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

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, concluding Chapter 44, can be found here.]

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

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. (The fewer the fallens and the more the unfallens in a population, the more unlikely the fallens would have superceded the species--yet the species has been superceded by the fallens.)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 religious tradition I am most familiar with (and 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 chapters ago, back in Section Three, I went through some inferences from principle to principle, to conclusions about how derivative rational persons (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 rationally active 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 rational humans; 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 rational humans 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 in principle, God would want to relate to them as Person to persons, as soon as possible. And so, sooner or later, 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 rational 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, but because it is popular, simple yet also deep with nuance, and gets the principles across.

God tells the first rational humans of this Nature--these first persons of our species--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 are several things worth noting already, 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 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 rationally active without accruing and using knowledge? Indeed, to be actively rational is to be such that accruing some kind of knowledge is unavoidable!

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.

The 'tree', after all, was not poisonous--its fruit was "good to eat"; and moreover the ‘tree’ was representative of something that God, in the Persons of the Unity, also does and possesses. But God would not have wanted them to get that knowledge one particular way. He was forbidding them to get that knowledge in a way that would hurt them.

Perhaps God meant for them to be properly 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. 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. (Notice for example 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 fully expect 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. We see it happen in our own children, too, when they are very young. 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. 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 however far 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 objective, ultimate reality.

I shall be God Most High.

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.

But '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, logically they would have indeed still received the Knowledge of Good and Evil after all. They only wouldn't have gotten it the wrong way. The would have received it, instead of taking it. And that makes all the difference.

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 take the fruit.

Now what shall happen to them?

[Next up: the results of the Fall]


Jason Pratt said…
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