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Question 3: Is Your Desire to Love and to Be Loved Merely Conditional, or Unconditional?

We not only have the power to love (i.e., the power to be naturally connected to another human being in profound empathy, care, self-gift, concern, and acceptance), we have a “sense” of what this profound interpersonal connection would be like if it were perfect. This sense of perfect love has the positive effect of inciting us to pursue ever more perfect forms of love. However, it has the drawback of inciting us to expect ever more perfect love from others. This generally leads to frustrated expectations of others and consequently to a decline of relationships that can never grow fast enough to match this expectation of perfect and unconditional love.

The evidence for our awareness of and desire for perfect love can be seen in our capacity to recognize every imperfection of love in others and in ourselves. How could we have this seemingly unlimited capacity to recognize imperfection in love without having some sense of what perfect love would be like?  Without at least a tacit awareness of perfect love, we would be quite content with any manifestation of affection that just happens to come along.

Do you, the reader, have a capacity to recognize imperfection of love in others and yourself?  Do you do this seemingly without limit? If so, could you do this without some sense of what perfect love would be like? And if you have this awareness of and desire for perfect love, would you be content with anything less? Do you want to continue the pursuit of love until you have arrived at what you truly desire? If so, then you will have also affirmed within yourself the intrinsic desire for unconditional love, which leads to the next question.

July 22nd, 2017|Categories: Six Questions from a Creator to Jesus|Comments Off on Question 3: Is Your Desire to Love and to Be Loved Merely Conditional, or Unconditional?

Question 2: Could God Be Devoid of Love?

In our last post, we discussed the first of six questions that lead us from the idea of a Creator to the Person of Jesus Christ. Our second question is: If love is the one power that seeks the positive in itself, and we are made to find our purpose in life through love, could God (the unique unrestricted act of thinking that creates everything else), who created us with this loving nature, be devoid of love?

If the Creator was devoid of love, why would that Creator create human beings not only with the capacity for love, but to be fulfilled only when they are loving?  If the Creator is devoid of love, why make love the fulfillment of all human powers and desires, and therefore of human nature?  If the Creator is not loving, then the creation of “beings meant for love” seems absurd.  However, if the Creator is love, then creating a loving creature (i.e., sharing His loving nature) would seem to be both intrinsically and extrinsically consistent with what (or perhaps better, “who”) He is. Could the Creator be any less loving than the “loving nature” He has created?

If you, the reader, can reasonably affirm the love of the Creator from the above, then proceed to the third question.

July 18th, 2017|Categories: Six Questions from a Creator to Jesus|Comments Off on Question 2: Could God Be Devoid of Love?

Question 1: What is the most positive and creative power or capacity within you?

At first glance, one might want to respond that this power is intellect, creativity, wisdom, or artistic or literary genius, but further reflection shows that the capacity to apprehend truth or knowledge, or to create beauty, in and of itself, is not necessarily positive. Knowledge and beauty can be misused, and therefore be negative, destructive, manipulative, inauthentic, and thus undermine both the individual and the common good. There is but one human power that contains its own end of “positivity,” one power that is directed toward the positive by its very nature, and therefore one power that directs intellect and artistic creativity to their proper, positive end. As may by now be evident, that power is love (agapē).  Love’s capacity for empathy, its ability to enter into a unity with others leading to a natural “giving of self,” forms the fabric of the common good and the human community, and so seeks as its end the good of both individuals and the community.

Recall that agapē seeks the good of the other, and derives its power from looking for the intrinsic goodness, lovability, and transcendent mystery of the other.  For this reason, it needs no rewards like the mutuality of friendship or the romantic dimensions of eros. The good of the other is its own reward. Thus it is not deterred by the appearance of the other, whether the other is a stranger, or even whether the other has been offensive, or harmful. This enables agapē to be the dynamic of forgiveness, compassion, and self-sacrifice – for anyone and everyone.

Agapē by its very nature unifies, seeks the positive, orders things to their proper end, finds a harmony amidst diversity, and gives of itself in order to initiate and actualize this unifying purpose. This implies that love (agapē) is naturally oriented toward perfect positivity and perfect fulfillment.

