Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.


VDMA

Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.


Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar.

17 September 2014

The Divine Environment. An Essay on the Lifted Cross.

Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum ... (Joannes 3:16)  

In a previous post, O Friend of God, we dealt with "Holy Cross Day", or as it is sometimes called among us, The Triumph of the Holy Cross.  We saw that the actual name of the day is The Exaltation of the Cross, that exaltation is used in its literal Latin sense of lifting up, and that neither the lifting up nor the cross lifted refer to the triumph of the cross of Christ as the means of salvation, but to the lifting up of a supposed relic on 14 September 335 A.D in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which still stands.

So we impose good theology over silly legends about scandalous facts to retain the feast.  This is a problem and this post addresses that problem further, not regarding that particular feast, but regarding the actual triumph of the actual cross.  Over particularly recent centuries and continuing in this one, our empirically based human view of the world, and consequently the value of its parts, has yielded an astounding harvest of knowledge, which may seem at odds with traditional Christian belief.

Thus many people who by training or temperament primarily listen to the voices of human knowledge waver regarding Christianity, either hesitating, thinking they would have to be false to themselves to embrace Christianity, or turning away from it altogether, thinking they have gone beyond it.  And some seek a middle ground by recasting it, trying to both go beyond it and nonetheless preserve its veneer.

This problem is not new and not unique to our times.  What is now traditional Scholastic theology was in its time an attempt to reconcile the Faith with the rediscovery of secular learning from the ancients.  It was hotly contested from within and without, yet, as Aquinas pointed out, if God is the source of all knowledge, ultimately there can be no conflict.  Centuries later came The Enlightenment, where the dawn of modern knowledge brought about exactly such rejections of Faith, or recastings so rejection would seem to be avoided, especially to the recasters.  And now in our "post modern" age here is the same problem once again.

The purpose of this post is to show that traditional Christianity -- Baptism, the Eucharist, and the actual lifting up and actual triumph of the Cross -- does not require any such falsification to oneself or recasting of faith.  An important note, though, as it may seem to some that this post is indeed such a recasting.  This is not the case.  The entire post is about nothing more, nothing else, and nothing less, than grace  --  the free gift of God for our salvation in the lifting up of the cross, the triumph of the cross, given to us here and now in Baptism and the Eucharist.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.  Et ego si exaltatus fuero a terra omnia traham ad me ipsum.  John 12:32.

What Is Evolution?   

In our time this problem is nowhere more evident than is the supposed conflict between modern scientific knowledge and the account of creation in Genesis.  OK, right here is one of those ironies that this blog finds hilarious.  Wanna know what?  Of course the famous book re evolution is Charles Darwin's (1809-1882) "On the Origin of the Species" (1859).  Guess what, ya know what "genesis" means?  The English word and title is derived from the Latin word, which in turn transliterated into Latin the Greek word for -- origin!  Hey, looks like two contradictory and conflicting accounts of origin, huh?

Well, no.  For starters, Genesis is in the OT and the OT is in Hebrew, right, so why a Greek name?  Because the name in English comes from the Jewish translation of the OT into Greek called the Septuagint, that's why.  The Hebrew name for the book does not say "origin".  Rather, as is customary in Hebrew, the title is derived from its first words, which are "in beginning", bere syt, or bereshit as it is often written in English.  Nothing about origin.  Hey, isn't the beginning the origin?  Well, sort of, but in putting it the way it does, the Hebrew conveys something the English does not carry.  There is no definite article -- "the" -- in the Hebrew, or the Latin (in principio) either.  And the next word is -- God (deus).  In beginning, God.  Genesis/Bereshit starts with God.  Not with "the beginning" or "the origin", with God.  God is not proven, not deduced, not induced, not described, not defined, nothing like that.  God simply is.

