The Fall of Man

Once again we have found ourselves in the territory of the Fall of Man – and our inheritance. So it may be useful to examine it more closely.

First of all we ask whether it is fact and fiction. – to which the answer is ‘both’. In historical terms the story is true in the same sense through which we regard the creation of the universe. Yes, God created the world, but he did not do so through the six days described by Genesis: this is simply a story fitted to the knowledge of its original readers. So what is the most likely account of the Fall?

It is of course possible that the whole human race is descended from one couple. This is unlikely because the development of a new species normally arises through several more or less similar ancestors – but we can put that on one side. Instead we should consider what characteristics are fundamental to homo sapiens.

The first characteristic is similar to that of the lower animals. These follow their own natural law which requires them to grab whatever they need for survival, irrespective of the needs of other animals, and to breed as effectively as possible – with the result that they are able to benefit as a species through evolution. We would condemn human beings who only acted this way, but lower animals have no choice.

Human beings, however, have freewill and a sense of moral obligation. While driven at one level by their animal characteristics, they are able to recognise the good and to choose it. But, by the same token, they are able to choose the evil.

And the first instance of choosing the evil is Eve eating the forbidden fruit at the persuasion of the Serpent. So the story tells us that Man had always been fallen because at the very first temptation it succumbed. Our own tendency to choose evil comes, not from Eve, but from the fact that we belong to a species which is vulnerable to evil and has the free will to follow it.

Before we criticise the Almighty for allowing this to be so, we may think that this is the nature of freedom: we have to remember that in order for us to choose virtue we must have the freedom to choose vice. Perhaps the most extreme example is the Immaculate Conception. If Our Lady always freely turned towards the good, this would be of no merit if she did not also have the faculty of turning towards evil.

If I understand Lutheran beliefs correctly, man is fundamentally corrupt and remains so. But he may be saved by the free gift of grace resulting from Redemption. The Catholic view is summed up in St Paul’s words: “I live, now not I, Christ lives in me.” The Christian, by some process we cannot understand, takes on the person of Christ. He is no longer corrupted because of the presence of Christ within him. His vocation is to love God and to love his neighbour. This is the whole of God’s law.

But, while we are explicitly asked to be committed Christians through baptism etcetera, those who know nothing of this may still have Christ within them. That is, they believe in a moral law, and so, indirectly, believe in God. And they love their neighbour, thereby doing Christ’s work without knowing Christ’s name. On the Last Day there will be plenty of avowed atheists who will be welcomed in, and plenty of ‘religious’ people who will be left outside.

Advertisements

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Advocatus Diaboli, Moral judgment, Quentin queries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

77 Responses to The Fall of Man

  1. milliganp says:

    The problem with making the story of Adam and Eve a type or myth is that we then have to replace “original sin” with “original sinfulness” and that then changes the nature of human sinfulness and the purpose of baptism. Having argued, in the previous blog, against a literal interpretation of the story of the fall we can’t dismiss it without an entirely new theology of the fall. This stuff ain’t easy.

  2. ignatius says:

    I’m not sure we need an entirely new theology of the fall because fallenness remains a pretty self evident fact. If we believe that mankind is fallen but also that there are different cultural lens’s over the thousands of years through which to view this condition then surely the basic tenet remains the same. I’m bashing my way through Rahner and Balthasar at the moment to see where they get to on these issues. The problem is not so much about the fall per sec, but the way in which we as Christians interpret it while bearing in mind the divine inspiration of scripture

    • milliganp says:

      Good luck with the Rahner; I attended a series of Rahner seminars several years ago and the basic principal seemed to be “If you think you understand Rahner, you haven’t understood what he is saying”. Joking apart, I did like the bits I thought I understood but felt I’d have to do a Ph.D to go any further.

  3. G.D says:

    We view creation & ourselves from a negative position – and yes, we are imperfect, not complete. We are created & not Gods. All correct evaluations. ….. that is the ‘fall’ …. Yet God created all that is as perfection. ….. Accepting our OWN inability to be God’s perfect creation (simply because we are fallible creatures) allows us to embrace the ability (already God given!) to accept the remedy – forgiveness. And that enables us to be as good as we can be – still not perfect – and follow ‘evolution’ toward God, rather than our OWN ‘knowledge of good & evil’ away from God.

    Forgive me for harping back to the last post but (for me at least) it connects and goes some way to ‘enlightening’ the present post ….

    “If you were God would you create a better world than the one we have?”
    – if as God i answer ‘yes’ – it would have to exclude a creation with sentient entities that are not God, as they would be incomplete. ….. If as God i answer ‘no’ – i would need to ensure sentient beings were able to know ‘completion’ is already with them; and give the means to let go of their own (OWN) judgement to realise completion.
    …….. And God being God – created with both answers in balance & united in One Alpha (&) Omega.” ……………………

    That answer is Christ; in human form ……. All it takes is to ‘realise’ that and accept it humbly, without expectation of being ‘better’ than we are ….. we can only be the best ‘fallen creature’ we can be. And so can all other fallen creatures however they realise that …. Knowing the ‘name’ Christ, as Quinten say’s, is irrelevant …. then we can express, as Christians, with St. Paul ‘i live now not i ….. and others can do it in their own ways …. and we can all accept the unity of the God head that brings unity, and so completion … IN US ALL.

  4. G.D says:

    We view creation & ourselves from a negative position – and yes, we are imperfect, not complete. We are created & not Gods. All correct evaluations. ….. that is the ‘fall’ …. Yet God created all that is as perfection. ….. Accepting our OWN inability to be God’s perfect creation (simply because we are fallible creatures) allows us to embrace the ability (already God given!) to accept the remedy – forgiveness. And that enables us to be as good as we can be – still not perfect – and follow ‘evolution’ toward God, rather than our OWN ‘knowledge of good & evil’ away from God.

    Forgive me for harping back to the last post but (for me at least) it connects and goes some way to ‘enlightening’ the present post ….