Furthermore, love (agapē) would seem to be the one virtue that can be an end in itself.  Other virtues do not necessarily result in positivity or culminate in a good for others. So for example, courage left to itself, might be mere bravado or might lead to the persecution of the weak. Self-discipline, left to itself, might lead to a disdain for the weak or a sense of self-sufficiency which is antithetical to empathy. Even humility can be overbearing and disdainful if it is not done out of love. Even though these virtues are necessary means for the actualization of love (i.e., authentic love cannot exist without courage, self-discipline, and humility), they cannot be ends in themselves, for they can be the instruments of “unlove” when they are not guided by the intrinsic goodness of love.  Love seems to be the only virtue that can be an end in itself and therefore can stand by itself.

Now, if you, the reader, affirm the existence of this power within yourself and further affirm that it is the guiding light of both intellect and creativity, that its successful operation is the only way in which all your other powers can be guided to a positive end, that it is therefore the only way of guaranteeing positivity for both yourself and others, and that it therefore holds out the promise of authentic fulfillment, purpose in life, and happiness, then you will have acknowledged love to be the highest of all powers and the central meaning of life. You will then want to proceed to the next question.

July 10th, 2017|Categories: Six Questions from a Creator to Jesus|Comments Off on Question 1: What is the most positive and creative power or capacity within you?

Six Questions from a Creator to Jesus – Introduction

By Father Robert Spitzer:

When I was teaching at Georgetown University, I was privileged to direct a physics and philosophy student on an Ignatian retreat. He was exceptionally bright and good-willed, and had the capacity to express what was on his mind in a very straightforward way. At the beginning of our first conference he said, “Could I ask you something very elementary which has been bothering me for several years? I don’t have any real difficulty believing in God because I think the evidence of physics points to the finitude of past time – implying a beginning and a creation. My real problem is Jesus – I don’t get it. If I believe in God, why do I need anything more – like Jesus? Can’t we just stick with a ‘Creator outside of space-time asymmetry’?”

I thought about it for a couple of minutes and said to him, “Jesus is about the unconditional love of God. He is about God’s desire to be with us in a perfect act of empathy; about God wanting to save us unconditionally and to bring us to His own life of unconditional love. A Creator alone, indeed, even a Creator with infinite power, could be tantamount to Aristotle’s God. Once he has fulfilled his purpose of ultimate, efficient, and final causation, he is detached from the affairs of rather base and boring human beings. The God of Jesus Christ is about the desire to be intimately involved in the affairs of human beings made in His image and destined for His eternity – and that makes all the difference.”

He said in reply, “This all seems a bit too good to be true. I would like the Creator to be the God of Jesus Christ, but do you have any evidence that this is not just wishful thinking – evidence showing that this is really the way God is? Is there any reason why we would think that God is loving instead of indifferent?” I responded by noting that it would be better for him to answer six questions rather than have me give an extended discourse, because the six questions could reveal not only what was in his mind, but more importantly, what was in his heart – what he thought about love, life’s purpose, others, and his highest imaginable state of existence. If he answered these six questions (from his heart) in a manner commensurate with “the logic of love,” then the unconditional love and divinity of Jesus (Jesus being Emmanuel – “God with us”) would become evident.

To find out what the first of the six questions is, come back and check on Monday!

July 6th, 2017|Categories: Six Questions from a Creator to Jesus|Comments Off on Six Questions from a Creator to Jesus – Introduction

III: Reconciling Contemporary Science and the Doctrine of Original Sin – C: Was There Suffering and Death Before the Fall?

Scientific evidence indicates that there was death and physical pain before the fall. We have evidence of microbial death dating back 3.5 billion years, and there were certainly vertebrates with a central nervous system capable of feeling pain) during the Jurassic period 230 million years ago. Recall what was said above by Pope Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu about the purpose of the bible – to give sacred truths necessary for salvation, but not necessarily to give accurate scientific descriptions and explanations of our physical universe. How does this affect the idea that death and suffering came into the world because of the sin of Adam? We cannot interpret it in a way that will contradict the clear fossil evidence showing that death and physical pain was present on the earth prior to the earliest possible dating of the Fall. Indeed there is no need to do so.