In other words, there is not a "beginning" or an "origin" and God either did or did not have something to do with it.  Rather, God is, before any beginning or origin, and any beginning or origin is an action of God.  So, "the beginning" or "the origin" is not the beginning or origin of everything, it is the beginning of a creative action of God, and that is the origin of all things.

The idea of God, of a power greater than ourselves, of something beyond our complete grasp which gives rises to a sense or idea of holy, is a universal sense as ancient as Man.  But that is also problematic.  Man has expressed this sense in a variety of ways.  Sometimes he takes natural forces beyond his control as therefore gods.  Sometimes he posits supra-human beings who control these natural forces.  Sometimes this expression is applied to the totality of the universe as an impersonal way or law that is operational throughout.  Sometimes the universe itself is god.

Genesis confirms this universal sense as valid, but contradicts all those expressions.  God is not heaven and earth; heaven and earth are creations of God who preexists them and is distinct from them.  Likewise then everything else in the universe -- forces like wind and rain, places like rivers, everything -- is not God nor is God the totality of it, but they are creations of God who preexists and is distinct from them all.  Therefore, they are not objects of worship or veneration.

The next few verses make that quite clear, as the things Man deifies are described as creations of the deity -- heaven and earth, the seas, the sun, the moon, life in any form, life in human form.  For example, the sun that lights our world is not god, not a god, nor is there a sun-god whose function it is to control the sun.

Well fine.  So is Genesis just another order out of chaos myth from antiquity, all of which we should abandon now as we understand the order better and better?  Is not the ancientness of the sense of a higher power, the idea of holy, itself a sign that these are simply the reactions of men with little knowledge of their environment so they create myths of gods to explain it for lack of anything better, but now that we have something better, we no longer need the myths of earlier times?

Notice something?  We didn't even get to the "six day" thing before losing our faith!  In other words, the primary thing revealed, and right away, in Genesis and thus the entire Bible, which is that there is a god and everything else proceeds from the creative action of this god, doesn't even need the six-day thing before grounds to abandon it arise, passing it off as the early attempts of man to understand his environment, which we have long since passed.

And we notice something else.  Genesis describes God's creative actions in precisely the order we understand them scientifically -- first the material universe and its unfolding, not static, organisation  by God (let's call it the geosphere), then its inhabitation by biological life and its unfolding, not static, organisation by God (let's call it the biosphere), then the appearance of biological life that is both conscious and self-reflective, having a mind that shares something then of the God who created it (let's call it the noosphere, from the Greek word for mind, nous).

This is nothing other than evolution, literally.  Now before the moaning and groaning starts (is it too late for that?) let's look at what evolution literally means.  The word comes from the Latin evolutio, which does not mean "evolution" with its modern connotations, but rather an act of rolling out or unfolding.  The root is "e volvo" which means "out of the roll" (yeah, Volvo means roll, great name for a great car, let's roll!). The verb is "evolvo" which means "to unroll" or "to unfold", whose perfect passive participle is "evolutus".  Great linguistic Judas what's that?  Relax, a perfect passive participle is verb form denoting the state of something having been subject to an action.  Here, having been rolled or having been unfolded, "evolutus", which as a verb is "evolutio", the act of rolling out or unfolding.

So, Genesis presents evolution.  Therefore, the argument over "evolution" is not over whether it happened, but how it happened.  Specifically, did this rolling out, this unfolding, which both Genesis and current human knowledge agree happened, happen impersonally according to either random or chance events or laws or ways inherent in Nature, or personally, as the creative act of a pre-existent God.

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

So asks God in Job 38:4.  The question not only addresses Job; it can be asked of any of us, and the point is the same as to Job, which is, God's understanding is not our understanding nor can our understanding comprehend God's.  In his communication with us, God speaks to us not as an equal, but as a part of his creation that has consciousness to receive the communication, which therefore will have its limits.  God speaks to us in terms of our experience.

