Ethics and the Third Person--the original sinners (and I)

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine (not CoJ incidentally), originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic.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 After this though, I returned to the argument I had already been developing for several hundred (currently unpublished) pages, and used those developed positions to begin solving the philosophical dilemmas I had covered in previous entries. Along the way, I ran into a potential problem last seen back in my (unpublished) Section Three; but slotting that problem into my developing argument allowed me to discover that I should believe that a 3rd Person of God exists.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.

In my most recent entry, I noticed that the results I can expect from enacting such a sinful death, appear not only to be a condition I was born with, 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 within our species.

This entry begins 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]

In the previous chapter I deduced, that given the universality of certain observations (observations sceptics not only agree with but often use as grounds for their scepticism!), and given the validity of previous deductions on my part concerning the existence and character of God; the human race as a species is in a condition we must have 'fallen into' through the willful intransigence of (at least some of) our progenitors. I do not think I successfully deduced that there must have been only two ancestors to our species--an Adam and Eve--but I think I successfully induced that such a pair, falling either simultaneously or in quick succession, grants the highest intuitive probability of the condition spreading successfully throughout the whole human species so early, so prevalently, and in the face of what must have been so many inefficiencies contingent to the new condition. [Footnote: in other words, the fewer the fallens and the more the unfallens in a population, the more unlikely the fallens would have superceded the species--yet the species has been superceded by the fallens.]

For sake of simplicity in the next stage of my discussion, I will speak as if there was an original pair who fell. I think the probabilities point that way, and it certainly gells with the tradition I consider authoritative (even with many other traditions); but I remind my reader that it is not strictly necessary to my argument. It is, however, the easiest way to speak for convenience.

Many [currently unpublished] chapters ago, I went through some inferences, from principle to principle, to conclusions about how derivative sentiences (such as you and I) must relate to God. I concluded that my ability to derivatively act must proceed from a synthetic supernatural/natural 'shape': a shape formed physically, and also formed (superordinately to the physical) by God's own actions.

This must have also happened to the first sentient humans (and I provided two 'stories', one traditional, one more modern in form, which more-or-less described the process). This was the shape God intended for them to be in--they were 'made in His own image'--and I think that even many sceptics would agree (for they use this argument themselves!) that God's love and justice would not be such that He would make us as we are now. So there must have been some significant differences, as well as similarities, in these first sentients; including differences concerning how well they interacted with Nature.

Potentially speaking (and perhaps even in original actuality) they would have been far more powerful than you and I. Having been (one way or another) 'grown' into Nature, this power over Nature would have been a factor of the synthetic shape. These first sentients may or may not have been full masters of Nature, but that was what they were being groomed for. God, working in a process, might have created them in such a way that they were still incompetent in some, or even many, aspects of life and action; but no love or justice would have been shown by God if He had made them automatically fatally incompetent. These people were people: not merely another preliminary organism sharing Nature's intrinsic characteristic of purely automatic reaction to stimuli. They were, within this Nature at least, something, or rather 'someone', new.

How long they lived before they discovered God, I do not know; how long they could live in this Nature, I do not know. But God would want to relate to them as Person to persons, as soon as possible. And so eventually, one way or another, communication must have been established. Perhaps it was only through urges in the conscience as to right and wrong, or perhaps it was much more articulated--God would certainly have wanted it to be much more articulate eventually. And perhaps they had even gotten to that later stage.

At any rate, I deduced several chapters ago that the primary base of communication from God to man would at least be related to man's acceptance of discovered reality, and man's rejection (in principle) of contradictions.

This, in some fashion, must have been part and parcel of any communication God established with these people. But to recognize that I should reject contradictions in principle, entails the corollary recognition that I can attempt to embrace contradictions.

And so this also must have been a consequent to the first sentient humans' communication with God. This, I emphasize, is at the least: the potential for treachery, to themselves, to each other, and to God's reality, might have been greater to almost any degree.

Here is only one example, that I draw from my own tradition, and that I present, not as being authoritative (although I think it is very much so, one way or another), but merely because it is popular, simple and gets the principles across.

God tells the first sentients of this Nature--these first people--Adam and Eve--that they have permission to eat almost any of the fruits in the garden. There is only one tree of which they must not eat the fruit: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If they do so, He warns them, they shall die.

Now, there is something here worth noting in order to avoid spurious interpretations of this story. It is not 'knowledge' in and of itself which God forbids to Adam and Eve--although admittedly, and very unfortunately, this is how the story has often been interpreted, even by acceptors of this tradition, especially in the last several hundred years when the great heresy of the faith/reason disparity was being most prevalently spread. Why would God forbid His children knowledge in total, when there cannot be much point to being sentient without accruing and using knowledge? Indeed, to be sentient is to be such that accruing some kind of knowledge is unavoidable! [Footnote: At least among derivative sentiences. I am unsure whether God could ‘avoid’ accruing any knowledge or not--probably the event would be a factor of whether He chose to create or not.]