As noted above, all microbial, plant, and animal life – including that of higher primates, and the progenitors of Homo sapiens – experienced physical pain and death before the arrival of the first Homo sapien sapien (200,000 years ago). The arrival of our first parents coincides with the infusion of a transphysical soul within them, giving them an exemption from bodily death. Since their transphysical soul was the dominant form of their body, they had this exemption for a little while prior to the fall. However, when they sinned against God by desiring autonomy and separation from Him, they lost that exemption – and their bodies would suffer the same corruption as their progenitors (though their souls would live on after bodily death).

What about suffering? There are two kinds of suffering:

  1. The feeling of physical pain and some kinds of emotional pain (which some animals share in common with human beings), and
  2. Reflective Suffering – which comes from awareness that “I” am the one who is suffering. Humans alone have this experience because of their self-reflective transphysical soul.

Dogs experience physical and some kinds of emotional pain, but human beings can grow depressed thinking about the ongoing nature of that pain – or the seeming meaninglessness of that pain – or the potential for that pain to increase, etc. Self-reflectivity also heightens emotional pain. A dog can feel sad (and whimper) when his master leaves the home, but human beings can reflect upon the pain of abandonment or loss, and feel depressed because of it. Thus we see that self-reflectivity engenders a whole new height – or perhaps better, depth — of both physical and emotional pain.

Human beings also have a further kind of reflective suffering arising out of their capacity for conceptual ideas. We can anticipate future pain – which is beyond the scope of higher primates – and above all – anticipate death. Even those with great faith must face this most challenging form of what might be called “reflective conceptual suffering.” Heidegger called it “being toward death” which he believed to be the entire context through which we live.

So what is the point here? As the old cliché goes – “There is suffering – and then there is suffering!” There is the physical and emotional pain of animals, which is no doubt quite real, but then there is the very significantly heightened physical, emotional, and conceptual pain of self-reflective human beings – which is categorically different from that of animals. By now it will be clear that this kind of suffering has its origins in self-consciousness, which in turn, has its origins in our transphysical soul (see the rationale for this in the fourth topic above—human versus artificial and animal intelligence). When God infused a transphysical soul into our first parents, he gave them potential to suffer reflectively—to combine their powers of anticipation, self-awareness, and the above twelve capacities with physical and emotional pain.

Why only the potential for this categorically different suffering? When human beings were closely united to God in their inner experience and they enjoyed an exemption from death (before original sin) their self-reflective acts on physical pain would have been interpreted in the light of God’s presence—along with the meaning and trust coming from Him. Further, there would be no death to anticipate because their sense of eternal life would have been quite palpable in light of God’s presence.

By separating themselves from God in the first sin (obeying the evil spirit’s suggestion that they could be gods and that God had unjustly withheld this from them), the light and grace of His presence was partially withdrawn—and without it the reflection process focused on the bodily death they would surely experience, the sense of emptiness, alienation, and loneliness coming from His absence, and the absence of meaning and light to guide and fill their reflection process. If God had withdrawn completely they would have collapsed into a total abyss of emptiness, loneliness, alienation, death anxiety, guilt and intellectual darkness—a reflective emotional and conceptual nightmare. But God did not do this—He gave them what they wanted—only insofar as it would not destroy their free will, emotional stability, rational capacity, capacity for love and capacity for moral reflection. At this point their suffering would be intensified by their reflectivity and conceptual capacity, but it would not be utterly daunting and vexing. And so we might say a new kind of suffering came into the world with original sin—a categorically different heightened kind of suffering produced by self-reflectivity not fully illumined by the wisdom, presence and grace of God.

This brings our topic — Free Will and Original Sin — to a close. Check back later this week for the start of a brand new topic!

July 3rd, 2017|Categories: Free Will and Original Sin|Comments Off on III: Reconciling Contemporary Science and the Doctrine of Original Sin – C: Was There Suffering and Death Before the Fall?

III: Reconciling Contemporary Science and the Doctrine of Original Sin – B: Monogenism versus Polygenism

In our last blog post on the topic of Free Will and Original Sin, we discussed Who Are Our First Parents? Now we move on to discuss Monogenism and Polygenism.