    “If you were God would you create a better world than the one we have?”
    – if as God i answer ‘yes’ – it would have to exclude a creation with sentient entities that are not God, as they would be incomplete. ….. If as God i answer ‘no’ – i would need to ensure sentient beings were able to know ‘completion’ is already with them; and give the means to let go of their own (OWN) judgement to realise completion.
    …….. And God being God – created with both answers in balance & united in One Alpha (&) Omega.” ……………………

    That answer is Christ; in human form ……. All it takes is to ‘realise’ that and accept it humbly, without expectation of being ‘better’ than we are ….. we can only be the best ‘fallen creature’ we can be. And so can all other fallen creatures however they realise that …. Knowing the ‘name’ Christ, as Quinten say’s, is irrelevant …. then we can express, as Christians, with St. Paul ‘i live now not i ….. and others can do it in their own ways …. and we can all accept the unity of the God head that brings unity, and so completion … IN US ALL.

  5. ignatius says:

    Quentin: “..And the first instance of choosing the evil is Eve eating the forbidden fruit at the persuasion of the Serpent. So the story tells us that Man had always been fallen because at the very first temptation it succumbed. Our own tendency to choose evil comes, not from Eve, but from the fact that we belong to a species which is vulnerable to evil and has the free will to follow it…”

    I’m not sure about this. From the context of the scriptures it seems fairly clear that the Fall had not yet occurred. God looked at his creation and saw it was good, then walked with Adam in the cool of the garden etc. So the overall context doesn’t support ‘fallen from the word go’ thinking.

    What your view does support is the gradual divinisation thesis so beloved of theologians and thinkers of more recent years..Chardin, Rahner, Balthasar to name but a few.

    This essentially modern strand of thinking does seem (only seem) to be the ground of dispute since it apparently points to a more ‘evolutionary’ understanding of humankind in relation to God and of the need for our nature to be ‘raised up’ as it were from the ‘happy fault’ running through our hearts and leading us into grace.
    When you think about it what we are seeing is a gradual change of emphasis in religious thinking running in line with cultural changes scientific and otherwise.

    • Quentin says:

      Yes, we could argue that man hadn’t actually fallen until he committed the Original Sin. But we must assume that he was vulnerable to falling – otherwise he wouldn’t have fallen. It is the nature of freewill that it can go both ways.

      • ignatius says:

        Quentin,
        Yes we could say that perfect freedom is a precarious business..unlike our friends the Angels whose eyes are firmly fixed on glory. But the possibility of an error of judgement is not the same as “always having been fallen”
        Personally I find the whole discussion around this dilemma of our exegesis to be quite fascinating. It also seems that in many ways our individual ‘take’ on this issue doesn’t really matter that much. God won’t be all that upset by our thinking either way since neither the ‘raising up of human kind through divinisation (through the holy spirit of course-not by self will)’ nor ‘the neccessity of salvation for avoiding hell’ camps are trivialising the subject of grace. Mainly it seems to me God is just interested in what we DO with the graces we recieve ..hence the ‘anonymous christian’ thesis that Quentin speaks of. In my own life I have swung from complex evangelical fervour towards a more simple gratitude for the grace which comes my way and for the opportunities I am given to help others.

        As a final note on both theological and scientific thinking. I read Karl Rahner making a good point about scientific thinking ..that science could never claim to be the radically ONLY way to do anything at all since it is always possible that the desired result may have been achieved some other way by some other means that we do not know. I think this is also true for our views on the ‘happy fault’ of our original slip.

  6. Nektarios says:

    I can agree with Ignatius last paragraph above. I cannot hold what some writers point to, a more evolutionary understanding of humankind in relation to God.

    Imagination is an amazing quality, but the idea that man can raise himself up to God, for Fallen mankind it is impossible. If it were Christ would never have come.

    Ignatius is right:- what we are seeing is a gradual change of emphasis in religious thinking running in line with cultural changes scientific and otherwise.

    I think it is important to see what is actually happening. Getting rid of God and what it teaches as myth, Man puts himself at the centre and imagines a relationship with God when the fall not only shows it is impossible for man to achieve, so man invents but having consigned God to the dustbin, they invent their own version, by an imagined evolutionary process, convince the masses it is so, and Man is led down to think that liberal thinking( that is man centred thinking) is always right and his salvation.

    For the scientist, without really realizing it, the process they go through is very mechanical, so now gradually they think they will turn the man into a part robot and claim that it will be more efficient than man is today.
    This is what a fallen nature with a fallen thought process does, And of course, the writers of such drivel cleverly couched in articulate academic/ theological language has even the religious chasing their man-made gods.
    God help us!

    • milliganp says:

      Nektarios, you constantly ascribe to the postings of others things they simply haven’t said. Then you write stuff completely devoid of serious context (merely quoting snippets of scripture is not adequate to the task).
      It’s easy to condemn everybody you disagree with but some of the ideas you are so eager to dismiss are from people who have given serious consideration and thought to what they say.
      No one has said that humans are evolving with respect to god but that humans have evolved and that we need to consider this in relation to how we present the doctrine of the fall and how we lead people to Christ. Teilhard de Chardin proposed that Christ initiates a new phase in human evolution but he is not Pelagian as he sees the imitation of Christ as the pathway for this new evolution. Man cannot save himself but in responding to grace we actively participate in our salvation – it’s like Peter in the lake – his initial faith gets him out of the boat but it’s in reaching out to the hand of Jesus that he is saved.

      • Nektarios says:

        milliganp

        Wrong on several counts, even though I would defend your right to say what you want, but be prepared to defend it, or clarify it.
        Do you honestly think that having been a Preacher and a Pastor for over 40 years, that I don’t give serious consideration and thought to what I say?

        I do not dismiss anyone, though I may dismiss some of their arguments. It is not although any of the arguments are new, worse many arguments are rehashes of old often pagan ideas.

        You write, “Teilhard de Chardin proposed that Christ initiates a new phase in human evolution but he is not Pelagian as he sees the imitation of Christ as the pathway for this new evolution…”
        Evolution as a theory has certain tenants to its proposition, in other words, it has a specific meaning. As I stated earlier, not an evolution but a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord, not a new phase in evolution according to the theory of evolution at all.
        Again, I countered the use of the word ‘evolution’ with the word ‘growth be it physical or spiritual.

        Lastly, It is getting somewhat tiresome, these personal assaults.

