CHAPTER EIGHT

EVIDENCE FOR THE FALL

Theologians nowadays are not terribly keen on accepting the Genesis story of the creation and fall of Adam, which is ironic, because, as I point out in Modes of the Finite Part Three, Section 4, Chapter 5, there is pretty good philosophical evidence that something like what the Adam legend states must have happened.

My argument there goes this way: First of all, any living body has control to a greater or lesser extent over its own energy. It is not, like inanimate bodies, the prey of forces acting on it, but defends itself against destruction and maintains an energy level too high to be explained by the physics and chemistry of the system. And the higher one goes in life, the greater becomes the internal control of the body over its own energy and its freedom from external determination.

Now our life is essentially that of an embodied spirit: a being whose body is organized with an act which is spiritual (i.e. has no quantity, and so can "double" itself without being two acts), but which by nature has a "dimension" of itself (one of its "doublings") that in fact is limited quantitatively, and is the energy unifying the body.

But since this unifying energy is in fact a spiritual act (i.e., it is one "dimension" of a spiritual act), then it can't go out of existence. So we are bodies organized with an immortal spirit, whose nature it is not only to be consciousness, but also to be the energy organizing and controlling a body. It is therefore contrary to this act's nature to exist without organizing a body; and hence the natural state of the human being is to be an immortal body.

Furthermore, this spiritual act organizing the body is one and the same act as the mind and our consciousness. Clearly, the human body is so constructed that choices are supposed to control what it does; and, in distinction from animals, instinct (emotions and drives) function as providing information as to what is apt to be beneficial or harmful to the organism. But since emotions and drives do not know what the person's goals are, then they cannot be the controlling factor in the human being, who sets goals for himself based on the factual information available to him (including the fact that he feels a certain inclination towards or away from a given act).

This subordinate role for emotions and drives, then, implies that the emotions should not be able to take control of the person in spite of the person's choice; it is clearly contrary to the human being's nature to have them do so. This is all the more true since the emotions are not "the body" and choices "the mind," pace what St. Paul said on the matter; the emotions are one aspect of one and the same mind that makes the choices. How did the mind get divided from itself?

It should also be noted that the human being, when confronted with alternatives he is aware of, cannot avoid making a choice, because he must at least choose not to choose among the alternatives--and that, of course, is a choice. But a choice always involves setting up a goal to be achieved; and so the human being is condemned to determine himself by choosing. But in that case, it is contrary to his nature if the main determinant of his life is circumstances over which he has no control. Circumstances could, perhaps, be challenges to the person's ingenuity; but they should not be able to block him from achieving his goals, or he in fact does not have control over what he is to become, and yet cannot avoid acting as if he were in control. This makes no sense.

So what we would expect from a body whose unifying energy is one "dimension" of an immortal spirit is this: (a) The person would gradually acquire knowledge of what sorts of life were open to him, and what sorts of life contradicted his given limitations. (b) He would not be able to be harmed against his will; any harm done to him would have to be with his willing cooperation. (c) The person would make choices setting up what would be a complex goal for his life, and would develop until every one of the (sub)goals was fulfilled, whether this took a year or a thousand years. (d) The person would never grow old in the sense of losing his powers, but would develop them to the extent he chose and then keep them from then on intact. (e) The person's emotions would attract him to certain acts or repel him from others; but if he decided not to follow the emotional prompting, then the emotions would shut down and not attract or repel him any further. (f) Finally, when all goals were achieved, the person would close off his energy and exist forever in his fully developed state, presumably in a condition in which all of his conscious life would be present to him eternally.

That is what would be expected--in fact demanded--of a being whose nature is to be an embodied spirit. Clearly, that is not what we are. We are often thwarted in achieving our goals by circumstances that we have no control over, we are often harmed against our wills, we do not by any means have control over our emotions, and we grow old and die.

Then what happened? It seems to me that something like the Adam legend must have been an actual fact. Since in the course of evolution, it became possible for an animal's body to sustain an actual spiritual soul, God must have given the first embodied spirit a good deal of control over his genetic structure, so that he could choose what sort of animal the human being was to be; and all humans thereafter would be born with bodies of his design.

Nevertheless, this creature, though he had much wider latitude in choosing what his body was to be than we do, would have limitations placed on his choice, because the body would have to be one which could sustain and be controlled by an immortal spirit; hence, his choice of what the human species was to be like had certain constraints put upon it.

I now suppose that this Adam refused to accept these limitations, and wanted absolute freedom to make of his body (and that of his successors) whatever he chose. And God, to reveal to him what he was doing to himself, made his own nature insofar as it was "bodily" (i.e. the physical nature and also the nature as sentient, where the conscious act has a necessary energy-"component" as one of its many "dimensions") rebel against that same nature insofar as it was spiritual. And this rebellion was such that the bodily aspect of the human being would completely desert the spiritual, and the body would die, leaving the spirit as nothing but the eternalization of the consciousness that was acquired during the time it was embodied.