In the same encyclical in which Pope Pius XII allowed Catholics to believe in evolution, he seems to have proscribed belief in polygenism with these words:

When there is a question of another conjectural opinion, namely, of polygenism so-called, then the sons of the Church in no way enjoy such freedom. For the faithful in Christ cannot accept this view, which holds that either after Adam there existed men on this earth, who did not receive their origin by natural generation from him, the first parent of all; or that Adam signifies some kind of multitude of first parents; for it is by no means apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with what the sources of revealed truth and the acts of the magisterium of the Church teaches about original sin, which proceeds from a sin truly committed by one Adam, and which is transmitted to all by generation, and exists in each one as his own.

Pope Pius XII seems to have hedged the definitiveness of his declaration against polygenism by stating, “it is in no way apparent how such an opinion [polygenism] can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth….” Does this mean that if polygenism can be reconciled with the sources of revealed truth about original sin, then polygenism would be doctrinally acceptable? Though there is debate on this issue, theologians today believe that Pope Pius XII left the door open to this possibility if the condition in his declaration could be met.

Whatever the case, Monogenism is compatible with the evolutionary picture of the emergence of Homo sapiens sapiens (and Mitochondrial Eve). Why? Because the emergence of our first parents is not necessarily connected to either Mitochondrial Eve, Y chromosome Adam, or both. Our first parents emerged when God infused the first transphysical soul into the first Homo sapiens (not necessarily Homo sapiens sapiens). This first couple committed the original sin which caused the fall of the rest of humanity. The emergence of the rest of humanity comes from these first parents.

The progeny of our first parents were also given unique transphysical souls by God, but their nature was weakened by the sin of their first parents. As a result, they lost their exemption from death and felt the effects of concupiscence because the presence of God to their souls was weakened, making them more easily tempted and deceived by their sensual passions and the evil spirit. Though these effects are present today, they are mitigated by the redemptive act of Jesus, the presence of His Church, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

This brings III.B to a close. Next week we’ll discuss whether there was suffering or death before the fall.

July 1st, 2017|Categories: Free Will and Original Sin|Comments Off on III: Reconciling Contemporary Science and the Doctrine of Original Sin – B: Monogenism versus Polygenism

III: Reconciling Contemporary Science and the Doctrine of Original Sin – A. Who Are Our First Parents?

Much has been made about a conflict between the perspective of the natural sciences and the Church’s teaching on original sin. There are no doubt challenges to contend with, but these are by no means overwhelming. The most pronounced challenges are as follows:

  1. Who are our first parents?
  2. Monogenism versus polygenism.
  3. Was there suffering and death before the fall?

We will consider each in turn.

The name “Adam” means “red earth,” and the name “Eve” means “life” in Hebrew. These names are obviously symbolic – “formed from the earth” and “giver of life.” Catholics can believe that the first man and woman evolved from previous species – from Homo erectus/Homo ergaster and then Homo heidelbergensis and then Homo neanderthalensis to the first species of Homo sapiens, and then to the second species of Homo sapiens (Homo sapiens sapiens). It might seem reasonable to assume that our first parents are connected with the initial emergence of homo sapiens sapiens 200,000 years ago, but before making that assumption, one should consider that the only definitive criterion for their emergence is that they are the first to receive a unique transphysical soul from God, making them in His image and likeness, and giving them the aforementioned twelve capacities (including free will).

There is also established evidence that the whole of humanity today has one common female ancestor – named “ Mitochondrial Eve” whose mitochondrial DNA is integral to the genome of every human being around the world (without exception). Mitochondrial DNA is transmitted through mothers, but all human beings possess it. We also have a common male ancestor – named “Y chromosome Adam” – who is the origin of the male “Y” chromosome. Mitochondrial Eve and Y chromosome Adam probably lived around the same time and came from a similar region (southwestern coastal Africa – around the border between Angola and Namibia near the Atlantic Ocean).

Were these our first parents? Though it may be tempting to think so, we should not jump to this conclusion because Mitochondrial Eve may never have known Y chromosome Adam and they may have come from different areas of the southwest African coastal region. Again, the only criterion we have for the emergence of our first parents is the infusion of a unique transphysical soul by God.

