is some, intended or otherwise, similarity to me here. Now I personally think reflecting on ‘in Adam’ unlike St Origen that we are called into a distinct rational being from those of angelic or other spiritual beings, those were in relation with them and the fabric of creation (as Genesis 1 and 2 strongly imply, and of course vis versa, the angelic and spiritual are intertwined within creation and in relation to us, so the serpent is both animal and supernatural being and life represented at once). However as the discord affects others differently it still affects them and the Music they are part of of (and the subsequent behaviour of the Valar and Maiar indicates this, they are incomplete and make mistakes and incorrect choices, even destructive choices though they orientation of growth and awareness remains more clear in the creation that is than all other rational spirits in Eä and Arda (that being Children of Illuvatar, the fallen Valar Morgoth and demonic Maiar, and any other spiritual intelligences and animals bound by the fallen nature of the world though innocent of the evil that binds them, as in St Paul creation groans as a woman in the pains of labour waiting to be freed).
So, in relation to angels (to the extent we can understand them) such as St Gabriel or St Michael or example, my view is that they also are effected by the power of death, of the discord if you like as the Valar for example, they are incomplete. They are affected and live or exist in the context of the Fallen creation, but thinking in terms of that hierarchy of fall above they are unfallen in relation to ourselves and in terms of the Satan and whatever the demonic is (assuming it’s not a pure parasitic spiritual warped existence arising from within us, though I think the powers and principalities gives some sense of more, that perhaps these concepts work rather in tandem, again we exist in relation to each other). In fact I think the suggestion of powers and principalities in say St Paul’s writings conveys this idea, of them between the reality of God, I would say that as with the Valar and Maiar (sticking with Tolkien’s mythology for a conceptual image) the ‘unfallen’ angels retain a clearer and true sense of the source of being that is God and are more truly orientated towards that and see more truly and clearly (so the image of them worshipping God crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’) then we are, they more clearly perceive God’s glory in creation and perceive more clearly the ‘uncreated light’. But remembering that they themselves longed to see and pry into the mystery of the Incarnation, as the New Testament tells us, I believe the Christ’s unveiling was a mystery and a revelation as much to the ‘unfallen’ angelic order as to ourselves and the uncomprehending demonic (in their insanity), the Incarnation and Resurrection was a revelation and unveiling, an ‘apocalypse’ to them on God’s nature and the nature of reality as it is to us, and even in that sense and redemption and salvation. As I said, they are as us incomplete and affected by the Fall though not under the same warping affect of death. So they are ‘unfallen’ in terms of an order in relation to ourselves or the demonic, but not in terms of being unaffected by the Fall if that makes sense. All, including the angelic and spiritual will be draw into, summed up, redeemed, rescued and completed in Christ and God the Father will be all in all.
My quite speculative views but there they are for what they are worth 🙂 .
Thanks for providing such a long and well-thought out response Grant.
I have to say that I just don’t see where that ‘metaphysical space’ for the fall to happen or not to happen could possibly reside if it occurs above and logically prior to our historical existence. I suppose I’d hold that humanity is intrinsically spatiotemporal – spacetime is the existenzform of the creature, of the creation, and so I don’t see how we can say that ‘creation’ in some way had a choice about whether or not to fall. Creation is always already fallen.
(e.g. I don’t think that I, or creation, has some kind of ‘atemporal consciousness’ that literally pre-exists our historical existence and somehow chooses to fall – and if I/creation did have this, then don’t think that atemporal something could ever ‘become’ temporal, as this would be a contradiction. I’m not saying that that’s what you’re saying, but I’m not really sure what else you have in mind 🙂 The only other type of ‘ahistorical existence’ I can think of would be something like a plan in the mind of God or a timeless metaphysical necessity etc. – but then they appear to be inevitable relative to the creation, not just possible).
I find your reflections on angels very interesting. If angels are only ‘unfallen’ relative to us, I’m assuming that implies that angels are in some sense ‘fallen’ relative to God. Not sure how in line that is with Church tradition but it sounds reasonable enough to me 🙂 I’d certainly agree that angels must be caught up in the fallenness of creation in one way or another, and that the incarnation leads them on to greater things just as much as it does for us.
In personally do advocate consideration of St Origen’s view of ‘atemporal’ existence of our consciousness emerging into awareness of ‘contemplation of the infinite horizon that is God, though ‘atemporal’ in terms of time as it is in the current universe (this conception of time must be subsumed and overcome, and become something more solid and real, in that time now is fallen it to must be completed into something quite different of what time and space is now just a shadow off, the infinite movement forward. Metronomic time, that is fallen and devastated time, as Paul Griffiths puts it must be overcome into real and fuller being and time, his systole time, though I don’t think the systole is without as he imagines not movement forward or fullness of beatitude as I think St Gregory of Nyssa is right with ever more renewal, ever new and ever more beatitude and theosis as we move unhindered into the divine, ever greater love, joy and surprise in God, creation, angelic and each other, since God is infinite).