No--God forbids them one category of knowledge: the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Does He forbid this permanently? Not according to the story I am familiar with; and such a knowledge would be necessary for them eventually in order that they should mature as people.

But if God wanted them to have that knowledge, He would not have wanted them to get it one particular way. What way was that? By doing something evil. They would then get that knowledge, surely--but it would come with disastrous results.

The 'tree' was not poisonous--its fruit was "good to eat". I take this to mean, by the way, exactly what I mentioned a moment ago: the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not something God absolutely forbade, but He was forbidding them to get that knowledge through ways which would ultimately hurt them.

Perhaps God meant for them to be exposed to this necessary knowledge through the next step that happened. In my tradition, Satan now enters the story.

I haven't said much (and have argued nothing, yet) concerning the existence of a supernatural chief rebel. And metaphysically speaking, he isn't a necessary feature of the story, at this point in my discussion. I can assure my reader (in fact I have done so already) that there are times when I willfully transgress against what I myself think is 'right', without needing the excuse of a tempter. That does not mean a tempter doesn't exist; I think he does, and I am also sure that I have been tempted, successfully and unsuccessfully. All I am saying is that the tempter is (in a way) incidental to the story here. And since I am speaking of the Fall of Humanity, not (yet, anyway) of the fall of entities prior to humanity, I think I can functionally ignore the tempter for the moment. [Footnote: Notice, by the way, that within this same tradition of mine, the tempter needed no tempting to rebel!]

Let me go back a little, briefly: taking into account what I deduced about our creation as a species, and taking into account God's existence and characteristics (also previously deduced), and taking into account the condition in which I find myself and humanity-in-general now and throughout recorded history; I am trying to work through what must have happened to the first members of our species. God would have made them (within a range of parameters) 'this' sort of way; and (again within a range) He would have communicated to them in 'that' sort of way; and I know how this portion of the story must historically end. It is rather like solving a complicated math equation: fill in the variables (whether with ranges or determinant integers), and deduce the character of the missing pieces.

Our first ancestors, one way or another (the story in Genesis 2 represents one way to 'solve for the ranges'), would have been presented with some permissive restriction to their behavior, once they began to communicate with God. I think it would have been necessary for them to be presented with this choice, and I think God would have given it to them in as concrete a form as possible, as soon as He considered it prudent to do so.

The basic choice I am speaking of, is this: God has said I should not do something, and has even given me at least one cogent reason why I should not (for example, 'If you eat this fruit, you shall die.')

Apparently I can do it, though.

Shall I do it?

This is the most basic form of the choice for or against rebellion. In the story of Adam and Eve, there is not one good reason (either ethically or in 'mere' logic) for disobeying God.

It is not like some of the ethical dilemmas you and I face today, where we may be required to choose between a number of options that all seem to involve some sort of 'necessary evil', and we agonize over the choice because we don't want to do the wrong thing.

The fruit (in this story) is good to eat--the Knowledge of Good and Evil is something good to have: whatever God forbade to our first ancestors must have been something which, in and of itself, they would not be naturally repelled by, and it may have even been something He intended to give them later. The forbidden act must have been something for which there could be no justification--something which would involve their willing embracement of unreason.

I know God, I know (something sufficient of) what and Who He is, and I know I can trust Him; yet, I will convince myself that I cannot trust Him, purely so that I can do what I want. What He says I should not do, knowing Him as I do (however far that is), must be what I should not do; but I choose to do it anyway, to satisfy my self. What He says shall happen to me is something I certainly do not want and, knowing Him as I do, it must be what shall happen; yet I want to do it, so I will choose to do anything I can to convince myself that the consequences shall not happen--that God either lies, or is mistaken.

I have every reason to accept that something is true; but I don't want it to be true. Therefore, I will refuse it to be true to the utmost of my ability. I will decide what is true, and it shall be whatever I want; even though every ounce of real reason says otherwise. Reality shall be the way I want it--no, the way I will it--to be; not the way I know it to be.

I shall supplant reality; I shall be God.

That is the choice, whatever form it was presented in; and it is the same choice I am faced with today--and at which I sometimes still fail.

No--'fail' is too safe a word.

It is a choice at which I sometimes still fall.

Had our first ancestors refused to act that way, I think they would have indeed received the Knowledge of Good and Evil after all. They wouldn't have gotten it the wrong way.

But I can spend twenty minutes paging through a newspaper, or flipping across television channels, or surfing on the internet; and I can discover pretty easily how they must have chosen to act.

Putting it analogically (perhaps it even happened literally): our first ancestors decided to eat the fruit.

Now what shall happen to them?

[Next up: the fate of the original sinners]

[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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