Legends of the Fall, Part 3: In the Between with Evagrius
We’ve now looked at the orthodox and Gnostic understandings of the Fall, and I’ve given a description of the views of Evagrius Ponticus, whose views fall intriguingly between the former two. I’d now like to briefly summarize Evagrius’ views in a bullet-point list as I’ve done with the others, for greater ease of comparison.
1. God, existing for all eternity, at some point creates incorporeal intelligences.
A. As I pointed out in the post on Evagrius, I am not an expert in his thought, and there are aspects of it in which I’m unclear. As I understand it, Evagrius was not an emanationist–that is, he did not think, as did the Gnostics, that the intelligences were ematnations or extensions of God, but followed the orthodox in asserting that they were created ex nihilo. I don’t know this for sure, but it would make greater sense in light of the rest of his system.
2. At some point posterior to the Creation (remember, no time or space), one or more of the Aeons fall away from the love and contemplation of God.
A. Another point on which I’m unclear–presumably all the intelligences fell to some extent in this scenario. This, at least, is what Driscoll indicates in the passage I quoted from his book.
3. God creates the material universe through his providence as a way of redeeming the fallen intelligences.
4. These intelligences are incarnated in bodies of varying degrees of fineness and different levels in the cosmos according to the degree and nature of their original Fall from God.
A. Thus, angels have the finest bodies and dwell in the highest spheres, humans have material bodies and live on Earth, and the devils have bodies that are finer than human but grosser than angelic, and dwell (presumably) in the air (we tend to think of demons as living in subterranean realms, but in Antiquity they were often pictured as inhabiting the air, particularly in arid, desert regions of the sort common in the Middle East).
B. It’s also important to note that in this scheme, unlike in traditional Scholastic teaching, angels and devils, at least as they now exist, are not bodiless consciousness, pure minds, but do have bodies, though their bodies are of an entirely different kind from ours.
5. Over time, all the classes of being will work their way back to God, at which time their souls and bodies will be taken up into their minds; thus, they will return to pure intelligences contemplating and loving God for eternity.
A. Once more I’m not completely clear on this, but presumably Evagrius is here teaching a form of apokatastasis similar to that of Origen, in which even the demons and Satan himself are ultimately redeemed; but as I said, I’m not sure.
6. And so the whole sorry story of sin and misery that is human history begins.
Next up: a brief outline of the scientific understanding of the universe’s origins, with notes as to how this must be taken account of in any coherent theological system we may want to posit.
Part of the series Legends of the Fall.