O Felix Culpa

A.morphous, the Orthosphere’s cantankerous (and useful) Chief Antagonist, and a stout atheist, recently argued that if man had not Fallen, corrupting our nature, Christ would never have redeemed us, and there would be no such thing as Christianity.

It’s absolutely true, and there is no Christian who would deny it. If we had not Fallen, we would not need redemption, nor for that matter would we need religion.

But then, a.morphous also said that, “… it is the serpent that made us fully human.” This is not quite right. True, the lure Lucifer proffered made us the sort of human we are today; but that sort is less than fully human. It is Christ who makes us again fully human, and more.

It is in that “more” that we find the justification for our gratitude for the Fall.

Gratitude? Yes, indeed; for, as Orthospherean Dr. Bill then pointed out to a.morphous, his point is standard Christian doctrine: at the Easter Vigil in Roman, Lutheran and Anglican churches, a deacon sings in the ancient Exsultet:

O certe necessárium Adæ peccatum … O felix culpa …

O truly necessary sin of Adam … O happy fault …

Standard doctrine this may be, but it is somewhat shocking nonetheless. How could the tragedy of the Fall be an occasion of happiness, rather than grief? What is much more, how could it have been necessary?

Some unpacking is called for.

Note first in passing that the Exsultet is sung in benediction of the Paschal Candle – the Candle of the Passover – which stands before the altar in the sanctuary throughout Eastertide. The Candle is a type of Christ himself, being inscribed with a cross and pierced by five nails, one for each of his wounds. Five grains of incense are placed at the wick when it is lit, also symbolizing the wounds, and indicating that the body of Jesus is a sacrifice that will rise to the heavens as a fragrant cloud of incense from his holocaust.

The Candle is also a type of Jesus’ appearance to the Israelites in the Sinai as a Pillar of Flame leading them by night, and the incense at the wick is a type of his appearance as a Pillar of Cloud by day. It is a type also, therefore, of the Burning Bush, which is both the Christmas Tree and the Menorah, the Tree of Life. In the symbolism of the Menorah, the central lamp of the seven spirits is the lamp of the Angel of the LORD, YHWH himself in his angelic hypostasis. At Easter, the trophy of the LORD’s sacrifice that stands always in the midst of the six spirits on the altar descends also to stand near the threshold of the sanctuary, where the New Israel come to partake of him at the communion rail. The Paschal Candle, then, is just a crucifix, rendered in beeswax.

Because the Body of Christ is the Tree of Life, when we eat of it, we are translated to life everlasting. So the Paschal Candle is also a type of the Bread of Angels consumed in the Sinai by the Israelites and reserved in the Ark of the Covenant, of the Bread of the Presence ever displayed in the Temple, and regularly eaten by the priests – the shewbread, so called because it was marked with the Face and shown to the men of Israel once each year, that they might see and adore YHWH – and thus of the Eucharistic host.

So much then for the symbolism of the Candle. It should suffice to indicate the great significance of the mystical theology expressed in the Exsultet.

Why then was the sin of Adam happy?

By the Fall was godhood opened to us. With the Fall, we knew good and evil as the angels do – but only as disobedient gods, trapped like the demons who likewise Fell within the mortal bounds of an involute universe wholly doomed to eventual death of her wounds at our hands, and at those of her erstwhile angel, Lucifer. With the redemption thereof, we could by our obedience – by our fealty, our faith – become actual gods, immortal and immensely powerful beings, denizens of the highest heavens. Creation made men rational animals, formed in the imago dei; the Redemption made them capable of becoming angelic rational animals.

The Fall was necessary, not in the sense that it could not possibly have failed to come to pass, but in the sense that it was a forecondition of man’s redemption and theosis. Had man never Fallen, he would never have been redeemed, and would therefore have remained forever at innocent peace in the Garden. Not a disaster, to be sure; but nowhere near as noble as the divine future opened to us by the Paschal Mystery, in which all the beauties of animal manhood are preserved, and indeed more perfectly expressed, in the lives of angelic beings.

The sin of Adam introduced a fatal logical bug into the human code; it depraved human nature, so that it didn’t work properly anymore, and indeed eventually halted altogether. The redemption of Christ turned the bug into a true feature.

86 thoughts on “O Felix Culpa

  1. I hope not to shock my fellow Orthosphereans too severely. I have some sympathy with the serpent, who was excluded from the prohibition, not to eat of the fruit of the tree. As my teacher Eric Gans taught me, resentment is present at the beginning of culture.

  2. “Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead,” The Misfit continued, “and He shouldn’t have done it. He shown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can-by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness,” he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.

    “Maybe He didn’t raise the dead,” the old lady mumbled, not knowing what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she sank down in the ditch with her legs twisted under her.

    “I wasn’t there so I can’t say He didn’t,” The Misfit said. “I wisht I had of been there,” he said, hitting the ground with his fist. “It ain’t right I wasn’t there because if I had of been there I would of known. Listen lady,” he said in a high voice, “if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn’t be like I am now.” His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother’s head cleared for an instant. She saw the man’s face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and began to clean them.

    […]

    “She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

    “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

  3. On the other hand, there are some theologians (Maximus the Confessor and Duns Scotus, I believe), who claimed that the Incarnation would have happened even if the Fall had never happened. It would not have been needed to remedy original sin, but it would still have been the fitting way to bring about a fuller union with God. It’s a minority opinion, but one I find attractive, because I am one of those who is scandalized by the idea of sin ever being necessary.

    • I am not sure that it is even a minority opinion. Liturgical poetic excesses aside, Providence does not require evil to bring about the divine plan. If it did, then such evil would not be evil but rather simply a requisite unpleasantry. It would be wholly intelligible as a lower good required for a higher good, like exercise, piano lessons, or brussel sprouts. And, thus, it would not be evil.

      If we were made to be rendered gods, we need not have complicated God’s plan by sinning.

      Kristor, I almost always find your insights wonderful, but your theologoumenon above repels me utterly. I’ll simply address the opener. You wrote, “It’s absolutely true, and there is no Christian who would deny it. If we had not Fallen, we would not need redemption, nor for that matter would we need religion.”

      I may be a terrible Christian, but I think that I still classify as one, and I deny it most emphatically. Without the fall, there would still be “demption,” just not redemption, as God would not have to take us again, having never lost us in the first place. And that would have been a good thing. For adoption doesn’t require that the kids first wander down to skid row. Christ’s bringing us into God’s abundant life doesn’t require that we start out much lower on the ladder of divine ascent. How absurd! It’s as ridiculous as saying that the most wretched of the earth — utterly depraved men whose souls have been so twisted that they are no longer able to recognize good from evil — are in the best position to be saints. Such makes for a provocative saying, and it has a that obnoxious Christian smell that one finds in (or injects into) a certain stream in the Church’s life, from Paul to televangelists today, but it is false.

      We would not need religion? As if religion were solely about healing a wound! According to Augustine, religion binds us to God (and to each other, we anthropocentric moderns might add), and such is necessary for human beings, regardless of their (un/)fallen state. The character of religion would be different for unfallen intelligent creatures, but there would still be religion.

      This discussion reminds me of another common assertion that annoys me. People often say that only fallen men need authority, and they glibly state that men would not need to obey or to give orders in a perfect world. However, Irenaeus of Lyons notes that even sinless men would need to organize themselves with positions of authority. A body of totally virtuous men would still need direction, since there are many good ways to pursue the good. Hence, there is always a need for authority.

      Likewise, sinless men would still need a way of relating to God individually and corporately, and this is religion. We might say that the cosmic religion is the sempiternal trisagion of all creatures.

      • Thanks, Joseph, for the pushback. Responding will be interesting.

        In writing the post, I resisted the extremely strong temptation to expatiate, for the sake of economy. If I had not, some of your objections might already have been answered. That’s OK: I’ll answer now.

        You raise two objections:

        1. We would still need religion if we had not fallen.
        2. It is true that if we had not fallen we would not have needed redemption, but this would not have prevented our theosis.

        The first is easily settled with a clarification of my meaning. If we had not fallen, religion would not be a thing distinguishable from our being. Our way of being religious and our way of being would then be coterminous. We would not then need to make a point of religious observances, or devotions, or anything of the sort, for every bit of our life would then, as you say, be a participation of the everlasting trisagion. So, had we not Fallen, we would never even notice whether we had a religion. We would not stand in need of religion because we would already possess the fullness of it.