But I would say that in our initially emergence we, Adam and host of spiritual and rational spirits of creation called into being, all in the movement of the Logos and the Spirit proceeding in the ‘space’ created by ‘in’ the dance of the Trinity, coming from non-being into being we are called to, in the light of God, towards the Logos, mistook like the arising Melkor and the host that is the Ainur in the emergence the nothing, the darkness of the ‘Void’, nothingness or non-being for our Source, for God and being and existence and our desires, that contemplation averted in it’s arising, as in Genesis 2 creation moved, some much more than others to the non-being, of ‘Adam’ to mistakenly find our likeness of God, and so as with Genesis 2 the two possibly outlines of creation that emerges, creation as young Paradise growing untroubled towards God, already ‘atemporal’ or having systole time, or the fallen world that is cursed, the cursed is the form that we emerged into, and are entangled in. The universe, our being, all is part of the same movement in our call from being, following and with it’s call to being, the Music emerging with our call, discord due to our mistaken grasp that might be otherwise giving discord and the being we develop is the fallen world we see and experience. Our consciousness and it’s reactions delivering the nature of the ‘fluctuation’ we experience, so that all creation does fall with the choice of creation in and with Adam and Eve, that is humanity, the angelic, the spiritual and creation tied with us, emerging into the creation as it is, our mistaken perception and movement warped our emergence and creation to the fallen, death-bound illusion it suffers under. As St Origen thinks, we find ourselves entangled in that growth of time and space, which for us finds ourselves emerging into creation at at point and points we do as is our place with the ‘Music’ into time and space, that is of our being and creation it falls into in coming into being. Just as St Origen sees the fall of consciousness into the time as it is (for him the angelic, human in the various times, and the demonic) or in Tolkien’s mythology, the Music as the events later related are one, with some Ainur coming into the world appearing later than others (say Tulkas for example) but all descending into it.
Anyway, I would say ‘atemporal’ would be more fuller reality, true time and space, true being we are called into and fall towards non-being in that emergence and contemplation and in that fall our emergence becomes the fallen universe, the devastated reality we see now. Although I would affirm that this is all within the creation Act at the heart of the Incarnation which due our initial stumble includes the salvation and deliverance to complete and bring about the completion of the creation Act, the true creation redeeming all that came before and into the full and more real life to come. I certainly see no place for a fall in the universe as is, and so I think St Origen (and to extent Tolkien’s instinct is correct, to see it logically prior to the universe as is, in our emergence from non-being, our immunity in the symphony arising, to a fall into the creation as is, time, space, creation being falling in that emergence, as the Music, which is Eä, is discorded in the Ainur emergence if we see it a narrative myth of one movement towards being).
As for angels will I agree some will find that confusing, with tradition it depends of how we interpret it I imagine (but isn’t that true for everything 🙂 ), but it’s worth remembering St Paul maintained the Law came by an angel and was incomplete without Christ, which backs the point that they lacked the revelation that came by Christ, He is the revelation to all creation, and are I think as you say entangled in the falleness of creation to extent (just as with Ainur, of Valar and Maiar, they are not unaffected by the discord, even those who remain faithful and retain vision aligned to Illuvatar). As with St Origen’s order, they aren’t as corrupted and entangled and enslaved as we, not as bound and their vision was warped by the death-bound, wreaked half-existence that is the time and space, created being as it now is, and perceive God’s glory and Presence much more clearly and remain more naturally orientated towards Him, but yet they are affected by the fallen creation. So yes, I think they are fallen in relation to ourselves (and obviously their fallen brethren) And for the angelic, for the spirits, as for us, there is ever more becoming and growth into the infinite of God, even more so once death, once the discord is no more and destroyed and swallowed by Life.
Thanks Grant – agree with you on your angelic reflections but I’m afraid you’ve slightly lost me with the rest 🙂 When you say that we fall in our emerge from non-being, but this is logically prior to this universe, I would interpret this as saying something like ‘in the first temporal moment of our consciousness’ we fall. I mean, if we are literally unconscious, then we can hardly be said to turn towards or away from God. And if we are literally atemporal, we cannot ‘become’ temporal, as then we were always temporal in the first place – it was just our first choice.
Anyway, assuming something like that is broadly correct, I’m not sure whether you mean that we all fall on an individual level – i.e. each of our initial consciousnesses, at the moment they were called into being from non-existence, individually just happened to choose to fall (and presumably then that other consciousnesses likely haven’t fallen?).
Or if you hold that we all fall at once – literally all being without exception is fallen – doesn’t that mean we must all have some kind of ‘shared consciousness’ that falls? (or, similar to the Adam and Eve tradition, one individual consciousness falls and this somehow necessitates all the others fall too?) If so I’m not sure how that works or is fair, and I’m not sure how it results for humans vs. demons vs. angels etc.
(sorry, I shouldn’t expect you to have it all worked out in detail – I certainly don’t! – it’s just I find your views very interesting, even if I’m not convinced on the contingency point)
It’s ‘atemporal’ if you like in relation to current time-space experience of the universe, in that the emergence that is logically prior to it (just as the Ainur emergence is logically prior to Eä, yet again this is a narrative story, the Music is Eä, including history and space which the Ainur are part of and go into, which they then experience in the fallen time within), just as St Origen speculates. But this isn’t atemporal as no time in terms of either no movement or growth, as I suggested the more real dimension on which current metronomic or devastated time is just a fallen pale shadow off. Again time as it is now isn’t how the ages to come will be experienced, yet that will still involve movement, progress, becoming. I think perhaps you getting to caught up on atemporal at this point in terms of thinking of it as some kind of stasis maybe which isn’t what I thinking or advocating. Rather I would keep in mind that this time as we now experience it is fallen, incomplete and shadow half-existence of true time, space and existence, bound by death that is the pull to non-being, by it’s discord.