So what might we conclude about our first parents? Because of the fact that both of them had a unique transphysical soul from God (giving them the above twelve capacities), there are good reasons to believe that they appeared on the scene much later than the initial emergence of homo sapiens sapiens 200,000 years ago. The sudden and mysterious appearance of language at around 70,000 years ago (according to Nom Chomsky and Robert Berwick in their book Why Only Us?) may provide a clue to the reception of the first transphysical souls. Contemporary cognitive science has established a clear connection between language and rationality.

Shortly thereafter the progeny of these first linguistic humans migrated out of Africa to India, the Middle East, southeastern Asia, and then to Central and Northern Asia, and then to Central and Northern Europe. Approximately 20,000 years ago during the last glacial maximum (when there was a land bridge connecting northern Siberia to Alaska due to precipitous drops in ocean levels), our ancestors made it over to the Americas – and within 1,000 years, made it to the southernmost tip of South America. After that time, the agricultural revolution led to an explosion of population which has continued ever since.

June 30th, 2017|Categories: Free Will and Original Sin|Comments Off on III: Reconciling Contemporary Science and the Doctrine of Original Sin – A. Who Are Our First Parents?

II.B: Exterior Consequences of Original Sin

Many of the exterior consequences of original sin follow from the interior ones. Thus we might expect that concupiscence, our weakened nature and the influence of the evil spirit, would create antipathy between us and God, us and one another, and even us and nature. As Rudolf Otto noted (see the Third Topic above), the first pole of the numinous – emphasizing the fearful and overpowering nature of the “Wholly Other” was dominant for centuries. Furthermore, the enmity between human beings gave rise to a culture of slavery and callous disrespect for human life (as noted immediately above). Finally, our relationship to nature was filled with superstition and a pervasive sense that the material world was evil.

God’s gradual revelation of himself to Israel – and His complete revelation of Himself through the words and actions of His Son – redeemed these corrupted external relationships. Only a few decades after the resurrection of Jesus, the Christian Church would initiate public welfare, public education, and public healthcare on an ever growing scale. As a result, larger numbers of slaves – educated by Christians – began to have influence within the Roman bureaucracy – as Christianity swept over the Roman Empire. By the time Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan (in 313) – stopping the persecution of Christians, giving them legal status, and in some sense preferential status – many of the Christian Church’s practices with respect to education, healthcare, and public welfare had softened the cruelties of Roman culture and weakened the institution of slavery.

Jesus had not only given humanity the means to contend with the interior effects of original sin but also its exterior effects as well. To the extent that Christian evangelization is successful, and that the Christian Church remains faithful to the teaching of Jesus and His call to holiness, the interior and exterior effects of original sin will never rise to its former prominence. So it is incumbent upon us to use the gifts of our baptism, to deepen our faith, and to share that faith with as many as possible. For as the mystical body of Christ increases, the influence of our weakened nature and the evil spirit (who works through it) will decrease.

There is one more external effect of original sin that must be considered – the loss of our exemption from death. God created the first human beings by infusing in them a unique transphysical soul which was meant to be eternal by its very nature.  Our bodies – which evolved over a long period of time – was significantly influenced by the presence of this transphysical soul – developing an ever more refined cerebral cortex to mediate the soul’s 12 capacities to our material embodiment. When God infused a soul into the first human being, the body took its lead from the soul – not vice versa – and so human beings were exempt from death. However, the first man and woman gave credence to the suggestions of the evil spirit, and so committed the first sin by wishing to be separated from God – so as to do things on his own as a “little god.” When this occurred the first man and woman lost their natural exemption from death – and their souls no longer exerted incorruptibility over their bodies. Their souls remained incorruptible, but their bodies would die – being corrupted by the same sin that ushered in concupiscence and the increased influence of the evil spirit. Jesus’ redemptive self-sacrifice did not overcome the necessity for the body to die – but it did much more. If we remain faithful to Him, He will glorify our bodies – divinizing, transforming, and spiritualizing them so that they resemble His own risen body. Once again, the effects of original sin would be overcome by the redemptive act of Jesus and our faithful following of his teaching and way.