        Responding to your second objection is harder.

        If God wanted us to be immortal gods who knew good and evil, it seems that he might simply have said to our first parents, “Go ahead and eat of both the trees,” and so spared a lot of trouble. But the eating of this or that fruit was not the dispositive factor. Nor was it this or that ukase that mattered, nor even the very presence or absence of any ukase at all. The situation would have been the same, whether or not there were any ukase, for in order to know good and evil, we had to know what evil is: disagreement with God – i.e., with reality, with truth.

        The assay of any such disagreement must be founded in the basic mistake of thinking we are self-subsistent, that we ourselves are creators, able to make reality what we want it to be. We can’t undertake to disagree with reality except under the supposition that such a disagreement is in the first place really possible – that, i.e., being ourselves a reality unto ourselves, we can successfully set ourselves against the rest of reality. No matter what you might think, you can’t disagree with God, with reality and truth, unless you are at least equal with God, reality, and truth. And that’s a silly idea. There is no way that a being can disagree with being as such, for this would be to disagree with its own being. Put in these terms, the error of irreligion, of pride and vainglory, looks just ridiculous; the sort of thing that only a total idiot could do. Only a fool could imagine in his heart that he might somehow surmount the will of God; and this would be to think that there is no God, for what can be surmounted is not God.

        Yup. Fools. That’s us. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” And when we sin, that is just what we do.

        Now, the only way to know something is to experience it as actually implemented, in thought, word, or deed. Never burned, not shy. Until you know something at least a bit, feel it somehow and understand some portion of its meaning, its consequences and significations, you are in respect to that thing a total ignoramus. You have no way of shaping yourself to it appropriately. What would be the right way of responding to a fusht, for example? No idea, right? But once participate fusht ineptly, and suffer the pain thereof, and thenceforth you’ll have some idea how to deal with it properly.

        So, to get beings who knew evil, God had no option but to create beings that could know evil, and would know evil, by thought, word or deed. Thoughts and words are species of deeds: they are acts. This is why Jesus warns us that adultery can be committed in thought alone. Beings that have not somehow done evil cannot know it. This ignorance prevents their prudence, for as utter ignorami they have no way of knowing ex ante what they are getting themselves into in undertaking evil.

        But God’s first plan for man was not, it seems, that we should know good and evil, but rather that we should remain forever innocent in the Garden. Still he must have known from before the beginning that we might Fall. We did in fact Fall, so he had to have known that we might. Yet it seems that he hoped we wouldn’t – granting that “hope” is a term inapposite to omniscience, and therefore used only analogically, and weakly so.

        If there had been no Fall, we and our world would have lived forever in harmony and peace. We would never have been quite the sort of beings that the combination of the Fall and the Atonement make it possible for us now to be, who can transcend this world and inhabit the heavens above it – as is needful if we are to live forever, seeing that thanks to the Fall this world is now doomed to eventual utter death (not, note, utter non-being, but rather only death: the zero of novel causally integrated action). We would have remained forever happy in this world, and there would have been no problem with that. We just wouldn’t have been able, in that case, to be angels as well as men. We would only ever have been men.

        This would not have been bad, but rather only different than what has actually happened. For, we Fell, and our manhood was mortally wounded.

        But God knows also from all eternity that we do in fact Fall, and that his Atonement is necessary to our rescue. This is why the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). God wants Adam and Eve and all their progeny to live forever happily in the Garden, knows that they choose not to, and rescues them who want rescue.

        It seems therefore that, as knowing from all eternity that we Fall, and that he Atones us, and that some of us at least are resurrected to everlasting life in worlds that transcend this one, God’s Providence eternally intends that, given what we actually do and what we now are in consequence, we should end as gods who know good and evil.

        In a way, all this is no more than to say that for things to turn out the way that they have turned out, it was necessary that they turn out the way that they did. It is in this sense, only, that the sin of Adam was necessary.

      • Kristor,

        By this reasoning, we have knowledge that God Himself (and also Jesus in His human nature), being sinless, lacks. This cannot be true.

        Also, I would think that even in our prelapsarian state, there would be a distinction between having God or creatures as the object of one’s consciousness.

      • By this reasoning, we have knowledge that God Himself (and also Jesus in His human nature), being sinless, lacks. This cannot be true.

        Omniscience is the ultimate source of all creaturely knowledge, including the knowledge of good and evil. If God did not know from all eternity what evil is, it could never have been possible for evil to come to pass.

        Jesus did not sin, but he knew evil in his human nature, comprehensively, for he suffered pain inflicted by his creatures. Indeed, I have read some theologians who suggest that Jesus suffered *all the pain there is.* A horrible thought.

        I should have made this clearer when discussing fusht in my comment to Joseph. We can learn about evil in two sorts of ways: by doing it, and thus suffering the painful sequelae; or by innocently suffering the painful sequelae. A baby who does not already know better than to mess with hot coffee can learn that it can burn by reason of his own acts, or by reason of acts not his own. He might reach up and dump the coffee on himself, or his mother might inadvertently spill it on him. Either way, he’d learn about the pain of coffee burns, right quick.

        Before they ate, Adam and Eve were like babies who had never experienced pain of any sort, and who – because they lived in Paradise – could not possibly suffer pain on account of the acts of other beings. The only way they could learn about pain was to bite off a piece of it for themselves. When God said to them before they ate, “Beware of that pain over there,” it could have meant no more to them than if he had said, “Watch out for the fusht.”

        Also, I would think that even in our prelapsarian state, there would be a distinction between having God or creatures as the object of one’s consciousness.

        I take it that this is in reference to my discussion of whether as innocent we would need religion. Yes. But in a state of pure holiness, the saint sees with perfect clarity and overwhelming force that Christ is all in all: that all creatures subsist entirely in and by the Logos; that they live, move and have every jot of their being in him. The saint, then, is holy precisely in that he does not at all idolize any creatures. He sees everything as an ikon, rather than as an idol.

        When every experience is completely religious – which is to say, when every experience is truly and fully what experience as such is meant to be – then there is no need of a special religion, that is distinct from other departments of life, but rather religion in its fullness is achieved, and wholly suffuses every bit of life. You can’t add more religion into a life that is already completely religious, like that of our first parents before the Fall, or the life today of the saints.

        We don’t stand in need of what we already completely have. Hands are needed for me to live the sort of life that men are meant to live, yes. But I have two hands. I don’t need any more hands to live that life. Water is needed for fish to live. But a fish in the sea stands in no need of water.

        We the Fallen are like fish out of water.

      • But in a state of pure holiness, the saint sees with perfect clarity and overwhelming force that Christ is all in all: that all creatures subsist entirely in and by the Logos; that they live, move and have every jot of their being in him. The saint, then, is holy precisely in that he does not at all idolize any creatures. He sees everything as an ikon, rather than as an idol.

        When every experience is completely religious – which is to say, when every experience is truly and fully what experience as such is meant to be – then there is no need of a special religion, that is distinct from other departments of life, but rather religion in its fullness is achieved.

        This is not a waste of time, I must state. Very well written, but sadly only remain in writing.

      • Ah, but it doesn’t, you see. Theory can be the threshold of theoria. Faith comes by hearing.

        Commenter, I begin I think to understand what you’ve been trying to say here at the Orthosphere. Words are indeed inadequate to concrete actuality, or even to the ideas for which they stand; a fortiori are they no substitute for the motions of the heart. But they do signify, and so indicate, and sometimes urge. Words alone can’t baptize. But they can lead some readers to the font of all things – including words.

        And no baptism administered by humans is effectual that lacks the words of the Trinitarian formula which specify the form and essence of the rite.

      • “Theory can be the threshold of theoria. Faith comes by hearing.”

        Rather, theorizing is the threshold which limits theoria. Faith comes by being.

        “But they do signify, and so indicate, and sometimes urge. ”

        The problem is in this age, they mostly do not signify, indicate and urge anything, but only stand for words itself.

        “But they can lead some readers to the font of all things – including words.”

        They can also lead some readers to pride and narcissism, to false self confirmation, to unstopped amount of empty theories and useless arguments.

        “And no baptism administered by humans is effectual that lacks the words of the Trinitarian formula which specify the form and essence of the rite.”

        The point here is “administered by humans”, “the words of the Trinitarian formula which specify the form and essence of the rite” is only necessary when it is in the pure human plane.

