Legends of the Fall, Part 7: And on the Seventh Post (actually, the 22nd!) He Rested
Well, after all this time, I had to use an image from the movie eventually!
So we come finally, after almost two months, to the end of the series on the Fall which I’ve been posting here. I have ideas for several other posts that have come to me during the course of thinking and writing about the issues here, but most of them are tangential. Not that I haven’t gone off on more than a few tangents in this series, but I think I’ve covered the substance of what I wanted to say on the main issue at hand. Therefore, this is the “official” last post of my “Legends of the Fall” series, discounting the next post, which will be an index that will give easy, hyperlinked access to all the installments. The other posts will get their day in the sun in the coming days and weeks, and some may relate back to this series; but they’ll be stand-alones, or perhaps the beginnings of new series. Time will tell.
What I want to do here now is, as briefly as possible, to recap the basic ideas and insights we’ve discussed over the course of the series.The main purpose has been this: to see if it is possible to reconcile what we know beyond any reasonable doubt about the origins of the universe and humanity as a result of modern science with an account of the Fall of Man, Original Sin, and the Atonement–all central doctrines of all forms of even vaguely orthodox Christianity–in a way that does not do violence to either and that is theologically plausible. I think that it is possible; if I didn’t, I would not remain a Christian–at least not an orthodox one. As it is, some may think that I skirt the very fringes of heterodoxy–or to use a less pleasant word, heresy. Some may think I do more than “skirt”. That is for the reader to judge; but I think what I propose is no worse and no less amenable to orthodoxy than the revisions and reinterpretations to Christian belief necessitated in many other areas in the last half-millennium (e.g. the change to a heliocentric solar system, the revelation of the universe’s vast age, etc.).
As points of contrast, we looked at the Gnostic account of the Fall as well as the system postulated by Evagrius Ponticus. The reason I looked at these was to get a broader picture, and possible assistance in thinking out a workable system in terms of orthodoxy. I think there are many points in which orthodoxy can benefit and learn from Gnostic thought and the system of Evagrius (which is already a bit of a hybrid as it stands), and I had originally intended to try to tease out some ways to synthesize the best of all the three systems. Over time, it seemed better to stick more strictly to the issue of the Fall as such, and save such possible syntheses of orthodoxy and the other systems for future posts.
In any case, as I’ve said before, I think the Gnostic system, once one makes allowance for the baroque, mythological ways in which it is expressed (and such allowance has to be made at various points in all the systems we’ve discussed), meshes very easily with modern science. The Evagrian system does, too, although it has a harder time than Gnosticism in accounting for pre-human natural evil in the world, though I think this issue can be dealt with.
The basic hurdles which a system coming from the orthodox perspective must deal with are the existence of evil before humanity existed (which I discussed here, here, and here); the almost-certain fact that not all humans have descended from a single, initial couple (discussed here and here); and why God would put innocent, sinless humans into such a flawed world. In light of all this, let’s finish with a schematic version of the theory I’m presenting.
- At some “point” in Eternity, God creates the angels. This is His original creation, and is perfectly good in all ways.
- “Later”, some of the angels fall (mythologically expressed as the rebellion of Lucifer and his minions and the War in Heaven). How the fall could have occurred from an originally perfect population of beings to begin with is a mystery that no system answers, or can answer; but the “what” of the sin itself, once it occurred, is self-centeredness. That is, the rebels moved away from God, seeking their own power on their own terms.
- God then creates the material cosmos. During or immediately after the creation of the universe, it is “marred” by the fallen angels, who attempt to “strike back”. Alternately, they may have good intentions, but wish to have a plan of their own, independent of God. This very independence from God renders the plan flawed and full of evils from the start.
- Man is created by God. The first ensouled hominids–the first true humans–are several in number. Though they do not share direct common lineage, they are metaphysically connected by being ensouled human beings. What one or more do can metaphysically alter all, to say nothing of their descendants.
- Man’s purpose is to heal the world and direct the material world back to union and harmony with God.
- Partly at the instigation of the fallen spirits, humans fail their task. They, too, fail to have trust in God, wishing to do things their way; though the myths suggest that the main motivation for the fall of humans was more fear than aggrandizement.
- God had always intended to become incarnate as a human in Christ. Had mankind not fallen, this would have been the capstone of the human project. God sticks to His guns regarding His plan, but in light of the fall, Christ’s Incarnation becomes not a triumphal finale, but a mission of salvation, to restore the human race to grace, and to set in motion events and forces that will ultimately result in the restoration of the cosmos after all, though not on the same time scale and in the same way as originally intended. In the end, this will be achieved, and God will truly be “all in all”.
I don’t claim that this scenario is complete, perfect, immune from criticism, or not in need of elaboration. Still, I think it looks pretty good, and is at least a good jumping-off point for thinking about the matter.
I hope this has been thought-provoking and worth the time to read in full. I give my sincere thanks and gratitude to all of you have followed this series, even if only in part, and hope that posts to come will be equally of value. Pax et bonum!
Part of the series Legends of the Fall.
Posted on 03/07/2012, in Bible, Catholicism, Christianity, philosophy, religion, theology and tagged Brad Pitt, Catholicism, Christianity, Fall of Man, philosophy, theodicy, theology. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.