Ethics and the Third Person--results of the Fall

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine (not CoJ incidentally), originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic. The topic of this Section of chapters is ethical grounding; and in the first several entries I analyzed crippling problems along the three general lines of ethical explanation, including general theism. After this though, I returned to the argument I had already been developing for several hundred (currently unpublished) pages, and used those developed positions to begin solving the philosophical dilemmas I had covered in previous entries. Along the way, I ran into a potential problem last seen back in my (unpublished) Section Three; but slotting that problem into my developing argument allowed me to discover that I should believe that a 3rd Person of God exists. Having covered some introductory inferences regarding the 3rd Person's relationship to the other two Persons in the substantial unity of God, I proceeded to consider some preliminary issues in regard to requirements for personal interaction between the 3rd Person and each of us, as persons; and I inferred that an encouragement to avoid accepting what we perceive to be contradictory, would be the minimum communication we could expect from the Holy Spirit. After considering what an intention to foster contradictions would involve, first for God and then for myself, I reached the topic of enacted human sin; and I began considering the consequences of my sin. This allowed me to also spend some time, discussing anti-theistic arguments from evil and/or suffering, in context of my own developing argument; after which I returned again to considering the relationship of sin and death in me, raising the technical possibility of annihilation. My conclusion was that although the technical possibility would always remain (just as it does for God in a way), I can expect (if trinitarian theism is true) that God will never annihilate me or allow me to be annihilated. An insistence on my part to continue loving and enacting my sin would, however, lead to progressively worse results in me; with this continual degradation being, ironically, a perverted shadow of the death that God (in the Person of the Son) sacrificially undergoes in order for any creation at all to exist (including myself.) On the other hand, I cannot emulate (and share in) the highest death the Son Himself undergoes, without thereby being freed from my sinning: this is the death-into-life I should have always been sharing with the Son, but being a rebel I have been choosing to enact other deaths instead--deaths that do not lead back into life, for myself or for other people affected by my sinning. Those sinfuls deaths lead to effects other than an abundance of life: injustice for other people, sufferings that they did not deserve. Other results would be a critical hampering of my relationships with God, with God's created Nature (in which I live and of which I am partially constituted), and with other created persons. These results from enacting such a sinful death, not only appear to be a condition I was born in, but also appear to be endemic to the race of Man (and other races?) throughout known human history. Creation itself, and mankind in particular, has apparently Fallen; and the probabilities point (in mankind's case) to an original pair, male and female, of fallen humans.

In my most recent entry, I considered principles of an original Fall, and borrowed the story of Adam and Eve as an illustration of those principles.

This entry continues chapter 40, "a history of the Fall", in my original text. Some side commentary I would otherwise relegate to footnotes, is included below in [Footnote] text. Where I thought a footnote would be too disruptive to represent in my main text, I have put it into the comments below instead; this will be marked where so.

.......[excerpt begins here]

The first sinners have breached the derivative unity between themselves and God, insofar as it was possible for them to breach it. If God did that to Himself, utter death would immediately entail for Himself, and for all of reality. We humans can only have been designed along similar, if derivative, principles. These creatures with great power and responsibility had chosen to rebel against the reality upon which they nevertheless inescapably depended.

As I reach this point, I remember something I deduced earlier [in some currently unpublished chapters]: humans are 'human' to whatever degree, due to what I have called the synthetic shape. This shape is itself the most fundamental relationship to God that we have: all our other relations to Him, including our personal relations to Him, depend on that shape. In fact, all our relations to anything depend upon that shape. [Footnote: Before I am accused of putting too much value on that shape, let me redress the balance by reiterating that the shape itself depends ultimately on the intentions of God, including the actions He takes which are subsidarily a part of His primary action of self-existence.]

But our first ancestors must have decided to intentionally push themselves away from God, to change the relationship from one of harmony to dissonance. They had the capability to do this, and that is what they chose.

And one consequence to choosing that act, would be the changing of the synthetic shape.

The intentive actions grounding that shape are God's, but He has partially disassociated Himself from them, so that His 'wooden puppets' can be 'real boys and girls'. But this means we (or at least our ancestors) have had some ability to help shape our individual relationships to God.

When our ancestors willed themselves into opposition against God, not out of some accident of calculation or ignorance, but consciously setting themselves as people against the conscious Person Who was grounding their whole existence (including their ability to take such actions), then one result must have been a change in that synthetic shape--the relation, even the physical relation, of their wills to the underlying will of God. They might as well have said: "We want the shape to be like this instead of like that."

And in essence, that's what happened.

But the shape of that synthesis also grounded their ability (and still does for you and I today) to interact with other aspects of reality--and what they had been synthesized into existence within, was the automatically reactive field of Nature.

Their choice would consequently involve immediate reactions within them at the natural level--because that is the way 'Nature', as 'Nature', works.

Whatever those results could be, one thing at least must be true: the results could not possibly have granted equal or better efficiency (considering the overall sum of our efficiency) in our first ancestors' relationship with Nature.

But I think I can go even further than that. God would have created them to be masters of Nature; but now their relationship, not only to Himself but also to Nature, must change. They have demanded that it shall be so; their demand in and of itself would make it so.