      • Rather, theorizing is the threshold which limits theoria. Faith comes by being.

        Not quite. It’s the opposite. Being comes by faith; for faith is agreement with truth, and so ushers in the fulfillment of being. A thing exists only to the extent that it expresses and embodies the truth.

        Himself limitless, the Logos – the Word, Memra – is the limit and order that makes all subsidiary being. Consistent formal languages all participate him; this is how they can express truths in the first place. Actualities all enact true expressions of consistent formal languages; this is how they can exist.

        Being comes by faith: by agreeing with and expressing in act a truth discovered originally in a true statement of a formal language that participates the Logos, thus enacting that truth in a concrete actuality. To be is to participate the Word, however deficiently.

        No participation of the Logos can comprehend him, of course. No formal language is completable; or, stated differently, no finity can comprehend infinity. But that does not mean that truths do not truly participate the Logos: does not mean that infinity does not comprehend all finities. Because all truths are integral, the whole of the Logos is implicate in each of his parts. Discovery of any such part may then naturally and logically lead by anamnesis to a more and more spacious theoria.
        No word is competent to specify the Logos, no name to bind him. Only the Logos (and of course (therefore) also, again by logical implication, his Father and the Holy Spirit) can comprehend the Logos. But Truth himself has given us words by which we may refer to and call upon him: Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.

        [Words] can also lead some readers to pride and narcissism, to false self-confirmation …

        Sure. Anything can become an idol, or an occasion of sin. Words are not special in this regard. It’s a dangerous world.

        … “the words of the Trinitarian formula which specify the form and essence of the rite” [are] only necessary when it is in the pure human plane.

        God baptizes with fire and the Holy Spirit. Humans need to use words. This doesn’t tell us that words are inapt to reality, but only that they are apt and proper to men, vis-à-vis reality. Nor does the necessity of words to baptisms effected by human ministers tell us that they take place only on the human plane. There is no such thing as a plane that is only human; all planes are of God. A plane can’t be at all that is not first from and in God.

        That words are needed for sacraments we administer tells us rather that they are for us instruments of great power, either to desecrate or to sanctify (there are no other options, in the final analysis; no utterance can be simply neutral; all utterances must either express truths, or falsehoods – or nonsense, which, since it cannot be true, is tantamount to falsehood – and truth sanctifies and completes, while falsehood desecrates and deletes). They may of course be corrupted, like any other creaturely thing, and often are, especially these days. But so is everything.

      • Not quite. It’s the opposite. Being comes by faith; for faith is agreement with truth, and so ushers in the fulfillment of being. A thing exists only to the extent that it expresses and embodies the truth.

        My good Kristor, you start your mode of rhetoric again.

        To talk about being, faith, truth like this would not essentially help anyone to really possess being, have faith and achieve truth.

        Himself limitless, the Logos – the Word, Memra – is the limit and order that makes all subsidiary being.

        Where is he, “the Logos – the Word, Memra”, can you present him to me now?

        Being comes by faith: by agreeing with and expressing in act a truth discovered originally in a true statement of a formal language that participates the Logos, thus enacting that truth in a concrete actuality.

        Again, where is that concrete actuality?

        Discovery of any such part may then naturally and logically lead by anamnesis to a more and more spacious theoria.

        Have you discovered any such part?

        But Truth himself has given us words by which we may refer to and call upon him: Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.

        So you mean that if people utter these three words they would have truth immediately?

        Sure. Anything can become an idol, or an occasion of sin. Words are not special in this regard.

        Words are special in this regard as to talk about truth, faith and being, but at the same time do not in fact possess them is even worse than those who know nothing about them.

        Nor does the necessity of words to baptisms effected by human ministers tell us that they take place only on the human plane. There is no such thing as a plane that is only human; all planes are of God. A plane can’t be at all that is not first from and in God.

        Third time, can you please present God to me now, that God which includes all planes.

        That words are needed for sacraments we administer tells us rather that they are for us instruments of great power, either to desecrate or to sanctify (there are no other options, in the final analysis; no utterance can be simply neutral; all utterances must either express truths, or falsehoods – or nonsense, which, since it cannot be true, is tantamount to falsehood – and truth sanctifies and completes, while falsehood desecrates and deletes).

        A true great power needs not the utterance of words, to utter words mean people lack those things which words describe.

        They may of course be corrupted, like any other creaturely thing, and often are, especially these days. But so is everything.

        The corruption of words which describe sacred things is much more horrible than the corruption of any other creaturely things.

      • “You are misunderstanding my comment. Totally. Read it again.”

        I have just roughly read it once more, and didn’t discover anything new, can you please help me to correct my misunderstanding?

      • A rough reading won’t do. A trick that has always worked for me is to try my best to restate in my own words what I’m having trouble getting. When I do that, I soon discover exactly where I need further clarification. If you do that, and then share with us the product of your efforts, I can then show you where you’ve gone wrong.

      • Liturgical poetic excesses aside, Providence does not require evil to bring about the divine plan. If it did, then such evil would not be evil but rather simply a requisite unpleasantry. It would be wholly intelligible as a lower good required for a higher good, like exercise, piano lessons, or brussel sprouts. And, thus, it would not be evil.

        I’m finding this argument difficult to parse. I really dislike piano lessons, brussel sprouts, and exercise. This does not make them evil, though, in any sense at all, does it? Pain is not evil. Suffering is not evil. Right? Suffering that good may come simply is not doing evil that good may come. It’s a different thing entirely. The suffering is, itself, a good because it is born that good may come.

        What Adam did is nothing like this. Suppose, arguendo, that it is a logical impossibility for God to bring about the divine plan without Adam’s decision to sin. Still, Adam’s sin would be evil. Even if Adam sinned with the exact motive in mind that the great good of God’s divine plan might come about, still it would have been sin. Isn’t it consequentialism to affirm what you affirm above?

      • The issue is not moral but metaphysical. God is the author of all being. He doesn’t need evil (the negation of Himself) for any positive good. If He did, He would not be the ultimate reality, and dualism rather than theism would be true.

        I also deny that the experience of sin is needed for any true knowledge. Again, evil relies on good; good does not rely on evil. The way to truly understand adultery, for instance, is not to become an adulterer but to become chaste, ideally with a good marriage, and to deeply understand the good that adultery negates. Reference to the negating good is the only intelligibility evil has, which makes it perhaps the only thing that is better understood from the outside.

      • To know something *just is* to experience it, to apprehend it. Knowledge is a species of experience. How could we say of a man who had apprehended *absolutely nothing* of x, or of anything remotely like x, that he knew something of x?

        A man who has never committed adultery cannot know *what it is* to be an adulterer, but he can know plenty about *what it is like* to be an adulterer, because he knows about other sorts of sin and evil, and indeed other sorts of unchastity – enough to inform his notions of the meanings of the evil of adultery, and thus to feel confident in his evaluation of adultery as evil, and to motivate him to avoid it.

        Part of the difficulty here is that it is so hard for us to imagine the inner life of someone who has never experienced pain of any sort, and who cannot therefore have any idea what it is like. Our own lives have been suffused with pain since the moment of birth – an experience of terror and torment. When someone tells us that fusht is very painful, we can understand at least a bit of what he means, because we have so much experience of various painful things. But if we had no idea what pain is, none whatsoever, then “fusht is painful” would be as meaningful to us as “fusht is bronty.”

        None of this is to say that good depends upon evil ontologically. It is to say only that our knowledge of evil depends upon evil epistemically. You can’t know an evil that isn’t really out there to be known in the first place. And if you’ve never ever known a thing about evil – as was the case for Adam and Eve before they Fell, according to what God has told us about their situation in Eden – then even if it’s really out there, you have *no idea* about it.

        God doesn’t need evil in order to achieve a positive good. He can create as many innocent Adams and Eves as he likes, with such powers as he likes, either in Eden or in Heaven. But he does need evil in order to repair evil. He can’t rescue Adam from death in a doomed world to an everlasting life in its heavens unless Adam and his world are first really Fallen. He can’t create a rescued Adam who was never actually rescued, any more than he can create a stone that he can’t lift.

      • He doesn’t need evil (the negation of Himself) for any positive good.