Now to our emergence I do not see unconsciousness by yes, a unified emergence, as with St Origen of all consciousness and rational spirits called into being, as with the narrative of Ainulindalë with the Ainur coming into being, beholding Illuvatar, coming into being from non-being towards the infinity that is God, become misguided in the Music of their arising with a discord that affects all, forming the nature of the creation that emerges from non-being. Or as with Genesis 2, in emerging from non-being, we veered towards the false and mistaken tree, towards non-being and that movement emerged into the creation that is devastated, under the power and slavery of that movement, of the power of death, of creation of devastated time and space we descended into. Remember again, the Music is the whole of Eä until the time of the Second Music, all it’s fallen time and space, if seen as narrative breakdown of one overall movement, call into being, and a Fall and twist that affects that whole movement into the creation results, which the Ainur descend tat various points. Which brought into the concept of St Origen is then the movement to the descent of the rational spirits to the various levels they became affected by that Fall (in his cases, angels, humans and demons). The tree represents that fall towards non-being (or Melkor’s mistake of the nothing of the Void of being and existence), and the resulting creation that emerges from that movement, discording moving to affect all. Consciousness perception affects space and time, affects creation as is, it formed and shaped in that initial call the form, the fluctuation that is the universe form if you like.
And indeed I suggest a form a shared consciousness, simply as that we are united and one even as we are many, we are only persons in relationship, and all humanity is united, as one in the Logos, in our creation, even as we are distinct persons. Our personhood arising from and unity and vis versa, in a diversity in unity, unity in diversity, an analogically refection of the Trinity. And we are intertwined and created as being intertwined with creation, with the angelica and spiritual beings, with all that creation is, we are created in communion, we are One Body. This shouldn’t be controversial, St Paul tells we are are ‘in Adam’, we fell as Adam, corporately, together, our salvation is the salvation of all creation which is waiting for the ‘sons of God’ to be unveiled. We are created and re-created in Christ, and He becomes the ‘second Adam’ into which the whole humanity will become by become a man, a person amongst us. How could this save us by assuming all we are in one person unless humanity is also however broken now also united, which we are, so in Christ we are united to Him and Him to us, because however damaged the fundamental unity in our creation abides. And our unity with the rest of creation abides too, so it is delivered from destruction in Christ and released into the completion and fullness of creation as well.
To me this seems inevitable no matter what way you go, is is fair, depends on how you frame that, we are not atomistic individual selves existing in isolation, we exist in communion, in One Body, we are in Adam, first the Old and are raised in the New. These are not just symbols I think, otherwise salvation doesn’t make much sense as Christian explains it (nor how this delivers the whole of creation). Again also, you are fallen and even in our current time formed and shaped by the whole of humanity and beyond that history of life and evolution, and the formation of matter, stars, galaxies and planets before that. It determines almost everything about you, genes, weaknesses, benefits, physically and mental attributes or deficiencies, the instincts that drive you, how you life, where you are born into what family, social, national and geographic situations, opportunities or lack thereof, in formed a complex matrix that is fallen into which you and we are come and intertwined in. There is a long fall and discord through it all that affects us all even as we are part of and contribute, and yes it affects some more unfairly than others. But we are created and brought into existence in communion, in unity with each other and creation, we cannot be fully who we are, our full persons outside of the humanity, the Adam, and the creation we are apart of. We exist and can become only communion, within and towards the Trinity and each other in reflection of that. That carries the risk of the fall in that unity as it emerges even when it comes from some more than others, again, in the Ainulindalë it begins with Melkor, but doesn’t stay there, it doesn’t even stay with those swayed most by the discord. The discord affects all the Ainu and all the Music, it doesn’t succeed in destroying it but it does affect all, the Ainur exist in unity, they exist an a symphony, each can only become what they are personally in that unity.
So I would say it isn’t personal consciousness vs shared consciousness it is both/and, we exist and abide in shared unity in which our personal consciousness exist and is (and vis versa if you will). We are in Adam, and now are in Christ, and are always centred and united to Him, the Logos.
St Origen would suggest the extent to which we fall leads the distinction of angels, humans and demons, though personally I consider these distinct aspects of creation (I assume that the spiritual powers are united with aspects of creation, not unlike the imagery of gods and spirits found in many world cultures, centred and intertwined with us, Adam, Adam being the whole of humanity, which is the priestly function where all aspects of creation are founded and meet, again stressing unity and diversity in one, one great symphony). So I wouldn’t say that is where distinction falls, the demonic are the angelic and other spirits who were more swayed by the movement towards to non-being. We also were swayed though I think St Origen is right not the extent of the demonic. And this awareness, Fall forming the fallen and devastated created existence that is, the whole space and time that emerges into which we fall into, our existence mapped out into that fallen spatio-temporal existence of death-enslaved metronomic universe.
Ah, got you – not literally atemporal, just preceding our current ‘normal’ historical existence. I don’t see this as all that far from traditional ‘Adam and Eve’ accounts then, except it pushes back the location of the choice from early history to cosmic pre-history. The bigger difference, I think, is the way we all literally cause this first choice, rather than simply being affected by (or at best vicariously ‘participating in’) Adam’s choice.