In the divine economy, this rebellion did not have to happen, but in fact did happen; and so evolution occurred as it in fact did occur, with animals evolving in such a way that beings suffered death and violence, instead of an evolution that would have occurred in which all the beings of nature would cooperate with each other in non-destructive ways. It should be noted that it is only on this planet that we find life using other life by destroying it; it is quite conceivable that on other planets the kind of evolution I speak of actually has occurred. There is nothing in principle impossible in its happening. Who knows if there are not on other planets other Adams who made the proper choice and who live the kind of life I described above as what one would logically expect of an embodied spirit, and who live in a natural universe that cooperates with them and with itself?

Parenthetically, one might ask if there would be good and evil on such a planet. There could be. In the first place, "good" would refer to the goal to be achieved by one's choices. That is, people would still be able to imagine themselves as different and to set up this imaginary self as the "real true" self to be achieved. The only difference with the way we now are is that there would be a guarantee that that self would be achieved. So "good" would have meaning. "Bad" would have meaning only for those people who deliberately chose a goal that was self-contradictory, because then, of course, the goal they chose could never be achieved, and their state would be that of frustration. Presumably, however, this would occur only in individual cases. (For those interested in what such a planet would be like, see an imaginative view in my novel Acosmia).

But to return to our fallen human being, instead of destroying Adam, the loving God made this internal rebellion into a radical weakness in the human being's nature, such that it was now possible for the creature to be redeemed from sin, because the sin would always be at least partly due to weakness.

And so the very nature of the consequences of the rebellion carried within them the seed of the rescue from those consequences, while at the same time being the punishment for the rebellion itself. It is through our weakness that we achieve a condition which would not have been possible without it. That is, the thesis of this study is that if Adam had not sinned, we would be in a condition in which the companionship with God that we will enjoy would not have occurred, since it is through our weakness that God becomes human to redeem us, and as a result, we actually share in the life of God himself, which is something that our nature cannot do, but which it can receive because of the condition it has placed itself in by the very rebellion that weakened us. A greater good has been brought out of this "happy fault" (or perhaps more accurately "fault that was a blessing.")

Before going on to an investigation of the Scriptures, let me try to make clear what I am saying.

First of all, is the "God of Philosophy" compatible with a God of love, one who actively cares and is benign from our point of view? Yes. The "God of Philosophy" is an abstraction of the real God; but everything said about the "God of Philosophy" is true of the real God, as far as it goes. The God of Philosophy has the "properties" that the Infinite Being must have in order to be able to account for finite existence; and clearly the real God has all those properties.

There are other "properties," however, such as an active, intervening, benign love, that do not logically follow from the God of Philosophy, but are not inconsistent with him. That is, there is (a) no reason why God would intervene to save a person from his sin, even on the supposition that the person was weak like us and developing, and so can repent from what he has done. The decision was made, and, if it was sinful, it was made with sufficient reflection for the person to realize what he was doing (even if not absolutely fully), and to say to himself, "I don't care; I choose to do it anyway." To put it another way, there is no reason why God should erase such an act from a person's consciousness, even if afterwards he says, "I wish I hadn't chosen that." The choice was an eternal act, and as such it permeates his whole consciousness and is identical with him as a person; and so it is almost contradictory to turn it into a merely temporal one, because the person afterwards is not the same person as before.

On the other hand (b), since the creature is weak, and capable of changing, there is no reason why God cannot erase the sin as an eternal act; it is only almost contradictory to do so, but not absolutely so. Human creatures are not like angels, in absolute control over themselves when they make decisions, and possessed of all the knowledge of what the decision and its consequences entail in perfect clarity; and further, angels, as spirits and therefore incapable of change, have their whole personality tied up in any decision they make. God cannot erase an angel's choice without annihilating the angel, because the choice is a "dimension" of one single spiritual act, and to erase it as a reality (an existence, an activity) is to erase the whole thing. There are no parts with angels. But humans have parts and develop their personalities through time, and so are not complete until they die; so a human personality is not complete with every choice. Therefore, it is possible that a given choice can be removed as an aspect of a human's eternal reality without utterly destroying him-until he dies, and loses the ability to change and the "partiality" and the divisions that the body gives him.