  7. G.D says:

    It beggars belief that so much accusation is a representation of the source from whence it came!

    However …. Evolution is a fact of creation, created by God; and as such is an element on the path creation is treading toward, or away from, God as individuals choose.

    Imagination is also an ability given by God. It is not a means to raise themselves up to God.

    The changes in spirituality (not religious outlook) in as much as they are coming to appreciate the other God given scientific (spirituality is a science!) disciplines, is a positive advancement in evolution.

    If it is impossible to achieve a relationship with God then we may as well give up now.

    Christ ‘has come’ – always was, in fact – and as God cannot change! So, strictly speaking Jesus came and embodied (realised) Christ in human form – and gives all that is needed, for humankind to evolve in image & likeness of the Godhead. As the Eternal Christ always has – unchangeable God.

    Through him in him and with him, as it was in the beginning, is now, ever shall be. That is Evolution.

  8. Nektarios says:

    G.D

    You are missing the point entirely.
    As it is in this world we do not evolve physically or spiritually, the term is growth from a babe to an adult.

    The depth of separation between God and Man on account of the Fall was so vast and great a divide, so when Nicodemus came asking the Lord about it, our Lord replied, You cannot, that which is of the flesh is flesh and that which is of the Spirit is spirit. It is an old problem.

    Even in the early Church, the idea that by means of the activity of the flesh would be sufficient to bring us to God again. The Apostle corrected them. ‘ Having started in the Spirit, to think now you can fulfil all the Gospel we have communicated to you by means of the flesh? The Apostle was showing them how ridiculous such thinking was.

    We cannot evolve into the image and likeness of God. One is born again in the Spirit and we grow and develop in that same Spirit. Evolving has a different connotation whereby we are changing
    from one thing to another.

    I am somewhat bemused at your idea of Evolution, God certainly is the same yesterday, today and forever?

    • G.D says:

      We bemuse each other so much it seems …. there is no understanding each other on the more deeper currents flowing through life … ah well, never mind …

  9. Nektarios says:

    In addition to what I have said earlier on the Fall, I want to clarify something.

    It is very clear, that the Fall was such a catastrophic event for Man. Far from evolving as some would claim, Man, turned to his lower nature. This was lacking what he had previously and sin and its effects took hold in every aspect of his being and death was at the end of it all.

    The idea that Man has power over death, the ultimate end of this life but not the next, judgement awaits.

    Some would like to dismiss this as scaremongering, others have used it to dominate others, but that is not what Christ did or was doing.
    Salvation for mankind following God’s means alone provides it. It was however not the main reason Christ came, that was to destroy all the works of the enemy(Satan) and cast him out altogether.

    For those who would follow God’s means of Salvation, what God provides is not an evolutionary process, but something much more wonderful and glorious, a completely new creation in Christ.

    Anything short of that is not what God has provided. If we follow teachers and preachers who invent all sorts of clever arguments to entice the mind, death will take them eventually and for them judgement await.

    In this liberal age where what we think is right, especially when it is deriding God, Christ and His Salvation, then such are leaning to their own understanding (fallen understanding) which for ones eternal destiny is not to be relied upon, rather rebuked.

  10. galerimo says:

    Good idea Quentin – when it comes to creation better to start at the end than the beginning.

    No disrespect to the sacrament of creation but to see it in context of the reality of Jesus the Cosmic Christ keeps all the “before” and “after the fall” verbiage in the windy area of speculation; it’s place really.

    Thank you for the reminder that I now have the mind of Christ and operate from such a gracious and gifted place.

    – Augustine, who is not a great believer in Original Blessing, nevertheless, says the same (On the Psalms, 50.2.) “If then we have been made sons of god, we have also been made gods”

    – joining a chorus with many other Fathers (and, if we were permitted access to them, no doubt the Mothers of the Church, as well!).

    In relation to Our Lady I would offer that choice does not require freedom it only needs the availability of alternatives.

    Often compelling alternatives whose selection are by no means a exercise of freedom. Look at any supermarket shelf.

    We are not free to do evil we are free for good only.

    And Mary, the perfect model of discipleship, demonstrates this in always freely choosing to follow her son – whose maniac behaviour at times gave her lots of scope to do otherwise.

    “Freely” choosing evil is of itself contradictory – describing instead the destruction of freedom.

    And in the end the universalism you are espousing must logically lead to the religious being included with the atheists – not that I have much fondness for them either!

  11. John Thomas says:

    The Fall of Man – the acquired tendency of the race/individuals to be corrupt – is central (in my view) to Christianity, and the Christian world-view; it instantly disposes of all the (totally false) ideas that “God made me this way!” (NO he did not!). The idea that “Man had ALWAYS been fallen … ” suggests that man was fallen from the time of being created, and thus God had created man fallen
    I would not want to “criticise the Almighty for allowing this to be so”, since he did not intend things to turn out the way they did. (Apparently, orthodox Jews interpret Genesis very differently; I don’t know the details, but would like to know).
    “If I understand Lutheran beliefs correctly, man is fundamentally corrupt” – perhaps, Quentin, you are thinking of Calvinism, where man is “Totally corrupt” (the menemonic TULIP tells us the 5 key Calvinist beliefs, starting with this T … I forget the others … I have Googled it before now, but forgot again).
    “On the Last Day there will be plenty of avowed atheists who will be welcomed in …” (Oh really?) – is this the Catholic view? I’m surprised, Quentin, if so. Maybe they’ll have to wait, go through Purgatory or something. Are we talking “good” atheists, or ones filled with haughty conviction, Pride (so common today)? (I’m reading Dante at the moment, you may have guessed).
    I wonder how animals (in your understanding) evolved into creatures with choice (reason, sentiment, morality, etc.)?
    – Congrats, Quentin, for tackling a very big topic (I, for one, could go on for hours).

    • Nektarios says:

      John Thomas
      I agree with you, and yes I too could go on for hours on this and many other topics, but let us not tax them with so short attention span.
      It never occurs to them that a short attention span in most cases is a lack of love.
      Without love, there is no interest; without interest, there is no attention; without attention
      there is no looking; without looking there is no seeing; without seeing there is no change.
      Yes, better not tax distracted minds too much?