I certainly agree with you that human’s are not atomistic individuals, that every action every other, and that salvation is an intrinsically corporate and social affair. I’m not sure that implies or requires that humanity (and indeed all creatures) literally pre-existed as a single ‘shared consciousness’, which at the first moment of its existence was faced with a choice of whether or not to fall into sin or not, and only after making this choice did this consciousness manifest itself as multiple finite consciousnesses. However, I do sort of understand this line of thinking I think and at least vaguely understand the position.
I can only endeavour to understand Tolkien at the level of detail that you clearly do 🙂
Well I think I would emphasis persons in unity and in diverse unity of creation, like a symphony, a communion, a body, a unity marred and hidden from us somewhat now, that our shared communal unity was always from a first creation a diversity of persons, created in a harmony.
But I think that in Christ we see God is against evil and death, death is as St Paul affirms His enemy, He opposes it utterly, suffering has no intention nor purpose from Him. However He is also God, the infinite wellspring of Being from which all things come, exist and have their being, and so death cannot be some equal and opposite force, death is not Life’s equal. So a fallen creation, or pre-creation cannot be something intended, but only a possibility of calling something from nothing towards participation with the infinite that is God. But the fall cannot be found anywhere in the fallen universe we now live in, everywhere and any period of it’s current form (Big Bang, or multi verse or whatever, till now from cosmology and astronomy, literately looking back further in time, or geology and palaeontology show a fallen creation, death-bound and enslaved to suffering, disease, predation, pain and death). And this would have found the minds and forms of all humans and hominids, so we are enslaved to death already, so were never free from it. And despite other massive problems of creationist approaches (problems of all intelligence design with classical theism) and it’s impossibility with scientific evidence (when it isn’t very selectively cherry picked and somewhat disingenuously presented as in young earth creationists, or even old earth creationists, in their Flood theories for example, and complete contradiction of Genesis 1 with 2 when read literally) is it makes God being the maker and author of evil far more pressing. Take Genesis 2 literally with an Adam and Eve formed from the earth (well Adam and Eve from Adam) is that God creates and puts the tree of the knowledge of good and evil right there, creating evil. And it leads to other absurdities (such as I alluded to below, incest becomes a-okay for a while because… reasons).
Other theories tend to involve an angelic fall, with later on one couple of early humans picked and ensoulled to be true humans, other an actual Adam and Eve, or a few humans (CS Lewis had some speculation like this with his Paradisical man or men). These then fall as well, I suppose it has the virtue of not being falsifiable since presumably it would happen in a very narrow frame of time that would not leave any record, so fallen humanity either side and so apparently throughout wouldn’t disprove it. However, thinking in this line tends to involve as this quote from Kenneth Kemp from American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly Volume 85, Issue 2, Spring 2011 in his article Science, Theology and Monogenesis develops this thought and it’s implications:’
‘Evolution of a population of primates sufficiently large to carry the genetic diversity in question and with cognitive development sufficient to allow the infusion of a rational soul.
Transformation of two of those primates into rational and, therefore, “fully human” beings by infusion of a created rational soul without destruction of their reproductive compatibility with the primate population out of which they were selected. At that point, there would have existed both “fully human” (i.e., rational) beings and “merely biologically human” beings.
Interbreeding between the fully human beings and their merely biologically human neighbors.
Creation of rational souls for each of the descendants of every fully human being (Strictly, “for many of the descendants” is all that is necessary).’
Can read more of these speculations here where I got the quote (by the same author):
Now reading that, implies that some true humans come into being, fall, and then their children and so on bread with ‘merely biological’ pseudo-humans, not real humans despite the fact they would talk, act and so just the same (not to mention problems of possibly borderline bestiality since these pseudo-humans would be possibly still animals, and of course true consent to unions and so on, given they lack rational spirits and souls of the ‘real’ humans). It raises questions over all the pseudo-humans (including what of Neanderthals, Denisovans etc, which have left evidence of jewellery, burial, symbolism etc, and of which all of us coming out of Africa have elements of DNA from, meaning a few of those non sapien humans are our ancestors as well). Or there are real ‘humans’ but they are fallen breeding with the once not fallen now fallen Adam and Eve’s (or small paradisical humans) descendants. There is something profoundly disturbing and wrong to me in these speculations, perhaps that is just me but there it is. Again, for me a Fall that is in time seems impossible to find, the Fall must be located as St Origen felt prior to our universe as is. This is also implied strongly by humanity, of ‘Adam’ being part and centre with the Fall in which the universe find itself enslaved the sin and death (not alone perhaps, but it doesn’t entirely imply a separate angelic then human fall, and often in Christian history they are talked of as one).
Some evidence also is suggestible from Plato’s theory of recollection, which might be what lead among other things to St Origen’s claim (Plato takes it into the transmigration of souls, but St Origen sees if this is what inspired this the fall into fallen creation). All current creation being a fluctuation in the quantum reality, and the strong interplay between consciousness and the fabric of reality hinted at their perhaps prior to our entanglement might also be suggestive. In any-case I guess I think St Origen’s provides the only viable place for thinking about the Fall (and for me, aspects in Tolkien for help), I personally fell any fall in our universe as is, is a non-starter and St Origen is giving us the right conceptual frame for thinking about this now (another thing he’ll be proved to be at least more correct on 🙂 ).
