How We Inherit & Propagate the Fall; & How We Can Begin to Stop

The Fall is at bottom an error about the relative importance of our selves versus God. It occurs when we put first in our lives anything other than God – who is, of course, by definition for everything whatever the most important thing of all. When we put God first, everything else then takes its proper place in our affections and attentions, and our wills are not deflected from their true and proper course. Then we give everything other than God its proper due, and justice prevails; so then does peace. Our lives go rather well, then, all things considered.

But whenever we dethrone God in our hearts, we mess up our judgement of things, and so deflect our will from its rightful course. So doing, we ruin the whole shooting match, even if only subtly. We cannot then but injure our fellow creatures, by mistreating them – whether or not advertently.

To dethrone God in our hearts is in one way or another to enthrone ourselves. It is to put our judgement about what is important, and thus our will toward our own desires that by our deformed judgements have themselves been deformed, ahead of his.

To dethrone God in our hearts is to be selfish.

We are not made by God for the purpose of erring and straying like lost sheep in this way. We were made to be good. Yet we are not good; no, not one of us.

Why? Why do all of us fall prey to such error?

It’s simple, really.

As having formed himself and his acts according to a selfish judgement of things that, in virtue of its purblind isolation from things as they really are, is fundamentally erroneous, the sinner cannot but treat other creatures improperly, thus somehow or other wounding them, or diseasing them. The selfish man wounds others.

And the wounded and sick cannot but attend to their own predicaments. Indeed, the focus of their attention on the amelioration of their own discomforts is altogether proper; no animal could get on in life, that did not do likewise. Animals are built to avoid and ameliorate pain. That’s how they survive.

In sum, then: the selfish wound; the wounded are perforce selfish; and so in their turn they too wound.

So the cycle rolls along under its own momentum. The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.

Thus the logic of the traditional Christian spiritual discipline of offering up suffering to God. The wounded Christian sinner suffers. But insofar as he subsumes his own pain in worship meet and right, he begins to break the cycle whereby he would otherwise have propagated the Original Sin that has afflicted him with its pernicious historical effects. By devoting his suffering to God, he consciously puts God ahead of that suffering. He enthrones God in his heart, despite his agony.

So doing, he transcends his own pain. He still suffers it, of course. But it is no longer his master. And if his pain is no longer his master, but rather only the Lord who is the Logos of all things, why then no other thing can be his master either; not even pleasures.

Of such is his eventual victory.

40 thoughts on “How We Inherit & Propagate the Fall; & How We Can Begin to Stop

  1. Pingback: How We Inherit & Propagate the Fall; & How We Can Begin to Stop | Reaction Times

  2. I see some of what you say in Genesis. There is a cosmic inversion when Eve follows the advice of what appears to be a snake, and when Adam follows the advice of a woman. But I’m inclined to think that Adam and Eve had to eat the apple to complete the Fall. In other words, the Fall is not simply their disobedience, but their disobedience completed by the forbidden “knowledge” that they possessed once they had eaten the forbidden fruit. The “forbidden” is only half of the problem; the other half is the “fruit.”

    • For sure. Until the act of disobedience is completed, it isn’t yet real – it isn’t yet an act. And, our First Parents could not have known that disobedience was wrong until they had disobeyed and, so doing, learned for the first time what “wrong” means.

      Nevertheless God’s argument in Matthew 5:28 still stands: to decide to disobey is itself to disobey, whether or not that disobedience is outwardly enacted. The corruption of the heart is indeed a true corruption, and deforms the whole created order a bit even if it never goes anywhere else.

      • But aren’t we all ignorant of the truth? The Church has its teachings but does anyone know with certainty that these teachings are actually true? And isn’t it this doubt that leads people to be “disobedient” to these teachings?

      • But aren’t we all ignorant of the truth?

        No. If we were, we’d be ignorant of our ignorance. We can’t fail to know or err in knowing unless it is possible for us to know.

        The Church has its teachings but does anyone know with certainty that these teachings are actually true?

        Sure. If the doctrines of the Church are true and if I believe them then I believe truly, which is to say that I know.

        And isn’t it this doubt that leads people to be “disobedient” to these teachings?

        No. I don’t doubt them and I am disobedient all the time.