      • milliganp says:

        Nektarios, you write some of the most offensive drivel it is possible to write, do you think or is it some perverse form of stream of consciousness?
        Human beings are, by design, capable of infinite distraction -it’s how God made us; perhaps the persistent inability to concentrate is part of the fall but how do you think we ever came to have organised knowledge, how did all the great works of art get created, how did music develop, all through man’s capacity for distracted thought.
        I remember a priest once berating the low quality of sins presented in the confessional
        “Why does everybody say ‘I was distracted in my prayers'”? He railed “being distracted is part of being human – do they not want to be human?”
        God created a world of change and, because of change, we have to adapt.

        Oh and thanks for adding to the list of things you hate; we’ve had Jews, Freemasons, Communists and LGBT people – now we have liberal education to blame as well.

    • Quentin says:

      Fortunately we do not have to speculate about the criteria God will apply on the Last Day. They are described by Christ quite simply in Matthew 25: whether we cared for the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, the naked, the sick, and the prisoners. No mention of belief or disbelief: Just love. Catholic, Protestant, Muslim. agnostic. atheist — love comprehends everything God asks of us.

      • Alasdair says:

        So when Christ described other criteria elsewhere, including belief, had he changed his mind?

      • Alasdair says:

        Your cherry-picking of a single scripture passage without cognisance of audience and context, and your disregarding of entire tranches of the bible, including the Gospels, not to mention the teaching of the Church comes as a bit of a shock.
        Contributors have criticised me for this in the past – but you’ve taken that to a whole new level.
        If I have misunderstood you, please tell me so.

      • Quentin says:

        If you look at the passage in question you will see that the emphasis is simply, and deliberately, on love. Presumably, the majority of contributors here are formal believers in Christianity, and are baptised etc, etc. Does that get them into heaven? Nope — it’s love that does that. To choose love is to choose God — whether we know his name or not, because infinite love is the fundamental characteristic of God.

      • Alasdair says:

        With “Presumably, the majority of contributors here are formal believers in Christianity, and are baptised etc, etc” you have recognised the context, partly at least.
        These may be formal ie nominal believers but, by implication, lacking in faith. The faith required for salvation! The evidence of faith is the outworking of the Spirit, typically through works of christian charity (love).
        See also “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds”.
        James 2:18

  12. G.D says:

    But, Quentin, love is eternal …… do i have to extend my attention span to an unknowable concept such as eternity? (After all it is a very long time!). And forget all the amazing stuff i know, and can speak of for hours & hours!!??
    Or do i just attend to the love that is the SACRAMENT of the PRESENT MOMENT??

    Ummm, maybe i’ll just forget MY attention span, and all that it knows; embrace the uncertainty that i don’t know, and trust in the GRACE of ‘unknowing’ … where Love given IS; and accept it for what it is.

    But then i’d have to refrain from giving to others the vast amount of absolutist literal interpretations that i know are absolutely from God! Would i go to hell if i did? ….. No! I must continue with the proselytism. After all it is absolutely what God is. Anything else is … absolutely wrong.

  13. ignatius says:

    Ha ha ha! Yes thats it…we must keep up the hard word, especially when everyone else is either a loveless sociopath or else suffering from Attention Deficit Syndrome or just plain wrong and maybe a communist too..its hard work being Gods best mate.. 🙂

  14. Nektarios says:

    Reviewing the comments on the Fall of Man, what is striking is just how impotent and accepting we all in our comfortable worlds are with the Fall of Man.
    We cannot intellectualize our way out of it, rather it compounds it, makes matters worse, dangerous and deadly.
    We surround ourselves with everything to alleviate the effects of the Fall in us, building walls, Governments, war machines, liberal universities that are destructive to the norms and fabric of society.
    We think technology and things that clutter up our lives have meaning, but only for the businessman, and at what cost, little realizing he/she too are trying to escape the ravages of the Fall of Man, again, only to compound it.

    We think our culture, religious or social life will provide a way of escape, but again, only compounds the Fall as greed, pride, position and money become the currency of our culture as people try to feel safe.

    We can think of the history of mankind suffering since Adam, little or nothing has changed, if anything, history, culture, social cohesion is worse and in danger of being lost altogether.

    What use religious or secular speculations, if we ignore the only message to save us and deliver us from the effects of the Fall of Man for there is no other, from the lowliest to the highest among mankind?
    Oh yes, the effects of the Fall of Man in us, are all too obvious.

    • Nektarios says:

      In addition to what I have said on the Fall of Man.

      I think it is just possible, that we have missed some important aspects here. For example, we minimise or have not yet fathomed the depths of sin and the effects the Fall has had on us. It is, it seems although we are talking about someone else all the time, but not us.
      But Christian, we know our sins all too well don’t we, but our sins are just the tip of a very big iceberg as it were. That Fall still affects us. We are in a battle Christian with it
      and we have to be vigilant constantly.

      Secondly, or so it seems to me, many think they are fully developed as Christians, when in fact they are at various stages of spiritual growth. So we may know what stage we are at, spiritual growth is always tested, by temptations, by fears, and a host of other trials which on the surface are common to man. But with these trials and temptations, we are informed not to think too highly of ourselves, but rather to humble ourselves and seek God’s face, and this gives us a perspective on what our spiritual state actually is.

      Thirdly, it also seems to me, from some of the comments on the blog, that we are living the Christian life not so much on God’s terms but our own. The truth is, as Our Lord said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” Ah but what about this and that, or that person?” Our Lord says, “what is that to you, follow thou me.” The Christian life if it is anything at all, is one walking with God and of God walking with us.

      Lastly, as to works? Well, what is our primary work as Christians? This is our work, that we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are Christians, then we will constantly work on our God-given faith in Him. All our other good works towards fellow-Christians, and to those in need socially etc will follow. If our works do not have roots in Christ and the spiritual life, one may get a good name as one that loves this world only and no reward in heaven for one would have had their reward here on earth.