It is important to note that Jesus’ redemptive act is not reserved only for professed Christians – its effects for negating original sin and bestowing the resurrection extend to all human beings who “seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.”   In its Pastoral Constitution of the Church – the Second Vatican Council describes how the actions of Jesus help us contend with the lasting effects of original sin – and how his saving work extends to all people who seek God with good will:

The Christian is certainly bound both by need and by duty to struggle with evil through many afflictions and to suffer death; but, as one who has been made a partner in the paschal mystery, and as one who has been configured to the death of Christ, he will go forward, strengthened by hope, to the resurrection. All this holds true not for the Christian only but also for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery.

In our next post we’ll tackle the next “Reconciling Contemporary Science and the Doctrine of Original Sin” in our continuation of the topic Free Will and Original Sin.

June 26th, 2017|Categories: Free Will and Original Sin|Comments Off on II.B: Exterior Consequences of Original Sin

II.A: The Interior Consequences of Original Sin

In continuation of our latest topic started last week on Free Will and Original Sin, there are two major consequences of original sin – the fall of our first parents:

  1. Interior consequences – decreased awareness of God and concupiscence.
  2. Exterior consequences – increased antipathy between each person and God and between each person and others – as well as loss of the exemption from death.

This particular post will focus on the first of the two: The Interior Consequences of Original Sin.

When our first parents committed the first sin, and a partial separation from God occurred, they lost the self-control that came from their strong sense of God’s presence, sacredness, and goodness. The weakening of their awareness of God led to an increased sensitivity to their sensual desires and passions. These sensual desires combined with egocentric desires, leading to a strong interest in power, material possessions, sexual indulgence, and self-assertion (concupiscence).

This increased interest in sensual and egotistical desires did not eliminate free will – or lead to a complete fall (corruption) of human nature. Human beings remain free to choose between sensual-ego desires and sacred-moral-empathetic desires. Though the beauty, holiness, and lovability of God’s strong presence had diminished (allowing sensual and egotistical desires to grow more prominent to consciousness), God did not completely withdraw His presence from human beings. His numinous and sacred presence were still influential – and His influence through conscience and empathy could still be felt. Indeed these influences still had more prominence than sensual and egotistical desires – though they were significantly weakened. So, one might roughly say, human nature was still at least “51% good – and free will was still oriented at least 51% toward God and the good.”

The outcome of the fall did not pertain to the first parents alone. The consequences of their sin continued to affect their progeny – generation after generation. This had two additional effects:

  1. Our interior life was more subject to influence by the evil spirit – who, after the first sin, was able to deceive and tempt us more easily.
  2. The interior state of human beings became like that of a battleground – where we had to exert effort and concentration – and even fight to resist temptation and stay on the pathway to God and virtue.

Prior to the time of Jesus, the influence of the evil spirit had become so prominent that the vast majority of humanity was pressed into servitude and slavery, and the vision of the goodness of every human being was almost completely eclipsed. There was a callous disregard for the sacredness and goodness of human life, and the mentality of the Roman Coliseum – where people delighted in the shedding of innocent blood – became commonplace. As Jesus put it, “Satan had become the prince of this world.”

Jesus saw his mission as driving out Satan from his place of prominence. He had a plan to do this – to give His life of unconditionally loving self-sacrifice, to give his teaching about his Father and the primacy of love, and to give His Holy Spirit to influence and encourage us interiorly and exteriorly:

Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (Jn. 12: 31-32).

The sacrament of baptism – Christian initiation — would have two incredible effects. First, it would incorporate us into the Church – the very mystical body of Christ – which would not only guide us through its teaching authority and the example of its saints, but would allow the salvific intention and virtue of all of its members to course through the spiritual veins of one another. Secondly, it would give us the Holy Spirit with all of His gifts to inspire, guide and protect us – and to strengthen us interiorly to resist the temptation and deceit of the evil spirit and to help us contend with the effects of original sin.

Our next post will be on II.B: The Exterior Consequences of Sin.

June 19th, 2017|Categories: Free Will and Original Sin|Comments Off on II.A: The Interior Consequences of Original Sin

I: The Fall and Original Sin

In our last post, we read a comprehensive introduction of our new topic, “Free Will and Original Sin”.