        You trust this kind of reasoning about the author of the universe? There are two kinds of reasoning which we know are highly likely to lead us into bad places: reasoning about infinity and reasoning about recursion. Zeno’s Paradox is about infinity and Russell’s paradox is about recursion, for examples. What you are saying seems to rely on two infinities: God’s omnipotence and God’s omnibenevolence. One also suspects a recursion or contradiction lurking in this talk about evil while simultaneously talking about the creation or not of the universe—evil without universe is hard to imagine. How does a moral agent act against nature in the absence of moral agents and nature? How can there be something deprived of a good if the only thing there is is God? “The set of all sets” does not immediately appear to involve us screaming “Norman coordinate” while smoke pours out of our ears. But it sure does end up that way.

        God making rocks he can’t lift or square circles leads us to constrain God in various ways. I don’t see how we can know that there is no good (I dunno, someone with free will resisting temptation in the presence of concupiscence) which does not require the existence of evil.

        Coming at it in another way, fixing a half-collapsed house is a greater feat of carpentry than is building a house. But, you don’t get to display this feat of carpentry if the house never half falls down, do you?

      • Sure, reasoning about God is what we do here–that and scholastic politics, of course.

        Even when having a skill is a positive good, having opportunity to exercise it is not. In resisting temptation, it’s the love of God or of justice that makes the act good. It would be just as good if it existed in the absence of suffering temptation on its behalf (as it does, say, within the Trinity or among the blessed).

        God takes opportunities presented by evils to display His providence and His mercy but neither these qualities of God nor the gifts He gives depend on evils. He could just as well create them by simple act of primary causality.

      • I see. So, the sentences of Joseph I am objecting to are wrong because the second one has a false predicate.

        Seems to make the argument from evil a big problem, though. It seems to crush the free will defense in particular, since God could have made creatures with free will who always just happen to choose good.

      • “A trick that has always worked for me is to try my best to restate in my own words what I’m having trouble getting.”

        My trouble is my “understanding” does not depend on how words “restate”. To restate words can provide nothing truly valuable, for me.

        “If you do that, and then share with us the product of your efforts, I can then show you where you’ve gone wrong. ”

        This is not school exam, as I said in the beginning, I consider such discussion as ineffective in its core.

        You can show me where I have gone wrong by the “restating” of words, but you can not show yourself where people have gone wrong in their hearts, that is whyI said those words in the beginning.

      • If you are not going to take a serious shot at understanding what I am saying, then it makes zero sense for me to say anything further to you, no? The work I put into it would clearly be useless. The work you did in reading what I wrote, such as it is, would be wasted.

        You are not interested in understanding; as you have said, you don’t care what other people think.

        Your teacup is full. No point in pouring any tea into it.

        You can say that words are worthless. But those are just words. Saying them, you refute them.

        That leaves you with no option but silence. A great option. Why not take it?

      • “If you are not going to take a serious shot at understanding what I am saying”

        I had taken a serious shot, in the first time, and I have shot nothing.

        “then it makes zero sense for me to say anything further to you, no?”

        That is your option.

        “The work I put into it would clearly be useless. The work you did in reading what I wrote, such as it is, would be wasted.”

        The problem is I do not need your “work” of mental efforts, I need your being.

        “You are not interested in understanding; as you have said, you don’t care what other people think.”

        I am not interested in understanding, of purely mental concepts, endless streams of theories and logics

        Yes, I don’t care what other people think, I care about what they are.

        “Your teacup is full. No point in pouring any tea into it.”.

        The problem is that I don’t want to that type of tea which is not my cup of tea. And my cup is not full, I am waiting for someone who is able to pour living water of life into it.

        “You can say that words are worthless. But those are just words. Saying them, you refute them.”

        As I said, I didn’t say that words are worthless totally, I said words are worthless when they stand just for themselves, they are worthless when they don’t directly represent the spiritual essence which they should represent.

        “That leaves you with no option but silence. A great option. Why not take it?”

        That is just a part of your mode of rhetoric, which is ineffective and useless for me.

        If you want, you can help me to take this great option, please don’t use such argument all the time.

      • You don’t need my help in order to stop yourself from talking. Just stop.
        To find what you seek, just go to any church where the body of the Lord is demonstrated on the altar. Sit there quietly and pray the Ave Maria for an hour. Try to mean it. You won’t know how, at first. Just be open to discovering what it means.

        The meaning will be revealed to you in the fullness of time, when the harvest is ripe.

        Do this every day for three months. See what happens then.

      • “You don’t need my help in order to stop yourself from talking. Just stop.”

        Such “tone”, directly proves that what you wrote could not provide a target for me to shoot, the problem is in your water, not my cup.

        “To find what you seek, just go to any church where the body of the Lord is demonstrated on the altar. Sit there quietly and pray the Ave Maria for an hour. Do this every day for three months. See what happens then.”

        I guess what probably will happen then is, I would say to you “You don’t need my help in order to stop yourself from talking. Just stop.” 😉

      • Maybe so. You’ll see, I guess.

        But notice that I have not asked for your help. When I want to be silent, I am silent.

        Don’t think that I have written in anger. If you detect hostility in my tone, it is coming from somewhere in you. I’m praying for you, and doing my best to give you a way of getting what you say you want: living water.

        A blessed and fruitful Advent to you, Commenter. There are 20 days left in the season. Enough for a good start on your first month of penitential prayers to the Theotokos. Add in the octave of Christmas and you’re basically there. Give it a try, seriously. I bet you’ll be surprised.

      • “But notice that I have not asked for your help. When I want to be silent, I am silent.”

        I don’t want to be silent, I am not silent, for some reasons which you probably will know later.

        “If you detect hostility in my tone, it is coming from somewhere in you. I’m praying for you, and doing my best to give you a way of getting what you say you want: living water.”

        You know that a dear friend of you has also said something exactly the same before, and I became ill by his/her praying, that was truly living water, very living, boiling water, like what it is in hell.

        “Enough for a good start on your first month of penitential prayers to the Theotokos. Add in the octave of Christmas and you’re basically there. Give it a try, seriously. I bet you’ll be surprised.”

        I have already been surprised enough by your beautiful friend and his/her Christianity, I really don’t want to try it anymore, I don’t have nine lives, like cats.

      • Dr. Bill,

        Heaven forfend, I harbor no sympathy for consequentialism! You wrote: “I’m finding this argument difficult to parse. I really dislike piano lessons, brussel sprouts, and exercise. This does not make them evil, though, in any sense at all, does it? Pain is not evil. Suffering is not evil. Right? Suffering that good may come simply is not doing evil that good may come. It’s a different thing entirely. The suffering is, itself, a good because it is born that good may come.”

        Exactly. My objection to Kristor’s “happy fault” theory, or at least to a barbarized form of it that one encounters at times, is that it makes evil a constitutive element in Providence. Of course, God is the best lemonade maker (making lemonade out of lemons for you non-native anglophones — it’s an expression), and “salvation history” works with wicked wills to make the best of the situation. To allude to Tolkien again in this thread, in the Ainulindalë myth, Eru (God) composes the music of being, but Melkor, one of his rebellious creatures (the Satan figure in Tolkien’s mythology), rejects the direction that he has been given and adds his own egotistical tune. Eru compensates and works the dissonance of Melkor’s notes into the final composition. The result is not as pure or beautiful as it could have been, but it is terribly beautiful all the same. I think that Tolkien’s myth captures Christian theodicy quite well.

        However God may redeem the fallen world, its fallenness is not necessary or desired by God. Christians do not worship a god beyond good and evil — no, we worship the very Good that is the source of all being, goodness, and truth. We are not Manichees, if Manichees were metaphysically astute enough to think a bit further than they do about the cosmos and their second level deities. For Christians, in the panoply of creation, there are higher and lower goods in the divinely ordered cosmos, but they are all good. See Genesis. Evil, by contrast, isn’t for us a real element in reality, but rather a parasite — it is no “thing” but rather a distortion of that which is, a direction away from God, as the source of being, goodness, and truth. So, above, I mentioned lower goods that we men may not fully appreciate — exercise, brussel sprouts — but our lower estimation of them does not make them evil (well, maybe brussel sprouts . . .). They have their place in the order of being. They are good — not because they lead to good things (that is where your consequentialist fear came in), but because they are — they exist — they are intelligible — they are part of God’s creation (unless brussel sprouts are in fact Morgoth’s corruption of broccoli, but I digress).