      • Quentin says:

        Nektarios, I have a somewhat different picture in my head. It is of an Australian nurse who was on London Bridge when the terrorists attacked. She didn’t run away but she went straight in to help a wounded man. Her friends last saw her being stabbed in the head. I know nothing of her circumstances but I imagine her at the Judgment Seat. God might say: ‘You’ve never said a prayer since infant school, you never think about me, you don’t even really believe in me, no heaven throughout all eternity for you.’ Or he might have said: ‘Of course you didn’t know – that man whose life you saved was me. And now I save you.’ Take your choice.

      • Nektarios says:

        Quentin

        We cannot what God will say or do then. What we do know from what you say, it is a very human emotion to help others if possible, but to attribute the same emotion to God our human feelings and emotions as God’s perfect judgement is not only wrong but fanciful.

      • Quentin says:

        Nothing fanciful here at all. It is Christ himself who tells us that acts of love to our neighbour are acts of love to him. Couldn’t be clearer.

  15. Nektarios says:

    milliganp

    Still railing at me, what a pity. It is unfortunate you did not read my posting above before consigning what I had to say as drivel.

    In your posting today, you accuse me of: ” Oh and thanks for adding to the list of things you hate; we’ve had Jews, Freemasons, Communists and LGBT people – now we have liberal education to blame as well.”

    I have never said I hated the people on the list you mention. I may not be in agreement with the likes of Freemasonry, nor Communism or the poor manipulated LGBT people. And you mention liberal education too.

    All that the likes of the LGBT community need to remember is the means God created for them to come into being, namely a male and a female, He created them. It is not a matter of genes or DNA
    but an evil manipulation by others on impressional young minds. Some parents or one parent usually, imposes a transgender on these children, mistaking it for the natural development of their sex, male or female.
    Where is all this coming from? You guess it right, liberal education. Where is all this Communism coming from? Right again, liberal so-called education.
    I hope that makes your day, but don’t give your fuming self a heart attack.

    • Alasdair says:

      Quentin,
      Nektarios said “We cannot know what God will say or do. What we do know from what you say, it is a very human emotion to help others if possible, but to attribute the same emotion to God as our human feelings and emotions as God’s perfect judgement is not only wrong but fanciful”.
      This may be a bitter pill for you to swallow, but it is nevertheless the Christian position, regardless of one’s “denomination”. What may appear right, good and beautiful, from our human point-of-view, seen through the smoke and mirrors of the media, may not be reality. God sees everything as it really is. That may, or may not, accord with our imperfect human construct.

  16. John Nolan says:

    Spring and Fall: to a young child.

    Margaret, are you grieving
    Over Goldengrove unleaving?
    Leaves, like the things of man, you
    With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
    Ah! as the heart grows older
    It will come to such sights colder
    By and by, nor spare a sigh
    Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
    And yet you will weep and know why.
    Now no matter, child, the name:
    Sorrow’s springs are the same.
    Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
    What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
    It is the blight man was born for,
    It is Margaret you mourn for.

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Sometimes it takes a poet of genius to say more about Original Sin than all the theologians, exegetes, and modern commentators with their subjective opinions, put together.

    • Martha says:

      Thank you John, very pertinent to some individual circumstances at the moment.

      The Adventure of Life by Paul Tournier written in the 1960’s and maybe a little dated by now, provides for me anyway, a very inspiring antidote to too much fear of looming mortality, much useful reflection and understanding about God wanting us to make full use of the time we have in His wonderful world.

    • Martha says:

      Thank you John, and I find Paul Tournier s book, The Adventure of Living, very helpful in balancing the looming fear of mortality with God’s wish for us to make the best use we can of the time we have here in His world.

      • ignatius says:

        Martha,

        Paul Tournier is brilliant. He also wrote ‘The Weak and the Strong’ which has been a source of great consolation to me over many years. I will dig out and read The Adventure of Living. Thanks for that.

  17. ignatius says:

    Here’s another good one on the subject:

    The Ballad of the Judas Tree

    In Hell there grew a Judas Tree
    Where Judas hanged and died
    Because he could not bear to see
    His master crucified
    Our Lord descended into Hell
    And found his Judas there
    For ever hanging on the tree
    Grown from his own despair
    So Jesus cut his Judas down
    And took him in his arms
    “It was for this I came” he said
    “And not to do you harm
    My Father gave me twelve good men
    And all of them I kept
    Though one betrayed and one denied
    Some fled and others slept
    In three days’ time I must return
    To make the others glad
    But first I had to come to Hell
    And share the death you had
    My tree will grow in place of yours
    Its roots lie here as well
    There is no final victory
    Without this soul from Hell”
    So when we all condemned him
    As of every traitor worst
    Remember that of all his men
    Our Lord forgave him first

    © D. Ruth Etchells

  18. Alasdair says:

    Quentin, you said “On the Last Day there will be plenty of avowed atheists who will be allowed in”
    Surely we cannot believe this. Avowed atheism is irreconcilable rejection of God. Even Adam and Eve weren’t that bad – they only had a single episode of rejecting God and as far as we know, and didn’t go as far as being “avowed”.
    Atheism is belief that there is no god. Avowed atheists would probably add “but even if he did exist, I exercise my free will to reject him anyway”.

    • Quentin says:

      Alasdair, perhaps one day wou will meet my friend Rick. I have known him for 20 years — though nowdays, in his late 80s, his brain is in a little bit of a muddle. He is a kind man, humble and ready to help anyone — including me. His great interest is philosophy, and he is quite clear that God does not exist. Were God to condemn him as a failure on the grounds of his sincere conclusions, I would reject such a God.

      • Alasdair says:

        I know and admire many Ricks and Rickesses.
        It puzzles me though how philosophers can be “clear that God does not exist”. I suspect that the clarity of their statements is not matched by the clarity of their arguement and certainly not matched by the clarity of their conviction. I can see though how they might believe that “it’s unclear that God exists”. That’s certainly as far as a scientific arguement could possibly go, without becoming downright unscientific.
        Rather than even considering rejection of God, would it not be better if you simply prayed for your friend?

  19. Ignatius says:

    The point is that God cares rather more about what a person actually DOES than what they SAY.

    • Alasdair says:

      Salvation is by Faith, given through Grace. NOT BY WORKS.
      The works may follow through the influence of the Spirit (gifts, fruit etc) but are not the means of salvation.