The biblical account of original sin in Genesis 3 indicates three important points about free will and the human condition that help us understand ourselves and the need for redemption by Jesus Christ:

  1. The first sin of the original parents of humanity.
  2. The effects of this first sin upon human nature and free will.
  3. The effects of this first sin upon our relationship with God, others, and the world.

Let us now proceed to the fall and the first sin. The story of Adam and Eve is so psychologically deep and theologically insightful, it is difficult to imagine that it could have been written in 500 B.C. without the direct inspiration of the biblical author by God Himself. The context of the story is that God has created human beings in His own image and likeness, and has withheld nothing from them.  As noted above, God created humanity with free will, but made the attraction to Him (and His goodness and sacredness) significantly stronger than the attraction to self. He gave human beings a commandment – presumably through a strong sense of conscience – not to seek for themselves the wisdom and power that belongs to Him alone. At first, the couple seems to effortlessly comply with this commandment, allowing themselves to be subordinated to and dependent on Him.

Genesis 3 begins with the serpent – representing the evil spirit  who appears on the scene and makes several suggestions that both tempt and deceive the couple. The dialogue between the serpent and the couple is worth considering in detail:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden (Gen3: 1-11).

Notice the tactics of the evil spirit. First, he suggests to the couple that God has withheld something from them – something that would be good for them, and to which they are entitled. This is a lie – because God has made them in His very image and likeness with the twelve capacities mentioned above. In addition to this, He has satisfied their desires for everything. The only thing they lack – is that they cannot satisfy their desires by themselves – they are dependent on Him.

The evil spirit is aware that the couple has free will, and is also aware that the couple must be dependent on God, because they cannot become God themselves – for as explained above, there can be only one unrestricted uncaused reality which is absolutely simple – and therefore only one reality that can be perfect truth, love, justice/goodness, beauty and home. The couple does not know this, and so they do not recognize the serpent’s lie. They believe that if they disobey Him, they could get the wisdom and power that God had withheld from them – to which they were entitled.

From a contemporary standpoint, we might say that the first couple would have known through their conscience and sense of the sacred that they were not gods and that self-worship is not only a denial of their creature-hood, but a rejection of the Creator. Everything inside them – from their conscience and their sense of the holy – would have been shouting “danger!” They would have felt a deep sense of alienation, emptiness, and darkness from the mere consideration of this suggestion from the evil spirit; yet the suggestion seemed right – God really was withholding something from them to which they were entitled – to be precisely like Him. The sin of the couple was to grow envious of their Creator – to resent their subordination to Him – and reject the need to depend on Him and give praise to Him – and so they entered – through the suggestion of the evil spirit – into the world of darkness – through a gateway of envy, presumption, anger, and resentment. They refused to give praise to the Sacred One – so that they might have His authority and praiseworthiness for themselves.

Is it conceivable that the first human beings (living perhaps 200 thousand years ago – see below Section III) could have had a special awareness of the beauty, lovability and sacredness of the transcendent – and could have wanted this for themselves – to prioritize themselves above the Sacred One – to be envious of and resent the Sacred One? Could primitive human beings – veritable cave dwellers – have felt something like this? If they had the above 12 capacities – even in a completely undeveloped state – then they could have acted against their conscience and their awareness of the Sacred “Wholly Other.”

Was the evil spirit interested in deceiving a primitive couple 200 thousand years ago? Absolutely, the moment God gave the first human beings a transphysical soul with the above twelve capacities – including free will – the evil spirit was interested in fomenting their envy, anger, presumption, and rebellion. The evil spirit wanted to be their master – and so he convinces them that they can be their own master – and after they cut themselves off from God, he readily accepted his new position. God does not abandon the couple to him, but He does give the couple some of what they want – a partial separation from Him. If He had given them everything they wanted – a full separation from Him – they would have been subjugated to the evil spirit immediately. Nevertheless, when the couple chose to separate themselves from God, they weakened the influence of God upon them – their awareness of His beauty, goodness, and sacredness – and so allowed themselves to come under greater sway from the evil one. Though God’s influence was still stronger than that of the evil one, it was diminished because of the first couple’s choice to separate themselves from Him (and His goodness and love). This had a myriad of consequences.

 

June 15th, 2017|Categories: Free Will and Original Sin|Comments Off on I: The Fall and Original Sin