This was not a situation where they could make their demand, and then God could say: "Petition refused, and for your own sakes I might add!" I do agree that such petitions and such a response would have been possible then (and still are now): our first ancestors might easily and excusably have asked for something out of ignorance or incompetence (they cannot be omnicompetent, for they are not God), and God might have then refused it for their own good.

But this demand was something that, by being what it was, automatically entailed the granting of their wish.

There were other actions even of that particular sort which they must have been capable of (and of which we still are today), but those actions would only be something of a joke: "God, I wish I could make wishes!" "No problem!"

But to wish to rebel against God, is not a joke. It is itself the first act of rebellion.

The action has been taken, and consequences of some sort shall follow, must follow. God gave them the ability to contribute to the changing of derivative reality, including themselves and their relationships; they chose to change; change must follow, or else God did not actually give them that ability to make changes.

But remember that none of this would (strictly speaking) have taken God by surprise. Our history is brought into existence and given the divine contribution of shape by what amounts to one infinitely complex act on God's part. [Footnote: Or more accurately I should say ‘one unimaginably vast, and always expanding, but finitely complex act’, for neither Nature nor derivative history can be infinite.] The infinitely positive efficiency of God's Unity is present at all points of our space and time: what He sees us doing in one place and time, He knows elsewhere and elsewhen.

This does not compromise our freedom to act: if I see you act, does that mean you are not free to act? If I saw you act five minutes ago, and see you act now, does my seeing you now somehow compromise the freedom you had five minutes ago when I was also watching you?

No. It is because God sees us and knows us at all points of space-time that we (or even space-time itself) can exist, and also that we can act within each of those points of space-time which we individually intersect.

But even if we picture God as traveling along the space-time continuum with us, and having total foreknowledge of possibilities in history, God still would plan ahead for every contingency. [Footnote: Although I think this is an inferior analogy, and certainly wrong as a direct proposal, thus open to more error.]

All of which is to say: if He goes to the trouble to design derivatively active creatures intimately linked to their natural environment, then He will also design into them what shall happen to them if they rebel against Him.

He will have safety valves.

A servant assigned to be a steward with power and responsibility over a kingdom, cannot be allowed to exercise all that authority and power once he has rebelled. Disruption in the kingdom shall already follow; but God will minimize it as far as possible--within the boundaries of other plans of His.

So, for instance, to minimize the disruption absolutely, God could have simply annihilated Adam and Eve on the spot. But that hardly fulfills love, or even justice, to Adam and Eve--for they would be completely gone, and so would not exist any longer to be recipients of God's love and justice! Since God never has nor never shall (on peril of reality's self-destruction) set aside His love and justice, then I think annihilation must necessarily be out of the question. Some other plan must have been put into effect by the 'Fall'.

Would it be love and justice to our first ancestors to let them stay forever in the misery that they shall necessarily engender by their attempts to refuse the source of their own lives? God created them as purposeful creatures; but they cannot fulfill at least some of those purposes (His and theirs), because in their current condition they are in dissonance against God (and thus against His creations also) to one degree or other. And it would not be love to simply let them stay that way forever--and God, Who is love, will never set aside His love for us.

Yet, justice must not be set aside, either; not even the negative justice that occurs from committing injustice. Consequences must follow contingently upon those specific actions, as part of the fulfillment of fair-togetherness (i.e. of righteousness) even when that fulfillment must be against unrighteousness; consequences these newly fallen sinners shall have to face, one way or another--and, of course, how they 'face those consequences' is itself an action, entailing more consequences, which they must also choose how they shall meet, and so on, and so forth.

One of the consequences that must follow is, as I have said, the changing of the synthetic shape. Shall God merely 'poof' it back to normal? No; He gave those people power as people to help choose how that shape shall be, and for God to 'reset them' (the way I might reset a computer if one of the computer-controlled pieces does something that threatens to ruin my game) would be for God to cease treating those people as people. If they had not already become people, then He might have chosen to 'reset' them--it is certainly possible for Him to do this. But they had already become real people, or else they wouldn't have been able to rebel in the first place.

So the new shape must stay, even if the people must be removed to another part of the playing field (so to speak); and whatever God may choose to do with that new corrupted shape, He will not infringe, for love’s sake, on the personal ability of those people to keep contributing to the shape. Surely He will have tweaked, and will continue to tweak, the synthetic shape as much as possible within the parameters of what else He wants to accomplish; but that is still a limit, though a self-imposed one on His part.

So the synthetic shape remains--but in a new and necessarily more inefficient form.

But, once they realize the penalties they have brought on themselves, can Adam and Eve choose to put the shape back exactly as they found it?

[Next up: a first question of salvation]

[A very abbreviated and incomplete summary of the several hundred pages of argument preceding these chapters, can be found in my July 4th essay The Heart of Freedom.]


Jason Pratt said…
Back when I first posted this chapter, I hadn't realized that without dropping in a comment I wouldn't be registered in the blogger system for comment alerts--despite being the author of the post!

So, here's the registration. {wry g}


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