This is apparent already in the first sentence of Bereshith,  "The heaven and the earth" describes the universe from Man's point of view here on the earth, not from God's point of view as its Creator.  Our point of view now has expanded, and was not available to humans at the time Bereshith was revealed.  We know that the earth and the heavens are not distinct.  Earth is but one planet revolving around one star among many, the number of which we do not know except that it is huge.  It's all heavens, and earth is part of that, but it doesn't look that way when you're on earth.

The rest of the creation account proceeds along these lines, in terms of our, not God's, experience.  Creation is creation, whether viewed as an earthbound creature seeing "heavens" above, or not from earth and seeing earth too as part of the "heavens".  Heaven and earth, then, are relative terms.  In earlier times, the discovery that earth is not the centre of creation, with heavens above it, seemed to cast doubt on everything -- if Scripture is off in its very first words, why should it not also be off in the rest of it too?

What was lost in that controversy, the famous Galileo episode, was any sense of what God was reminding Job in his circumstances.  And this loss is the very same loss that will lead to what is called The Fall  just a little later in Bereshith.  What is this loss?  It is the loss of the fact that God speaks to us in terms of our experience and not his, that God does not reveal to us everything of his experience because we, as created beings, cannot receive or comprehend the experience of our creator.  As Scripture will shortly put it, we are created in the image of God, but we are not created as equals, as other gods, and therefore we cannot elevate our understanding, even that part of it which is an understanding of God, to his level.

In this regard it is significant to note that the noun we translate as "God", singular, in the Hebrew is plural, Elohim, but the verb we translate as "created" IS singular.  Of course we can theologically abstract from this a reference at the outset of Scripture to the Trinity -- a plural God acting in the singular.  But God is not here inviting us to theological abstraction but is revealing to us the nature of our experience as conscious reflective beings.  God is not, in the Bible, providing us a divine textbook, or an algorithm, but a human user's manual, of creation.  And a user's manual is written to convey to the user, in terms his experience will allow him to understand, information he does not have, not about how something was made but about how to work with it.  IOW, it is not a "how I did it", but a "how you use it" book.

Vade mecum.  Go With Me.

So, the revelation of the fact of creation is one thing, and the manner of creation is another, and the two ought not be confused.  God reveals the fact of creation by expressing it in terms of human conscious experience.  Light and dark, heaven and earth. evening and morning, day -- all of them earth bound, not characteristic of the universe.  There is no evening and morning as we experience it here on earth anywhere else but here on earth.  There is no 24 hour day as we experience it here on earth anywhere else but here on earth.  Even in our human speaking these words have "literal" and "figurative" meanings, as in "the evening of life", "shed some light on the subject", and so on.  For that matter, time itself does not flow at the same rate throughout the universe.

Had God revealed the nature of the universe in scientific terms Genesis would have been rejected from the start.  How is a man standing on earth looking up at the heavens to be told that in fact he is not looking up at all, that there is no "up", that "up" is a sense brought about from the fact of his standing in a particular place, and that "beneath" him there is also an "up" he would experience were he standing there?  And how is a man standing on earth looking "up" at the heavens to be told that in fact where he stands is itself part of the heavens, that there are no "heavens" distinct from earth except in his experience of standing in a particular place, and that "above" him there is not a dome holding back water, that the blue he sees above is in fact not there but a sense brought about under the conditions of standing where he does to look at it?  And how is a man standing on earth looking "up" at the "heavens" to be told that not only is he looking out, not up, but he is also looking back, that the light he sees from the stars in the heavens is not what is happening there now, but light from events ages ago that is just now making its way to be visible to someone standing where he does?

All of what we now know would have contradicted his experience entirely and therefore been rejected as fantastic, literally -- a fantasy with no relation to reality, ie, his experience.  Which in turn would leave the message God seeks to communicate to Man -- that all of what Man sees, including Man himself, is the creation of the God who seeks him and is subject to the will of God, not Man  --  inaccessible.  The fact of creation is revealed to Man via a manner of creation that makes sense within his experience at the time of its revelation.  Revelation done any other way would reveal nothing!

