Thoughts on the Fall of Man: How Low Did We Go?
But whatever it is, it shadows man all through history, both individually and collectively. It's what causes this nightmare from which we are trying to awaken. Or, it is the net we are attempting to fly through. Apparently it can't be done -- like surpassing the speed of light or kissing your elbow.
Wisdom consists first and foremost in knowing this, for if you don't, you are about to reenact a very old myth or to invent a whole new way of falling on your face -- and thus serve as a cautionary lesson to others. The best you can hope for is to have the myth named after you, like ignominious pratfallers such as Prometheus, Pandora, Narcissus, or Icarus.
"In Christian theology, the fall of man is a term used to describe the transition of the first man and woman from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience."
The term, of course -- like Trinity -- is not found in the Bible, and if I am not mistaken, the whole idea of "original sin" is foreign to Judaism. I mean, they accept the wisdom of the myth, but they do not take it to mean that man is so hopelessly corrupted and steeped in sin that he can't get out of his own way.
So there is a range of possible lessons one may derive from the myth, which is proved by the manner in which different Christian denominations interpret it. If we place them in a left-right continuum, reader Nomo would be situated at the extreme right. He maintains that the fall leaves us thoroughly depraved in "all areas of our being, body, soul, spirit, mind, emotions, etc.," and that even the intellect -- which is obviously designed to know truth -- cannot do so, which is "One of the purposes for the revealed truth of scripture." In other words, if you think, then you're wrong.
In support of the latter, he cites Acts 17:11, where Paul is preaching to a group of Jews, reasoning "with them from the Scriptures." So it seems self-evident to me that he is employing his powers of reason in conjunction with revelation (which is the very definition of theology), but we'll let that go. Anyway, it says that Paul succeeded in persuading some of them, presumably based upon the "suffering servant" motif (Christians regard the servant as Jesus, whereas Jews identify the servant as Israel).
Later in the chapter our boys are preaching to another synagogue, where the members again listen to Paul's pitch and search the scriptures to check its plausibility. Some accept it, others reject it. Same scripture, mind you. Verticalisthenics is hardly analogous to math or logic, the latter of which indeed function to test and cleanse our untrustworthy intellect. Rather, there's more than one way to scan a catechesis, or there wouldn't be so many interpretations and denominations.
It seems to me that the fall is primarily located in the will, not the intellect. This would explain how, for example, 20th century man could know so much more than his predecessors, and yet, be an even bigger assoul. Nomo cites Romans 3 in support of the rotten-to-the-core thesis. Paul is pretty fired up, but I would still see it as mainly reproaching the will. I'm no Bible wiz, but it seems to me that you have to appreciate the context, as he's saying that even exact conformity to Jewish law -- right deeds -- won't save you. I doubt that many contemporary Jews believe this anyway. Maybe some ultra-Orthodox.
Let me get back to that Wiki article. It says that "For many Christian denominations the doctrine of the fall is closely related to that of original sin. They believe that the fall brought sin into the world, corrupting the entire natural world, including human nature, causing all humans to be born into original sin..."
This I do not buy -- i.e., that sin is rooted in our DNA, as it were -- unless we take it to mean that there is something about human nature that makes the will -- free will -- problematic.
Situated to the left of Nomo would be Orthodox Christianity, which "accepts the concept of the fall but rejects the idea that the guilt of original sin is passed down through generations, based in part on the passage Ezekiel 18:20 that says a son is not guilty of the sins of his father." I am on board with the these ancient Christians, who never forget that man is still in the image of Creator, even if he does everything in his power to soil the mirror.
Ah, this I can use: "Catholic exegesis of Genesis 3 claims that the fall of man was a 'primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.'"
I can use this because another way of saying it is that history -- whatever that is -- begins with the Fall. Therefore, it is not just an indictment of man, but a metaphysical principle we may use to understand both history and the direction of time (which amount to the same thing).
That is, there is no history in the absence of the will, which is to say, human freedom. Prior to the emergence of freedom, there is only prehistory: physics, or chemistry, or biology. But the first "human" who makes a free choice is the first human, fool stop, and in so doing he initiates this mess called history. Thus, the origin of history is again in the will.
So if we tweak Genesis 3 a bit, it's a theory of historiography, or of historogenesis. You could say that history runs on free willpower, but often degenerates to plain willfulness.
At any rate, if the Fall primarily affects the will, then that is where the cure must lay. I've heard Dennis Prager mention that Jews do not condemn a person for having "evil thoughts," any more than we are guilty for the deeds we do in our dreams. Rather, they focus on outward behavior, on the will. It matters not what you think or how you feel, but what you do.
At antipodes to this is contemporary leftism, in which it only matters how one feels, not what one actually does. Thus, Obama can immiserate the poor, wreck the healthcare system, stick it to blacks, explode the debt, aggravate income inequality, and make us Putin's bitch, so long as his heart is in the right place. However, the rest of us can see that his will is in the wrong place, and that is what counts.
Ironically, there is a parallel between the Obama view and the Nomo view, in that both presume that we do not know -- and cannot know -- what is good for us, so we need outside intervention (as always, leftism is a Christian heresy). (To be clear: I agree that we need outside intervention, but that we must accept it in freedom, i.e., with the will.)
In his Two Concepts of Liberty, Berlin writes of how, for the leftist, it is acceptable to "coerce men in the name of some goal... which they would, if they were more enlightened, themselves pursue, but do not, because they are blind or ignorant or corrupt."
And, "once I take this view, I am in a position to ignore the actual wishes of men or societies" and to bully or oppress or sic the IRS on them. I do this "on behalf of their 'real' selves," secure in the knowledge that if they weren't in a state of sin, they would behave exactly as I wish them to behave. So, it's good for them.
So, we're back to time, freedom, and history. If we only remove your freedom to choose -- say, your doctor or school or means of self-defense -- we can finally stop this damn thing called history. Or, as the Marxists say, real history can finally get underway.
"In the name of what," asks Berlin, "can I ever be justified in forcing men to do what they have not willed or consented to?" Answer: "Only in the name of some value higher than themselves" -- or in other words, something more precious and valuable than mere human beings. In this view, it is acceptable to treat human beings as means to this higher end, an end which only the elect -- the already saved -- can know.