Still, the choice, when made, is an eternal act, and is not erased by a subsequent choice wishing one had not made it; and so repentance is futile. And the point here is, as I said, that there is both no reason why God should remove this choice as an operative act, and no reason why he could not do so. Hence, the act of removing the sin is not rational, nor is it irrational, in the sense of contradictory. If God chooses to do so, it is a transrational act: a "nice thing to do," perhaps, but not something which objectively ought to be done (that is, something which reason requires in any way to be done). It is a pure, gratuitous gift. Remember, God derives no greater satisfaction in the sinner's being saved from hell than he does from his going to hell even if he repents (since God is infinitely "satisfied" no matter what happens to the creature); it is purely and simply that the sinner himself is better off according to his (new) standard of "good" than he was before, when he considered that he was "better off" by choosing the sin and its consequent frustration (knowing, of course, that this was objectively a contradiction).

I might point out here that we have philosophical evidence that even the "God of Philosophy" performs transrational acts. There is no reason for him to create in the first place, and in the second place, there is no reason for him to manipulate the creation so that the advances we find in evolution should occur within it. So even the "God of Philosophy" is shown as a kind of God of Love in the relevant sense of the term. The difference is that, in dealing with the non-human universe, there is nothing in it that thinks in terms of good and evil, and therefore, there is nothing in it that can say that God is good or not. For instance, the dinosaurs did not find God evil when he destroyed them, because, though they experienced the sensations of pain, they were incapable of interpreting those sensations as "bad"; they simply reacted against what was causing the pain. And they doubtless feared death, but the fear was not of death as something evil, but the consciousness of the avoidance-"program" that was built into their instinct. See Modes of the Finite. There was no good and bad before humans came upon the earth, though there was greater and less. But the point I am making is that God's creative acts produce philosophical evidence for us to see it as good; and it is good in our eyes. And this is consistent with God's revealing himself as a good, loving God.

What I am saying is that the "God of Philosophy" can make a universe in which evil is transformed into good and sin is redeemed, but there is no reason why he would do it. But the God of revelation is a loving God, who tells us that he will do what is good for us by our standards of good, which are the only standards there are, since God himself has none. He cannot, of course, give the sinner the sin and have him escape the consequence, since the consequence (the frustration) is the sin; it is just that in this life, we can ignore that aspect of it; but after we die, when all consciousness awakens, it will be there in all its clarity. Hence, God will not remove the consequences of the sin and leave the sin intact, since this is a contradiction in terms. But he can remove the sin as an eternal choice by a miraculous act, supposing that the sinner repents.

But there is a condition he places on this. The sinner must repent and love God, if only for what he has done for him. That is, the sinner cannot say, "I care nothing about God, but I want that sin removed" and expect to have it removed. God again could do this; but we have no evidence either from reason or revelation to say that he does do it. Further, the sinner must be willing to reject his life with the sin in it, and become someone else: the person without the sin. You can't still love the sin and simply say that you regret it; you have to be willing to have your personality change. That is simply a statement of the fact that the sin has defined the reality of the sinner (since every spiritual act permeates every other one and is identical with the "whole": there are no parts in a spirit); and therefore, the repentant sinner is not the same person as he was before. God cannot erase the sin and leave the personality intact; and so he must demand that the sinner "deny himself."

What the upshot of this long obiter dictum is is that we can believe in God as he has revealed himself in the Bible and tradition. And that God loved us so much that, when Adam sinned and brought as a consequence the "genetic defect" of death, suffering, and partial loss of control (what has been called "original sin") upon the human race, God in one of his "dimensions" (the Word) took on humanity "as sinful," and "made himself sin," so that he could suffer and, if we rejected him, die to redeem us almost in spite of ourselves. That is, he would not let the rejection by our proxies remove from each of us the chance for salvation that he had come to achieve.

Now is this becoming human also compatible with the "Philosophical God"? As I pointed out in Modes of the Finite, it is. In order for God to "become man," all he needs to do is refuse to act in anything but a human way; a human being is, in the last analysis, a limited activity, and human nature not a "something," added to existence, but a "nothing," a negation, a restriction or lessness of activity. So God could, in one of his "multiplications" of his divine, spiritual activity, restrict himself (or as St. Paul said, "empty himself") and thus become a real human being ("acquire a human nature"), while still remaining God (a single person), in a sense analogous to what we do when, say, an actor deliberately acts as a retarded person; he is more than that, but he is also that. In God's case, of course, this "nature" is a real human nature, meaning he does really restrict himself in this way (the actor just pretends, so to speak). So one can believe that God could become human while still remaining God. There is, again, no reason why God would do such a thing, but no reason why he could not if he chose to do so. Similarly, this restriction could be the restriction on a fallen human being, so that he would have all of its weakness. Of course, he could not sin, because the sin essentially is a spiritual act, and the spirit of Jesus is the Holy Spirit, God himself (which is why Jesus is a divine person, not a human person, though he has a human nature; the spirit is not in itself restricted, as ours is).