Fiat voluntas tua.

Thy will be done, is what that means in Latin.  The words are from the so-called "Lord's Prayer".  The Lord, Christ, in giving this prayer, stated a version of the traditional Kaddish, which exists in several related versions.  Jesus gives his version, not a new prayer.   Here in English is the Kaddish Shalem, the "complete kaddish" -- there are longer special versions for rabbis, mourners, and for after a burial --  followed by the Lord's version.

Kaddish Shalem, the "complete Kaddish".

May his great name be exalted and sanctified is God's great name in the world which he created according to his will!  May he establish his kingdom and may his salvation blossom and his anointed be near during your lifetime and during your days and during the lifetimes of all the House of Israel, speedily and very soon.  And say ye, Amen.
May his great name be blessed forever and to all eternity! Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honoured, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be he, above and beyond all blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world!  And say ye, Amen.
(The Hatzi Kaddish, or "half Kaddish", ends here.  All versions begin with it.)
May the prayers and supplications of all Israel be accepted by their Father who is in heaven.  And say ye, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, life, satisfaction, help, comfort, refuge, healing, redemption, forgiveness, atonement, relief and salvation for us and for all his people Israel.  And say ye, Amen.
May he who makes peace in his high places grant peace upon us and upon all Israel.  And say ye, Amen.

Jesus' Kaddish, the Our Father.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Now, Jesus gave his version of the Kaddish when his followers asked him to give them a special prayer like all the other great teachers seem to do.  He didn't.  He gave them a succinct version of what they already had!  His point being, besides the prayer itself, that no such carryings-on are needed before God.  And, this being from the anointed who is prayed for -- that is what "Christ" means, the anointed one of God -- who better to refine and focus it for our use!

Our point here being, though, the prayer itself and the matter of will, and whose will, ours or God's.  Voluntas, the Latin word for will, is the basis of the English word voluntary.  Voluntary means according to ones will, willing.  Which means there is a choice involved, it is a matter that is neither inevitable nor compelled.  This is exactly what Genesis reveals to us about everything, the universe.  It exists not by some historical inevitability or by an inherent following of impersonal laws, but by the will of a being, God.

In all its stages, the act of creation is spoken of as an act of will, voluntary -- let there be, etc.  Except, and this is key, in the last stage, Man.  This is not spoken of as "Let there be Man", but rather, "let us make Man in our own image".  The creation of Man as a being in the image of God, then, is related differently than all the creation before it.  This voluntary, willed, creation culminates in the emergence of a being who himself is endowed with the capacity for voluntary, willed action.  This being, the human being, marks the entry into the unfolding of creation of a created being who himself creates, but not out of nature or instinct, but voluntarily, willed, like his creator.  Man is conscious.

Which is both our glory, and our problem.  Our consciousness contains, unlike anything else in creation, the capacity for acts of will that are conscious, which is to say, self-conscious, not in the usual conversational sense, but in the sense that we are conscious of our capacity and the choices we can make.  Which is why it is not until this point in the evolution, the unfolding, of creation that God gives a commandment.  Up until this point he doesn't need to, since nothing in creation until this point has this capacity for willed action that is conscious of itself.  But Man, which the text makes clear is comprised of both male and female, is in the image of God, but is not God.  Or, if you will, this creature is in the image of the creator but is not the creator.  Therefore, the creator, or, if you will, God, gives this creature directions.

Be fruitful and multiply.  This is the first commandment (mitzvah) given to Man; the first of the 613 mitzvoth in the Law (id est, the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible).  This is more than a commandment to reproduce.  The animals reproduce, even care for their young for a time, by nature and instinct, and need no such direction.  So why give it to Man?  Because Man is to make a home, raise a family, and, subdue the earth.  Man is a part of creation, but apart from the rest of creation; no other part of creation  is told to subdue the earth because no other part of creation could be told to subdue the earth.  Only Man, with the divine-like capacity for self-conscious willed action, could be told this.