        I fear that Kristor’s happy fault (or, as I said, less polished versions of it) make evil just another lower good — one that is a necessary — and therefore divinely ordained — aspect of the cosmos. And I reject that completely! I find it the worst sort of blasphemy to lay the cause of evil on God. Nothing good comes of evil itself. It is sterile. God, in his infinite fount of goodness, works with the mess that we make. But he is not the cause of the world’s being less than what he designed it to be. Evil is unintelligible, but lower goods are intelligible in the big picture. Now, we may look at how bad things might lie in the causal chain toward good things, which gives them a sort of intelligibility, but at their root, they are unintelligible. For a lengthy attempt to deal with this topic, you may read a lengthy discussion between Kristor and me. My posts in this thread are basically restating the same position. Hier stehe ich!

        So, I condemn any attempt to wave evil off Leibnizlike as an unpleasant but requisite ingredient in the best possible world. You misunderstand me if you think that I am cheerleading such an effort. No way!

        “What Adam did is nothing like this. Suppose, arguendo, that it is a logical impossibility for God to bring about the divine plan without Adam’s decision to sin. Still, Adam’s sin would be evil. Even if Adam sinned with the exact motive in mind that the great good of God’s divine plan might come about, still it would have been sin. Isn’t it consequentialism to affirm what you affirm above?”

        My contention is that it is NOT necessary for sin to be a part of the divine plan, ultimately speaking. If it were, sin would not be evil — it would just be an unpleasantry — an intelligible but messy lower good in God’s overall scheme. As that conclusion is outrageous and blasphemous, we must reject it — as well as the proposition that led to it.
        Has this made my argument any clearer?

      • “Don’t think that I have written in anger. If you detect hostility in my tone, it is coming from somewhere in you. I’m praying for you, and doing my best to give you a way of getting what you say you want”

        You have disease in your own heart, that is why you can not distinguish the horrible disease in others’ heart, and even praise it.

        I even can accept your “plural” Christianity as totally spiritually ineffective, but when it has threatened my life and almost totally destroyed my health. that is another issue, a serious problem.

      • Shown charity, he responds with vitriol. Despite occasional lapses into reason, he remains implacably hostile.

        Is there any good reason to allow Commenter to continue to deface the Orthosphere?

      • I say no. He’s not adding anything to our site, and he just seems to want to make trouble.

        Kristor, although this is your thread I went ahead and removed a few of Mr. C’s more egregious contributions. But if you want them restored, I’ll do so.

      • Making trouble would be one thing, and not necessarily altogether bad, or unwelcome. The problem with Commenter’s comments is that they are increasingly incoherent, both internally and with respect to the conversation. It is more than can be credibly attributed to unfamiliarity with English. Incoherence is unedifying. It is stultifying. So with some regret, and no little concern for Commenter himself – who seems to be a soul in torment – I think we should not allow further comments from him unless they make a positive contribution to the discourse. I don’t want to ban him altogether. But, let any Orthospherean who finds any of his further submissions objectionable go ahead and delete them. I shall do the same.

        Commenter, God Bless you. I hope you can rejoin when you are feeling more calm and collected.

      • Joseph A:

        Thank you for your answer:

        Heaven forfend, I harbor no sympathy for consequentialism!

        The lack of non-verbal communication when talking online is limiting. Anyway, I never thought you were a consequentialist. It was a verbal provocation to get you to show me how I was wrong. Thank you for having a go at it.

        My contention is that it is NOT necessary for sin to be a part of the divine plan, ultimately speaking. If it were, sin would not be evil — it would just be an unpleasantry — an intelligible but messy lower good in God’s overall scheme. As that conclusion is outrageous and blasphemous, we must reject it — as well as the proposition that led to it.

        I think I understand this, too. I just don’t see where it leads. If evil does not serve God’s ends in some sense, then why is it? I like the answer “because there is something God is up to which, as a logical necessity, requires that evil exist.” If you reject this answer, then how do we explain why evil is? Why does not an omnipotent (where I take that to mean the ability to do anything which is not a logical contradiction) create something like this universe but better: with no evil.

        Another possible answer is something like “Look, God is infinite, and I am a bug. How should I know?” I like this one a lot, too, though I’m not sure how distinct it is from the first answer.

        As best I am understanding you (and Bonald), you have some third answer. But what is it?

        To come at it another way, could God have created an Adam (or a Satan, for that matter) who had free will but who freely chose not to fall? If so, why didn’t He do that? “Evil is necessary for some greater good God had in mind” seems like a reasonable answer to me. Without that answer, the argument from evil stops seeming boring to me. How do I resolve this?

        To pick up on your musical analogy, dissonance which resolves into consonance is, to my ear, often more beautiful than just a bunch of consonance. But God can’t very well make dissonance himself—not because He’s too good to make dissonance but because it’s a contradiction in terms for Him to make dissonance (how does He disobey Himself?). So if there is going to be dissonance, He needs Satan and Adam (or something very like them) to do the job.

        If it helps you to be patient: as far as I can tell, I’m quite open to learning I am wrong here. My opinions are far from fixed.

    • Bonald:

      Sure. The Fall was a logical forecondition, not of the Incarnation, but only of the Atonement. But then, if we had not Fallen, the Incarnation would not have been needed to bring us into full communion with God, because we would always have been in perfect communion with him. The Incarnation might have happened nevertheless, if only so that we could hang out with God and enjoy his company, and he ours, the way we do with each other.

      Indeed, we read in Genesis 3 that God was walking in the Garden, embodied. Tradition holds that the body in question was that of Jesus. We read of this embodiment only after the Fall, which suggests that the body of God was that of Jesus only because it was the body of Jesus that was slain at Calvary. But then Tradition also suggests that when God breathed life into Adam, he used the same lungs that breathed upon the Apostles in John 20:22.

      This gets tricky to parse, but I think it all becomes clearer if we recall that under either of the two cosmogonies that follow from the temptation of Eve – one wherein she Falls, one wherein she does not – God could have been incarnate as Jesus when he enlivened Adam. It’s just that under the first cosmogony, the Incarnation is needed so as to procure the Atonement, whereas under the second, it is a supererogatory bonus – like the rest of creation.

      • “Tradition holds”
        “Tradition also suggests”
        Could you tell us more about these traditions since I never heard these.

      • It’s mostly a visual tradition. Up until about the 15th century, artists showed Jesus in the Garden with Adam and Eve, rather than the Father. Perhaps the most famous example is in Bosch’s triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

        The Wikipedia article on Pre-Existence of Christ has some pretty good resources on this tradition.

        In Patristic texts, I have run across it in the Apostolic Constitutions and in Eusebius.

        The logic of it is pretty straightforward: if Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), then the Logos has to have been incarnate in Jesus from the foundation of the world.

  4. Pingback: O Felix Culpa | Reaction Times

  5. I am an orthodox Reformed Christian, and I categorically deny that Adam’s sin did anything good for me. And of course I categorically reject your jacked-up doctrine of theosis–I will never become a god, nor do I want to become such.

    I also categorically reject as heretical the idea that I will ever become “an angelic rational animal.” Angels and humans are two different species of rational animal, and I am content to remain what I am for all eternity, i.e. a human.

    Mormons also believe in the “happy fault” of Adam’s sin, and they of course are gonzo for theosis.

    Bruce Charlton probably enjoyed this article very much, I however did not, and I really think that you (Kristor) have gotten too cute and clever with your theology. And let me remind you, Man has not been redeemed. Rather, elect men and women have been redeemed, but the greater part of mankind will find its place in the Fire. Yes, Jesus did “taste death for all men”, but redemption is a much stronger concept than substitution. To redeem means “to buy back”–with certainty–from the power of sin and death and hell. But Christ himself said of the way to Life “few are those who find it.”

    This article seems like something written by a liberal ex-Episcopalian, but dressed up with a bunch of high falutin Catholic/Orthodox gobbledygook.

    • “I categorically deny that Adam’s sin did anything good for me.”

      Adam’s sin made possible the conscious existence of his descendants, including Finn.

      “Man has not been redeemed.”

      No, but the the possibility of redemption requires the Fall. No one can be redeemed who is not fallen, including Finn.

      V: Once you look to the word “conscious,” you will be able to answer the question yourself.

      • “Adam’s sin made possible the conscious existence of his descendants”
        How?
        Do you hold that sinless Adam could not have had sex?

    • Finn:

      Adam’s sin was of course a disaster. But it had a happy outcome that it (obviously!) could not have had if it had never happened – and that might, all things considered, turn out to be even more glorious for the redeemed than would have been their lot had there been no Fall. That is all that is meant by calling it a “happy fault.”