        If you doubt the truth of a doctrine, then you simply *can’t* disobey it – because you couldn’t have obeyed it in the first place. If you are not convinced that a proposition is true, you *can’t* act as if it were. Go ahead; try. Try to act as if it were true that you can only breathe water. Obey that doctrine. See?

  3. This is going to sound like a strange metaphor, but I read some time ago a study about traffic. Say a highway is experiencing stop-and-go, bumper to bumper traffic. They found that by driving a little slower than the average scoot-forward-pace of traffic, an individual can have a steady drive and relieve the stop-and-go nature of traffic. it’s not fast, but it is smooth. but in doing so, the people behind them also have a smoother ride. and the people next to them also tend to smooth out. One person can essentially act to relieve bumper-to-bumper congestion.

    So too with society. A person who lives virtuously, goes to Mass, and (last but not least!) places God foremost in their hearts, will not find themselves entangled in difficulties and making a bad example for others. To replace one inexact metaphor with another, the river flows more easily around a smooth stone than a rough one.

    I would argue also, a major innovation of Christianity into society is that suffering can indeed be meaningful. I think that’s where I see a lot of despair. As you say, a wounded creature tends to withdraw in order to treat the wound. But imagine you could take on some wounds to spare others the same? I like to think that I would. That’s certainly what Christ did and we are called to be like Christ. but people that can’t fathom that will view suffering as devastation, and they tend to become nihilists.

    • “It’s not fast, but it is smooth.” Great line.

      I read of that same study of traffic many years ago, and I think of it almost every time I’m stuck in traffic. I seem to recall that the effect can even spread forward in the jam; I suppose because we take some cues from drivers in adjacent lanes who are slightly behind us, whom we can see by our peripheral vision.

      It’s an apt analogy. So is the analogy with the river.

  4. God is truth Himself. To reject God, either explicitly or implicitly, is to reject truth. Once truth is rejected, there is only falsity. The sinner cannot help having a false vision of reality, this discrepancy between the falsity in the mind of the sinner and the truth in reality is what causes suffering. Now, the sinner can interpret this suffering as a call to repentance (like the Prodigal Son who comes back to the house of the Father) or can shift the blame to God for having created a cruel universe.

    I think there is also a relation between this essay and Sin Is Enacted Falsehood.

  5. Man is made in God’s image, and as such is not suited for servility, even towards his creator.

    The image of God as a king (enthroned in our hearts or not) is a lie of certain humans who presume to rule over other humans. The real god is an anarchist who wants creation to be as self-governing as he is.

    • Im going to take the bait. If God is an Anarchist why did he create order out of the chaos by dividing creation into ordered components? A God who is a proponent of the “absence of rule” wouldnt have much interest in creating anything he would be responsible for.

      But thats humoring the question as a reasonable one. My favorite response to this is “who says?” and “why should we believe that over the tradition that goes back 2000 years to Christ, and then back some more?”

      Why should we believe you and your idea over Christ himself?

      The answer is that since the protestant reformation, layman could become interpreters of the bible. Every piece of Doctrine or Dogma they removed became a flux point for a new flavor of the faith. Now you are allowed to claim to have your own truth and state it as fact. You are allowed to believe something rationally incoherent, like “god is an anarchist”. But since God is Master of All Creation, youre allowed to be wrong, and God is allowed to judge you according to His will, in the Kings Court.

      • Why should we believe you and your idea over Christ himself?

        You shouldn’t believe either of us; you should figure it out for yourself. I can’t speak for Christ, but obviously I have no desire to pose as an authority, given my opposition to the very concept.

        Nobody here yet seems to have yet responded to my actual point, which is that if man is truly in the image of god then it is not surprising that he is unsuited for servility or obedience, since those aren’t attributes of god.

      • The image is – rather obviously – inferior to and what is more entirely dependent upon its original. Likewise the infinite – quite obviously – is greater than and encompasses every finite quantity whatever. Ditto then for all the other superlative perfections that are entailed in Ultimacy; which is to say, in Godhood.

