Ethics and the Third Person -- a question of salvation

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

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

The first sinners might want to put their corrupted synthetic shape back to its uncorrupted state, and that would be a good thing, as far as it goes. Indeed, love and justice on God's part would suggest that He will institute ways for them to know they have made a serious mistake that should be fixed.

It might be purely self-serving for Adam and Eve to want this; but the problem to be fixed is the result of their intentions to be self-serving. This cannot be fixed by being merely self-serving again. To truly want to fix it, must involve at least a partial negation of that intention. It is the first step, or one of the first, on the road of repentance.

But can they do it?

Basically the question is: once they have hampered their connection to the source of their knowledge and power, can they have enough knowledge and power to put themselves back?

Either they can, or they can't. If it had been flatly impossible for them to be saved from this, God would have annihilated them. More to the point, God would not have designed them so that rebellion was necessarily unfixable, precisely because He would not have wanted to annihilate them if they chose that choice.

God certainly would know how to help, and would want to help them. But one of the things they have hampered is their communication ability with God--and they have hampered it from their own 'side' of the contact.

Let us say I take a razorblade to my own eyes, and slice them badly. Then I prudently say, "Opps! That was a bad idea... um... I need to fix this. Someone show me how." But it shall be rather difficult to 'show me how', with my eyes all sliced up!

The situation of the Fall, however, is far more fundamental than that. Although some change to the synthetic shape (which I think I can conclude would involve some type of subordinate change at the natural level) has been accomplished, it is not simply a matter of our ancestors 'wanting' to put that shape back right, if they could. The shape is already the result of their willful (not merely instinctive) wanting.

(Wants aren't always merely instinctive feelings, as I can personally testify. The Fall of our first ancestors would have been predicated not by instinctual wants, if any--I don't know whether God would have allowed them to have wants of that sort, although I suppose it is quite possible--but rather by choices on their part to intentionally defy what they believe to be true. Actions tend to have feelings consequent to the actions, and so the action of wanting something tends to have consequent feelings as well; but I am not speaking of mere feeling.)

Okay, but can they not just sit down and transcendentally meditate, or something like that, and fix the problem?

I fully admit that this might help to fix the problem! But the problem, is that they have intentionally hampered their relationship with God. It might be somewhat helpful to meditate on how to re-achieve that relationship. But merely meditating on the abstract issue of the problem, won't solve the problem, even if they managed somehow to find the right answer. They have messed up their personal relationship to God as a Person, and to fix the problem that personal relationship is what they have to fully re-establish, not some intellectual theory or emotional feeling about the relationship.

(Many meditative operations are not about generating feelings or contemplating notions, of course--although I have found such meditations to be helpful as a tool, myself. In many cases, the meditations are a focusing operation designed to help get rid of 'clutter' in the mind. These can certainly be helpful, too. I am basically in favor of many different forms of meditation; but I question some of the goals. Any meditation that involves a depersonalizing goal, should be avoided--'personality', per se, is not the problem. The breach of personal relationships, especially with God, is the problem.)

So, to sum up: they need to get back in unity with God's character as a Person. But they have hampered their communication with God, so they have hampered their ability to discover or understand what that character is. Nearer is certainly better, but they should be right on the dot to achieve a full and proper unity. And remember, this is not like searching for a page in a book, or even quite like tuning a radio: what needs to be fixed is a personal relationship between active people (God and the individual). A magic codeword or passcard, or even knowledge about some metaphysical doctrine, won't fix the problem. A personal relationship isn't like that.

Will God help them? Of course! But, again, a magic codeword or passcard (or even some kind of forceful shifting of the synthetic shape by Him) cannot possibly accomplish the cure. God will work to help them, as people themselves, to understand Him as a Person again.

He will try to communicate with them.

But part of the problem is that they have messed up the 'radio' (so to speak) on their side. (‘Tuning the radio’ would not fix the problem by itself--but it is certainly part of fixing the problem.) His means of communication shall be more limited now, thanks to their own actions.

But God will still take every advantage He can of the newly limited channel of communication. He always has at least one foothold: He Himself continually acts to keep up their existence as active entities themselves. Whatever their own opinions or beliefs, He Himself still will relate to them as Person to persons. The Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Divine Unity, still operates with the bare (yet still crucial) remnant of divine communication: find and accept truth, reject falsehoods. God would not have designed our predecessors so that any possible shifting of the synthetic shape could excise this contact of Person to persons--for this contact is what keeps the persons in existence.