Who Told Thee Thou Wast Naked?

And what are the results of this command?  What results has this uniquely self-conscious will-endowed creature produced in subduing the creation of which he is both part and its crown?  The results are everywhere to be seen in both the present and in history -- and in the first chapters of Genesis.  The creation of Man is different than the creation of everything else.  We saw that the first creation account (chapter one) it is not "let there be ..." like the earlier parts of creation but "let us make ..."  And in the second creation account (chapter two), this point is made again.  God formed Man, in this chapter the male.  The Hebrew verb, yatzar, as is often commented, relates to a potter forming clay.  What is not so often commented is that this verb is written differently regarding the formation of Man than the formation of prior creation.  With animals it is written with one yod, but for the formation of Man it is written with two.

Which fits exactly.  This creature, Man, has something the others do not,  namely the image of God, which means a capacity for acts of self-conscious will.  But this is still a creature, not another god.  Therefore the formation is written with two yods, because Man is torn within himself and needs "commandments", needs direction from his creator.  Of himself, his will may not be God's will.  He has a Yetzer tob, a good inclination, and a Yetzer ra, a bad inclination.  And this condition is dealt with, as God directs Man not to be his own arbiter of good and bad, good and evil.

This is the essence of the human condition -- a being in the divine image who can will acts apart from the will of the Divine who created him.  The man is told, in the figure of tending a garden, which is to say, subduing the earth, that he may do it all, except, decide for himself what is good and what is bad, what is good and what is evil.  This is God's function alone.  For Man to assume that function, to become morally autonomous from God, is the creature assuming the role of the creator.  Which in a word, is pride.  And indeed, pride goeth before the fall.

And that is exactly what happens in the Genesis story.  Once Man assumed moral autonomy from God, ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so to speak, everything falls apart.  When the unfolding, the evolution, described in Genesis, gets to Man, its continuation becomes voluntary, literally, a matter of will, and the will is now Man's, not God's.

Having assumed moral autonomy, acting like God when he is not god, the creature acting as if he were the creator, Man gets it wrong.  Whereas they were not ashamed at their nakedness before each other, in fact, did not distinguish nakedness at all, now they find it an issue.  It is not that there is nakedness, and having eaten of the forbidden fruit, now they realise it.  It is that, having claimed moral autonomy, acting like God, they define good from evil, and find something that is in fact good, evil, and devise measures to correct it -- to correct what is already correct.

This changes everything.  Now, when they sense the presence of the Lord, instead of creatures happily welcoming their creator, they hide!  So instead of the creature seeking his creator, the creator now seeks his creature.  "Where art thou?"  And the man starts making excuses -- oh well hey, I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid from you.  Just a sec, lemme put something on.  We don't have any clothing stores yet, but we sewed these fig leaves to-gether.

And God asks them, What's up with that?  Where'd you get this "naked" thing because I didn't say bupkis about it, let alone opening a clothing store.  And the sorry story continues.  Does the man say, Sorry God I blew it.  Hell no, he blames his wife.  So Gods asks her, and what does she do?  Same thing, does not accept responsibility for her action but blames something else, the serpent, as Genesis puts it, or diminished capacity, as she would put it now. 

Genesis describes exactly what is observed in human history down to the present.  It's not that we try to get it right, it's that we decide what is right and try to get that.  And the results are mixed.  For example, as Man begins to live more in cities, he finds he has a pollution problem with all the horses defecating all over town.  Then he invents another work vehicle that doesn't need horses, a horseless carriage.  Problem solved!  Except, problem not solved, as he discovers later on the fuel emissions from his horseless carriage creates an even worse pollution.  Or, for example, as he subdues the earth and attains the ability to harness the power of the atom, he finds a limitless source of power, yet, should there be an accident, the results are disastrous, and, he can also use that power to either create weapons in which thousands are killed in an instant or to understand and treat disease at a fundamental level.