  20. ignatius says:

    Thanks for that Alisdair, I am very familiar with Lutheran thinking. Here are a few texts worth reading: Revelations 22:12, 1cor4 v5,, 2cor 5 v10, revelations 20.12 etc etc etc . I know evangelical doctrine pretty well actually having been in those churches for 15 years or so. But if you simply read through the gospels without being desperate to indoctrinate them- then a more complex and beautiful picture emerges. Happy reading… 🙂

    • Alasdair says:

      And your etc etc will definitely include James 2:14, the go-to verse on this topic.
      I once arrived early for a service at a Chiesa Evangelica in Italy. The pastor, whilst he was preparing, informed me that Catholics were in error on the faith/works issue. I decided to counter his argument by showing him James 2:14 in one of the pew bibles, only to find that that verse was missing!

  21. Alasdair says:

    And I am very familiar with Catholic thinking, and very likely with the texts you cite – but I’ll check them nevertheless – so thanks for that, genuinely.
    At least you’ll concede though, I hope, that faith is essential for salvation. Faith is always accompanied by works, so whether or not the works themselves contribute to salvation is academic. My several Catholic friends, including two priests and a deacon (a good title for a sitcom) are quite comfortable when I make that statement!

  22. ignatius says:

    Hi Alisdair…We Catholics are taught never to argue…!
    The most compelling statement from Jesus about all of this is of course the last judgement in Matthew Ch 26 v 31-46. You may be correct that ‘faith is always accompanied by works’ but how would you unpack such a statement? What would be a sufficient level of’ ‘faith’ for example…and how would you test it? with fire, ropes and hooks perhaps?

    • Alasdair says:

      “We Catholics are taught never to argue” So Quentin deserves much credit for providing a forum for developing the skill. Or maybe it’s just the pesky non-catholic contributors who do all the arguing. After all, if we can’t get a catholic to argue with us we’ll turn on each other.

      • G.D says:

        I suggest you look up, and note the difference between argue & discuss ….

      • Alasdair says:

        Good point. By argue I mean to construct an argument, ie a logical point of view. I don’t mean to be argumentative.

  23. G.D says:

    Have probably posted this idea before but have adapted it somewhat …..

    Guy dies and goes to heaven. St Peter welcomes him and shows him around. Keeps coming upon various walled conclaves. Eventually he asks Peter … ‘what’s with all the walls?’. … ‘Oh, that’s for the fundamentals – of all types persuasions & faiths – that believe only they are acceptable to God’. …’Will they ever be let out to enjoy the rest of heaven?’ … ‘Oh, yes. Periodically one or two eventually realise God is bigger than their own understanding, and can accept unconditional love. That sets them free to mingle with creation as God intended it to be.’

    … ‘Will they all be able to join us? Seems a pity for them to be confined like that.’ … ‘Well, only God knows the answer to that. But we tend to think that’s why Eternity is part of creation. A never ending chance to ‘let go & let God’ be All in all.’

    … Why doesn’t God just tell them all that’s what it should be like? … ‘Ah, You see, our own personal convictions about God are how we see and experience reality, and are to be treasured as God given guidance. But, only by knowing our own personal convictions are not God do we come to know how God’s love is united in each other’s differences. If God ‘just told us’ we couldn’t personally come to accept God; and we’d never be able to step outside, or enter, our own conclaves.

  24. ignatius says:

    GD,
    Yes, you have the nub of it here. It was Augustine I think who said that if we think we know God then it is not God that we know but some other god we have made. There is a marvellous cartoon I recently saw of someone trying to push a humanoid figure in between the pages of a huge bible..the caption is:
    “Go on God, you simply MUST fit in there somehow”
    Before we bang stridently and authoritatively about ‘faith and works’ we need to take into account the context of our own small finite lives and the short span of the bible as a written document – not to mention the multitude of interpretations. Then there is, the evident limitation of our fallen human understanding and our desperate graspings after the ownership of ‘truth’- Even the Apostle Paul declared he had not gained the heart of the matter and that men see as through a glass darkly. So understanding all that I am personally very glad to declare, as a Catholic and at eucharist: The Mystery of Faith !

  25. Alasdair says:

    Quentin, you’ve got your teeth into this one like a terrier!
    “Nothing fanciful here at all. It is Christ himself who tells us that acts of love to our neighbour are acts of love to him. Couldn’t be clearer.”
    Unfortunately your’e missing the point. The linking of love for God and love of neighbour applies to believers. You cannot show love to someone whilst rejecting them. That would break the linkage.

    • Alasdair says:

      “Nothing fanciful here at all. It is Christ himself who tells us that acts of love to our neighbour are acts of love to him. Couldn’t be clearer.”
      But to quote Dorothy Day, the American catholic lay activist, on just this point.
      “We serve Christ by seeing Him and serving Him in friends and strangers, in everyone we come into contact with”.
      In other words having Christ in our view is essential while we serve others. Then the serving is a sign of the Spirit working in our lives, and is not tarnished by vanity and any element of self interest,

    • ignatius says:

      Alas Alisdair did you not know that Christ died for us while we were STILL sinners? Has it never occurred to you that when he said he came NOT FOR THE RIGHTEOUS but for sinners..that that was precisely what he mean’t? Or that the one sheep who had wandered from the path was you BEFORE you believed? Or that God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten son so that SINNERS could BECOME friends with God. Or that the fall itself was for seen and in some inscrutable manner already counted for by God because ALL had sinned and there was NOT ONE righteous and that it gains no one anything to love those who ALREADY LOVE YOU ..much better to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES and forgive them WHEN THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY DO…Or that GODS WAYS ARE NOT OUR WAYS so that we must not LEAN ON OUR OWN UNDERSTANDING…Best take your carefully and logically planned doctrine and chuck it away my friend,…God knows about logic but doesn’t much care for it… being a bit more keen on mercy than we poor humans are that is 🙂

      • ignatius says:

        PS

        “Then the serving is a sign of the Spirit working in our lives, and is not tarnished by vanity and any element of self interest..”