Since Jesus is God and human (or rather, God as human), then if he were to be accepted as King, then the reign of God would begin. If he was rejected, then the human race was to be saved by union with his death and suffering, and the true reign of God would begin at the last day, when he returns in glory. And, of course, he was rejected as King.

The result of the two rejections of God's love has put us in the following situation:

For those who ultimately reject God (by rejecting their own reality in setting up self-contradictory goals that they refuse to give up), God and everything else is seen as evil, because they cannot achieve their goals, and consequently want someone to blame. They are, however, what they want to be, as far as that is possible; and what God has done for them in his love is to give them as much of what they want as can be done, and so to minimize the suffering they endure because they refuse to be the limited beings that they cannot help being. But since after they die, they are fully aware of the self-contradiction in their choice, they know that they have no one to blame but themselves for the condition they are in, however much they might complain; and so they realize that they would not have things any other way.

For example, suppose that Richard Wagner the composer was unrepentant as the rotten person his biography seems to make him (and we may pray that he is not), and therefore is in hell, he is suffering the consequences of his betrayals of others for his own selfish purposes; but his music is performed and appreciated by millions of people; and one can presume he knows this and derives some solace from it. He is, in other words, frustrated in part, but not totally so; and this is hell, because he has eternally refused to change from the person who wanted the self-contradictory goals, and would rather suffer the fire of desiring them with no hope of fulfillment than to accept reality for what it was and be totally content.

As I say, we may pray that, before he died, he saw this possibility of accepting his limitations and opted for it, and so is not in hell now at all; but even if he is in hell, he would rather be as he is than either non-existent or the "contented" being he rejects. God is good. He is as good to him as possible, given what he wants. And he does have the satisfaction of having millions of people hear what he had to say in his operas. And so not only he but the world is better off for his life, however rotten it may have been in some respects. God is love, and he loves him even in hell.

That is, those in hell, as C. S. Lewis imaginatively portrayed in The Great Divorce, and I have expanded on (stolen the idea of) in The Parables of the Mansion, realize that they have the alternative of being content and giving up the impossible goal, or keeping the goal and being discontented; and they prefer the life of discontent to the other. But that means that from their point of view God is good, because he has bestowed on them exactly what they wanted. It is just that he could not give them a contradiction, and they know this; but he gave them everything that was compatible with their existence.

Those who are willing to accept God and their redemption through the crucifixion will, after dying, discover that their lives were so constructed that the goals they chose for themselves could not have been reached except through the suffering that they endured; and that the harm that they inflicted on others, deliberately or indeliberately, will have also been the only way those others could reach their freely chosen goals.

But I am also saying this: If Jesus had been accepted as King, the world would have been transformed in such a way that it would be possible for a person to reach his goals without suffering. It might be, in that case, that there would at any crossroads of life be three alternatives open to a person: (1) a path, attractive in some respects, that would lead a person away from being able to achieve his goals; (2) a path that would ultimately lead to the goal, but would involve suffering; or (3) a path that would lead to the goal without suffering. Possibly the second alternative would not exist; but if it did, it would be such that one would know what it entailed, and might choose it (as being more efficient at reaching the goal, for instance).

My contention is that, because of the rejection of Jesus as King, the world has been so constructed that the third alternative does not exist for any person. It is simply not possible, given this world that has evolved, for a person to reach his goals in life without taking up his cross and uniting himself with the redemptive suffering of Jesus. And in fact, since we have all sinned because of the weakness of our natures, it is not possible for a person to reach his goals in life without actively rejecting himself and then taking up his cross and uniting himself with the suffering Jesus.

I will also conclude, I think, that ultimately the physical world will be transformed, and we will live eternally on the transformed earth; the "New Jerusalem" will not be a state of mind, but the same earth that is remade, and which does not have the light of the sun as we now know it to shine on it (since the sun is emitting light by losing energy and cannot be eternal). The final state of the earth, then, when history is complete, will be a divinized version of what would have been had Adam not sinned in the first place: a place greater than Adam would have had because the sin actually led to opportunities that would not have been there had it not occurred.

God as philosophy argues to him need not bring greater good out of evil; but God as he has revealed himself to us will in fact bring greater good out of all evils, with the single exception of those souls who have defined "good" in a self-contradictory way and made it in principle impossible to be satisfied. And even in their case, what can be satisfied in them (what is non-sinful in their ambitions) will be. God is good.

It seems to me that only in this way can our suffering be compatible with a loving God.

What I want to do now is to see if the texts dealing with the New Treaty YHWH entered into with the human race are open to an ambiguous reading: the first dealing with the future Jesus hoped would be the case (but which he knew would not be), of what the kingdom would be like if he was accepted as King; and the second, a spiritual meaning which is the one that has been given it for the past two thousand years.

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