And when things go wrong, we do just as Adam and Eve, start blaming someone or something else, rather than recognise our own failure.

Memento mori.

Remember that you will die.  That's what the Latin means.  It comes from the triumphal processions in ancient Rome, where as the conquering general as he rode in his chariot through the throngs of cheers and accolades, his servant would keep saying to him, Remember that you will die.  The idea was to not get carried away with all the pomp and circumstance and remember that even though you have gotten this by your accomplishments, you will die like any other man.

Death.  We know we are going to die, and we don't like to think about it very much, yet we do because it happens to those around us and we know it will happen to us.  Death is first mentioned in the Bible here in Genesis, in connexion with the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  In the day you eat of it you will surely die, God says to Man. 

No you won't, says the "serpent".  In fact, you will not only not die, you will become like God, he adds.  So Man eats of the fruit, and guess what -- he does not die!  So the "serpent" was right and the Bible even bears that out?  What's up with that?  Or with this -- does the Bible contradict itself even on its own terms right in its first pages, first saying God tells them they will die in the day they eat the fruit, then saying they don't?  If so, why bother with it then?

OK.  Manifestly, physical death did not enter creation with this original sin.  For one thing, to threaten a consequence which does not exist and of which therefore Man has no knowledge would be meaningless to Man.  For another, Man eats and does not die.  Something else happens instead.  For another, nothing in the preceding text gives any basis for thinking creation was meant to be eternal from creation on.  For yet another, in a few verses God becomes concerned that Man, having eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and having become like God -- having declared his moral autonomy and now functioning like a god instead of a creature -- will now eat of the fruit of the tree of eternal life and live forever.  If he were not going to die at some point, it would be meaningless for God to be concerned that he won't.

So, the death spoken of is not physical death, it is the something else that happens.  And what is that something else?  The order of creation is broken.  Man is not going to function as he was created to function.  Since he is going to follow his own will, make his own choices, determine what is good and evil, he will have trouble in fulfilling his commandment.  Subduing the earth will be difficult, and so will being fruitful and multiplying.  Just as Scripture says, Man does not experience physical death from his sin, he experiences the death of the order of creation as it was intended, including the death of his role in it.  IOW, spiritual death, and I don't mean "spiritual" in some vague general "spirituality" but literally; his spirit dies and Man will henceforward have broken that image of God in which he was created.

It's still there, but it is broken, and it cannot repair itself.  Or better, a spirit, being alive, is now dead and cannot bring itself back to life again.  The consequence for assuming moral autonomy from God is -- assuming moral autonomy from God, which shatters the image of God in which he was created and kills his spirit.   

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.  

Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.  That's what the Latin means.  It is from the service for the beginning of Lent, called Ash Wednesday, from the custom of imposing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful in the shape of a cross.

Hey, when you gonna talk about Adam?  OK, now.  Adam, the word for the creature, comes from the word for the "dust" or soil from which he was formed, adamah.  When "Adam" is first used (1:27) it is not as a name, a proper noun, for one man.  It means Man, both male and female, and not just one male and one female.  It becomes a personal name in the next chapter (2:7).  And Adam names his wife, Eve, Havvah in Hebrew, from hayah, to live, as no human lives who is not born of "woman".  The collective use rather than reference to one person returns in Genesis 5:1-2, where the collective Man is specified by sex, male and female.  Adam is Man.

Huh?  So whaddawe got here, two conflicting accounts?  Sure looks that way, and not just re Adam either.  Looks like a male human was created, then all the animals, not before, and since none of them was a suitable partner for the male, a female was created from the male.  Biblical scholarship generally posits two sources that were combined by a later editor for the book as we know it now.  So then what?  Dismiss Genesis as a combination of two related but separate creation myths, is that what Past Elder is saying here as his professors taught?  No, and hell no.  It doesn't even matter whether that theory is true or not, because it does not change what God is revealing to Man.