        Alas again, I have to tell you that the fact that the Spirit works in our lives does not mean we are untarnished by vanity or free from self interest. Also that the spirit works in our lives for the very purpose of bringing us to Christ ..it is after all Alisdair the kindness of God that leads us to repentance IN ORDER that WE MIGHT THEN begin to walk in the marvellous works that were planned for us from before the beginning of the universe. I don’t think God is quite as afraid of,or shocked by our sin as we like to imagine. I know this because in prison ministry you do come to realise that God really does love the sinner and is easily as happy to be with them as with those of us who think we are ‘believers’ Sorry Alisdair but it just doesn’t wash.

  26. Alasdair says:

    I don’t disagree with any of that and thank you for for taking the time.
    Your seeing God’s love in your prison ministry is a wonderful thing which I take heart from.

  27. Nektarios says:

    How easily it seems some think God doesn’t mind about our sinning, living in vanity and self-interest. Sorry to press this further. God hates sin and does not like it in His children. God’s children suffer needlessly if they do.
    As the Apostle says, ” shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?, God forbid.”

    Again, it is true to say in Christ, all God’s children are perfect. However, we are still in the flesh, we have imputed righteousness in Christ, but we have not yet reached it the perfection as God’s children in Christ. But again, as the Apostle says, forgetting those things that are behind, I press towards the mark of our High Calling in Christ Jesus.

    God did not as Ignatius says, ‘ that God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten son so that SINNERS could BECOME friends with God’
    Much more wonderful than that, Christ came to redeem us back from the enemy, out of his territory into the Kingdom of His dear Son.
    Christ through the Spirit regenerates us who were dead in trespasses and sins. Forgiving us our sins and giving us life eternal with all that that means fully restoring that which was lost and bringing us latterly, home to Glory.

    Of course, God loves the sinner, be they in prison or in the depth of sin and degradation and death to redeem them and deliver them from the shackles they are bound in and most importantly not just friends, good though that is, but much, much more than that, Children of the Most High God.

    We cannot rest in our works as a matter of Salvation, because it isn’t. The believer in Christ will indeed do good works, for they know, it is not them but God working in them fulfilling His purposes.

  28. Quentin says:

    It’s really quite simple. If we speak of love (I mean agape or selfless love) we are speaking of God who is the infinite source of love. So our every choice of such love is a choice of God — whether we know his name or not. The Matthew passage, quoted above, is explicit. And Christ emphasises that acts of charity are acts of charity to him. We may not remember that in the parable of the Good Samaritan it is the priest and the levite (yesterday’s version of the so superior Catholic) who walk by — sniffing perhaps. It is the Samaritan (much despised by orthodox Jewry) who gives the loving help. Why did Christ bother to tell this parable if we take no notice?

    • Alasdair says:

      Sorry Quentin “Why did Christ bother to tell this parable if we take no notice?” Christ told the parable and intended us to take notice. But then having taken notice he requires us to apply our intelligence.
      You have quoted this passage without context and therefore have interpreted it in error – purposely or otherwise. A simple schoolboy error perhaps. All theologians Catholic or other are quite clear on this. The passage occurs in a discourse with the apostles and is meaningful only with the presupposition that the listeners are believers or claim to be. Jesus tells the parable in order to arm his listeners with discernment. Namely that faith claimed by others will always be accompanied by works of mercy. Without the works, it is unlikely that the required faith is present.
      If it was ever only about the works of mercy and not about faith, then what on earth has all the crucifixion/resurrection malarkey been about – a bizarre stunt to get our attention perhaps! No, hardly.

      • Quentin says:

        Thank you, Alastair. The context of the Good Samaritan is as straightforward to me as it is to you, so let’s not waste time on that. Your reference to ‘schoolboy error’ is unfortunate but as it is directed at me rather than a voluntary contributor it is of no consequence.
        Perhaps, instead, you would attend to my first lines: “It’s really quite simple. If we speak of love (I mean agape or selfless love) we are speaking of God who is the infinite source of love. So our every choice of such love is a choice of God — whether we know his name or not.” Do you agree or disagree?

      • ignatius says:

        “A simple schoolboy error perhaps. All theologians Catholic or other are quite clear on this. The passage occurs in a discourse with the apostles and is meaningful only with the presupposition that the listeners are believers or claim to be. Jesus tells the parable in order to arm his listeners with discernment…”

        Alas Alisdair I fear hyperbole is getting the better of you…In this day and age, courtesy of google, we are all theologians ..for what that is worth! So I advise you to google “Exegesis of Luke chapter 10 verses 21-37. The greek exegesis is quite focussed I found.
        If you do a little digging around you will see that other’s version of the parable, its meaning, its intended audience, and its context seem to differ from yours quite markedly, Some disagree about the intended audience and the greek meaning seems to argue that verse 25 does not semantically link to the previous verses which site the context as apostolic instruction as you claim, but see instead a simple direct answer to the Lawyers question with the clear intent of positioning Mercy before Judgement.
        .

  29. Nektarios says:

    Simple? If we are talking about the Love of God, the natural man may be inspired by it, write poetry about it, be philanthropic or help another in some need. But that is not agape.
    Agape is first that which exists within the Holy Trinity. Simple is it? If you have understood that, you have understood God.
    As true Christians know, they are loved by God and that love in various ways is shed abroad in our hearts, for it is God that is working within us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
    Agape within the Godhead has unity with the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    As with most if not all the Parables, Jesus was illustrating who He was, what God was like and how He acts. He was illustrating what God was like and what Fallen man is like.
    Our Lord was exhorting His disciples and followers to be like Him who is the express image of God.

    Charity used aright, and it often isn’t as you know, Quentin, but if one is charitable to be seen of men, feel good in themselves, etc, etc, verily they have their reward. but being charitable of itself, used wrongly, does not contain agape.

    Not so simple after all. A person in agape first acts towards God, then outward towards others, especially the household of God And lastly to our enemies. If we cannot seem to get that right, then we are a long way off from the agape of which you speak, Quentin.

  30. Alasdair says:

    I’ve read Nektarios’ preceding piece twice. He has managed to express the point which I have struggled to express!
    He wrote “A person in agape first acts towards God, then outward towards others, especially the household of God and lastly to our enemies. If we cannot seem to get that right, then we are a long way off from the agape of which you speak, Quentin”.
    St Paul warns us that there are spirits which are not of God. They are able to closely mimic christian behaviour, seemingly displaying selfless love and courage, very agape-like. If you could see beneath the surface of these though, you would see that some ultimate end is being served which is neither love of God nor love of Neighbour.
    So I agree that agape often manifests itself without a explicit mention of God. But without the protocol described by Nektarios, it is more than likely that there is something else going on.