Well I am right with you that a fall within this universe is inconceivable and incredible. To be honest I see your own view though as still importing a kind of temporality into the fall – you seem to posit a consciousness of some kind which pre-exists the universe and makes a choice to fall. This initial consciousness may not exist in the same ‘kind’ or ‘quality’ of time a this universe, but it till seems that you hold their a semi-conscious reaction that results in the fall.
As I say, to me this is just about conceivable, but I remain slightly unclear as to why/how this initial fall would result in all of creation falling. I suppose the story would be that all individual creatures – all of creation – are so interrelated that they necessarily *must* begin their existence as this initial unified single consciousness/reality… which presumably was * supposed* to spilt off into separate but connnected consciousnesses that love one another… but thanks to the fall means that these separate consciousnesses are disjointed and against one another. (or alternatively do you think that even in the ‘pre-creation’ world all souls have separate consciousnesses, but in that case I’m not sure why all souls would fall? / which one actually makes the decision?’
I’m not quite sure why reality would be structured like that though. Maybe that’s just the case though. Origen certainly knows his stuff.
But equally I’m also comfortable holding that original sin is just ‘built in’ to creation – not deliberately placed there by God, but a tragic inevitability intrinsic to the process, resulting from a necessary initial imperfection, leading to human ignorance that makes the fall an inevitability. I know people worry this makes God dependent on evil to achieve his ends… but as I’ve said even the mere possibility of evil is pretty bad (i.e. the fact my house *could* burn down is a kind of evil, even if I’m lucky and it doesn’t happen, and this possibility of evil will be removed at the eschaton so obviously it isn’t that great!) and we don’t complain about that. Yes it would be ‘better’ if creation didn’t ‘need’ evil, but it would also be better if it didn’t ‘need’ the ‘possibility of evil’. Both positions accept that necessary limitations are built into the system, that God can’t just make eschatological perfection from the start, so I don’t really think ‘original sin’ being built into creation as being much worse than ‘the possibility of original sin’ being built into creation. And as I say, on this view, I’m not saying that evil is a necessary ingredient that God creates in order to make good things – rather goodness is just necessarily ‘underappreciated’ at first – out of understandable human ignorance, not wilful evil – which gives rises to evil for a time but is destined to everlasting destruction. Who knows though.
Again I would say we do begin (and still are unified) but we aren’t a single consciousness, but arise as a diversity of persons in unity, which is analogical to the Trinity, a diversity in one body, a temple, these aren’t just symbols they are a reality. Collectively we make Adam, and in Christ are the new Adam and will be that will fully delivered and raised into glory in the new age. But it isn’t as you seem to be thinking of a unified consciousness that split of into separate consciousnesses but rather were are fully interconnected consciousness in unity with each other. The fall damages (and all acts and events as part of that realised fall are parts of that damaging of unity, linked and part of that movement, the images of Cain and Abel, the destructive damage of our unity, and our true from Abel our truer self to our fallen shadow self, moving to land of Nod, but also with Abel the promise of Christ’s deliverance and return from exile in the lamb, the division before Babel, again the mistaken movement damaging unity between us, the spiritual, creation, and with clear communion in and with God, healed in Christ, and so on) this.
We now feel separate, as well as shattered through a fallen realisation of devastated time and space, splintered away from each, death warping and shattered our communion, as we humans have descended under it’s power more. And again why should all souls fall, we are created in unity, as with the discord it doesn’t remain with Melkor, nor even those who most respond, it spread affecting all, their entire music and development. In a communion, in symphony what effects one effects all, what affects one part of a body spreads to effects the rest, a discord does not stay in one area, it effected everyone, as I said we, and nothing exists as separate atomistic beings (again this isn’t a shared consciousness thing, but an existence in unity, a person is only a person in relation and even unity with and towards another, something effecting one, affects another, a broken family affects everyone no matter where the main dysfunction comes from). And in a symphony, a discord appearing arises to affect the whole.
And remember, in both St Origen and Tolkien not all souls are effected equally, the angelic order is least effected, they remained most faithful or clear towards the true direction and are less effected, not even as nearly trapped in death-bound fallen time and space in the manner we are. Then there are us, humanity and the demonic (and possibly other things), as with Tolkien, there are the Ainu who remain, and Valar and Maiar who descend, and those who fall terribly, Melkor becoming Morgoth, and those following becoming the demonic, the most twisted by the discord originating in him.
Or with Genesis 2, the separate is a part of the movement, as do Adam and Eve in unity with each other, the unity damaged as they hid themselves as the fallen creation, the twisted growth is realized. Just as it’s worthless debating if Adam or Eve in the story is more responsibly, they both are affected because they exist in unity, so it is amongst us humans, we arose in unity, and fell with those of the other spirits that also fell towards non-being producing that movement. We were all tempted in that vision, after all again, if you just appeared at some point in fallen time and space, you are just as and even more subject to a choice and moment none of us took part in and would have any ability to choose otherwise, trapped in the complex matrix of a fallen reality as we are. A chorus that falls away, as Adam and Eve image do, their existence as persons in unity leading to the shared temptation and shared fall, of a chorus drawn towards the discord and torn off-course.
