Talking Body

Last time we looked at whether God could have created truly free beings that either could not or would not sin, and concluded that likely He could not do so.  In short, truly free beings must have the possibility of sinning, and given enough time, at least some are almost certain to do so.  A third question we posed and saved until later, to wit:

Given the assumption (which I accept) that God made the spiritual world and the incorporeal intelligences (what we call angels, etc.), why did He make embodied intelligences–i.e. us, as well as any other intelligent species that may exist here on Earth or elsewhere in the cosmos?

This question seems to be on a tangent from the questions about the ability of beings to sin, but there is a subtlety involved, which I’ll get to a few posts down the road.  In the meantime, I want to look at possible answers.  After all, the various Christian accounts of creation, orthodox, Gnostic, and other, all agree that God began creation by making the incorporeal–bodiless–intelligences that we call angels, demons and (perhaps) other types of spirits.  Embodied intelligences (such as ourselves), and for that mater, the material cosmos as a whole, were not created until after the spirit realm.  In most traditional religions, though, the spirit realm is thought of as being “higher”.  The question, then, is if this is so, why did God bother with the “lower” realm–our realm–and with us?  Weren’t we a bit of a come-down from the angels?

Orthodox Christianity doesn’t actually give an answer to this.  God made what He made, end of story.  The Gnostic schools of thought, in general, did not attribute the physical world nor our bodies to God.  They were created instead by the lower deity known as the Demiurge.  Since the Demiurge is said to be ignorant or malicious or both, the world he created is a warped, imperfect, Bizarro-world copy of the spirit world (which is generally known as the Pleroma, the “Fullness”).  The world is thus a cobbled-up mess from the git-go.  We in turn are spirits trapped in material bodies, and our goal, realizing this, is to attain the gnosis (transcendent knowledge) that will save us from this, that we might return to the Pleroma.

Evagrius Ponticus splits the difference between the orthodox and Gnostic views.  According to him, the material world was not part of God’s original intention.  Rather, some of the spirits of the Pleroma gradually fell away from contemplation of God.  God then created the material world and placed these fallen spirits with it as angels, humans, or demons, in accordance with the degree of their fall, in bodies of varying fineness.  The universe is thus a sort of reform school for the fallen spirits, which will eventually lead them back to God at the end of time, when the Pleroma will be restored.  Thus our bodies are a form of spiritual remediation for us.

As I said before, there is no direct orthodox explanation for the creation of the material world.  The closest would be the argument from the Great Chain of Being.  St. Thomas Aquinas argued that in creating the world, God, to show His goodness and His power would naturally want to create the fullest possible cosmos.  He would thus want to have every level of being, from the inanimate, to plants, to animals, to humans, to angels, to be represented in the universe.  If there were “gaps”, the cosmos would not be as full, and thus not as good, as it could be.

Aquinas used this argument for the angels, but one could turn it around and use it for us.  God did not want merely the heights of the spiritual realm, but also the material realm as well, in order to have a cosmos that was “complete”.  The Great Chain of Being is no longer a commonly accepted view.  Nevertheless, if we view God as infinitely creative, it is not unreasonable to think that He might want to create as many things–perhaps as  many universes–as possible.  Thus, the material world and our bodies are signs of the infinite creative capacity of God.

Personally, I tend to go partly for a modified Evagrian view, with a bit of the Great Chain of Being argument on the side.  I will discuss details later.  Meanwhile, a few other issues to look at in regard to the Fall.

Part of the series “Legends of the Fall

Posted on 25/10/2016, in Christianity, music videos, philosophy, religion, theology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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