        By definition, creatures are not perfectly like God. Indeed, creatures are quite different from God, along almost every dimension. Finitude, e.g., is not an attribute of God, but it is an attribute of all creatures. Creatures are not omnipotent, omniscient, ubiquitous, and so forth; God is all of those things. Creatures are not ultimate; God is.

        In short: creatures share *not one* of the properly divine attributes.

        Clear?

      • a.morphous: “if man is truly in the image of god then it is not surprising that he is unsuited for servility or obedience, since those aren’t attributes of god.”

        Man is the Image of God. Like a photograph, or a painting. Bears an uncanny likeness, but is not the thing itself. Someone might point to a photograph and say “Hey, look, it’s Scoot!” but it isn’t. It’s a photograph. A photograph doesn’t have a sense of humor, or emotions. See also: Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

        In terms of logical form: “Photo:Man::Man:God”

        Burden of proof is on you to provide the reasoning for your assertion. You can’t say “God is an anarchist. BUUUT I’m not an authority so who knows”. If you’re going to make baseless claims, at least make up some logic for them.

      • a.morphous:

        …obviously I have no desire to pose as an authority, given my opposition to the very concept.

        Somehow I question that whole thing about your “opposition to the very concept [of authority].” I have personally never met anyone in my life who was a “opposed to the very concept of authority.” Opposed to this or that authority he or she doesn’t agree with or doesn’t like, sure, I have met lots of people like that; but “opposed to the very conceptof”? Zero, nada, none. Although I will say that I have met a few persons who, like you, claim to be opposed to the concept of authority, but upon further investigation their claims always turn out to be false or erroneous.

      • The image is – rather obviously – inferior to and what is more entirely dependent upon its original. Likewise the infinite – quite obviously – is greater than and encompasses every finite quantity whatever. Ditto then for all the other superlative perfections that are entailed in Ultimacy; which is to say, in Godhood…In short: creatures share *not one* of the properly divine attributes

        That strikes me as an impoverished and unsatisfying metaphysics, If man is made in the image of god, then it must be that he shares god’s attributes, if in diminished form. Otherwise, what is the point? It sounds like you don’t hold to that belief, and instead prefer to see the divine and the human as entirely separate sorts of being.

        And it evades my point, which is that creatures are supposed to have an attribute (submissiveness) which is *absent *from the divine, making them greater than the divine in that particular sense.

      • That strikes me as an impoverished and unsatisfying metaphysics.

        “Seems poor and unsatisfying to a.morphous” is not a criterion of truth.

        First we ascertain what is true; then, we reconcile ourselves to that truth, and agree to it, no matter how it feels to us.

        If man is made in the image of God, then it must be that he shares God’s attributes, if in diminished form.

        Sure. Man has power; so does God. The difference is that man has finite power, whereas God has infinite power. The difference between the finite power of man and the infinite power of God is infinite. It is like the difference between 5 and infinity, or the difference between 5 billion and infinity. In both cases – in all cases – the difference between any other quantity and infinity is infinite.

        So likewise with all the other Divine perfections.

        An infinite difference is a sort of categorical difference.

        It sounds like you … prefer to see the divine and the human as entirely separate sorts of being.

        Yes. Photo of a.morphous : a.morphous :: a.morphous : God. Likewise: our phenomenal experience of the rock is like the rock in some ways, but the experience of the rock is an entirely different sort of thing than the rock itself.

        It’s not a mere subjective aesthetic preference of mine to believe that God and man are different sorts of being, except I suppose insofar as it could be said that I prefer to believe in propositions that are logically coherent. It’s not that I prefer to think of God that way, just as I prefer a nice buttered baked potato to mashed potatoes with gravy, or even as I prefer sex to torture. On the contrary: it is *logically impossible* to think of God as being the same sort of being that we are. So, it’s not that I prefer to think of God in this way or that, but rather that there is *only one way to think coherently about God,* properly so called. I prefer to think of God as a categorically different sort of being than any other in just the same way that I prefer to think that 2 = 2.

        The only way I might possibly prefer to think about God as being in the same category of being as men is if I were to go mad, to the same degree that I would have to go mad in order to prefer to think that 2 ≠ 2.

        God is Ultimate; that is (among other things) simply what “God” means. God is ultimate *by definition.* If you are not talking about the Ultimate, the thing than which no greater can be conceived by any mind whatever (including an infinitely powerful mind such as that of God), then you are not talking about God.

