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Discourse on the fall

When God created the first people, He saw that “it was very good,” i.e. that with his love man aspired towards God, and that there were no contradictions in the created human being. Man represented complete unity of spirit, soul, and body – a single harmonious whole, i.e. man’s spirit aspired towards God, the soul was united with or freely subordinate to the spirit, and the body to the soul; there was unity of purpose, aspiration, and will. Man was sanctified and deified.

God’s will is precisely for man to freely, i.e. lovingly aspire towards God – the source of eternal life and rapture – and thus invariably remain in contact with God in the bliss of eternal life. Such was the state of Adam and Eve, who possessed an enlightened mind, so that “Adam knew each creature by name,” which meant that the physical laws of creation and the animal world, which we now know only partially and will know in the future, were revealed to him. But with their Fall the first people upset this harmony within themselves – the unity of spirit, soul, and body – and disrupted their nature. Unity of purpose, aspiration, and will ceased to exist.

In vain do some people wish to see a figurative meaning in the Fall, i.e. that the Fall resulted from physical love between Adam and Eve, forgetting that the Lord Himself commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply…” Moses clearly states that “Eve sinned first and not together with her husband,” – says Metropolitan Philaret. – “How could Moses write that, if he were writing an allegory, as some wish to see it?”

The essence of the Fall lay in that the forefathers, succumbing to temptation, ceased seeing the forbidden fruit as an object of God’s commandment, but began to look at it in relation to themselves, to their sensuality, their heart, and their mind, digressing from the unity of God’s truth into the multitude of their own thoughts and their own desires which were no longer concentrated within God’s will; in other words, digressing into lust. And lust, conceived in sin, begets actual sin. Eve, being tempted by the devil, saw the forbidden fruit not as it actually appeared, but as she wished it to appear, according to various forms of lust. What kinds of lust were manifested within Eve’s soul prior to her tasting the forbidden fruit? “And the woman saw that the tree was good for food,” i.e. she supposed the forbidden fruit to have a special and unusually pleasant taste, – this is lust of the flesh. “And that it was pleasant to the eyes,” i.e. the forbidden fruit seemed to the woman to be most desirable, – this is lust of the eyes or a passion for delight. “And a tree to be desired to make one wise,” i.e. the woman wished to taste that higher and divine knowledge which the seducer promised her, – this is earthly vanity.

The first sin was born in the senses through a desire for pleasant sensations and luxury; in the heart through a desire to experience delight without reason; in the mind through conceited thoughts of acquiring knowledge, and, in consequence, it permeated all aspects of man’s nature.

The disruption of human nature consists of sin having turned or torn the soul away from the spirit and, as a consequence, the soul has become attracted to the body and has become dependent on it, while the body, having lost the uplifting power of the soul and having been created out of chaos, has become attracted to sensuality, to chaos, to death. For this reason the result of sin is illness, destruction, and death. Man’s mind has become obscured, his will has weakened, his emotions have become distorted, contradictions have arisen within him, and man’s soul has lost its purposeful direction towards God.

Thus, having stepped outside the boundary set by God’s commandment, man turned his soul away from God, the true focus and fullness of everything, and established a false focus for the soul within its own self, imprisoned it in the darkness of sensuality and the coarseness of physical matter. Man’s mind, will, and activity rejected God, turned away from Him, and descended to the level of creatures, fell from the celestial to the terrestrial, from the invisible to the visible. Having been deceived by the temptation of the seducer, man voluntarily “became like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 48:12).

The disruption of human nature by the original sin, the alienation of man’s soul from his spirit, which even now pushes him towards sensuality and lust, are clearly expressed in the words of Apostle Paul: “For the good that I would, I do not do, but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom. 7:19-20). Man constantly experiences the pangs of conscience in acknowledging his sinfulness and criminality. In other words: man cannot through his own efforts restore his nature, damaged and disrupted as it is by sin, but only with the help or intervention of God. This was the reason requiring the descent or coming down to earth of God Himself – the incarnation of the Son of God – in order to restore mankind’s fallen and corrupted nature, in order to save man from perdition and eternal death.

 

Why the Lord God allowed the first people to fall into sin. And if He allowed it, why did the Lord simply (“mechanically”) not return them after the fall to their former state of paradisiacal life?

 

The Almighty God could have undoubtedly prevented the fall of the first people, but He did not wish to suppress their freedom, because He did not wish to distort His own image in people. The image and likeness of God is primarily expressed in man’s free will.

Expulsion from Eden

This issue is very well explained by Professor Nesmelov: “In view of the fact that the impossibility of God’s saving people mechanically to many seems vague and even totally incomprehensible, we believe it necessary to provide a more detailed explanation of this impossibility. It was impossible to save the first people by preserving for them the conditions of life in which they had existed prior to the fall, because their perdition was not in the fact of their being mortal, but of their being transgressors. Thus, while they acknowledged their transgression, paradise was obviously closed to them precisely due to their cognizance of their own transgression. At the same time, had they forgotten their transgression, they would have only confirmed their sinfulness and, therefore, paradise would again have been closed to them due to their moral incapability of attaining the state in which they had originally been living in the Garden of Eden. Consequently, the first people were in no way able to reclaim their lost paradise – not because God did not wish it, but because their own moral state did not allow it.

But the children of Adam and Eve were not guilty of the transgression and could not feel themselves transgressors only on the basis of their parents’ having been such. Undoubtedly, then, the God Who was mighty enough to both create man and nurture a child could have taken Adam’s children out of a state of sinfulness and placed them into normal circumstances of moral development. But this, of course, required the following:

  1. The agreement of God to the destruction of the first people;
  2. The agreement of the first people to give up to God their rights to their children and to forever reject all hope of salvation;
  3. The agreement of the children to abandon their parents in a state of perdition.

Even if we allow the first two of these conditions to be somehow considered possible, the realization of the third condition is impossible under any circumstance. If the children of Adam and Eve would have truly decided to allow their father and mother to be destroyed by their transgression, they would thus have obviously shown themselves to be unworthy of paradise, and would have undoubtedly lost it.”

God could have destroyed the people who had sinned and created new ones, but would not the newly-created people, possessing free will, have likewise gone on to sin? God, however, did not want to allow His newly-created man to have been created in vain, but wanted him, in his albeit very distant progeny, to vanquish the evil which he had allowed to triumph over him. The Omniscient God does not do anything in vain. With His pre-eternal mind the Lord God encompassed the entire plan of universal creation; and His pre-eternal plan included the incarnation of His Only-begotten Son for the salvation of fallen mankind.

It was necessary to recreate fallen mankind precisely with compassion, with love, in order not to violate man’s free will; to ensure that man would wish to return to God of his own accord and not through constraint or necessity, for in such a case men could not become worthy sons of God. In God’s pre-eternal concept people were to become like unto Him, in order to be participants in eternal life with Him.

Such was the wisdom and goodness of the Omnipotent Lord God, Who did not disdain to come down to sinful earth, to take upon Himself our corrupted flesh, solely in order to save us and return us to the paradisiacal bliss of eternal life.

 (From “The Law of God” by Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy)



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