    • ignatius says:

      “Not so simple after all?”

      I must admit that the incipient gnosticism, displayed in the above two posts, with all the implict negativity, distrust and divisiveness underlying them is deeply saddening.The heart of God is actually simplicity in its purest form, as so beautifully displayed in the lovely parable of the Good samaritan. Here we have a story told by Jesus, probably on the spur of the moment, to straighten out the thinking of a bright scribe who asked a simple question in order to check both his own and jesus’ understanding. The parable is luminous in beauty and redolent with kindness. I think I’ll take a rest from this thread now.

      • Nektarios says:

        Ignatius
        I cannot just let your above comments go. Your typical put-downs and erroneous accusations, you wrote: “I must admit that the incipient Gnosticism, displayed in the above two posts, with all the implicit negativity, distrust and divisiveness underlying them is deeply saddening.”

        Your railing complaint does not do anybody any favours. It is a trait of yours, Ignatius, when you really don’t have an argument, you resort to accusations which are not true, heap ridicule and a faux offence.
        When one does this, one has lost the argument. You are capable of so much more and better.

  31. G.D says:

    John 3:16 …. God so ‘agaped’ the world that Christ was sent …. before anyone believed in Jesus as saving the sinner …. God FIRST acts toward creation through/with/in agape … prior to any belief in, or knowledge of Christ in Jesus … suddenly that changes when some recognise Christ in Jesus … don’t think so. …. God doesn’t change the love (agape) for creation on a whim … or on another’s understanding …… Get over your own interpretations and see what God did/does/is doing to God’s creation.

    • Alasdair says:

      I don’t suggest any whimsical act on the part of God, He acts in accordance with his plan for salvation.
      Are you seriously saying that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and Pentecost do not change our relationship with God? Is Jesus not actually way, the truth and the life after all? I’m sure you’re not saying that. Maybe we’re all just getting too wordy and not understanding each other.

      • Quentin says:

        You are correct in your view that I am not in any way disagreeing with the history of redemption as held by the Church. I am suggesting, for debate, that there are people who see themselves as atheists or agnostics but who, through their actions, demonstrate their grasp of selfless love. In that grasp they, in fact, acknowledge the existence of God through acknowledging and responding to his primary quality – which is love.

        Nothing more heretical than that!

  32. G.D says:

    Alasdair says: “Are you seriously saying that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and Pentecost do not change our relationship with God?” …. I’m not saying that, no. I’m saying that ‘change’ affects all of creation.
    ( As does the history of the ‘Israelite nation’ coming together under Moses and gaining freedom from the Egyptians … as plenty of other great spiritual/historical acts down through the ages have done in their own specific ways – for good or ill.)

    That ‘change’ affects all of creation! And will succeed in what it was intended to do, for all of creation, because it is of God … Named and understood as i name and understand it (which is from and through the Church) or not …

    Someone once said … ‘When this experience (Of God) becomes an object of thought and reflection, it is then that my mind creates dogmas, creeds and doctrines. These are the creations of the mind and are therefore always after the fact of the religious experience. But they are always out of date.’
    …. And that’s not to take any validity away from them as treasured means & ways for understanding God & coming to know God better. But that’s all they are when all is said and done … from whatever religious persuasion a person comes to know and appreciate God’s Graces given to creation for it’s ‘salvation’.

    Alasdair, Only by Love will you know them. Not by what they consider intellectually to be correct religious ‘protocols’ which can easily be devoid of love. Look at how Jesus did it in his life … certainly not ONLY by following the ‘accepted protocols & the ‘authority’ of his day … he came to complete, them ‘change’ them …. via the Love of God for creation. Unrestricted Agape let loose in the world. ‘Come Holy Spirit …Thou SHALL renew the face of the earth’.

  33. Nektarios says:

    G.D

    You wrote: ‘Someone once said … ‘When this experience (Of God) becomes an object of thought and reflection, it is then that my mind creates dogmas, creeds and doctrines. These are the creations of the mind and are therefore always after the fact of the religious experience. But they are always out of date.’
    …. And that’s not to take any validity away from them as treasured means & ways for understanding God & coming to know God better. But that’s all they are when all is said and done … from whatever religious persuasion a person comes to know and appreciate God’s Graces given to creation for it’s ‘salvation’.

    Are you asking me to believe what the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice are out of date?
    Well, it seems you may be more than a little misguided.
    Of course, the whole of creation will be rolled up like a scroll and the Lord will create a new heaven and a new earth. Obviously, that is not out of date, as it has not happened yet.
    It is obvious you are mistaken.

  34. G.D says:

    Duh! Ask you to believe anything outside your own little literal box … God forbid. …. You will be just right in your own little conclave in heaven … thanks be to God for that.

    • Nektarios says:

      G.D
      I am not in my own little conclave as you call it, but let me ask you before you dismiss the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice, have you risen to the heights of it, plummeted its depths of it, or realised the width or breadth of it?
      When you have, come back and we will talk some more about the eternal word of God passed down to us via the Prophets, Christ and His holy Apostles?

      • G.D says:

        you don’t respond to other’s posts do you? you ‘see’ them as platforms for self justification. That’s your little conclave …. That’s a rhetorical question … answered satisfactorily by your posts …. shame really.

  35. Alasdair says:

    Quentin said, and I agree “I am suggesting, for debate, that there are people who see themselves as atheists or agnostics but who, through their actions, demonstrate their grasp of selfless love. In that grasp they, in fact, acknowledge the existence of God through acknowledging and responding to his primary quality – which is love”.
    So may I request therefore that we hold these people in our prayers, and in our prayer requests. Let’s pray that they do indeed acknowledge God’s hand in their actions, and that their hearts do not remain closed or hardened towards the true source of the love that they show.
    If we do that, then the struggle which we have undertaken to get to this point will have been in God’s service!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s