        Clearly, no man (who is not God) is the same sort of thing as that than which no greater can be conceived.

        … creatures are supposed to have an attribute (submissiveness) which is *absent* from the divine, making them greater than the divine in that particular sense.

        That’s like saying that creatures are supposed to have the attribute of finity, which is missing from infinity; so that finity is greater than infinity.

        You can’t obtain a quantity greater than infinity. Likewise, you can’t obtain a greater degree of power than omnipotence. God is infinite and omnipotent. There is no one greater than he; so there is no one to whom he might submit.

      • a.morphous: “And it evades my point, which is that creatures are supposed to have an attribute (submissiveness) which is *absent *from the divine, making them greater than the divine in that particular sense.”

        To restate your argument:
        Creatures are supposed to be submissive
        God is not submissive
        Therefore, Creatures are greater than God.

        There are flaws in each level of this. Your first presupposition is that creatures are supposed to be submissive, which you have elsewhere characterized as servile (“Man…is not suited for servility”). More intelligent men than I have pointed out that submissiveness does not automatically mean servility. We are called to Love God with all our heart, all our spirit, and all our being (badly paraphrased from scripture). Second, we are called to Love our neighbor as ourselves. Is it “servile” for me to run an errand for my family when I visit them? No. Loving my family means I do things for them because it helps them. If we love EVERYONE in this way, and above all else, if we love God in this way, then we aren’t submitting to anything. We’re simply doing the things God would like us to do, for no other reason than it pleases God.

        Your second presupposition is that God is not submissive. You are arguing with us as if we are followers of your imaginations straw-man conception of God, which is lacking actual theological footing. For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. He submit to death on the cross, in order to defeat it. because he Loves us. So the Bible itself provides a counterexample to your idea that God is not submissive.

        The Final leg of your syllogism is that Creatures being submissive makes them greater than God. Again: all it does is make creatures greater than the straw man god that lives in your imagination, but it does not make creatures greater than God. You haven’t even established that Submissiveness is a thing that makes creatures great. And a God with limits is by definition not ‘infinite’. God is not imbued with the power to create the universe, EXCEPT he can’t be submissive. Only the straw-man god that lives in your imagination abides by that rule.

        In short: I am trying to imbue you with a sense of *actual* theology from my (admittedly limited) intellectual library. You are arguing against a straw man that lives in your imagination. If you would like to set the straw man down , you might learn something. A seed set down among the brambles doesn’t have to stay there forever. There’s rich soil with space enough for all of us!

      • “Seems poor and unsatisfying to a.morphous” is not a criterion of truth.

        In the area like metaphysics, it՚s the only criterion that matters. We՚re not talking about a scientific question that can be settled by evidence, or a mathematical concept that depends on logical consistency. In these matters we don՚t have access to any ground truth, all we have are metaphors which we are free to choose from as more or less apt to our intuitive sense of the nature of being.

        The difference is that man has finite power, whereas God has infinite power… It is like the difference between 5 and infinity

        I՚m perfectly aware of how finite and infinite numbers work. But I don՚t accept your analogy, humans are not as finite numbers to god’s infinity. The original premise of this conversation, and I thought it was a fairly standard Christian view, was that man partakes of the divine and hence of the infinite. If not, and men are merely finitely bounded material creatures, then yes, my argument falls apart, but so does religion.

        Photo of a.morphous : a.morphous :: a.morphous : God.

        That too does not seem like a very good analogy. A photograph is an image of me but it is not “made in my image”, it is not alive like me, or alive at all really. It doesn՚t have my spark, but (again, according to the premise) I have some of God՚s spark in me.

        There is no one greater than he; so there is no one to whom he might submit.

        Yes, that was another premise of my original point. Submission is not in god՚s nature, so if it is in human nature, it must come from somewhere else. I guess humans do plenty of other things that are not in god՚s nature, but those are usually called sins. Perhaps god doesn՚t approve of submission.


      • In the area like metaphysics, [“seems poor and unsatisfying” is] the only criterion [of truth] that matters.