Just as with creation itself, the revelation is not a treatise from God on HOW he did it, but a revelation THAT he did it, and communicated in terms comprehensible to Man at the time of its revelation.  Not a textbook, not an algorithm, but a user's manual.

And here again, the creation of Man is different than the creation of everything else.  Unlike everything else, Man is related as created from something that already exists, dust.  The crown of creation is himself created from Creation.  This act of creation Genesis calls formation.  Man is related as formed from something that already exists, dust.

O felix culpa.

So, the appearance of a self-conscious being capable of voluntary acts of will marks a fundamental change in the unfolding, the evolution, described in Genesis.  We saw this in four ways.  One, the divine act of will is not "Let there be ..." but "Let us make ...".  Two, the Hebrew verb is written here with two yods instead of one, indicating that this creature's will is his, which may or may not align with God's.  Three, after this creature emerges, commandments are given for the first time, since no other creature needs them.  Four, this creature unfolds not from nothing, but from existing Creation.

And then, this product of a fundamental change fundamentally changes how the unfolding unfolds, so that it is now no longer unfolding according to the will of God, or if you will, so to speak, according to its nature.

What?  What kind of God is this?  Is God then a creator who creates a creature who can fail then says "Here you go, follow the directions"?  And, if this God is all knowing, he knows the creature will fail.  If this God is so great and loving, why didn't he create Man so he could not fail, why not create a creature that is happy and stays that way, including, not die. 

O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem.  O happy fault which gained us such and so great a Redeemer.  Such is the famous verse of the Exultet (more recently given by the ever-changing but oh-no-nothing-really-changed Rome as Exsultet), a sung poem of praise, though not sung by a praise band, at the Easter Vigil after the procession with the Easter Candle -- though one will search in vain for this verse in the cobbled up version of the Exultet offered in Lutheran Service Book.  Why its most famous phrase was cobbled out of it remains one of the enduring quirks of LSB, but I digress.

It comes down to this.  All the storm and stress about Creation and Evolution etc is just unnecessary, and fuelled by nothing but misunderstanding and fear.  Genesis presents the unfolding of God's creativity and that is evolution. The unfolding is laid out with utter precision in the succession of geosphere, biosphere, then noosphere.  And with the emergence of the noosphere, a new aspect enters creation, a being, Adam, who is distinct from the rest of creation in having the image of the Creator but distinct from the Creator in not being a god himself.  His participation in the continuing unfolding, which is to say, evolution, is literally voluntary, subject to his will, and he blows it, shattering the image of his Creator he bears beyond repair through his own will.

This is exactly what the "creationists" and the "evolutionists" both miss, with opposite yet similar consequences.  The "creationists" assert creation by God, the "evolutionists" assert evolution, and both are right.

The evolutionist misses two things.  One, that evolution is not a push, but a pull, not an impersonal push of natural law or chance, but an intended personal pull exerted by a Being we usually call God.  Two, with the emergence of Man, co-operation and participation in the pull becomes voluntary and is thwarted by Man's own voluntas, will.  The origin of the species is not the origin of life; there is nothing to fear here.

The creationist misses that in Scripture God is not writing a scientific treatise or algorithm of how he did creation, but a revelation that he did creation.  Meaning that our understanding of the "how" of creation is no more to be made into a god, into the basis for our self-understanding, than more obvious forces such as thunder, our sun, etc were to be made into gods in earlier times.  The origin of the species is not the origin of life and not the origin of everything; there is nothing to fear here.

For as in Adam all die so in Christ are all made alive, it says.  And so it is -- in Adam, Man, we men (don't get goofy here, it means male and female) lose the image of our creator and any ability despite our best efforts to successfully co-operate and participate in the unfolding, the evolution, God has begun.  Yet, the emergence of such a being, Man, cannot be otherwise -- an unfolding into increasing complexity, from geosphere to biosphere to noosphere, will with the emergence of the noosphere become voluntary, a matter of will.  The cruel God, if you will, would be one who just leaves it so.