      You can reject theosis; no skin off my back. But Saint Athanasius didn’t. He was the guy who at the Council of Nicea insisted on the divinity of Jesus, and on the consubstantiality of the three Persons of the Trinity, defining basic orthodox dogma for all future Christians, including you. I’ll go with his opinions over yours, OK? I suppose if we are both lucky we’ll see who is right, and find out what theosis really is, if it is anything at all. Understand, theosis is just a different word for holiness; for sainthood; for perfection, qua men.

      An angelic rational animal is obviously not the same thing as an angel; nor is a leonine man a lion, or an oleaginous man oil. Angels are immaterial. Men can’t be angels. We can only be men. But we can be men who have some of the same properties as angels – such as a capacity to stand in the throne room of Heaven and participate in their worship, eat their bread, and so forth. That we share a property with angels doesn’t make us angels, it just means that in certain respects we are like angels. There is nothing odd about this; it is no more odd than noticing that in certain respects we are like sheep, so that men can be more or less sheepish.

      That Mormons believe some of the same things as Christians does not make those beliefs false, or objectionable. Mormon men wear pants. Does that make pants bad?

      It’s odd that you should think Bruce would particularly enjoy the post. As I was writing it, I reflected several times that he would probably disagree with it in some respects, and fundamentally.

      I don’t know what I can do about the fact that you find my thinking too clever. Be stupider? Discern less? Reason more sloppily? Be more ignorant? How, pray? These would be good things?

      Nowhere in the post or comments thereto have I addressed the question of who is elect and who is not, nor does the answer depend on the character of the risen life of the elect – whether or not it is holy, angelic, saintly, perfected, or divine, and so forth, what those terms mean or how they relate to each other. Why do you raise the issue? How is it relevant?

      I am indeed an ex-Episcopalian, and what’s more an ex-liberal, these last few decades; and I am now Catholic, which means that I am as close as can be to being also Orthodox. But none of that makes what I write false, any more than the fact that Mormons believe in gravity means there’s no such thing. All I’m ever trying to do in thinking and writing about this stuff is follow the logic where it leads, guided by Scripture, Tradition, and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. The results may seem like gobbledygook to you, but that’s what happens when one hears people speaking a language one does not know. If they do sound like gobbledygook to you, then you are in no position to evaluate their worthiness or veracity, because you don’t even understand what I’m talking about.

      • Kristor,

        For what it’s worth, I do believe in gravity and put my pants on one leg at time. And what you have written does not read like gobbledygook to me. Not at all. Whether it is orthodox or not, I leave to the reader.

        The closest LDS hymn on this subject is “Men Are That They Might Have Joy.” https://www.lds.org/music/text/hymns/men-are-that-they-might-have-joy?lang=eng While it is not often sung, the corresponding LDS scripture, 2 Nephi 2:25, is widely quoted. See https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/2.25?lang=eng

        Here are some unofficial links where one individual unpacks this scripture:

        http://www.jefflindsay.com/adam.shtml#premortal

        http://www.jefflindsay.com/adam.shtml#tree

        I do not consider the linked commentary to be either gonzo or gobbledygook.

        See also Book XII of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which contains these lines:

        “O goodness infinite, goodness immense!
        That all this good of evil shall produce,
        And evil turn to good; more wonderful
        Then that which by creation first brought forth
        Light out of darkness! full of doubt I stand,
        Whether I should repent me now of sin
        By mee done and occasiond, or rejoyce
        Much more, that much more good thereof shall spring,
        To God more glory, more good will to Men
        From God, and over wrauth grace shall abound.”

        and ends with the pensive, but hopeful note:

        “They looking back, all th’ Eastern side beheld
        Of Paradise, so late thir happie seat,
        Wav’d over by that flaming Brand, the Gate
        With dreadful Faces throng’d and fierie Armes:
        Som natural tears they drop’d, but wip’d them soon;
        The World was all before them, where to choose
        Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
        They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
        Through Eden took thir solitarie way.”

  6. Kristor, Adam’s sin is thus the first eucatastrophe, then? I wonder if the old master had such an idea in mind. He must have.

    I agree completely with your point about religion. Thank you for the clarification. And speaking of the old master, people frequently comment upon the absence of “religion” in Middle Earth. I never noticed its absence, but maybe because I understand things a bit more Quenyesque than our latter day secularists.

    To bring up Irenaeus, again: if I remember rightly, the bishop of Lyons also suggests that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat of the fruit because they were too immature and not ready for it. I do not clearly understand what it means to know a privation — it is a bastard form of reasoning, as our betters have argued — but it does seem to be derivative of real knowledge. One must know a musical piece in order to recognize when it is deficiently played. One must know what a hammer does in order to notice when one is broken or poorly designed. An awareness of disorder is based on some level of knowledge about order. So, I wonder if knowledge of evil comes with knowledge generally. However, it may be as you suggest — that an innocent would have no more understanding of evil in an unfallen world than someone blind from birth would have of the different hues of blue.

    Alexander Schmemann has some interesting musings about the fall in For the Life of the World. Orthosphereans might enjoy it; I recommend it for your reading list. Fr. Alexander notes that the fall occurs not in the disobedience but in the spiritual blindness that precedes — and allows for — the disobedience. That Adam and Eve would seek after something not given and blessed by God means that they had already severed the world from God — they already failed to see God as the source of all. This echoes your commentary above (“The assay of any such disagreement . . .”). I think that it is very true and profound. However, it seems that we could gain awareness of the possibility of evil without participating in it. Of course, God is the source of all knowledge, but that is why I suspect that we could have “known” evil without the fall — at least of our race. For God gives us reason by which we glimpse the divine mind. We can know about mathematics, logic, and sea turtles — why not sin?

    Error (and all its forms — epistemological, moral, ontological . . .) is a very perplexing subject. It is hard to know what is not.

    • However, it seems that we could gain awareness of the possibility of evil without participating in it. Of course, God is the source of all knowledge, but that is why I suspect that we could have “known” evil without the fall — at least of our race. For God gives us reason by which we glimpse the divine mind. We can know about mathematics, logic, and sea turtles — why not sin?

      The innocent could learn of sin that way, but only in purely abstract terms. Until they suffered pain, their understanding of sin and its meanings would be like the understanding of light of a man blind from birth. They could “do the math,” but would have no idea what the terms of their equations meant.

      The only way to grasp the concrete meaning of pain – or of light – is to suffer it. The only way our first parents could have suffered pain before their Fall is if God had inflicted it upon them. Which, of course, he could not have done, while remaining himself.

      Schmemann’s analogy with blindness is quite tight. For Adam and Eve, it was a blindness from birth. Proph has likewise usefully called the condition “spiritual autism.” The Fall took place in blindness, and was made possible by that blindness, but I don’t think that the blindness itself was an alienation from God. Adam and Eve were not alienated before they Fell, but were rather in perfectly coordinated agreement with the will of God. It’s just that their agreement was like that of a broken clock when it happens to show the correct hour.

    • Right. There will be no toe-stubbing in the New Jerusalem, either. Or wait, no; there might be stubs, but they would not hurt.

      One of the tricky bits here is that in order for us to find fulfillment of our humanity in Paradise, it would seem to need to furnish room for adventure. But it is very hard for us to imagine adventure without danger, challenge, risk. Maybe heavenly adventure would be all “whee!” with no “yikes!”

      • @Kristor

        “One of the tricky bits here is that in order for us to find fulfillment of our humanity in Paradise, it would seem to need to furnish room for adventure.”

        Or, the need for adventure is one of those things invented by decadent humanism that must be amputated to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. After all, the solitary monk praying to God in the middle of nowhere does not need any sort of adventures to fulfil his humanity.

        Though again, it’s probably self-evident what kind of dilemma this puts us in. Either human desires are not all that depraved, in which case the Kingdom of Heaven must be somewhat more adequate to them. Or human desires are that depraved (children like adventures perfectly well without any decadent humanists brainwashing them into doing so), in which case there are a whole lot of other problems we start to run into.

      • The rewards of adventure go way deeper in us, and in history, than humanism. At root, they are just the rewards of experience – of what it is like to become – which eo ipso necessarily comes with some irreducible minimum of risk that things might go awry. The etymology of “experience” is instructive. From the invaluable Online Etymology Dictionary, we learn that we get the word from:

        … Latin experiens, nominative of experiri “to try, test,” from ex– “out of” + peritus “experienced, tested,” from PIE root *per- (3) “to lead, pass over” (see peril).