But what I can’t agree with is that original sin is built in, if it is a tragic inevitability then Christianity is not true, Christ’s revelation of who God is is false and we should abandon it immediately. It means God is the author of the abused, tortured and murdered child, even if the child is restored in the true creation, if this fall was an inevitability, then God actively creates evil, suffering, creates cancer and disease and isn’t opposed to it as we see in Christ. It is in fact a tool of creation, even it it must be overcome. There is certainly still a theism to follow there, but isn’t a Christian one, and it seems to me to be dishonest to pretend it is. Whether my speculations hold at all or not, that I think I cannot agree with you on, there is a qualitative difference between creating something that could fall, a fall from which God goes to the greatest length to deliver it from and take responsibly and one into which fall is inevitable and will happen always as a fact of creation. That does make directly responsible and author of all evil and suffering, the most painful, the most twisted becomes not His enemy, but His tool, Satan His loyal servant. If that were so, as I said, Christianity is false, and we should for alternatives, and realize God is something terrifying, even if it doesn’t hold that he will see us tortured forever (and could I trust that not to be the case, I don’t think I could).
Ooh, I have to say I don’t agree at all with your logic that, were original sin inevitable, this would make God ‘the author of the abused, tortured and murdered child’. I don’t see what grounds you have to hold that the mere possibility of this abuse/torture/murder is not in itself an evil. The mere possibility of evil is also a tragic inevitability that would be better if it were not intrinsically ‘built in’ to creation. But we let God off the hook as this is ‘intrinsic’ in one case, so why not the other?
You could consider the following options: 1) God creates a concentration camp and fills it with people as the tragically inevitable unavoidable cost of creation; or 2) God creates a concentration camp and places a load of people outside, who very likely will ignorantly misuse their freedom and wander in, as the tragically inevitable unavoidable cost of creation.
I just don’t really see a huge difference in these position. Somewhat similarly, ‘God’ would basically be just as evil if he actively created Hell, as an infernalist Calvinist might hold, or if he merely created the possibility of hell, as an infernalist Arminian would. There is no significant qualitative difference to speak of.
Also, human beings have children. I don’t think you would hold that a human parent who has a child – knowing that this child will definitely undergo suffering in its life, and eventually death – is acting in some way immorally. Well, maybe you think that they would be immoral if they thought their kids risked hell or even just risked a ‘painless oblivion’ death (if so I’d agree with you!) But they are certainly not acting immorally IF they know with certainty that God will wipe every tear from their eye and bring all to eschatological union. So I don’t think God would be either.
(btw, if you think there’s a qualitative difference between creating an inevitability and a possibility, why not also hold that there’s also a qualitative difference between directly creating an evil in order to bring a good about, vs. creating a good which happens to have an evil as a side effect? I mean, isn’t there a big difference between say, a) cheating on your wife IN ORDER to produce the good of a child with another(which is obviously morally not on, despite the good achieved!); and b) creating the good of a child in wedlock, despite knowing this intrinsically good act unavoidably comes with the side effect that the child will undergo some suffering at some point in its life (which is obviously fine)
But back to the ‘unified consciousness point’. I have to say I am not re-mystified as to your actual position 🙂 (a problem with my comprehension I fear!) I think you hold:
1) that the ‘original sin’ decision is in fact not literally atemporal.
2) you also hold, I think, that this decision was in some sense conscious – presumably because if it were not consciously made, it could hardly be said to be a free choice of anyone, and would make it effectively atemporal anyway.
3) I think if that’s the case then you would also have to hold that this decision is one which, in some sense, temporally precedes the physical creation, but is therefore still in some sense temporal – if it’s not atemporal, the only other place for it is temporal!)
4) In which case my question is: who or what makes the decision to fall?
4a) If it is a unified consciousness of all of us, as I’ve suggested, it at least explains why everyone is fallen.
4b) if it’s the case that every individual consciousness makes an independent decision to fall, isn’t that a big coincidence? Wouldn’t it imply that everyone in fact inevitably falls?
4c) or does one individual consciousness choose to fall and this somehow makes everyone else fall? Well, maybe – but aren’t you just back to Adam?
If option 4c) is your thinking,I just don’t see why this would make everyone else fall. Yes we’re all interconnected, but I’d say that was a problem of our interactions – if we are exposed to suffering at the hands of others, we are more inclined to sin. But if we aren’t all inevitably sinful, then why couldn’t God just segregate the ‘baduns’, the ones who made the wrong individual choice, stop them interacting with and thereby infecting the rest of creation, bring them to moral perfection (through the same process he will eventually bring all of us to such perfection) before re-releasing them into eschatological union with the rest of us? Yes humans are social animals and we are saved ‘corporately’, but it’s not like I have to interact with every creature that ever has or will exist BEFORE making it to heaven (will I?). Maybe my thinking needs some development on this point though (in fact it definitely does!) But why not just imagine that all humans literally begin as one consciousness before diverging? Yes it sounds wacky but surely no more than individual pre-existence, and does a job of explaining how intimately interconnected we all are.
Actually, one more thought (sorry): given that you hold ‘possibility’ of sin is a problem, but it’s fine if it’s not a certainty… how would you feel if original sin were a ‘possibility’ but this was not caused by any individual free will? E.g. God creates with a 20% chance (or whatever) of original sin occurring, not because humanity may or may not turn against God, but it just so happens that we may ignorantly (but totally innocently / in a non-free-willed-way) fall into original sin?
No, possibility is not inevitability David, no matter how you try to equate the two. If the possible were inevitable then it would be not be belong to the possible but to the pre-determined that will and has to come to pass. It is a possibility for the apple seed to become an apple tree, but it is not inevitable that it will. It is possible for the apple seed to end up in my belly! The possibility of the apple seed to end up in my belly is not a necessity for the apple seed to become an apple tree.