No matter how far I try to harden my heart, to resolutely set my face against reality, reality still shall affect me. Reality is Personal; and I am a person. One way or another, that communication shall still continue, whether I recognize it as such or not.

So, if I choose to deal with truth to the best of my ability (however poor that ability of mine may be), then I am to that extent working with the Holy Spirit.

But remember that Truth is not itself abstract. Truth is Reality--more specifically, 'truth' is the relationship of a person to actual facts, and at the deepest level of reality this means that Truth is the actual relationship of God to God.

Our perceptions and communications of Truth may be abstract to one degree or another--I myself have had to use abstractions to try to communicate to you, my reader, what I have perceived to be true, even concerning the relationship of God to God.

But the foundational Truth itself is not abstract--it is actively real.

Consequently, while contemplation of truths (or even Truth) may be helpful in some ways, it is wasted without subsequent actions taken by us upon the truths we discern.

And those subsequent actions need to be taken with an intentive choice on our part, to remain true to 'the truth'--not necessarily to what we think is true; because our thoughts about what is true might be obstinate self-delusions, or they might simply be in error. Neither condition can possibly be healed unless we choose, as a goal, at every moment, even if beginning right now, even if we stumble and fall and pick ourselves up to try again--to be consistently for the Truth.

You, my reader, may not agree with me about the specific characteristics of ultimate Truth; but that is less important than whether you and I are actively committed, by our own choice, to pursue the objectively real truth--at the expense of our own preference-feelings, if necessary.

The first sinners would be in the same condition as I, in this respect. Would they, or would they not, as individuals, 'repent'? Would they change their willed intent back to embracing the truth?

Perhaps they would; perhaps they wouldn't. Even if they didn't, God would still be pursuing them, for the sake of fulfilling His love and His justice to them.

And the extent to which He would pursue them (and to which He does pursue you and I!) will be discussed throughout the remainder of this book.

Meanwhile, complications arise.

These first sinners, our human progenitors, do not exist in a vacuum. They exist within a reactive and vast Nature, which shall be busily going about its 'business' over time, even over mere moments of time. And they exist for some purpose; a purpose (or set of purposes) that must have been very important to God: for He let them do something quite astonishing, given their current rebellious condition.

He let them breed.

I will discuss the implications of this, in the next chapter.

[Next up: the broken inheritance]


Jason Pratt said…
Footnote: due to the topical development of this book, I have had to approach salvation from sin from the perspective of human will first; but that does not mean I believe human will to be the most important factor. I will be emphasizing this as a I go along, and I hope the reader has noticed that even though I have had to discuss notions of 'salvation by works', my conclusions have been that we cannot save ourselves by our own works. I very intentionally chose that analogy of slicing up our own eyes and then wanting to 'see' how to be healed.

The Judeo-Christian scriptures sometimes strongly emphasize human responsibility in salvation (even occasionally to the point of not even mentioning God's role in salvation); and sometimes they strongly emphasize God's responsibility in salvation (even occasionally to the point of not even mentioning any role for the sinner in salvation.)

But at the end of the day, whether we go the route of scriptural testimony, or the route of metaphysical analysis, the answer comes out the same either way: as children of God we do have responsibility in our salvation, just as we have responsibility in our sin, but God is primarily sovereign and responsible. If God did not act first toward our salvation, there would be no salvation for us, period.

It is by God's grace (and I mean by God's active grace here and afterward, not by some passive permission) that we even exist and continue to exist, including as persons. It is by God's grace that we continue to exist at all as persons despite our sin. It is by God's grace that we are empowered to know right from wrong, or even to be able to seek to know right from wrong (and even to want to seek to know right from wrong). It is by God's grace that we are judged wrong in our sins. It is by God's grace that we have any ability to repent of our sins. And it is by God's grace that He leads us to repent of our sins. It is even by God's grace that we are sooner and/or later punished if we refuse to repent of our sin! (A position that may be controversial as to scope, but which all Christians and even some non-Christians would agree is true in regard to at least some people.)

Whatever our responsibilities are in our salvation, even those are given to us first by God for our salvation. We cannot earn God's salvation of us; either He acts to save us from sin, or He does not. If He does not, that is the end of it. If He does...?

Then there will be more to the story.


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