        It can’t be depraved in us that we enjoy it when things go perfectly as we most deeply feel they ought – in, i.e., those moments when God is in his Heaven and all is right with the world.

        No doubt human desires are depraved, all of them. But as Aristotle noticed in the Nicomachean Ethics, our depravity is to be found in the excesses of feeling and act, and adventure is no different. To dare for a worthy purpose – even if only the realization of some quite supererogatory beauty – is one thing, and cannot be avoided no matter which way we turn. Seeking the thrill of adventure for its own sake is quite another. It leads us to dare unworthily – i.e., wrongly.

        I conclude that in Paradise, all our adventures will be eminently worthy, and that our risk of failure will be nil.

    • How I managed to not see this reply for three days I do not know. mea culpa!

      So, then are Catholics committed to young earth creationism? Or is there some way to reconcile the no-toe-stubbing theory with the theory that Adam was the first human hominid in something reasonably like the usual evolutionary view?

      Though I am not particularly firm in my view, I have thought that, though there was an Adam and an Eve from whom we are all descended and who were the first humans, otherwise the usual naturalistic account of human evolution is more or less right. Thus, the fall is about these first humans using their reason to start figuring out the natural law (eating the apple) even though God told them not to and then promptly noticing that they can get stuff (or the appearance of stuff) for themselves by violating it.

      This seems inconsistent with the no-toe-stubbing theory to me, though. Thus, I assume Kristor and William Luse don’t agree that my view is orthodox or at least don’t agree that my view is the best one given our understanding of the creation account.

      • Well, I don’t want to get too far down in the weeds with this, because it’s a whole ‘nother thread. But, very quickly:

        1. Catholics are not committed to young Earth Creationism. On the other hand, the whole of time occurs all at once in eternity, so that the whole world of this (and every) instant, with all its relations to its past, is being created at this instant.

        2. The human Fall was not the first to infect this causal order. Or rather, the human Fall was a department and participation of that logically prior and more general, cosmic Fall.

        3. Logically, the Failures of Lucifer, Eve, and Adam were primordial before they were ordial. While they did each happen at a particular time and place – which is to say, ordially – they happen also, primordially, at all times and places, as aspects of this whole cosmos. All mundane events do. And the ordiality of an event is logically posterior to its primordiality. This ties back to number 1 above: an event can occur at a specific address in time and space of a causal order only if it occurs in and for that whole causal order; and it can occur in and for a whole causal order only insofar as it cooks up in and from eternity. So, a feature of a particular mundane creature is ipso facto a feature of its whole world. Thus every cosmic event is influenced by Lucifer’s Fall (though not necessarily so as itself to Fall: Mary did not Fall, even though she was certainly affected by sin and evil).

        4. What we get from all this is that the Fall of Man was a local episode in a rolling catastrophe that overtook the whole cosmos like a tsunami covering Fukushima. Once the tsunami had come, it was no longer possible to be in Fukushima and remain innocent of the tsunami. Likewise with coming to be in this cosmos: you can’t do it unscathed by the Fall.

        5. So, it may not have been the case that Adam and Eve were able to hang out in the Garden for a long time before the Fall overtook them, and they succumbed, and began to suffer. Or rather, it might have seemed to them as though it was a good long time – as observation of any infant convicts us, innocence is next to timelessness – when to an outward observer their Fall might have been almost coincident with their awakening to consciousness as humans.

  7. In morality, it is impossible to avoid paradox. Cain murders Abel and then God institutes the law against murder. Felix culpa!

    • That particular case seems to have been explained perfectly well by Lao Tzu. Namely, only when humanity departed from the Tao, then commandments and laws were instituted.

      For instance, if chewing on gravel became a common perversion among the peoples, then we would have to have anti-gravel-chewing commandments in addition to our anti-sodomy commandments. As such, we seem to get by in this area perfectly well without explicit moral guidance.

  8. I get what is being said here. You hypothesize that through redemption, we will achieve a HIGHER state of being than we would have maintained had Adam and Eve remained sinless, and because of this we should actually be thankful for the Fall.

    In an abstract sense, this has some logic to it, though I honestly can’t imagine myself ever calling the Fall ‘necessary’, even in the less correct use of the term. Pre-requisite to the state of affairs as they stand and as they will stand, of course. But ‘necessary’ seems to almost place this sin on some kind of pedestal for humanity, almost to Creation level importance to who we are as a species. Now, I guess it gets difficult because when we talk about our species, what transcendent characteristics are we talking about that apply before and after the Fall?

    I keep a humbled conscience and try not to be overly clever in analyzing such things. The Fall was bad, it was a terrible event that went against God’s will, and overall it seems better to focus on God’s rich and bountiful mercy upon we who disobeyed, mercy He did not afford the blighted fallen angels, that He sacrificed His Son for us. I don’t think God’s intention was that we look fondly upon the horrific deed that He saved us from the consequences of, whatever the nature of the eventual outcome.

    That said, this was a real gem to read. Well-written and not overly complex.

  9. Thanks for the official title, I shall wear it proudly.

    It seems like you basically agree with my original point, although you keep dancing around it: “We would never have been quite the sort of beings that the combination of the Fall and the Atonement make it possible for us now to be” “[God] can’t rescue Adam from death in a doomed world to an everlasting life in its heavens unless Adam and his world are first really Fallen.”

    But God’s first plan for man was not, it seems, that we should know good and evil, but rather that we should remain forever innocent in the Garden. Still he must have known from before the beginning that we might Fall. We did in fact Fall, so he had to have known that we might. Yet it seems that he hoped we wouldn’t – granting that “hope” is a term inapposite to omniscience, and therefore used only analogically, and weakly so.

    This makes absolutely no sense to me. Yes, “hope” cannot be applied to an omniscient and atemporal being who knows exactly what happens throughout all of time, so what in the world is it supposed to be an analogy for? Does God in his infiniteness imagine better worlds than the one that he actually creates?

    I will add hoping (along with experiencing, acting, and sinning) to the list of things that man is capable of that God is not (at least, not the omniscient and atemporal God of Greek theology).

    • God can’t do or intend evil, so he can’t create us fallen so as then to be able to rescue us, nor can he create us intending that we should fall so that he might then rescue us. So he must create us intending that we never fall. This is what I meant in saying that he hoped we would not fall.

      • ”intending that we never fall”

        Yet he allows the possibility to fall. He extolls man towards the direction of what he desires yet stops short of violating his will.

        It seems that the nature of reality is. However mighty God may be, it is not possible for Good and for relationship to God to have any significance without a possibility of evil occurring in the 1st place. There is more glory therefore if there are both cases of which the fallen and of the unfallen is possible.

      • So he must create us intending that we never fall.

        For an omnipotent being, he doesn’t seem very good at his job.

      • A free being that can perform only one act – such as that act which conforms to the Divine Will – is a contradiction in terms. Such a being could not come to pass. God can’t perform illogical acts. No being whatever possibly could. So God can’t create a world of free beings that is not in danger of falling.

      • So you agree that human freedom and an omniscient god are logically incompatible? They seem so to me but I’m surprised to hear that from you.

      • It is one thing to say that God does not intend the Fall. It is another to say that he can be ignorant about it, or that, knowing about it, he does not intend its repair. Only if he were subject to time might he be ignorant of some temporal occurrence. That he is Provident, so that there is indeed a Plan of Salvation, under which Jesus is the Lamb incarnate and slain from the foundation of the world, just means (among other things) that he is not subject to time, but vice versa.

      • “The act of praying is the very highest energy of which the human mind is capable; praying, that is, with the total concentration of the faculties. The great mass of worldly men and of learned men are absolutely incapable of prayer.”
        ― Samuel Taylor Coleridge

      • Commenter means this quote as an attack on us. Besides, Coleridge is not an authority for Christians. According to the Bible, prayer in faith is effective.

      • “The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.”
        ― Søren Kierkegaard

      • One, Kierkegaard is not an authority for Christians. Two, Commenter meant this quote as an attack, as he has amply demonstrated his irrational hostility toward us.

      • “One, Kierkegaard is not an authority for Christians. Two, Commenter meant this quote as an attack, as he has amply demonstrated his irrational hostility toward us.”