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Robert, I’m not arguing that possibility is the same as inevitability, just that in many scenarios they are morally equivalent. If God determines that an individual goes to hell, or just creates them with the risk they may go to hell, these are morally equivalent (or at least neither are good and neither get God off the hook!) Isn’t that right?
Likewise I don’t see how creating someone with the risk of some temporal pain (if a necessary and unavoidable side effect of some good) is significantly morally different from creating the actuality of some temporal pain (if a necessary and unavoidable side effect – not a logical precursor or ingredients, but a logical consequent and side effect! – of some good). If I have a child and, thanks to a divine revelation or my crystal ball, I know they will *definitely* experience the pain of falling over, I am no more responsible than if I had that child with the mere *risk* they would experience the pain of falling over. Or at least that is my provisional view at this stage 🙂
The possible and the actual are categorically dissimilar, morally or any other wise. Mind you, the actualized possibility requires the intention of a rational agent. Reduction of secondary causality to inevitable outcomes of predetermined actions of the possible I squarely reject as outright untenable incoherency. Because not all that is possible is actualized, moral equivalency fails. If what is possible has to be actualized, then but only then, they would be indistinguishable.
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“Reduction of secondary causality to inevitable outcomes of predetermined actions of the possible I squarely reject as outright untenable incoherency.”
I agree completely. It just seems to me that this is exactly what your position implies, if you are unable to identify an actual secondary cause at which creation, or at least one creature, chooses to act in a way that results in the fall. If you can’t do this, then all you have is a chain of fallen secondary causes, but no actual cause of the fallen condition itself. If you locate the fall ‘above’ the spatiotemporal world, then you are locating it above creation (creation is spatiotemporal and time Is the existenzform of the creature). While you may assert that the secondary chain of fallen causes are merely possible/contingent, If nothing in creation actually makes a contingent choice in time to fall, then the ‘choice’ is clearly not being made by the creation and was in fact an inevitable outcome.
On the moral equivalence point, I am not claiming that possibilities and necessities are literally categorically identical. What I am claiming is that they often involve a substantially identical moral decision. Would you want to claim, for example, that a man who goes joyriding, knowing he is 99% likely to kill someone (merely ‘possibly’) is behaving in a significantly morally different way to a man who knows this will definitely (‘necessarily’) kill someone?
As DBH says “To venture the life of your child for some other end is, morally, already to have killed your child” and “the irrecuperable expenditure has been offered even if, happily, it is never actually lost, and so the moral nature of the act is the same in either case.”
To put these two points together, it is not the case that I’m saying that God actively creates some evil for the hell of it (of course, evil is non-being and cannot be created anyway). God only wills the good of the creature. It is just that he also happens to know that evil will inevitably inflict itself on that good for a time. Just as when human parents have children, they know that some pain and evil will *inevitably* follow, but we do not say that they have immorally willed those evils in order to bring about a good end – rather we say that their willing of their children includes an acceptance of the inevitability of evil, but does not include a positive desire for that evil.
By the way, I am also not saying that pain and death is part of the definition of being human, or necessary to human nature as such. I agree with you that it is only the possibility of this is necessary to human nature as such. But I would add that, further to this possibility of human nature, the actual existence of evil is inevitable – not as a part of creation or human nature, but as an unavoidable intrusion into a creation, a hostile takeover of human nature.
If you like, you might say this is not a *logical* necessity – in the sense that evil is not a creation of God and therefore not a rational or logical reality, it is not a part of creation’s intrinsic theologic. Evil is surd, irrational, unexplainable. It is just there. It is a fundamentally irrational intrusion into creation that cannot be explained by appealing to God’s nature, or even to the nature of creation (other than the fact it is a possibility intrinsic to creation). And yet evil is unavoidably there, whether we like it or not, and this possibility is converted into reality every time by the irrational, unreal reality of evil. To allegorise, if you consider the nature of Adam in himself, the fact that he eats the apple is indeed only a mere possibility. But if you consider the fact that the serpent – in the garden but not of it – will definitely tempt and deceive him, this converts what is a mere possibility relative to human nature when considered alone, into an unavoidable fait accompli.
Yes David I agree with you, well clarified. And to be sure, I never meant to remove an actual secondary cause of evil in time, I do affirm that.
As to the DBH quote, note that he speaks of an ” irrecuperable expenditure” – as to God’s intentions, as DBH well explains it, the expenditure is in deed recuperated.
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Robert, thanks for your contributions re JDW’s thoughts. They are very clarifying, as always.
I’ve been waiting on the chatter to diminish a bit before weighing in so as not to derail it with any overexuberance. This is such good stuff.
I think this all dovetails with my own conceptions, which I wanted to share with you. To wit:
Protologically, our finitude consituted a theotic teleological striving oriented toward the “future,” which made possible – but in no way necessitated – those ontological ruptures located in our “past” & “present.”
Our human finitude, however radical, does not by design make sin necessary, although it does make its possibility unavoidable.
God’s got no-thing to do with & no place for death apart from its eternal vanquishment.