        If that were true, then you would have your metaphysics that, while logically incoherent, was satisfying to you, and I would have mine that satisfied me on account of its logical coherence and richness, and that would be that. There would be nothing for us to talk about, and no way for either of us to be truly right; nor given their contradictions could both of our metaphysical beliefs be right. The only possible alternative then would be that we would both be wrong.

        And all these considerations would apply to all men; so that none of their metaphysics could be right.

        If all that is true, then why are you bothering to talk to us about metaphysics?

        Note however that your assertion reduces to the proposition that there are no metaphysical truths, but rather only metaphysical opinions, all of which are wrong. Notice then that “there are no metaphysical truths” is itself a metaphysical proposition. It purports to be a metaphysical truth. It refers to itself. And it devours itself: if it is true, it can’t be true. So it is false.

        We’re not talking about a scientific question that can be settled by evidence, or a mathematical concept that depends on logical consistency.

        The empirical data of metaphysics consist in our experience of what it is like to exist. There’s plenty of that. There are lots of metaphysical hypotheses which predict that there is no such thing as our experience: e.g., materialism, determinism, physicalism, monism, and so forth. Their predictions fail. They are scientifically disproven.

        *All* concepts must be logically consistent in order to be meaningful. No concept whatever is excused from this requirement.

        I thought it was a fairly standard Christian view … that man partakes of the divine and hence of the infinite.

        It is. But to partake of a thing is not simply to be that same sort of thing. You participate your nation, but you are not yourself a nation. Likewise, e.g., in knowing a few truths you know some things that God knows, and so you participate his knowledge. Insofar as your knowledge overlaps that of God, you share in the Divine knowledge. But that doesn’t make you omniscient. So then, again likewise, your power is a participation of the Divine power, which is the source of all power. But that doesn’t make you omnipotent, as God is.

        God is infinitely more powerful, wise, good, and sapient than you; it is therefore altogether meet and right that you should serve him as best you can. To do otherwise would be idiotic, in the circumstances; or rather, foolish.

        If … men are merely finitely bounded material creatures, then yes, my argument falls apart, but so does religion.

        I didn’t say that men are finitely bounded material creatures. We are finitely bounded, to be sure, like all things that are not infinite. But I didn’t suggest that we are merely material.

        Even if I had: why would the fact that men are merely finitely bounded material creatures ruin religion?

        A photograph [of me] is not alive like me, or alive at all really.

        You make my point.

        NB: “Made in the image of x” does not mean “made like x.” This is why Christians have always distinguished between the image and the likeness of God. Men are made in God’s image, but are not much like him. And the more sinful we get, the less are we like him. But the Blessed in Heaven are lots more like him. They participate him more than we do now. That’s what Beatitude is; participation in God that is optimal for the human being, the best participation in him of which we are by nature capable.

        Submission is not in God’s nature, so if it is in human nature, it must come from somewhere else. I guess humans do plenty of other things that are not in God’s nature, but those are usually called sins.

        Finity is not sinful. Contingency is not sinful. Temporality is not sinful. Etc.

      • Servility is treating your natural equal as a natural superior (CS Lewis introduction to Paradise Lost)
        And as such it is an injustice
        One can not be servile to one’s creator
        However it is possible to be a rebel

      • God is obviously not our natural equal. He is our natural Lord. So it is not unjust for us to be his servants. Indeed, not only is it untrue that we creatures cannot be the servants of our creator, it is impossible for us to be anything else. So it is entirely just for us to be what we cannot but be.

        One cannot be a rebel who is not first a servant; the rebel is, precisely, a *rebellious servant.* Were he other than a servant, his disagreement with his master would not constitute rebellion.

        I’m taking “servant” in the broadest terms, here, NB. As I’m deploying the term here, it covers everything from slavery – and, indeed, even from livestock (the sheep) – to admiring boon companion.

        On Christianity, we the livestock and slaves of God *just are* his boon companions, whom he admires – so much so, that he lays down his life for us, his friends.

      • That’s the case only when one is in service to a master somehow or other wicked. It is the wicked masters who debase their servants and exploit them. Good masters ennoble their vassals, and envigor them.

        Servility per se – the condition of being a servant – is neither bad nor good, but rather merely natural. To be a man is to serve some master or other, willy nilly. No man can serve two masters; and every man must serve at least one.

