Ethics and the Third Person -- results of the Fall

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, starting Chapter 45, can be found here.]

[This entry continues Chapter 45, "A History of the Fall".]

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, if the Persons of God did that to Themselves, utter death would immediately entail for God, and for all of reality. We humans can only have been designed along similar, if derivative, principles. These creatures with great power and responsibility have chosen to rebel against the reality upon which they nevertheless inescapably depended.

As I reach this point, I remember something I deduced earlier: 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. (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 of God 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, necessarily (as a result of the situation of our creation and our relationship to God and to Nature) 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 as (quite literally) part of one infinitely complex act of God. 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.

So no, these results are not surprises to God in any way. Moreover, we should expect the result to be part of God’s design: if God creates derivatively active creatures intimately linked to their natural environment, then it makes sense to design into them what shall happen to them if they rebel against Him.

God will have built in 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 and positive justice, or even a merely punitive negative ‘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. Nor would it be love to simply let them stay that way forever--and God, Who is intrinsically and essentially love (if trinitarian theism is true), will never set aside His love for us.

Yet, justice must not be set aside, either; not even the negative justice that follows 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 merely '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 God 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 and responsibility 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, even though a self-imposed one on His part.

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

Yet, 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 question of salvation]


Jason Pratt said…
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