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Yes, I insist that we must keep divine intention and our possible (and eventual) deviation from it as two distinct acts; that we must do so to avoid collapsing secondary causality into divine determination and the divine will into a compromise with darkness. I believe this distinction to be faithful to scripture and adheres to human experience and phenomenology. I find St Gregory of Nyssa’s concept of a dual creation (i.e. the divine intention, and our actual working out of it) so helpful for these reasons. So we have a single act of creation, which moves towards a duality by reason of our act, which then moves to a single act once again in the consummation of time. The fulfillment turns out to be the real creation, the divine intention completed.
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The notion that Adam was fallen from the first moment is very interesting. The prose here is terse and rewards a slow reading, and seems to be quite profound. The cross as condition and consequence of sin. Creation and fall intimately intertwined from the get go. interesting!
it shouldn’t be that jarring – it is fairly old-hat that creation isn’t in time…..
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It’s very difficult for me to wrap my head around this. Some of this stuff seems needlessly abstract and complex, but on the other hand, it’s probably just that I’m not that bright. Either way, thank you for this reflection.
“That false beginning is at once the condition and consequence of Adam’s primordial transgression. …The false beginning of this false world is the condition and cause of all human sins.” Am I understanding correctly to think that “Adam’s primordial transgression” is equivalent to “all human sins” and that our false beginning is both the reason for our collective sin and the result of our collective sin? And one other question: am I thinking correctly to conclude that “our false beginning” here must encompass our entire cosmos (including this false world’s prehistoric and prehuman past)?
I think Berdyaev helps here, for what it’s worth(if you’re familiar with the great Russian thinker). He kind of updates Maximus in understanding how a free act, a creative one in and of itself(the actual image of God, not reason itself, as only a purely free reason is one that creatively creates as God would), implies that a creature could very well create the phantasm of evil. The world, when acted out, and even with “Adam” here being more universal, is a phantasm of the real. In Christ, the divinely-human action of our lives is empowered by the incarnation and crucifixion, to strip away the mirage of what we’ve built for the actual. Freedom, becomes a run away tool, the first gift of creation outward from the Godhead itself, and implies that it could be feasibly used otherwise, but not in any tangible sense, only in the illusory. Anything that is created in the truest/good sense is real. So in a sense, giving man a creative function, especially a freely creative one, would imply a false beginning from the beginning. It would be assumed to occur, but those actions aren’t concrete in any real sense. So in effect, they aren’t actually real. We have to get to real, hence the need for Theos-Anthropos. Chalcedon(and for those of us in particular Neo-Chalcedon) becomes the very essence of all that is. It’s crucial for the redemptive action of both creation and human life.
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For those who are perhaps confused, I recommend this excellent article by Daniel Heide on Maximus’ “Ambiguum 7.”
“The Origenism of Maximus Confessor: Critic or True Exegete?”
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Dr. Hart’s attempt to understand the Fall as ‘pre-historic’ makes Genesis chapter 1 unintelligible. How can creation be good, good, good … and very good, if a cosmic Fall has taken place prior to this. Genesis 1 becomes laughable, or simply wrong. God does not create ex nihilo anything good, if Dr. Hart is correct. Dr. Hart’s view can be reconciled with Manicheaism, but not with Christianity.
“this world of phenomena is not yet the world, not yet creation, and so not yet even begun—except in Christ,” only if genesis 1 is taken extremely literally are you correct.
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I agree with TJF, this is only if you take Genesis 1 literally, particularly as it is to be read as a commentary on and about Christ and the New Testament (such as to be read as commentary for St John’s Gospel, both 1:1 and the enitre Gospel).
We are still in Genesis 1, creation is not yet compeltely the good nor very good, only Christ, is it fully created, He is declared to be the Man, as Pilate says, behold the man;, He is the gardener seen by St Mary Magdalene and so on. When all is raised in Christ and summed up in Him and God is all in all will Genesis 1 be completed.
Taking Genesis 1 and 2 literally, ignoring the problems from science you run into or have to pretent to ignore, being as you will not find any time in this universe where it was not fallen, where death was not, where disease, destruction, pain, predation did not happen, or worse if you take to a young earth creationist position, are the narratives of the second particuarly. Genesis 2 on it own, as evil directly present in the Garden, the serpent is already there, is already a liar and deciever with evil intent, and God as place and created a tree of the knowledge of good and evil into the Garden, thus creating and placing evil into the Garden. Taking the story literally doesn’t save you from Manicheaism, it makes it front and centre a problem (and that is ignoring all scientific and other problems, and of course for young earthers, which hopefully you have avoided being conned into, are other issues following, such as incest between Adam and Eve’s children, grandchildren and so on, which becomes okay then but not later, very weird and kinda twisted logic they get forced into, just to take one example, but absurd positions will do that to you).
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I always admire those who don’t allow their ignorance of an argument to deter them from having a strong opinion about it. It saves so much time.
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With my poor theology I don’t quite follow some of this, but it’s interesting and does have something compelling about it. The way the Old Testament is like a reflection of the New Testament is given a kind of structure, with Jesus as the fulcrum, levering creation in both directions of time.
However my simplistic understanding of the fall has been very human centric, with it being the (inevitable?) consequence of the rise of meta-conscious thought – the loop in consciousness that looks back on itself ‘from the outside’ – resulting in the loss of primal innocence. From this perspective the rest of creation started off “good”.
I guess it’s possible that these are both very different perspectives on the same thing. Out of interest, how does this version of the “false creation” understand the statements at the start of Genesis “and it was good” etc ? Does that become about the totality, across all time?