        One, he is not, ok, but he has a deep soul which is deeper than most human beings alive.

        Two, please see my first comment.

      • “I think the term for me would be more spiritual than religious”

        Maybe Justin Timberlake is as spiritual as you (plural) are charitable? I believe that Britney Spears is even more spiritual though.

        All those who are truly spiritual are religious, but those who are religious are not always spiritual.

    • “Commenter means this quote as an attack on us.”

      “If you detect hostility in my tone, it is coming from somewhere in you. I’m praying for you”
      – Kristor of Orthosphere

      “Besides, Coleridge is not an authority for Christians.”

      Yes, only those who call themselves “Christians” are themselves authorities for Chrisitians.

      “According to the Bible, prayer in faith is effective.”

      So effective as your (plural) charity, isn’t it? Maybe even more effective as Mr. Kristor’s praying?

  10. If an analogy may be used, darkness makes light all the more staggering the contrast all the more stark. As hunger makes food more delicious so the possibility of evil in a single instance in all of eternity makes God’s glory all the more beautiful.

  11. This was very interesting reading. I think I understand, if Kristor thinks about original sin in this way, why he also expresses the most sympathy for the possibility of universal salvation (e.g.: http://orthosphere.org/2013/12/27/apokatastasis-of-the-damned/). Otherwise, insisting that freedom of the will (to an extent which will lead some people to eternal punishment in hell) is a necessary prerequisite for other people to attain theosis, leads sooner or later to having to resort to one degree or another of Augustinian theodicy. Which, particularly in today’s sentimental world, requires a skull of iron and an oven in one’s heart burning with divine hatred for one’s heathen neighbour.

    If we discard all moderation and decide to be more Augustinian than St. Augustine himself, we get the following, which happens to provide an excellent formulation of what I’m talking about:

    http://romancatholicism.org/jansenism/limbo-pelagianism.html

    Please ignore the reams of obnoxious Jansenist insistence on the torture of infants at the above link (e.g. “God deliberately and intentionally permits a tsunami flood to kill hundreds of thousands of people – including infants – because they deserve to suffer and die for the guilt of original sin.”), and consider the following summary very much near the end:

    “The Dominican Thomists, following the doctrine of Aquinas, teach that God created the universe to manifest to the utmost his goodness in his creatures: and that his aim is best accomplished through the creation of the greatest variety, which includes creatures that fail in the accomplishment of their ends, their goods, and so suffer. Reprobation is a part of God’s providence, that he should allow some to fail. For thereby the goodness of his justice and wrath is manifest and not only the goodness of his mercy and loving-kindness. With people, that entails that they not only suffer in this life, but also that they fail to attain salvation, die guilty and so manifest the goodness of God’s justice in the eternal sufferings they experience in hell. This explanation is known as supralapsarianism, the doctrine that God willed even prior to the fall of humanity in Adam to reprobate creatures and to inflict punishments upon people. That is, God willed to damn infants in hellfire from all eternity. The infralapsarian position – which maintains that God willed [punishment] to his creatures only after the fall – seems incoherent for the reasons given above. Indeed, God could have just created all people in heaven, free but sinless like the glorified saints now, including those baptized infants who never chose God but were chosen by him, for none would refuse the beatific vision as it is good under every aspect.”

    (The original, admittedly, had ‘God willed evil to his creatures’ in place of ‘punishment’, but that is because the author is unknowingly flirting with aesthetic amoralism, i.e. the feeling that good and evil are merely two colours that God employs in order to be able to paint a saucier picture.)

    I also found a milder version of this theodicy employed on the Sancrucensis blog, again tracing back to St. Augustine:

    http://sancrucensis.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/augustinianism-and-the-beautiful-game/

    “Augustine’s teaching that more are lost than are saved, a teaching that many find so improbable, is based here on his aesthetics: only thus can the true nature of salvation as mercy appear; only thus can the full wonder of grace be manifested.”

    Or, as I re-summarized it (in an inexact way that the priest immediately called me out on), in order to properly appreciate the value of eating, I need to watch someone else starve.

    I fear even the mildest version of this theodicy found in the CS Lewis level of apologetics (freedom of the will is necessary in order to love God properly, which in practice means that in order for some / most people to love God properly, some others must be allowed to rebel as if they were the very Satan) ultimately boils down to this.

    • There’s no “must be allowed” about it. Jesus died for the sins of all men. When man rejects his acquittal, the onus is on man, not on God. If I give you 2 Million dollars and you snub your nose at it, is it my fault or yours? It’s your fault you disclaimed the gift. And yet while living, the gift still remains for you to embrace.

      CS Lewis has his place. He is, however, no theologian in the proper sense; moreover, his theological perspective is not one any of us should “cling” to.

      No. Cling to the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work which satisfies God’s just wrath for every human being. That the evil heart of man will prefer to go its own way and reject this priceless treasure is no fault of God’s.

      It’s also wise for us mere mortals not to try to delve into the secret mind of the Hidden God; what He wishes us to know about Himself and His atoning work on our behalf is laid bare in Scripture. All other musings about God are arrogant and proof of a weak faith, at best.

  12. I am Christian and I disagree completely. Furthermore the premise of this post is nonsense. Absent the Fall we would still need Christ and we would still need saving (thought not redemption) and we would still need religion.

    If I fall off the edge of a tall building and an angel saves me from smacking into the ground, that angel has saved me and has redeemed me from the fall.

    If I stand at the edge of a tall building and an angel comes to me and says, “Be careful of falling; here, let me give you the power of flight” that angel has saved me and has preserved me from the possibility of falling.

    Likewise Man before the Fall was quite obviously capable of falling; therefore, it was always necessary for man to be saved, and God’s plan for our salvation lived in the person of Christ, born of the Father before all ages. Through Him all things were made.

    I find it interesting that you post this so close to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The obvious refutation of your nonsensical claim is part of Mariology 101: “If Mary was born free from Original Sin, did she need a Savior?” The answer is “Yes, of course.” All human beings by our very nature need our Divine Savior. Mary was preserved from Original Sin, but this was wholly by the grace of God. Likewise had mankind not Fallen, this also would have been by the grace of God, who in preserving us from the Fall would have by definition saved us from falling.

    @Kristor,

    I basically think your post is garbage, but I do want to say that I think you did an excellent job in the comments of clarifying your current thoughts regarding religion, where you say that absent the Fall religion would not be something separate that we try to follow, but would be part of our very nature in our pre-Fall relationship with the Creator. I think this is a really good point. However you did claim earlier that we would not “need” religion, and I’m sure you agree that the whole reason it would be wonderful and good if religion were part of our nature rather than seemingly foreign to our Fallen state is precisely because we do need religion. We were created that way.

    • Monsieur de Johnstone: Thanks for the comment. You say some interesting and important things, but I’m afraid you are not responding to what I have actually written. Note that I did not say anywhere in the post or in the thread that if we had not fallen we would not have needed Christ. Of course we would have: he’s our Creator! I said only that we would not have needed *redemption.* It would be nonsense to try to redeem a debt that did not exist. Nor would we have needed saving, if by “saving” we mean salvation (rather than deferred consumption or capital investment)(but then, neither of them would be needed in Paradise, either). The angel who warns us to stay away from the edge of the building has not saved us from falling, but prevented us. Likewise the angel who gives us the power of flight before we fall has not saved us from falling, but has rather removed altogether our risk of falling.

      All I meant by saying that if we had not fallen we would not need religion is that we would not in that case have needed things – buildings, sacred groves and high places, vestments, priests, rites, furnishings, sacrificial victims, theologies, and so forth – that were specially consecrated, and set aside from the rest of life for worship, for purification and sanctification. There would in that case have been no difference, as there now is, between things profane, things holy, things twice holy, and things thrice holy; for, everything would be holy.

      Interesting to consider whether we would have needed God’s fulfillment of the office of Messiah if we had not fallen. I suppose not: anointment is a rite of consecration, even for kings. If we had not fallen, and everything had been sacred, consecration of any sort would be supererogatory.

      But then, that a thing is not needed does not mean it would not be good to have. Supererogatory things can be great. The whole Creation is after all supererogatory. If we had not fallen, we might not have needed priests, prophets and kings, but might have rejoiced to have them anyway, in just the same way that we might rejoice at sacred music even though we didn’t need consecrated rites.

  13. Pingback: The Limit of Theology | The Orthosphere

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