    • Obedience is not always servile. Servility is not always obedient. Obeying a law or following an order is not inherently degrading, although it can be accidentally so.

      • Obedience , properly speaking, necessarily excludes. servility
        I recommend chapter 11 of CS Lewis – Introduction to Paradise lost

    • The real god is an anarchist who wants creation to be as self-governing as he is.

      Correct; he is the god of this world and this world system, who has blinded the minds of unbelievers. (2 Cor. 4:4)

      a.morphous has admitted before that the god of this world – the “light bringer” in his description – is his master, to whom he owes a debt of gratitude and service.

      No news here.

    • a.morphous @ Here’s an attempt at a respond to your argument that a man made in the image of God would not truckle to God. Your theology is Islamic, not Christian. The Christian God is not pure will. As I understand it, that’s at least part of what the trinitarian formula is trying to express. Also, the crucifixion makes no sense if God is pure will, since a God of pure will could simply change his mind about the Curse. The Christian God “keeps his promises,” and this means he is not at liberty to do as he pleases. Within the Christian mythos, Satan is the creature of pure will. That’s why Nietzsche called himself the Antichrist.

      • Thanks for the attempt, but since Islam is all about submission and i am advocating for the opposite, I’m not sure I see how my theology is Islamic (note: I know next to nothing about the real substance of Islamic theology, which seems to be just as diverse and confused as Christian theology).

        Your idea that God keeps his promises (and thus can limit his own will) is interesting, but the biblical god regularly broke his promises, starting from the early chapters of Genesis. Aside from that, it raises the same sort of paradoxes as the question of whether god can make a rock so big he can’t move it — that is to say, omnipotence is not a logically coherent concept.

      • a.morphous @ I also have a limited knowledge of Islamic theology, but I’d say your answer confuses theology and anthropology. A theology of God as pure will entails submission for everything else, which is of course why the religion is called Islam (i.e. submission). A theology of God as pure love entails a different anthropology. I’m talking about philosophical anthropology, of course. The ruling symbol of Christianity is the filial relationship, and no father wants servile children (well, I suppose some do). Nor does he want children who are willful and recalcitrant. He wants children who do justice to themselves and others. The ruling symbol of Islam would seem to be master and slave.

    • “I will not serve”.

      I think I read that being said by someone somewhere in the Bible. His name was Lou C. Fer, right?

      Even Bob Dylan admitted it: you have to serve someone, God or Satan, but you have to serve somebody.

      Satan chose to serve himself. Christ chose to serve his Father. The former will burn for all eternity at trillions of degrees. The latter will reign for all eternity in glory and happiness.

      Choose your side.

    • Nice work. Like it.

      Reading through the OT in any of these man-abridged bibles has the Hebrews it seems arguing with GOD more than following, then whining and begging for forgiveness. Mock Servility.

      For the most part, we are as a species – ungovernable.

  6. Pingback: II – The Straw Man that Lives in your Head – Times-Dispatch of Vichy Earth

  7. The disobedience of our first parents was not just to God, it was also to their own true selves. They were abandoning spiritual freedom for servility to the human ego which is to say the self conceived as a totally separate thing with its own totally separate ends and goals. Perhaps this stems from the difficulties involved in striking the right balance between the One and the Many in which both must be given their due but the hierarchical proprieties must still be observed.

    • Quite so, yes. You can’t betray Truth himself without betraying everything else in the bargain.

      True servility – service to the man who is our True Master, or to any of his true and honest servants superior to us in the Great Chain of Being (whether angelic or human) – is perfect freedom.

      The service of a great and good captain is an exhilarating thrill, and a tremendous honor.

      Servility to anything else – to anything less – is vile and debased slavery.

      We abhor it because it tends to corruption.

      It is that sort of corruption of slavery which has given servility a malodorous name. Like any number of other things, servility has been thrashed and ruined by the demolition of authority.

      If we examine the history of the word “servility,” we find that it acquired its contemptible connotations only in about 1600 – i.e., just as the European horror of authority per se was really starting to get under way in earnest.

  8. Pingback: Mimesis is Logically Implicit in Game Theory; &c. – The Orthosphere

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