But God does not leave it so, but rather turns this fault, this inevitable voluntariness, without which Man would not have the image of God but simply be an android rather than an anthropos, into a happy fault, by himself becoming Man so that the evolution may continue, the pull continues not by the efforts of Man's will but by faith in the assumption by God the Creator of the brokenness of His own image in the creature.  THIS is who dies as a result of assuming willed control over good and evil -- not Man as threatened but God become Man in Christ!

Now that's something to exult -- should we now spell it exsult, Rome? -- about, just as the Exultet says.  The Creator is creation's Redeemer too!  Such and so great a redeemer indeed!  I make all things new, he says.  Not just all people, all creation.  Ich mache alles -- nicht nur alle -- neu.  The pull of evolution revealed in Genesis is restored in the cross of Christ, he who was God made Man, and when lifted up in the cross suffered the death that is our consequence so that we might regain the image of God which was intended, willed, by God.

And not only that.  There's more!  Not something else, but more to this same something.  That sacrifice of God on behalf of Man in Christ, is not just words in a book, or something that happened a long time ago, but is offered to us here and now!  In the Divine Environment -- which is to say, the universe -- precisely because there is no universal such as a 24 hour day, a disruption in the ordinary operation of matter, such as say a resurrection, also is a disruption in the ordinary operation of time.  Therefore, that one sacrifice, that one lifting up of Christ on the cross drawing all men to himself, which is to God, that sacrifice of his body and blood, is given to us outside the normal operation of time, in, with, and under the elements he instituted of bread and the fruit of the vine (vine being a grapevine).  The sure pledge of our salvation and redemption!

 Et ego si exaltatus fuero a terra omnia traham ad me ipsum. 

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.  (In case you forgot.)

The "literal meaning" of Genesis has absolutely nothing, nothing, to do with creation in six twenty-four hour earth days, nor with a single first human named Adam being made from dust.  AND, the fact that creation did hot happen in six twenty-four hour earth days and that Man did not descend from two individuals named Adam and Eve in no way, no way, overthrows the literal meaning of Genesis or prove either Genesis specifically or the Bible generally false and/or irrelevant.

In fact, what God revealed to Man in Bereshit (that's Genesis, in case you forgot) in terms of Man's experience at the time and place it was revealed, is confirmed over and over again by the astounding harvest of knowledge resulting from our empirically based view of the world that is now our experience.  The phenomenon of Man, the human phenomenon, is nowhere presented more exactly than Bereshit, as we have discussed above.

Why then fear or repudiate the progress of the world?  Why multiply warnings and prohibitions, as if there were nothing more to venture or to learn?  Nihil intentatum.  All over the world, Man yields an astounding harvest, in laboratories, in studios, in factories, wherever he labours.  Embrace it, since without the sun revealed in Scripture, this astounding harvest disperses wildly into sterile shoots, and this vast crucible would never learn its source and destiny in the crux (cross) of the Creator incarnate in Man who overcomes all and when exalted, that is, lifted up, on the cross draws all to himself.

The divine environment.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for an enlightening and interesting post.

With regard to man’s creation “in the image of God”, one of my Eastern Orthodox friends has told me that some early Church Fathers, including Saints Irenaeus and Gregory of Nyssa, as well as Gregory of Palamas (not a Church Father) believed that we were literally created in the image of God. God saw His Son, Who was to become incarnate many years later, and created Adam in His image. Apparently the Hebrew word, tselem, always refers to a concrete image in the OT, and is not used in the metaphoric sense. Genesis 5:3, “When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth”, appears to use the word in the same, concrete sense.

I personally find this idea appealing, because it saves me the effort of reading all of those libraries of books about what it means to be “created in the image of God”, with all the speculative excesses about “the good in human nature.”
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart